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Can local residents trust Richmond council on parking?

Thursday 10th August 2023

Can local residents trust Richmond council on parking?

To allow these new flats to have parking permits is directly detrimental to local residents, particularly those in Zone X.

Equally important is that such a decision would be a serious betrayal of voters’ trust by the council and its officers and would call into question the value of the whole planning process.

Controversial development

To recap: this development has been controversial on many fronts (not least the defacing of the lovely old brick wall at the front with ugly render and artificially fabricated slate tiles), but on parking…

• The original proposal approved in 2018 included provision of nine basement parking spaces for the nine flats.

• The developers then decided to remove the provision of basement parking – it would be expensive to build. In 2019 revised planning permission was then approved by Richmond council with the clear stipulation that residents of this development would not be able to apply for resident parking permits.

The developers then sold the site at a very considerable profit.

Attempts to overturn parking restrictions

Since then, the developers built the block but not to the agreed design and specification.
They were forced to apply retrospectively for planning permission for the unauthorised changes. At the same time, they tried to introduce another retrospective change – to overturn the very specific condition about parking imposed by Richmond council.

The HWA spotted this and brought it to public attention prior to the Council Planning Committee on 19th April. At that meeting, the planning committee requested a parking survey.

Completely misses the point

While this survey may be useful input, it completely misses the point – which is that that the developers were only allowed to change their original plans so that they could build their flats without any on-site parking on the very specific condition that the occupants would not be granted parking permits.

This is about a point of principle, not whether there are or are not sufficient parking spaces. The council imposed an important condition, with consultation from the local community. It cannot be right that such a condition is simply thrown out retrospectively at the request of those who stand to benefit financially at the expense of local residents.

Parking survey

Anyway – the parking survey has now been completed and the planning officers intend to refer the case back to the Planning Committee on 16th August.

The survey was carried out at 10am on a Saturday and a Thursday (ie. before the pressure of Kingston shoppers builds up on local parking) and at 2pm on the same days. The 2pm surveys showed that parking in Zone X is already at 89% capacity. A more appropriate time might have been at 6pm on weekdays as obviously many residents go about their business during the day in their cars.

We argue that 89% represents a minimum workable level – in much the same way that there is a natural rate of unemployment in an economy below which the economy seizes up. On this basis alone the council should stick to its position and refuse to allow the new resident permits. Don’t forget that this decision is likely to set a precedent and if the council caves in on The Firs, there is nothing to stop the developers of other properties which have similar restrictions from asking for theirs to be thrown out too.

The restriction on parking permits has been used on other local permissions as a condition and sometimes requiring a legal agreement. If The Firs application is approved then other local developments could piggyback off the survey carried out for The Firs, so keeping reapplication / appeal costs down.

Richmond Planning Committee should be held accountable

However – this situation is worrying for two completely separate reasons, and we must hold the Planning Committee accountable for both:

1) The impact on local parking – we need to maintain pressure to get the right outcome on this.

2) The damage this decision will do to the trust and respect that we, the local community, can have for our local government.

The planning applications for The Firs were consulted upon and agreed on the express understanding that no parking permits would be issued. To retrospectively overturn that decision now can only benefit the developers and any others who may stand to gain financially. It is estimated that having the right to a resident’s parking permit can add up to approx. £40,000 to the value of a flat.

Are we – as council tax payers – getting value for money?

If developers know they can simply wage a war of attrition to get what they wanted in the first place, what is the point of a planning process, and what is the point of local residents getting involved with consultations? Is this the sort of local democracy we want? And, since we pay for the planning process – are we getting any value for our money?

If you have thoughts on this, please write to:
cc: info@hamptonwick.org.uk