WEBINAR: In Conversation with Cllr Matthew Green, Cabinet Member for Business and Planning, City of Westminster

This morning Concilio’s Nathan Parsad hosted a webinar with Cllr Matthew Green (Cabinet Member for Business and Planning at Westminster City Council) to discuss the state of planning and development in Westminster since lockdown.

A key theme to emerge from the conversation was the need for flexibility and adaptability – something that most businesses have recently come to embrace. This was particularly important relating to the draft City Plan, which Cllr Green stated had enough in-built flexibility to navigate the current environment. He noted that the City Council was aware of the challenges faced by retail and the office sector but the framework of the draft City Plan allowed for flexibility, adaptability and responsiveness to changing needs and market conditions.

There was therefore no need to ‘rethink and redraw’ the draft City Plan and the City Council will be pressing ahead with its implementation in its current form.

Cllr Green was also keen to express the importance of consultation and partnerships, which had increased significantly over the past months. Although he welcomed the switch to digital consultation that some developers had pursued, he did stress that this should be seen as ‘an additional tool’ and not a replacement of traditional forms of community consultation. Crucially, it’s important to see community consultation as an opportunity to create genuine dialogue with local communities – to listen to their comments and incorporate their feedback to create better and more inclusive developments.

Following on from this the Cabinet Member claimed that ‘for many residents, developers have a negative influence’. With this in mind he was absolutely clear that there would be no reduction in affordable housing contributions and that although the City Council already took a flexible approach to CIL Payments (contributions over £1 million can be paid in instalments) the development community had an obligation to communities in supporting this.

Ultimately the key messages of flexibility, adaptability, partnership and consultation with communities are well known to the development community. One of the positive outcomes of this crisis seems to be a greater willingness to embrace these principles. Which in turn will hopefully give fresh impetus to all those involved in Westminster’s built environment to create sustainable, inclusive and world-class developments and public realm.

Other key points to come out of the conversation included:

  • An acknowledgement that Westminster needs the introduction of the draft City Plan but the timeline is unclear. Recent correspondence from EIP inspectors confirms the date of the hearings remains uncertain due to COVID-19 disruption.
  • There has only been a 30% reduction in planning applications since the beginning of lockdown.
  • The City Council will take a flexible approach to planning committees and if there is a need for more than the current fortnightly approach they will respond.
  • Public speaking will be reintroduced at the next planning committee (26 May).
  • Cllr Green has an ambition for developments in Westminster to be less tall and bulky but more ‘green’

To view the full Cllr Green webinar please click here and if you’d like further information on any of the issues discussed please do get in touch.

Luke Tatton