At November’s meeting of Harrow Council’s Planning Committee, the Labour members present joined with the Conservatives in voting to refuse an application to convert a property on Courtenay Avenue into two flats. This was the right decision as the proposal was inappropriate for the house in question, given it’s in a road of single family dwellings.
All councillors (even the Labour ones) spoke well on why they were voting to refuse this application, and were genuinely concerned by the prospect of developments like this going ahead. Unfortunately, there was a very large elephant in the room which, either intentionally or through lack of knowledge, none of the Labour councillors cared to address.
The reason why developments like this are now so common, and why finding grounds to refuse them is so challenging, is because of a top level planning policy called a Unitary Development Plan. When under Labour control between 2002-06, the Council adopted a new UPD which fundamentally changed the previous one (adopted by the Conservatives) which had limited the number of conversions that were allowed in any one road. This change in policy was a terrible mistake, presided over by then Council Leader, Navin Shah.
At the time, the opposition Conservatives did everything we could to point out this mistake, but to no avail. What this change in policy did was open the floodgates to the very large number of conversions we now have in our suburban areas.
The Labour councillors quite rightly expressed alarm when plans for such a conversion was put before them, but they need to understand it’s their party’s fault that the Council is put in a difficult position nearly every time an application like this arises.
Cllr. Marilyn Ashton (Conservative)
Stanmore Park Ward