The most fundamental point is the government has laid down legal rules basically granting automatic planning permission for changes of use from office to residential – so planning authorities have been more or less cut out of the picture.
The Council certainly doesn’t agree with these legal rules and we are really concerned about their effect on Camden.
However at the same time under the law Camden has no option but to work within those rules –we will be acting unlawfully if we don’t.
And the fact is those rules only give the Council very limited powers to intervene in this type of ‘prior approval application’ –we cannot assess them against Camden’s general planning policies but rather only against three very narrow areas namely (i) the Transport and highways impacts (ii) the Contamination risks and (iii) flooding risks. So the points you raised about neighbour notification whilst valid and important have to be considered against that legal backdrop.
Camden can only refuse the application on the very narrow and specific grounds laid down by the Government and quoted above.
So where the representations highlight a concern relating to one of those grounds (e.g. evidence of site contamination) then this could potentially point towards the application being refused. But if the representations don’t do this (or raise issues that aren’t supported by technical evidence) the Council would not be acting correctly if it refused the prior approval .
I really hope this has gone some way to explaining why the Council has acted the way it did –but to go over the points again, summing it up I would say:
-Camden doesn’t make the Planning rules- the Government does
-in this instance Camden definitely doesn’t agree with the Planning rules but…
-we are still bound as a matter of law to comply with them