Monday, January 31, 2011

Greenwich Council Planning - PSZ? 'I know nothing'

During the Christmas holiday, the team here at FTF were made aware of the Notification of the change to the London City Airport Public Safety Zone. This change was on the cards as each time London City Airport demands more flights and bigger planes the public safety zone enlarges to take account of increased risk in the nearest landing and taking off areas at each end of the runway.

The Civil Aviation Authority are now responsible for the administration of the Public Safety Zone. The Department for Transport write the circular on the PSZ, and the local authority in which the PSZ sits is the authority responsible for ensuring that the numbers of people in the PSZ is ideally reduced over the years, and that no new buildings or structures are allowed to be built which would increase the numbers of people in the area. But considering that Greenwich and Newham Councils have just approved around an estimated 2,500 people an hour travelling on a cable car which goes straight through the PSZ, and that Greenwich Council claimed that the none of the cable car travelled through the PSZ then it makes you wonder if they are simply incompetent or like to water down the interpretation of the safety rules when it suits them. The councils and Transport for London may wish to consider the Cavalese Cable Car disaster in 1998 to focus their minds on why it might not be a good idea to put a cable car through the Public Safety Zone of London City Airport.

So the indication is that Greenwich has little regard to the PSZ, it certainly didn't worry about it when it supported expansion and by doing so immediately put thousands of properties in Greenwich in the noise contour, and double figures of homes in the crash zone. So how were residents in those areas to know that they were going to find themselves in those areas? Unless residents read through page upon page of the planning application for expansion or had found us nobody indicated to them how they would be affected. None were told to expect to have their windows sealed up and ventilation installed, none were told in advance that their properties were going to be in the PSZ crash zone. That is a scandal in itself.

However the administration of the PSZ is in good hands with the Civil Aviation Authority, but no matter how much work the CAA do, it cannot do the work of the local council.

In mid December the CAA called Greenwich Council Planning's head Steve Pallet and advised them of the notification of change to the PSZ and requested that there be an area where residents could look at the PSZ map in the council office, in addition 35 letters were sent out by the CAA to the dwellings that now fall into the PSZ. We are advised that Steve Pallet of Greenwich confirmed that there was an area where the map could be viewed from. Greenwich were advised that the items were being posted to them and they were duly posted on 20th December 2010.

FTF were made aware of the PSZ notification on 4 January, and noticed that Greenwich Council were listed in the document as having the map to view and this being within a set consultation/notification period. On 5 January FTF called Greenwich Council Planning to arrange to view the map and were advised that they knew nothing about it, that the planning officer was away on holiday for the week and that only he would be able to deal with it. FTF was told to call back a week later but decided to email Steve Pallet the link to the document and highlight that the map should be available during the whole of the consultation period, not just when his planning officer returned from holiday. Greenwich Council's Steve Pallet made no attempt to respond to the email.

By Thursday 27 January FTF were concerned that Greenwich had made no contact in response to the email or phone call so we made contact with the Civil Aviation Authority and then Greenwich Council once again.

Greenwich Council claim to have never received the information in the post, claiming it may have been lost in the weather conditions. FTF raised concerns with the CAA that residents may not have received notifications and had not had access to the PSZ map and asked if they would consider extending the consultation/notification period. The CAA responded by leading by example and confirmed they had re-posted not only the documents to Greenwich Council but also to all the 35 dwellings affected and had extended the notification period, essentially starting the whole process from scratch.

In our opinion the Civil Aviation Authority went the extra mile to ensure this notification was flagged up to the planning department in mid December. Few organisations would call ahead of actually sending the paperwork through and ensuring that the map would be available to view. We'd like to thank Kate at the CAA for being so responsive to our communication and efficient in dealing with the issue as unlike Greenwich Council, concerns were raised, addressed and the practicals were all completed in just one day.

What concerns us is that Steve Pallet was asked about the availability of the PSZ map on 5 January 2011, and now that we know he was called by the CAA in mid December you would have thought that his department would have checked to see if the documents had arrived, and if not followed up with the CAA. But no, Steve sat on the email and no action was taken at all until FTF once again chased the document on 27 January. In 3 weeks Greenwich Council had made no attempt not only to contact FTF but also to call the CAA to enquire about the PSZ information that Steve Pallet had been told was to be with him in days after the phone call of 20 December 2010. If we hadn't of chased this, Greenwich clearly would have made no effort to contact the CAA to enquire the whereabouts, and in fact never did. It was the CAA who made the contact. Residents in the Greenwich PSZ could have found themselves yet again let down by Greenwich Planning.

The council have been consistently sloppy and careless over anything to do with London City Airport which affects land/properties/residents in Greenwich from day one, they had to be chased to respond to the original airport planning application for expansion (when a resident called 2 days before the deadline the planning officer said the consultation pack was on the floor and he hadn't looked at it, never mind that no residents in Greenwich at that time had been consulted directly. FTF were solely responsible for ensuring that each household in the Thamesmead Moorings area (the area in the crash and noise zone) of Greenwich received a consultation letter on the expansion from Newham Council. We also had to chase Greenwich on responding to the airports noise action plan.

Could Greenwich Council systematically fail the residents in the most affected areas from London City Airport any more than they have done for the past 3 years? We think not.

The Notification of Change to the London City Airport Public Safety Zone notification period now runs until 14 March and is open to comments which are to be submitted to the CAA. The PSZ map affecting West Thamesmead, SE28 is now on display at Greenwich Council Planning Department, Crown Building, 48 Woolwich New Road, Woolwich, SE18 6HO.