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Planning

Westminster City Council consults us on every planning application for the area, approximately 1,000 applications annually.  We encourage all developers to engage with us at the earliest opportunity before any pre-application meetings.  We ask that developers and owners give careful regard to the impact their proposal will have not only on the historical or architectural interest of the building, but also on the environment, streetscape and the amenity of neighbours. Generally, we do not object to proposals which have architectural merit, where materials and detailed design take into account and enrich original features and are in proportion to the existing building and streetscape.  See our planning guidelines.

If you disapprove of any development application, please read our guide to objecting effectively.  It is important that you make your views known directly to Westminster City Council, as it is they who determine all planning applications.

CONFLICT STATEMENT

We are fortunate that Marylebone Association Planning Sub-Committee consist of eight local active professional Architects/Town planners.  However, from time to time conflicts of interests do arise.  Where this it the case the Association's comments feature a  "declaration of interest":  The Association would like it noted that a member of their planning panel has links with this application. This member has not been involved in making the submission.  Where an application is considered significant for Marylebone, the Association's response is agreed by the main committee.

Developments On Site

Marylebone Community Hall - Discussions have been ongoing in respect of how to use the designated community space in Marylebone Square (both ground floor and basement). An application was submitted by Concord in June 2022 to change the planning use of the basement space from medical to part school and part retail - the loss of community space was inequitable and detrimental to the community as a whole - on this basis we submitted a detailed objection to the application. In parallel the MA Committee formulated plans and a proposal for how the ground floor space could be used as a Community Hall for a curated mixture of community uses. As a consequence of the above the application was withdrawn on the 14th September 2023 to allow further community discussion - this is ongoing

Marylebone House, 129/137 Marylebone Road, a part retrofit and part new build office building; the building is nearing completion

25 Baker Street by Hopkins Architects, Derwent London and The Portman Estate; this is a £400m project that totals 293,000 sqft of mixed use space (office, retail and residential). There will be a new pedestrian link between Baker Street and Gloucester Place through the centre of the new building. Laing O’Rourke are well underway with the build - the window bays are currently nearing completion - the project is due to complete in Q4 2024

Debenhams – the proposal by architects, Allford Hall Monaghan Morris, part retains the concrete frame and combines with a new build element - all for mixed use (retail and offices above). The new concrete circulation cores are complete and the new steel frame is being erected. Date for completion to be confirmed

Luxborough Street Playground development (nursery and 14 affordable flats). Date for completion is Q4 2024

1-7 Harley Street - new medical building behind retained facade was approved by Westminster Committee in November 2020; initial site works are underway. Date for completion to be confirmed

Developments Due on Site

Seymour Leisure Centre Refurbishment – the proposal is for a 10,000 sqft new community hub and will include the new Library, offices as well as new sports facilities. Following early engagement and community consultation with WCC (as this is a Council application) over the last 2 years the application was submitted and we raised significant concerns in respect of sustainability, energy use, entrance & circulation, uses and design & heritage issues. Despite the concerns raised the application was approved at Committee on the 11th July 2023 - this was very disappointing and we see this as a missed opportunity to create an exemplar community facility. WCC closed the Centre on the 22nd February 2024 and it is scheduled to reopen in 2026. Various details and the Construction Management Plan are outstanding. Commencement date of the main site works is still to be confirmed

29 Marylebone Road - ADP Architects for University of Westminster - proposal for a new innovation and enterprise hub. Committee approved the application on the 16th May 2023 but restricted the roof terrace use until 6pm to restrict any detrimental amenity impact - site start date unknown

25 Marylebone Road - Methodist Church House - proposal by Anomaly Architects to convert to offices as retrofit. WCC approved the application on the 3rd July 2023 with numerous Conditions to mitigate potential negative impacts on Bingham Place - site start date unknown

M&S Marble Arch - proposed complete demolition and redevelopment of their Marble Arch buildings by Pilbrow & Partners. The application was approved by WCC Committee, the Mayor revisited the Stage 2 Report and gave his approval. The application was then called in by the Secretary of State and a Public Enquiry commenced on the 25th October 2022; the Inspector delivered his report in July 2023 which recommended approval - however the Secretary of State decided to turnover this recommendation and refuse the application. M&S launched a Judicial Review on 31st August 2023 - on the 1st March 2024 a High Court judge ruled on 5 out of 6 points of law that the Secretary of State’s decision to block the redevelopment was unlawful

Garfield House (90-100 Edgware Road, Tesco Express) - proposed new office development on Edgware Road by Hopkins Architects and Portman Estate. Planning was granted at Committee on 15th November 2022; concerns were raised about the lack of articulation on long façade and materiality – WCC have imposed numerous conditions in respect of the above concerns. Site start delayed until 2026

Cavendish Square Car Park – 270,000 sqft of mixed use development with 4 levels all underground – approved by Westminster Virtual Committee on 28th April 2020 - site start date unknown

John Lewis - proposals to adapt 40% of the Oxford Street building to become JLP offices - approved at WCC Committee on 27th October 2020 - site start date unknown

13 Salisbury Place - The Samaritans submitted an application for a sui generis use of the office at Salisbury Place to allow volunteers to sleep in the building before and after night shifts. The current planning use allows 24 hr use as an office. There were numerous objections from neighbours on amenity grounds. Following conversations with Officers, Cllr, neighbours and the agent/ applicant an Operational Management Plan was drafted to address these concerns. The application was approved unanimously at Planning Committee on the 19th March 2024

Swiss Embassy - an international competition was held for a comprehensive retrofit redevelopment of the Bryanston Square building and the 1970’s extension; the winner was announced as Studio DIA from Berne - we attended a number of meetings to view the developing proposals with Studio DIA and Dow Jones Architects, their UK architects. We have expressed general support for the exemplary sustainability stance but raised a concern about potential impact on the amenity of neighbours. The application was submitted in mid December and was subject to an extended consultation. There were multiple objections from neighbours on amenity grounds and numerous non planning matters. Conversations have been ongoing with Officers, neighbours and the agent - the scheme was approved at Planning Sub Committee 2 on the 16th April. Site start date is expected in 2026

Developments in Planning

38 -70 Baker Street, 64-66 Blandford Street and 43-45 Dorset Street by Allford Hall Monaghan Morris – the scheme seeks to creates a mixed-use scheme providing Class E commercial space (retail, restaurants, offices), a community space, and 21 residential units within a new 7/8 storey building. The application was submitted on the 1st December 2022 and our detailed objection was submitted 28th February 2023. A meeting was held on 27th March with the applicant, agent, residents and WCC Officers to discuss concerns regarding excessive scale, sustainability issues and design quality - conversations and numerous meetings have been held to address the concerns raised. A revised/ reduced mass scheme has been received and put out to public consultation - we have commented in detail again; we have acknowledged that the scheme has been improved however remain concerned about the scale and bulk in its context. We understand that the scheme will be going to the Planning (Major Applications) Sub Committee on the 25th June 2024 but the Officers Report and recommendation are unknown at this time

One Chapel Place by deMetz Forbes Knight - a significant demolition and new build office building adjacent to Grade I church - an initial meeting was held and concerns raised in respect of its excessive scale at 11 storeys. Further meetings were expected however the applicant aggressively submitted the application and our comprehensive objection has been lodged - the application is currently pending and no Committee date has been set

Developments in Pre Planning

206 Marylebone Road - proposals to redevelop the old NCR building on the north side of Marylebone Road - the current plan is to retain the 1930’s facade, demolish behind the facade and the rear 1960’s building and rebuild a new office building. Discussions are ongoing but the St Marylebone Society (our neighbouring amenity society to the north) stance is to object to the wholesale demolition - we agree with their view

66 Portland Place - RIBA HQ - extensive refurbishment proposed by Benedetti Architects. The Stage 2 Report was issued in March 2024 with a cost of £58.8m. We recently had a meeting with the architects to review the proposals; these propose significant works to improve accessibility throughout the building, the removal of the gas boilers and the creation of a a new cafe with access from Weymouth Street. We will meet again later in the year to review the Stage 3 designs prior to submission in Q4 2024

Paddington Street Gardens North and South - WCC are underway with an action plan "to inform next steps" - the project is at the very early stages and we will be engaging as they progress

The Wallace Collection - they are currently close to appointing an architect to undertake an ambitious £20 to £30 million revamp of its Manchester Square headquarters. The architect will draw up a design brief for the re-master planning of the museum’s Grade II-listed Hertford House base; the project will revamp the main Ground and First Floor exhibition spaces, upgrade the visitor facilities in the main entrance and on the lower-ground floor. Proposals will also support the museum’s ambition to become carbon zero by 2050. We awaiting a meeting date to be fully consulted

33 Cavendish Square - major redevelopment of the whole city block by KPF Architects - initial meeting held 23rd January 2024 - very early feasibility ideas discussed and we await to hear further developments

43 - 45 Portman Square - proposed redevelopment of the south east corner building with a significant roof extension. Early proposals have been received and discussions are ongoing

126 - 134 Baker Street - an additional storey is proposed to the building just south of Marylebone Road. Design discussions are ongoing

Portland Place – Howard de Walden proposals to improve the public realm; these are at an initial design stage and under review with WCC. A consultation is currently running to review the proposals which include new bicycle land provision

Marble Arch – The Portman Estate are developing proposals to enlarge and improve the public realm at Marble Arch and reroute traffic flows; these are at an initial design stage and are being developed with TFL and WCC

Objecting to a Planning Application

FINDING OUT ABOUT IT

When Westminster Council receives a planning application they are supposed to notify those neighbours who they think may be affected by it, but this depends on the judgement of planning officers and not everyone who thinks they ought to have been informed gets a letter. Nonetheless, you can object to any planning application, whether or not you have received a letter. 

The other ways to find out about local planning applications are keeping an eye out for “Yellow notices” on the street. But the best way of finding out is to look on the Council’s website. http://idoxpa.westminster.gov.uk/online-applications/. You can register online an receive email automatic updates of new applications and track and receive updates on the status of applications.

The website also allows you to view and download the details of those applications and provide your comments to the Council.  

MAKING AN OBJECTION

The way to object to a planning application is comment online or write to the Planning Department, either by post or by e-mail (If you are emailing or posting you should quote the planning application number shown on the Council’s letter to you or on the Council’s website).  Any comments you send online, in writing or by email will be listed on the Council website alongside the planning application and supporting documents.  Your contact details will not be published.

Your objection will have most effect if a number of people write in to object, but do not organise a petition; it will not carry any weight and is a waste of time. Also avoid using a ‘standard’ letter, objectors should use their own words. Objections will not carry the same weight if they are seen to have been written or produced in a standardised form. 

Westminster always request comments within a time limit (usually within 21 days of notification), but in practice they will take into account any representations received before the application is actually determined. So it is not too late to comment provided a planning permission has not actually been issued. It is obviously best to make your views known as early as possible. 

There is no restriction on what you can say about a planning application, but your Council will not publish or take account of any material which they think is libellous, racist or offensive. There is no point in putting things in your letter which are not relevant to planning, because by law the Council can only take into account the planning issues and must not allow themselves to be influenced by other considerations unless they really are relevant to planning.  

It therefore makes sense when objecting to a planning application to concentrate on those aspects of a development which are likely to be unacceptable in terms of their visual impact, effect on the character of a neighbourhood, possible noise and disturbance (not construction), overlooking and loss of privacy. The likely effect of the development on the residential amenity of neighbours is clearly an important consideration.  Westminster cannot refuse permission for a scheme because of construction noise but they can restrict the hours of work to reduce disturbance to residents and other sensitive neighbouring occupiers. 

If the proposed development is in a designated Conservation Area or would affect the setting of a Listed Building, there may be further grounds of objection relating to the effect of the development on the character and appearance of the Conservation Area or on the setting of the particular Listed Building.

Westminster is one of the most over planned parts of the country with policy for just about everything. In any event, the effect of the development on the character of the neighbourhood remains a factor which may lead to the refusal of planning permission, so you should not hesitate to raise issues of density and possible over-development of the site as well as the adverse impact which the proposed development might have on the character of the neighbourhood or on the residential amenity of neighbours. 

Design (including bulk and massing, detailing and materials, if these form part of the application) is recognised as an important factor in the acceptability of a development proposal. If you think the development looks ugly, then you should say so, especially if it is over-bearing, out-of-scale or out of character in terms of its appearance compared with existing development in the vicinity. As mentioned above, a higher standard of design is expected in a Conservation Area, or where it affects the setting of a Listed Building. Westminster is under a legal duty to have particular regard to the desirability of preserving or enhancing the character and appearance of a Conservation Area. Similarly, a development which would adversely affect the setting of a Listed Building is unlikely to be acceptable. 

Concerns about highway safety may also be raised, but it should be borne in mind that such issues are subject to careful technical examination by qualified engineers employed by the highway authority, and so objections based on road safety fears are unlikely to carry much weight unless it is also the independent view of Westminster’s own highway engineers that the development would adversely affect highway safety or the convenience of road users.

To summarise, the following are the grounds on which planning permission is most likely to be refused (although this list is not intended to be exhaustive) : 

  • Adverse effect on the residential amenity of neighbours, by reason of (among other factors) noise & disturbance (but not construction), overlooking, loss of privacy, overshadowing
  • Unacceptably high density / over-development of the site
  • Visual impact of the development
  • Effect of the development on the character of the neighbourhood
  • Design (including bulk, massing, detailing and materials) 
  • The proposed development is over-bearing, out-of-scale or out of character in terms of its appearance compared with existing development in the vicinity
  • The loss of existing views from neighbouring properties would adversely affect the residential amenity of neighbouring owners
  • In Conservation Area, adverse effect of the development on the character and appearance of the Conservation Area
  • If near a Listed Building, adverse effect of the development on the setting of the Listed Building
  • The development would adversely affect highway safety or the convenience of road users (but only if there is technical evidence to back up such a claim)

The following points, on the other hand will not be taken into account in deciding on the acceptability of the development in planning terms: 

  • The reasons or motives of the applicant in applying for planning permission (for example if the development is thought to be purely speculative)
  • The behaviour of the applicant 
  • Nuisance or annoyance previously caused by the applicant
  • Concerns about possible future development of the site
  • Any effect on the value of neighbouring properties

PLANNING POLICIES

The aim of planning is to help ensure sustainable development and growth.

Planning decisions are never taken in a vacuum. The officers or councillors who determine a planning application do not just do so on a whim. They are required by law to determine such matters in accordance with “the City Plan”, unless material considerations indicate otherwise. There are several key policies and documents that planning applications in Westminster are determined by. These make up Westminster's development plan and include:

  1. Westminster’s City Plan
  2. Unitary Development Plan (UDP)
  3. London Plan

Westminster’s City Plan is the key policy document for determining planning applications in Westminster. As the most local and up-to-date policies, these should be looked at first, and take priority over Unitary Development Policies.

DELEGATED DECISIONS

If you believe there is a risk that a planning application to which you object may be approved by a planning officer under delegated powers, you should contact your local Councillor and ask them to get the application referred to committee, so that it can be properly debated. This does not guarantee that the application will be dealt with in that way, but there is a good chance that it may be referred to committee in these circumstances. 

LOBBYING COUNCILLORS

As a general rule, the only safe way of ‘lobbying’ councillors is to write an identical letter to all members of the planning committee (or the sub-committee which is going to determine the application), and make it clear in the text of the letter that this is a letter which is being written to all the members. You cannot be sure that the councillors will actually read the letter or take any notice of it, but you will at least have communicated your views direct to councillors, rather than having them ‘filtered’ or summarised by officers in their committee report. 

ATTENDING THE PLANNING COMMITTEE

Where a planning application is determined by Westminster Planning Sub-Committee you may attend the meeting, you should register to speak if you want to make comments at the meeting.

GETTING AN APPLICATION 'CALLED IN'

If a planning application is extremely controversial and raises issues then there is a possibility that the Secretary of State may be persuaded to call-in the application for his own determination under s.77 of the Town & Country Planning Act 1990. It is only very large developments, likely to have an impact over a wider area. The Secretary of State has a wide discretion as to whether or not a planning application should be called in, but such call-ins are now very rare. Mere strength of opposition is not enough to secure a call-in; it must be clearly shown that the potential impact of the development is likely to be felt over a very wide area, extending beyond the locality in which the site is situated. In other words the proposed development must be of ‘strategic’ importance.

CHALLENGING A PLANNING PERMISSION

If planning permission is granted, objectors have no right of appeal against that decision. There is only one exception to this. If there is a serious legal error in the Council’s decision, or in the way in which it was reached, a legal challenge can be brought before the High Court by way of an application for judicial review, seeking the quashing of the decision. However, the Court’s jurisdiction is strictly confined to dealing with an error of law; they will not ‘second guess’ the decision maker and substitute their own view as to the planning merits. If the decision to grant planning permission was lawful, the Court will not intervene, no matter how ‘bad’ the decision might appear to be in purely planning terms.   An application for judicial review is not to be embarked upon lightly.  The costs can be counted in many thousands of pounds, and the chances of success for the objectors are very slim.

Should you require further support from the Marylebone Association please contact Neil Wilson  neil.wilson@marylebone.org

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