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Featured profiles

Colleagues who are using LES as a best practice model within their organisation.

Steve Merryfield

Chief Planning Officer at Greenwich Council

Our first feature profile focuses on Steve Merryfield, Chief Planning Officer at Greenwich Council. Steve joined Greenwich Council in 1986 with initial responsibility for planning projects such as the Greenwich Waterfront Strategy, which set out the vision for major riverside development. In August 2000 he became Head of Planning, responsible for some of the largest and most exciting development and regeneration projects in London. He was part of the Greenwich team that successfully secured Air Quality Beacon Authority status. Read more for Steve's response to our questions below.

How have you used the LES model?

“Developing strategies to protect and improve the environment particularly where concerns existed over air quality, has been something we have been working on since the mid 90s. LES have been developed building on many years experience of close working between Planners and officers in the Environmental Health Department. We have sought to incorporate specific ways to ensure that air quality was addressed as early as possible. A good example of this being put into practise was the Greenwich Peninsula planning application. This was the biggest development proposal we had received and we were anxious to ensure that we minimised potential impacts on the environment. The Council’s Planners together with the Environmental Health team worked closely from a very early stage to develop ways to address air quality. This led to the inclusion of specific clauses into the Section 106 Legal Agreement to ensure appropriate measures where introduced from the beginning. In this way we could ensure that developers were contributing to the process. Since then we haven’t looked back and our efforts led to the Council being awarded Air Quality Beacon Status!”

What are the benefits for a planner of taking this approach?

“There are many ways in which the work of the planning officers has been made easier through developing LES. By making developers aware at the early stage of their planning of a new development helps to ensure that air quality and related environmental issues are fully taken into account. There is increasing awareness from the public about potential environmental impacts from new developments, so if we can build in procedures and measures to address these issues at the early stages, we can respond more positively to those concerns. That helps make the planners’ job easier and more effective. It is so important that Planning and Environmental Health officers ensure that the right conditions and clauses are put into the Section106 Legal Agreements. At Greenwich we have produced a Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) on Planning Obligations, which sets out what the Council expects from developers and this makes things easier for everyone, especially developers, as it helps to avoid delays in the process especially later down the line. The SPD is a material planning consideration for use in guiding and determining development proposals.”

Any advice for colleagues in Planning who are keen to adopt LES?

Without doubt the development of a LES has made it so much easier to deal with large developments. At a time when climate change is probably the greatest long term challenge and air pollution is a real concern, spatial planning has a major role in shaping and protecting our environment. LES without doubt will help to mitigate the transport impacts of development. To be successful though local authorities should ensure their Planning and Environmental Health officers work very closely and that guidance in the shape of LES and Supplementary Planning Documents on Planning Obligations are produced as a matter of priority.

The following is vital to success:

  1. Corporate working - establish good working relationships with colleagues in other departments;
  2. Ensure that engagement starts early in the process i.e., at pre-application stage or when planning application is first received and when formulating spatial policies;
  3. When considering head of terms for Section 106 legal agreements ensure that environmental matters are covered and liaise with Environmental Health Officers;
  4. Be clear about your objectives and be positive in the approach to securing contributions through Section 106 Legal Agreements.

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