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Sunday, 6 September 2009

Liberal Democrats Breaking Promises on Tall Buildings

When I started posting about Brent Liberal Democrats breaking their election promises, I didn't realise how much material the topic would cover. It is certainly a much longer list than if I tried to post about the promises they kept.

One promise they made was to ban tall buildings in Brent. Since then, they have given permission for several of more than twenty stories. One reason for this is that legally a Planning Authority cannot have a blanket ban on a particular kind of development. If you have a rule saying that you will never allow a building of more than X stories (say) you run into a concept called "fettered discretion", and either a Planning Inspector or a Court will overturn your decision.

Nevertheless, the Liberal Democrats made a big issue of tall buildings in the run up to the local elections in 2006. Genesis Housing had a proposal to put up a 26 storey tower near Queens Park station in 2005. They withdrew the application in October 2005, because it obviously wouldn't have got planning permission. Nevertheless, the Liberal Democrats went round telling the voters of Kilburn and Queens Park that Labour had a secret plan to build such a block. Of course, the Labour Party didn't but that did not stop the Liberal Democrats from peddling that line. Nor, to his shame, did it stop Jonathan Davies (until then a Labour councillor) from making the same claim.

The episode was also interesting as an example showing what the Americans call "astroturf" organisations. The kind of phoney grassroots organisations that the Republicans seem to have set up to block Obama's healthcare reforms. Of course, there was Jonathan Davies himself, who put out letters purporting to be independent when he was obviously in cahoots with the Liberal Democrats. But there was also a local residents group called "Stop the Tower" HERE. Although they claimed to be local people interested in the area. They haven't posted anything on their site since September 2006, when they congratulated themselves on defeating the Labour councillors.

I guess that made them feel that their work was done.

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