* UPDATE 060317: Hackney says its plan had always been to provide hard copies of major planning applications on request, and to require applicants to provide them. The planning team intended to meet the rebellious Caacs this week. The council added: “We are keen to offer the Caacs meeting space and a projector at our offices as required.” The town hall’s overall aim was to work in as paperless a way as possible. Comment: the key word in this council response to Loving Dalston are “major” and “on request”
HUGE EXCITEMENT broke out in Hackney’s planning department this week as staff prepared for the annual planning awards ceremony — the Oscars of the planning world — tonight 27 February 2017.
Hackney has been nominated in four categories:
* Best town-centre project — Hackney Central Masterplan;
* Best heritage-led project — Hoxton Hall;
* Best community-led project — Hoxton Hall;
* Best planning authority, equivalent to the Oscars’ best picture award — Hackney.
The department’s planning newsletter heralds the nominations with understandable pride. But the newsletter also has bad news to report, “Problem with viewing planning applications documents online”. The article explains: “Over the last couple of months there were some issues with our planning-application search function on the council’s website. Our ICT team have resolved this issue. “
Strange, because the site itself warns users: “…we are currently experiencing technical difficulties which may prevent you from viewing some planning application documents via our planning application search system.”
Oh, well, that should’t spoil the party. Residents — many of them council taxpayers — might be less in the mood to celebrate. The technology breakdown also affected public computers in council libraries, on which the borough’s less-fortunate depend, for example, for dealing with job applications, housing benefit
And the volunteers who spend several hours once a month to represent the public in the wards of Hackney by poring over planning applications were also hampered. Meetings had to be cancelled: plans could not be viewed, partly because the council had chosen that time to save money by not sending paperwork to conservation area advisory committees — or Caacs, as they are unfortunately known.
Asked what steps it was taking to solve the problems, the council told Loving Dalston: “We have now completed the work to upgrade to a new planning website and believe that the problems experienced in December and January have been resolved.
“We are… upgrading the virtual desktop hardware for the public PC service in libraries, which will provide a much faster service for our users.” The failures “have not had a financial impact on the council”.
David Altheer 270217
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