Most London councils publish the comments and objections made about planning applications on their website. But not Enfield.
Our research shows that more than three-quarters (76%) of local authorities across London openly publish comments submitted by the public about planning applications in their area.
Councils say they publish the comments in recognition of their statutory obligation under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 and because of the need for transparency.
Most of these local authorities publish the name and address of the person who has submitted the comment, which is regarded as part of the statutory obligation and helpful in improving transparency.
Transparency in planning is important; it reduces the risk of corruption and the appearance of bias, as well as helping to build trust in the planning system.
Publishing comments about a planning application makes them openly accessible to the public and local councillors. This means it can be confirmed whether the material planning issues raised have been properly addressed during the decision-making process, and not overlooked, misrepresented, or ignored.
Enfield Council does not publish comments submitted by the public about planning applications. Therefore members of the public do not know if the Council has accurately reported the number of comments or properly considered and addressed the material planning concerns raised.
The lack of transparency about planning application in Enfield is unhelpful; it can fuel mistrust about planning decisions, as well as reflect poorly on the Council as a whole.
Research conducted in 2019, showed that only 7% of the general public trusted their local authority to make decisions about large-scale developments in their area. It is important that councils improve public trust by being open and transparent about comments made about planning applications. This should be happening in Enfield.
Since 2018, the Local Planning Authority in Enfield has been performing poorly on multiple planning metrics and in response has claimed: “We want to be recognised as one of the best planning authorities in London; positively and proactively engaging with communities and stakeholders to enhance places and enable good growth.” (Planning Service Improvement Plan 2021).
The planning authority in Enfield has a long way to go to meet this aim. A relatively easy place to start would be to follow the lead of other London councils and to improve transparency by publishing comments made about planning applications. This would help to build back public trust in Enfield’s planning authority.