Lime interiors are an SME developer established in 2007 and based out of St Albans, with a particular focus on developing sites in North London and Hertfordshire. The Spinney, Essendon was one such site within the Metropolitan Greenbelt on the outskirts of Welwyn Garden City.
At the point of Snapdragon’s involvement with the project the site consisted of a single dwelling converted from two semi-detached houses in the 1970s. The site was subject to an existing consent for the significant extension of the dwelling, approved through permitted development rights in 2015.
Lime Interiors had originally considered altering the site in line with this existing consent, but after further consideration a new scheme was imagined, to provide two new family-sized dwellings on the site.
Lime Interiors subsequently undertook a public consultation to present a two home development to the local community, which gained significant and holistic support. In spite of local support planning officers at Welwyn Hatfield council were minded to refuse the application through delegated powers. An added dimension to these circumstances was an imminent local election (May 2016) in Welwyn Hatfield.
Snapdragon Consulting Ltd were appointed in April 2016 to undertake a political engagement programme with the aim of ensuring that the application was in the first instance determined in front of Welwyn Hatfield’s Development Management Committee rather than through delegated powers.
Snapdragon Consulting put together a programme of community and political engagement with two key targets. Firstly to ensure the application was given the opportunity of being determined at committee, and secondly to have the application approved at committee.
With planning officers intending to refuse the application through delegated powers the first port of call was to directly engage with local ward councillors in order to promote the existing local support for the application, with the target of having the application called to the Development Management Committee for determination.
Ward councillors were subsequently briefed on the proposals and agreed to submit a request for the application to be called to the Borough’s planning committee. Planning officers rejected this request due to the 21-day statutory consultation period having elapsed. A decision was taken by the project team to resubmit a near identical application to reopen this 21-day window.
In the interim Welwyn Hatfield Council held local borough elections and a new set of councillors were elected to the site ward. This meant that renewed engagement and briefings were required to convince the new ward councillors of the merits of having this application determined at committee and subsequently approved.
A combination of written briefings and a site visit led to one of the new ward councillors (and leader of Welwyn Hatfield Council) subsequently agreeing to submit a request for the application to be determined at committee.
Through clear and consistent contact with local residents and councillors, and through the use of Snapdragon Consulting’s wide understanding of the political and planning processes the application was sent to Welwyn Hatfield’s Development Management Committee for determination in October 2016. In spite of the level of local support the application was recommended for refusal.
Through a well-planned and necessarily flexible programme of political and community engagement the project team was able to arrive at the planning committee with a significant number of supportive representations from local residents, whilst the leader of the council attended to speak in support of the application.
The application was approved at the Development Management Committee meeting of Welwyn Hatfield Council on 13th October 2016, overturning the officer’s recommendation for refusal by a vote of 11:1.