The thrust of the meeting, it would appear, was some kind of protest against the policy of the new administration at the London Borough of Hounslow of enforcing planning laws and acting decisively against planning abuse by a small minority of property owners in the borough. More than one person who was present at the meeting has told me of a remark made there by Alan Keen, Labour Member of Parliament for Feltham & Heston, to the effect that under the old (Labour) administration Hounslow had operated a dual policy, effectively turning a blind eye to planning breaches at one end of the borough and for one section of our community.
Not surprisingly this has infuriated planning officers, whose collaboration in this self-evidently unethical and probably illegal practice is clearly implied. One former officer of the Council has publicly threatened legal action for defamation against Mr. Keen unless his remarks are withdrawn, or qualified.
I wish him every success. However, in the meantime Mr. Keen's candid comments do raise the additional question of whether trangressors who are now being enforced against were actually misled into thinking that they were immune from action by the Council. If this is indeed the case, one wonders whether there is not a case for an amnesty?
In the interests of debate, allow me to suggest a few conditions which could form the basis of an amnesty:
- construction took place prior to May 2006, that is during the tenure of the previous administration at the Council
- immediate neighbours happy with development
- existence of illegal construction freely volunteered by applicant
- full reasons provided for belief by applicant at the time of construction that development would not be enforced against.
At the moment I have introduced the case for an amnesty purely as a stimulus for debate. But, who knows, we could be having this debate sometime soon at the Council Chamber?