Ealing Council To Reinstate Conservation Officer Role

Lib Dems say move is being made as resistance to Draft Local Plan grows

One of the officer's role is to protect local residents from over development
One of the officer's role is to protect local residents from over development

April 20, 2023

Ealing Council has reportedly decided to restore the position of a borough conservation officer.

The council made a previous employee in the role redundant in 2018 as part of a cost-cutting measure. Two years before the borough had two people covering conservation matters in the planning department. A conservation officer is able to provide technical advice relating to historic buildings, conservation areas and other applicable design matters, including tree cover for planning applications and other development consents. In this role, he or she, assists residents who are objecting to measures which they believe threaten the integrity of conservation areas, green spaces or listed assets. The officer will be responsible for 30 conservation areas across the borough.

At the time the council said that most of the role could be covered by existing planning officers and developers could pay for expert advice if there was not sufficient expertise on a matter in the planning department.

Heritage organisation including Historic England wrote to the council warning them that there was a risk of maladministration of a dedicated conservation officer was not available with the necessary local experience.

The Liberal Democrat opposition have been campaigning for the appointment of at least one conservation officer since the position was vacated. It is claiming that the timing of the move by the council is a reflection of growing opposition to the Draft Local Plan which is proposing a redesignation of Green Belt and Metropolitan Open Land in the borough.

Liberal Democrat Councillor Jon Ball, Opposition Spokesperson on Planning and Housing said, “The recruitment of a conservation officer is the Labour Council acknowledging that this is essential to preserve the character and heritage of Ealing, which the Liberal Democrats have been campaigning on for a number of years. This about protecting the fabric of the building, character of the towns as well as the green spaces and the environment itself.

“While we recognise the importance of providing the additional genuinely affordable housing that Borough residents need, we reject the cynical removal of Green Belt and Metropolitan Open Land (MOL) protections across the borough. This role comes at a critical time when a draft Local Plan is being developed which outlines a development framework for the next 15 years.”

A spokesperson for Ealing Council said, “While we haven’t had a specific conservation officer post since 2018, members of Ealing’s planning team have heritage and design training and all the necessary skills needed to assess applications. We also have a member of staff who is with us on an interim basis and is a conservation specialist. This person led on the Conservation Area review, assisted by external consultants who were also technical experts.

“We take specialist heritage advice on specific planning applications where required and also facilitate external local expert Design Panels.

“As part of the ongoing work to reshape the planning service that the council offers, there is a recommendation that a permanent appointment is made to this post. It’s a really exciting time to be joining Ealing Council, and we look forward to recruiting someone passionate about conserving the rich history of our borough’s built environment.”

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