Ever seen some buildings go up in your neighbourhood and wonder how the hell they got permission for those? I get it all the time around Charlton and Greenwich. The most notorious example, for me, is the misleadingly-monikered Greenwich Retail Park on Bugsbys Way – if anyone asked me if I wanted nine retail barns and the traffic jams they cause on my doorstep, I’d have told them where to stick them. But I wasn’t given the chance, and Greenwich Council managed to lumber us with more traffic. Not that my complaint alone would have changed matters, but people like to feel involved. And when they get involved, they have more respect for the decision-making process.
Well, this year, Greenwich became one of the last authorities in London to put its planning applications online – instead of having to haul yourself along to its miserable bunker at Peggy Middleton House, Woolwich, you can now browse all the paperwork from the comfort of your own chair.
If you want to be tipped off about things happening in your area, then sign up to PlanningAlerts.com, stick in your postcode, and it’ll scan the council’s database and let you know when something’s in. It’s great. (PlanningAlerts.com is a service from the wonderful MySociety, whose top brains are behind the brilliant FixMyStreet, TheyWorkForYou, the Downing Street petitions site and, err… a Charlie Brooker-only version of the Guardian’s site).
So, without it, I wouldn’t have found out about this plan to plonk some more retail barns on Bugsbys Way, and had the chance to drop the council a line about it. Good, eh?