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Interview: Sunil Sahadevan at Harrow Council

Thu 25th August 2016, 5:08 pm

The Sitematch London team catches up with Harrow Councilís new head of development management and building control, Sunil Sahadevan, to discuss his position at the council and some of the key issues the borough is facing.

What is entailed in your role and responsibilities at the council?

I have an immensely exciting and significant role here at Harrow, to not only improve on the day to day regulatory and statutory parts of the service and to heighten customer satisfaction, but also to facilitate and gear up the service to deal with the impressive £1.75 billion regeneration ambitions of the council. This includes advising on the development of the council’s own deep portfolio of strategic redevelopment sites and developing the commercial potential of the service.

Previously you worked at Newham Council. Are there any projects that you are particularly proud of?

I was very fortunate at Newham to have dealt with all aspects of development management, including some of the most significant planning projects in the country, such as: the London cable car [the Emirates’ Air Line], the expansion of London City Airport, delivering the Olympics, the Siemens pavilion [The Crystal], the first desalination plant in the UK at Beckton, the Thames Tunnel and the Abbey Mills mosque. I am particularly proud of working on the Royal Wharf scheme (3300 residential units), which is now delivering high quality new private and affordable homes on a site that was derelict and contaminated for decades. The scheme was nominated the best scheme that CABE reviewed in 2011.

What will be your key tasks for your new role at Harrow?

I have a number, but I consider the most important one is to manage the section so that the services provided are responsive to customer requirements, accessible to all areas of the community and provide value for money. Ensuring efficient and cost effective service delivery that meets customer requirements and delivers high quality outcomes is an absolute key objective.

The new mayor of London Sadiq Khan has been very critical of developments on green belt land; he refused an application recently for a stadium in Bromley. Harrow has a lot of it – will planning applications on greenbelt land be equally critically considered in Harrow?

Harrow considers its green belt to be a valued asset and this is reflected in our adopted policies. We would much rather channel appropriate development towards our opportunity areas, of which many are ripe for development.

In the past few years, new office-to-resi rules have caused controversy in London. How do these regulations affect Harrow?

We were concerned about these rule changes in 2013 when they were first introduced.  We were disappointed that we couldn’t secure an exemption.  As a result we have a number of buildings recently converted into residential units. These have been converted without the provision of any affordable housing as you would expect, with conversions secured through the traditional planning permission route. In addition, the council has limited control over the quality of these units in terms of meeting standards on internal floor space standards, decent internal layout, amenity provision and dwelling mix.  This is before the number of previous jobs lost or displaced by these conversions is counted.

If you could give a few tips to developers who are considering submitting an application in Harrow, what would these be?

Simply, Harrow is open for business. Harrow is a great place already, but we are driving towards creating an even better place for people to live in, work in and visit. We are actively looking to build upon our strengths and working even harder to address where improvements can be made. Harrow is ripe for redevelopment and regeneration opportunities. Be ahead of the curve and get in early. If you have a decent scheme, that is well designed and sustainable, come and talk to us.

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