Tonight, Brent's planning committee is having a policy meeting. This is where the general guidance for planning applications is discussed rather than the applications for specific buildings. That sounds dreadfully dull doesn't it? In fact, the policies discussed include lots of things that get people agitated once an example comes their way.
One area is the promotion of Town Centres, including restricting betting shops. Ed Miliband has pledged to change the national rules on this. The Planning Committee will have to consider policy changes within the existing rules, but it should still be able to limit the spread of this places to some extent. Brent needs some kind of restrictions as betting shops have increased by 41% between 2007 and 2013, and payday loan outlets by 171%.
Two more common complaints are the number of fast food outlets and shisha cafés we have. The littering and dumping problems around fast food are one of the most common complaints I get whenever I talk to people about Harlesden Town Centre. Shisha cafés create problems not just in terms of tobacco use, but also are associated with noise nuisance, tax evasion and lots of other problems.
There are also some less high profile concerns about temporary accommodation, the extent of town centres, and possible meanwhile uses.
As well as all that, the changes in planning policies have a number of implications for environmental objectives such as protecting open space, air quality, adapting to climate change, biodiversity and (extremely topically) flooding issues. That is on top of a range of policies to promote employment and the local economy.
So altogether, a lot less dull than you might imagine.