Westminster’s planning chief moves on after 17 years

Robert Davis moves to business, culture and heritage after 17 years in charge of Westminster's built environment; Richard Beddoe takes over the planning chair

The main at the helm of Westminster’s planning decisions for the last 17 years is moving on to challenges new. Robert Davis remains as the City Council’s deputy leader, and will continue to be in charge of place-making and a lot more, but he has decided to vacate the Chair of the planning committee, and will no longer be cabinet member for the built environment.

Richard Beddoe, the new chair of Westminster's planning committee
Richard Beddoe, the new chair of Westminster’s planning committee

Davis’ new role, announced by Westminster City Council leader-elect Nickie Aiken, is as cabinet member for business, culture and heritage.

Richard Beddoe – a family law barrister alongside his councilling duties – will be taking over as Chair of Planning, while Daniel Astaire will become cabinet member for planning and the public realm. The new cabinet will take up their roles on 25 January.

The move comes at just as Davis is under more fire than usual from the likes of Save Britain’s Heritage, who are not happy with his handling (approval) of Renzo Piano’s “Paddington Cube”.

Here’s Robert Davis’ moving statement in full:

Robert Davis

“After just short of 17 years’ continuous service as chairman of the council’s planning committee and almost 15 years as cabinet member for planning, I have felt for some time that it was time for a new challenge. So, in anticipation of [Nickie Aiken’s] election as leader of the city council at the council meeting on the 25th January, I have agreed with her that I should take on a number of new council responsibilities as cabinet member for business, culture and heritage.

“I remain deputy leader of the city council and at the new leader’s request will take on a significantly greater role assisting Cllr Aiken in the leadership of the city council and in more corporate and strategic decision making.

“I will retain responsibility for the mayoralty, for West End Live, for public art (including the city of sculpture initiative); for the green plaque scheme and for special events and filming as well as ‘City Promotions’.

“I will also continue taking the lead on all major public realm schemes such as Bond Street, Hanover Square and Baker Street and in particular for the Oxford Street project. I will chair the Oxford Street Steering Group – part of the West End Partnership.

“I will become responsible for heritage matters and will continue to chair the Westminster World Heritage Site (UNESCO) committee and lead on the relaunched ‘design excellence’ campaign as well as taking responsibility for the city’s urban design strategy.

“I will also lead on ‘place making’ with a new team of officers who are currently being recruited. I will also take on the business portfolio which includes responsibility for business support, SMEs, skills, training and apprenticeships. My role will also include responsibility for the Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) as well as for tourism and theatres.

“It has been an amazing unprecedented time leading on planning in Westminster. I look back with huge pride on what has been achieved by a sense of common purpose and collective effort. Working effectively together with landowners and developers and keeping a high benchmark on design standards has seen Westminster at the forefront of development and design. In fact, it is timely that we will be celebrating exactly that in a new book which we intend to launch in early 2017, ‘Westminster: A Fresh Perspective’ which looks at many of the schemes we have been involved with over recent years.

“I have of course been supported by a talented team of officers led initially by Rosemarie MacQueen and more recently by John Walker and Barry Smith as well as by my colleagues on the council’s planning committees and my various deputy cabinet members. So I want to put on record my thanks to these colleagues for their support and commitment to the work we have done to enhance the built environment of Westminster.”

The planning moves are part of a complete overhaul by new leader Nickie Aiken; here’s who else has been shuffled in Westminster:

  • Leader of the council, Nickie Aiken
  • Deputy leader and cabinet member for business, culture and heritage, Robert Davis
  • Cabinet member for adult social services and public health, Heather Acton
  • Cabinet member for planning and public realm, Daniel Astaire
  • Cabinet member for city transport, highways and parking, Danny Chalkley
  • Cabinet member for public protection and licensing, Antonia Cox
  • Cabinet member for environment, sports and community, David Harvey
  • Cabinet member for children, families and young people, Richard Holloway
  • Cabinet member for finance, property and corporate services, Tim Mitchell
  • Cabinet member for housing, Rachael Robathan
  • Chair of planning, Richard Beddoe
  • Chair of Licensing, Angela Harvey