Save some trees: New Planning Application

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Monday 27 February 2006 8.33am
The planning process is long winded. I apologise to anyone who is tired of my pleas for help relating to the Founders Place planning application, but it does go on and on. The application is for a large development including a number of private flats with balconies over-looking Archbishops Park, the largest in SE1.

Trouble is that the northern boundary of the park has a magnificent row of London plane trees over 100 years old. Both branches and roots of these trees would have had to have been pruned up to 60%, and would not have withstood the stress.

Following a large number of objections to the last application the Lambeth planning committee told the developers that they were minded to reject the application, so the developers withdrew and have now resubmitted with the flats 3 meters back. However I understand that the design still makes no concession to the trees with balconies apparently jutting out right into branches. (So once in the residents will campaign for regular and savage pruning.)

Written objections need to be with Lambeth Planning, Phoenix House, 10 Wandsworth Road, SW8 2LL (ref 05/01168/FUL Land North and South of Royal Street) by 9 March. The case officer is Paul Broderick on 020 7926 1207, and I assume he will receive objecitons by email . It would be useful if copies could also be sent to the local Councillor

Do spread the word!

I, along with a number of others, have been active in protecting Archbishops Park for about six years. The key attribute of this park, compared, say, to Jubilee Gardens or Potters Fields, is that it is private and pretty. The setting by Lambeth Palace and the trees on the boundary allow this.

We plan to hold a meeting this Friday at 7.00 for 7.30pm at the China Walk Tenants Hall, Lambeth Walk. (The third building on the left as you enter from Lambeth Road, after Lambeth Mission adn the Doctors.) We are hoping to get hold of one or two keynote speakers.

The meeting will focus on the impact of the development on the park. (I recognise that current tenants also have issues, but one thing at a time.) And seek to find out what people are concerned about. The main areas of probably concern are:

1. The impact on the trees. Without a design that clearly shows the trees as integral to the plans, people will remain worried.

2. The allocation of the S106/planning gain money. This is bizarre. I and others have spent the past four years supporting the writing of a professional management plan, backed up by piles of local consultation. No surprises. People want a cafe. A feasibility study, financed by Lambeth, confirmed that a cafe providing supported employment would be feasible. Lambeth now say they want to spend the money (several hundred thousand pounds) on new entrances including the perfectly satisfactory entrance on Lambeth Place Road, and appear to have dropped the cafe idea althogether. What was the point of our hard work?

3. The loss of the Victorian school which now houses a Buddhist centre. (Nice people - all welcome.) Here I have to quote from the last planning officers report "the impact of the school building on the appearance of the conservation area is relatively small, as it is a low building..." So lets replace it with a great big block of flats which will have a huge impact on the conservation area!

4. The loss of the potential for park expansion in both the previous and new UDPs.

5. The overall height and density of the development, which rises to 20 storeys.

My own view is that keeping the trees in their current form really matters. Kids playing in the playground with people sitting on their balconies watching will be very different from the current sense of green. The S106 is probably the last chance of a major chunk of investment money (the park is not within the proposed Waterloo Development Framework) and I would hate to see Lambeth piss it away.

By and large though I support the development, and if the design is and once built, it will remove this on-going threat to the park. I, and this is a personal view, could accept slightly more than 20 stories at the back if this is needed in order to give the trees space at the front.

I know others, including Kate Hoey, are opposed to losing the Victorian school. The GLA and ODPM are likely to be concerned about the small amount of new affordable housing.

The planning process is long and energy sapping, particularly as the developers do not have a private sector partner on board yet and so are very likely to submit revised plans once they get Berkeley HOmes or whoever signed up. It is very important that concerns are voiced effectively right at the start. The meeting on Friday will need to decide how the best to articulate this community voice through the rest of the process. I see four options:

1. Form a new group. Advantages include the scope for a new constitution that can be registered with Entrust, and so allow the group to be eligible for land-fill tax funding. It would also help get a seat at the table when other park issues including the replanting, play, cafe, football pitches and spending of S106 are discussed. Disadvantage is that the last thing this area needs is yet another group.

2. Work with the existing Friends group. This would be ideal, especially as the Friends have funds that would allow some access to professional planning advice. However I assume the Friends would need to consult members before changing their current approach on both the trees and the priorities for the S106 expenditure and this would take time.

3. Form a looser network.

4. Continue as present.

I would really welcome comments on this Forum. Plus any more technical help, notably:

1. the current status of Lambeth's revised UDP, Waterloo Development Framework, and anything else.

2. Trees. How close can you build to big trees. The impact of building and underground car-park next to their roots. Etc etc.

3. Heritage and conservation protection. The park is within the Lambeth Palace Conservation area.

4. How best to tackle later stages, including appeals, GLA and ODPM.

5. Links to Lambeth's planning website. (I could only find the previous application.) And how to get hold of a full set of the plans for the meeting.

Many thanks to anyone who read this far.

Monday 27 February 2006 10.15am
For the uninitiated, here are some links to previous news stories and discussions on this:

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Tuesday 28 February 2006 5.08pm
I'm struggling to think of the last time I read a positive comment about Lambeth Council.

I have read your post in full and I really admire your struggle - I'm afraid I don't know anything about the planning process though so can only offer moral support.

Edited 1 times. Last edit at 28 February 2006 5.25pm by Emmesse.
Tuesday 28 February 2006 5.22pm
The view of the park is lovely, and so close to Waterloo. I'd hate to see those lovely trees go. They've taken 100 years to become such magnificent specimens. They should be looked after.
Tuesday 28 February 2006 6.15pm
Why is it that if you want to cut down a tree in your garden there's no end of fuss and tree preservation officers everywhere, and yet when there's a whole lot of lovely old trees which are going to get butchered to accommodate the developers all the tree preservation people seem to disappear underground. Lambeth are disgusting about these things, I used to live in Lambeth (Camberwell) till I moved to the E&C, and whatever you can say about Southwark Council (and one can say a LOT) it is better than Lambeth. This cockeyed approach should bring everyone out on the street to protest.
Tuesday 28 February 2006 11.25pm

The planning process is pretty simple in that written objections, just in letter form, not particularly fancy, have to be taken on board in the planning officers report to the committee. .

You need to write to the address given in my post by 9 March - they may accept email but I can't be sure.

I deliberately gave issues that people might care about, though the trees is the main one.

You say something like you are concerned about the impact this development will have on the setting of the park and of the Lambeth Palace conservation area. The green and peaceful nature of the park is essential in an over-crowded bit of London. You hope the planning committee will ensure that the design approved takes into account the need to keep the trees within the park as they are. You note that the development already requires the removal of a number of mature trees.

In theory you should look at the plans, but getting to Waterloo Library if you work full time is difficult. I and others cannot locate the plans on the Lambeth web site. So you may, like me, have to rely on the very sketchy details given in the letter I received. (I have though picked up enough background to be pretty certain I am not making a fuss about nothing.) Curiously Lambeth do not seem to have bothered to have put up any pink notices around the site alerting people to the planning applicaiton. This is straightforwardly naughty. However Lambeth have said they will lend me copies of the plans for the Friday meeting. I would be happy to show them to people over the weekend. Just PM.

Others, including the anonymous contingent who actually work for Southwark Planning Department may be able to offer better.

The process is formal in that they have to acknowledge all the objections and consider them. When you have lived in the area a while you will realise that it is a constant struggle to try to maintain a long term view: eg this area is nicer if it has parks and stuff as well as dense blocksof small and expensive appartments. When Lambeth seems, at the moment especially, to be ready to capitulate to any developer. (I generally have a reasonable regard for local Councillors, and for the current Planning Committee, but am genuinely perplexed by the lack of interest in what is real and predictable public concern about this green space. It feels like a done deal.)

A good initial response will be hugely useful as we then try to fight approval, or any developer's appeal. Plus GLA, ODPM and the rest of the long-winded process. And that is after working your way slowly through UDP, Waterloo Development Framework, EH listing and other processes. A Chief Planner in another south London borough once told me that he believed that the whole process is completely weighted against local residents, who do not have anything like the same access to time, knowledge and Council departments. A recent boss who had also once been a chief planner as well as a planning policy expert, found the idea of me trotting along to the Lambeth UDP enquiry in my own time and arguing against big name and highly paid planning consultants, distinctly amusing. It simply is not fair, and though Planning Aid for London do what they can, people in North Lambeth really should be given help to level the playing field. Developers are bound to think short term.

However if we can get a lot of formal responses in, I do think we can save our trees. I hear that the developers have considered taking the balconies off the flats, at least below tree level, but it appears that they have been told that they do not need to. Instead Lambeth have come to some form of agreement to an regular and savage pruning schedule.

The thing is akin to your neighbour saying he wants to build an extention to his house and he wants you to prune your trees so he can enjoy a better view of your garden. Outrageous. The park IS our garden.

The truth is these trees are huge and provide an effective green boundary to the park. The flats will have south-facing balconies that will look straight into a mass of green leaves and branches. Even if the trees survive the development, residents will immediately start campaigning for the trees to be pruned. Unless we see a design that integrates the trees properly there is every reason to be mistrustful.

I did invite the developers to speak. They say there is no need as they have already consulted widely. I queried this and asked who they had been consulting. Ah...Lambeth, they say. Thing is we live here. Lambeth officers don't.

Also, and I hope I am not breaking confidences, James tells me that he has been approached and asked about who is behind the posts and the meeting.

Anyway in short, and I am very aware that my posts on the park are never short, we need people - just good honest ordinary people - to write in to the planning department before 9 March. There is an important principle about protecting the setting of green space and conservation areas. If we dont stand together on this and on other similar proposals - the Potters Field thing is just shocking - we lose it for ever.

Hope to meet some new faces on Friday. Also a chance to meet our MP who is being an absolute star. She seems even crosser than I am. And maybe a drink after.

A prize to the member of Southwark's planning department who posts the best draft letter to forward to their Lambeth colleagues. I have it on good authority that Lambeth are reading the thread!
Wednesday 1 March 2006 2.24pm
Guy's and St Thomas' Charity and its partners, Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust and the Evelina Family Trust, would like to clarify a few inaccuracies in Sarah's message posted on Monday 27th February about the plans for Founder's Place.

Firstly, the Charity has taken the matter of the protection of trees in Archbishops Park very seriously and following concerns raised in November 2005 the Charity further consulted with an arboriculturist (tree expert) to ensure that the planned development will not cause damage to the trees nearest the buildings.

The revised plans have done away with the balconies on the flats nearest the Park to lessen the impact on the trees. The development has also been moved back a further three metres from the line of the trees (taking the development more than 13 metres away from the trees) so that pruning can be kept to an absolute minimum.

In the original plans the trees would have had to be pruned by up to 51 per cent, not 60 per cent, as Sarah suggests. In addition, pruning would only be required of seven of the trees - not all of them. In the latest plans, only five trees will require to be pruned to one side of the tree crown - of these, four of the trees will be marginally trimmed (an average of six per cent), and one tree will be trimmed by 23 per cent. The Charity has been advised that the trees' leaves may actually become denser and greener as a result of pruning.

It is also important to note that the roots of the trees will be trimmed in accordance with British Standards, but certainly not as much as 60 per cent. The tree expert has advised the Charity that the roots of the trees will naturally extend away from the buildings, southwards into the park and open ground, where water and nutrients are available in the soil.

It is not envisaged that future residents “will campaign for regular and savage pruning” as the Charity has agreed a programme of controlled tree management with the Council and the trees will be surveyed on a regular basis.

The Charity is pleased to have agreed a total investment of 1.2million into local regeneration including 250,000 for improvements to Archbishops Park. How the money will be spent is a matter for the London Borough of Lambeth, although the Charity has asked to be involved in the decision making process. Residents who want the money to be spent on particular projects should contact the Council with their views.

The Victorian School is not a listed building and in the previous report to the planning committee it is stated that “given the limited architectural significance of the school and the importance of its site in realising the wider public benefits of the scheme, the proposed demolition is justified”. The Charity has informed the Buddhist community from the very beginning of the plans for Founder's Place and they are willing to move on to make way for the scheme. They have also written a letter in support of the development to the London Borough of Lambeth.

The scheme will provide 400 flats for key workers and a day nursery for hospital staff. It will also provide accommodation for parents of very sick children being treated at the Evelina Children's Hospital. Private residential flats will help to fund the development.

In addition, the plans by the leading urban architect, Sir Terry Farrell, will regenerate an area vastly in need of improvement; benefiting the local community and boosting shops and other services in the Waterloo area.

The revised plans are available to view in the reception of Lambeth Borough Council, Phoenix House, 10 Wandsworth Road, London SW8 2LL.

If any readers of this Forum have further questions to ask the planning applicants, these can be emailed to or by calling the communications department at Guy's and St Thomas' Charity on Tel: 020 7188 1218 or Tel: 020 7188 9083

Edited 1 times. Last edit at 1 March 2006 2.29pm by GSTCharity.
Wednesday 1 March 2006 6.51pm
GSTCharity wrote:
the Charity has taken the matter of the protection of trees in Archbishops Park very seriously

Ahem... only since it became clear that the Charity wouldn't get their original planning application through Lambeth's planning committee, IMHO.
Wednesday 1 March 2006 6.53pm
Thank you. I think it is constructive to see a developer respond to points made on this Forum. Planning proposals like this tend to be discussed within inner circles and it is very easy for the ordinary resident to feel left on the outside.

I should say right at the start that the Charity's good intentions are not in doubt. Nor should the intentions of local people who are prepared to put a lot of effort into protecting and improving important leisure and recreation facilities. What we are considering though is to what extent expensive private flats should intrude on the setting of a pretty park and Conservation area.

However to answer your specific questions:

1. I am pleased the Cahrity take the protection of trees seriously. However I went to just about every consultation before the first planning application and heard a number of concerns raised. It was clear at the November site visit that these concerns had not been taken on board, which is why the Planning Copmmittee suggested the application was withdrawn.

2. I am pleased that some of the balconies have been removed. The idea of balconies facing straight into trees did not help confidence that the trees would survive into the longer term. I was about to blame Lambeth who had said that they did not think the balconies had been removed, though they knew this had been discussed. I have now picked up a large box from Lambeth containing the full application. The three page summary from Drivas Jonas outlines changes to the previous application and the reasoning behind them. I cannot see any mention of the balconies being taken off. You are probably right but given the full set of papers is going to take most of a full day to read, I am sure you can understand any misunderstanding. It would be useful if this change could be clairified for me and other Forum members.

3. In the context of moving the buildings back it is worth remembering that a sizeable chunk of the old car park is zoned as green space. A really sensible approach would have been to consolidate all thesmall parcels of public open space and top incorporate them into the northern end of the park, thus allowing more complete protection.

4. In the months before the first application I heard all sorts of versions of how much tree would have to be pruned, from them coming down altogether to no impact at all. I asked a number of times for clarification, and in particular something visual to show people what the buildings would look like from, say, the playground. Though promised, this never arrived hence the real community shock when at the site visit we learned for the first time what the impact would be.

5. One thing that emerged with the last planning application was that different tree experts say different things. Though perhaps not true in this case, experts in any field can be prone to giving the advice their paymasters may want to hear. In any case the last planning officer's report made clear that there was a real difference in opinion about the ability of these particular trees to withstand the pruning proposed.

6. I am told that though proposals for pruning meet British Standards, there is a huge difference between the shock and disruption a huge 100 year old tree can take and that which a smaller and younger tree could withstand. As in the medical world. Young people are far more likely to survive a stressful event than, say, a very large and hundred year old granny. The advice I was given was that minimum standards were precisely that. If there was real committment to preserving the trees, more would be needed. (As far as I understand some sort of underground fence is put in some distance from the excavation to keep the roots away. This means that the roots are cut back before the start of the building.)

7. If I was a resident in an expensive and south facing flat and I did not get sunlight because of a really big tree, I would campaign for the tree to be cut back. Especially if I then got a view of a park. I woudl be very interested in knowing the details of the agreement which will protect the trees from any such future lobbying.

8. 250,000 is not a lot to go into the park. Less than the price of a single flat. I have worked for about four years with Lambeth and representatives from the Hospital to draw up a management plan for the park which is based on user needs and priorities. This and further consultation should be the basis on which the money is spent. I do hope the Charity will support this. A cafe with safe toilets, not new entrances!

9. On the argument as to whether the Victorian school stays or goes, I cannot resist but to quote again one of the arguments behind the recommendation that “given the limited architectural significance of the school and the importance of its site in realising the wider public benefits of the scheme, the proposed demolition is justified”. That is "the impact of the school building on the appearance of the conservation area is relatively small, as it is a low building...". I really don't buy it. A low and unobtrusive Victorian building has to be better than a big and modern building.

10. The Buddhists are nice people and contribute to the diversity of the area.

11. Sceptics might enjoy comparing the number of key worker units quoted with the the number of ADDITIONAL key worker and affordable units being provided. And work out which other facilities are additional or simply being moved from Guys or Lower Marsh.

12. Bully for Sir Terry Farrell. I like living here. It has not struck me as an area "vastly in need of improvement". However it is an area "vastly in need of quality green space".

The developers have been invited on Friday to provide detail of the impact of the building on the park. (Though not on the wonderfulness of the Hospital, NHS or the Chairty - that is not relevent.) It would be really useful if a we could find a local person who knows about trees. The aim is to find a proper compromise which preserves the trees and the setting of the park, but allows the Founders Place development to go ahead. However given the differing advice we have had from the developers so far, I hope others understand why we remain sceptical.
Thursday 2 March 2006 12.12pm
I think with regard to the future of the trees Sarah you are right to be concerned. One of my work colleagues has just spent a long few months in battle over his trees. There was a new development at the bottom of his garden and the house built at the back of his was sold even though it was clear that there were large trees on my colleagues property whjich blocked their light. With in weeks of moving in they asked for the trees to be pruned right back as it was reducing their light and considerable legal proceedings then took place. The result was that my colleague has been forced to prune his trees right back with considerable loss of privacy to his property. the only saving grace was that his new neighbours were forced to pay half of the costs for doing this. It appears that it would be easy for any person buying a property to argue for the trees to be cut back despite knowing they were there when the property was acquired.
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