Conservation Area Planning

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Thursday 25 May 2006 10.48am
Southwark council planning seem to have gone mad and it's really getting to a stage where we (I) have to do something. In the conservation area where I live (Alma Grove) they are permitting things that are wholly inappropriate (the knocking together of 3 terraces on Fort Road, with horrible UPVC windows and a monstrosity of external letter boxes stuck to the front wall), but are challenging small, sympathetic extensions to the rear of houses. There appears to be no consistency or common sense.

The key problem is that in other areas (such as Dulwich, Peckham etc.) they have local groups of residents who have formed themselves into groups (such as residents associations etc.) who then ‘force' the planning department to consult them and ask for approval on all planning applications in their area. This seems to bring some common sense, and the opinions of the locals, to the planning process.

Is there anyone else who lives in the Thorburn Square conservation area (Alma Grove, Fort Road, Balaclava Road, Reverdey Road etc.) who would support me taking an objective, well mannered (i.e. not NIMBY) approach to Southwark Planning regarding such developments? I do have a vested interest (as I want to do some work to the rear of my house) but my key concern is to protect the area as a whole, as Southwark Conservation just do not seem to care.
Thursday 25 May 2006 11.06am
Southwark Conservation? Is there such a thing? Southwark planning is another matter. They are **** scared all the time about taking issue with any developer who has more money to spend on appeals than the Council so they tend to give in without a fight. If a private individual who is also too poor to go to appeal, well they'll walk all over you. Welcome to the world!
Thursday 25 May 2006 11.39pm
Southwark Council did have a Conservation Areas Advisory Group.

The Group met monthly to discuss planning applications within or adjacent to CA's or Listed Buildings.

The Group was a statutory consultee on such applications.

The Group was made up of amenity groups with an interest in specific CA's.

The major problem with defending a CA is the basis upon which an application is to be judged ( "I don't like it" isn't a sufficiently qualified objection). Only around 1/3rd of Southwark's 30+ CA's are supported by a policy document. That document spells out the purpose of the designation and attempts to define the characteristics of the area that are to be 'conserved'. Without such a document, and against a determined applicant, anyone faces an uphill struggle.

Could I suggest that anyone who is interested contact Southwark's Conservation Section (7525 5000) and obtain a current list of groups affiliated to the CAAG. Then request to attend a meeting as an observer. That way you can find out how the CAAG works, meet some of the people who represent amenity groups in the borough and find out if any of the groups covers the CA in which you are interested. If no-one does cover that CA then do some homework, form an amenity group, affiliate to the CAAG and start attending meetings. It does take up time but thats the price you pay.

Regards

Niall
Friday 26 May 2006 12.54am
Not so much conservation area stuff, but is there anyway that a leaseholder can get out of paying over £1,000 for a UPVC front door that they don't really want on their flat when a Section 20 notice has been delivered? It is a conservation issue I guess when these doors are hideously ugly, in our case totally unnecessary, and a lot cheaper in B&Q? And when it comes to decisions Southwark Council have got leaseholders over a barrel. OK, maybe not the right place but where can we deal with these questions?
Friday 26 May 2006 8.42am
I feel like an obsessive, but the Founders Place fight is largely about the conservation area. Lambeth officers were minded to agree (Lambeth Palace) Conservation area consent to a development that would have required the demolition of every building on the site, including a lovely old Victorian school building, plus, I think, every tree. One astute Planning Applications Committee member asked whether the area would still be considered Conservation area should the development go ahead, given that nothing was to be conserved.

Lambeth does not get more ancient than the oland round Lambeth Palace, and the arguments for balance and green are particularly strong given the massive densities proposed for both Vauxhall and South Bank/Waterloo. Land values are part of the problem. Developers are much more willing to ask for to much and put up a fight when the rewards are higher.

Interestingly the Lambeth officers at the planning meeting advised Councillors that they had no grounds on which to refuse the Founders Place application despite clear conservation area policies and support from the Planning inspector for having the revised UDP specifically recommend that the buildings on the site be retained.

Councillors seemed to look at each other as if to ask why they had turned out for three meetings and two site visits when there were no grounds for rejecting the application. They then promptly voted to reject it.

I assume that the planning officer's statement was code for the fact that if the rejection goes to appeal Lambeth would not have a water-tight case. Which frankly is unacceptable.

The principle of conservation areas needs protecting and defending. Does Lambeth have anything similar to the Southwark group. Are there any London or national groups who might provide practical support. Any jouuurnalists who might be interested in a story on the sorry state of London's conservation policies. I think we could all do with something more than me ranting on this forum, great though the Forum and the support derived from it has been.
Friday 26 May 2006 11.12am
Perhaps English HEritage has some tips on this, Sarah2
Monday 29 May 2006 5.02pm
JGarcia wrote:
I do have a vested interest (as I want to do some work to the rear of my house) but my key concern is to protect the area as a whole, as Southwark Conservation just do not seem to care.

I live in Reverdy Rd.

I thought with a conservation area you could still make extensions to the house but only up to 10% of the existing floor space (as opposed to 15% when not in a conservation area) ? Have you had plans rejected ?
Tuesday 6 June 2006 12.47pm
As one of the new councillors in South Bermondsey and the new vice-chair of planning I would be really pleased if any residents in South Bermondsey would like to speak to me about planning or any other issues that they have. Please email me at helen.jardine-brown@southwark.gov.uk or call 07903 967849.
Wednesday 7 June 2006 7.16pm
JGarcia, I emailed Helen with some general comments on the Thorburn Square Conservation area and the importance of maintaining the character of the area, namely keeping the victorian cottages in tact and not converting them into flats or installing uPVC windows. Perhaps you could send some detail in relation to the development on Fort Road you refer to?

Thanks
Thursday 8 June 2006 9.33am
All

Southwark's CAAG was established to offer amenity groups a direct line of communication with the Planning Authority regarding developments within or adjacent to Conservation Areas.

If you, as an individual have an interest in a specific CA, contact the chair of the CAAG (find out who that is via Southwark's Conservation section) and and enquire if there is a specific amenity group with an interest in the CA in question.

Southwark Council's stated policies towards Conservation Areas is explained within the UDP at - http://www.southwark.gov.uk/Uploads/FILE_7605.pdf and states:

2.15 Conservation Areas Advisory Group
Southwark has set up an advisory group of local residents and representatives of other interested bodies, to provide advice
on applications in all conservation areas. The Group meets on a monthly basis.

When I was involved with the CAAG in the early 1990s the affiliated organisations included:

The Camberwell Society
The Dulwich Society
The Friends of Nunhead Cemetary
The Peckham Society
The Bermondset Street Association

The advantage that a local person enjoys is that they can get to know their geographical area, become involved with the CAAG and make sure that local applications are considered within the context of the Conservation Area in question. Such an individual is better placed to keep their finger on the pulse of local development than either Conservation staff at the Planning Authority or local councillors.

Importantly, a concerned individual might campaign for the formulation of a policy document for their local Conservation Area. The absence of such a document makes opposing 'inappropriate development' all the harder.

Regards

Niall Connolly
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