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Founder's Place development - planning appeal

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Friday 22 December 2006 9.37am
I am the Secretary of the Friends of Archbishops Park (FoAP). As has been mentioned earlier on this thread, FoAP agreed at their recent AGM that a consultation exercise in respect of the proposed Founder's Place development would be undertaken in order to get a sense of the views of the membership of FoAP. For your information, the views expressed by the FoAP membership have been as follows;

Out of a potential 153 members of FoAP who had the opportunity to vote, 55 members chose to return a vote paper to me. Of these, 34 members do not want the FoAP to oppose the development (ie. support the appeal) and 21 members want the FoAP to oppose.

Merry Christmas to all readers.
Tuesday 26 December 2006 3.22pm
First I should apologise.

I have spent over six years working to protect the park across the road, with some real sucesses along the way. At times, I suspect in common with anyone who sticks their head above the parapet, it has been quite difficult. Luckily some good and wise friends, including in this context, this forums moderator, are kind enough to tell me when I am getting carried away.

James is absolutely right. I share, along with others, a huge admiration for what he has acheived. Readers of this site will now have some idea of what has been going on, and the deep unpleasentness which has surrounded the Founders Place planning application. But this is the side show.

Now the real issues. First the FofAP result. My own understanding is that noone "opposes" the development. Some people have concerns about about some of the detail of the current proposals.

Different people have different concerns. Whilst I appreciate Freds more recent post I am not sure that he has it right. The Lambeth Planning Committee spent three long evennings asking questins and considering the detail. In the end a Committee who seemed inclined to approve the application (because like most of us they support a development on at least some of the site) rejected it by a big margin.

Real concerns included:

1. The proximity of buildings to each other. (As prevously mentioned the Committee appeared very concerned about the apparently low light levels in at least some of the flats, and the distance between living rooms. So much so that the second meeting adjourned so that Councillors, planners and developers could get out a ruler to actually measure the plans.)

2. The demolition of the Holy Trinity building and the felling of mature trees on the part of the site south of Royal Street. This area is conservation area. The building and the trees are protected. Lambeth planning policy accepts that the hospital might develop the part of the site that they owned when the conservation area policy was written, but requires this development to be sympathetic to the setting of the park. This does NOT mean that the developers should go out and purchase other parts of the site and assume they have a carte banche to demolish every building and fell every tree on this newly acquired area.

3. My main concern, is not, as Fred suggests, the height of the buildings adjoining the park, but their south facing windows. As Rabbie reminded us the first set of proposals effectively assumed that the trees would go and had lovely south facing windows with balconies attached. Presumably private flats are worth more if they have a view of a park. The revised plans have the same design though now a bit further back. I believe that this design is unsuitable and fear that it is incompatible with the long-term survival of the trees. Because, put simply, the flats are going to be pretty dark.

This is a large site. I did not pick up in any of the three planning meetings I attended, any real concern about the height of buildings at the northern end of the site. I think, and I was a bit of a whizz at Lego in my earlier days, given the size of the site it should be perfectly possible for a skilled architect to design buildings that did not arouse the concerns detailed above.

A planning expert I spoke to a few days ago went further. He had no sympathy at all for a developer who chose to buy a building which was clearly protected, in the hope of achieving windfall profits.

This application is in the hospital's name. Yet the proportion of new affordable housing is no better than that expected in many commercial developments. There is almost certainly a commercial developer waiting in the wings. I assume they financed the purchase of the Holy Trinity Centre. It would be even more shocking if the hospital, or more accurately the Hospital Charity have used public money for what, in essence is property speculation.

As others have said, the planning system works on policies and rules. The objections made at the initial planning stage were put together following a public meeting attended by about 50 people including the local MP, local Councillors and a GLA member. A representative from the developers made a presentation. This meeting confirmed local concern about the Founders Place. A steering group, includign Neil and myself, then took these concerns forward.

I am not too sure why we are experiencing the level of unpleasentness that we are. The planning process is structured. Local people are encouraged to take part in the process. The public meeting confirmed that there is local concern about these proposals. The fact that the planning committee first asked that the proposals be revised, and then turned down the application implies that the concerns about the development are not to wide of the mark.

I, personally, believe that these particular proposals when taken as a whole do not provide enough balance. The cost in terms of impact on the park is too high. I also believe that it is constructive for me and others to express our concerns as part of the planning process.

What I had not expected, however, is the hostility that I and others would be exposed to. I really do not understand it.

I will try, however, to keep my focus on the planning angle. One of the things that has upset me most over the past year or two is the expent to which others have got dragged into the unplesentness. This includes readers of this site, those who attended the FofAP AGM this summer, and a host of others. Perhaps I should add that I have absolutely no idea who people like Phoenix or WestofBank are. I am pretty certain I have never met them.

If asked to explain what the problem is, my very personal view is that the hospital charity have used the wrong approach. Government Planning Policy Guidance asks developers to carry out public consultation before drawing up plans. Anecdotal evidence is that the developers were taken aback by the level of concern about the threat to trees in the park. If they had played it straight plans could have been drawn up which would have reduced the potential cost to the community. I certainly would have supported proposals which would have provided long term protection to the park.

Instead it feels to me as if a level of desperation has set in. I have no idea if the Planning Inspector will agree with the Lambeht Planning Committee. But if he does, we will not only have protected the trees, but set a positive prescedent for future applications elsewhere in the borough.

Wednesday 27 December 2006 11.27pm
Sarah2 raises three concerns about the Founder's Place planning appeal.

1. The closeness of the buildings to each other and the apparently low light levels in some of the flats.

Fact: the Council observed that three of the habitable rooms (not flats) would require revision in order to meet BRE standards for daylight. This was not given as a reason for refusing planning permission. Furthermore, why is Sarah2 raising this issue: building standards will be met and if prospective leaseholders consider the flats dark they will presumably not buy them? (Or is it seriously believed that they will chop down the trees in the middle of the night in order to get more daylight?)

2. The demolition of the Holy Trinity building.

Fact: English Heritage submitted a report to the Department of Culture Media and Sport regarding the Trinity Centre building and the Secretary of State confirmed that it was not worthy of retention.

3. The south facing windows and the trees.

Fact: The Charity was never intending to fell the trees that now have the benefit of Tree Preservation Orders. However, it did agree to move them back 3 metres and to remove the balconies in order to minimise any pruning. Sarah2 may believe the design to be 'incompatible with the long-term survival of the trees' just as there are some who believe the world to be flat. Lambeth Council and a number of experts have come to a different conclusion on the trees. For further information see the Charity's post of 1st March.

The FoAP consultation exercise has tended to confirm that people support the Charity's appeal. The results of that exercise (see Kate Payne's post of 22nd December) were consistent with
a) the vote taken at the FoAP AGM when a count of hands showed that a majority opposed the motion that called on FoAP ‘to oppose the appeal' and
b) the lack of support for those who stood to be FoAP committee members who have campaigned against Founder's Place.

It would be interesting to read on this discussion forum from Kate Hoey MP, who has opposed the development, or from any councillors who support the Council's opposition of the planning appeal. I am left with the uncomfortable feeling that public money and resources are going to be used fighting an appeal to resist a development that will bring many benefits to Waterloo and which only a small minority of residents actually oppose.
Thursday 28 December 2006 10.53am

1. Fact. The flats that do not meet minimum light standards will be for key workers. Eg rented. Other "habitable rooms", which I think excludes bedrooms kitchens and bathrooms, in the development have very low light levels. Councillors were not happy about this, not were residents. This I understand, though I am not a property expert, is the reason behind the first ground for refusal.

2. Fact. The Holy Trinity building is within a conservation area. Therefore Government guidence is that is should be treated as if it were listed. The new Lambeth Unitary Development Plan says it should be retained and the Government's own planning inspector has strengthened the wording following his review of the deposit UDP. The point about a Conservation area is not that each individual building is listed but that attractive buidlings, and the Holy Trinity Centre is calm quiet and peaceful, which contribute to the conservation area as a whole should be retained.

3. Fact. Conservation area policy says that new development on the land (and the area of the Holy Trinity Centre was not included as this was supposed to be retained) should be sympathetic to the setting of the park. I do not think Fred would support his neighbour building something with windows overlooking his garden and which required Fred to pay for pruning the trees within his own garden every three years. For many, many people in this area, and this includes the big estates in Kennington as well as the rather enclosed "community" of Waterloo, the park is our garden.

As for the Friends the last two meetings have been very different and far less open that those previously. There has already been enough on this subject, at least in James Hatts' view. Many of the people who attended the July meeting and voiced their concerns no longer feel the Friends group represent them and their needs. And I suspect many at the last meeting felt uncomfortable about the way proceedings seemed to be dominated by what appeared to be an affluent and unrepresentative group. (One man was accompanied by his wife, sister, sister-in-law and even his Godmother, which was probably enough with postal votes to sway the result.) My own experience was that even if you were elected onto the Committee it did not mean that you were invited to meetings or kept up to speed on key issues, such as the S106 agreement.

I am also confused, and I assume others are as well, about what seems to be a confusion between supporting development, and supporting these specific proposals.

I recognise that Fred knows an awful lot more about Property law than I do, and will probably know more about the cost of an enquiry. (No hard since I have never been involved in a planning enquiry before and am not a lawyer.) Maybe I am reading too much into what he says. But why is he so keen that local Councillors and MPs take part in this Forum. Anyone who was at the planning meetings will have heard Kate Hoey MP speak quite eloquently, and James' archives will confirm that her line is consistent and transparent. Cllr Truesdale too spoke at the third planning meeting and acknowledge local concerns. Asking, if I remember correctly that the Committee Balance the different arguments and reach their own decision.

However this Forum is a community Forum. The Friends Committee is now astonishingly high-powered, and Fred and his household, are genuinely sucessful and respected professionals. The community is lucky that people with their skills and experience are involved in their community.

But a park is a park and trees are trees. It is the right of each and every one of us to be involved in the planning process if we are concerned about proposals. At the end of the day decisions will be made on the basis of Lambeth, GLA and Government planning policy. When reading these policies, I was pleasently surprised at the extent to which they echoed my own views and aspired to a good mix between development and conservation

Everyone reading also has the right to contribute to the process. If you don't things will "just happen" as thay have done too often in North Lambeth. And as we found at the planning committee, people do listen.
Thursday 28 December 2006 1.46pm

I'm sure we'd both like to hear from others on this issue. Unless there are significant developments (such as the disclosing of the appeal documents by the Planning Inspectorate) why don't you & I agree to refrain from posting about Founder's Place & the Park until February? We're in danger of turning what should be community debate into a dialogue!

Thursday 28 December 2006 4.22pm
I refer to paragraph 4 of Sarah2's last post which regrettably contains inaccurate and misleading information in respect of the last AGM held by the Friends of Archbishops Park (FoAP)in November 2006. As Secretary of FoAP it is necessary for me to correct this information in order that readers are not further mislead about the FoAP group.

The AGM was "OPEN" to EVERYONE, and everyone was welcome to attend (both members and non-members alike). This fact was widely publicized beforehand and the turnout at this meeting was better than ever.

Furthermore, the feedback the group received from members after this AGM was overwhelmingly positive and supportive - which is in stark contrast to Sarah2's "suspicion" that "many at the last meeting felt uncomfortable about the way proceedings seemed to be dominated by what appeared to be an affluent and unrepresentative group".

It appears that Sarah2 is referring to the FoAP Committee as "an affluent and unrepresentative group". Such disparaging remarks are dissappointing bearing in mind that the FoAP Committee consists purely of volunteers (from differing walks of life), who are prepared to give/committ their own time (and often resources as well) working hard together for the sake of the park and those who use the park. Each committee member has also of course been properly elected by the membership of FoAP to represent the group.

I hope this thread can stick to the issue of Founders Place and not deviate unnecessarily again to criticize the FoAP group. Thank you.
Friday 29 December 2006 10.08am
Kate will recall that the Chair of the July meeting asked the Committee to go away make proper proposals for changes in the Constitution and then hold an Extraordinary General Meeting. She may also recall that two respected local figures (a GP and primary school teach) offered to be involved in a working group, but, I understand, heard nothing more.

Kate may feel that the November meeting went well. But it was very different to the diverse and well attended meetings the group had in its early days. The November meeting included things like proxy votes, about which many people had legitimate concerns. It was also held some distance from the park. And also, in variance from previous practice, only 10 out of the 12 committee places were up for election. The other two are being filled by co-optees.

Guess what. I polled the 11th highest number of votes.

People are entitled to their opinions. My assertion is simply that many people now feel the Friends group does not fully represent the views of park users. This would not matter if major decisions were based on wider public consultation (which is why a management plan was produced) but at the moment they are not. Equally Kate may be right and FoAP genuinely has its finger on the local pulse. I feel that having this debate in a open forum is useful. Whatever Kate or I say, readers will make up their own minds.

One detail: could Kate for the record cofnirm who the two co-opted Committee members are and a little about them. Since they represent us it would be useful to know.

If two people have not been co-opted (and I know one person who was phoned with the "good news" that he was being invited onto the Friends Committee despite faring relatively poorly in the election, but who saw it instead as a potenital poison chalice), I would happily offer my services. I promise I would add some constructive diversity of opinion.

More seriously having diversity on a Committee is good. I remember in the early days being warned about ensuring that key decisions had member and local support. I remember, possibly in the last Committee meeting I was invited to, making that very same point about the proposed re-planting of the south west corner of the park. It really does not matter who is on the Committee. It matters that the Committee speak on behalf of those who use the park and particularly those, without cars, gardens or money, who really need it.

This is all rather off topic. But I hope contributes to the community debate. I have to disagree with Fred, about the need for us to refrain from posting till February. First the deadline for representations to the planning Inspector is 4 January. And ordinary voices need to be heard.

But also because a large number of people have also contributed, or judging from my PMs, emails, and recent conversations, have read the various threads. I have no idea who Pat, Westofbank, JQL or Medic 2000 are, and till recently did not know who Zoe or Phoenix were.

Despite being an elected Committee member I was not invited to a Committee meeting for around 18 months. Only one other elected Committee member attended the public meeting in China Walk where the Founders Place developers presented their plans. (The Chair of the Friends was invited to speak, but unlike our local MP, the Leader of Lambeth Council and others, failed to attend.)I have real concerns about the Founders Place plans. I think this Forum represents an excellent opportunity for me to air them, and to hear the views of others.
Friday 29 December 2006 11.55am
Sarah2's post above contains more inaccurate and misleading remarks about the FoAP group and its recent meetings. These remarks are again dissappointing and seem unhelpful on a thread about Founders Place.

However, most people are fully aware of Sarah's animosity towards the committee of FoAP since the time when a new chair was elected in her place in June 2005. I would say that, at that time, the committee publically thanked Sarah for her valuable contribution as chair of the group, but for a variety of reasons most felt that it was time for the group to have a change of lead.

I do not think it is either helpful or kind to enter into further debate here on this subject. Also, looking back over Sarah's posts over the last 18 months, it seems clear that if I were to post a correction each time she makes an inaccurate and misleading remark about the FoAP group on this forum I would spend my life doing so. All I can suggest is that readers take whatever Sarah says about the FoAP group/committee (over the last 18 months and in future) with a pinch of salt. If anyone has any query they wish me to address in this regard I would be happy to respond to a PM.

I am confident that the current FoAP committee will continue to work hard together representing the park/park users to the best of their ability. Thanks.

Kate Payne
Secretary, Friends of Archbishops Park
Friday 29 December 2006 12.27pm
I'm exasperated by the above posts - it has become increasingly tiresome to look at this thread in an effort to understand more about the subject, only to come across the usual suspects from either 'side' trying to climb over each other to a higher moral ground. I just do not care about the story of who did what to whom within the FoAP - email each other, or write a book about it by all means, but not here! I'm tempted to say that I'm not going to bother to read any more, but no doubt I will try, though I'm not sure it's going to be a rewarding or more importantly, an enlightening experience!

Rant over, my blood pressure's high enough as it is.
Friday 29 December 2006 12.54pm
For anyone who does not know me, I always try to be open and honest.

I do not have any great animosity towards any member of the Friends Committee, and when I was a Committee member, would have been happy to go along to Committee meetings if invited. I would be genuinely delighted if either Kate Payne of Helen Lees were willing to sit down with me and try to work things out. And have suggested this a number of times over the past two years.

As Kate knows well, I voluntarily stood down as Chair to make way for Helen Lees, though it was agreed that I would continue to be on the Committee and work on the play and cafe projects.

I dont think any of the current Committee were members of the Friends group in the period 2000-2003. I am right in my assertion that these meetings were well attended, though by what appears to me to be different people. This is not necessarily bad, as the recent Waterloo meeting included a number of people who work rather than live in the area, and some people from further afield, which genuinely expands the diversity of the group.

It depends on your point of view. I still think that it is important that the group works hard to understand the importance of the park for those who have least and need good quality and accessible green space most. Particularly those from the big estates in north Kennington and Waterloo.

I think it is reasonable to say that there are people locallly who are unhappy about the group, and do not feel it represents them. Yes the last meeting was open, but people were actually locked out of the July AGM for arriving after the start time. And as Kate knows, several people expressed their concerns directly and openly to her at the time.

I do not think that it is helpful to refer to me being "inaccurate and misleading" or taking what I say "with a pinch of salt". Nor was it helpful for the Friends capacity support to send an email to a wide circulation saying I am a "pernicious liar".

My comments in my earlier post were meant to try to express my concern that though people like me may not be as qualified or sucessful as the "Freds" of this world, we are entitled to care about our park and our trees. And whatever Fred says, we should tell the planning inspector that we are being expected to pay an unacceoptably high price for a development, that if properly balanced, we would welcome.

I did not mean anything derogatory. I may be over-sensitive, but I was picking up from Fred's post a sense that the opinions that count are those of Councillors and MPs, or the Friends Committee, and not those from more ordinary people. Needless to say, though not deliberately, I take a contrary view. A community Forum is just that, and all views should be welcome.

My understanding is that the same is true of the planning process, and that the inspector will be very keen to hear from peopole affected by the development. He will hear a lot from the developers and their agents, and presumably Friends of Archbishops Park. He needs to hear from those who have a different view.

If you feel the current proposals for development are unsuitable and take too much away from the park, you should write explaining how much this oasis of green means.

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