Two planning applications pushed through
30/01/2017 16:47:00......Posted by Tim Pollard
I normally try to avoid being excessively political in this blog, as I am conscious that it is read by people who support all political parties (and none). However, this post is going to have to be the honourable exception to that rule.
Last Thursday night the Labour-dominated planning committee approved a number of intensification schemes in the south of the borough including two in Sanderstead. Sadly for local democracy, there was never any question that these schemes would be refused – despite the fact that committee members are not supposed to be whipped or express pre-determination, in each case all six Labour members voted en bloc.
The first of the schemes in Sanderstead was 105-107 Purley Downs Road, currently occupied by two lovely and distinctive large detached houses opposite the golf course. The proposal is to demolish both and replace with two large blocks of nine flats. One block is to be for sale and the other to be ‘affordable’, in co-operation with a housing association. I spoke in opposition to this development, as did a representative of the residents in Hill Barn, who would be most affected.
Here is what I said:
105 and 107 Purley Downs Road are two of the finest detached properties in Sanderstead, one of which was built by a local builder whose works are characterised by the distinctive glazed green tiles. As such I deeply regret that the owners have opted to sell these beautiful houses to a developer only for them to be demolished. That’s a great shame, but sadly I have to accept that it is not unlawful to do this.
If they are to go, it would seem a great shame not to insist that the space is filled by the type of accommodation of which we need much more and which is found a few yards down the road in Maywater and Tindale Closes – namely small family detached houses.
Instead , advised by the council during an extended pre-application process, the committee is being asked to adjudicate on two large blocks of flats, of which there are no other examples on Purley Downs Road. The two blocks are derived from the blocks from a previous scheme on this location, which was treated as two separate schemes on each of the plots of 105 and 107, both of which were refused by Croydon, upheld on appeal. The Inspector determined that the previous scheme would ‘materially harm the character and appearance of the area’. He further concluded that the scheme ‘failed to promote or reinforce local distinctiveness, and to seek a good standard of amenity for all existing and future occupants of land and buildings, a necessary requirement of the National Planning Policy Framework.’
It is hard to see that these concerns have been substantively ameliorated in the new scheme. The buildings are still alien, do not promote local distinctiveness and offer poor amenity for residents of the buildings. They still materially harm the appearance and character of the area. The revised scheme does go some way towards reducing the bulk and massing issues with the first scheme, although it will still be significantly worse than the current buildings and more intrusive than any others on the road. In particular there will be significant dominance as seen from Hill Barn , along with a significant increase in the overlooking of the detached properties in Hill Barn which back onto the site. This will result in a loss of privacy to those residents, especially from the higher floors in the new blocks. Although some soft landscaping is proposed, the parking requirements mean that this is necessarily modest in scale. It does not offer much reassurance that the privacy of neighbours will be protected.
The new blocks have been brought forward significantly and now stand in front of the building line. This will increase the dominance as seen from the road. In the locality people accept that development on this site is probably inevitable. But this is the wrong development for this area so I would ask that the committee refuses the application.
Sadly all these arguments were in vain. The Conservative councillors present moved refusal, which was rejected by 6 votes to 4 and the committee chair, Labour’s councillor Paul Scott then moved approval which was agreed by the same 6 votes to 4.
The second application, for land between Church Way, Briton Hill Road and Arkwright Road, went the same way. Here a tiny access road was to be created which is too narrow for a fire engine to get access, to lead to three new two storey detached houses. A local resident spoke very eloquently about the good reasons for refusal. Again the four Conservative councillors on the committee chose to support the 35 residents who were against the development in this form. Again the Labour chair proposed approval and his five colleagues slavishly followed his lead. Six to four in favour.
The other applications in other wards had all gone the same way when I left. Perhaps I was an unlucky charm that night, because shortly after I left we had a rare success - in Croham ward. Cllr Jason Perry and Cllr Luke Clancy proposed and seconded refusal on a scheme to replace the Stag & Hounds pub with an over cramped development. Whilst there was nothing to protect the pub in planning terms, Jason and Luke argued it was an over-intensification and pointed especially to the lack of defensible space for the residential units fronting busy highways which showed the developer had built as close as possible to every boundary - in some cases by 0.2 metres. To Conservative members’ astonishment the chair of the committee agreed with them, Labour abstained and they overturned the officer recommendation. Doubtless it will soon be back in a slightly less awful form and will be agreed, but at least this was a small victory for local residents.
Even more alarmingly, the Chair nailed his colours to the mast in terms of setting out what the Labour Group’s policy is. He said – and I quote – “There is no area of the borough where it is inappropriate to build flats”.
He went on to outline that respecting the character of an area does not mean building dwellings that are broadly the same as the ones around them. Nowhere, apparently, has the right to be considered special. And our housing need is so acute that, according to Scott, ‘every part of the borough will require intensification’.
Isn’t democracy marvellous?