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The 4 Redberry Grove Planning Application
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robertlondon


Posts: 15
Joined: Oct 2007
Post: #1
24-01-2009 01:11 AM

The 4 Redberry Grove Planning Application

For the past 8 months local residents have been battling against what we felt was possibly one of the most inappropriate developments in Forest Hill/Sydenham ? the building of what is effectively a black glass box in the Sydenham Park Conservation Area.

On 22nd January 2009, a planning committee made up of just 3 councillors approved the application.

The Conservation Area
The development in Sydenham Park Conservation Area, primarily involved two streets ? Redberry Grove and Albion Villas Road. Both of these streets are near Dartmouth Road in Forest Hill, a short walk from Forest Hill Library. Both roads are single track lanes and have a variety of Victorian buildings on them. Albion Villas Road leads to the Albion Millennium Green ( a dog walkers paradise!) and Redberry Grove is unusual in that it is unmade ie. just soil and stones.

Sydenham Park Conservation Area is described in the UDP as: Development took place in stages during the latter half of the 19th century, with a mix of detached, semi-detached and terraced housing. Construction is mainly of London stock yellow brick, stuccoed dressings, plaster decorations and slate roofs. The area has a peaceful Gothic revival character and retains a degree of original integrity.

On the map below, the development site will be in the garden of 4 Redberry Grove, just below the word "Villas". 3&4 and 5&6 Albion Villas Road will face the rear of this development. The large block of flats you can see at the beginning of Albion Villas Road is actually on Dartmouth Road.

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robertlondon


Posts: 15
Joined: Oct 2007
Post: #2
24-01-2009 01:12 AM

Here are the nearest houses on Albion Villas Road:


3 & 4 Albion Villas Road


5 & 6 Albion Villas Road - the first Sydenham Children's Hospital

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robertlondon


Posts: 15
Joined: Oct 2007
Post: #3
24-01-2009 01:14 AM

The nearest houses on Redberry Grove:


3 Redberry Grove - a locally listed building


4 Redberry Grove - whose garden will be divided in order to build the house

And the Albion Millennium Green
(on the eastern border of the development):


View from the end of Albion Villas Road

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robertlondon


Posts: 15
Joined: Oct 2007
Post: #4
24-01-2009 01:15 AM

The development
The owner of 4 Redberry Grove applied to build a 5 bedroom house in half of his garden. It would have to face onto Redberry Grove and the back of it went up to Albion Villas Road, where it would have a back door and a car parking space to the side by the Millennium Green. It was entirely clad in black glass and had a zinc butterfly roof.


View from lane outside 3&4 Albion Villas Road


View from outside 5&6 Albion Villas Road

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robertlondon


Posts: 15
Joined: Oct 2007
Post: #5
24-01-2009 01:24 AM

Consultation
Local residents objected to the plans. A total of 68 objections were received - about half were individual letters, the other half signatures on pre-written letters. The local councillors, Forest Hill Society and Sydenham Society wrote objections. The Sydenham Society even compared it to a portkabin covered in black glass!

As a result of this a few changes were made - the back of the building was moved forward less than a metre from the Albion Villas Road edge, so retaining part of the original boundary wall, the gates now appeared to be made of wood and a wall was built between the development and the adjoining Millennium Green.


View from 3&4 Albion Villas Road


"Look no shadow!"
View from near the beginning of Albion Villas Road behind the flats on Dartmouth Road


Local Meeting
The council's Planning Officer informed us that he didn't think a local meeting was necessary (you're entitled to one when you hav 10 objectors) because he didn't find them to be particularly useful. But if we wanted one we'd have to write... so another letter writing campaign!

The local meeting was held on one of the coldest nights of the winter! Residents were told that the developer and architect had decided not to speak to the meeting.

When questions were asked of the Planning Officer, he repeated that he was not here to respond just to record what people said.

Two questions were aimed at the developer. The architect was asked to explain how this building would enhance the Conservation Area as he had stated this in his design statement. After a long silence, he said he was not prepared to answer the question.

The developer was asked which neighbours he had spoken to prior to ticking the box on the application form stating that he had consulted local residents prior to submitting the application. He said he couldn't remember.

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robertlondon


Posts: 15
Joined: Oct 2007
Post: #6
24-01-2009 01:25 AM

The Council Planning Committee
Clashing with a Healthier Communities Committee, the planning committee ended up with only 3 people on it - 2 Labour and 1 Green. After the develop made his speech saying how excited he was to have the opportunity to build this thing, the objectors were represented by Michael Abrahams from the Forest Hill Society. He argued that the building was contrary to the council's own conservation area policies and that the effect on wildlife would be harmful. Councillor John Russell (Forest Hill) also made a speech objecting to the building, again highlighting the council's own conservation area policies and picking up on many of the residents concerns.

After this there was little discussion. The Green wanted some assurance of the building's fuel efficiency and requested deferment until a biodiversity report could be completed (the 2 Labours voted against this). They then went to the vote - 2 Labours in favour and 1 Green abstained (basically because she couldn't have a biodiversity report)

Application APPROVED

The Council Policies
There are loads of council policies and arguments. I've cut and pasted a few as it's a bit of a task! Here are some of the arguments given by objectors:

It was felt the building did not enhance
Council policy states that new buildings must preserve, protect or enhance the Conservation Area. The Architect?s Design statement says that this will enhance the conservation area.

The conservation area is made up of a mixture of Victorian villas, large gardens and trees. There are no modernist buildings in the conservation area.

It does not satisfy English Heritage?s description of enhancement
English Heritage states some of the means by which local authorities can enhance the appearance of conservation areas. Regarding new buildings, it states
Ensuring that new buildings harmonise with or complement their neighbours in scale, style or use of materials.

It does not satisfy Lewisham Council?s Conservation Area policies

URB 16 New Development, Changes of Use and Alterations to Buildings in Conservation Areas
The Council, having paid special attention to the desirability of preserving or enhancing the special architectural or historic character or appearance of its Conservation Areas, will not grant planning permission or Conservation Area Consent where:
(a) new development, or alterations and extensions to existing buildings is incompatible with the special characteristics of the area, its buildings, spaces, settings and plot coverage, scale, form and materials; and
In carrying out this Policy the Council will:
(e) encourage or require as appropriate the retention and reinstatement of building features and landscaping features such as front gardens and boundary walls, important to an area?s character or appearance, if necessary by the use of Article 4 Directions;


This proposed development is incompatible with the special characteristics of the area in terms of its scale, form and materials.

Large parts of the original brick wall forming the garden boundary on Albion Villas Road will be destroyed to make way for large gates to the house and drive. The a massive part of the original Victorian Garden will be lost forever to make way for this development.


It is close to a locally listed building

URB20 protects the setting of locally listed buldings

It doesn't fulfill the requirements of the laws on garden development

HSG 8 Backland and In-fill Development
Backland and in-fill development will be permitted provided the following criteria are met:
(b) the scheme must respect the character of the area, including the cumulative impact;
© the scheme must be particularly sensitively designed;
(e) there should be no appreciable loss of privacy and amenity for adjoining houses and their back gardens;
(f) there should be no appreciable loss of wildlife habitat;


Wildlife - taken from Michael's speech

The London Wildlife Trust have confirmed that photos taken of tracks some years ago on Albion Villas are from Muntjac Deer. These photos are from the 1990s but from noises heard at night it is very possible that these shy animals, the size of dogs, are still present in Millennium Green. There are recorded sightings of Muntjac deer in Sydenham Woods and they are known to spread along railway lines, which are directly adjacent to this site. With the possibility of such rare and shy animals present on the site further assessment is required as to the effect on such animals from garden clearance and construction work.

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robertlondon


Posts: 15
Joined: Oct 2007
Post: #7
24-01-2009 01:26 AM

A few other things...

  • A couple of residents spoke to the council's Conservation Officer - he said that he couldn't see anything wrong with the building because it would reflect everything around it.
  • There was no public discussion of anything related to the conservation area
  • I think we all felt let down by the lack of any discussion / explanation.
  • Another concern was that this would set a precedent for buildings in conservation areas ie. cover it in black glass and it'll get through.

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koza


Posts: 39
Joined: Jun 2008
Post: #8
24-01-2009 09:23 AM

wow you have gone on a bit.

i hope this building is built and a lovely family live in it, tierd of the tradition of keeping in with the niegahbours or preserving the fronts of building, it is these objectors that hold back FH to the impact of everyone, not saying it should be a free for all, but the community needs open minded people that can understand good from bad design, and this is good although a little conservative, with the potential to have the 'bilbao effect'.

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Contrary Mary


Posts: 124
Joined: Oct 2008
Post: #9
24-01-2009 12:19 PM

Koza,

I also think the building is interesting in the best way, and would welcome it's appearance in Forest Hill - any other part of Forest Hill! In general, I also think that we should not expect the area to be kept in aspic - BUT: This particular area actually is special, because it is so early, so close to it's original character, and so unusual. It seems as if the continual emphasis on preservation over imagination by certain elements in relation to other developments (well-intentioned as these have been) has led to a kind of "conservation-fatigue" for the rest of us, and this makes any conservation-based objection seem like NIMBY-ism. However, in this case, RobertLondon's report indicates that we are not dealing with a false cry of wolf, but with the genuine warning. Ohmy

Additionally, it sounds as if the process has been carried out in a way which is hardly in keeping with the spirit of democracy. The attitude of the developer and architect outlined above shows a shocking disrespect for consultation procedures (not very Bilbao), and his report of the council committee meeting's lack of discussion of the points raised during the appeal shows same for local feeling, opinion and knowledge by people whose job is supposed to include paying attention to these things, not ignoring them! Angry

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michael


Posts: 3,217
Joined: Mar 2005
Post: #10
24-01-2009 12:27 PM

I am sure that international tourists will be visting this stunning new building and marvelling at their own reflection.

Thank goodness this new development was allowed so that Forest Hill can benefit from the tourist dollars. We really should bulldoze the library and turn it into car parks for tourist buses.

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robertlondon


Posts: 15
Joined: Oct 2007
Post: #11
24-01-2009 12:50 PM

I know I did go on a bit.
It's a thread just for the very very keen!

The bottom line of our argument was that the council themselves have created conservation areas and the policies that protect, preserve and enhance them. We realised that we could only argue using their policies, not our own opinions.

For instance here's 2 parts of policies:

URB 16 New Development, Changes of Use and Alterations to Buildings in Conservation Areas
The Council, having paid special attention to the desirability of preserving or enhancing the special architectural or historic character or appearance of its Conservation Areas, will not grant planning permission or Conservation Area Consent where:
(a) new development, or alterations and extensions to existing buildings is incompatible with the special characteristics of the area, its buildings, spaces, settings and plot coverage, scale, form and materials; and
In carrying out this Policy the Council will:
(e) encourage or require as appropriate the retention and reinstatement of building features and landscaping features such as front gardens and boundary walls, important to an area?s character or appearance,


HSG 8 Backland and In-fill Development
Backland and in-fill development will be permitted provided the following criteria are met:
(b) the scheme must respect the character of the area, including the cumulative impact;
© the scheme must be particularly sensitively designed;


And then there was the Conservation Officer whose attitude was if it's covered in black glass it'll reflect everything around it so it's ok.

Given that this particular building in this particular area has difficulty meeting these (and other) criteria, its approval renders Conservation Area Policy in Lewisham meaningless.

It also sets a precedent which can be used across the borough.

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jacksprat


Posts: 13
Joined: Jul 2008
Post: #12
26-01-2009 01:31 PM

Wow - after all that you haven't actually said WHY you don't like the new development or WHY you think it is inappropriate.

There is absolutely no reason why a well designed contemporary piece of architecture cannot compliment, and indeed enhance, a conservation area, or sit alongside Victorian or Georgian buildings happily.

This just goes to show how opinions differ between people. I think the new design looks great, and if I lived in one of the large existing Villas in the area I would welcome the new addition. Well done councillors and planning department!

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Bonnie Blue


Posts: 131
Joined: Jan 2009
Post: #13
26-01-2009 02:21 PM

Well I don't live in that area so it isn't going to bother me unduly but it is ugly and if anyone is giving one of those white houses away then put me at the top of the list. They are beautiful

The trouble is the Black glass building may be wonderful in it's own way but incongruous in it's settingSmile

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Londondrz


Posts: 1,538
Joined: Apr 2006
Post: #14
26-01-2009 03:33 PM

In some way that is good news for me. I was going to put a big ugly conservitory on the back of my property but was worried about planning refusing it.

Now all I will do is send in the plans but use black glass!! Easy really.

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robertlondon


Posts: 15
Joined: Oct 2007
Post: #15
26-01-2009 06:12 PM

Hi Jacksprat

The proposal was felt to be inappropriate because it was contrary to the council's own policies regarding conservation areas.

The objectors had many different reasons for objecting - but just because you don't like a proposal or think it's ugly isn't a valid reason to object to it. You can only object on grounds that it breaks laid down policies - such as ones about overshadowing, privacy or even building on archaeological sites. In our case we used the policies relating to Conservation Areas.

I know many people don't like the idea of conservation areas because they feel it stifles design but as we have conservation areas in Lewisham, we felt that they should at least mean something.

Abbreviating the council policy URB16 we get:
the council will not grant planning permission or Conservation Area Consent where:new development, is incompatible with the special characteristics of the area... its form and materials

We felt that a building completely covered in black glass with a zinc roof was clearly at odds with what this policy sets out to do.

Bonnie Blue - agree incongruous
Londondrz - go for it! - tell the planning department I sent you.

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gingernuts


Posts: 505
Joined: Nov 2007
Post: #16
27-01-2009 12:50 PM

How depressing and so typical of the council to take no notice of local opinion or their own policies regarding conservation. I can see from the pictures, that this area consists of some absolutely beautiful properties and epitomises the character of 'old Forest Hill'. The contemporary building looks cheap and ugly in comparison and I doubt will have anything like the life span of the Geogian villas that sit next door! I agree you cant please everyone regarding building design and it could be worse, it could have been a block of single bed flats, but a conservation area should IMHO conserve the appearance of the area otherwise what's the point? ConfusedAngry

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jacksprat


Posts: 13
Joined: Jul 2008
Post: #17
27-01-2009 01:31 PM

Robert,

I think conservation areas are great - but CA policy rightly allows for modern buildings to be judged on their merits.

What would you have preferred to see instead of the new development? Victorian pastiche?

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michael


Posts: 3,217
Joined: Mar 2005
Post: #18
27-01-2009 03:44 PM

jacksprat,
You are asking the wrong question. Each planning application must be considered on its own merits, not on what might be built there instead. The 'could be worse' principle does not apply.

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tttttttttttttt


Posts: 22
Joined: Mar 2005
Post: #19
19-07-2009 05:20 PM

I couldn't agree with Koza and Jacksprat more on this one. The photos listed in this thread are very 'selective' of the area and very well taken (congrats').

It would be far easier to post double the amount of photos of other very close neighbours to the proposed development to suggest just the contrary .......

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sydenhamcentral


Posts: 269
Joined: Mar 2008
Post: #20
14-09-2015 04:36 PM

This house was built and is now for sale:
http://www.themodernhouse.net/sales-list...ndon-se26/

It's been on TV recently too. It looks great in the flesh (I believe it's actually in SE26). It's quite clever and beautifully designed.

I think it's inspirational and wonderful. It's great that the it was built. Totally agree with tttttttttttttt, Koza and Jack Sprat.

There are some beautiful period buildings around this area, and some less than lovely looking housing estates. But I think this does it justice.

I think the Sydenham Society and Forest Hill society were wrong on this one. Normally buildings don't look as good as the drawings. This one far exceeds them for a change. It reflects the trees, sky and surroundings.

It would be great if our local civic societies actually championed great, forward thinking design rather than being a bit nimby with it. Conservations areas and buildings should be preserved, but I believe they are enhanced with really cutting edge, exciting design like this.

Bloomin' expensive though!

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