Our response to the Officers report
Planning application 14/13247 ( Sept 2015 )
The Officers report was published on 28 October 2015.
Having studied it, we have concluded that:
- It is factually incorrect.
- The officers reasoning is flawed.
- It is legally unreliable.
1) It is factually incorrect.
For example - paragraph 224 of the report states:
"Historic England, the Victorian Society and others have
expressed concern about the impact of the new development on the retained listed buildings, albeit that the Victorian Society only objected to the previous version of the proposed development."
But we have a copy of the email sent from the Victorian Society objecting to the latest scheme:
"Thank you for your letter of 10 September notifying the Victorian Society of the amendments made to this application. We are grateful for the opportunity to comment. Whilst recognising the minor improvements that have been made to the scheme, we must maintain our objections to the application as laid out in our letter of 25 February, a copy of which I attach for your reference. The new build elements of the scheme, even in their amended form, would be harmfully out of scale with the adjacent listed buildings and nearby Conservation Areas and would be seriously detrimental to their setting."
2) The officers reasoning is flawed
The Officers report fails to adequately address the fundamental question at the heart of the planning system :
"Is this Sustainable Development?
It only considers 1/6 of the question - that of the natural environment. Sustainability in terms of Social, Economic and the Historic environment are not explored. We argued on these points in our speech two weeks earlier but we have been ignored.
> What we said on Sustainability at the presentation DC meeting on the 14th of October 2015
For the record:
3) It cannot be relied upon to legally grant permission
"In my opinion the report by the Head of Planning does not properly inform members of the policies relating to the principle of permitting the proposed development nor of the law relating to the account that should be taken of the acknowledged harm to the setting of the listed buildings. Accordingly, a decision to grant permission in reliance on the report would be susceptible to judicial review."
- Matthew Horton Q.C.
Click here for further info on our Q.C opinion
Classic quotes from the report...
182. "...net overall loss of up to 3738sqm (or 3100sqm if the flexible commercial floorspace is used for B1 office purporses)...The additional employment generation
is an important benefit provided by the scheme".Eh?
192." ...the density is calculated as 931 habitable rooms/0.88 hectares which equals 1061
habitable rooms per hectare. London Plan density range is 650-1100." This is fractionally below the upper limit - that's ok is it???
193. "The density of the proposals are therefore, in principle, considered to be appropriate for this location, particularly when it is considered that the surrounding* sites are likely to change in accordance with guidance within the Eden Quarter Development Brief regarding building heights on adjoining sites states that 6-8 storeys would be appropriate on the Surrey House, Ashdown Road and Eden Walk sites, including an element of 9+ storeys." !!!
* Only two sides of the site *may* change in future ( nothing is guaranteed ) and what about the low rise Victorian villas on the the third and longest side of the site? totally ignored!
198. "The proposed heights exceed those in the Eden Quarter Development Brief in three locations; a) The northern end of the Brook Street elevation is proposed as 10 storeys whereas the brief gives guidance of 6-8 storeys; b) The rear part of the building between the two on site listed buildings is proposed as 12 storeys whereas the brief gives guidance of 6-8 storeys; and c) The central block that runs north from the centre of the proposed Wheatfield Way elevation is proposed as 10 storeys whereas the brief gives guidance of 6-8 storeys...." Okay so far...
"...The front part of the building between the two on site
listed buildings and the building to the south of the Former Telephone Exchange would be in accordance with the guidance". Eh? how???
215. "...The taller background building acts as an interesting foil to this scale and reinforces the collage approach to layering the buildings from listed buildings to a more contemporary setting" Top marks for a very imaginative defense! Too bad the experts - Historic England - came to the opposite conclusion.
232. "The proposed development delivers an enhanced physical and visual connection to the Old Town Conservation Area." No it doesn't.
242. "...can be said to be more generally of minor to moderate impact." Says who? what expert advice did you receive? on what basis did you conclude this?
273. "...the scheme’s distinct character." Do you mean distinct as in generic, "commercial-mediocre" and "Welcome to Anywhere" ?
274. "The elevation facing the listed building on either side add a welcome, human scale to the tall building and has appropriate detailing to support these frontages." Not an easy defense to attempt, but why are you trying to defend this???
285. "The introduction of a second lower tall building ... is not therefore in accordance with the Eden Quarter Development Brief which identifies building height of 6-8 storeys in this location. This presents an opportunity to address the scale difference between the proposed tall building and the context..." No, it represents a failure to comply.
288. "... It is considered that the proposed development does not impact adversely on the views to and from the Town Centre’s historic assets such as All Saints Church, The Ancient Market Place, the Guildhall, and others." Says who? what expert advice did you receive? on what basis did you conclude this?
294. "The view from the residential parts of the Fairfield/ Knights Park conservation area would change significantly. Currently the site is a void, a gap in the urban fabric." !!!
299. "The important views from Hampton Court Park’s...
are not impeded at all by the proposed revised scheme... is masked/ softened by the existing high quality landscape and vegetation in the foreground. Historic England have suggested that the current mature high quality landscape is to be removed or heavily managed. Discussions with Hampton Court Palace have clarified that no such changes to the historic landscape are being considered or intended."
Some mis-quoting going on here? Buildings are rather more permanent than trees
301. "The view from Palmer Crescent reveals most of the tall building from this location. The building reads as a standalone feature, due to the rest of the proposed scheme being hidden from this view or in the background. This exposes the well designed features and the articulation of its slenderness from this vantage point." Putting aside the subjective statement on design, the impact on this view can only be interpreted as intrusive.
Page updated on 30 Oct 2015