24 January 2008

Planning Committee

It's been non-stop since the localities fund...Christmas, New Year and then I was ill for a week or so.

Last week I chaired the Planning 'A' Committee. On the agenda were a number of items of direct interest to Brockley:

(1) Geoffrey Road - permission granted for the houses on the site of the garages adjacent to 72 (I think). The scheme is daring, has no car parking (but removal of the dropped kerb effectively brings a single space back to use), green roofs, a Green Travel plan for new residents and, following my suggestion, a committment to assist in the establishment of a car club for the area.

(2) Brookmill Road - adjacent to the Steven Lawrence Architecture School. This scheme is for affordable housing provided off-site in lieu of housing on the Blakelys/Gilmore site on Conington Road. The height was reduced following concerns by residents and incorporates renewable energy production in line with Lewisham's policies.

(3) 47 Breakspears Road - permission was granted to replace a poor post-war 2-storey house with a building which to the front is of a similar scale to others on the street. However to my mind the design is ugly and certainly does not enhance the Brockley Conservation Area, worse still to the rear the scale of th development is far out of proportion to anything else in the. However the committee did not agree with me on this one...and permision was granted.

(4) Of wider interest was the Tigers Head site on Bromley Road. Not surprisingly local residents were concerned at the loss of a pub - both The Green Man (opposite) and the Tigers Head closed some time ago. This decision was always a close one - I for one am sad to see the loss of local facilities like pubs.

For me the Tiger's Head was difficult. My natural inclination is to favour retention of the pub...and certainly I support Lewisham's emerging policy against allowing pubs to be changed into residential use - but it was made very very clear that this policy is still at an early stage and there were no grounds on which the policy could be applied. What else could we look for...change of use to residential for shops usually involves a 'financial viability' test...but officers confirmed that this could not be applied. Further, planning law allows for change of use from pub to restaurant, betting shop, bank or retail without need for planning permission. So what next...the design - looks OK, the density - high but considered OK, amenity - a small impact on the light available to one flat in the neighbouring block but not sufficient to warrant refusal.

So far, it's been a thankless search to reject the application - in line with the current residents' wishes. However looking to the development as it is, and the picture changes a bit...the buildings look OK, the scheme brings some 40-odd homes to Lewisham and meets the 35% affordable housing target in the UDP including some much-needed family homes with gardens, the scheme by collecting rain water, green roofs and reducing the impermeable car park, reduces the risk of floods by 15% (an objector helpfully brought pictures to remind the committee of the risk of floods from 1968), and the S106 includes the provision of 10% renewable energy production onsite.

I voted in favour.