When is traffic relevant and when is it not in determining planning applications? This is the question in Fortune Green where a shisha bar and a higher education college are both seeking planning permission, which may hinge on the council’s understanding of congestion levels.
Earlier this month, Camden contacted the The New School of Psychotherapy and Counselling (NSPC) to tell them its proposed move into the empty unit next to Tesco in the Sager building, is unlikely to receive permission because it will generate too much traffic. It is deemed “unacceptable in principle”.
Meanwhile, Monte Cristo – the shisha bar that is retrospectively applying for change-of-use permission for the premises at 56-58 Fortune Green Road – doesn’t mention traffic at all in its application.
No-one locally has objected to the NSPC’s application. The school went to considerable lengths to explain to local residents that its impact on traffic would be negligible and it has support from the local residents associations. The NSPC’s transport statement is here and the travel plan is included on page 14 of this document.
It’s worth remembering that the same residents kicked up a stink at the proposal to open a private primary school in the same building because of the traffic impact. Camden rejected that proposal on precisely those grounds. Residents are, however clearly convinced by the NSPC’s arguments despite being inherently nervous about the impact of any new use on that site (a site that has been empty since the building was completed a few years ago).
No such luck for Monte Cristo. Locals have objected in force to its application. Some objections relate specifically to the shisha smoking, but the majority refer to the parking and traffic situation that has arisen since it started trading.
Unlike the NSPC, Monte Cristo’s application has no travel assessment; its document states that these are “not essential” for the scale of the business. Instead, it says that “a high proportion of customers, thought to be about 75%, live within one mile of the premises”, and that the staff “arrive mainly by public transport”.
This may be the case, but it hasn’t stopped many complaints from local residents, mostly with concerns about the extra traffic and parked vehicles the café attracts. Comments close tomorrow, May 2nd with a decision expected June 6th.
Here are four extracts from objections already submitted to Camden:
“Since the opening, traffic problems in the area have boomed, largely because guests of Monte Cristo park with impunity on the pavements, driveways and other areas on a narrow bend in a major artery.”
“There is an increase in disruption, noise and pollution from customers, who predominantly drive to the shisha bar. The cars are parking on both sides of the road on double yellow lines on a regular basis causing congestion.”
“Currently, users of the cafe are parking dangerously on both sides of the road, causing poor visibility to road users and damaging the pavements in the process.”
“The people have now taken to parking outside on both sides of the road. That means traffic jams as the buses try to get down the road and the cars have to wait to let them through.”
There are many other objections, including general noise and the open charcoal burner on Burrard Road. The full application details, and objections are here.
Professor Emmy van Deurzen, director of the NSPC, said that it would be “a terrible blow” to her organisation if permission were to be refused, as they have already invested considerable time and money into preparing for the move.
Alex McDougall, planning officer for Camden, said that the NSPC would need to present a more robust travel plan. The council had been due to decide this week, but has granted them a two week extension to gather and demonstrate local support. Professor van Deurzen is now preparing further documentation, and is appealing to local people to show their support by writing to Alex McDougall at Camden’s planning department (ku.vo1496142368g.ned1496142368mac@l1496142368laguo1496142368DcM.x1496142368elA1496142368), quoting the following reference details: 2014/1403/P – Unit 5, 63 Fortune Green Road, NW6 1DR.
If the NSPC’s proposal, which has resident support and improves the diversity of employment in the area, is rejected on traffic grounds, it will be interesting to see whether Camden gives the go ahead to Monte Cristo in the face of considerable opposition – or asks it too for a more detailed explanation of how it plans to address the parking and traffic issues it seems to be causing.