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Gondar Gardens – the third appeal

The never-ending Gondar Gardens planning saga is taking its next turn.

Linden Wates, the developer, has submitted an appeal against Camden’s refusal of its revised frontage scheme for the reservoir site. This scheme is for 28 flats/houses. It was recommended for acceptance by Camden’s planning officers but refused by councillors at the planning committee on grounds of poor design. This is after the previous, similar, proposal was rejected on appeal by the Planning Inspector. Linden Wates has another proposal that it does have permission for, but which it seems reluctant to pursue at the moment.

This latest appeal will be decided by a Planning Inspector – this time on the basis of written evidence rather than at hearing. The developer, Camden, The Gondar & Agamemnon Residents Associatin (GARA) and Sarre Road residents will each submit written evidence and comments.

GARA will argue that proper application of Camden’s policies would result in the site remaining undisturbed, with open views into and across the site from the street and from neighbouring properties. However, it recognises “with deep regret”, that the loss of open space, disruption to the site, and the height and bulk of the frontage scheme have been accepted by previous planning inspectors.

GARA argues that the proposed conditions of the plan are not yet sufficient to protect and enhance our environment in the event of the planning application being accepted; and will insist on changes that will minimise construction impact, and ensure the remaining land is properly protected with residents involved in its management.

Individuals may also comment to the Inspector, quoting case ref APP/X5210/A/14/2218052 online or by e-mail to ku.vo1568897294g.isg1568897294.snip1568897294@slae1568897294ppa1568897294 or on paper (3 copies required) to The Planning Inspectorate, Room 3/19 Eagle, Temple Quay House, 2 The Square, Temple Quay, Bristol BS1 6PN. The deadline for comments to the inspector is 17th June 2014.

Gondar Gardens: The beginning of the end?

Could we be entering the endgame in the Gondar Gardens saga? The developer, Linden Wates, has submitted its third planning application for the site. This attempts to address the very specific points that the national planning inspector raised in turning down Linden Wates appeal over its second plan, which was rejected by Camden. These focus on architectural detail more than any wider environmental impact.

An e-mail from GARA – the residents association that has campaigned tirelessly against all these plans – suggests that the long fight may almost be over.

Here’s GARA’s position in its own words:

“We have successfully protected the Open Space for many years, and we have ensured that each subsequent development proposal is less damaging and less intrusive than its predecessors.

No-one wants any development on the site but when considering this application, Camden will note that the impact on Open Space, the height and bulk of the ‘frontage’ scheme, and transport and parking issues were all accepted by planning inspectors.

Camden’s planning officer says he will consider these matters as resolved, meaning that he will consider only the detailed design. If the revised design acceptable, then Camden officers and councillors will find it difficult to refuse the application. It is with much regret that we have reached this conclusion.

Our task now is to ensure that the proposed design is something we can live with; and to secure the future of the remainder of the site as a nature space, with local involvement. We can also press for conditions on working hours, construction methods, vehicle routes and local amenity contributions.

Improvements to the design since the first ‘frontage’ application include:

  • Mostly pitched roof with dormer windows rather than a solid flat frontage – this is much more in keeping with the area and considerably softens the bulk of the building
  • Improved window detailing and some (not much) subtle brickwork – adding a little character
  • A clear ‘gap’, allowing views across the site from the street (previously obscured by the ‘car lift’ entrance) – this is still only a narrow view, but at least it benefits pedestrians
  • Soft landscaping at the front (a few bushes!); and a secure site boundary”

GARA tells me that the decision not to contest the whole application is purely pragmatic. “If we thought there was a realistic prospect of no development, then we would pursue that heartily,” said David Yass, chair of GARA. “Our challenge is to secure the best we can for our neighbours and wildlife.”

Although the deadline for comments on the new scheme is January 2nd, GARA has agreed with Camden that it can submit its response after its AGM on January 8th (a reassuringly sensible stance by Camden).

To view the planning application, click here and then on “View Related Documents”. The Design & Access Statement is usually the best thing to look at (this is true for all planning applications).

Related reading
The “teletubbies” Scheme
Scheme refused by Camden.
Frontage scheme #1.
Scheme refused by Camden planning committee.
“Teletubbies” sceme approved on appeal.
Frontage scheme #1 rejected on appeal.
Frontage scheme #2 submitted exhibited.

Gondar Gardens: 140 years of history

Here’s a very useful history of the Gondar Gardens reservoir site, provided by GARA – the local residents association.

1874 Reservoir constructed.
1889 Tennis courts on the reservoir roof (no-one knew about slow worms then!).

100 years pass…

1989 Roof substantially repaired.
2002 Reservoir de-commissioned. GARA formed.
2004 Thames Water plans for a six-storey block with 120 flats – thwarted at public inquiry; site protected as Open Space and Site of Nature Conservation Interest.

2010 Linden Wates bought site, put up hoardings and removed trees.
2011/12 ‘Centre’ scheme rejected by planners but approved on appeal – 16 houses in pit of reservoir – this is still an option for Linden Wates to build, but would cost £6.8m in lieu of affordable housing.

2012/13 First ‘frontage’ scheme – refused by planning committee and refused on appeal as design would “harm local area” but impact on open space and height and bulk of scheme accepted.

2013 Revised ‘frontage’ scheme submitted.

  • Preserves 93% of open space as a site for nature, to be given to London Wildlife Trust
  • Opportunity for local residents to be part of management plans
  • Design improved to address inspectors’ concerns and through consultation with GARA

If the 2013 scheme is approved, Linden Wates has indicated that it will proceed and complete it within ~2 years. If it is refused, LW is likely to appeal and may use the intervening time to propose a combination of the ‘centre’ and ‘frontage’ schemes (although it cannot simply build part of each).

New twist in Gondar Gardens saga

If you’re playing catch-up on the interminable story of Gondar Gardens, which progesses as fast as the slow worms that have previously come to its rescue, then please read this succinct summary of where we stood back in June.

In a nutshell, a developer had submitted two separate plans to build houses on this disused reservoir site. Camden had rejected both plans, the national planning inspector overturned that decision on the first plan, but upheld it on the second.

Now, the developer is talking about a third plan. Sigh. It’s tempting to wonder whether its aim is solely to bankrupt the local residents association, GARA, which rallies its troops and fights any attempt to turn this green space into property. More likely is that the approved plan is now too expensive to develop. Here’s the e-mailed invite to view the new plans:

Linden Homes and Wates Developments would like to invite you to view new images, plans and designs for the former reservoir on Gondar Gardens.

As you will know, Linden Homes and Wates Developments have been working in partnership for the past several years to redevelop the site with a new residential development. Earlier this year a scheme for a frontage development along Gondar Gardens was refused planning permission due to its architectural design.

We have been working up a revised set of plans, carefully taking into account the feedback received from the earlier scheme. The new proposals will deliver up to 28 new homes, 10 of which will be affordable, helping to meet the local housing need. We believe these revised proposals create a better design solution for the site which will contribute positively to the neighbourhood.

If you’re interested in seeing whether Linden Wates can come up with something that Camden might be willing to approve, head along to St Luke’s Church on Kidderpore Avenue on the 15th October, between 2pm-8pm.

The proposals rejected by the national planning inspector

Gondar Gardens appeal saga drags on

Planning law is a strange beast.

Let me refresh your memory. Linden Wates recently won an appeal to build very low-impact homes on the resevoir site in Gondar Gardens. In a considered review of the application, the Planning Inspector believed that any negative impact on the open space would be offset by the benefits of this development.

GARA – the local residents association – which has long campaigned against developing this site, was naturally disappointed.

It seemed as if that was the end of the story. But there was a rumbling subplot. After Camden had initially rejected this plan, the developer submitted a second plan. This was arguably less controversial than the first – it was a street-frontage plan rather than one that would develop the green space itself. Camden rejected this one too.

Now, despite having won the first appeal, the developer is appealing against this second decision too. This has thrown everyone for a loop. What is Linden Wates objective? They can’t build both developments, and surely if the first one had passed first time they’d have moved forward with it.

Street-view of second plan – now being appealed

Either they think the first scheme is less profitable than the second, and having won the first appeal are confident in the second. Or perhaps they hope that a successful appeal with this second plan would give them the leeway to propose an even more ambitious third scheme.

Strikes me that this is a waste of public money – if a developer has a plan approved for one site through appeal to the national inspector, that should be the end of it for at least the amount of time that planning permission lasts.

Gondar Gardens – first appeal nears conclusion

The tale of the proposed development of the Gondar Gardens reservoir site is a lengthy one. In essence, a couple of years ago, developers Linden Wates put forward a plan that would have seen the disused site turned into a series of semi-sunken homes, that became known as the Teletubby development. Planning permission was refused, partly due to the presence of slow worms on the site.

Computer image of original plans

A second, less controversial development was then put forward that kept much of the green space intact, but still added new housing on the street. This too was refused.

 

Artist’s impression of second proposal

While the second proposal was being considered, Linden Wates was appealing the first decision. That appeal opened in May but was adjourned after three days. The inquiry reconvened last week, and the hearing concluded yesterday.

Here’s the assessment of how the appeal has gone from the perspective of the Gondar & Agamemnon Residents Association (GARA):

Back in May, both Camden and GARA gave evidence as to why the refusal should be upheld, and were cross-examined at length. Linden Wates started to give their evidence.

This week, the inquiry reconvened. Linden Wates gave detailed evidence and were cross-examined by Camden’s barrister and GARA’s barrister.

On Thursday, there was a lengthy examination of opposing experts’ views about the state of the reservoir structure and its likelihood of partial or total collapse; and a debate about Linden Wates’ approach to affordable housing (i.e., paying for it to be somewhere else).

Almost all of Friday was spent with Linden Wates’ planning consultant, with arguments about the relative merits of different aspects of planning policy. That might sound interminable but it goes to the heart of the matter – does the protection of being Open Space and a Site of Nature Conservation Interest outweigh the developer’s argument that the structure itself is ‘previously developed land’?

Add in arguments about whether the new National Planning Policy Framework promotes development, or protects land of high environmental value, and you have the opportunity for some lively debate, some of it rivalling any West End theatre production (OK, only in parts).

Also on Friday, local resident Mark Stonebanks made an excellent contribution, challenging LW’s competence in areas of traffic and parking, design, and drainage.

Monday – the final day – started with a visit to houses on all four sides of the site. The inspector seemed to expect the good views from Gondar Gardens and the less good views from Agamemnon Road (obscured by trees); but he appeared surprised at the extent of views from Hillfield and Sarre Roads.

We returned to the inquiry and heard an impassioned, yet controlled statement from Hugh McCormick [Ed: I don’t know who he is]. Linden Wates’ barrister declined to cross-examine. There followed some haggling over conditions / Section 106 matters to be imposed “should the appeal be successful”. Linden Wates and Camden had pre-agreed most of this, and it was GARA that raised some issues although it made very limited headway.

Then it was onto the showpiece summing-up from each barrister. This is a curious affair in which each party submits a written statement (typically 20 close-typed A4 pages) and then proceeds to read the entire document aloud.

GARA’s barrister covered all the key points: ecological value; open space; and traffic, parking and other matters – all of which are supported by both planning policy and real local importance. Camden defended its multiple reasons for refusing planning permission, even to the extent of appearing to promote the second (frontage) scheme in order to demonstrate that alternatives to the appeal scheme could exist.

Linden Wates’ barrister was very professional in putting its case. We expect a decision by the end of November, which is just after the deadline for Linden Wates to appeal against refusal of the second scheme.

I’ll keep you posted on what happens next!