Local residents spending thousand of pounds fighting as they are ignored by Wandsworth Council

Land behind No. 88 Thurleigh Road London SW12 8TTEight 4 and 5 bedroomed town houses over 3 and 4 storeys including basements have been approved for “Town Cramming” onto a tiny site (formerly two tennis courts) with an unusually long, angled and very narrow entrance access-way. Residents claim they have been ignored by the councillors and officers. They have already spent several thousands of pounds in surveys, reports and judicial process in order to support their case.

Author: Local resident

This is NOT about no development, it’s about a), appropriate and responsive development using smart architecture and b), due process and accountability.

Responsible and beneficial development is extremely welcome but development at unlimited social and environmental cost for the benefit of corporate profit simply has to stop – for our, our children’s and future generations’ sakes.

The site

Eight 4 and 5 bedroomed town houses over 3 and 4 storeys including basements have been approved for “Town Cramming” onto two land-locked tennis courts with an extremely long, (over 25 metres), and narrow, (less than 3 metres wide) access way (planning application 2014/0012 & 2014/3016 & 2015/5229)

We believe that the promise of a large CIL revenue, (in this case c.£530,000) has motivated the Council to approve this scheme.

Despite many community funded, expert-authored reports and legal opinions, showing planning policy contravention and unlawful decisions, the Council has simply ignored these and the hundreds of objections and approved the scheme regardless, forcing the community to take legal action. 

For example, the planners have decided that the number of bedrooms on the site are irrelevant when calculating the quantities of waste arisings, and the necessary storage. They have classified the eight 4 & 5 bedroomed family town houses as flats – that’s right, flats. They have crammed so many houses on site, there is not enough space for the legally required number of Eurobins for the waste. This is a dangerous precedent for Wandsworth.

In 2010 a scheme was approved for two large and integrated houses on the same site. At the time the Council’s own engineer wrote to the case officer in an email as follows :

“The access to the site is narrow with insufficient width for two cars to pass. However it could be considered suitable for car access to a maximum of 2 dwellings. It is too narrow for access by a refuse vehicle or a fire appliance and the Council’s Leisure and Amenity Services Department will need to be consulted regarding refuse storage and collection and the LFEPA consulted regarding fire access.”

engineer

  1. 2010: approval for 2 houses with 10 bedrooms
  2. 2014: approval for 8 houses with 36 bedrooms

A previously approved strictly limited 2-house scheme has grown into an 8 house scheme on the same site over a four year period. What’s changed in four years? 

There is no room on the site whatsoever for this scheme to meet the standards required:

  • There is not enough capacity for the refuse – The refuse arrangements do not meet local or BSI standards – do not meet policy.
  • There is no visibility at the dangerous entrance – against policy,
  • There is no play space – against policy, (new suggestion is next to bins!)
  • There is no disabled parking – against policy,
  • There is no vehicle turning space – against policy,
  • Roads in the site are too narrow – below required standards,
  • Cars will be parked against living space windows – against policy,
  • Cars will be parked against existing external amenity spaces – against policy,
  • Fire trucks cannot enter the site – against building and BSI regulations – this has huge implications in contagion fire terms to surrounding property and future residents.

trucks cannot enter the site

Committee members and planning Officers operating far outside the Nolan Principles of Public Office and the Local Government Association Code of Conduct (clic).

The 8 house application and the applications to release the associated conditions are steadily being approved despite of all the planning and policy breaches. This renders the Committee Meetings a charade because the members are not asking the planners why the applications do not meet standards.

For example when deliberating on discharge of the refuse condition at the February Planning Committee meeting:

Mr Granger, (East area planner), when asked by the Chair of the PAC Ms McDermott, to name an example of other developments that use the caretaker arrangement, cited the Royal Academy of Dance in Battersea Square. The Academy is still in operation, the plans for its conversion to flats and houses haven’t been approved and are nowhere even close to being built, let alone any refuse plan being decided upon!

More incredibly, at the end of his delivery the Chair, Ms Mc Dermott then stated that there is a development in her road where that happens – there is not!

The council has gagged the democratic process by appointing an external law firm to deal with concerns and objections as part of the statutory consultations.

The constituency’s Ward Councillors have said themselves that they will not speak to their constituents but will need to communicate with them via the same lawyer! Have you ever heard of this elsewhere?

Where we are now – specifics of the Judicial Review challenge:

The planners have been systematically approving the various 13 conditions placed on the permission, despite not meeting standards, conforming to policy or satisfying the law.

1st & 2nd Grounds of Claim: Despite informing the planners, an adjoining piece of land was included in the permission – the owner does not want his land developed. The council’s paper-work to fix this was flawed and process was incorrect. Two subsequent planning permissions were granted (superseding the original), but are invalid as per our advice because the whole scheme was not considered against all the issues (see list above).

3rd Ground of Claim: The refuse scheme proposed falls so far below standards it will never work for the capacity of people/housing on the site.

4th Ground of Claim: Another application to sign-off the intended materials of the build was approved two days before another planning permission to which it referred  – even existed!

Pre-Action Protocol letters and Grounds of Claim bundles have been served on the Council and Developer and also at the High Court in respect of recent decisions taken by the Council. We have received replies – the next step is for a Planning Judge to decide if the case is arguable at a full Judicial Review hearing if so, we will proceed.

The community has so far spent £28,000 providing legal Opinions and Expert Reports showing the errors to officers before the PAC meetings, and then to serve the Claim after they ignored those and approved everything anyway!

Our hope for this case

A successful bi-product outcome for this case will be to force a re-think for this site, (by respecting the law and planning rules and policies), which works for everyone: Council, developer and residents.

However and much more importantly, we hope it will have broader reaching legacy implications for other communities across the borough and further afield in similar situations now and in future. This should not be seen as just a “rap over the knuckles” in one individual planning case.

Planners and Planning Committees need to take a breath and “re-set” their approach, follow the rules, apply policy, standards and the law, protect constituents’ rights and amenity, be accountable and perform their jobs according to the Nolan Principles of public office and the LGA Code of Conduct.

We and others in the borough have had enough. Wandsworth residents have been ignored for years by the planners.

The community group has launched an appeal on CrowdJustice to help them fighting  planning approvals ignoring law, policy and standards – blighting residents’ amenity across the borough and town cramming in Wandsworth. See here to support them: https://www.crowdjustice.co.uk/case/wandsworth/

Links

Read also in the Wandsworth Guardian: Housing developer to hire “caretaker” to move bins once a week as eight homes approved against residents’ wishes


UPDATE 25/04/2016: The judge decided not to allow a Judicial Review but permitted to have another judge hear the case at a live session with a barrister representing them. The local residents residents have decided not to proceed due to the extra cost involved (unlike the Council, they do not use tax payer money to defend their case). They are now considering the next JR challenge on the approval of the Construction Management Plan.

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