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Spring 2011

posted 25 Jul 2011, 05:26 by Stephen Taylor   [ updated 25 Jul 2011, 16:14 ]
by Douglas Maxwell 

As I was writing this report the news came that the appeal on Athlone House had been dismissed. 

The decision document is a long one and will repay study as we consider what may follow. But for now, a great triumph for the Athlone House Working Group and Jeremy Wright and Martin Humphery of the Society. Congratulations to them all. 

I accompanied Jeremy Wright, the inspector and the appellant’s advisers on the site visit at the conclusion of the inquiry. This was my first visit and I found the house in better condition than I expected, with – on the face of it – few problems that could not be put right. 

Some more good news 
We have recently reviewed the first three draft volumes of the new Camden Planning Guidance which accompanies the Local Development Framework. These are more detailed than the supplementary guidance they replace, and include improved treatment of basements and construction management plans. 

We have also been encouraged by a well-reasoned refusal by Camden for an application in Pilgrims Lane which included a basement. The refusal included specific reference to policies on sustainability, water and the impact on adjoining properties and the neighbourhood generally. 

This new guidance, and the precedents set by this and other decisions, will assist us in the future when objecting to inappropriate planning applications. Camden too deserve recognition for their significant policy-making work in this area. 
BT Telecommunications Cabinets
Following the appearance of several of these cabinets on our streets, we have now been able to obtain some guidance from Camden on the planning position, thanks to Martin Humphery who took the matter up with the council. In essence, the installation of cabinets in conservation areas is subject to a modified planning process under which the council can control or influence the siting and appearance but not the development itself. 

Athlone House

A few cabinets were installed without BT going through this process with the council. These are supposed to be removed.

The Society was recently contacted by property journalist Mira Bar-Hillel who has taken up the issue – which has parallels in other conservation areas across London – and we provided a piece for publication.

The Localism agenda 
We’ve all heard of it by now, but no-one quite knows yet what it means for them. The society has met with Camden council to explore how it might apply to the society’s work. One theme which has started to emerge is that localism is about facilitating development in rural areas, rather than controlling it in towns and cities. So perhaps not for Hampstead, then!

The decision was taken with Camden not to seek pathfinder status but to keep the situation under review as the bill passes through the legislative process. Since then, the government has announced 17 initial schemes, of which only one is in London. We have also looked at one or two individual planning and conservation matters for consideration under the new powers – when they are enacted.

Membership and planning 
We receive a number of requests for information from those who are not yet members, and hence we are starting to ask for membership details with enquiries.

Occasionally the Society is asked to advise in specific cases. Unfortunately this is something we are not able to do, as formal advice is quite properly the sole preserve of professionals in the respective fields; law, surveying, architecture or whatever. We may be able to suggest firms who can provide such advice, and of course in most cases they will charge a fee.

We are looking at the possibility of providing factsheets with information on the more commonly encountered issues in planning and conservation. If this project goes ahead it will be announced here, and the factsheets will then be available to our members on request. 

New Planning Committee members 
We welcome two newcomers to the planning committee. Gesine Junker is an urban designer and planner who works for a firm of consultants in central London; Stephen Stark is a chartered structural engineer in private practice in Hampstead. The society is very fortunate to have qualified and experienced people who are willing and able to help in its work. 

The daily round 
In the last three months, the planning committee has reviewed some 125 planning applications and objected on the Society’s behalf – that is, on your behalf – to around 40. These range from multi-million pound developments to relatively small proposals which nevertheless have the potential to harm our conservation area and – this is the important bit – can have a cumulative effect just as great as the headline making cases. We are indebted to Gordon Maclean who continues to lead on this important work, and to Vicki Harding who does the same for tree applications.