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Winter 2010

posted 25 Jul 2011, 05:22 by Stephen Taylor   [ updated 25 Jul 2011, 16:15 ]
by Douglas Maxwell 

In planning terms, the last few months of 2010 resembled the well-known curate’s egg: it was good in parts. 

There have been unsatisfactory planning decisions at appeal, but there have been good ones as well; and some issues that have been rumbling below the surface for some time are now being addressed in conjunction with the Council.

New planning policies in force 
You will have read in the last Newsletter of two important new items of local planning policy, which are now fully in effect. The first of these is the programme of Article 4 Directions for the Hampstead, Belsize and Swiss Cottage conservation areas. These control smaller scale changes which can have a significant effect on the appearance of the conservation area, and came into effect on 1 September 2010. 

The second is the new Local Development Framework or LDF which replaces the Unitary Development Plan. After a lengthy passage through its public examination stages the Core Strategy and Development Policies were approved by the Council on 8 November 2010 and now apply to new planning applications. At the time of writing, the Council is consulting on the first of the supplementary planning guidance to accompany the LDF, and we expect to file our comments on this during January 2011. 

Permitted development 
The progress made on these fronts has been partly undermined by claims that some basement development falls within the definition of permitted development ie. it does not require planning  permission. A recent consequence has been that, acting on legal advice, the council has granted a Certificate of Lawfulness for works including a basement at The Garden House. Many of you will remember that a decision to grant planning permission for an earlier scheme was overturned by a judicial review brought by the Society in 2007. 

One effect of this decision has been to throw into sharp focus how the current legislation can be interpreted in ways that were probably never intended; and the Society is working with the Council with the aim of closing these loopholes so as to restore the position. 

Other decisions 
The development proposals at 94 South Hill Park, 3 Kidderpore Gardens and 9 Downshire Hill all went to appeal following refusal by the Council. All of these are basement schemes, and while the first was allowed, the second -involving a very large basement under almost the whole of the curtilage, was dismissed. 

The decision on 9 Downshire Hill is expected as I write and if announced, it will be recorded elsewhere in this issue. Our thanks are due as always to Tony Hillier, for his unstinting efforts on all these cases, particularly the last. 

South Hampstead High School 
A well-attended Development Control Forum organised by Camden on 6 September saw a revised scheme presented at the school by Andrew Barnett and his colleagues from Hopkins Architects. The proposals were for the most part favourably received by those present. 

A planning application has now been made and was considered in detail by the planning committee which, in its response to consultation on behalf of the Society, supported the proposals in general terms. This is in line with the views expressed by local residents’ groups. However there were two main caveats to this; the basement proposals and the arrangements for coach parking at the school. We have received a response to our comments from the school’s planning advisers, which at the time of writing is under consideration.

Athlone House 
The Athlone House Working Group, a consortium of local bodies including the Heath and Hampstead Society, has been working to secure the preservation of this important house by way of the implementation of the original planning agreement, which the current owner wishes to set aside. Instead he has proposed to demolish the property and build a new house of much larger size in a style which the Society finds wholly unacceptable in architectural terms. For more details about the pending appeal see the Chairman’s report.
Impossible without

The major cases described above are only part of the planning committee’s work. It also reviews all planning applications made in the Hampstead area and comments or objects where appropriate. I would like to thank Gordon Maclean who continues to lead on this important work; and also my colleagues on the planning committee and the main committee, our local councillors, and especially all of you reading this – the Society’s members – for your support.

The future? 
So what will 2011 bring? On 13 December we saw the first reading of the Localism Bill which promises to devolve more powers to councils and community groups – including planning powers. Too early to say what the practical consequences will be, but it could represent an opportunity for the Society to contribute more to the planning process; and we have already opened discussions with the Council. Watch this space!