Bell Green Gasometers – A Compromise

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JGD
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Bell Green Gasometers – A Compromise

Post by JGD » 30 Apr 2018 13:01

I draft this compromise proposal with the intent that I will have diligently avoided any criticism of any party's expressed views or actions. If in reading it you you feel I have failed – please bring it to my attention.

Equally – as you read It and reach an early view that the proposal is as outrageous as the original Kier proposal – please read it to the end and weigh up what I have drafted fully – and consider it in the round.

Some will dislike – if not hate - it, others will say “so what” - and I hope others may say there is merit in it. And just perhaps – some may be converted to its efficacies. Most of all – it is to be hoped that an acceptable compromise can be reached.

It is proposed that either one or two bays of the existing gasometers be salvaged, restored and painted. It is further proposed that the refurbished bay or bays be re-erected on a location on site that should be selected by others with a better aesthetic sense than mine.

The proposal is intended to present an emblematic and iconic representation of the gasholders whilst freeing the site of constraints that prevent the construction of affordable housing at a cost that is acceptable. There is precedent – there is a significant and large piece of artwork present in Phase 3.

Theoretically, that is it – you could stop reading here – however the details and rationale appear below.

The Backgound

The ongoing debate about the historic importance of the Bell Green Gasometers and the conflicted views about their visual amenity – both positive and negative – could drag on interminably and without resolution.

Alternatively – SGN's demolition agent might soon submit a full blown and complete construction stage Method Statement that will prove to be competent and the demolition will proceed.

It must be noted that Emma Talbot, Head of Planning, stated prior approval IS REQUIRED and NOT GIVEN for the proposed development and that the Council has considered the method of demolition has been determined to be UNACCEPTABLE by virtue of insufficient information She does not invoke the Local Listing – and this may be indicative of the council's delineated position that the Local Listing carries no weight.

The modified demolition would open up the site and free it from the significant constriction presented by the existence of the gasometers. As converse as it seems, a constraint free housing development – with affordable housing at its core - could be built at reasonable cost.

Alternatively and equally the Council may find funding and provide funding in perpetuity to SGN or a new developer to maintain the gasholders. Thereby the constraints on housing development would remain and drive up unit construction costs.

Having worked with English Heritage (now reformed as Historic England) for a few years, I know that when proposals to Nationally List a property or structure or site are considered, great weight is given by the organisation as to how the proposed listing is to be curated or presented in terms of historic accuracy.

For those of us who lived next to the gasometers, the cycle of the raising and lowering of the bells was their dominant feature so we would be more often than not be presented by a raised grey/sky blue set of bells with a rust belt stain. The idealistic and stylised photography we now see frequently are of the ribs only. The times this view was presented in their operational life was very short in duration. I have reviewed many collections of historic and contemporary pictures and it is only in recent months that pictures of the ribs begin to appear. The historic collections - so far – have virtually no pictures of the gasworks site and none at all of the gasometers. I have found a couple of technical documents attached to planning applications for previous phases at the wider site with one or two pictures. But so far – no more.

The Compromise Proposal

1. Let the demolition proposal be modified to salvage at least one bay complete, that is two standard/columns/stanchions and sets of trellis girders or two bays complete, that is three standard/columns/stanchions and sets of trellis girders.
2. Let the modified demolition proposal and site remediation work proceed unhindered.
3. Let these salvaged materials be fully restored and then treated with a paint system that will minimise maintenance and future re-paint cycles. (Even the Forth Rail Bridge does not now need doing again for 25 years and no longer needs constant repainting.)
4. Let the restored salvaged material be re-erected on site on a location selected by others with a better aesthetic sense than mine and and help to create an emblematic and iconic representation of the site's history juxtapositioned with the Livesey Hall.
5. Let some of the rejected Kier's proposal be adopted in any new development: restore off-street parking for patrons of the Livesey Hall; restore the traffic management SCOOT proposals; add increase parking restrictions on the Livesey Hall side of Perry Hill to reduce tailbacks thereon; most difficult of all – ask our council to track down where the circa £2m of s106 monies are – and are they still available for works to widen the Southend Lane Bridge. (This could be the hardest task of all to achieve)

The Benefits

1. A compromise that a majority of our community can support.
2. A site made ready for a development of affordable housing at unit construction costs that are realistic achieved by avoiding the constraint of having to build around or in the gasometers themselves.
3. A compromise that creates an emblematic and iconic representation of the site's history.
4. A site made available to alleviate the pressure on the Council to meet housing development targets.
5. A site made available for the improvement of green space issues referred to in the reasons for rejection of the Kier planning application.
6. A site made available that can have a range of flexible facilties and amenities incorporated within a housing development (play areas, gardens and the like) .

Not a great picture – but you get the idea - just imagine the structure without the lean

Image

Growsydenham
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Re: Bell Green Gasometers – A Compromise

Post by Growsydenham » 30 Apr 2018 18:18

An excellent idea! Fully support this.

nicknack
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Re: Bell Green Gasometers – A Compromise

Post by nicknack » 1 May 2018 10:44

I don't see the point, demolish them & re-erect token bits in a different place? Seems like a bad compromise to me, keep them where they are or if we don't appreciate or value them enough as structures, just remove them altogether. And call the housing Gasholder Court or something, with maybe a little Gasholder icon as a logo! For me the beauty of them is their scale, & the outline against the sky as well of course as their historical significance.

mosy
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Re: Bell Green Gasometers – A Compromise

Post by mosy » 1 May 2018 17:53

nicknack wrote:...[clip]...
...& the outline against the sky as well of course as their historical significance.
Yes, although both would be all but lost if the structure eventually enclosed a building, e.g. housing, or hidden if a new building sat in front obscuring it (them).

What about turning one into a climbing adventure playground, a rock-climbing wall, a lift with viewing platform and maybe even a zipline down to, er, somewhere.

If stuck with the sole intention of maximising profit, then any compromise however brilliant, will be irrelevant won't it?

JGD
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Re: Bell Green Gasometers – A Compromise

Post by JGD » 18 Jun 2018 10:30

A renewed Prior Notification of the demolition of the two existing gasholders and ancillary buildings at Bell Green has been submitted to LB Lewisham Planning Reference DC/18/107607 dated 13 June 2018.

This can be seen at https://planning.lewisham.gov.uk/online-applications/

The submitted documentation including a detailed method statement has been prepared and included with the application.

The status of the documentation in my view is the most comprehensively complete that I have witnessed being prepared at this stage of a notice being issued.

There is an exhaustive list of documents:

1. Completed Application Form for Prior Notification;
2. Cover Letter prepared by Montagu Evans;
3. Method Statement for Proposed Works;
4. Statement of Notice;
5. Copy of Site Notice;
6. Traffic Management Plan dated 1 May 2018 prepared by Keltbray;
7. Environmental Management Plan dated 5 February 2018 prepared by Keltbray;
8. Schedule of Historic Building Recording (to follow) prepared by AOC;
9. Site Location Plan;
10. Proposed Scope of Works Drawing;
11. Gasholder No. 8 COIL Report;
12. Gasholder No. 7 COIL Report; and
13. Ecology Survey dated 9 May 2016 prepared by WSP;
14. Peregrine Falcon Survey dated 25 April 2018 prepared by CT Ecology;
15. Remediation Statement dated 26 April 2018 prepared by WYG; and
16. Detailed Quantitative Risk Assessment dated 10 April 2018 prepared by WYG;

The application contains a request that the Council confirm that prior approval as to the method of demolition and restoration of the Site without delay.

SGN have instructed additional surveys and reports to be prepared even though these formed no part of the original rejection of the previous Prior Notice.

Whilst not a reason to withhold prior approval nor formally listed on the decision notice as additional information, the Council advised that information had been provided which indicated that Peregrine Falcons had been sighted on the Site and that appropriate assessments regarding Peregrine Falcon activity would be required as part of any future Prior Approval application.

A Peregrine Falcon Survey was undertaken by CT Ecology which reports in its conclusions that no nesting Peregrine Falcons or other bird species were observed nesting on the Site.

The submitted survey is considered sufficient to demonstrate to the Council that nesting Peregrine Falcons (or any other nesting birds) are not present on the Site.

SGN have voluntarily instructed that an enhanced Level 2 historic building recording of Gasholder Nos. 7 and 8 be completed . The record was prepared by AOC according to Historic England’s guidance Understanding Historic Buildings: A Guide to Good Recording Practice (2016). The interior and exterior and the gasholders have been photographed and described.

Measured drawings provide a further layer of detail to preserve the structures by record. The written report includes material more generally applied to a Level 3 record, including an analysis of the gasholders’ wider stylistic and historical context. A separate section has been included to provide detail regarding the significance of the gasholders.

Historic England have issued Certificates of Immunity for both Gasholder no. 7 and no. 8 confirming there is not an intention to list either structure. LB Lewisham's local listing is acknowledged, but as is commonly held, this is virtually meaningless.

An Advice Report prepared by Historic England supports the granting of a Certificate of Immunity from Listing for the two gasholders.

For the first time in 18 months our household has been restored to the mailing list and we have received correspondence seeking our views and comments on the proposal. Council Officers have returned to following their mandated procedures.

JGD
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Re: Bell Green Gasometers – A Compromise

Post by JGD » 15 Jul 2018 12:21

The decision point has passed. LB Lewisham has granted permission for the demolition proposal to proceed.

SGN's agent's Montagu Evans in their cover letter for the application inserted this paragraph at page 5,:

"Without prejudice to the submitted details, SGN recognise that the gasholders are Locally Listed and lie
adjacent to the Grade II listed Livesey Memorial Hall, War Memorial and boundary wall. To assist officers,
SGN, as a committed local stakeholder, would welcome the opportunity to meet and discuss the potential
salvage of some material from the gasholders. This offer is made on a voluntary basis and as set out above,
the salvage of materials relates to details which fall outside of the requirements of the GPDO and must be
considered separately from this application process. "


This might be viewed as an opener to discussing not only the salvage of material but how that material might be treated and re-presented as I proposed in the compromise post.

The compromise originally received a very low volume response on two forums and this level of (dis)interest may be an accurate reflection of people's real views on it.

However, now that the decision has been made irreversibly and the structures will be demolished, perhaps the compromise deserves some review in light of these changed circumstances.

Aut ego sum mortuus est enim equus quosdam verberibus adfecit (Translation by Google - imperfect or otherwise)

Robin Orton
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Re: Bell Green Gasometers – A Compromise

Post by Robin Orton » 15 Jul 2018 13:20

JGD wrote: Aut ego sum mortuus est enim equus quosdam verberibus adfecit (Translation by Google - imperfect or otherwise)
I do not recognise this as a well-formed Latin sentence. Something to do with flogging dead horses?

EUSSR
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Re: Bell Green Gasometers – A Compromise

Post by EUSSR » 15 Jul 2018 16:43

Why, whats the point in keeping them...they were just gas holders..meh...who cares ?...scrap metal thats all..get rid and do something useful with the site...

i am genuinely amused

JGD
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Re: Bell Green Gasometers – A Compromise

Post by JGD » 15 Jul 2018 18:20

Congratulation Robin - this is NOT a well-formed Latin sentence.

Something to do with flogging dead horses is sooo accurate and well perceived.

The translation at one point had me as the dead horse that I should stop flogging - in interpretive terms it is probably an equally astute and accurate observation.

Hey ho.

JGD
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Re: Bell Green Gasometers – A Compromise

Post by JGD » 15 Jul 2018 18:25

To General Sir Anthony Cecil Hogmanay Melchett, VC, KCB, DSO (aka EUSSR)

Meh - me too.

mosy
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Re: Bell Green Gasometers – A Compromise

Post by mosy » 15 Jul 2018 19:15

The thing is to come up with ideas that are even remotely feasible as I suspect the girders are extremely substantial seen close up, far more than the metal needed for typical mini structures that might be built commemoratively.

Is the metal re-usable or recyclable into building materials? It'd be ecologically resource sensible if so to use it rather than leave it rusting in the ground in whatever form.

In amenity terms if retaining three uprights, a zip line or dry ski run, the latter conveniently finding a hidey hole for a good handful or two of the dug up redevelopment rubble for the slope, or a viewing platform (if there's anything to view once up there). Or thinking ahead, a helipad or a drone landing "staircase" parking port. OK, so I'm not that good at thinking outside the box but inside the box just leaves something useless stuck there so over to others for ideas...

Robin Orton
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Re: Bell Green Gasometers – A Compromise

Post by Robin Orton » 15 Jul 2018 20:11

JGD wrote: Something to do with flogging dead horses is sooo accurate and well perceived. The translation at one point had me as the dead horse that I should stop flogging - in interpretive terms it is probably an equally astute and accurate observation.
Out of interest, what was it you actually asked Google to translate?

JGD
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Re: Bell Green Gasometers – A Compromise

Post by JGD » 15 Jul 2018 20:37

Robin

Probably something like "am I flogging a dead horse".

alywin
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Re: Bell Green Gasometers – A Compromise

Post by alywin » 15 Jul 2018 22:23

Why do you expect Google to Translate anything accurately? ;)

mosy
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Re: Bell Green Gasometers – A Compromise

Post by mosy » 15 Jul 2018 23:15

Well, I guess the horse isn't quite dead yet if SGN have seemingly acknowledged that there is enough interest by some members of the public to want to retain some form of them and are open to suggestions (without obligation or affecting anything else) to those who want to keep bits of the gasholders. I don't personally other than in a token commemorative way.

However, another idea for a three upright retention might be to have electric car chargers at the base, maybe with cars to park in a star fashion around each one. A sort of was gas now cleaner electric irony? Not sure SGN would go for that though ;)

Robin Orton
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Re: Bell Green Gasometers – A Compromise

Post by Robin Orton » 16 Jul 2018 10:26

JGD wrote:Robin

Probably something like "am I flogging a dead horse".
How about ' vel equuum mortuum verbero?'?

John H
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Re: Bell Green Gasometers – A Compromise

Post by John H » 16 Jul 2018 18:41

Planning Consent is not needed for demolition.

JGD
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Re: Bell Green Gasometers – A Compromise

Post by JGD » 16 Jul 2018 19:23

John H

I think most posters had got that point early on.

Paradoxically - not least because I did not address this in the compromise proposal - would planning consent be required if an emblematic retention of a small portion on a different locus on site be required.

My early thoughts are - probably !

Growsydenham
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Re: Bell Green Gasometers – A Compromise

Post by Growsydenham » 17 Jul 2018 16:38

The suggestion as originally billed was good and it’s good to see the developer interested. I’m sure it could be imaginately incorporated.

JGD
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Re: Bell Green Gasometers – A Compromise

Post by JGD » 19 Jul 2018 09:09

Another belated endeavour, this time by @Cllr Tom Copley on 18 July, to attempt to get the Mayor to intervene and give consideration to issuing an Article 4 Direction to remove permitted development rights from locally listed buildings in Lewisham. The argument as presented, alleges that a planning loophole was being exploited. Perhaps consideration should be given to how hastily the Local Listing was rushed through, with Planning Officers being co-opted to by-pass their normal procedures to secure the listing.

Image

The endeavour failed.

There were two key elements in the reply.

It was not possible to to delay the decision beyond the statutory period as this would have meant that the gas holders could be removed without any further controls being exercised by the council.

The council could have been exposed to the potential for a substantial claim for compensation from SGN for reduction in land value as a result of any imposition of an Article 4 Direction.

I think it probable that this interpretation is also narrow - compensation could have also been sought by SGN for the costs of an inspection and maintenance regime that would be required to retain the gas holders in a safe condition for any period of retention beyond the point at which they became redundant and other matters such as the cost of deferred divestment of assets..

And these facts have been in the public domain since the original planning application was published with a similar statement made in the Planning Officer's report. So why was this attempt made in the face of evidence that was already before us ?

It is noteworthy that another specious argument that Peregrine Falcons and other birds were nesting in the structures were not referred to in this over-emotive appeal.

The reply also refers to "raised strong feelings by members of the public and elected members of the Council".

No strong feelings exist with members of the public who are Bellingham Ward residents about the possible retention of the structures - they see these ribs as an eyesore that are a blight and are over dominant in our eye-line from our properties and seek their demolition at the earliest.

As to elected members having strong feelings - well that is for them to answer. It is difficult to understand why any such feelings have arisen as they have individually and collectively elected not to consult Bellingham Ward constituents on this matter.

The reply also states the Mayor seemingly regrets SGN's decision to demolish and has written to SGN to see what can be done to safeguard the gas holders.

I too have written to SGN's agents some months ago, encouraging them to advise SGN of their entitlements under permitted development rights to proceed to demolish the gas holders without interference from the council. One can never know whether the correspondence was even read, but proceed they did and SGN have succeeded in removing the final obstacles to demolition.

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