NOTES OF PLANNING POLICY WORKSHOP
HELD AT DEPTFORD LOUNGE – 25th April 2012
All the people who attend the ward assemblies together with the main amenity and conservation groups known to the planning service were invited to a meeting at Deptford Lounge, Deptford SE8, on 25th April 2012 between 7.00 pm and 9.00 pm.
Notes from Group 5: Housing Conversions, Extensions and Alterations
General themes raised
This workshop focused largely on housing conversions, the content of the future housing conversions evidence base document and how it could be used to control future conversions in the borough.
Discussion of extensions and alterations centred around those arising from conversion activity because the flats that had been provided as part of a scheme were too small in the first place. There was a detrimental effect on the character of a house arising from a large number of alterations over time that did not necessarily individually require planning permission.
More planning enforcement was necessary on unauthorised extensions and alterations. This is an issue possibly requiring coordination over various groups in the Council.
Many people present were not in favour of future housing conversions.
More specific issues raised
• Too many 1 and 2 bed units in conversions.
• Degradation of front gardens and excessive bin storage is an issue.
• Conversions are usually to a poor overall standard. Purpose built flats are better.
• The quality of family accommodation in conversions is poor, no family would want to live in them
• Conversions caused an overall loss of the character of an area due to incremental alterations.
• Many group members considered that conversion flats encouraged a high level of renting resulting in no commitment to the quality and maintenance of an area.
• Conversions often resulted in dormitory communities. They could also result in increase pressure on community facilities and schools due to the higher population density
• Conversions cause a shortage of larger family dwellings by inflating the price of those that remain because of their potential for conversion – leading to families being squeezed out of the market – particularly true of areas of housing where conversions are popular
• Conversions that are too small are leading to applications for undesirable additions
• There was a request for qualitative data on the effect of conversions (effect on overall environment, degradation of the environment) to be included as part of the evidence base as well as the quantitative information based on housing need and supply and the location of clusters of flats and flat conversions.
• Other changes away from residential use for example to nurseries are an issue. Semi detached houses are not suitable for these uses due to noise problems. Family housing should be retained.
• Housing suitable for family occupation should be retained not subdivided into units not suitable for families.
• A mix of sizes of property should be protected to provide a range of housing types and sizes to meet varied needs.
• Where a small number of larger houses remain in an area these should also be protected to retain housing choice.
So - plenty about stopping the creation of the sorts of accommodation that people seem to want, e.g smaller units for smaller households. And little joy for the older person, now rattling round in a family house, who might reasonably want to convert it into flats, staying in the neighbourhood where they have lived, supporting themselves financially in their old age. There's even something to make it harder for young parents looking for nursery spaces.
The focus on family housing makes me wonder in general about people who don't actually want family housing - e.g the large majority of gay couples who do not chose to adopt kids. Could there be a case for considering the Equal Opportunities implications of this obsession?
But best I think is the argument that somehow increasing the supply of housing units pushes up prices. I think I can see the tortuous logic, but did the possibility of increasing supply overall helping to address the problem of inflated prices also occur to the participants? Or was that what they were worried about?
Let me ask again
Are any of those active in local assemblies and civic societies prepared to contemplate the higher housing densities the wider public needs?