Round up the usual suspects!

The place for serious discussion, announcements and breaking news about Sydenham

Moderator: frenzarin

Round up the usual suspects!

Postby Tim Lund » 28 Jun 2012 16:16

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.

Possible solutions
• 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?
Last edited by Tim Lund on 29 Jun 2012 08:53, edited 1 time in total.
Tim Lund
 
Posts: 6536
Joined: 13 Mar 2008 18:10
Location: Silverdale

Re: Round up the usual suspects!

Postby JulietP » 28 Jun 2012 21:24

I genuinely do not understand this.

Who can afford to buy a family-sized house in London anyway? What people need is 1-2 bed flats. I could only afford a 1-bed flat in sydenham. I hate purpose built flats, so if period properties were prevented from converting I would simply be unable to live here.

People need to have a longer term view - there may well come a point when period conversions are combined back into houses. In the meantime, people need properties, so there should be freedom to create whatever people need (subject to green belt, local services etc.)

Why the dislike of renters? An inevitable consequence of higher house prices and stagnant salariesis that people will have to rent longer - perhaps for their whole lives. Do these people only want old people and rich people as neighbours? So much for a diverse community. Agh.

[ Post made via Mobile Device ] Image
JulietP
 
Posts: 294
Joined: 18 Apr 2011 21:14
Location: SE26

Re: Round up the usual suspects!

Postby Tim Lund » 29 Jun 2012 08:40

JulietP wrote:I genuinely do not understand this.


Some people who might be able to help you here:


JulietP wrote:Why the dislike of renters? An inevitable consequence of higher house prices and stagnant salariesis that people will have to rent longer - perhaps for their whole lives. Do these people only want old people and rich people as neighbours? So much for a diverse community


Perhaps because our local community groups and leaders don't want us to be like those un-community minded Germans, Dutch and Danes?

Image

Source here

There's actually a more profound issue, which is why I linked back to the thread on Referendums on Neighbourhood planning. The reason I asked about the role of the Planning Inspectorate in connection with proposed Neighbourhood plans is that one of its roles is the examination of local development plans. From Michael's responses on that thread, it is clear that LB Lewisham plan to ignore the provisions of the Localism Act for neighbourhood referendums on Neighbourhood plans, but it is unclear whether there will be any role for this public body to arbitrate should groups identified as representing the community who develop such plans appear to be acting against the public interest.

See also the thread on The Public vs. The Community
Tim Lund
 
Posts: 6536
Joined: 13 Mar 2008 18:10
Location: Silverdale

Re: Round up the usual suspects!

Postby Eagle » 29 Jun 2012 09:03

Tim
You have a valid point re home ownership. Our German friends certainly seem to manage with far more renting.

In this country problem with renting is when you reach retirement age you have to find say 1000 a month out of a state pension.

On positive side renting makes it easier to move with a job to another part of the country.

On negative side on average I think renters do not look after the property on have same consideration of neighbours as owners. I did say ON AVERAGE.
Eagle
 
Posts: 10658
Joined: 7 Oct 2004 06:36
Location: F Hill

Re: Round up the usual suspects!

Postby Tim Lund » 29 Jun 2012 09:29

Eagle wrote:In this country problem with renting is when you reach retirement age you have to find say 1000 a month out of a state pension.


That's a good point, with an implication I'd not thought about. I was just going to say that it was a matter of both house prices and rents being too high, because of the lack of supply - which is indeed true. But what I'd not thought of was that uncertainty about being able to continue paying rents when income drops might be push people into home ownership, so aggravating the imbalance between owner occupation and renting. Hmm ... not sure about this - I'll think further.

Eagle wrote:On positive side renting makes it easier to move with a job to another part of the country.


Indeed - and this is the standard and valid economic argument in favour of renting. But the reason I brought up the comparison with German and other parts of northern Europe was that their populations are not rootless masses being pushed around by the harsh laws of economics, and are probably much more 'community' minded than here in London.

Eagle wrote:
On negative side on average I think renters do not look after the property on have same consideration of neighbours as owners. I did say ON AVERAGE.


If renters can get away with trashing where they live, then this will be a problem. However, landlords and property managers will have developed ways of controlling the problem - keeping an eye on the property, having enforceable clauses in tenancy agreements allowing them to get rid of bad tenants, and I'd imagine more positive ways to encourage good tenants - see for example what Dorian wrote here

I am a private Landlord. None of my tennants are on benefits, albeit by default not design. I purposely under charge the market by a few hundred pounds a month on each property to ensure no empty periods and contented tennants who I always encourage to consider the property as their home.

It works for me and I dont get complaints of high rents, I think I even undercut the housing associations. Yes, I make money, but would not consider I am being " greedy".


The upside to renting from the public interest point of view of maintaining the housing stock is that good landlords specialising in residential property will have vastly more professional experience of maintaining property than an individual who thinks only of property owning as an automatic way to get rich, over extends themselves to get into the market, and then not only doesn't know what to do to keep it in good repair, but also has to scrimp on paying for decent quality tradesmen to do any work necessary. In economics jargon, it's a matter of getting the long run incentives right, and benefiting from economies of scale.
Last edited by Tim Lund on 29 Jun 2012 09:42, edited 1 time in total.
Tim Lund
 
Posts: 6536
Joined: 13 Mar 2008 18:10
Location: Silverdale

Re: Round up the usual suspects!

Postby Eagle » 29 Jun 2012 09:41

Tim
Interesting points

You are correct that most Germans are far more community minded and they are Bavarians , Schwabians , Rheinlanders first and Germans second.

That is what their Nation Anthem tried to change without a great success.
Eagle
 
Posts: 10658
Joined: 7 Oct 2004 06:36
Location: F Hill

Re: Round up the usual suspects!

Postby Annie. » 29 Jun 2012 09:47

I had people next door renting for two years, run by mann & co I believe, hell on earth,no one wanted to hear any complaints,constantly having to knock on their oor 2am -3 am tell them to stop making noise,some people dont give a damn about neighbours,where I live there are a few long term neighbours left,we know each other,respect each other,and they know if they needed me I would be there ,and vice versa. Some renters flit from one property/area ( possibly work related) to another,and his leads to the breakdown in community,and community spirit. Obviously this does not apply to all renters.
But I have had to complain about rubbish all over the place, noise,etc to Lewisham council over other rented propertys,I dont think ownership of these properties is transparent enough,perhaps if the actual owners were to receive these complaints then they would do something about nuisance tenents.

[ Post made via Mobile Device ] Image
Annie.
 
Posts: 2070
Joined: 11 May 2012 17:48

Re: Round up the usual suspects!

Postby Eagle » 29 Jun 2012 09:57

Yes always baffled me as you assume if they are bad neighbours they are probably wrecking the house/flat.

There are of course good renters and also bad owner occupiers.
Eagle
 
Posts: 10658
Joined: 7 Oct 2004 06:36
Location: F Hill

Re: Round up the usual suspects!

Postby michael » 29 Jun 2012 09:58

There are some areas of London (and I understand that New Cross and Brockley are reasonable examples of this) where there really is a shortage of family housing, and more is being lost all the time through conversion.

When couples living in their 1/2 bed flat chose to have children in these areas they have to move away from the area to find a place with enough space for them. This is not necessarily through being priced out, but because there is a shortage of family units in these areas - a phenomenon that is recognised in Lewisham Planning Policy for the last decade, possibly longer. What ends up happening is that these areas have high turnover of residents and no real sense of community.

These were some of the issues raised by some of the amenity societies and ward assembly coordinating groups, particularly those around Brockley/Telegraph Hill. We are very lucky in Sydenham and Forest Hill that there is a massive range of housing types and neither high rise/high density or family mansions dominate the urban environment. Getting the right mix is key to a quality urban community.

Personally I wasn't in those particular workshops as I did not feel such a strong affinity with these issues. When taken as one workshop out of five I think it is absolutely right that these concerns are surfaced. They are not the only factors that will impact planning policy, but it is right that planners understand some of the concerns of local residents.
michael
 
Posts: 1228
Joined: 26 Sep 2006 12:56
Location: Forest Hill

Re: Round up the usual suspects!

Postby Tim Lund » 29 Jun 2012 10:10

Michael

Does a "phenomenon that is recognised in Lewisham Planning Policy" necessarily mean that arguments derived with reference to it are valid?

But to return the the more general point, 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?


Do keep up with your Chloe Smith impressions - I know you're not our local George "Submarine" Osborne :D
Tim Lund
 
Posts: 6536
Joined: 13 Mar 2008 18:10
Location: Silverdale

Re: Round up the usual suspects!

Postby michael » 29 Jun 2012 10:20

Tim Lund wrote:Are any of those active in local assemblies and civic societies prepared to contemplate the higher housing densities the wider public needs?

Of course they are, always just outside their area, which currently has the perfect density. (I jest of course).

Every area is different. My understanding is that the Sydenham Society were particularly in favour of Bell Green having significant residential development, rather than out of town style retail park. The Greyhound site is another good example of high density development in a site with high PTAL rating. Brockley will show other examples of this happening. Not quite high rise, but 5 or 6 storeys becoming fairly normal for such locations.

Anyway, I've tried to explain the point of view from people who I know were in that workshop. I hope that most people will see that their concerns are valid in certain contexts. A necessary force against those who would like to see South London turned into Nothing but Towers.
michael
 
Posts: 1228
Joined: 26 Sep 2006 12:56
Location: Forest Hill

Re: Round up the usual suspects!

Postby marymck » 30 Jun 2012 00:01

Tim, why this name for the thread? Have I misunderstood? It seems a little snide to me. Maybe it's just because I'm tired. I understood you were invited to the workshop. Certainly all those community minded souls who attend the ward assemblies were invited. You seem to be suggesting the views of those who make an effort to get involved regularly and with an interest in more than a single issue have less than legitimate views, as we're the usual suspects.

I attended the workshop. There was a good cross section of the community there. I didn't sit in on that particular group session but I agree wholeheartedly with the points they made and those of Michael. I'd also like to add that houses converted to flats can be a nightmare for adjoining house holders. Houses aren't designed with the separation and soundproofing required by flats. I speak from personal experience here. Adjacent rooms designed as bedrooms, where one is converted to a sitting room is a recipe for sleepless nights. And the soundproofing is no better between floors in these conversions, believe me - I lived in enough in my youth. And I've heard what my neighbour has to put up with from the kitchen above their bedroom.

[ Post made via Mobile Device ] Image
marymck
 
Posts: 1567
Joined: 9 Feb 2008 16:30
Location: Upper Kirkdale

Re: Round up the usual suspects!

Postby Tim Lund » 30 Jun 2012 10:55

Mary, Michael

I think my points have been reasonably put. It's good that you have responded as you have, and I'm happy to leave readers of the Forum to form their own opinions.

Since this thread has also gone into issues to do with private residential development, it might be more constructive to give an example which to me looks good.

Image

There are several interesting points to make about this. First, it replaces a pair of late Victorian semi-detached villas similar to the ones you can see to its right. The planning application for it came up in the period I was Chair of the Sydenham Society, and I remember it because one of the previous ground floor flats was where a former member of my allotments' committee lived, but due to increasing infirmity not very successfully looking after the back garden. As a matter of routine the SydSoc Planning sub committee considered objecting to the application, but didn't waste too much time on it, because their expertise in planning matters meant they knew there wasn't likely to be any valid reason for objecting, and in any case it didn't look too bad. The villa it replaced was in a fairly poor state of repair anyway.

But simply because of the pattern of amenity societies such as SydSoc being expected to comment on applications such as this, there's a danger that they become reactive, rather than proactive in trying to help regenerate an area. In fairness to SydSoc's active members, I think they are very well aware of this, and their initiative with the 'Sydenham Gateway' project is the sort of thing it would be good to see more amenity societies doing - except that the evidence of the Greyhound debacle suggests that they do not have the capacity to do this. Sorry - that is a diversion.

To return to the original focus, a significant point is that there are just nine flats - which you can just see on the white board, or more explicitly

The demolition of existing buildings at 68-70 Kent House Road SE26 and the construction of a part three/part four storey block, incorporating balconies/terrace comprising 1 two bedroom, 7 three bedroom and 1 four bedroom self-contained flats, together with the provision of 9 car parking spaces, 10 bicycle spaces and refuse/recycling storage.


in the planning application

This is significant given the policy in Lewisham’s Local Development Framework, Core Strategy

Core Strategy Policy 1
Housing provision, mix and affordability

...

4. Contributions to affordable housing will be sought on sites capable of providing 10 or more
dwellings. The starting point for negotiations will be a contribution of 50% affordable housing
on qualifying sites


from which I suspect that the private sector is actually being deterred from building more new housing.

A further point is what happened to those sad neglected, overgrown back gardens. Here is the before, and after. I have no argument with how sensitively this has been done, but it looks to me that thanks to not being able to build higher, private developers are forced into grabbing back gardens.

That there is a problem with Lewisham's targets on affordable housing is clear from their being abandoned on the sorts of development that the Council really cares about - e.g. this

Image

where the affordable housing target has been reduced to 20%, much to the indignation of alternativese14.com.

The problem with our usual suspects is that, like the self-consciously alternative types of Telegraph Hill, Brockley, etc., they observe that many developers are only after profit, and fail to think through realistically how best this part of human nature can be turned to the public good.
Tim Lund
 
Posts: 6536
Joined: 13 Mar 2008 18:10
Location: Silverdale


Return to Town Hall

 

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 22 guests