A development in Deptford which will have a “poor door” and where residents on lower floors will be warned not to open their windows because of the high levels of air pollution was approved by Lewisham Council’s main planning committee on Tuesday night.
The scheme at 1 Creekside – opposite the Birds Nest pub on Deptford Church Street – involves redevelopment of land partially owned by the council, to provide residential and commercial space on a constrained corner site. The council has signed a deal with developer Bluecroft to lease back the majority of the commercial space on completion.
Four of the five strategic development committee members present voted to approve the scheme, agreeing that the overall benefit of building the development outweighed the loss of light in adjacent homes, the loss of wildlife habitat and the decision to put residential properties on land that was earmarked for employment.
Proceedings were thrown into confusion at several points, with a nine-page addendum containing corrections to the additional report and additional information issued by officers to the public just 15 minutes before the meeting.
The stated height of the two blocks that were proposed – six and eight storeys as referenced in the committee report – was repeatedly queried by both objectors and councillors who questioned why double-height units in the ground and top floors were counted as single storeys.
The tenure of residential units in the scheme had to be clarified in the addendum, to correct references in the officers’ report to “social rent”.
The scheme will provide 56 one, two and three-bedroom apartments and this will be a mix of private and shared ownership apartments, and those intended to be let at “London affordable rent” (about £144/week for a one bedroom flat).
‘Poor door’ worry
The fact that the two blocks have separate entrances, and one block consists entirely of private units, was raised as a concern by some committee members who did not want to have to defend accusations of building schemes with “poor doors”.
A report published in The Guardian the same day about segregated play areas in a housing development in Lambeth led councillors to ask for reassurance that the third-floor ‘amenity space’ was accessible to all residents.
Criticisms of undersize residential units on the scheme had been addressed, officers told the committee, with the applicant readjusting internal layouts to ensure that all the layouts met or exceeded minimum space standards.
Councillors were advised that the impact on residents on the neighbouring Crossfields estate, whose living rooms will see daylight reduced by more than the limits recommended by national guidance, should nonetheless be considered acceptable in a dense urban environment.
Objector Sarah McLean, who lives on the ground floor of Cremer House, on the adjacent Crossfields estate, and whose property will be just 15m from the new building, said that her living space would lose a significant amount of daylight as a result of the development.
“We will lose 75% of our daylight in March, according to the plan,” she said. She added that the allotments on the land between the two buildings would be unusable. “This would be completely devastating for the estate, as they have been in use for more than 20 years.”
Committee members acknowledged that the windows on the south side of Cremer House would be affected if the application was approved.
Chair John Paschoud (Labour, Perry Vale) asked “Do we have any measurement of how much harm? I think that’s the crucial thing. We are saying that there is a planning harm to Cremer House but in order to make a properly informed decision we need some indication … so that we can resolve the point.”
Lewisham Central Labour councillor Joani Read asked if it had been approved by the Building Research Establishment. Officers responded that the windows at the lower levels experienced a “minor digression” of 5% below the standard recommended by BRE guidelines.
McLean and fellow resident Theresa Jones both raised the issue of the height and proximity of the proposed block, which they noted was below the recommended distance of 20m. But planning officers said that this was acceptable in an urban context and that the 20m separation was a recommendation intended for suburban sites.
The planning application acknowledges that residential properties and commercial space in the lower levels of the new building will be subjected to air pollution that exceeds recommended levels, and the design of the scheme will have to incorporate mechanical systems for bringing clean air to the lower floors.
Unsafe levels of air pollution
Planning officers proposed a condition that all occupants below second floor level would be made aware of the measures they should take to avoid being subjected to unsafe levels of air pollution.
But there was a lack of clarity over what this assessment was based on, with objectors highlighting the fact that they were predicted levels, as no actual monitoring had been carried out at the site. “An air quality assessment has been done, and it has been assessed by our environmental protection office and they have agreed that the proposals are acceptable with the mitigation that is proposed,” said planning officer Jeremy Ward.
The reliability of the predictions for the upper floors in particular was challenged by Crossfields resident Sue Lawes, who pointed out that data gathered for the Citizen Sense monitoring scheme, run by Professor Jennifer Gabrys from Goldsmiths University, had measured high levels of pollutant PM2.5 on the fourth floor of Holden House on the Crossfields estate.
And now it is passed by planning. 5 councillors who had no idea what was going on and probably don’t realise they’ve passed a POOR DOOR development (though they were reminded). Just like their monstrous building tonight’s meeting could be a landmark – in total loss of democracy,
— crosswhatfields (@crosswhatfields) March 27, 2019
The presence of this type of particulate matter was not considered in the assessment, despite it being more dangerous than the PM10 that was mentioned.
Deptford Neighbourhood Action coordinator Andrea Carey pointed out that a previous application for the site had been rejected on the basis that it sought to introduce residential accommodation onto a designated employment site.
Although the development would offer commercial space at the lower levels, this was most likely to replicate what is already on offer at other developments on Creekside, she said. What the area really needed was other types of employment opportunities, Carey added. “Housing should not outweigh all the other policy considerations,” she said, “and this site should really be kept for industrial use.”
Loss of trees and natural habitat on the site was raised by a number of objectors, and had been one of the key objections of the Deptford Society, a statutory consultee whose response had been omitted from the officers report. The society’s representative said the provision of street trees did not adequately compensate for the loss of the mature trees and wildlife habitat on the site, and that the arboricultural report had failed to represent the true number, maturity and size of trees on the land.
Committee members were also told that any concerns about the future of the Birds Nest pub, which is a popular venue for late-night live music in Deptford, could be overcome by means of a planning condition.
Crossfields resident Terry Edwards, who is a regular customer at the Birds Nest pub, was concerned that the effect of vibrations from music at the pub had not been considered in the noise assessment.
A petition signed by 2,300 people was acknowledged by planning officer Jeremy Ward as one of the biggest issues at the initial stages of the application.
As a result, a planning condition had been proposed to ensure that residential properties were sufficiently noise-proofed and that residents were notified that they would be moving into a property next to a live music venue. Officers confirmed that they could amend this condition to include measures to address the effect of vibrations and noise at lower frequencies.
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