At the end of just two weeks some 262 objections were to be seen in the planning officer’s case file, bundled in elastic, not yet even hole-punched for their ring-binder even. And one single letter of support – from Martin Harris, boss of the city’s bus company! There were no doubt more up in the council office reaches which had not yet made it into the file, which was made available at very short notice.
Only a couple of responses contained useful information or comment based on a personal viewing of actual planning application material, over and above sight of the tower CGI, as viewed by seagulls out to sea (which went into The Argus). Most objections parrot off a string of grounds for objection provided to them by others and take up about 2-3 lines of space on an A4 sheet of paper. They clearly agree and put their names to them, so they are entirely valid as endorsements of those grounds, but how are they convincing when just that? No personal insights or thoughts about the planning application documents online….. Every one of the perfectly valid and important reasons for refusals has to be more than about “over there”. They must be applied to personal circumstances to demonstrate how individual respondents close to the site would be impacted.
The public consultation period provides an opportunity to challenge documentation from the applicants. To do that, you have to look at it. And, especially, to take them ON and provide proof of impact/damage expected to personal amenity and privacy if living close to the site. Objections that point out claims in documents and then counter with proofs are very powerful. They have to face that scrutiny and so do any objectors’ claims and statements of personal impact. Officers will read what you say but not then ask you to provide further information. They MAY, however, take proofs from objectors and ask the applicant to address the issue!
PHOTOGRAPHIC EVIDENCE TO DEMONSTRATE HOW IMPACTED
Some individuals threw out impact assertions which now must be followed up with proof. For residents of Kingsway adjacent, Girton House, Walsingham Road and Sackville Gardens especially, your discrediting of the application needs evidence of impact, supplied as photos taken from interior rooms and gardens to demonstrate your claim. I could say the moon is made of glue but I’d have to prove it to be believed. Planning is a quasi-judicial process and evidence of claims is how to defeat the applicant and counter THEIR claims. Do you know what claims they are making? Look at the visual impact and other documents.
Where a specific address would be impacted by the looming and overbearing tower presence and/or (day) light loss, information that demonstrates this has to be provided. Same with loss of privacy. It is not enough to just claim it to be the case. Photos need to be taken from inside affected rooms, through windows (showing a bit of frame) over to the area where the tower would occupy sky. A vertical shot showing ground through to air (context) where it would go – so it tells the story for the planning officer. Some rooms are of more value than others for planning purposes – kitchens and living rooms, say, for daylight.
Negative light impact at night that affects bedrooms is another consideration. That thing would be lit up like a Christmas tree in winter (unless just owned as a buy-t0-leave or occasional-visits 2nd home)! All addresses in Sackville Gardens and Walsingham Road whose gardens are directly behind the development area, and closest to it, are most in need of producing a serious photographic record of how their gardens and homes would be impacted. Stand in the garden and shoot ground to sky images from your own garden, from various vantage points. Email the images to firstname.lastname@example.org and ask they be added to your existing objection. You cannot just use an email address. You must show a true name & address for this.
A variety of inaccurate heights and numbers of flats were carelessly provided in a few hasty objections which shows the extent to which people think this is just a objection numbers game. It is not. One objection seemed to confuse the site with King Alfred, erroneously objecting to it being south of the Kingsway!!!! Some objections, posted through the council’s online comment box, do not make ANY comment….just tick the objection box and identify themselves. Objecting with no reason? Really? Please at least articulate your emotional response to the sight of what images you HAVE seen. It would be something. The time investment of such people is about 30 seconds so far. Yet I bet many of them attended the public meeting where Valerie spoke (well over 130 there, of which 121 signed a petition seeking a planning brief), gave a couple of hours there, have read the flyers coming to homes, talked to people…yet just give 30 seconds of their time to a cursory ‘add-my-name’ online consultation response which goes towards deciding the fate of the application. Naughty! Time needs to be invested in consultation responses, demonstrating assertions, especially where personal (individual windows, say) impact is anticipated.
The planning consultant has done the planning policy and professional bit, but the local knowledge stuff has to come from residents. It adds a lot.
Take pictures of the street rammed with parked cars so no extra on-street capacity is possible. Take rush-hour pictures of the Kingsway rammed so show existing impact there. Make the case. Take photos of the junction to show how close the car parking access is to the Kingsway. Take sunlight and shadow photos of gardens NOW over several hours on one day and date them to show exact solar gain now which can be compared with what would be lost (according to the applicants).
One Sackville Gardens resident has looked at the drawings and made really withering observations which then call into question (for him) whether the architect is out of his depth on this proposed scheme. It is only a very brief response but it provides new information which came from having looked at the drawings. He has development experience so knew what he was looking at, as any builder would. I hope he is right! He claimed floor-to-ceiling heights could not be achieved as the space allowed between floors for running plumbing and services has not been taken into consideration. Maybe these things go in walls instead? Maybe? I dunno. But it is something which the planning officer will have to look into and query. He goes on to remark “Are they really proposing this thickness of slab between floors?”. I wondered if the narrowness of space between floors might also mean suffering a lot of noise from flats above/below residents. Floor scrapey sounds, arguments, TV, music noise. Hmmm!
There is comment about the lift-to-basement parking proposed which would see cars queuing at the junction, and, I would guess, in the Kingsway too at predictably busy times!
Information comes too that rooflights between two pitched roof areas, invisible from the street, would provide direct views down into children’s bedrooms from tower balconies. The resident has been asked to provide photo evidence to put in her objection, taken by a drone camera would be good. Again, context evidence.
I give these examples to try to generate inspiration about what people can do to help themselves. Just quickly scrolling through some of the online documentation for an hour would probably give even more ideas. And generate “Well, that’s wrong!” responses that could go into objections. You have more to contribute than you realise. Evidence is all.
One thing that nobody has written about is the proposed landscaping over the Kingsway – the Western Lawns area that showed all sorts of junked up proposals when we all attended the exhibition consultation at King Alfred! It’s not theirs. It’s OURS.
Covenants and a Right of Way/Right of Access issue
What makes planning so fascinating sometimes are the surprises that come out of nowhere. It has been discovered by one (professional) individual doing some digging, that there are LIVE Covenants on the fallen Sackville Hotel site which restrict height on any building put there to just 4 storeys. Is this why the planning consent for the five storey townhouses is not being used by the current owners? Did they tell Hyde about these covenants? Several objections now include mention of the covenants issue.
The Hyde application form ticks the box saying there is no right of way to be extinguished. But the residents of 2 Sackville Gdns have Right of Access in their deeds. Do Hyde know that 2 Sackville Gardens was once part of the Sackville Hotel? Built a couple of years after the hotel buildings (built firstly as a terrace of houses), it was apparently used as a bridal suite! One document from the planning application is fascinating. I reproduce it here. It suggests Hyde do know and think they can add cycle and other vehicle use of that area for the development whilst residents of 2 Sackville Gdns continue with their right of access. A shared space!
But with a humming sub-station in the corner and both residents and delivery/emergency vehicles, cycles, cars and pedestrians using the a car and a half width Sackville Gardens entry point to access both garage and car park, there is, with balconies up 17 storeys all overlooking the gardens areas, an overwhelming invasion of privacy issue for 2 Sackville Gardens and, to a lesser extent, other close rear window/garden areas. Their quality of life would be massively impacted with Local Plan policy QD27 violated bigtime. SHOULD the 98 flats (containing a total of 183 bedroom) be actually lived in full time, that is a lot of impact (and car fumes). And potential for physical danger and smashes in a confined space.
The proposed sub-station is a worry. It is in a confined space which could only be accessed either from Clarke Court in Walsingham Road or through the Sackville Gardens access point should it catch fire – as sometimes happens. It would be a car length away from the rear bedrooms of 2 Sackville Gardens!
It remains to be seen how this issue pans out. How is that slice of land dealt with in the previous (consented) applications for the Sackville Hotel site? These two issues of covenant and right of way are things local historians love to learn about. And developers dread (but take out insurance against!). Also within the application material is a drawing that shows the old field divisions and this right of access area had a clear identity on it – way back then!