Brockley planning

Cllr Dean Walton's blog has a great update from the recent planning committee meeting, summarising the decisions relevant to Brockley.

In particular, he reports on two issues that have been covered on this site - a new residential development on Geoffrey Road, that has been criticised by some local residents. He writes:

"Permission granted for the houses on the site of the garages adjacent to 72 (I think). The scheme is daring, has no car parking (but removal of the dropped kerb effectively brings a single space back to use), green roofs, a Green Travel plan for new residents and, following my suggestion, a committment to assist in the establishment of a car club for the area."

Local residents recently launched a Lewisham-wide campaign to halt the disappearance of local pubs but, as Dean reports, it has come too late for The Tiger's Head on Bromley Road. His article illustrates how difficult it is to save pubs, given the conflicting pressures facing the planning system, but it also suggests that the campaign may be successful in future:

"I support Lewisham's emerging policy against allowing pubs to be changed into residential use - but it was made very very clear that this policy is still at an early stage and there were no grounds on which the policy could be applied [to The Tiger's Head]."

31 comments:

JPM said...

1-3 Ashby Rd

An application for 'demolition' and 'change of use' has been sumbitted (twice) for the above. Thankfully both have been rejected.

The current owner purchased the building nearly two years ago and in planning applications decribed it as former council offices'.

This gives the impression to the unsavvy Member (and Joe Public) that the council, if it allows a change of use, will receive a financial gain... which it won't.

For the record... it is not a council building. (It was formerly leased to Lewisham before the present owner acquired it.)

However, this former office space is now occupied as a residential unit by stealth... and for a reason. The current owner is intent on building a mental health unit. (Developers sometimes move people in then claim residential use after a number of years, thus undermining attempts to retain its original use. Crafty or what?)

So why is the council ignoring what appears to be a change of use 'by stealth'? An enquiry on this subject meets with the limp response that the individual in occupation is a 'guard'. (There are actually or more so this must truly be round the clock security.)

The building is occupied by a number of immigrants (the owner collecting rents in cash) and they are being 'housed' in the most apalling conditions, and all under the not-too-watchful eye of a council that flaunts its own laws. Why?

Is there an agenda to allow change of use by whatever means - in order that excellent office space can be demolished and then opened as 'care in the community centre'? It certainly appears so.

Brockley Jon said...

I have been taking a close interest in 1-3 Ashby Rd, as it's just around the corner from me. Here's a link to the latest application.

I am glad the past applications have been rejected - I felt that there are already enough 'rehabilitation' type centres around our way (NIMBY alert!!), and little information was given as to the history and background of the patients, and whether they would be free to go and do as they please.

However, it seems that if you keep applying with slightly different ideas, the council does often give in, so if it is likely to happen eventually, then at least on the flip side it would tidy up that stretch of the road. The existing building is an eyesore, and it's always good to see disused buildings coming back to live.

Although IMHO, looking at the drawings, the proposed new building is considerably more dominant than the old one, and not particularly sympathetic with local architecture.

I had no idea about the 'guards' (!) but it doesn't surprise me one little bit. Rather approved cash-paying residents than raving squatters I suppose!? :-/

JPM said...

"I am glad the past applications have been rejected - I felt that there are already enough 'rehabilitation' type centres around our way (NIMBY alert!!)"

There are, and this should be a consideration in planning but doesn't appear to be.

"...and little information was given as to the history and background of the patients, and whether they would be free to go and do as they please."

The reason little information was given is because the developer specialises in providing mental health units 'for persons who would otherwise be detained under the Mental Health Act'. What do we mean by 'otherwise' and 'detained'? This usually means persons with a predisposition to violence who would normally be held in a police cell, following a physical struggle. (Cells being full much of the time and police officers not being psychiatrists.)

It is worth mentioning that many of these service users will be 'held' under their own recognisance.. in other words able to come and go as they please. [Enshrined in the Human Rights Act.]

"...at least on the flip side it would tidy up that stretch of the road. The existing building is an eyesore, and it's always good to see disused buildings coming back to live."

Office space is much needed according to the LDF (Local Development Framework), which cost the Council much money to produce it must be said, but the space is being intentionallly rundown. In fact, one could rightly argue that it is not currently 'disused', but let. (The landlord collect rents, and should clean it up himself. He also purchased an office and it should remain an office.)

"Although IMHO, looking at the drawings, the proposed new building is considerably more dominant than the old one, and not particularly sympathetic with local architecture."

This is just the developer's opening gambit. 22 beds, then reduced to 18, bide one's time, and reintro with a smaller unit of 16 or less.

However, this is not the issue. Is it appropriate to knock down office space? To change the use where there is a need to retain such space? Is it also appropriate to house patients who would otherwise be detained under the Mental Health Act within yards of a school?

If you see that as 'tidying up' then I'm out of here.

Brockley Jon said...

JPM, you seem to know an awful lot about this, dare I ask why? Are you a concerned resident taking a much-needed interest in this potential nut-house (well done), or an insider (council, not nut-house) with more juicy info to share?

Nick, perhaps we might consider a main thread for this.

Andy Pandy Pudding & pie said...

I previously mentioned on this blog that an application was to be made for a 'half house' in the conservation area, im abit miffed that you are somewhat surprised now. I think its only right these units are spread amougst all areas fairly evenly, so we al share a burden. I already have one locally on the west side, isnt it about time u guys finally had your share of responsibility?

Brockley Jon said...

Andy - not surprised, as I've known from the beginning, just happy to start up some debate around it. And we do share the burden - Rokeby House can be considered our half of the deal :)

What am I doing posting comments past my bedtime on a Sunday night? I blame the fact that The Wedding Crashers was rubbish...

Andy Pandy Pudding & Pie said...

lol, i hope the residents dont hear you say that :o)

newbie said...

on institutional living in Brockley: there are two seperate establishments for people with addiction problems, one on Wickham road, and one somewhere near the bottom of Hilly fields, maybe around adelaide. There's a third home for people who've been recently released from prison on Wickham road. And of course there's Rokeby House. Not to mention the (of course, very welcome) home for people with disabilities on manor ave; and that's probably not the end of the list. (would the united services club on manor ave count?). The reason? Apparently, the unusual density of large houses in the area, which are more easily converted to institutional dwellings. (flaw in that theory: rokeby house is purpose-built, by the look of it).

Brockley Nick said...

@Newbie, the other factor must surely be the traditionally low house prices. There are plenty of big houses in Kensington & Chelsea too...

JPM said...

"Are you a concerned resident taking a much-needed interest in this potential nut-house (well done), or an insider (council, not nut-house) with more juicy info to share?"

A concerned resident, initially.

You may remember a series of fire bombings over a period of 18 months. A nearby 'service user' was eventually arrested. Apparently he hadn't liked the way his victims looked at him through their back windows.

They became the focus of his paranoia. However, an undecover police operation took place over quite a lengthy time. He was arrested and convicted and moved to Broadmoor, or some secure establishment 'for life'. unfortunately, due to this, the street lost two residents who moved out, one a family who repeatedly had their windows smashed, another an artist who was burnt out and lost her life's possessions.

In addition, I am also concerned about the motivation of the developer in choosing this particular site - close to a school, a pub, and an industrial site.

When asked what 'brain damaged' individuals would possibly reside at such an unsuitable location, the developer would not be drawn, seemed vague and evasive even. And with good reason...

In one instance, asked if the unit would include paedophiles, or persons with a violent disposition, he responded, "I'm not ruling anything in and I'm not ruling anything out."

[Naturally the parents among you may be concerned. Don't be... some have argued that 'they've got to live somewhere'.]

It should be noted that the developer subsequently denied saying this (to me) in his later answer back press interviews.

In fact, the developer had presented his credentials as that of a 'caring' doctor eager to find a suitable site for victims of 'traffic accidents'. A noble pursuit and one that few off us would object to... Unfortunately, a search I conducted of other establishments 'owned' by the 'developer' revealed that he was simply a 'landlord' who then passed on the trading rights to new business enterprises once planning permission was given. [All of these units now advertise for 'persons who otherwise would be detained under the Mental Health Act'.]

The service user required for these units are described as 'challenging' and this by no means is the full description. [The NHS pays even more money to the service provider. But to be fair, a degree of expenditure is needed, ensuring that the units are 'ligature free'. This emans no trees and bushes from which the user can end his or her life. The FACTS presented in documents buried in planning applications and doublespeak.]

In addition to this, the service providers mentioned above assured concerned families of the 'service user' (not the community taking them) that they would be able to access the community 'as and when required'. (The doors are not there to keep people in but visitors out.)

However, to take issue with one poster's criticism, the Conservation Area traditionally has more than its fair share of care in the community. Rokeby Road may seem one obvious location to 'score' at any time of the day and night if you are so moved, and within yards of a school and a unit for persons recovering from drug addicition.

In addition theres is a unit at Manor Avenue, a well-run establishment for the care of people with a mental handicap.

However, this is by no means the Conservation Areas portfolio of 'care'. In addition, a number of housing associations (secretly) offer satellite provision with the supply of 'units', flats or houses, to vulnerable people subject to drink or drug abuse.

Breakspears Road also has several units for varying problems in this category and also has a (secret) bail hostel. There is the additional site right opposite the train station, though my concerns there are to protect the persons inside for reasons which cannot be aired publicly. Then there's the site at Brockley Cross. And near the former Homeview video... [I think I'll stop there as this point is proven.]

It is not difficult to guage from this that the Council may have a policy of actually dumping problem cases within the Conservation Area of Brockley, due to the large properties here, and the inability of the community to protest.

That said... I'm all for the right kind of care in the community. Less so for a community in care though.

Whilst on that subject, I do not see it as helpful that my concerns about this unit should be met with the term 'nut house'. There but for the grace of providence walk I, and you for that matter.

Sorry if this is overlong but an additional thread is needed on this controversial subject.

Anonymous said...

So is there some cunning plan for mental health provision in the borough which sees the large houses of Brockley as some sort of mental health ghetto?

Is Brockley the new Hastings?

Anonymous said...

Sorry for a having a chuckle at this but I'm forever hearing the benefits of living in the conservation area - most of which I fail to see. Unfortunately it seems that 'Conservation Status' doesn't prevent you from getting a paedo moving in next door. Apparently they like the traditional window frames....

Brockley Nick said...

@anon - what an odd thing to say.

Conservation status just relates to the appearance of the buildings and the convservation area is home to many of the area's prettiest streets. That's all.

Doesn't make them immune to crime or any other social issue. Whoever said otherwise?

Anonymous said...

No-one Nick, never mind. I realise what conservation stautus actually means - i was just having a gentle rib at my conservation neighbours expense who often tell me it's like an idylic, eden paradise. (which it probably is - just with the odd paedo loitering around) Obviously not the right time or place...

Brockley Nick said...

Sorry, sense of humour failure on my part. Probably due to the fact that I live in one of the unloveliest streets of the conservation area.

Amanda said...

This is interesting, so there's a few rehabilition places around here. It seems to explain a few things that had puzzled me about living around here.
I haven't lived here very long, and I was surprised when I was approached by someone asking for spare change. Ever the practical, I thought to myself, he's not going to make much begging around here, he's better off in town. But it seems that he may be from around here.
Also when I've gone into Costcutters this guy has asked me for bus fare he said he'd just been released from prison and things. I admired his ability to weave a tale , but it may not have been too far from the truth.

I guess it also goes someway in explaining the amount of betting shops too.

Brockley Nick said...

@Amanda. I'd been wondering the same thing, and had been planning to blog about it! That's saved me the trouble.

pol said...

There are indeed many halfway houses housing clients with various disorders. For the most part they are harmless individuals, a danger only to themselves. However from time to time the area becomes home to individuals who need to find money to pay for their drug habit. Brockley has its very own community beggar. The slim black lady with tears streaming down her face begging for food for baby. That is Vanessa, an incorrible crack addict. She operates in Brockley, Crofton Park and probably other stations. She tends to target women leaving work with her sob story. Can turn on the water works at will. Some days you can sit outside the Toad watching her convince one woman after the next that their contribution is help is to put food into the mouth of a hungry baby. The going rate for baby milk is apparently about £8, but a tenner will do. She was a candidate for an Asbo so maybe she has moved on. No doubt the local purveyor of illicit pharmaceutical prepartions will regret the loss of a valued customer.

Then there is the older lady with good old fashioned manners who politely asks for money. Rumours is that she ventures out to beg on behalf of her daughter who is a bad drug habit.

Brockley has its share of human dereliction and poverty of spirit. A counterpoint to the property obsessed middle classes and their fussy healthy living lifestyle. From colour supplement lifestyle to Dickensian dereliction and everything in between living in the same streets. It is what London is all about.

Monkeyboy said...

I've met the crack lady at 7:15 in the morning. Asking for milk money in tears. When I said sorry no she asked if 'I was looking for business'. Felt a little sorry for her, depressed and repelled all at the same time. Just like the good Guardian reader I am.

Hope she sorts herself out but what are the chances? Makes you want to kick the celebrity crackheads (Pete & Amy)up the arse.

JPM said...

"For the most part they are harmless individuals, a danger only to themselves."

Unfortunately it only takes one previously harmless individual, for the most part, to make that statement invalid. [Usually tragically so, and that makes it not so funny.]

For the record, I do not seek to stigmatise any ex-convict rebuilding his or her life in my community, with the caveat, as long as it is free of crime.

However, the issue is whether there is adequate provision (in or outside the Conservation Area) to negate any further attempt at an additional mental health unit, either north, west, east or south. Let's not be driven off track by some anonymous person making light of those fears.

As an interesting side note in relation to local crime, on several occasions magistrates have recorded 'no abode' whilst in fact the peson before them is residing in one of these local units. This may have something to do with previous convictions. In other words if a bail hostel is given, and known to be a 'bail' hostel, this can indicate to a savvy magistrate - or jury member for that matter - that the person is not of 'previous good character'.
For the repeat offender, revealing these addresses can mean the difference between prison... or a hostel in leafy Brockley.

Whilst we're at it, the 'satellite housing' provision is not just in the Conservation Area. So, yes, as you ask, you may very well have someone next to you who has a predeliction not shared by you, hopefully. But, rest assured, where such individuals do gather it will always be via the back door of complacency.

Checks and balances are needed. The Council or its member are not doing this for us, and that only leaves we 'pilgrims'.

brockley mutha said...

I've also had an encounter with the crying crack lady - outside Chelwood nursery asking parents for money to buy nappies for her kids. I think she's been moved on. i got the impression she was harmless.

more of an issue for me is the number of half way houses/ex offender units. Over the years I've come to recognise more and more of them. some pointed out by cab drivers, local estate agents, others that i've just come to notice. I don't know about outside the conservation area, but I would say that pretty much every major road in the conservation area has one or two, and some have more. as far as i know - breakspears has at least two, tressillian crescent i believe, wickham road, the notorious rokeby house, there's one on brockley road near the bottom of breakspears. i suspect these are several more i've not yet identfied.

That does seem to me to be a large number. does anyone know if it is or is not an unusual concentration. people seem to be saying it is an unusually high number, but is that based on evidence?

I remember reading that lewisham had one of the highest numbers of registered sex offenders in the country.

I also remember reading about the fire bombings and subseqent arrest. However I gather it was a long and slow operation which didn't end well.

And of course good old rokeby house and the surrounding area is an ongoing problem.

i guess - what i'm asking, in a long round about way, is - is there an unusual amount of crime associated with these places, or not?

we lost our own most problematic local about 18 months ago. the council eventually moved him - on. at the time I didn't necessarily think it was the best thing to do, and I'm still not sure - although our stretch of the road is much quieter for his absence. At the time it seemed that the powers had merely shifted the problem elsewhere (probably to a half way house up the road), when I think they should have worked on managing the man's problems and supporting him within his own environment.

Brockley Nick said...

So gang, are we all still worried about the rampant gentrification of Brockley?

Tom said...

Nick - haha. Maybe we are seeing why Brockley has not gentrified before!

graeme said...

For what it's worth, I've got an alcoholics half-way house next door in St Maggie's Sq and the guys in there have been great neighbours. Their tenancy is dependent on good behaviour. So no drinking/'partying' (obviously), no loud music (apart from the trumpet-player), and most of them have little material means, meaning no cars taking up MY space (!) If their charity hears a complaint from a neighbour, then they get turfed out. (Where to though is anybody's guess.) The house itself is one of the neatest in the block.

OK. In the big scheme of disorders, alcoholism is relatively benign (with apologies to anybody who's been directly affected by it), with little signs of overt psychosis to frighten people. My point is that these guys (and by extension the vast majority of the fragile and vulnerable amongst us) just want to fit in, feel normal, and gain some feeling of self-respect.

I'd rather have these guys next door, than another batch of aloof young professionals.

Bleeding-heart liberal rant over!

Anonymous said...

I have no proof of this, but one of the shop owners in Crofton Park told me the baby milk lady died after being knocked down by a car quite recently.
Sad.

Anonymous said...

graeme thanks for your post, it certainly adds something to this discussion.

does anyone know if there's a way to find out what properties the council owns? do they register that somewhere?

JPM said...

Anon

No is the answer... and for obviously sound reasons.

You could go to the various websites and feed in your postcode, though not all appear on these. Many housing associations have jumped on the mental health bandwagon by providing housing to tenants with 'challenging behaviour' etc.

It is unlikely that any housing association will release the addresses in its portfolio, whilst a council will post its authority/responsibilty on a building.

A housing association may tell you if it is responsible for a single dwellingg, should your enquiry pass muster. [In some instances they could be housing vulnerable persons, women evading a violent partner etc, so the caution is understandable.]

There are other ways to determine a portfolio but I wouldn't release them even if I had them. Save to offer those up that are already in the public domain.

I also see no reason why a bail hostel's privacy should outweigh my right to know... if people at that address are committing crime and the address is being withheld for fear of community reaction.

The real issue is about getting the right balance within the community, and making the Council, Mental Health Units, and Housing Associations aware that enough is enough. Also indicating to the property developer with his snout at the mental health trough that he is not in for an easy ride in Brockley.

I suspect though that some incident will soon highlight the situation again... leaving many to ponder the way forward.

Anonymous said...

I agree, most people would prefer neighbours who are civil.

It is easy to dismiss this as snobbery, prejudice or some sort of NIMBYism. But there are people out there whose life has been made hell by neighbours who are out of control and really don't give a damn who they upset.

This is true whether the source of the problem arises from a poorly managed institution, a family from hell or the local community criminal.

There is much that the local government could do if their policies for planning, care, housing, public safety and so on where co-ordinated so that destructive individuals are not placed where they can do a great deal of damage and corrode the communities they live in. If their decision making in this regard was transparent and open to public scrutiny, that would help. Sadly it seems steeped in culture of secrecy that appears like subterfuge.

Why can we not have a list of the care institutions that are present in our community?

Why are the plans for new ones and their purpose not made public?

Why can we not see the records of their inspection and be confident that they are well run?

If someone dangerous is provided with accommodation by a housing association or charity, don't they have a responsibility to the community to monitor their behaviour closely and take swift action if it deteriorates? How is this checked?

Are we to simply put our trust in the competence and integrity of public and charitable institutions? That they will make decisions that balance the rights to privacy of the individual with interests of rest of the community?

I would suggest that confidence dried up long ago and should be replaced by openness and accountability.

It might go some way towards redressing the fear and helplessness that some people feel living in this community.

JPM said...

Anon

You ask questions that are right on the money... and I shall try to answer them.

I'll post the sites later. [It does not include bail hostels.]

The plans are made public, but only by keeping a keen eye on planning can you get wind of them. "Change of use" is the back door policy on the nod from officers and not elected members, who look the other way.

Various bodies do provide reports, and I will post the link later.

"If someone dangerous is provided with accommodation by a housing association or charity, don't they have a responsibility to the community to monitor their behaviour closely and take swift action if it deteriorates? How is this checked?"

I think the short answer to that is No. They can only take action following a complaint. I'm certain they do not have the resources to polcie 24/7. [Hyde Housing recently acted quite swiftly in Manor Avenue, following neighbour complaints they evicted the tenant in weeks, and then sold the house.]

We cannot expect a housing association to police the community, or even the police these days! [An escaped convict/patient managed to burst through my neighbour's door some months back. I told the police he was in the garden. they wouldn't go in until a helicopter arrived, due to 'health and safety'. My neighbour had to negotiate with the culprit, and she was 83! [It's a giggle, isn't it?]

The rights to privacy of the individual overweigh the rights of the community, at present.

I agree with you absolutely about confidence drying up. But there is no 'openness and accountability' - certainly not in Brockley. [ONLY APATHY.]

Headhunter said...

JPM you seem to know a lot about these issues, and I have to say this concerns me a lot more than a potential bookies on the main drag.... Would hope that if this change of use is ever approved on Ashby Rd that we could raise the same resistance as was mustered for the bookies

JPM said...

It's certainly a "heads up".

A neighbour recently complained to Councillor Darren Johnson Aand true to his word he investigated. This was the response he got (and he's a councillor)...

"I can confirm that the enforcement team have previously investigated this matter. I can confirm that the premises remain a VACANT (my emphasis) office building and the persons STAYING [my emphasis] at the premises are only there as CARETAKERS [my emphasis as other caps following] on what would appear a TEMPORARY basis." [EDIT.]

"As this rather SMALL element of RESIDENTIAL OCCUPATION is giving rise to no nuisance, I consider tht planning enforcement action would, at this stage, appear to be a rather heavy handed response."

"Obviously, if it was found that the RESIDENTIAL OCCUPATION was becoming an alternative to the use of the building for EMPLOYMENT PURPOSES, enforcement action would be considered. However, the element of residential occupation will not become established for SEVERAL YEARS by which time the future of the building will hopefull have been determined." [Leter dated 09/09/08. Malcolm Smith, Executive Director of Regeneration to Council Johnson.]

There are a number of discrepancies here. How can a building be 'empty if 'persons' are 'staying' there? Remarkable physics there. [More than four persons at the last count, and all paying rent.]

A 'temporary basis' that has lasted nearly two years, with four 'caretakers'? Hardly small or temporary. In fact, Mr Smith admits that it is in fact a 'residential occupation'of an office usually used for 'employment purposes'- and is refusing to carry out the law. However, it is the 'not become established' that is of interest.

If the current owner establishes residential use for this office space, left 'empty' by a self-interested property developer collecting rents remember, a a retrospective planning application for change of use can be madee. [It ain't rocket science. But, let's face it, as it goes rocket science is fairly simple. It is being positioned as a mental health unit. Hands up, 'the council could do nothing about it'. What tosh.]

And in fact, 'Dr George,' as he likes to style himself, has done it all before. It is, if you like, is MO community opposition. In Catford residents were too late to realise and a property that he owned (still owns in fact)and this was retrosepctivelly given the right to operate as a mental health institution for 'persons who otherwise may be detained under the mental Health Act,' and which it had been doing for some time.

The 'Doctor,' although he has the right to the title is merely a landlord, passing on the rights to trade to others at the mental health trough. And, as one of his worker's once said to me, 'You can't stop Dr George, he always wins in the end.'

I think that the councillor has been hoodwinked, and this is a result of an agenda by officers who roll over when this individual targets convenient sites in Lewisham for mental health units. [He landlords about six upwards and counting.]

It should also be noted, unlike us, or the councillors for that matter, these officers do not live in Brockley, or probably within commuting distance of Lewisham itself.

CARE IN THE COMMUNITY NOT THE COMMUNITY IN CARE.

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