Garden State of Emergency

Sally is a Wickham Road resident who's been locked in a planning battle over the redevelopment of neighbouring garden land since 2006. For over five years, she has been trying to convince the Council to enforce its own planning regulations, to prevent the land from being built on. Now, the issue is coming to a head again as the land is about to go up for auction:

The freeholder of the two properties is auctioning both the freeholds and the garden land. The land search provided by Lewisham council to the auctioneer made no mention of the recent planning history (although they manage to cover much older events) or of any decision to serve Notice. 

The garden land was described in the catalogue as having “development potential”. It’s already attracted a lot of interest from bullish developers who believe they can push through an application to build...

The garden land [is] up for sale and [was] originally misrepresented as having potential for development and with inadequate information for any prospective buyer to make an informed decision. All it would take is for the council to honour their intention to issue a Notice of Breach. That way the land is not of interest to anyone. Except us. And we are interested. Interested because we want to see justice done. To see a council stand up to a local developer who has flouted any number of planning conditions. To see all the reams of rules and regulations around urban development have some kind of meaning. We don’t want to build on the land but we might like to see our children play on it, to have it returned to the garden use which was the intention of that condition imposed 10 years ago. 

 Meanwhile there’s little we can do except wait and see what happens at auction next Tuesday, February 21st. We fear the most likely outcome is that it will change hands for a sum way beyond our means and remain a derelict overgrown plot, so near to us and yet so very far. 

It's a long story, but for the benefit of planning junkies everywhere, she has told it in great detail on her blog.

30 comments:

@C_Jam said...

This is hardly a state of emergency and I'm really not too sure what the big deal is.

Just cause a piece of land has been created and possibly sold does not mean that it can be built on. Personally, if I was a developer I would not go near this piece of land as definitely seems like a very risky proposition and definitely not a site free of major constraints (particularly with it being in a Conservation Area - I've assumed - and the fact it provides amenity to flats).

I wouldn't lose any sleep over this. Developers try it on sometimes and this seems like what they are doing here.

Also, if they haven't actually done the landscaping an maintained it, then I believe this would be a breach of conditions. The change of ownership is quite extraneous to this.

Tamsin said...

This is iniquitous - and is a risky situation - when new people buy in all "innocence" and the land does (if I understand right) go into different ownership.

Retrospective planning permission is the equivalent of the maxim that possession (however acquired) is nine tenths of the law. If you build something illegally and then say "oh dear - didn't realise I needed permission, please grant me some now" the council are much more likely to grant it retrospectively on dodgy grounds than if you had asked for it properly in the first place. A cynical person would say that even more cynical developers deliberately employ this ruse.

Just occasionaly people come gratifyingly unstuck like the Sussex (?) couple who a few years back with deliberate fraud and concealment built a residence rather than a barn and were made to take it down.

What is the address of the property - other than the lot number? And, ruthless exploitation of the power of search engines, if this were put as the title of the thread and repeated along with Wickham Road and the name of the auctioneers it might flag this conversation and the potential issues up to possible buyers doing a search.

Sally's own blog takes a distressingly long time to download.

Anonymous said...

If this is the land I think it is (the building that used to be a squat) then take a walk down Wickham Mews and you'll see that someone has already been granted planning permission to build two very large, very habitable looking garages with lots of lovely windows and amenities in the two neighbouring gardens facing onto the mews. So many people objected strongly to these being built, but the planners let it go through. In this case living in a conservation area offered no protection from developers at all.

It will be interesting to see if the same developer buys the adjacent plot next week.

A

Sally said...

@C_Jam the big deal is that it shouldn't be so easy to get round a planning condition. The council neither checked that it had been complied with nor showed any initial idea of how to respond when the apparent breach was pointed out.

@Tamsin not sure why the blog is slow loading. The land is at the back of 84-86 Wickham Road, along the lane which runs between Harefield Road and Wickham Gardens, and is being auctioned by Andrews & Robertson.

MalB said...

The Telegraph Hill Society has half a dozen or more issues currently running with Lewisham Council (some for nearly a year) where planning enforcement is required to rectify a breach of planning law. Whilst the Council moves quickly on some, others seem to sit there and sit there and sit there. Rather as if somebody thinks we are going to go away if something isn't done.

I guess part of the problem is down to resources. There aren't enough planning officers, let alone conservation officers or enforcement offices and I imagine that paying for more is well down the Council's agenda at this time.

But to see laws flouted encourages others to do the same and is very disheartening for those of us who would like to see the law obeyed.

Anonymous said...

Try this for more on LOT 105

http://www.a-r.co.uk/current-auction/lot-details?LotID=639271&au=&LotNumber=105&LotNumber=20120221

Anonymous said...

Not in her back yard.

Sally said...

No -- not in my back yard or anyone else's if it goes totally against a planning condition.

Anonymous said...

"Meanwhile there’s little we can do except wait and see what happens at auction next Tuesday, February 21st."

Yes there is, draw the matter to the attention of the Auctioneer who should be duty bound to draw to the buyers attention.

Indeed, why not leaflet the auction?

TheOracle said...

Sally, at auction it's 'buyer beware'.

Any seasoned developer will know 'potential' isn't worth the aether it's written on.

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

would this be a good spot for the travellers?

Margot said...

Yes that's a good idea. Who can we speak to about securing this site for the travelers and their families?

Great work BC, I'll be willing to take this on.

Tamsin said...

It might be "buyer beware" but if a buyer pays too much they will fight even harder for an inappropriate development. The way Sainsbury's bought the land where the petrol station is for top dollar and so their long-term development plans have to be quite dense just to recover the silly price that was paid.

So make the buyers aware before the auction and keep the price realistically low.

W C Fields said...

Here's hoping we can have more homes in Brockley. Victorian scale gardens have little place in a modern vibrant city; build big, build better, build, build build build I say, or else where will our children or the thousands of children who will be attracted from other countries to our beautiful vibrant city find to live. Monomaniacal nimbys provoke only the acid tang of vomit in me. It is the essence of the English disease that these people have such power to block progress and economic development.

NAT said...

'Anyone that hates childeren and animals can't be all bad'

Standards slipping a bit there W.C. what?

Westsider said...

"English disease"? Do they not have planning laws (or gardens) in France, Germany or the US then?

NAT said...

No, apparently (I met someone once who went to France on his holliers), they concrete over everything and then build appartment blocks the bits in between they call streets, or booolevards or summat.

Anonymous said...

@ W C Fields.

The problem is too many people being attracted to this City. Let's build elsewhere rather than build more and more tacky little boxes in London for ever more and more people.

If London house prices price people out of the market and mean they go elsewhere then that's good.

Anonymous said...

We do indeed have the smallest houses in Europe.

THNick said...

Malcolm - what does the council do about breaches of planning? In particular there is house on Gellatly road with an extension and loft conversion built without planning permission (is this one of the cases you mention). This is now up for sale and owner seems to have given up bothering with planning and is trying to make it someone else's problem. Are the council likely to force him to undo his damage?

Gl said...

@THNick: Is this the one on for £700K reduced from £799K? Couldn't believe it when I saw that price!

Anonymous said...

@THNick check this out thoroughly. At our property the developer took out indemnity insurance against being sued for putting in two bedrooms when planning only gave them permission to do a one bed flat.

They are very good at finding ways around the law or using the law to the detriment of the uninitiated. Also don't simply trust conveyance information.

If you go back through Sally's story you will see that the planning authorities didn't put up accurate information at first. You have to double check with some of these things. If it looks a bit wierd it probably is.

Anonymous said...

Ah Cantel Investments the act alongside Mistral Properties who are behind this...

http://brockleycentral.blogspot.com/2011/02/saints-row-revised-plans-for-st.html

muscular windows for all methinks...

Curious said...

So how did the auction go? Anywhere near the asking price would have been an absolute steal for a garden of that size.

Anonymous said...

£28k by someone who either hasn't seen the planning history, doesn't care about it or thinks they can get round it.

No doubt things will become clear to them soon enough

Sally said...

@Curious - If anyone has bought it to use as a garden then the residents who have the right to use it will be very pleased to see it cleared of brambles and returned to garden use!

I suspect we'll see a planning application for houses in due course though.

The fight goes on!

Anonymous said...

So, Sally did you tell the auctioneer? You could have stopped it?

Anonymous said...

What's the fuss, if it belongs to you then why don't you just clean it yourself? You mention it would be nice to have it cleared up. I don't understand, how can the council allow someone to sell it if nobody else is allowed to use it.?
Besides why should you wait for someone to buy it and clean it out for you? It seems to me there are no papers mentioning the residents have the right like u said the council lost the papers!

Anonymous said...

@Sally

Do you think that the new planning powers for residents/communities to develop Neighbourhood Plans under the Localism Act 2012 might help?

Simon and Trisha said...

Loft companies any recommendations would be great. Heard some horrific stories recently so looking for genuine opinions thanks.

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