Application to develop Breakspears Mews workshops

As if to underline the need for a coherent strategy for the development of Brockley's mews, a proposal has been submitted to create five new work units on a vacant site behind 38 Breakspears Mews.

Currently occupied by some garage buildings, the developer wants to build "five work units for light manufacturing, printing and art studios and storages [sic]... This proposed development will also allow the possibility of further redevelopment of other vacant building [sic] with Breakspear [sic] Mews and the renovation and use of the existing derelict garages for secure rental use to other members of the public."


Richard Elliot said...

Are you allowed to submit a planning application with that many spelling errors?

Apart from that the plans look vaguely sensible.

Anonymous said...

All the [sic] everywhere is making me slightly queasy

Anonymous said...

I think I'm right in thinking this is the application that is concerning a lot of residents and Broc Soc at the moment. Forgive me if I'm wrong, but if it is the same application, the developer runs a motorbike garage (illegal? legal?) from the mews and regularly puts in apps to expand this. Has openly said he will keep trying until it gets through. This time it looks that it is coming in under the guise of artists studios and printing.

Robert said...

Yes. Broc Soc have objected to the development.

This developer is very keen to capitalise on his investment in this land. This is the same site where there was a large explosion a few years ago - it is virtually in the back of people's gardens.

There is a concern that these units will eventually be converted to (poor quality) housing stock. The developer has admitted as much in the past in conversation.

An example of un-strategised mews development by stealth.

The Royal Albert said...

A local residents letter dropped through the letterbox the other day (I back onto one side of the mews). Can't say I smelled the paint fumes they complained of wafting from the bike yard last summer, but I'll look at this application with interest.

Headhunter said...

This is exactly what I was worried about "studios" being built for "artists" AKA local light industry, car repair garages etc etc. A guy near where I live has been making noises about buying up land along the mews, some of our neighbours have been asked about selling the end of their gardens off. The chap is your typical builder type, he drives up the mews with an open back truck with scaff and ladders etc. Not exactly you typical artist looking for a sunny spot to put up his easel. the problem is "studio does not exist in planning law, so once these buildings for "artists" have been built, who is going to make sure artists are the ones using them? I doubt the council will, they can barely get their act together to get people to take down satellite dishes and UPVC windows.

Brockley Nick said...

I'd have thought you'd at least have had the grace to acknowledge that perhaps you were wrong when you said that there were no sites available for development in the mews.

As for your main point, yes, we can agree that the right kind of property needs to be built. This may not be it. Preceisely why we need a proper strategy and work with developers to get them to build the right kinds of property.

On another matter, the fact that the developer is determined to make money from their property is surely reasonable.

Danja said...

the problem is "studio does not exist in planning law

Are you making up the law as you go along to suit your argument by any chance?

Anonymous said...

Why should it just be 'artists' that use them? I'm sorry, but that idea is... well... just horribly, horribly mung.

Brockley Nick said...

It shouldn't need to be only artists - anything that creates employment would not lead to fires, rubbish dumping and regular movement of heavy vehicles or operation of heavy machinery would be OK, I'd have thought.

In other words, businesses that are appropriate for the location that they are next to people's back gardens.

Headhunter said...

Nick - I still don't believe that development of the mews is deisrable anywhere and certainly not for class B8 and B1c light industrial or warehouse use. Perhaps you would "have the grace to acknowledge" that I have a point. You still haven't addressedmy previous arguments so I reiterated them.

No property "needs to be built". Maing money from property is fine if within accepted boundaries. Lewisham Council has stated (certainly until now) that development along the mews is undesirable and that planning applications will largely be refused (can't remember the exact wording they use). I object to people buying up land and then pressurising the planning authorities with application after application until they get their way. Whoever bought this land was aware that it's in a conservation area and that development is generally not allowed. If you want to invest in land with freer planning, buy somewhere else.

Danja - er, no. Are you aware of a definition/class "studio" in planning law?

Headhunter said...

What businesses are appropriate to be placed in people's back gardens in quiet residential areas?

Brockley Nick said...

@HH - you are arguing with straw men. I have never argued for light industrial units to be built.

You said that mews development would inevitably mean building in the middle of the mews or on people's back gardens. I said there were plenty of possible sites to build on without either of those things happening. Here is an example of one.

Brockley Nick said...

"What businesses are appropriate to be placed in people's back gardens in quiet residential areas?"

To replace a garage with an artist's studio is perfectly reasonable.

Danja said...

Quite, so it would be a sui generis use then HH. Can't get tighter than that.

Welcome to 2010 said...

@Headhunter what happened at the Broc Soc meeting this week?

Thanks for clearing up that other matter by the way?

Headhunter said...

Nick - If it can be assured that only existing dilapidated building are replaced with studios and that this use can be guaranteed (ie no later drift to use for some kind of light business or industry) and that the artists using these studios are not metal or wood workers or find it necessary to use noisy machinery, then perhaps I could get on board... I still don't see how it is possible to guarantee this under planning though.

Danja - Sui generis is about as loose as it gets, it encompasses anything else not covered by other planning classes.

WT2010 - Couldn't go to the meeting, was still at work. I rarely get out of the office before 7.30pm when we're busy as we are now. Especially now as I'm running some searches in New York and they're 5 hours behind.

Brockley Nick said...

re: metal or wood workers. Insist that the buildings properly sound proofed and that the plans include proper screening - eg: bushes and trees that absorb sound and ensure gardens are not overlooked. Problem solved.

Danja said...

Danja - Sui generis is about as loose as it gets, it encompasses anything else not covered by other planning classes.

Erm, yes, but you clearly don't understand how it works. Being within a given use class allows change of use to any other use within that use class (or to any linked use class).

If a use is sui generis that means that it isn't within one of the use classes, so there is no permitted change of use from the specified use. The permission doesn't say permitted use 'sui generis', it says (eg) permitted use is as artists studios.

That happens to be a sui generis use, but it doesn't mean you can switch to any other use which is also sui generis. It means that you need to apply for pp for any change of use to anything other artist's studios, whether the new use is also sui generis or something within the use classes.

Best stick to hunting heads.

Danja said...

Planning conditions could be used to impose all sorts of restrictions on eg noise levels, hours of operation, installation of machinery etc.

Anonymous said...


Head hunter heads headfirst in to head on collision with headline facts.

Now hunts for response to head off opposition?

TJ said...

Headhunter has a valid point - one of the problems raised at the Broc Soc meeting re mews development is the amount of illegal businesses being run from the mews - and the fires and explosions (yes) that the residents have been suffering are largely due to the fact that Lewisham Council will NOT enforce.

Allowing any type of development therefore needs to be handled very carefully - as they could (and experience shows, are) be backdoors to unsuitable activities.

Headhunter said...

OK well, whether or not the applications are sui generis or not, I wouldn't rely on Lewisham BC to enforce the "artist studio" swui generis definition. As TJ said, there are already a number of illegal businesses operating along the mews in the conservation area and the council does nothing. For this reason I am opposed to any future development. If we could rely on our council to actually run things properly then fine, but they can't.

Anonymous said...

The council "does nothing" as, just like the conservation area rules, there are bigger fish to fry and much more real issues out there to tackle.

Sometimes I wonder, is there an overlap between the Mews Mungers and the conservation area "pad of paper and pen" club? Think about it...

Anonymous said...

I've thought about it. You're definitely an idiot.

Brockley Nick said...

@TJ - yes, this is the nub of the problem. But if the Council will not enforce, then there are a number of things that could be done:

1. Lobby the Council to take a new holistic approach - saying that the Community will tolerate some appropriate development of the mews in exchange for tighter enforcement

2. Do as much as you can through the design process - eg: create units that are too small for light industrial uses. I think some live / work units would be appropriate in one or two locations, but I know this would be controversial.

3. Form a social enterprise to buy and develop sites ourselves. That way we say who moves in and who doesn't. Council could underwrite loans to keep costs down.

The third option is my favourite.

As you say, there is already a problem, so doing nothing is not an option, in my view. That is a view shared by the BXAG and BrocSoc.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know why Lewisham said it would not allow development of the mews and then is considering 6 flats in Harefield Mews?

What is about Harefiled Mews that is different?

Should they not allow building small houses rather than flats. I think in the rest of the mews there are alredy a couple of houses.

TJ said...

The houses in the other mews came before the CA restricitons. There has been much speculative buying of land in themews, in the hope, that one day the purchaser will be able to build houses. Harefield mews is considered to be already developed by plannign and therefore they will allow residential buildings.

Headhunter said...

There has already been a lot of development at the end of mews where the mews themselves meet normal roads, it's just further down that they have said that they will not approve development. I think part of the problem is that the roads are inaccessible to refuse collectors, do not have street lighting and do not have mains electricity or water (unless you run it from the house onto which the studio/light industrial unit/house backs.

TJ said...

Nick -

at Broc Soc we will be looking at the Mews and putting forward a plan in consultation with residents - several views were put forward at this week's meeting including leaving the mews as nature reserves, using them as allotments, and the coin street example you previously mentioned.

We are, though, going to tackle the abuses first - and want to have a walkabout with the councillors, H&S, and other officers to show them the abuses. One of the major issues is that if the council do not attempt to enforce some of the regulations against the illegal businesses, after a period of time, they will be able to carry on their activities unhindered, under law.

Your point 2 is interesting - re the design process. Unfortunatley I don't think this would be effective. Recently an application building for workshop use was granted in the mews. The plans showed that the mulitfloored workshop had a surfeit of bathrooms and toilets (an idicator of residential use) - however planning did not raise an eyebrow and the application was passed. The enforcement of the CA guidelines and Lewisham Planning dept are two very serious issues that any new councillors will have to tackle, with BS, after the election.

Your 3rd point sounds great - and this could tie in with the council turning over those parts of the mews they own for allotments. However, the mews land is very very expensive (recent plot sold for approx £300,000 I believe) because residential developers believe there is a chance of winning planning some time in the future.

Broc Soc have put together a Mews subcommittee. Members to this , the Planning Committee, or attendance at Broc Soc meetings in general, are always welcome.

Anonymous said...

Stopping all development is in my view unrealistic with a track record like Lewisham Council. Considering that owners would certainly prefer residential to garages, why Broc Soc does not focus on agreeing with the Council very strict guidelines of reduced, low and low density development forcing developers to donate to Broc Soc or other charity some of the remaining green areas in the mews and develop proper roads, illumination and so on.
I guess that neighbour would prefer it to noisy garages or unlawful conversions.

Brockley Nick said...

@TJ - I've joined that group.

Headhunter said...

Why is stopping all development unrealistic? Why does development HAVE to happen? It isn't some kind of inevitable force and everyone I have spoken to who lives on houses which back onto the mews would prefer that they remain undeveloped and not tarmacked anf filled with little houses or other buildings crammed along them. Simply because there are narrow, unfinished tracks running along the back of people's homes in the CA does not mean there HAS inevitably to be some kind of development!

"I guess that neighbour would prefer it to noisy garages or unlawful conversions." Why? Why do we have to prefer one evil over another? Why can't they be retained as quiet, green lanes where people can walk their dogs or whatever in peace? Why do we have to bow to people who have bought at inflated prices, often from outside the area (see for axample the address of the applicant on this Breakspears development) simply in the hope of making a sack of cash at residents' expense?

The guy I mentioned earlier who is constantly looking to buy land along the mews where I live is not from Brockley, he comes from somewhere in Kent I believe and is simply in Brockley to make a killing.

My vote goes to the nature reserve or communal garden ideas.

TheManorMilitia said...

Agree with HH one hundred percent. We lost a battle over Ashby Mews, and now we wait the Reaper.

Tamsin said...

For what it's worth, one part of Lewisham Council is all for promoting community gardens - to the exent of publishing a guidance booklet about it. If no-one else has a copy I will see if I can find mine to give you more information.

Anonymous said...

HH, so you want the present use changed to some kind of comunity garden? takes permits, money and someone to do the work. We like to call that "developent"

You do tend to launch into things with really thinking don't you?

TJ said...

And weren't the Transition towns people looking for land - beats carving up Hilly Fields to me.

HH is absolutely right on this one - why do we have to accept any type of building or development.

And yes, anon pedant, we realise that a nature reserve and community gardens are devlopments- but surely, you know what HH and other contributors meant.

Brockley Nick said...

@TJ - we don't have to accept development of course. But some development - of the right kind - could be very desirable.

If the mews were well-used, well-loved green idylls, I would be the first one to say we should leave them alone.

But they are not.

They are rarely used, even by Headhunter's hypothetical dog-walkers, because many of them are in a very poor condition.

They are the source of regular complaints from people who live next to them, due to the fires and rubbish dumping that takes place.

They are not - and never were - just little green walkways, they have always had buildings in them - conserving them means finding a new role for them. I don't think anyone has suggested replacing greenery with buildings, but replacing disused garages or irresponsibly-used light-industrial units with sympathetically built and run studios should make everyone happy.

They can play a positive role in helping us address some of the other issues we face. I think we're all agreed that our main high-streets need some improvement. I've written here many times (based on the views of experts I've spoken with) that one of the key challenges for creating a successful high-street is to create more day-time trade, so that businesses don't have to rely on the commuters. The way to build more ay time trade is to attract more businesses to the area. The way to do this is to provide appropriate spaces for them.

So, improving the mews could be enormously beneficial, making the most of a community asset which we have let go shamefully to waste.

I quite agree with you - enforcement should be the number one priority (however, I think we need to be realistic about how much can be achieved through the Council and the police). The best solution is to create places that people enjoy walking (to cut down on dumping) and that responsible people work in, so that they can act as the eyes and ears of the authorities.

You're concerned that we might get the 'wrong kind' of development in the mews. So am I. That's why I think we need to get proactive and come up with some positive proposals.

Anon is quite right to challenge HH that creating community gardens is also a form of development - that's precisely the point. It takes resources, planning and effort to create something new. And it requires people to recognise the problems in the first place and believe that we can work to make things better.

HH's first response so far has been to deny there's a problem with the mews, deny there are any opportunity sites, criticise me and others as naive fools for thinking that they could ever be better than they are currently and to misunderstand both planning law.

Many of the concerns you and he have raised I agree with. But just because there are challenges to be overcome does not mean that we should do nothing.

Anonymous said...

Nick, I think you've made a good nuanced point there. It took headhunters challenging to get you to fully and clearly articulate in a way that I can accept and agree. BUT I think the point regarding the strategy mews devlopement is too long.

A succinct clear sentence that expresses point is the way to get things really moving on this.

Stating the bleeding obvious said...

Nick was perfectly clear. HH was muddled, misunderstood the situation and contradictory. The mews will not spontaneously change, it requires some thought, consultation, resources and effort or to summarise - development.

Soundbite said...

It's too long winded.

TJ said...

Nick - I've never said we should do nothing - I wouldn't be an active member of Broc Soc if I believed that.

I do see the mews as green spaces in the conservation area - and overdevelopment would take that away, and fundamentally alter the look and purpose of a residential community. Talk to the residents whose properties back the mews (and who in some case own parts of the mews) and there is a presumption towards leaving these as green as possible. This is also the stance the Conservation Area guidelines produced by the council are meant to follow.

So - to be brief - yes something needs to be done, but I'm not sure that means developing them into studios, work units, or anything to attract more businesses to the area.

Headhunter said...

I agree TJ. The mews should be retained as green spaces. I think allowing developkment is a dangerous path to tread, even rebuilding and redeveloping existing sites needs to be done with caution.

Lobbying the council to get them to enforce specific usage of "studios" or whatever along the mews is likely to be a losing battle. The council has already demonstrated it has little concern for maintaining conservation areas and its own regulations. I just don't see the point in actually building potential sites of conflict between residents whoever takes up these new "studios".

I agree that some areas of the mews are untidy, Ashby Mews for example. However many of them in my eyes are simply green lanes and perfectly acceptable as such. Where you see "shameful waste" in some kind of need of development, I see green tracks, in many cases fine as they are.

the judge said...

Trouble is headhunter, when you say that you're opposed to any development in any circumstances right at the start, when you have no knowledge of the state of the mews, of planning law or of what is being proposed, you have nothing more to say. You've made your position clear, we get it. But your arguments are meaningless because your position is absolute.

Anonymous said...

Our garden backs on to that mews, and at the moment we have to cope with loud motorbikes being revved and loud music being played 7 days a week, the smell of car/paint fumes and loads of bits of old car and bike being chucked over the wall into our garden. Not to mention concern over the storage of flammable material which led to a big explosion and evacuation about 3 years ago. I would be happy with something like communal gardens but would be worried that other kinds of development, even small residential units, would cause loads of noise and disruption while it was being built and would just end up being exploited by existing users as an opportunity for more smelly, noisy and potentially dangerous activity.

Headhunter said...

Why do you assume I have no knowledge of the state of the mews?! My own garden backs onto a mews and I've walked along pretty much all of them. Again why do you assume I have no knowledge of planning law?

Usual general assumptions which are more meaningless than everything I have said.

the judge said...

they're not assumptions headhunter they're based on what you've written.

You said that there was no way to develop the mews without building on gardens or eating up green space in the mews (proving you don't know the mews).

You said that sui generis meant that you could use the buildings for anything (proving you didn't understand planning law).

Headhunter said...

Even the existing buildings built along the mews are at the base of people's gardens! My argument was that there should not be any further development along the mews, taking up garden and green space.

My point about building studios under the sui generis planning banner is that the council will not enforce the regulations anyway.

Anyway enough idle banter, you're too late to this party to snipe from the sidelines now! If you have a point to make - make it.

Unknown said...

This is interesting. I am an artist craftsman, and I lease a unit on Breakspears Mews. I and the other people there are normal, nice people trying to make a meagre living practicing their trades on a site that has been garages and workshops for at least fifty years. We have been subject to various, mostly bogus complaints, mostly or entirely emanating from one source. This man might have looked into the fact that his residence backs onto long established workshops (a fact aknowledged by the council, by the way) before he bought/leased it.
Too late now, obviously, but I hope he and others posting here reads this and understands that the "illegal businesses" are not illegal, they represent a diverse community, and attacking their right to be there is unjust.

Anonymous said...

With regard to the so called "illegal businesses" in Breakspears Mews I wish to re-interate Daniel's posting!
We are all legal businesses that abide by the regulations set by Lewisham Council, have regular inspections by LFB and have a good relationship with the local council officers.
As Dan said the source of the problem seems to be one person(a newcomer?) who has taken upon himself to make malicious complaints about our workshops to the council!
We are legitimate businesses with a right to be there, we are friendly and welcome respectable/respectful visitors, who will receive a civil response!
It is true that some years ago there was an explosion caused by illegal use of acetylene gas by a tenant who has since been removed from the site as it was felt he could not or would not adhere to the safety regs required by Lewisham Council!
There really is no need for local residents to be concerned as we are vigilant in policing ourselves and appreciate the responsibility and priveledge of our work environment and the residents close proximity!
To sum up, we have a legal right to be there, this site has 50 plus years established usage for these trades and the Council agree with these facts!
I am truly sorry that one person has managed to spread fear and confusion amongst the local residents. regards Steve

Unknown said...

So, to paraphrase The Broc Soc has a mews sub committee but has not engaged with either the landlords or tenants of the mews. the decision has been made and communicated that all the businesses are illegal because you have decided they are illegal; but are unable to quantify this because you haven't spoken to the landlords or business in the mews..

You will however venture onto the muse so long as there are some genuine badge wearing council employees whom you can stand behind to enable a little tub thumping (metaphorical of course as real tub thumping can be heard from surrounding gardens)

It will be ok to have leafy mews to walk the dog/children etc, so long as there is a nice allotment for a victorious minority to enjoy. It might be ok to have some 'artists' studios, so long as the artists do not carve or sculpt or turn wood or weave or sew or work with metal or paint with anything other than (i assume) water colours.

as an outsider looking in, you don't really come across as a group trying to protect the conservation area in this thread but rather unpleasant bullies.

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