Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Protecting the Character of Westcombe Park

Our area has many fine houses. In recent years, there have been a number of planning applications which would have affected the historical character and original designs or architecture of the area. When the area planning committee rejects such applications, their decision is generally accepted by the applicant. However, two recent refusals to grant planning permission went to appeal.

One concerned the erection of railings and new piers to the roadside wall of one of a pair of matching houses that are Grade II listed. Changes to the driveway were also proposed. In considering the appeal, the Inspector stated that the symmetry of the pair and the sweeping shared carriage driveway is an important part of their special architectural and historic interest, and rejected the appeal. She also stated that loss of some of the original fabric of the wall to create the new entrance would remove historic evidence about the former appearance of the wall and the original layout of the forecourt.

The other application that went to appeal had sought permission to knock down a garage and build a second house alongside the existing one. The Westcombe Society and neighbours lodged objections. The Society regards such infilling as detrimental to the character and appearance of Westcombe Park, and contrary to national and local planning policy for Conservation Areas. The Inspector shared this concern and rejected the appeal and said that ‘cramming’ another dwelling in would not ‘sit comfortably with the elegant and generously proportioned houses hereabouts’. She also stated that removal of the garage would lead to front-garden parking, which would be a detrimental step and would not preserve the character or appearance of the area. Both the Westcombe Society and the Inspector were concerned that if the infill had been allowed it could set a precedent for similar developments of ‘other leafy plots’ which the Council would find difficult to resist.

In both cases, the Greenwich Conservation Group joined the Westcombe Society and local residents in objecting to the original application and the appeal. The area planning committee had rejected the applications even though Council case-officers had originally supported them.

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