Update: Bad News
The Planning Committee met again on 22 December 2016. We lost. Just when it looked as though we were going to win this one: click here and go straight to Item 8 this is what happened when the committee came back two weeks later – Item 9
The 16 Flint Green – Decision Doc 22 December 2016 makes clear that the Management Plan must this time be ready in a month. We will be watching closely that the other conditions here are observed.
Where do we go from here? We accept that some accepts of planning law are currently weak. However, we feel that the final decision was too swiftly rushed through in this meeting, and that officers seemed too closely engaged in the process of getting that decision. This year we hope to finally achieve a A Conservation Area for Acocks Green This would introduce clear rules which should help prevent planning like this one being passed. has now been a number of years in the making. The work from our side has long been done. The problem has been funding from the Council in this age of austerity and Council cuts. There is a possibility of some funding this year, We do not know yet, and cannot make any promises, but watch this space.
The Story up until 22 December 2016
All three local councillors (Roger Harmer, Lib-Dem), Stewart Stacey (Labour) and John O’Shea (Labour) have joined with local residents to protest against a threat to the proposed Conservation Area in Acocks Green. At the moment it seems that the Planning Committee agrees with them, but we anxiously await a final decision on Thursday 22 December.
The developers, New Leaf Recovery, gained planning permission last July to convert the property in question into a care home. So controversial was the plan for this key road in the proposed Conservation Area that the entire Planning Committee clambered onto a bus to come down to Acocks Green to have a look – with council budget cuts this kind of ‘site visit’ is now a rare event. At this time councillors were assured that there would be no changes to the exterior of the property and believing that all was therefore well, despite the fears of local residents, they voted to allow the conversion to a care home. However, anger broke out at the Planning Committee on December 8th after a new plan was put forward which involved changes to the exterior including a new side extension, considered by many to be both unattractive and unnecessary.
Here is a picture of the proposed side extension. This will entail knocking down the front garden wall, and taking out the front hedge: both original, important and attractive features in this road. This house is at the very beginning of a set of eight striking and unusual Edwardian properties proposed to become part of a conservation area. The removal of the front hedge and wall have been deemed necessary for a car park, but the truth, as Cllr Roger Harmer noted during his speech to the Planning Committee, opposing the planning application is that the presumed car-parking space is so inadequate that it is really only to get the application through Planning:
[…] to get the necessary 3 spaces, the original front wall, is removed and an arrangement of parallel parking is proposed which is clearly utterly impractical. The two cars at the front would make a safe exit from the front of the building impossible, should a fire break out at the rear of the building, which is where the kitchen is. And of course actually getting in and out of the cars themselves would be very difficult. It’s clear to me that there never would be three cars parked there and that this diagram is just to get the application through planning.
Here is that diagram. Look for the three tiny oblongs in front of the red area: tight, isn’t it?
And this is the traditional wall and hedge which would be removed:
This view on the left reflects many other vistas in the road: see a selection below. Remove these and one key part of the character in the proposed Conservation Area is gone for ever. More than this though, it is unclear exactly what the developers would gain. They say that the plan is to retain the current nine residents. However, before this the residents were to be in seven bedrooms, with two bedrooms shared in a scheme described as a ‘buddy-up’ scheme to support vulnerable residents. We don’t object at all to the residents being there. We know they are here to stay and thought the buddy-up scheme, using two large bedrooms, sounded like a great idea. Why then are three extra bedrooms now being added, in a clunky and expensive scheme on the side of the property, when councillors were promised this would not happen. This would now keep the nine residents in separate rooms without the support which was said to be so vital to some before? Experience? Hardly: New Leaf Recovery have now been running a property in this road for nearly two years, with shared rooms, and should therefore know all about how good (or bad) the ‘buddy-up’ scheme is already.
To see how baffled and frustrated the BCC Planning Committee councillors felt watch this video of the meeting – choose clip 8 (16 Flint Green Road) There was no disagreement across political parties here. Carol Jones (Lib-Dem) said she was ‘[…] very disappointed in New Leaf. Bob Beauchamp (Conservative) called it the ‘[…] industrialisation of a charming house in a charming row of houses’. Gareth Moore (Conservative) complained ‘We were assured that there would be no change.’ Keith Linncor (Labour) said ‘I feel let down after being reassured at the site meeting […] the changes are not to my mind essential’ Fiona Williams (Labour) found that ‘[…] the reasons for the extension seem to be very weak’. The Committee appeared to feel that it has been taken for a ride in more ways than one!
So why are New Leaf really wanting to do this? We are not speculating … and at the Committee councillors were asked not to. However, does not knowing why a developer wants to do something provide a good and rational reason for voting in favour of knocking down an original Edwardian wall and adding an ugly side extension … in order to provide accommodation for no more residents than before. (We are told.) The sceptical councillors, who had been recommended by the Planning Department to approve this plan, unusually voted to ‘defer minded to refuse’ – 10 in favour, 2 against, 1 abstention. They take their final decision … to refuse we hope, on Thursday 22 December.
As you will see from the photo above, all three local Acocks Green councillors feel likewise. In addition to the damning speech by Councillor Roger Harmer at the Committee, Councillor John O’Shea told us:
This proposal would alter the character of a property that serves as one of the gateways to the Acocks Green conservation area – we should be protecting it from this overdevelopment.
Councillor Stewart Stacey is also recorded in the latest planning report as supporting Acocks Green Focus Group in their objections and expressing concerns about the ‘creeping development’ of the site.
One final piece of food for thought: New Leaf were also told in July 2016 that they must provide a management plan showing a way to liaise with local road residents before moving from Number 24 Flint Green Road to Number 16 Flint Green Road. These were their instructions.
Which was why Flint Green Road residents, who have to this day not been consulted about how they are to be liaised with, were rather surprised a few weeks back to find this interesting notice on the door of number 24: It reads: ‘New Leaf has moved 3 doors to the left to 16 Flint Green Road. Thank you.’ Oops. No thanks to or from the Flint Green Road residents who were not consulted first about liaison arrangements, as per Condition 1 of the July Approval notice.
The necessary new brief report since the shock ‘minded to refuse’ decision by the Planning Committee tells us that the management plan to include a liaison scheme with Flint Green Road residents (which beforehand was apparently absent-mindedly overlooked) has now been approved … but without consultation with the concerned residents of Flint Green Road, who remain mystified. The 16 Flint Green Road Management Plan has now been share with us by Planning. This remarkable document informs us that there is to be parking space for five cars. Allowing for tightness of space this is optimistic even in the present situation, before any additional building on the side. We are also told that the maximum number of residents is to be seven, which conflicts with the earlier planning permission which is for nine residents. Residents report that they were invited by letter to visit the property many months ago, and before the earlier Planning Approval to Convert to a C2 (Care Home) was given. There has been no attempt to liaise with them since, or to discover their liaison preferences, and it is very unclear to whom the very vague invitation to make ‘comments, complaints and compliments’ is addressed to. The residents confirm that they have neither been sent this, nor given any contact details or other advice about how to go about making these ‘comments, complaints or suggestions’. It seems reasonable to ask why this shoddy plan was ever approved in the first instance, but it does not speak to a positive or caring attitude towards the road or its residents.
We call on the Planning Committee councillors to overthrow this plan once and for all on 22nd November. If you wish to urge likewise then you may still do so here: here