Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Representation on draft Kennington Conservation Area Statement


1 This is a representation by David Boardman on behalf of the Kennington Association Planning Forum (KAPF) in relation to the draft Kennington Conservation Area Statement, issued for consultation on 26 October 2009. It amplifies oral representations made by David Boardman at the Statutory Consultation Meeting on 9 November 2009. This representation will be published on the Association’s website, and may in its turn be republished by Lambeth Council.


2 The draft Statement asks for comments by 23 November 2009.

The Forum

3 The Kennington Association is a voluntary membership association of upwards of 430 members drawn from the wider Kennington area, whose aim is to promote and maintain the Kennington area as a good place to live and work. KAPF is a group of Association members with interest in and experience of planning and development issues, that develops planning policies and makes planning representations on behalf of the wider Association.

General impression of the draft Statement

4 There is much to commend in the draft, with its helpful history, detailed and informed commentary street by street, and its willingness to take a robust view of buildings not making a positive contribution to the conservation area, revealing where, at least in the planners view, there is scope for more "sympathetic" replacements.

The Proposed Measures

5 In order to “preserve or enhance” the “character or appearance” of the conservation area, the draft proposes

  • A number of extensions to the conservation area, at the margins
  • A “local listing” of buildings of local historical and architectural interest which do not currently qualify to be, or have not so far been, Grade II listed
  • A list of buildings making a positive contribution to the conservation area, consisting of
    • all its Grade II listed buildings,
    • the “local list” of other buildings of local historical or architectural interest, not qualifying to be, or not yet, Grade II listed, and
    • other buildings making a positive contribution

This follows PPG15 para 4.4 “The assessment should always note those [statutorily] unlisted buildings which make a positive contribution to the special interest of the area” , and UDP Policy 46, that says that the Council will establish local lists of “buildings and structures of local historic or architectural interest", to be done in accordance with the advice of PPG 15 - Planning and the Historic Environment.

  • A list of buildings making a “Neutral” contribution to the area, combining under a confusing heading some buildings merely described, and others expressly labelled as “unattractive”

And it gives non-statutory guidance on a range of topics including signage, trees, railing replacement, shop front replacement and satellite dish concealment.

6 A conservation area is defined as an area of special architectural or historic interest the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance, and the adopted UDP for Lambeth says, at para 4.16.16 that "The main threat to most of Lambeth's conservation areas is not the threatened loss of buildings but the gradual erosion and alteration of individual elevational features that together, give the conservation areas their special character. This is particularly the case with rendering/painting, roofing replacements, and replacement of original windows. "

We now assess the draft statement in the light of these perceived challenges, and our local experience.


7 These seem something of a mixed bag:

  • we do not find the North Lambeth Area Housing Office at 31 Kennington Lane “attractive”, nor affecting the setting of the existing conservation area. Indeed, we do not consider the existing boundary, extending along Kennington Road beyond Cottington Street as enclosing properties important to the preservation or enhancement of the conservation area, or its setting, [see photos attached] and would prefer to see the boundary brought back to Cottington Street
  • given the proximity of Moran’s yard, it is going to be hard to make anything particularly positive out of the Stannary St warehouse area, but we are prepared to go along with the proposed extension
  • the Kennings Way change is a modest technicality,
  • the Sancroft St change seems sensible
  • embracing the telephone exchange creates a more rational boundary, and may in future decades provide modest leverage for improvement, and
  • we certainly support the inclusion of the Beefeater Gin site, which is bounded on 3 sides by Grade II listed buildings, with a view to encouraging sensitive solutions on this Major Development Opportunity site.

Local Listing

8 Given UDP Policy 46, we understand why Lambeth feel they have to establish a local listing, but we think it is a somewhat cosmetic exercise in a conservation area. Just as the UDP was being adopted, PPG15 was amended, from April 2007, to delete all reference to local listing, and the latest draft replacement, PPS15, does not reinstate the concept. The compilation of a local list may have some merit outside a conservation area, as a watch list in case of proposals for demolition or unsympathetic alteration. But as is acknowledged in the draft statement, local listing has no statutory effect, over and above the normal effects of location in a conservation area, which we understand to be:

  • Conservation area consent required for part or whole demolition,
  • some diminution of permitted development rights for houses, (eg planning permission required for cladding, anything more than modest extensions, most roof and visible chimney alterations, and installation of visible satellite dishes)
  • decisions on developments that do require planning permission to give a high priority to the objective of preserving or enhancing the character or appearance of the conservation area (sadly, “preserving” includes changing it to be no worse!).

9 The UDP policy says, as regards buildings on the local listThe Council will use development control procedures to resist proposals for the demolition or inappropriate alteration of buildings or structures on the local list.... Proposals for the alteration or extension of buildings on the local list will be expected to relate sensitively to the building or structure, and respect its architectural or historic interest. The Council will seek to preserve features of such buildings which contribute to that interest. “

But this is hardly different from the rubric applying to all the positive contribution buildings in the conservation area: “Buildings that make a positive contribution are therefore worthy of retention although some may require restoration or refurbishment. There is a presumption in favour of their sympathetic retention. Demolition or unsympathetic alteration will be resisted.”

10 Nor does local listing address the main threats to conservation areas identified by the UDP for buildings not Grade II listed:

  • rendering – already requires planning permission in a conservation area
  • exterior painting –as a minor operation, allowed without planning permission as a permitted development for all dwellings, unless permitted development rights withdrawn by an Article 4(2) direction (in this connection, note the spread of whitewashed basement approaches in Methley Street) [see photo]
  • roofing replacements – most roof and visible chimney alterations already require planning permission in a conservation area, roof replacement (eg with non conforming slate rather than eg existing tiles, or vice versa) probably not controlled short of withdrawing permitted development rights
  • replacement of original windows – probably requires planning permission for flats unless the new windows do not materially affect the external appearance of the building, and for houses unless the windows are of a similar appearance to the originals (which sounds like a lawyers benefit). Wherever the boundary lies, local listing makes no odds.

For these reasons we regard local listing as cosmetic. If conscientious exercise of existing planning controls and diligent enforcement are insufficient to tackle real problems (and it’s a big if), then it would seem to us to require some curtailment of permitted development rights by means of an Article 4(2) direction, which can be tailored to the parts of the conservation area, and the relevant rights concerned. [see also comments on the scope of Article 4(2) directions below]

11 The schedule of listed buildings in the conservation area, at Appendix 3, is incomplete, and they are not shown on the attached maps, while the proposed locally listed buildings are. As nearly half the dwellings in the area are already Grade 2 listed, this gives an incomplete impression, and we have identified both sorts on our attached plan. In addition, by limiting its mapping to the Lambeth borough, the Statement mapping of conservation areas omits the contiguous conservation areas in Southwark, notably at Kennington Park Road and West Square, which also contribute to the context. We think that the “Conservation Areas Context” map should show both these areas, appropriately labelled, and the map of proposed locally listed buildings should show the Grade II listed buildings in the Conservation Area as well.

12 In this context, we then see that a number of "local list" proposals are filling in gaps in, or adding on to, runs of statutorily listed buildings, eg in Kennington Park Road, Kennington Road, Montford Place, Cleaver Square, Kennington Lane and Denny Street. Indeed, looking at the statutory listings, the question is more, why are the properties in the gaps not Grade II listed, especially in Cleaver Square, where a number of existing listings are already justified in terms of group value.

13 While in our view most of those locally listed buildings make a positive contribution to the conservation area (though there must be a question mark over the proposals for the shops on Kennington Road), there are others equally worthy (eg Tresco House, even if it is a late 20th century pastiche, most of Chester Way, the Methley Street/Ravensdon Street/ Milverton Street/Radcot Street rectangle, and the windmill triangle of shops), If the planners apprehend threats to the character of eg Cleaver Square, they should either go for full Grade II listing of the gap properties, or, if not justified (and we would not want to visit listed building controls on interior changes, like change of fireplace or moving a partition wall, unnecessarily), they should go for Article 4(2) directions designed to mimic the exterior controls of listed building consent.

The Kennington Road Shops

14 The Kennington Road shops, particularly those on the east side, are under stress, as trade leaches away to Tesco, and the centre generally is squeezed between the major developments planned for Elephant and Castle and Vauxhall. Already, three former shops have boarded up frontages, [see photos attached] and local listing, predicated largely on the residential properties behind, is unlikely to assist bringing these frontages back into active and less visually blank uses. The Council should explore other measures, such as shop front grants, and business rate abatements, to attract appropriate service, charitable and public benefit uses that can withstand the convenience shopping squeeze.

Negative and Neutral Contributors

15 The rubric to Appendix 2 is confused, and the description as “unattractive” has been criticised as being merely an expression of contemporary taste (cf 134 Kennington Park Road, now described as unattractive, built in a “modern” style, insisted on by the then planners, with a set back building line, in anticipation of demolition of the entire adjacent terrace, now Grade II listed, for an aborted road widening). Given that so many of the properties in the conservation area are considered to make a positive contribution, it might be sufficient to identify those highlighted in Appendix 2 as “not regarded as making a positive contribution to the conservation area”, or as “properties whose redevelopment would offer the opportunity to improve the conservation area”.

Street Lighting

16 It appears that through an oversight in the PFI procurement processes, heritage lampposts were procured for Methley Street, but not for other deserving streets in the conservation area. The Statement should record that fact, and make its rectification, over time, a target for management of the area, alongside reduction in street furniture clutter.

Replacement Windows

17 The planners have a thing about uPVC replacement windows, which we think overstates the case, certainly as regards visual effect. We are going to be increasingly concerned about energy conservation in dwellings over the next 20 years, and making the improvement of existing buildings compulsory in future years is quite possible. Most of our buildings are built from solid, rather than cavity walls, and interior cladding is expensive and reduces floor area. So reducing heat loss through windows is important for us. Secondary double glazing, the solution towards which the planners steer us is better than nothing, but arguably still second best in energy terms. In these energy conscious times it behoves the planners to demonstrate a case against uPVC, rather than assert it without evidence, and it is notable that only now is the Building Research Station undertaking like for like trials, with the results for the uPVC comparator still awaited. Furthermore, the statement overstates the effect of mixing uPVC and traditional frames – see for example the unlisted Courtney Street properties [see photo attached] where uPVC and traditional are side by side and do not detract from the overall street character. Provided the glazing bar pattern is maintained, there is a lot to be said for uPVC, with its low maintenance cost. And in places like Methley Street, even variation in glazing bar pattern seems less detrimental to character than security screens and barred windows, or painted frontages. While we recognise that properties like the listed buildings in Chester Way, with their flat frontages, need to have a uniform solution for all their windows, we await, in these increasingly energy conscious times, an argued and justified case from the planners against uPVC.

Planning Oversight

18 There is a contrast between the detailed planning oversight to which the planning system aspires in relation to conservation areas and listed buildings, and the resources available to planners to monitor and review the resulting developments. We think the Council should establish an Advisory Committee for the Kennington Conservation Area, involving members of the resident community, who are likely to identify issues much more rapidly than the four yearly review cycle otherwise in prospect. And where the Statement identifies concerns, like the need for sensitive replacement of railings, or screening of litter bins in front gardens [see photo attached], it would be helpful to the wider willing public to give express examples of good practice for emulation, rather than mere exhortation against casual thoughtlessness.

Permitted Development Rights

19 We have identified two apparent anomalies in the scope of permitted development rights

· absent an express extension of the definition of “dwelling house” to include a flat in Article 4(5) of the General Permitted Development Order (SI 1995 No 418, as amended), it would appear to be impossible for an Article 4(2) order to withdraw permitted development rights under Schedule 2 Part 2 Class C (external painting) from a flat

· if the mere re-roofing of a dwelling house in a conservation area falls within the permitted development rights of Schedule 2 Part 1 Class C (See SI 2008 No 2362), it would appear to escape the “similar appearance” condition of Condition A3(a), allowing slate to replace tile or vice versa

Do you agree?

David Boardman

23 November 2009