CROYDON COMMENTARY: Brick by Brick spends thousands on specialist reports to support its planning applications – if only the claims made in one set of documents they submit did not contradict the solemn statements made elsewhere. GEOFF JAMES has done some digging
One of Brick by Brick’s latest planning applications is to build on the site of Kempsfield House. The application is to demolish a vacant children’s home in Reedham Park Avenue (which is actually in Kenley ward) and build a block of 13 flats that are joined on to a terrace of six houses.
It is a scheme typical of these developers that seeks to insert an over-large building that is completely out of character for the area. This is the wrong sort of over-intensification development that is the trademark of the council-owned developer Brick by Brick.
The application proposes a four-storey block of flats close to an adjacent house to the north of the site, as is shown in the drawing (below right). The planning application indicates this separation distance variously as 15.6metres and 16.5metres.
This distance is very important.
The council’s own Local Plan requires separation to be at least 18metres. This is to avoid visual intrusion and loss of privacy between properties.
Sitting between the proposed block of flats and the adjoining house is a large row of mature trees. The dotted lines on the drawing above indicate the outline of the trees’ canopies.
These trees sit just within the adjoining plot, but the crowns extend into the site where Brick by Brick want to build. They also extend for the full width of the proposed building and the treetops will be higher than the four-storey building.
Brick by Brick will need to trim the crowns of the trees to make room for their building. In a short time, the thick foliage will grow back to sit just centimetres from all the windows on the upper storeys of Brick by Brick’s new flats.
Perhaps to try to get away with being less than the 18metre distance required by the council’s Local Plan, Brick by Brick’s application claims that there will be no overlooking into the adjacent property because the tree foliage forms “a very significant level of shielding”.
They even manage to provide a helpful sketch to show the planners and planning committee members how well this screening will work.
And they are probably correct, because any resident looking out from the flats will struggle to see the adjacent property as they will need to look through at least five metres of thick, verdant foliage.
But these beech and hawthorns are no ordinary trees, if Brick by Brick’s planning application is anything to go by. These are magical “now you see them, now you don’t” trees according to the architects and designers at Brick by Brick who submitted this application.
In the Brick by Brick plans, there will be habitable rooms facing toward the trees that are only centimetres from their windows.
So, what level of daylight will be available for the 10 rooms that face the trees?
Brick by Brick has helpfully included a Daylight and Sunlight Assessment with their application. You can read the report for yourself here.
This document is a major piece of expert analysis and will have cost Brick by Brick a great deal of money. It calculates the expected level of daylight in every room. It is 100 pages of detailed light modelling analysis and results, along with numerous computer-generated 3D images of all the related buildings and windows. The report proceeds logically and comprehensively toward the conclusion, “we consider that the future occupants will have ‘adequate’ levels of daylight”.
So, although the plans as submitted allow for a row of trees that place thick dense crowns that almost touch the building’s windows and so provide “a very effective shield” from neighbouring properties, in the very same planning application these magic trees are also able to let 100 per cent of daylight through to the windows of the proposed block of flats.
Before rushing to alert government scientists of this remarkable discovery, a closer check of the 100-page Daylight and Sunlight Assessment finds that there is not a single mention of the trees that will clearly block the natural light to all the north-facing windows.
Indeed, close scrutiny of those expensively drafted 3D images shows that there are absolutely no trees. Somehow, they have been vanished out of existence.
The entire “expert” analysis assumes the trees do not exist.
So while the trees simultaneously exist to provide screening, they do not exist when the Brick by Brick block of flats requires to let all light through.
It is either that, or we need to accept that even the most expensively commissioned 100-page reports prepared for Brick by Brick are not worth the paper they are written on.
Geoff James is a Kenley resident
- Previous Croydon Commentaries from Geoff James: Is Wontford Road Green the worst BxB housing scheme yet?
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