14 May Update on the village shops behind the hoardings
Since our last post dated 7 April there have been further significant developments.
It needs to be kept in mind that there are two separate but linked planning issues.
The first relates to plans to convert the existing buildings into a single shop but, in the most recent application, retaining the existing flat over the shop. The SRA broadly supported this application as it retained the Victorian aspect at least at the upper level. There is already a wide range of shopfronts in the village.
We submitted a neutral comment expressing that broad support for that proposal but raising issues regarding to the detail of the shop front and also the parking problems which would be caused. Our view was that if a layby could be constructed, that would go a long way to relieving the inevitable parking and delivery problems.
Somewhat to our surprise the planning application was comprehensively refused. However, that application has now been the subject of an appeal but we do not yet have a date when the inspector will consider the appeal. The appeal documentation, which is available online at the London Borough of Bromley Planning site, reveals some proposed alterations to the plans which had been rejected.
These alterations are described as minor but they do include some changes to the window appearance and also, as requested by the Bromley Civic Society, that the windows should be in their present position with an external ramp for disabled access. There is no suggested change in respect of parking which remains a concern.
This is a very interesting development but there remains some uncertainty whether or not the inspector will, in due course, take these amendments into account. The inspector has the power to do so as long as he/she does not believe that the proposed amendments are so significant as should be the subject of a fresh planning application.
The result is that we now take the view that we should positively support this appeal emphasising that we would like the inspector to approve the appeal but including the proposed amendments.
We are very aware that these latest plans will not please everybody and we cannot control the inspector’s decision whether or not to include the amendments. However, we are faced with a dilemma where either nothing happens and the centre of the Village remains blighted, or we face the real risk of demolition of the buildings as we report below.
The starting point is our understanding that the developer does not need planning approval simply to demolish the buildings. This may seem very strange but that is our understanding of the legal position. This is described as being within the ‘deemed permission’ rules.
The powers of planners in this situation were limited to pronouncing only on the method of demolition. So far planners and councillors had objected to the method of demolition but as we reported on our post of 7 April, the most recent refusal to agree the method of demolition had been the subject of a successful appeal so, on the face of it, demolition could go ahead.
In the appeal decision the inspector made a significant point which was that she was only required to deal with the method of demolition and not required to make any comment whether or not this process actually did fall within the deemed permission rules.
The result is that the developer has now made a further application to the planning department for a ‘Lawful Development Certificate’ which, if granted by the council, would have the effect of confirming that the proposed demolition does fall within the deemed permission rules. So, it is now up to planners and councillors to consider the law and decide whether or not to grant the Certificate.
If the proposed certificate is granted then there would be nothing to prevent the developer from demolishing the buildings with nothing in its place. There have been discussions about making the Village into a Conservation Area but that has not yet been approved.
Of course, while this would remain a significant threat, the developer would achieve nothing in the long run because they need a development for commercial purposes. Our hope is therefore that a reasonable compromise can be reached and that, in our view, could be the amended scheme now going to the inspector.