PLANNING GROUP REPORT 1 AUGUST 2005 - 31 AUGUST 2006Michael Woodman-Smith
As in previous years, our approach has been to try to address issues strategically, improve our effectiveness and strengthen our influence. Wherever possible, we try to feedback our observations and comments to those with key roles in the planning process, for example CAP, the Planning Department, members of the Planning Committee and our local councillor, Barbara Janke. The following notes cover some of the major planning applications where we have actively campaigned to secure revision or refusal.
Suspension Bridge Road Stopping-UpWe reported last year that we did not believe that the Suspension Bridge Trust would be able to proceed with their plans to build a visitors' centre which encroached still further into Suspension Bridge Road than the scheme which had been granted planning consent. We had notified the Trust of the unacceptability of this revised scheme and of our opposition to the construction, both on Common Land and on Clifton Down, of a scheme which did not directly benefit the local community.
27 The Mall (Garage Site)The scheme was granted planning consent during the year in spite of a CHIS recommendation that the Council should defer the decision to permit further consideration of vital matters.
One such matter was the lack of any requirement to maintain small retail units as the drawings implied. We understand that the site has been purchased by Somerfield and may well become a single large retail unit. As in the case of Tesco's, no arrangements for deliveries were made as a condition of the consent.
The building is to be faced in render and not Bath stone as CHIS had advocated on conservation grounds. The main justification for this would appear to be the refaced and, some might say, defaced elevations of the early 17th century buildings on the east side of the (upper) Mall.
The site remains undeveloped, and constitutes a major blight in the very heart of Clifton Village
2-16 Clifton Down RoadFollowing a remarkable Committee Meeting, the planning application for the redevelopment of the existing parade of shops was rejected. It was clear that Officers and Members alike had intended the approval of the scheme. Representations and objections made at the meeting led members to question the very many drawbacks of the scheme. Sasha Lubetkin and Maggie Shapland illustrated the CHIS statement with coloured photomontages showing the bulk of the scheme and its impact on the Conservation Area.
CHIS has proposed that a scheme to pedestrianise Boyce's Avenue and Kings Road be drawn up with the involvement of the local community and traders. A small group has been formed to promote this idea: volunteers to assist with the project would be welcomed. We have recently learnt however, that the developer has lodged an appeal and that there will be a Public Inquiry into the proposals. Please write to the Planning Inspectorate if you wish to add your personal objection, or alternatively attend the Inquiry and make your objection in person. We will advise members of the dates on the CHIS website. If the appeal were to succeed, the opportunity to transform Kings Road and effect a major environmental improvement of this part of Clifton would be lost as the scheme requires access to a large underground garage
Mobile Phone MastsCHIS has opposed the construction of mobile telephone masts, both at the Zoo and in front of Litfield House on Harley Place. Both applications were thankfully rejected.
Bridge HouseCHIS objected to the revised proposals for Bridge House, whose conversion work is currently underway.
The amended proposals included three extensive roof terraces on top of the new mansard roof, the omission of the reinstatement of the flank wall to Gloucester Row facing the Bridge, and the provision of a new second floor balcony. As most members will know, 19th century houses normally have balconies at first floor level only. The restoration of the original facade was a fundamental and intrinsic part of the original proposal. The chief planning officer confirmed to us that the developer could not forgo its construction without consent; his department then proceeded to issue that consent.
We regard this development as less than exemplary; it serves as a reminder of the need for thorough scheme appraisals into every aspect of such major planning applications, and for effective community involvement throughout the planning process.
Avon Gorge HotelThe CHIS Planning Group-has supported the intention to implement improvements to the Hotel. However, aspects of the multiple planning applications submitted are of serious concern. We have submitted a detailed appraisal and critique of the scheme proposals to the planning department, advocated the provision of a thorough impact assessment of the proposals and the provision of a three dimensional model to allow residents and planners alike to assess the effect of the proposals on the Conservation Area. The planners declined to follow up either suggestion.
We wait to learn which of the numerous applications will receive recommendations of approval and which, if any will be rejected. CHIS members may wish to make their views heard at any future Committee Meetings.
Canynge RoadA Public Inquiry was held in February into the second planning application by Robert Adam Architects for Edward Ware Homes. The Inquiry lasted four days. CHIS provided support to the Canynge Road Campaign Group who were formally represented at the Inquiry; Michael Woodman-Smith acted as the Group's expert conservation witness.
A large number of local people attended the Inquiry; many made highly articulate statements, including Councillors Barbara Janke and Richard Eddy, architectural advisor to the Civic Society Stephen Macfarlane, and Andrew Foyle the architectural historian and author of the recent Pevsner Architectural Guide to Bristol.
The Appeal was not allowed. CHIS have now successfully opposed no less than two planning applications and two Planning Appeals. The Council's Urban Design Group had recommended approval of both schemes. CHIS has submitted a dossier to Barbara Janke regarding our perception of the failings of the planning department regarding these applications and appeals; we hope this may be potentially of relevance to future planning applications not only here in Clifton but elsewhere in Bristol.
Edward Ware Homes have now submitted a third planning application for Clifton College's playing fields, squash courts and rifle range. The scheme represents a minor variation of the previous scheme rejected at Appeal. However, once again, the Council's Urban Design Group considers the proposal to be acceptable. CHIS have again submitted a full scheme appraisal and will be recommending refusal of the new application. We are advocating the outsourcing of the Council's urban design and conservation area appraisal of the scheme. The support of CHIS members would be of great assistance in this continuing campaign to prevent permanent and irreversible damage to the Clifton Conservation Area and the redevelopment of land which provides sports facilities, and which is partly zoned as Open Space in the Bristol Local Plan.
A further unhappy outcome from this has been the unprecedented action by Robert Adam who brought a complaint concerning unprofessional conduct against MWS to the Architects Registration Board (ARB) in connection with his illustrated statement to the Planning Committee in June 2005. This complaint is still being investigated in accordance with the ARB's procedures, and has yet to be resolved.