Wednesday, April 20, 2016

More on the Tidemill redevelopment – the impact on Frankham House

Whilst objections may come from many different perspectives (residents in Reginald Road and Hales Street and the environmentalists in the old Tidemill Wildlife Garden), we take a look here at how the proposals adversely affect Frankham House residents.

Last July, the Council 'appropriated' the Tidemill site 'for planning purposes'. The accompanying report stated its purpose was "in order to enable the powers in Section 237 of the Town & Country Planning Act 1990 to be used to ensure that any restrictive covenants or other rights affecting the land can be overridden in the interests of the proper planning of the area, thereby allowing the redevelopment of the land to proceed".

Plan 1 Deptford Southern Sites July 2015 (drawn 2014). The green amenity is bottom right.

The appropriation took in the Council-owned land surrounding the school site, including the green amenity adjacent to Frankham House which borders Reginald Road and was hitherto part of Creekside Conservation Area, along with Frankham House itself.

Creekside Conservation Area designation (in pink)

It is proposed that part of the green will now be built on, and the rest of it be used as a site compound during construction. Hoardings will surround the perimeters of Frankham for the duration, which is presently estimated to be 20 months, but could be more. The ground floor of the south-facing elevations will lose the sunny outlook they've enjoyed for over 30 years (in some cases) when hoardings go up a few metres from their windows.

Proposed school extension and new Block D infringe on Frankham's right of light

In the Conservation Area Appraisal and designation (2012), Frankham House, along with the other blocks on Crossfields Estate, was recognised as "a good example of its time" and Crossfields is "only the fourth social housing estate within the borough that has been identified for its special architectural and historic interest in its own right, and the first 1930s estate to be recognised as such". Frankham House in particular is noted for "its role in forging an urban gay identity in the 1980s" (hence the name Pink Palace for the TRA accommodation within it).

A Supplementary Planning Document (SDP) that should have laid out management guidelines for the preservation and enhancement of the conservation area has never been written. In the Scoping Report prepared for the non-existent SDP, para 14 states that one of the key objectives is: “To protect and enhance heritage assets and their setting, and use the historic environment as a cue to be recognised in new development and for the creation of sustainable places”

But, as the 2015 Appropriation report says, "land which has been acquired or authorised even if that development would interfere with any interest or rights affecting the land. The effect of the appropriation is to extinguish any such interests or rights" (paragraph 6.3)... "In view of the potential rights of light ... and other existing interests and rights which may exist, it is recommended that in order to overcome this problem, the land be appropriated to planning purposes, which will enable the developers to rely on the protection provided by Section 237..." (para 6.7)

The integrity of the Frankham House building is now threatened by the proposal for an extension to the old Tidemill school building, with a resulting loss of light and outlook for west-facing Frankham House residents. A small two-storey schoolkeeper's house will be demolished to make way for the extension. The school-keeper's house is described by the temporary conservation officer as too common an example of its kind to be worth retaining – and yet there are hardly any buildings of its kind left in Deptford.

Image taken from a wobbly pop-up exhibition board, Deptford Lounge consultation 20th April
Section of school extension, hidden in the application documents

And the proposal to build a five storey block (Block D) on the green will create significant overshadowing on Frankham's south-facing elevations. The illustration below was shown in the consultation today but is not included in the application documents. (It shows early morning light, so the impact on Frankham cannot be seen).

"A brand new building will overlook the corner pocket park" – view of Block D (in the mornings)

The 2015 Appropriation report goes on, "the developers are carrying out daylight and sunlight studies to assess and seek to minimise the impact on local properties. Further, they are using key principles of maximising daylight and sunlight, creating attractive amenity spaces and ensuring careful consideration of relationships to neighbouring properties."

In the developer's January 2016 application, the Daylight/Sunlight and Overshadowing studies illustrate predictions for March (but not other times of the year when the days are longer, or indeed, shorter). The drawings show Frankham's west- and south-facing elevations being overshadowed when there was no overshadowing before. But the 3D drawings accompanying the study use a north-easterly aerial axis that obscures any view of Frankham's west and south elevations. The real impact on Frankham House is not shown.

Click to enlarge

Para 6.9 of the Appropriation report says: "Assessment of compensation for the loss of rights would be calculated on the basis of the before and after market value of the affected properties. It will be for the owners to demonstrate that that the loss is likely to cause inconvenience to them and affect the enjoyment of their properties and to substantiate any claim for compensation".

Para 10.5: "Therefore, in reaching his decision, the Mayor needs to consider the extent to which the decision may impact upon the Human Rights of estate residents and other affected persons and to balance this against the overall benefits to the community which the redevelopment of the Excalibur Estate* will bring. The Mayor will wish to be satisfied that interference with the rights under Article 8 and Article 1 of Protocol 1 is justified in all the circumstances and that a fair balance would be struck in the present case between the protection of the rights of individuals and the public interest".

(* Note: The Excalibur Estate is a 1940s prefab estate in Catford. Did anyone in the Council actually read this document?!)

So, the Council has made sure the developer is protected from any claims for compensation, and if it passes this application in its present state, will be harming the human rights of its existing tenants in order to accommodate the rights of new mostly private residents. Affected existing residents can only claim compensation if they can prove (at their own expense) after the development has been built that the value of their properties has decreased.

Firstly, it is unlikely that values will drop (if inflationary estate agents like Cannon Kaller have anything to do with it), and secondly, no amount of money can compensate for the loss of quality of life. Thirdly, it is stated that only 'owners' can claim compensation – how are tenants supposed to prove the value of their property has devalued? At least 12 Frankham tenants will be severely impacted by these plans. They can't just sell up, they are trapped. Their only recourse would be through the courts. 

A Right To Light expert tells us that local authorities often appropriate land so that developments can proceed without the risk of an injunction being sought against proposals. Where a 237 order has been agreed, it reduces the level of any compensation that residents (both leaseholders and tenants) are entitled to in a Right To Light case.

Para 10.4: "In determining the level of permissible interference with enjoyment the courts have held that any interference must achieve a fair balance between the general interests of the community and the protection of the rights of individuals. There must be reasonable proportionality between the means employed and the aim pursued. The availability of an effective remedy and compensation to affected persons is relevant in assessing whether a fair balance has been struck".

We do not believe there is "reasonable proportionality between the means employed and the aim pursued" and certainly not a "fair balance". Why should Frankham House residents (and of course, those in Reginald Road) suffer so that the developers can cram more units onto the site, or create, under the guise of providing a "major new public space", a pompous grand central avenue that affords new mostly private flat dwellers more right to light and privacy than existing residents will receive?  And which will be overshadowed by the flats most afternoons anyway? Any what's the need for a hard paved square when there is one a stone's throw away (Giffin Square)...?

Looking south, "A major new public open space for Deptford", featuring an overshadowed square
Looking north, the new public open space, overshadowed every afternoon.

Lewisham's Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) on Residential Standards states "The minimum distance between habitable rooms on the main rear elevation and the rear boundary or flank wall of adjoining development should normally be 9 metres or more".  The proposed Block D is positioned too close to Frankham House, infringing on the outlook and light of south-facing residents. The maximum distance is 16 metres but the smallest gap is just over 10 metres – this encroachment allows for the 4-5 times as wide avenue between Blocks C and B, an edifice for which there is no justification other than to replace the green lungs of Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden with a manicured (yet overshadowed) public lawn in the middle of a road to nowhere.  

The gap between the proposed school extension and Frankham House, at just over 9 metres, represents one of the smallest gaps between buildings on the entire site. There has been a half-hearted attempt to lessen the impact on Frankham residents by setting back the fourth floor of the extension (not shown in the Design & Access statement), but Frankham's lower floors will still be affected. They may never see light again.

Worse still, to avoid overlooking, the extension will have no windows on its eastern wall, presenting a bleak outlook to west-facing Frankham. This drawing was shown in the Deptford Lounge today but does not appear in the planning application:

Image taken from the wobbly exhibition board, Deptford Lounge 20th April

In fact the drawing shows four balcony areas (in gold). What had originally been a staircase area jutting out from the extension now appears to be accommodation with balconies – so much for no overlooking!

The only "effective remedy" would be not to build the school extension next to Frankham House, and not to build on the green amenity. There is ample room on the site to move Block D back, and the units in the extension could be located elsewhere. Why not stick 'em on another building? Oh, we couldn't do that, said one of the developer's representatives – it would ruin the light for those on the development...

Other gripes

It is also proposed that Frankham residents will be barricaded off from the development with one of the tallest fences proposed on the site. They will have no access to the proposed "private community garden" that they will overlook – unless they are willing to pay towards its maintenance. Hardly in keeping with the much vaunted claim for the "permeability" of the development.

The tallest fences protect the new private dwellings in the school and keep Frankham House out

And with the appropriation of the green amenity by the Bird's Nest roundabout, the developers propose a new landscaped area when construction is complete. It is recognised by the application as an area which "buffers" the busy main road – one of the most polluted roads in this city. In 2014, our own NO2 readings at the Birds Nest roundabout were 62 ug/m3 (the EU limit is 40ug/m3). The landscape architects propose vegetables are grown by the side of the road in partial darkness:

Growing veg next to one of the most polluted roads in London

The Lewisham Open Space Strategy emphasises the need to protect and enhance existing open space and ensure major development sites adequately consider the provision of quality new open space. But the ‘Reginald Road Pocket Garden’ cannot be considered “high quality public realm” because of its proximity to the main road and the failure of the design to take into account the high levels of pollution, volume of traffic and the overshadowing from Block D. 

In a different way, the "major new public open space" running down the centre of the site also hardly qualifies as good public realm – it has no interesting or inspired features, such as community growing areas (and where it would actually be safe to grow stuff). It will be overlooked by new private residents who will resent members of the Deptford hoi-polloi cavorting in the space outside and soon be demanding resident-only access. Or perhaps more likely, they'll be campaigning for it to be turned into a car park for the cars that they will inevitably own but have nowhere to park.

Meanwhile, at the latest consultation – held two days before the application is due to expire – a representative of the developer stated they had no intention of making any further changes to their submission. It also appeared that Lewisham Planning's Case Officer was unfamiliar with many aspects of the proposals. And for Frankham House residents it was a bit of a kick in the face to hear that Lewisham are proposing to incorporate the old school buildings into (the high street?) Conservation Area. What bloody use is that when they can't look after the Conservation Areas they have already?

See previous post...


  1. Thank you for this summary Sue; at the Deptford Lounge on 20th March, every question I put to the council / developers was answered with council speak, and everything denied or shoulders shrugged...

  2. Great summary Sue. The whole development is going to have a truly terrible impact on pretty much the whole Crossfield estate, which, as you rightly pointed out, Frankham House bearing the brunt of it. I thought it was particularly depressing when you noted that a representative of the developer had no intention of changing the plans any further! I personally think we need to become more militant over this whole site and get together all of the separate groups opposing this so they speak with one voice. We also need to look at raising awareness of all of these issues to people who ordinarily would not think about getting involved in a something like this.