Alston Road threatened by new permitted development apartment block blight
Written by Nick Saul
Recent years have seen a wave of roof extensions across Barnet, usually providing extra space for existing homes. Richard Court in Alston Road (above) exemplifies a new variant of Permitted Development introduced by the government last year. You have until Thursday 23 December to oppose it, and below we tell you how to do so.
1-9 & 10-15 Richard Court, Alston Road
Residents of Alston Road and surrounding streets are opposing renewed proposals to add a storey to each of the two apartment blocks of Richard Court.
Previous applications in June, also as Permissible Developments, would have seen the three-storey 1970’s brick buildings topped with a new floor of additional flats clad in metal panelling. Barnet Council ruled prior approval was required and it was refused on grounds including that its size, massing, scale and materials would be detrimental to the appearance of the building and the character of the area. Implications for traffic and parking also featured in the Reasons for Refusal.
The revised proposals (above) replace the previous metal panelling with brick and white weatherboarding above and below windows. However while the style is the same as the existing buildings, by structural necessity the additional floor is completely out of proportion to the floors below. It would make the buildings look jarringly top heavy from a distance and, through false perspective, overbearing closer to. It would stick out like a sore thumb stretched out of proportion by injury near its upper extremity.
“I have been Chair of our local residents group, SPACES, representing residents of Sebright, Puller, Alston and Calvert Roads for the last 25 years” says Dr Chris Nightingale, "but I can’t think of a single application that could have a worse impact on our area”.
Dr Nightingale insists the extra storeys would be completely overbearing on the surrounding Victorian and Edwardian buildings while their visibility from a distance would completely change the character of the area, the uniqueness of which has led to calls for it to be made into a protected Conservation Area. There are also serious concerns about increased parking in the narrow streets of the SPACES area. The applications propose to block residents of the new apartments applying for parking permits, but similar prohibitions have proved unenforceable in the past.
Such schemes set a dangerous precedent in neighbourhoods, making it difficult to fight future planning applications of a similar height and bulk. Whole streets of traditional houses can be replaced in turn with blocks of flats.
Other roof extensions in Chipping Barnet
Robin Bishop adds:
Local developers were quick to take up a new Permitted Development Right (PDR) rushed through by the government in 2020, partly to help meet its housing target of 300,000 new homes per year and partly to stimulate the national economy after lockdown.
This PDR allows two additional storeys to be constructed on existing purpose-built blocks of flats to create new homes without requiring a full application for planning permission. The right applies to blocks built between 1st July 1948 and 5th March 2018. It is subject to a maximum height limit for the newly extended building of 30 metres.
Another local example is 33 Park Road (above) off Barnet High Street. Planning permission for roof extensions had previously been refused because firstly, they would be unduly obtrusive and inconsistent with the prevailing height of houses in the street, and secondly, they would detrimentally impact on the amenity of the neighbouring premises. The developer re-applied for one and two-storey additions via PDR (below). The Barnet Society objected, and to our and neighbours' relief Council planners refused them - but the developer has now appealed to the Planning Inspectorate for the decision to be overturned. We will be submitting a representation supporting the Council.
The National Planning Policy Framework supports extending commercial and residential buildings upwards to provide new homes where the development would be consistent with the prevailing height and form of neighbouring properties and the overall street scene, is well designed and can maintain safe access and egress for occupiers. The Barnet Society has no problem with this as a principle.
For example, in 2018 a planning application was made for an extra floor on Marston Court in Mays Lane, an existing two-storey block of flats (below). We had no objection because the proposed roofline was similar to the neighbour on its left and only half a storey higher than the neighbour on its right. The Council approved it.
What the Society has consistently objected to is the erosion of the planning process by the extension of PDR. The effect is to remove the ability of planners and public to engage with the full impact of proposals.
The government's White Paper on planning last year advocated 'gentle densification', and if all roof extensions were as considerate as Marston Court we would not object - but that's rare. The sheer quantity of applications means that we can't oppose every one, but we do so where an application is of special local significance. Richard Court is one of these. We encourage you to do so as well.
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I’m surprised you haven’t also looked at the development plans for Alston Works? Which also includes roof extensions as well as a new extension to the building. As well as there being large lorries and other commercial vehicles in the surrounding roads, the extra pressure on services due to extra inhabitants will be quite huge. Access to Alston...
I’m surprised you haven’t also looked at the development plans for Alston Works? Which also includes roof extensions as well as a new extension to the building. As well as there being large lorries and other commercial vehicles in the surrounding roads, the extra pressure on services due to extra inhabitants will be quite huge. Access to Alston Works will either be via Alston Rd or Falkland. Any houses backing onto Alston Works (in particular 17-57 Falkland Rd & Richard Court in Alston) will really have their privacy threatened - plans and photos are here https://www.behance.net/gallery/53234223/2018-CLIENT-Alston-Works-Barnet-EN5-4EL
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