Norman Road Planning application to be considered on Thursday

Dear Friends of Crossness Nature Reserve,

This Thursday (May 15th) sees the Planning Committee meeting taking place during which a decision will be taken regarding the application to build 3 industrial units on the former electricity substation site on Norman Road, adjacent Crossness Nature Reserve. The Councillors are being advised to approve the planning application, but the proposals fall short of what is required at such an environmentally sensitive area, in particular, the brown roof issue. This is something which, despite what the applicant is claiming, is easy and economical to deliver, and moreover, the inclusion of brown roofs in industrial development, is part of the Council’s own environmental policy and yet they have not pressed for it!!

Chris Rose, Vice Chair of Bexley Natural Environment Forum and author of the extensive BNEF submission objecting to this development, has kindly outlined below how your objections back in January made a difference to the proposals. However, further support is needed to object and press for these vital environmental considerations.

Chris will be speaking against at the meeting and it would be great if Friends of Crossness Nature Reserve are able to turn out in support. If you can attend the meeting this Thursday evening, and in particular, if you would like to speak (see details below about what would be expected), please liaise with Chris using the contact details he has provided below (if you could cc me please so that I know who is attending also, that would be great).

Many thanks for those of you that responded to the call to alms earlier this year, and a HUGE thanks to Chris for all his hard work pulling this information together and writing such substantive reports against this proposal.

Kind regards

Karen

Email: Karen.sutton@thameswater.co.uk

SPEAKING UP FOR NATURE

THANKS primarily to Friends of Crossness Nature Reserve members, Bexley Council has received 20 objections to the application to build 3 industrial units for mixed-use on the former electricity station site on Norman Rd, adjacent to Erith marshes.

Those of you who wrote in will have received notice that a decision will be taken on the application at the Planning Committee meeting this coming Thursday, May 15th. That notice does not make it clear where to find the report from officers, advising the Councillors as to what decisions they should make about the application as a whole, and the conditions they should attach if they agree to give the go-ahead. This can be found here:

http://pa.bexley.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=dates&keyVal=MO63ODBEDR000

Because it is classed as a major application two objectors may speak for up to 3 minutes each, or 1 for 5 minutes. As author of the substantive Bexley Natural Environment Forum submission, I will be asking to speak against. If anyone else is thinking of speaking, please contact me at chrisrose@gn.apc.org so we can co-ordinate efforts.

Bexley Natural Environment Forum’s submission can be obtained here:

https://app.box.com/shared/static/zy4aw3kvpkhx1icg5pxv.doc

ATTENDING THE MEETING

As you will see below Councillors are being advised to accept outcomes that fall well short of what we want. I suggest it is still worth us turning out, as this needs to be seen as the start of a process by which we start to flex more muscle, demonstrate the level of support for nature over concrete in the Borough, and send out a signal that poor quality proposals and decisions detrimentally impacting nature will not get through unchallenged. It is also an opportunity to see if we can start to get a few Councillors thinking about these matters more carefully, and maybe breaking ranks and openly agreeing with us on points of contention – there is, after all, an election happening 7 days later ….

THE MEETING STARTS AT 7.30 pm in the Council Chamber at Bexley Civic Offices Broadway Bexleyheath. The entrance to use is the one by where the flag poles are, not the ‘Contact centre’ one. There should be someone on the desk to tell you where to go. You do not have to give notice that you intend to come, and there are way more seats for the public than people likely to attend.

CONTENTS OF THE REPORT

It is no great surprise to find that officers are recommending approval of the application, but very disappointing to see that they have made no real effort to press for the brown roof many of us asked for, and that this is not a proposed condition. Indeed it is disturbing to note that despite brown roofs being a Council biodiversity enhancement/mitigation priority on industrial buildings ‘especially near the Thames’, and that this is a ‘material consideration’ (and must therefore be taken into account in the planning process), the existence of this policy is not mentioned in the document. If the Council will not push for a brown roof here, it is hard to see where they would, which puts the Council’s commitment to this policy, and the credibility of it, under the spotlight.

The applicant claims that a brown roof would not be financially viable, and I have written to the case officer to ask where evidence of that claim may be found, as it is not on the planning portal website. Brown roofs can cut running costs by improving insulation and cutting heating and cooling bills.

Elsewhere concerns are raised about the possibility of existing ground contamination precluding the use of a ‘Sustainable Urban Drainage Scheme’, which would make slowing run-off, which a brown roof would help do, important to get the building within the greenfield run-off rates now required.

It should be noted that the Ecology and Sustainability Officer says:
‘Brown roofs would be ideal for this development.’ They have proven biodiversity value.

Our other concerns have been addressed rather more effectively. Officers recommend that the applicants be required to provide a plan to avoid harm to Water Voles and their burrows in the neighbouring ditch during building works, and also a management scheme and funding for it for both the ditch and a 5 metre buffer zone for these animals and other wildlife.

We can also read in the report that ‘The applicant has mentioned that there would be building mounted external lighting, but has not provided any further details. As the site abuts a site of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation, it is considered imperative that the proposal does not lead to any light pollution of the adjacent marshes, in order not to harm the local biodiversity. Therefore, it is considered necessary that exact details of external lighting (including the hours of use, the level of luminance and the orientation of the lighting) shall be agreed by way of condition.’

Officers have been rather more blase about overall amenity impact. Given our concerns about visual intrusion, I’m sure we’ll all be delighted (ahem) to read that ‘The building would be visible from the adjacent Erith marshes (north)nature conservation area, and in order to protect the character and appearance of the adjacent marshes, the applicant has confirmed that the flank gable elevations, the rear western elevation and the roof of the building would all be finished in a dark green colour, which would be sympathetic to the adjacent marshes.’ Can’t we have full combat camouflage then?

Frankly, this planning application is poor, having taken little note of the surrounding environment, which it ignorantly and insultingly described as ‘bleak’ (something we believe is down to the proliferation of grey metal sheds and incinerators, not the vital and beautiful wildlife habitat), or sustainability issues, contrary to policy 7.19 of the London Plan which seeks ‘planning for nature from the beginning of the development process and taking opportunities for positive gains for nature through the layout, design and materials of development proposals and appropriate biodiversity action plans.’

Given that the Council is short of money, should so much officer time be spent plugging glaring holes in the planning applications of private companies that are still stuck on 20th century standards as regards sustainabiliy and our relationship with nature? I think not.

STARTING TO TURN THE SCREW HARDER

Now that we have our website and Facebook platforms, it should be noted that we are in a far stronger position to put these sorts of issues and deficiencies in the public domain, and we will be doing so.

Chris Rose
Vice-chair, Bexley Natural Environment Forum

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