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Planning threat to natural woodland, Bowley Lane off Farquhar Road

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#46 radiostar



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Posted 16 January 2013 - 07:07 PM

Thank you to everyone who came to the appeal hearing yesterday. Considering it was a weekday and at a venue in central London getting 16 local people in attendance was no mean feat. The appellant came with a team of four: an ecologist, a planning appeals consultant, an arboriculturist and the scheme architect. The Council team consisted of the a case officer. the borough ecology officer and urban forester, an officer from the housing design department and a transport planning officer. All three of our ward councillors attended and made impassioned and well presented arguments against the planning application and supporting the views of local people. A big thank goes to Cllr's Lewis Robinson, Helen Hayes, andAndy Simmons. Along with the planning inspector there were 29 people crammed into a boardroom at Southwark's swanky offices, seated in two layers around a rectangular arrangement of tables.

The planning inspector seemed to me to be very 'switched on' and informed. She seemed very aware of the issues, the site (even though she had not visited in advance as would be the norm in most cases) and started off by saying she had read all the documentation and representations, and asked those present not to repeat what was already in those representations. She focused the hearing on three key areas: character and appearance of the proposals (inc. design, the impact on trees and the 'green-corridor effect'), nature conservation (impact on local nature reserve - LNR - and proximity of proposals to the LNR), and parking (inc. loss of amenity to local residents). The meeting kicked off at 10 sharp until 2:20 when it had to be dismissed so that it could move to the spinney for the site inspection. We didn't restart at the spinney until 3:30 and it lasted for another hour. At the site visit no one was allowed to raise new points or arguments, all anyone could do (appellant included) was point out things that had been referred to at the earlier hearing - which we all did! All in all, everyone 'had their say'.

It is now up to the planning inspector to make the final decision, and whatever her decision is will be the final decision, and advised that the decision could be anytime from two to five weeks away.

So, as soon as I know anything I will let everyone know.

#47 kibitzer



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Posted 17 January 2013 - 02:40 PM

I have to admire your tenacity Radiostar in keeping this matter on the Agenda, let's hope it pays off and that a good result is forthcoming. Well done!

#48 radiostar



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Posted 07 March 2013 - 06:09 PM

After a nail-biting seven week wait the decision by the Planning Inspectorate on the appeal by the developer against Southwark's refusal of planning permission to build in the wooded spinney at Spinney Gardens/Bowley Lane was released yesterday.


The appeal was dismissed. The developer lost. The locals won!!!!


A four-page report summarized the Inspectors findings. To briefly summarize,  the Inspector concluded that "it (the proposed building) would be unacceptably harmful to the character and appearance of the area" and that "the proximity of the building...would be visually intrusive for those wishing to enjoy the natural woodland environment" (of the adjacent Dulwich Upper Wood local nature reserve). The Inspector also felt that the parts of the proposal designed to be eco-friendly (the green sedum roof, the bat and bird boxes, the planting of a handful of trees to compensate for the dozens that would have been removed) did not adequately compensate for the negative ecological impact of building so close to the nature reserve. The Inspector agreed that the lack of included car-parking spaces could lead to overspill parking issues as well as narrowing of Bowley Lane for access but that this point was not a reason to dismiss the appeal (so, a point in favor of the developer) and that the spinney's role as a bat commuting route would likely be unimpeded by the proposed building. But the design failed to respect the immediate surroundings and failed to integrate into the local built environment, and whilst the Inspector stated there was no statutory requirement that a buffer of open space be deployed (part of the proposed building would have been less than a meter from the boundary with the nature reserve, the borough ecology officer had advised that at least 10 meters of open space be deployed between building and boundary similar to the 12 meter buffer extant at Spinney Gardens) the proposed building was too close to the nature reserve and would impact negatively on the users of Dulwich Upper Wood due to its close proximity (especially to the footpath at that section of the Wood) and to the important nature conservation work of the Wood. Furthermore the Inspector stated there was no evidence that the Council required the site to meet its housing requirements so the developer would be virtually unable if he wanted to try again to include a claim that building flats in the spinney would help Southwark meets its new housing targets.


There was more, but to include everything here would be too much. But this should now bring to a close a near-three year period of uncertainty and worry for people living at Spinney Gardens, Bowley Lane and Burntwood View, not to mention all the many users of and visitors to Dulwich Upper Wood. So, an important victory for local people and for the area. And hopefully one that will inspire challenges to and objections against other unwanted and inappropriate development proposals in the area!


Thank you, and goodnight!!!!!

Edited by radiostar, 07 March 2013 - 06:13 PM.

#49 kibitzer



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Posted 07 March 2013 - 06:21 PM

Well done!

#50 Darcey



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Posted 07 March 2013 - 06:56 PM

This is a great result, well done indeed :)

#51 Maz



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Posted 08 March 2013 - 09:37 AM

That's excellent.


Very impressive stuff; well done.

Gabba Gabba Hey
פɐqqɐ פɐqqɐ Hǝʎ

#52 JMS



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Posted 08 March 2013 - 09:38 AM

Good result - sounds like an in principle dismisal.

#53 charlie



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Posted 09 March 2013 - 10:48 AM

Great result - well done Radiostar. Common sense and planning prevailed! Nice when the two come together.


Good coverage in News from Crystal Palace too:


Folks – we won!: That was how many residents who campaigned against plans to build four masisonettes on the spinney in Spinney Gardens heard their opposition to the proposals had been successful.
In an email to campaigners Save Our Spinney, the group set up to fight the proposals, added: “After a nail biting seven weeks the planning inspector’s decision was issued first thing this morning, and the appeal by Covent Garden Ltd. against Southwark’s planning permission refusal to build that hideous flat-roofed structure in the wooded spinney at Spinney Gardens / Bowley Lane has been refused and will not go ahead.
“The refusal decision consists of a five-page document dealing with the majority of objection points raised. Some of these points the inspector agreed with and some she did not.
“I think the appellant still has the right to mount a high court challenge to the decision, and I don’t know if this latest refusal prevents Covent Garden from making future applications. “I will liaise with the ward councilors and get their advice on this.
“In the meantime lets all celebrate the decision. “Hurrah!!!”
In her report dismissing the appeal, the inspector Christina Downes, said:
“The appeal site is a triangular shaped area of land to the south of Spinney Gardens and to the north of Bowley Lane.  “An important feature of the area is the trees and vegetation which provide an attractive setting, particularly for the distinctive residential development of Spinney Gardens.
“This estate of flats and houses was constructed in the 1980’s and has a strong linear form, pitched roofs and projecting glazed conservatories.
“It stands down from Crystal Palace Parade and its design, layout and mature landscaping provide a secluded and semi-rural ambience which is clearly valued by those who live there.
“The appeal site comprises a small spinney which is subject to a woodland tree preservation order (TPO). “Although I observed it during the winter months I can imagine that it provides a green and leafy screen which contributes to the ambience of Spinney Gardens and provides separation from the more conventional terraced housing to the south.
“Whether or not the land was part of the original landscaping scheme for the Spinney Gardens development it does provide a greening function and this has been recognised through the TPO, which was confirmed in March 2012.
“Immediately to the west is the Dulwich Upper Wood local nature reserve (LNR) which is also a site of importance for nature conservation and MOL (metropolitan open land).
“Whilst the appeal site itself is not subject to any of these designations it appears in many respects as a natural extension of the more mature woodland of the LNR.”
The inspector said the proposal included a flat roofed modular building with a staggered layout. While there was no objection to a contemporary design and such an approach was endorsed by the London Plan and  the development would be acceptable as a piece of architecture she had “considerable concern” about its suitability to this particular location.
“Even though the surrounding development exhibits a degree of diversity it is difficult to see how the appeal scheme has sought to acknowledge the design and layout of the surrounding development.
“In particular the northern elevation would only have two windows and large areas of blank wall and there would be little respect for the very distinct character of Spinney Gardens, notwithstanding its visual proximity.
“Whilst the national planning policy framework (the framework) makes clear that innovation should not be stifled it also advises that local distinctiveness should be promoted or reinforced.
“In this case the development would not integrate successfully with its host environment.
“It is appreciated that the design of the development has sought to be sensitive to its treed location and that the construction methodology would allow trees in proximity to the building to be retained.
“Nonetheless there would be a substantial reduction in tree cover.
“It is appreciated that many of the trees lost would be the smaller, self seeded species that have been deemed of low quality and value in the appellant’s arboricultural report. 
“But in a woodland TPO it is not the individual trees that are of prime importance, rather it is the amenity value of the woodland as a whole.
“The trees within the narrower eastern section of the site and along the boundary with Bowley Lane would be retained.
“But the direct tree loss within the central and northern parts of the site and its replacement with the proposed built development would change the character of the site irredeemably, especially when viewed from Spinney Gardens and the footpath which crosses the eastern part of the site.
“The amenity value of this mixed deciduous woodland would be severely diminished and the new building would be harmful in itself through its failure to respect its surroundings.
“It is possible that a few of the trees should be removed for safety reasons and there may be justification for the thinning of others in the interests of good woodland management.
“Whilst the proposal indicates new tree planting it is difficult to see where this could take place whilst still retaining reasonable amenity space for future occupiers.
“The appeal site also acts as a wildlife corridor for bats between the LNR and Crystal Palace park to the east.
“Whilst no roosts have been identified on the site, bats forage within this treed environment. “The evidence suggests that such activity would continue due to the continuous canopy remaining along the southern boundary.
“Whilst there would be lighting from inside the dwellings there was no convincing evidence that this would have an adverse effect on the protected species.
“I saw that low impact ‘bat friendly’ street lights have been installed along the eastern side of Spinney Gardens and a similar arrangement could be used for any external lighting required on the appeal site.
“It seems improbable there would be any harm to bat roosts or insect life within the LNR.
“The western elevation of the building would be within about two metres of the boundary with the LNR. “This would be significantly closer than the 12 metres that separates the designated site from the western façade of Spinney Gardens.
“There is no policy that requires a buffer zone of any particular width between a LNR and development but note that the appellant’s own ecological assessment recommends that the building should be ‘as far away
from the woodland boundary as can be achieved’.
“The proximity of the building to the pathway that enters the LNR from Bowley Lane, crosses the site and then continues close to the eastern edge of the LNR would be visually intrusive for those wishing to enjoy the natural woodland environment, notwithstanding the position of existing trees.
“This would not just be a fleeting view apparent when passing alongside the development but would also be evident when approaching from either direction.
“This visual impact would diminish the experience and appreciation of the nature conservation interest of the protected woodland for passers-by. 
“Policy 3.11 seeks to ensure the efficient use of land but this is subject to a number of provisions.
“One is that the legitimate activities on neighbouring sites should not be unreasonably compromised.
“The proposal does not accord with this requirement.”

#54 radiostar



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Posted 30 August 2017 - 03:03 PM

Hello all, it's been a while since I last made use of the forum, so I hope it is still as effective at reaching local people as it used to be.


But....four years on, and the same piece of woodland known locally as the spinney is under threat of planning once again. Just to clarify, it is the curved-almost-triangular section of woodland along Bowley Lane that seperates Bowley Lane from the Spinney Gardens estate, and is connected to though not officially part of the much-loved Dulwich Upper Wood nature reserve, off Farquhar Road.


Since the previous planning application to build a staggered block of four two-bedroom apartments was refused in 2012 and the appeal refused also (in 2013), that section of woodland called the spinney was hived off from the rest of the Spinney Gardens estate as a separate piece of land, and sold at auction by its owner. Actually, it has been sold at auction this year twice! The people who bought it now want to build a single three-bedroom wood clad house in the spinney, with a garden, and car parking space. A quite fancy urban design and planning consultancy is handling the scheme. Whilst the scheme is different from the scheme that was refused a few years back it still fails to address many of the key issues the Planning Inspectorate based their refusal on. The proposed house would be set a bit further back from the boundary with the nature reserve, but it would still be clearly visible from within the wood, along the path that goes from Bowley Lane, and there would be a fence along the boundary.


There are grave concerns about the Ecology and Tree assessments the applicant has provided to Southwark, and locals are concerned the assessments do not accurately report the ecological significance of this little plot of land and the impact any occupancy of it would have on the conservation work in the nature reserve (Dulwich Upper Wood). There are concerns also that even though a TPO is in place, there would need to be significant cutting down of trees to allow for the house and its grounds. There are many other concerns , such as how the design does not reflect or fit in with the surrounding housing, and so on.


The planning application was submitted around 8th August and there is now only until Thursday 7th September for objections to be lodged, but thankfully it is quite easy to do and can be done online via the Southwark planning web site.


Below is a link to the planning portal on the Southwark web site, where all the documents such as the layout of the site, the design, ecological reports and so on are freely available for download. Thankfully, they don't take long to read or view:




And comments/objections can be submitted here:




Hopefully, as many local people and groups will be as interested in saving this little piece of woodland connected to Dulwich Upper Wood as the last time it was under threat. Fingers crossed .... again!

Edited by radiostar, 30 August 2017 - 03:04 PM.