A reader who lives in Old Farm Avenue, Sidcup suggested I went to last night’s
Planning committee meeting which isn’t the sort of place anyone would want to
spend a balmy late summer evening. However he tempted me by saying a case of
some notoriety was going back to planning for the third time.
It is not a case that has been reported here before despite it being well over a year since I first heard about it but proof that it might be a bit fishy was always too elusive. Suffice to say that it was suggested a member of the planning team was the applicant and it was something that would ordinarily be thrown out. The story sort of evaporated when the Planning committee did exactly that. Threw it out that is. Then it somehow got approved. The nearest I got to reporting it was a slightly tongue in cheek version of what may have happened - or not as the case may be.
Having got the house built a problem has arisen. One of the planning conditions is that two windows at roof level must be translucent (frosted) and non-opening. The fact is that the proposed house was far too close to its neighbours and would infringe on their privacy. Probably the application should have been refused but it was an inside job and opposition was limited because it was not strongly opposed. This was said to be because no one was given the opportunity to object to the proposal to squeeze a house into a back garden. The letters simply disappeared in the post. All of them.
This is probably true because during yesterday’s meeting councillor Seán Newman referred to the previous failure to distribute consultation papers. He wanted to know if the same may have happened this time around. He got no answer but I can tell him that I was called to the meeting only at the last minute because most if not all neighbours had not received any notification. As a result only one had got in quickly enough to make an objection.
The reason the applicant was back for the third time is that the now completed house falls foul of the Building Regulations. Those unopenable windows are a fire safety risk. They have to open.
The proposal was to fit windows with restricted opening facilities, a 100mm gap but with a release mechanism in case of fire.
Councillor Val Clark was not at all happy with that and probably she was right to be worried. She said that she had such a window at her own home and it can be fully opened at the flick of a switch. She also stated the fairly obvious, but no one else had noticed, that a fire escape 20 feet above a concrete driveway is not a very attractive proposition. She was supported on both points by a number of other councillors.
Councillor Simon Windle who is a more incisive thinker than your average Bexley councillor was concerned that if the proposed windows were fitted and the restricted opening release switch was thrown, there would be nothing the council could do to prevent it, having approved such windows. Good point Simon.
Then councillor Kerry Allon played the ace. He said that he had seen unopenable fire safe windows in commercial premises. Normally they wouldn’t open but in the event of a fire you gave them a good thump and they fell out. The decision was therefore deferred so that such windows could be investigated and the application considered another time.
The affected residents went home a lot happier than they had predicted they would be. It was clear that the Planning committee was going to steer an ethical course. From what I have observed that is generally the case; not of course if the affected neighbour is a Cabinet member.
Planning Application 13/00984/FUL.