A view from the 'Alex triangle'

June 2010 - Taylor Wimpey's response to the Royal Alex planning brief

By Mike Hales

‘Triangle’ issues

In March this year, following a consultation process, the Council adopted a planning brief for the Royal Alex site. As part of this consultation, a group of neighbours in the ‘Alex Triangle’ - homes that look out on to the back of the Alex site - submitted a paper which was especially concerned about the heights of buildings that might be built on the north and west boundaries of the site, and the match between the texture and scale of existing buildings and any new ones.

The planning brief took these views quite fully into consideration, and deals well with these issues. It recognises that the gradient falls very sharply at the north and west boundaries of the site, and thus specifies a maximum height of 2-3 stories for buildings at these boundaries.

In a section on conserving the character of this area, the brief also says:

  • Conservation is not just a matter of retaining historic buildings, it is also a matter of respecting those qualities of space, rhythm and texture which are indicative to the area.... [T]he space [within the Triangle] is environmentally valuable and diverse, [but] somewhat compromised by second-rate and short-life buildings at the rear of the Alex and by some unsympathetic modern development in Clifton Mews. The back of the site therefore represents an opportunity for developers to design a scheme which responds more positively to the rhythms and textures of the surrounding area.

The planning brief sets out the Council’s ‘preferred development scheme’ as follows:

  • 102 residential units (81 new build, 21 conversion).
  • A target of 20% affordable housing units to be achieved as a proportion of the new build elements of the scheme (i.e. excluding 21 conversion units).
  • Retention of the principal building.
  • Retention of the open space to the south of the principal building.
  • Retention of all trees protected by Tree Preservation Orders.
  • Provision of a G.P. surgery.
  • Height of development restricted on the nothern and western boundaries of the site to 2-3 storeys and should not exceed 5 storeys on the remainder of the site.
  • Provision of undercroft parking - 50 spaces.

At the Environment Cabinet meeting in March, Triangle residents asked Councillor Theobald about the status of this brief. In a written answer, he replied:

  • The Brief will be a material planning consideration in the determination of planning applications relating to the site.  It remains to be seen how much weight will be given to the Brief by a Planning Inspector if there is an appeal/inquiry in the future.  However, it is likely that an Inspector, in deciding what weight to attach to the Brief, will give consideration to the extensive consultation process which has gone far beyond that which is normally undertaken in support of Planning Briefs.

Taylor Wimpey’s response

At the Council’s planning committee on June 29th, Taylor Wimpey brought forward two options for development, for pre-submission discussion. Hard as it is to believe, neither of these options meets the Council’s requirements as stated in the planning brief. Following the meeting, one of our ward Councillors commented: “TW continued to show their trademark arrogance and disregard for the community.”

Option 1 (with 118 residential units) retains the main building, as required, but refuses to include any social housing or a GP surgery. As regards the new-build elements of the scheme, there apparently has been no attempt to respond to the opportunity pointed out in the section of the brief on ‘Conservation principles and guidance’: “for developers to design a scheme which responds more positively to the rhythms and textures of the surrounding area.”

Option 2 (with 136 units) requires complete demolition of all buildings on the site, and includes a GP surgery and 40% social housing. It looks very similar to the scheme that was rejected at appeal last year. TW says that these are the only two viable options, and apparently intends to submit both proposals in September, with some publicity mailshots to neighbours but no consultation.

It's a mess

To me, this looks like a complete mess: two proposals at the same time, neither of them meeting the requirements of the planning brief, both of them presumably to be rejected by the Council and perhaps even going again to an appeal. This is a recipe for a terrible waste of time, money, patience and goodwill - a slap in the face for all those in the community whose considered views have been reflected in the planning brief, and apparently assuming that the Council isn’t serious about all the hard work that officers and residents put into developing the brief. Whatever Taylor Wimpey’s commercial aspirations may be at this point in the recession, any proposal that’s going to get refused planning permission and demolition approval is not a ‘viable option’.

Clearly, the Council’s members and officers have their work cut out, to convince TW that their stance will get them nowhere, and to take the brief seriously if they want to build. Members of the community need to figure out what they can do to support this.

Further information

  • The Council's Royal Alex webpage.
  • The final version of the Planning Brief, the Triangle residents' consultation submission and Cllr Theobold's response to questions on an earlier version of the brief can be downloaded below.
Photo:The 'Alex triangle' - 'A' is the highest point of Clifton Hill.

The 'Alex triangle' - 'A' is the highest point of Clifton Hill.

Downloads

Council Planning Brief
Council Planning Brief (1490k)
Final June 2010 version

Cllr Theobold's response to questions on brief
Cllr Theobold's response to questions on brief (68k)
March 2010

Triangle residents' consultation submission
Triangle residents' consultation submission (93k)
Main Document December 2009

Triangle residents' consultation submission
Triangle residents' consultation submission (2659k)
Appendices December 2009

This page was added on 09/07/2010.
Comments about this page

I entirely agree with Mike Hales' view. This is going over the same ground and it appears that TW are entirely ignoring the general consensus reached so far. It has to be seen as delaying tactics on the part of TW. They are ignoring the views of residents in the area

By Pauline Messum
On 29/07/2010

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