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Some extracts from the applicant's document planning statement 25.9.12.pdf.
3.1 " . . . the community centre element is not sufficiently to warrant the application of policy CW2"
3.1 The property has been marketed and this led to no interest
The marketing details referred to are the Strettons original marketing which was dilatory and did not result in a sale. To say that there was no interest is not quite true. A number of suggestions were made on Twitter and the idea of public ownership floated at an early stage. Such suggestions led to a viable coalition arising between a local Jewish group and the YMCA, which helps in part to explain the vigorous bidding at the eventual auction of the property..
Here's agovernment thing a ma jig designed to enable communities to take actual possession of local assets. Perhaps this scheme might make my shared ownership idea a runner though perhaps not as a brewery
Here follows a well argued demolition of the applicant's supporting documents
20th October 2012
Dear Mr Holt
Re: Earl Haig Memorial Hall
I object to the application on the following grounds:-
Use of the building
2.0 of the Design and Access statement states that "…the building was closed in 2010 due to a lack of usage and no other commercially viable use has been found for it in the subsequent two years before being put up for sale." Similarly, 3.2 of the Planning Statement states that the "The property has been marketed and this led to no interest to retain the existing building use or building on the site." Both statements are misleading and/or incorrect. The building had been put up for sale soon after the local British Legion club closed in 2010, rather than in 2012. Several commercially viable uses were proposed but all were hampered by the then owner’s refusal to lease the building, and by the prohibitively high sale price which incorporated a significant "hope value" in respect of potential residential redevelopment. The building was, and remains, attractive for several commercially viable uses. This is demonstrated by pub operator Antic's recent licence application and Crouch End Community Hall's recently granted planning application for a certificate of lawfulness. The hall's closure in 2010 was due to the local British Legion club's membership dwindling. That in no way indicated the absence of a commercially viable community-based use for the existing building. Moreover, the applicant cannot possibly have definitive knowledge of other potential users' interest in retaining the existing building.
2.11 of the Planning Statement states that, following discussions with the council's former Principal Conservation Officer, Mortimer McSweeney, it has been established as a matter of principle that the council has "no objection to the loss of the existing use". This is incorrect and there is no statement to that effect in the council's pre-application planning advice note.
3.1 of the Planning Statement then states that the council has confirmed that Policy CW2 (Protecting Existing Community Facilities) will not apply to the applicant's proposal. Again, this is incorrect. In fact the council's advice note expressly refers to Policy CW2, which states that permission for the change of use or demolition of a community facility will only be granted if the community facility is derelict or out of use, and no other community groups are willing or able to use it, and if alternative accommodation is provided. The council's advice note states that the "the hall has also been used by the wider community for a variety of activities. A case for the change of use should therefore be made in this context". The council advice note does not state that the council has no objection to the loss of the existing use. CWD has not made a case for the change of use as required by the council in accordance with Policy CW2.
3.1 of the Planning Statement describes the existing use as being a "…British Legion Hall…with occasional other subordinate uses…" This is incorrect. Not only were other uses more than occasional but the council's recently-issued certificate of lawfulness describes them as neither occasional nor subordinate.
Economic and aesthetic factors
3.9 of the Planning Statement states that the proposal will contribute positively in the economic context by:-
i) Regenerating a redundant site;
ii) Improving the street scene;
iii) Creating a high quality environment;
iv) Contributing to the local economy through construction.
As regards i) above, the site is not redundant. Crouch End Community Hall Ltd (CECH) is a company backed by local people that intends to apply for charitable status. Those local backers were outbid at auction. CECH successfully applied for the recently granted certificate of lawfulness. CECH is keen to operate the site as a community centre. It is only prevented from doing so by a reluctance by the applicant and the previous owner to lease or sell the building at a market rent or price that reflects its existing established use.
As regards ii), the proposal will not improve the street scene. The existing building is an attractive and locally significant building and was described in the council's Conservation Area Appraisal as making "…a positive contribution to the conservation area." The applicant's proposal will replace a low-rise building with four considerably higher houses. At best, the proposal is neutral to the street scene.
As regards iii), an alternative user of the building (and certainly CECH) would be expected to refurbish the existing building sensitively and to a high standard, with a view to improving both its internal and external fabric and appearance. The applicant's proposal would not necessarily create a higher quality environment than any other future owner or user of the building.
As regards iv), there is no certainty that the proposal would contribute to the local economy. That will depend on the choice of contractor, where the workers live and where the construction materials are sourced. The applicant's assertion is specious and without foundation. In contrast, a locally-based not-for-profit operator such as CECH would seek to use local companies and workers wherever possible.
Planning policy on housing
3.9, 3.10 and 3.11 of the Planning Statement refer to the social benefits of providing housing on the site and the various planning policies that support new housing. Whilst this may be true as a general principle, it does not override other relevant planning policies that clearly support the retention of a community building that makes a positive contribution to the Conservation Area and which has a commercially viable use as a continuing community facility. In any event, the applicant's argument is weakened in view of the fact that the proposal allows for just four luxury family homes, with no affordable housing contribution.
Conservation Area issues
4.6 of the Planning Statement states that demolition of the existing building coupled with the proposed development will make a "…positive contribution to local character and distinctiveness." This statement is highly questionable in view of the council's Conservation Area Appraisal stating that the existing building makes "…a positive contribution to the conservation area."
3.9 of the Planning Statement and 1.10 and 1.11 of the Heritage Assessment refer to the considerable weight to be given to preserving and enhancing the setting of the Grade II listed Queen's public house. 1.11 of the Heritage Assessment states that the proposal will better reveal the significance of the Queen's and enhance the setting of the pub, while 2.16 suggests that the existing hall "…visually and aesthetically detract from the adjacent grade II listed building". Bearing in mind that the most significant external features of the Queen's are its front and side elevations visible from the Broadway and the end of Elder Avenue, and not its rear elevation, both statements are incorrect. At best, the applicant's proposal will be neutral in this context. At worst, a three storey windowless flank wall right up against the boundary of the rear garden of the Queen's will detract from its setting and the amenity of its customers as well as those living in its upper floors.
3.5 of the Heritage Assessment states that "…the nature of the heritage asset prevents all reasonable uses of the site". It also states that "…no viable use of the heritage asset itself could reasonably be found in the medium term" and that "…the loss of the existing building amounts to only a very small level of harm in terms of its communal and historical value, and this loss can be outweighed by the benefit of bringing the site back into use."
All three statements are entirely false and highly misleading. The existing building is entirely suitable for use as a community hall. As explained above, CECH is keen to use the building for this purpose as soon as possible and has a commercially viable plan for doing so. The local backers behind CECH have funding in place to acquire and refurbish the building at a market price that reflects its existing use.
Taking into account all of the above points, as well as the council's own former Conservation Officer's clear statement that demolition runs contrary to relevant planning policy, his objection to demolition and his statement that a case should be made for change of use which has clearly not been established, the application should be refused.
SCHEDULE OF REASONS FOR REFUSAL FOR DECISION REFERENCE No. HGY/2012/1898
The application shown above has been refused for the following reasons:
1. The proposed development, due to its bulky, unbalanced and obtrusive roofscape, would be out of
keeping with neighbouring development and would therefore cause harm to the character of the Crouch
End Conservation Area and the setting of the adjacent Listed Building. This would be contrary to Policies
UD3 'General Principles', UD4 'Quality Design', CSV1 'Development in Conservation Areas' and CSV2
'Listed Buildings' of the Unitary Development Plan 2006.
2. The proposed development, in the absence of appropriate car parking scheme which meets Council
standards, is likely to exacerbate existing parking pressure within an area that has been identified as
suffering from high on-street parking pressure. This would be contrary to Policies UD3 'General Principles'
and M10 'Parking for Development' of the Unitary Development Plan 2006.