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Crouch End Conservation Area under Developer Attack - Please Help!

Hello Neighbours

This is the view from the back door of our house, showing the rear Annexe of the former Abbeyfield Care Home at 23 Coolhurst Road, next door to us, which was closed in September 2018. 

As if this view weren't bad enough, the whole site is now in the hands of a Developer who has applied to convert the main building into seven new flats and to demolish this Annexe and build two new, double-storey, 6m high four-bedroom Townhouses in its place, together with a massive basement larger than the Indoor Swimming Pool at Park Road - all just thirty feet from our back door! 

And what's even worse still is we are being told that Haringey Planners have apparently given private encouragement to the Scheme in principle......

It raises a whole number of important issues, certainly for ourselves, but also for the other immediate neighbours and indeed all residents in the Crouch End Conservation Area.  Here's the full story in gory detail..... 
The rear Annexe pictured here was built in 1982 with public money via Grant Aid.  Haringey's Planning Department initially recommended planning refusal for the Annexe because it was proposed to be built in a position where no development was, or is now, or ever should be allowed. 

Haringey Council perhaps understandably chose back then to make an exception because it needed the extra care provision. 

The Annexe was paid for with public money.  Haringey accepted the argument that the Annexe  HAD to be built in that (prohibited) location so the Annexe's residents would be easily able to access the communal facilities in the main building.   

Fair enough, but an extremely intrusive ugly building to have constantly in your lap like this for over twenty years!!  That said, we enjoyed having the Care Home next door, and built an excellent relationship with the team there over the years.

Fast-forward 36 years, and Haringey has now lost all the social care capacity of Morriss House, without consultation.  Abbeyfield, the  Care Home owners, by-passed the planning rules under which the Care Home had to be marketed first to prospective purchasers providing other forms of social care.  Instead it sold the site to a Residential Property Developer for £3.1m who has never had any intention other than to exploit the site to its absolute maximum for residential purposes.

In this Planning Application HGY/2019/3212, the Developer is not proposing to actually use the Annexe for residential purposes anyway.  They simply want its existence as a redundant building to confer new residential development rights to build on its former location.  They want to knock the Annexe down and build something new - far larger, higher and with a massive basement, all in a position where new backland residential development is not allowed by Haringey under the provisions of DM7.  These new residential development rights would, if granted, create a very unwelcome precedent for new residential backland development in our Conservation area.

The erection of these two new double-storey Townhouses, 6m high, just thirty-five feet from the rear building line of all the properties on our side of Coolhurst Road House, together with this truly massive basement complex is clearly over-development in the Crouch End Conservation Area.

Allowing this Scheme will set an extremely dangerous, unwelcome precedent for new 'piggy-back' residential development in any reasonably sized back garden in the Conservation Area.                     

The location of these new Townhouses would seriously damage the amenity of all the immediate neighbours, including ourselves, the sixteen flat owners in Hurst Lodge, and even the owners of the seven new flats in Morriss House itself.

Given the Applicant is applying to demolish the existing rear Annexe as being out of character with the Conservation Area, Haringey should indeed permit the demolition of the now redundant Care Home Annexe under 2.66 of its Planning Guidlelines which state that buildings should be removed where they detract from the character of the Conservation Area.  Haringey must NOT then permit the erection of the two far larger Townhouses in its place because the proposed location is not permitted for new residential development under DM7.

The Scheme creates numerous overlooking issues, not just for ourselves but between the seven flats in the main building and the Townhouses themselves  Eight of the Scheme's total of 21 bedrooms are located within the basement complex with no views and little access to daylight.  The overall Scheme is all about pushing Haringey's Planning Regulations to their limits in order to exploit every available inch of potential development space.

The Scheme involves the loss of several mature trees (including trees in neighbouring gardens) and the loss of substantial garden space both front and rear.  This is not supposed to be allowed in our Conservation Area. 

The conversion of Morriss House's main building (which was originally an Edwardian single family dwelling) into seven flats is arguably already an over-development in itself as the maximum number of flats in the conversions of identical properties on Coolhurst Road is four.   

The huge basement complex, below existing ground water levels, will adversely impact on the basements of neighbouring properties which are already prone to flooding.   It is justified by an 'Expert' Basement Impact Assessment, whose conclusion that there is no risk of flooding to adjoining properties, is solely based on a borehole study done at a site 100 yards away in Summer 1961 -  59 years ago!!   Some expert!   The Basement Impact Assessment is of shockingly poor quality and contravenes virtually all the provisions of Policy DM18 and must be rejected and a proper independent Assessment done, based on current borehole data taken at the site itself, in winter, when ground water levels are at their highest.  A basement on this scale will seriously interfere with ground water levels and surface water run-off on what is defined as a critical drainage slope in the Conservation Area. 

The Application contains no detailed Method Statement to explain how the 2000 cubic metres of excavation/demolition spoil can be removed safely, nor how all the construction materials for the new Townhouses and the enormous volumes of concrete necessary for the basement can be delivered safely and as such fails to satisfy the Guidelines on Basements contained in DM18/A/h) 

The rear Annexe site has no independent vehicular access for large scale digging equipment or heavy lorries.  All spoil and deliveries will have to be transported down a 1.5m wide passage way to the side of Morriss House and then loaded/unloaded curbside on Coolhurst Road where it will cause chaos over an estimated two year project completion period. 

Coolhurst Road is narrow, congested with parking both sides, and heavily used by children going to and from Highgate Woods School.  It is entirely unsuitable for the safe manoeuvring of heavy lorries. The number of lorry movements required for this project is astonishing.  Building Control should recommend refusal to the Planners until a credible Method Statement is produced.                               

The Applicant's 'Expert' Traffic Survey purports to prove there is plenty of extra capacity for Residents' Parking on Coolhurst Road!!  The Survey was intentionally conducted over a completely unrepresentative period in November when parking load is at a minimum.  All local residents know that Coolhurst Road is heavily congested, especially during the period April to September when parking overspill from Coolhurst Tennis Club, a valuable community asset, nevertheless fills all available space in the surrounding streets.  The Traffic Study must be repeated during the summer months when the use of on-street parking on Coolhurst Road is at its maximum.  The Council has the power to permanently refuse new Resident Parking permits for the seven new flatholders in Morriss House if existing demand has exceeded availability.

The Application calls for two Off-street Parking places and a dropped curb for access onto Coolhurst road. Essentially identical applications were previously twice rejected on safety grounds.  Haringey must do so again.  But, unlike the two previous applications, the creation of these two new spaces involves the removal of the site's entire front garden and all its trees.  These gardens and trees are a defined characteristic in Haringey's Crouch End Conservation Character Appraisal and are supposed to be protected.    

There is also the whole issue of the loss of Care Home provision in Haringey.  The proposed Planning Change of Use from C2 (Special Needs Housing) to C3 (Residential) requires the Applicant to prove that the lost Care Home capacity is not required by Haringey.  Everyone knows that Haringey is in desperate need of additional capacity and not a reduction in capacity.  Show me the Councillor or any senior Haringey Executive responsible for the Elderly who would say that a reduction in Care Home capacity is acceptable when no replacement capacity is being offered! The Applicant relies on a letter from the previous operator, Abbeyfield, saying that the Home was not commercially viable without additional investment, but this letter was rather cynically provided by Abbeyfield as part of the 'sale package' of Morriss House and must be ignored on those grounds alone.  The Applicant further relies on two more 'Expert' Reports which, over fifty turgid pages, attempt to prove the commercial viability argument. However, neither commercial unviability nor the need for investment are valid planning reasons for allowing Change of Use, as is very clearly stated in Planning Policy DM15.    If Haringey is to genuinely apply its own Planning Guidelines, Haringey should refuse the Application for Residential Change of Use.   Are you happy with the loss of this Care Home provision?                                                                                                                     

All this will be happening in our Conservation Area next year and we are told that Haringey Planners are in principle supportive of this Application.  Unless we stop it.  Those are the issues. They undoubtedly affect us severely but they also affect you strategically in terms of an erosion in the Planning standards being upheld in our Conservation Area.

We'd greatly value your neighbourly help in objecting strongly to this Application on the Haringey Planning portal - just google the Haringey Planning, click 'View and Comment on Current Applications', then click, 'View Applications' and enter the site address of 23 Coolhurst Road in the Search Box.

We're also happy to respond to any comments, questions or criticisms you might have.

Thank you.

Rob Mackenzie

21 Coolhurst Road

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Replies to This Discussion

Rob, you seem to have marshalled a good many arguments against the development. Remember that your arguments must be based on planning grounds. There seems little or no hope that the Care Home arguments will carry any weight, as this has already gone. 

Traffic is a hot topic at the moment. If you really believe this would be an issue with the new development then get in Touch with the Liveable Crouch End team, which has Cllr Hearn at its head (email address on this page). This team is trying to reduce traffic movements in Crouch End.

Whatever DM7 says there is an overriding imperative to build homes, handed down from Manifesto to manifesto and through all the many layers of government.  This arises because there are too many households, Old people are living longer (aren't we a damn nuisance) and blocking houses, divorcees each require a home, and former CE resident Gillian Anderson espouses living apart from your partner. Plus of course sustained, though diminishing, levels of immigration.

You make no mention of your local councillors. You should recruit them to your cause. Thay have some influence in extending the period of consultation and of having the decision referred away from officers to a planning sub-committee, at which it would be possible for you to present your case.

Hi Adrian

Thanks for reading it through and for the helpful suggestions.  I agree the Care Home is probably lost for good, but if Haringey were to refuse the Residential Change of Use it would certainly send a signal to Care Home operators and Residential Developers that Haringey was serious about preventing this kind of back-door loss of Care Home provision in the Borough!

I'm not opposed to the creation of the seven flats in the main building, even though the norm for identical properties on Coolhurst Road is three, because I do recognise the need for new housing units, (and I won't be directly affected by the Residential Parking problems as we have off-street parking ourselves)  Those potentially badly affected by increased demand for Residents'Parking on Coolhurst Road should object under the provisions of Policy DM32 and lobby the Planners to refuse the development flats' rights to have to Residents' Permits which the Council can do under DM32, 5.8 

I have contacted all our Ward Councillors asking them to help ensure it goes to before the Full Planning Committee so let's see what happens.  I hope you'll feel able to object to this.  Big new Townhouses with massive basements built within thirty-five feet from the rear property line of the main buildings is a hugely unwelcome precedent for backland development anywhere, but especially in our Conservation area.

Kind regards

Rob

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