26 Jun 2017

Woodlands planning application rejected

With Peter Bolt from Conservation Areas Wirral
and Maureen Moore from the Clifton Park 
Conservation and Residents Association
I am pleased to report that a planning application to convert 50A The Woodlands into four flats has been rejected. As a member of Wirral Council's planning committee I supported the views of local residents and argued that the application, if approved, would:

1. undermine the character of the area
2. make parking problems worse
3. have a negative impact on the Clifton Park conservation area

The plans included a dormer window in the roof space at the rear of 50A The Woodlands. This clearly breaks the rules that apply in conservation areas such as Clifton Park. I was pleased that a majority of councillors on the committee accepted my arguments and voted to refuse the application.

I would like to congratulate all those residents who signed the petition of objection and the Birkenhead and Tranmere Neighbourhood Planning Forum who made a strong objection to the application.

This is very good news. It sends a clear message to developers and will help protect the conservation area in future. I am very keen to see Clifton Park improved. I have been in talks with Conservation Areas Wirral about their plans to protect and enhance Clifton Park. I am supporting their calls for new "conservation area" signs at key entry points into Clifton Park.

You can read a summary of my address to the committee below.

Planning application APP/17/00126: 50A The Woodlands. Conversion of dwelling into four self-contained flats and construction of rear dormer window.

The planning officer's report is available here.

I have several concerns about this application.
Character of the area
The Woodlands is a mix of very large properties suited to flat conversions and family homes. The vast majority of homes have been retained as single family units. We need to recognise that converting these properties into flats does alter this balance and impacts on the character and feel of the area.
As Conservation Areas Wirral has pointed out; "Clifton Park is becoming seriously at risk because of the ever increasing number of flats being created in the area"
Parking
Parking is a particular concern in this area due to the narrowness of The Woodlands which is one-way along its entire length and its proximity to the town centre. A residents parking scheme is in place which reflects the long standing issues relating to parking.
Clearly the conversion of three additional residential units has the potential to add significantly to these pressures.
Impact on the conservation area
From a conservation view point the key impact of this application would be the proposed dormer window in the roof space. This would dramatically alter the view of 50A The Woodlands when viewed from Lowwood Grove.
I agree with the point made by the Birkenhead and Tranmere Neighbourhood Forum which states;
"the proposed dormer window would appear alien and horribly obtrusive in this sensitive design environment"
and Conservation Areas Wirral when it says it would; "alter the whole roof profile from the road and is not appropriate in this setting"
Even the council officer's report says "the proposed dormer is not considered to be a positive contribution."
What surprised me about the officer's report is that it goes on to say; "the location of the dormer will not have a detrimental impact onto the balanced appearance of the terrace of houses as it will not be visible when viewed from The Woodlands".
It seems from the report that nobody has considered the visual impact from Lowwood Grove. Clearly the new dormer would have a massive impact on the street scene when viewed from Lowwood Grove.
Also, I have checked, and there have been no applications to install dormer windows in Clifton Park within the past five years. Therefore, there is no precedent for such an application to be approved.
The application clearly breeches council policy
Wirral Council policy CH2 states that developments within conservation areas must "preserve or enhance" the area.
By radically altering the original design of 50A The Woodlands this application fails to preserve both the character and appearance of the conservation area.
For the reasons outlined above and, particularly, the negative impact on the conservation area, I am voting to refuse this application and urge fellow members of the committee to do likewise.

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