Lewisham: Sydenham Hill Estate plans back to committee | This Is Local London – This is Local London

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The decision to approve 110 new homes on Sydenham Hill Estate was quashed in the High Court last month

The decision to approve 110 new homes on Sydenham Hill Estate was quashed in the High Court last month

A controversial development is going before another planning committee five weeks after Lewisham Council lost a High Court case for approving it.  

Only last month campaigners were celebrating their win after a High Court judge ordered that planning permission for new homes on their estate should be quashed.   

Friends of Mais House had been fighting City of London’s plans for Sydenham Hill Estate since they were approved by a Lewisham planning committee last August.    

The development involves 110 new social homes on the estate.    

As per an agreement with the council, half of the homes will be let to Lewisham residents.         

However, people living on the estate say the plans are too dense, will put pressure on amenities, do not have appropriate disabled access, and will negatively impact the Grade II listed Lammas Green and the conservation area.        

Residents have also said they were not consulted properly.    

Mature trees are set to be cut down if the development goes ahead, but planning officers and committee members felt “on balance” the need for social housing was too important.          

FoMH secured a Judicial Review from the High Court in February to challenge the development. 

The judicial review took place over two days last month.   

Helen Kinsey, a member of the FoMH and a tenant most severely affected by the plans, was represented in court by Susan Ring and Richard Harwood QC.  

Handing down her judgement on May 18, Mrs Justice Lang said: “Given the number of significant errors made by the council, and the possibility that, absent such errors, a different conclusion could have been reached by the planning committee, I consider that the decision to grant planning permission ought to be quashed.”  

She found a number of failures in the way the council handled the planning application, including that the planning committee were given an incomplete picture of the heritage harm and were materially misled on some aspects of the heritage issues.  

Mrs Justice Lang ruled that not enough weight was given to harm to heritage assets, the conservation officer’s advice was not taken into account, and background papers were not made available.  

Cllr Paul Bell, Lewisham’s cabinet member for housing and planning, said at the time that the council was “disappointed” and described the faults found as “relatively minor”.  

FoMH described the win as a “David v Goliath move” and urged City of London to produce a new scheme by “working collaboratively” with residents. 

But now they say they are “disappointed” as Lewisham’s strategic planning committee is set to decide on the mostly unamended scheme next week, which has again been recommended for approval by council planning officers.  

The officers' report on City of London’s latest planning application, to be presented to the committee on June 29, is nearly 40 pages longer than the previous.  

It now includes more information on heritage and significantly more input from the council’s senior conservation officer, tree officer, ecological regeneration manager, and sustainability manager. It also references the reasons for the council’s loss in court.  

Several issues are raised by officers including the “insensitively high” proposed six-storey building in the development and the “detrimental” loss of trees and green space. 

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The ERM “fundamentally” disagreed with the applicant’s judgement that the bat roosts on the site are of “negligible value”.  

They said: “These roosts are of a local value because in the context of the borough, the south west, where the Great North Wood once existed, is the boroughs bat hotspot. Any suggestion that they are of negligible value needs to be challenged.  

“Just because there is good evidence of larger numbers of bats and a greater species diversity in the immediate vicinity does not negate these roosts to negligible value, quite the contrary could be the case.” 

The CA disagreed with the applicant’s assertion that the impact of the loss of green space and trees “is very minor”. 

They said: “It is not clear if this relates to the whole of the plot or only to the rear garden. In any case, I disagree and consider that the edge of the conservation area along Sydenham Hill is highly significant.” 

The tree officer said the loss of a number of significant mature trees would be “detrimental” to the area, while the new trees planned for the development will not replace species being felled.  

City of London said it “considered that the loss of trees and their contribution to the character and setting on the Sydenham Hill frontage is overstated”. 

However, it made some amendments to the scheme such as adding larger tree species and making more space for planting.  

The tree list has been revised to increase the range of tree species to “make a truly diverse collection”, according to the report.  

Officers concluded in the report: “[We] consider that the proposed development secures the optimum viable use of the site and that whilst great weight has been afforded to the heritage harm, the significant public benefits presented by the scheme outweigh the less than substantial harm that has been identified.” 

A spokesperson for FoMH said they were disappointed that the scheme is going back to committee with no significant amendments, “despite the heritage harm being firmly established”. 

“The haste with which they're referring back to committee has left little time for either objectors or committee members to study all the additional or revised documents. 

“I am deeply disappointed by Lewisham's apparent disregard for the opinions of its own consultees.” 

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