EMAIL FROM KEVIN WHITE AFTER THE CONSULTATION MEETING
From: White, Kevin
Sent: Friday, March 06, 2015 3:40 PM
Subject: Consultation on the revised appraisal
Dear Ray (and Committee),
Thank you for attending the meeting to kick-start the consultation last night. I think that the tone can best be described as ‘lively’!
I’ve been thinking about some of the issues that were raised, which you and the rest of the Committee might like to consider before submitting your comments.
It was no surprise that the vexed question of the metal windows was raised. The problem that I have to grapple with when applications come in for changes is the impact on the character of both the individual building, and the area as a whole. This is exacerbated when a change is made to a house in a terrace, where that house would then look different to its neighbours, and harm (as set out in the NPPF) is therefore caused because it affects the uniformity of the terrace. A potential solution would be to look at the windows policy and amend it to allow the Council and the Estate to consider applications where the owners have got together and are able to put forward a proposal for the all of the windows to be changed, either like-for-like (as with the steel windows in Leaside Way) or subject to being able to source an acceptable substitute which did not alter the profiles.
While this would still be considered as harmful (in that original windows will have been removed), the harm would be mitigated by retaining the element of uniformity and the original design. This could be a policy that could be applied across the Conservation Area, and would not have to be specific to a particular street. It may have additional benefits in that by acting together householders may be able to obtain discounts for bulk orders.
Regarding the process for amending the Article 4 Direction, the Secretary of State would need to extinguish the existing Article 4 in order to make a revised one. However, this is a single process. In other words there would be no time lapse between extinguishing the old one and making the new. I have taken advice from our Legal department and that advice is clear – we cannot have a situation where there are two Article 4 Directions for one area. If you know of any areas where things have been done differently I would be interested to know about them, in order that we can consider this as an alternative. However, the advice I have is that the Secretary of State would not sign off two Article 4 Directions for one area.
As you know, I have in the past had firm advice from our Planning Solicitor that policy and guidance must be separated. We have discussed this at length in the past and I was surprised when you raised this as an issue in your presentation. I have suggested that it may be possible to have a separate section to the appraisal that contained the non-statutory guidance that you are keen to retain, but it must be made clear that it is guidance, and not enforceable under planning law (this is after all a planning document).
While I am still of the opinion that the inclusion of Summerfield Gardens is inappropriate, simply because the changes to the properties have been so extensive, I need to reiterate that this is a consultation process. If enough of the residents were to write in requesting that the area is included I would obviously take serious notice of this. The Council isn’t deaf.
Regarding the proposals to extend the scope of the Article 4 Direction to the rear of the properties, clearly if enough people want this, we would have to take this under very serious consideration. While the changes that have taken place may have had an impact on individual outlooks (e.g. the view from another residents rear garden may have changed), it would be difficult to justify at this stage because of the changes that have already, quite legally, taken place. Whether such a change would either be supported by the majority of residents, or indeed be practically enforceable is open to question.
You raised the issue of solar PV units on rear elevations, and intimated that the problem with gaining consent lies with the Council’s attitude to their impact on the conservation area. My understanding has always been that the Estate are opposed to them, which is why they have never been consented, notwithstanding the requirement to gain planning permission for them.
Please feel free to publish this on your web site, and I look forward to a fruitful and thorough consultation.
Historic Environment Group Leader
Southampton City Council
023 8083 3192