Planning Nightmare in our Conservation Area

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Robert Mackenzie
Robert Mackenzie signed this petition

This petition relates to the proposed development of the old Abbeyfield Care Home at Morriss House, 23 Coolhurst Road, Crouch End.  It is the third application, with the previous two having been withdrawn under the weight of neighbourhood objection for numerous planning reasons, which in total represent a massive over-development of what was originally a single family dwelling.  The latest application is essentially the same as the previous one, with the same nine residential units, including two new four-bedroom Townhouses in the back garden less than forty feet from the original house. 

We deplore the fact that the Developer has submitted this revised Application in the current circumstances when neighbours are dealing with far more important issues.  We object to the Planning Application HGY/2020/0773 at 23 Coolhurst Road for the following reasons

1.       The construction of two, four-bedroom townhouses in the back garden so close to the rear building line of the main properties occupies a site where new residential development is expressly forbidden by Haringey (see picture taken from our back door!).  As residents, we expect Haringey to apply its rules rigorously to protect us from this kind of development in our Conservation Area.

2.       The fact that a dormitory Annexe to the Care Home had been previously built there (in 1983, as an express exception to the planning rules to accommodate the care home's expansion) can be no justification for allowing its change of use to residential. The Developer's argument, that this Annexe was already in 'quasi-residential use, is both irrelevant and deeply flawed. The Annexe has a category C2 commercial use and its proposed change to residential use should simply be refused because of its position, where residential development is prohibited, especially in a conservation area.  In any case, the Annexe never had no genuine residential use.  It was simply an 'overflow' dormitory.  It had no kitchen, no dining area, no independent access, no designated garden, and no living space.  Its occupants spent their entire 'residency' in the main building, where all the communal residential facilities were situated.

3.       The consequence of siting these new townhouses in this location is a highly compromised design lay-out, with numerous issues of restricted light, direct overlooking into neighbours' properties and indeed overlooking issues between the new townhouses and Morriss House itself.  Haringey is required to consider the quality of amenity in any new development, and the reality is that the resultant amenity is poor, and the scheme makes highly inefficient use of the site as a whole.

4.       The garden arrangements, where all the residents of Morriss House would have access to a very small area of garden directly behind the new townhouses would mean that the approximately thirty Morriss House residents (1.5 persons per bedroom, 18 bedrooms) would be using this garden and looking directly into the rear elevations of the new townhouses, and preventing peaceful enjoyment of the townhouses' own very small back gardens, where a further twelve householders would be squeezed. (1.5 persons per bedroom, 8 bedrooms).  

5.       Taken as a whole, a residential scheme which converts what was originally a single family dwelling with a long, tranquil back garden into a development complex for up to forty people, with nine separate residential units, crowded into the top third of the property, with three separate small overlooking gardens is by any measure, a massive over-development of the site, and will prevent neighbours from the peaceful enjoyment of their own properties and back gardens.   

6.       This over-development is further exacerbated by being concentrated in just the front 60% of the site - the remaining 40% of the rear garden has been completely excluded from the scheme, because the developer intends a further Application to build additional residential units at the extreme far end of the garden!! 

7.       This current Application supersedes the Developer's previous Application (HGY/2020/3212) but is essentially identical, with the only exception being that the two new Townhouses have been reduced in height, and the resultant loss of floor area has been compensated by increasing the bulk of the building horizontally instead, thereby creating the same visual detriment to the adjoining properties only forty feet away.  The scheme is doubling the useable floorspace of the old Annexe, again, where new, or indeed any residential development is prohibited.

8.       This new Application still involves the construction of a massive basement complex, the size of Park Road Indoor Swimming Pool, in an area where all the neighbouring basements, including Morriss House are prone to flooding.  The Developer's 'expert' Basement Impact Study justifies that such a basement will have no adverse impact on water table levels and flow through the clay on the basis of a borehole study done at a different site in 1961.   It would be highly reckless of the Council to approve such a huge excavation without current borehole studies, done on the site, in January or February, when water levels are at their highest.  This omission was highlighted in the objections to the previous Scheme, yet the Council has not insisted that such a study be included in the new Application.

9.       This new Application contains no Method Statement, as required in Haringey's Planning Guidelines, for the safe and efficient removal of the approximately 2000 cubic metres of excavation spoil, and the delivery and off-loading of all the materials needed to pour the basement foundations and build the new Townhouses.  The excavation site has no vehicular access and the only option for these activities is for them all to be done curb-side on Coolhurst Road.  Coolhurst Road is heavily congested, with parking both sides and is entirely unsuitable for the safe manoeuvring of the some 200 lorry movements required over the estimated two year build period. This will create huge disruption to residents of the road and present a clear safety risk to the many school children who use the road to get to Highgate Wood School.

10.   The Applicant's Traffic Impact Study is heavily biased and purports to show there is no shortage of Residents' on-road parking bays.  It intentionally based its survey on highly unrepresentative data collected between 2am and 8:30am in October when usage was certain to be at its lowest.  The reality is that during the key period, between 5:30pm and 8:30pm, when residents are returning from work and looking to park near their homes, and at weekends, Coolhurst Road and many of the surrounding streets are entirely full, especially in the summer months when the overflow from Coolhurst Tennis and Squash Club takes most of the available parking spaces in the immediate area.  The Club is a vibrant local community asset, with 1200 members but only 23 car-parking spaces of its own,  This Traffic Study must be repeated during this key time period period, in the summer, when usage of Coolhurst Road is at its highest.   Haringey, in its own Coolhurst Character Assessment, describes Coolhurst Road as "heavily congested with parking both sides"

11.   The Development also requires the removal of several mature trees, (including some neighbours' trees) - and the loss of the front garden to two off-street parking places.  This is in direct contravention of Haringey's own Planning Guidelines. Haringey has refused this application for off-street parking twice before on safety grounds.  Haringey's Transport Department when commenting on the most recent Application, again recommended refusal of both this off-street parking provision and the granting of residential on-street parking permits.  Nothing has changed in the latest Application, and Haringey must therefore be consistent, and again refuse these provisions.

12. The Developer has provided for no affordable housing even though London planning rules require developers to provide 35% affordable housing for developments that are 1,000 square meters in size or capable of delivering more than ten units. The developers appear to have cynically tried to wriggle out of this requirement and maximise their profits by submitting a proposal for just nine (instead of ten) units when their original circular to potential investors proposed a development of 14 separate residential units on the site.  If Haringey decide to permit the Annexe to be retained and extended for residential use then Haringey must insist that the development provides for 35% affrdable housing units. 

For these reasons, we call upon Haringey to reject this latest proposal and to direct the Applicant towards a far more modest development, appropriate to our Conservation Area, comprising a simple conversion of the main building to seven flats and restoring the original garden by refusing residential change of use to the rear Annexe. Such a scheme removes virtually all the planning objections.  It eliminates the new Townhouses in the back garden so close to the existing main properties, and in so doing, it eliminates the massive basement excavation and its attendant safety issues, and the need for off-street parking provision.  It further eliminates the destruction of trees, and restores the environment and historic context of the property. 

Seven flats with some thirty residents is, in any case, already pushing the boundaries of over-development, as the maximum number of flats in identical properties on Coolhurst Road is just four units.