OLSPN redevelopment: Last chance to comment 23 June

The deadline for comments on the latest St Philip Neri school redevelopment planning application is the 23 June. Only a week to go, so don’t delay, & have your say. Plans are available at https://planning.lewisham.gov.uk/online-applications/, where you search for application DC/19/111793. You can use the online portal to comment, but you can also send an email to planning@lewisham.gov.uk
You must include your name and address, or your comments will not be read.

Lists of acceptable topics for comments include whether the development might have an:

Adverse effect on the residential amenity of neighbours, (noise*, disturbance*, overlooking, loss of privacy, overshadowing, etc. [*not including during the construction process]

• Unacceptably high density / over-development of the site

• Visual impact of the development

• Effect of the development on the character of the neighbourhood

• Design (including bulk and massing, detailing and materials, if these form part of the application)

• The proposed development is over-bearing, out-of-scale or out of character in terms of its appearance compared with existing development in the vicinity

• The loss of existing views from neighbouring properties would adversely affect the residential amenity of neighbouring owners.

Remember to give relevant examples of ways you are affected by the development for each issue you mention. Just saying ‘I object’ isn’t enough. Whatever your comments, don’t forget to have your say. We will be living with the eventual building for decades to come.

These are the original designs which were given planning permission in 2016, are marked up in blue with as-built changes that the developers need retrospective permission for. They also show some changes they feel might improve the design quality. The whole application is extremely confusing, and hard to unpick, which rather compromises the ‘public consultation’ concept.

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The extent of changes to the roof explains many of the problems with the current building. Roof lights and pitched roofs which allowed natural light and ventilation were abandoned in favour of maximising space. This makes the building dependant on mechanical ventilation and artificial lighting, quite again all green climate emergency policies. It is over a metre taller than the measured height of the permitted design, probably because the contractors poured the slab at too high a level, reducing excavation of a site that was hit by bombs in both world wars. Buried ordnance was considered a possibility, and an explosives expert was supposed to be on site at excavation.

Below are some of the variations from permitted plans that the developers are seeking approval for. Random poorly designed vents and extractors show that the built design was not properly thought through, and basic requirements were sorted out late in the day.

The street view below is grossly misleading, as the church is out of scale with the school, so underpaying the school’s as-built
height. For this elevation to be used again after this mistake was pointed out, is unimpressive. At the recent consultation, the developers claimed - they didn’t survey the church height, and there was no obligation to do so, or for the elevations to be reasonably proportionate. This is vital, as the actual school building looks about 3 metres, or one floor, higher than it looks on the street view.

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This is an attempt to show how misleading is original street elevation, still being re-submitted. The nave roof of the church is shown roughly level of the top of the top windows in the school teaching block. As built, the nave roof is level with the top of the middle row of windows. This is a whole floor higher, approximately 3 metres extra height.
Re-presenting this view is likely to mislead people into thinking the height is acceptable. Not very edifying behaviour…

Our Lady and St Philip Neri redevelopment

Ground contamination concerns

The OLSPN school redevelopment applicants have continually refused to submit correct paperwork, or to respond to council officers’ requests. Particularly worrying is the lack of documentation of ground investigation, given the site’s known contamination risks, including asbestos and wartime bombs!

All documentation should have been signed off before the school was occupied, and the Condition 4a (desktop assessment) should have been approved before any building work started. In fact, it was finally signed off in January 2019. 4b and 4c were due before the school was occupied, but remain outstanding. As the school continued occupation during the whole of the site works, this is unacceptable.

The relevant planning conditions are:
4. (a) No development (with the exception of demolition to ground level) shall
commence until each of the following have been complied with:-

(i) A desk top study and site assessment to survey and characterise the nature and extent of contamination and its effect (whether on or off-site), and a conceptual site model have been submitted to and approved in writing by the local planning authority.

(ii) A site investigation report to characterise and risk assess the site which shall include the gas, hydrological and contamination status, specifying rationale; and recommendations for treatment for contamination encountered (whether by remedial works or not) has been submitted to, and approved in writing by the Council.

(iii) The required remediation scheme implemented in full.

4(b) If during any works on the site, contamination is encountered which has not
previously been identified (“the new contamination”) the Council shall be notified
immediately and the terms of paragraph (a), shall apply to the new contamination.
No further works shall take place on that part of the site or adjacent areas affected,
until the requirements of paragraph (a) have been complied with in relation to the new contamination.

© The development shall not be occupied until a closure report has been submitted to, and approved in writing by the Council. This shall include verification of all measures, or treatments as required in (Section (a) i & ii) and relevant correspondence (including other regulating authorities and stakeholders involved with the remediation works) to verify compliance requirements, necessary for the remediation of the site have been implemented in full. The closure report shall include verification details of both the remediation and post-remediation sampling/works, carried out (including waste materials removed from the site); and before placement of any soil/materials is undertaken on site, all imported or reused soil material must conform to current soil quality requirements as agreed by the authority. Inherent to the above, is the provision of any required documentation, certification and monitoring, to facilitate condition requirements.

Reason : To ensure that the local planning authority may be satisfied that potential site contamination is identified and remedied in view of the historical use(s) of the site, which may have included industrial processes and to comply with DM Policy 28
Contaminated Land of the Development Management Local Plan (November 2014).

On the OLSPN development, Condition 4 documentation supplied was repeatedly rejected by Planning due to inadequate detail. Applications were refused in March 2017, June 2017. August 2017. In February 2018, application DC/18/105798 was validated, and on 29 January 2019, Condition 4a was approved, with reminders that 4c was outstanding. On 4 April 2019, the closing out report was rejected, because 4b & 4c had still not been satisfied. (4b having been brought up again due conflicting statements over soft landscaping).

Reason for refusal was given as:
1. The submitted details are insufficient to discharge Condition (4) (B and C) Ground
Investigation Works to that potential site contamination is identified and remedied in
view of the historical use(s) of the site, which may have included industrial processes, and to comply with DM Policy 28 Contaminated Land of the Development Management Local Plan (November 2014).

I N F O R M A T I V E S
A. The applicant is advised of the comments below from Environmental Health:
Although the applicant has indicated that no soft landscaping areas are proposed
(DC/18/105798), the submitted close out report states that there will be and details
what remediation will be undertaken in these areas.

Unfortunately none of the Appendices have been included with the report which will be required, and before installation of the capping layer must be reviewed and agreed relating to the imported soil chemical data, and then photographic evidence validating the capping layer construction in soft landscaped areas.

The Sydenham Society is shocked by this application and that the condition to create a formal pedestrian access into the school from Home Park is not part of this application. Pedestrian access from the park is essential for the safety and health of the pupils and staff and was also introduced to protect local roads from excessive parking.

On June 8 the following motion was passed unanimously at the Sydenham Assembly:

The Sydenham Assembly is dismayed at the long drawn out process of rectifying the planning breaches at Our Lady & St Philip Neri School. We were assured that Lewisham would insist on a new full planning application, yet a ‘minor variations’ application has been registered instead.

This leaves many breaches unaddressed, above all that the main entrance to the school will continue to be from Sydenham Road instead of Home Park.

The park entrance was a major condition of the consented application in October 2016, protecting the children from exposure to toxic air on Sydenham Road and the dangers from speeding traffic along this busy highway. It would also have reduced the impact of short-term car parking in surrounding streets, especially Fairlawn Park.

We insist that this condition must be met and should form part of a new full planning application.

The deadline for comments on the latest application is Sunday 23 June. You can view the plans at: https://planning.lewisham.gov.uk/online-applications/ (search for application DC/19/111793). You can use the online portal to comment, but you can also send an email to planning@lewisham.gov.uk You must include your name and full address.

Acceptable topics for comments include:

  • Adverse effect on the residential amenity of neighbours (noise*, disturbance*, overlooking, loss of privacy, overshadowing etc [*not including during the construction process]
  • Unacceptably high density / over-development of the site
  • Visual impact of the development
  • Effect of the development on the character of the neighbourhood
  • Design (including bulk & massing, detailing and materials, if these form part of the application)
  • The proposed development is over-bearing, out-of-scale or out of character in terms of its appearance compared with existing development in the vicinity
  • The loss of existing views from neighbouring properties would adversely affect the residential amenity of neighbouring owners

Whatever your comments, don’t forget to have your say. We will be living with the eventual building for decades to come.

Planning are processing comments on the OLSPN application first thing Monday, which is the deadline. Comments should be in by 9am Monday, to be sure of consideration. However, if you miss this deadline, it is still worth sending a comment in, as Lewisham may be lenient, given the problems with the planning portal. No guarantees though.

If you have access to Sydenham Library, I have downloaded the current plans onto a folder on the desktop of Computer 3. I will be in the library tomorrow morning with a complete printout of original and current plans, if anyone wants to consult them. Happy to help if anyone would like a look. I will be there until midday, but might possibly be able to come back later if you DM me with a time.

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Thanks for sharing this detailed information, @jrw, and to @SydenhamSociety for the helpful tips on how to make an objection.

The school design is a mess. It’s amazing what developers attempt to get away with, and a dangerous precedent to set, if the planning office accepts breaches of policy.

Thought I’d ‘bump’ this up - deadline 9am tomorrow morning

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As Lewisham Council has decided to refuse to make public comments on the application available, I thought I’d publish my own personal comments here.

Objection - neighbour
Planning application DC/17/111793
JRW Fairlawn Park, London, SE26 5RU

Further to my holding objection submitted, I object in the strongest possible terms to the current ‘minor variations’ application for the OLSPN school redevelopment, DC/17/111793. In no way does this mitigate the damage caused by the development to the residential amenity of neighbours; the building is quite unlike the approved plans, and is grossly out-of-scale with the civic streetscape of Sydenham Road, from park, library, church, and presbytery.

It is admitted by developers and planners that the as-built height is more than a metre taller than the measured plans, yet the street elevation submitted at every application has grossly misled neighbours in their expectations. The elevation shows the ridge of the church nave roof as level with the top of the top windows, but in fact it is level with the top of the middle windows. This makes the building about 3m taller than it appears in the street elevation. From Fairlawn Park, the domineering bulk of the ‘industrial warehouse’ looming over the little houses, reminds me of early 20c photos of ocean liners docked behind workers houses at the shipyards.

This is only one of the myriad flaws and contradictions in designs, paperwork and commentary. I cannot possibly cover all the problems and planning breaches, but for a start, the building is positioned wrongly, with the wrong roof, wrong fenestration, wrong materials. The two blocks are even crooked along the Sydenham Road elevation, which looks appalling. It is impossible to grasp the actual current design intentions, as a refusal to submit a fresh application has made the mountain of paperwork unmanageable.
The application states that the main entrance to be from Home Park, as was a planning condition, yet the designs show the Sydenham Road entrance as labelled Main Entrance. Given the planning condition restrictions on access via Fairlawn Park, it is impossible to work out their intentions. Currently the pupils are entering via Home Park, so we have no idea what the situation will be on completion. If the Home Park entrance is not delivered as promised, then the Fairlawn Park school run nightmare will be back with a vengeance.

The visual impact of the development is domineering and out-of-place, as it looms over the small houses of Fairlawn Park. The choice of materials is insensitive to put it mildly, as the brash red brick joins onto the terrace of London stock brick, and the shrieking blue railings are obtrusive without serving a purpose of screening the playground. The nursery building is 1m higher than planned in relation to the main building, rising above the first floor window sills. The awkward bulk and massing of the school, with the loss of recessed elements and shadow, is quite distressing, and I cannot look out of my window without wanting to cry. The character of the Fairlawn Park neighbourhood has been changed from a historic working class housing development by the addition of a massive industrial box better suited to an industrial estate.

The current architects have tried hard to improve the design, but without the developers accepting significant alteration, the results are unacceptable. Some good alterations – such as the substitution of metal for timber fins on the hall building – have been compromised by spacing them wider, leading to a range of new problems, such as increased noise issues from the rooftop playground, and safeguarding issues from the increased visibility of children at play. None of this has been addressed.

The entire building is a safeguarding nightmare, with glass-walled staircases, and classrooms open to public view, directly off the pavement. Teachers are clearly uncomfortable with this, and improvise screening with artwork and furniture against the windows. The Fairlawn reception class playground is similarly covered with banners and improvised screening, as it is both open to public view, and to serious pollution from Sydenham Road. The visual impact of these quite understandable reactions is to further damage the visual impact of the development on the neighbourhood. It is incomprehensible that design concept did not start from the point of achieving privacy and safeguarding standards for the school pupils and staff.

The grossest failure in this whole saga is the lack of enforcement at the developers’ repeated refusal to submit adequate paperwork for Planning Condition 4, dealing with the known and unknown contaminations of the land, including asbestos from the old school, and unexploded ordnance from the wartime bomb crater and backfill. 4a, the desktop assessment should have been approved before construction started; it was finally approved in January 2019. 4b and 4c are still outstanding; I can only presume that the developers have not collected the necessary samples and data at the appropriate time. How can this be regularised? The old school was demolished swiftly in term time, and no paperwork has been lodged as a method statement. Not very reassuring for parents or Fairlawn Park neighbours! The scandal of Lewisham Education sending children to school on a building site, exposed to asbestos and other pollution, is not going to go away.

I hope that Lewisham will appreciate that the council’s failure to enforce planning breaches, despite being comprehensively warned at an early date, has let down the school’s pupils, and its neighbours. A brand new planning application is needed, showing a serious attempt to undertake real change. Furthermore, the Archdiocese needs to seek a decant site, as having the school operating on a building site has already put children at risk. The archdiocese’s alleged decision to save half a million pounds on using the Mayow Road Brent Knoll site for a decant, has turned out to be a rather expensive mistake.

15 comments received, but as with other applications on the planning portal, the content of the comments is hidden:

This is likely due to the council taking a crude approach to complying with GDPR regs, as opposed to any deliberate sneakiness on their part.

To be honest, I think the real reason for not putting the comments online is because their planning database is falling apart. Anyone using it recently has experiencing it crashing, freezing and generally malfunctioning. They finally got the counter working, but I don’t expect they fancy trying anything ambitious.

I find it more disturbing that Planning are reluctant to allow access within an appointment, and most alarmingly, that members of the planning committee won’t see them either, just getting an Officer’s summary. I am told that the staff time involved in reacting comments for personal contact data is onerous. That may be because the OTT level of redaction is at MI5 levels, with even officers names and their comments get redacted from some correspondence.

Even the most security-conscious people would be OK if commenters were identified by full postcode? In Lewisham, all postcodes have a large number of homes, so no one would be identifiable.