17 March 2007

People Power & Planning

When Loromah Estates proposed building 84 flats on land behind Tyson Road, local residents mounted a campaign opposing the planning application. As a result, the council received almost 200 objection letters and petitions.

The site in question is hidden behind the Christian Fellowship Centre on Honor Oak Road. It’s a designated BROWNFIELD SITE. However, apart from some disused garages, this is a green area, full of protected trees and supporting some interesting flora and fauna.

The proposal was to demolish numbers 15 and 17a Tyson Road and the derelict garages. Seven blocks would then be built, some 4-storeys high, containing a mix of 1, 2 and 3 bedroom flats.

But local people were horrified at the thought of such a dense development on a green space. One resident, Andrew Wood, felt so strongly that he took it upon himself to knock on doors to find out if others felt as passionately as he did. Very soon, he had a full-blooded campaign on his hands using email, internet, fliers and old-fashioned face-to-face meetings.

Andrew says he was driven by a love for Forest Hill: “I don't want to see its unique character destroyed by inappropriate development. The campaign was made much easier by the fantastic help and support I have received from the local residents and the knowledge that this is a site worth saving for future generations.” In the end, the Council received 198 objections, almost all of which came from people living in SE23. The Forest Hill Society – and other local groups – submitted their own objections.

In January, the Council did decide to refuse planning permission considering the proposal to be :-
· an over-development of the site, which would lead to the loss of protected trees.
· out-of-keeping with the surrounding area.
· poorly designed.

The council also believed that more studies needed to be carried out to determine which protected species lived on the site.

So what happens next? Loromah have let it be known that they will appeal the decision and it is likely to go to a full planning inquiry in the second half of this year.

But whatever happens to the Tyson Road site, the experience shows that local people can make their voice heard. And the campaign certainly got neighbours talking to each other - and that’s never a bad thing in today’s London.

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