18 December 2008

Support for a new Gym in Forest Hill

It is not often that the Forest Hill Society support planning applications rather than objecting to them, but in the case of the plans to convert the old McDonald's site into a gym, we have decided to offer our support.

This site is at the very centre of the high street and has been derelict for too long. We welcome new businesses to the area when we believe they will have a positive impact on the area and are pleased to support this application.

You can read the full text here.

06 December 2008

Christmas Events Weekend in Forest Hill and Honor Oak

Friday, 12th December - Honor Oak Christmas celebrations including Christmas lights, carols, and a small craft market.

Weekend, 13th & 14th December - Havelock Walk Open Studios - details at www.havelockwalk.com
(picture by Pip Tunstill)

Sunday, December 14th, 12-5pm - Craft market at the Hob, opposite Forest Hill Station.

Saturday, 13th December - Forest Hill Library, craft-making event.

Sunday, 14th December - Carol Concert at Horniman Gardens, including roasted chestnuts, toy stalls, and free Santa's grotto.

Sounds like a fun weekend - do not leave the area!

Perry Vale Planning Permissions

The application for conversion of a warehouse into three terraced houses at 11 Perry Vale was rejected by the planning department. Reasons for the refusal can be read here and reflect the concerns of the Forest Hill Society.

In a separate development, not far from 11 Perry Vale, Berkeley Homes appealed to the planning inspectorate after Lewisham Council rejected their plans for switching 10 of two bedroom flats to 14 one bedroom flats. Despite the objections from the Forest Hill Society the planning inspectorate has ruled in favour of Berkeley Homes, and this development will now be primarily one bedroom apartments.

Emotions will be mixed on this ruling. The good news is that Berkeley Homes has indicated that construction will recommence this month. Residents have had enough of starring at an eyesore from Forest Hill station and will be pleased that construction will now be completed.

However, Berkeley Homes won this appeal in part because they were able to demonstrate a lack of demand for two bedroom apartments. These apartments were significantly over-priced and no adjustment was made to the prices during a period of rapidly falling house prices. The lack of demand was used as evidence that there is little demand for properties of more than one bedroom in such a development. During the appeal process no work took place despite no external changes to the development. It can only be concluded that Berkeley Homes deliberately left the skeleton of the building in this state to put pressure on local residents to accept their demands.

Having said this, it is now time to move on, and look forward to new people coming into the town centre to live in this development, and a new business filling the retail unit on the ground floor. This is a prime location with the East London Line bringing new train services to their doorstep and it is in everybody's interest to see these flats occupied as soon as possible.

18 Woolstone Road

The Forest Hill Society objection to a retrospective application for permission for three windows overlooking the neighbouring property, can be read here.

The Forest Hill Society is happy to advise and assist any local residents who have concerns over planning applications. Whilst we may not always object as a Society, we will try to offer advice to local residents. If you have any concerns about planning applications please send them to email@foresthillsociety.com

03 December 2008

Access to Station from Perry Vale

This is the latest update from Southern Railway on the installation of gates at the foot of the stairs on Perry Vale:

Enabling works for the new gateline on platform two commenced on Wednesday 26 November and were expected to last for three weeks. During this period the side gate on platform 2 is closed. After that time limited access will be available. All works will be completed by late January and the gates will then go live. Once operational the gates will be left open unstaffed from 21.00hr to end of service as the entrance will be remotely closed by our control centre.

December Events in Forest Hill and Honor Oak

Tuesday 23rd December, 8pm - Christmas Dinner, Italian style at The Old Bank, 76-78 Honor Oak Park, SE23 1DY. Telephone 8291 1738
This restaurant is close to Honor Oak Park Station - a bank converted into a restaurant before the credit crunch! As always, please book directly with the restaurant and mention you're with the 23 Club or Forest Hill Society so they know to seat you with everyone else. We do urge you to book as early as possible for this one. See you there!
Saturday 6th December, 12-4pm - Forest Hill festive activities - including an appearance by Father Christmas and his REAL reindeer. Foresters Arms, Perry Vale.

Sunday 7th December, 3-6pm Tree Dressing Day at the Devonshire Road Nature reserve - make your own lanterns and paint glass lanterns for the procession of light. Make Green Man masks to take home and enjoy music and story telling.
£2 donation per person to cover costs. Please note that this event takes place during the hours of darkness. Come prepared with warm clothes and a torch. Contact devonshireroadnature@yahoo.co.uk

Friday 12th December, 5-7pm - Honor Oak Christmas celebrations - carols, switching on of Christmas lights, craft market. Opposite Honor Oak Park train station.

Sunday December 14th, 12-5pm - upstairs and downstairs at The HOB (opposite Forest Hill Station). Ceramics, photography, handmade retro toys, glass, textiles, handmade bags and more besides. Free entry.

Sun 14 Dec 3-6pm - Horniman Carols in the bandstand in the picturesque setting of these award-winning Gardens. Enjoy performances from the English Baroque Choir and the Crystal Palace Band, carols, hot-roasted chestnuts, toy stalls, hot and cold refreshments and free Santa's grotto. Free admission.

02 December 2008

A member writes...

Is Forest Hill becoming a target for developers with grand designs? Recent experience suggests so. And the planning system is seemingly weighted in favour of the developer once planning permission is granted.

Last year one owner obtained planning permission for the redevelopment of half of a semi-detached house that is sharply out of character with the remainder of a modest 1930s street. The many objectors assumed that as this was similar to his earlier application, which had been rejected due to size and inappropriate design, that this would meet the same fate. Indeed, half of the Planning Committee agreed that this should be the case. Despite the development being three times the size of the original scheme and an over-dominant feature on the skyline, including an external staircase turret, this time Lewisham considered it to be aesthetically pleasing and respecting the local character of the neighbourhood. Worse still the developer has planning permission to demolish his half of the semi-detached, and rebuild. A nightmare for the adjoining neighbours, who fear their house, as well as their sanity, will be damaged.

Unlike the developer who has a right to appeal a Council decision to refuse an application, residents cannot appeal a decision to approve. And like Robert the Bruce determined developers can try and try again until the Council, who may be fearful of mounting costs, concedes. We continued to question Lewisham on their about turn. How much did the ‘greening-up’ of the application affect this? And what about the applicant’s expectations that this would feature on Channel 4’s Grand Designs? Naturally we could not suggest that these were the reasons, but with no satisfactory answer to many other issues, we took legal advice, and applied to the Courts to overturn the Council’s decision. Judicial Review is not for the faint hearted, and ultimately we had to withdraw from the chase as the financial risks became too great and we could not match the coffers of Lewisham. So this is no David and Goliath ending.

We asked central government why the system was so unfair. They replied that it was up to the local authority to act in general public interest and that our elected councillors must take into account the local view and justify these decisions to their electorate. With our three ward councillors and local residents association behind us at the planning committee meeting, and many others objectors, local democracy seems to have failed us.