Folks – we won!: That was how many residents who campaigned against plans to build four masisonettes on the spinney in Spinney Gardens heard their opposition to the proposals had been successful.
In an email to campaigners Save Our Spinney, the group set up to fight the proposals, added: “After a nail biting seven weeks the planning inspector’s decision was issued first thing this morning, and the appeal by Covent Garden Ltd. against Southwark’s planning permission refusal to build that hideous flat-roofed structure in the wooded spinney at Spinney Gardens / Bowley Lane has been refused and will not go ahead.
“The refusal decision consists of a five-page document dealing with the majority of objection points raised. Some of these points the inspector agreed with and some she did not.
“I think the appellant still has the right to mount a high court challenge to the decision, and I don’t know if this latest refusal prevents Covent Garden from making future applications. “I will liaise with the ward councilors and get their advice on this.
“In the meantime lets all celebrate the decision. “Hurrah!!!”
In her report dismissing the appeal, the inspector Christina Downes, said:
“The appeal site is a triangular shaped area of land to the south of Spinney Gardens and to the north of Bowley Lane. “An important feature of the area is the trees and vegetation which provide an attractive setting, particularly for the distinctive residential development of Spinney Gardens.
“This estate of flats and houses was constructed in the 1980’s and has a strong linear form, pitched roofs and projecting glazed conservatories.
“It stands down from Crystal Palace Parade and its design, layout and mature landscaping provide a secluded and semi-rural ambience which is clearly valued by those who live there.
“The appeal site comprises a small spinney which is subject to a woodland tree preservation order (TPO). “Although I observed it during the winter months I can imagine that it provides a green and leafy screen which contributes to the ambience of Spinney Gardens and provides separation from the more conventional terraced housing to the south.
“Whether or not the land was part of the original landscaping scheme for the Spinney Gardens development it does provide a greening function and this has been recognised through the TPO, which was confirmed in March 2012.
“Immediately to the west is the Dulwich Upper Wood local nature reserve (LNR) which is also a site of importance for nature conservation and MOL (metropolitan open land).
“Whilst the appeal site itself is not subject to any of these designations it appears in many respects as a natural extension of the more mature woodland of the LNR.”
The inspector said the proposal included a flat roofed modular building with a staggered layout. While there was no objection to a contemporary design and such an approach was endorsed by the London Plan and the development would be acceptable as a piece of architecture she had “considerable concern” about its suitability to this particular location.
“Even though the surrounding development exhibits a degree of diversity it is difficult to see how the appeal scheme has sought to acknowledge the design and layout of the surrounding development.
“In particular the northern elevation would only have two windows and large areas of blank wall and there would be little respect for the very distinct character of Spinney Gardens, notwithstanding its visual
“Whilst the national planning policy framework (the framework) makes clear that innovation should not be stifled it also advises that local distinctiveness should be promoted or reinforced.
“In this case the development would not integrate successfully with its host environment.
“It is appreciated that the design of the development has sought to be sensitive to its treed location and that the construction methodology would allow trees in proximity to the building to be retained.
“Nonetheless there would be a substantial reduction in tree cover.
“It is appreciated that many of the trees lost would be the smaller, self seeded species that have been deemed of low quality and value in the appellant’s arboricultural report.
“But in a woodland TPO it is not the individual trees that are of prime importance, rather it is the amenity value of the woodland as a whole.
“The trees within the narrower eastern section of the site and along the boundary with Bowley Lane would be retained.
“But the direct tree loss within the central and northern parts of the site and its replacement with the proposed built development would change the character of the site irredeemably, especially when viewed from Spinney Gardens and the footpath which crosses the eastern part of the site.
“The amenity value of this mixed deciduous woodland would be severely diminished and the new building would be harmful in itself through its failure to respect its surroundings.
“It is possible that a few of the trees should be removed for safety reasons and there may be justification for the thinning of others in the interests of good woodland management.
“Whilst the proposal indicates new tree planting it is difficult to see where this could take place whilst still retaining reasonable amenity space for future occupiers.
“The appeal site also acts as a wildlife corridor for bats between the LNR and Crystal Palace park to the east.
“Whilst no roosts have been identified on the site, bats forage within this treed environment. “The evidence suggests that such activity would continue due to the continuous canopy remaining along the southern boundary.
“Whilst there would be lighting from inside the dwellings there was no convincing evidence that this would have an adverse effect on the protected species.
“I saw that low impact ‘bat friendly’ street lights have been installed along the eastern side of Spinney Gardens and a similar arrangement could be used for any external lighting required on the appeal site.
“It seems improbable there would be any harm to bat roosts or insect life within the LNR.
“The western elevation of the building would be within about two metres of the boundary with the LNR. “This would be significantly closer than the 12 metres that separates the designated site from the western façade of Spinney
“There is no policy that requires a buffer zone of any particular width between a LNR and development but note that the appellant’s own ecological assessment recommends that the building should be ‘as far away
from the woodland boundary as can be achieved’.
“The proximity of the building to the pathway that enters the LNR from Bowley Lane, crosses the site and then continues close to the eastern edge of the LNR would be visually intrusive for those wishing to enjoy the natural woodland environment, notwithstanding the position of existing trees.
“This would not just be a fleeting view apparent when passing alongside the development but would also be evident when approaching from either direction.
“This visual impact would diminish the experience and appreciation of the nature conservation interest of the protected woodland for passers-by.
“Policy 3.11 seeks to ensure the efficient use of land but this is subject to a number of provisions.
“One is that the legitimate activities on neighbouring sites should not be unreasonably compromised.
“The proposal does not accord with this requirement.”