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Jenrick rejects HTA Design housing scheme over space standards concerns

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Housing secretary Robert Jenrick has torn up an application for a housing development by HTA Design in south London after claiming at least 38 of the homes in it would not meet minimum national space standards

The Camberwell Union proposal included 499 homes across 13 blocks ranging from two to 12 storeys on the site of the Burgess Business Park in Southwark.

The scheme also featured a microbrewery and a ‘creative hub for local businesses, artists and makers, providing them with much-needed workspace in the area’, according to the development’s website.

But the application has been quashed after planning inspector Christina Downes suggested in a report published yesterday (29 April) the scheme would struggle to meet space or amenity standards.

Downes conducted her inquiry in November following an appeal by planning consultant DP9, on behalf of developer Peachtree Services, after Southwark Council rejected the scheme at the end of 2018. 

The planning inspector concluded that ‘at least 38 of the units (7.6 per cent) would not meet the minimum space standards’ under the submitted designs.

The developer responded by saying that the wall thickness of smaller homes could be reduced to meet the legal requirement.

However, Downes noted that 187 homes would still be within 1m² of the minimum space standard, meaning that a ‘significant proportion’ of homes would not have space rated better than ‘adequate’.

The planning inspector also said:

  • There would be a shortfall of 1,581m² of private amenity space across the site, compared with the minimum standard. She added that 79 per cent of flats – including some three-bedroom flats – would have less than 10m² private amenity space, while some flats would not have any balcony or terrace at all
  • There would be a ‘not insubstantial’ 1,060m² shortfall in community amenity space compared to the minimum standard
  • The five-person wheelchair accessible homes in one block would fall below the minimum space standards. She added that re-labelling them as four-person units would be ‘somewhat disingenuous’ even if technically allowed
  • There would be several places where windows directly face other living room windows less than 12m away, raising issues of privacy
  • Some of the homes would have a ‘very poor outlook’, in particular the first and second-floor affordable homes, which would look onto the wall of a ‘big yellow’ building from 6-8m away
  • There would be a shortage of children’s play space.

In her conclusion, Downes said ‘rather than optimising the use of land resource, the scheme has sought to maximise it and this has resulted in a quality of development that at several levels would not be satisfactory.’

Jenrick agreed with Downes’s conclusion, adding that his ‘great concerns about the quality of accommodation’ swayed his decision.

The 2018 scheme had already been revised from an original application for the site back in December 2017. As well as reducing the heights of the proposed buildings across the plot, including the removal of two storeys from the tallest 14-storey block, HTA had increased both the number of family-sized homes and the percentage of affordable units.

HTA Design declined to comment.

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Readers' comments (2)

  • This sort of design doesn't say much for the quality of the developer, and I wonder what the architects' excuse is?

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  • When will the Secretary of State do something about the micro-slums being created by unscrupulous developers and architects in office-to-resi conversions being delivered via Permitted Development?

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