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Driffield Road and Medway conservation areas consultation

What is this consultation about?

This consultation is seeking views from residents, and other interested parties, on proposed measures to help increase the level of public benefit associated with individual planning applications for mansard roof extensions in the Driffield Road and Medway conservation areas. Public benefits are necessary where it is considered that a development proposal, such as a mansard roof extension, will result in harm to the historic environment. This is explained in further detail below.

How does this consultation relate to the one that was held last year?

Last year we consulted on options for mansard roof extensions in the Driffield Road and Medway conservation areas.  These options, which were prepared by architects working on behalf of the council, explored ways to design roof extensions that would minimise the harm that they might do the character of the conservation areas. The options were included in revised character appraisals and management guidelines, copies of these documents can be seen here:

At last year’s consultation some residents told us that they supported the idea of mansard roof extensions in the two conservation areas. However, some residents told us that they were concerned that allowing roof extensions would harm the character of the conservation areas.

Council officers carefully considered all of the comments that were received and also looked closely at the roof extension options prepared by the architects. After careful consideration, officers concluded that, overall, they could not recommend that the council adopted an approach whereby mansard roof extensions would generally be considered more favourably.  This is because, even though the designs prepared by the architects did what they could to limit potential harm, this was not sufficient to comply with the council’s legal obligations to preserve the character and appearance of the conservation areas. This view was presented to the Mayor and his Cabinet their meeting in December 2016.

Why would mansard roof extensions cause harm to the conservation areas?

A detailed assessment of the harm that would be caused by mansard roof extensions is included as part of the officers report to Cabinet, which is available to view on the council’s website.

This assessment finds that the introduction of mansard roof extensions would cause harm to a number of features that are considered to make a positive contribution to the character of the Driffield Road and Medway conservation areas. Some of the harm, such as the increase in size of the characteristically small scale houses and the loss of historic roof structures would be permanent and would increase as more mansard roof extensions are introduced. Other examples of harm, such as changes to the uniformity of the terraces and a decline in the consistency of the roofline, may eventually reduce over time if the number of extensions reintroduced uniformity. Overall, it was concluded that there would potential for serious harm, particularly in the short to medium term. 

Why do planning applications need to deliver public benefit?

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), the governments overarching set of planning policies, states that where a development proposal, such as a mansard roof extension, would result in harm to the historic environment, the harm must be weighed against the public benefits of the proposal. Harm to the historic environment can be outweighed if a development proposal demonstrates that it would deliver sufficient public benefit. However, the council does have a legal duty to give special regard to the protection of the historic environment, meaning that an appropriately high degree of benefit must be delivered to overcome the harm.  

The government defines a public benefit as anything that arises from a development that delivers economic, social or environmental progress. For a development, such as a mansard roof extension, to be justified, public benefits must arise as a direct result of it. The benefit must also be of a nature and scale to be of benefit to the public at large and should not be just a private benefit, which arguably a mansard might be. 

Would mansard roof extensions deliver public benefit?

A detailed assessment of the possible public benefits arising from mansard roof extensions is included as part of the officers report to Cabinet in December 2016. This assessment found that only very limited public benefit would arise from allowing mansard roof extensions.

The report to Cabinet recognises that allowing home extensions may assist some residents by enabling them to accommodate their families within their existing homes without having to move out of the area.  The council wants to support families by ensuring that there is a good supply of appropriate housing to accommodate them.  However, it was concluded that for the purposes of overcoming harm to the historic environment, this factor could only be given limited weight as a public benefit. This is because it is very difficult to guarantee that the benefit would actually arise as a result of a particular development. It can also be argued that allowing mansard roof extensions may undermine social cohesion by encouraging buy-to-let investment and/or the subdivision of family homes. 

Why is there another public consultation?

After carefully considering all of the responses to last year’s consultation, council officers could not recommend that the council adopt a more permissive approach to mansard roof extensions. This was because there would not be enough public benefit to outweigh the harm caused to the historic environment. However, in making this recommendation, officers did suggest that, if Cabinet wanted to pursue a more permissive approach to mansard roof extensions, it could recommend that the council explore ways to try and secure additional public benefit, which may help to mitigate the harm caused to the historic environment. Alternatively, it was suggested that Cabinet could decide to accept the harm that would arise from allowing mansard roof extensions, providing it was confident that it would be meeting its legal obligation to have special regard for the protection of the historic environment.    

Cabinet agreed to pursue the first of these two alternative options; to introduce measure to mitigate the harm to the historic environment by increasing the level of public benefit associated with this type of development. This alternative approach has not been previously been consulted on, and would give rise to financial implications, as well as other considerations, particularly for residents seeking a mansard roof extension. Therefore, it is important that a further public consultation is held to seek the views of residents. 

What is being consulted on?

The council has appointed consultant architects and asked them to prepare guidance that identifies, describes and illustrates potential works that could enhance the character of the Driffield Road and Medway conservation areas. These enhancements could be considered to be public benefits that would help to mitigate the harm that would be caused by the introduction of mansard roof extensions, which has already been minimised as far as possible by careful design considerations. This new guidance should be read in conjunction with the revised conservation area character appraisals and management guidelines for Medway and Driffield Road conservation areas.

Two different types of enhancement have been looked at:  

  1. Enhancements that can be made by homeowners to improve the appearance of their properties.  These improvements will, in turn, help to improve the character and appearance of the conservation areas generally. 
  2. Enhancements to streetscape that will contribute to the general improvement of the character and appearance of the conservation areas, these enhancements are specifically heritage related.  These improvements could be delivered by financial contributions made through agreements associated with the grant of planning permission.   

The first of these two types of enhancement has been explored separately for each of the two conservation areas in the following documents:

These documents illustrate the potential for enhancements to be made to individual properties that will help to improve the character of the Driffield Road and Medway conservation areas by the reinstatement of lost features. If carried out to an appropriately high standard, these works could provide a public benefit that may mitigate harm caused by adding a mansard roof extension. The guidance is intended to show the standards expected and to illustrate examples that would be appropriate. It explains why using materials and workmanship to match the original could uplift the quality of the street. Adopting a consistent design over a group of houses or a whole terrace could contribute positively to the character of the area and could be considered a public benefit that would help to mitigate harm. The documents explain how enhancements to individual properties could be delivered alongside proposals for mansard roof extensions through the use of planning conditions.  

Enhancements to the streetscape of both the Driffield Road and Medway conservation areas are explored in the following document:

This document illustrates potential streetscape enhancement schemes that may help to improve the character of the Driffield Road and Medway conservation areas. If implemented successfully, these schemes could provide a public benefit that may mitigate harm caused by the addition of mansard roof extensions to properties in the conservation areas. The document explains how the enhancement schemes could be funded by financial contributions secured by legal agreements associated with the grant of planning permission for mansard roof extensions.

It is envisaged that planning applications for mansard roof extensions will need to demonstrate how they contribute to both types of conservation area enhancement (façade and streetscape) to deliver an appropriate level of public benefit.  Prospective planning applicants will therefore need to refer to the façade enhancement document relevant to their conservation area and the streetscape enhancement document.      

We are keen to get your views on these proposals.  You may wish to consider the following questions:-

  • Do you agree with the overall approach to secure façade improvement and streetscape enhancements to mitigate harm caused by mansard roofs?
  • Do you agree that the proposed façade enhancements would improve the character and appearance of the conservation areas?
  • Do you agree that the proposed streetscape enhancements would improve the character and appearance of the conservation areas?
  • Which of the streetscape enhancements do you feel would have the greatest impact, or make the most improvement?

How can I find out more and how can I comment?

The proposed measures for securing additional public benefit will be the subject of a public consultation from Friday 7 April to Sunday 14 May 2017

Two drop-in sessions are being held where the consultation documents will be displayed and council officers will be available to answer questions:

Driffield Road and Medway conservation areas consultation
 Date and time Venue

Thursday 20 April 2017 
5-8pm

Lab 2 and 3, The Idea Store Bow, 1 Gladstone Place, Roman Road E3 5ES

Thursday 11 May 2017
2-5pm

 St Paul's Church, St Stephen's Road E3 5JL

 

Written comments on the proposals can be sent to us by email at: placeshaping@towerhamlets.gov.uk.

You can also write to us at the following postal address:

The Place Shaping Team
Place Directorate, Strategic Planning
Mulberry Place
5 Clove Crescent
London
E14 2BG 

Comments must be received by the 14 May 2017 to ensure consideration. If you have any questions regarding the proposals you can call the planning hotline on 020 7364 5009.