The Leytonstone Conservation Area is now under threat from unsuitable planning applications and the serious neglect of a listed building. Council officers do not appear to see the bigger picture, and how they could individually and collectively lead to erosion of the character and appearance of the area.
The neglected building is a Grade II Georgian house at 133 Whipps Cross Road. Historic England has now put it on its “At Risk” Register. It describes the condition as poor and deteriorating. An application was made in 2006 to convert it into flats but was rejected by the Council.
The spate of new planning applications should be viewed in light of Conservation Area law and local planning policy. By law, no development should be allowed in a Conservation Area if it does not enhance or preserve the character and appearance of the area. Special Planning Guidance issued by the Council says it believes conversions of houses into flats in Conservation Areas are contrary to these objectives and it will normally presume against them. Forest Ward, in which the Conservation Area lies, has also been designated as one of the borough’s Restricted Conversions zones by the Council. This means planning permission should not normally be granted for any family house in the zone to be converted into flats, because the council wants to retain family-sized accommodation in those areas. Residents know, however, that planning decisions can sometimes be a hit-or-miss affair, and law and planning policy are not always logically applied.
An application has been made to extend the listed house adjacent to that on the “At Risk” register. It is 135 Whipps Cross Road, also Georgian and Grade II listed. The owners want to build a ground and first floor extension including loft conversion with rear dormer window. The plan incorporates the conversion of the property from three self-contained flats to five self-contained flats. The creation of the existing three flats was allowed some years before the Council designated it a Conservation Area in 1990. Application Reference number 161148
Close to these two Georgian houses, still in the Conservation area, there is an unused piece of land to the rear of 111- 117 Whipps Cross Road. Yet another application has been submitted to build what’s called a bungalow on it. Similar applications have been rejected in the past. This was for good reasons including the position and small size of the land, its limited access and threat to protected trees. In 2012, permission for two bungalows was refused. In 2013, permission for one bungalow was refused, and this was again later refused on appeal. The latest application is for the construction on the land of a “two-storey, 2 bedroom bungalow”. The land backs on to houses on Fladgate Road. One resident there has looked up the Oxford Dictionary definition of bungalow. It says “A low house having only one storey or, in some cases, upper rooms set in the roof, typically with dormer windows.”
Application Reference number 161666
Applications that most blatantly go against the intention and spirit of Conservation law and local policy have been made to convert a family home at 20 Forest Glade into flats. Forest Glade is one of the most prominent and best- preserved roads in the Conservation Area. One application is for an extension to convert the house into two self-contained flats, another is for an extension to convert it into 4 self-contained flats. There is also a separate extension application. The applicant makes it clear that he is aware of the Conservation Area and local policy restrictions on flat conversions of family homes, but seeks to downplay their relevance in this case.
Application Reference numbers 161007, 161008,161092
Please go to the council website if you wish to comment on any of the applications.