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Bromley Civic Society - November 2015
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November 2015 Newsletter

Welcome to our latest newsletter. We have a packed edition as ever and we hope you like our new logo which was launched a few weeks ago on our website. We are delighted with the image which we hope conveys the heritage of Bromley (using the iconic Star and Garter pub), the green spaces and the Broom from which the town gets its name. Thanks to Neil at Square Fox for designing it for us.

Bromley Civic Society Heritage Walk

We have recently organised two heritage walks around Bromley North, on Saturday 26th September and Saturday 31st October. Ann Garrett, BCS Committee member provides a write up of our September walk. Our next walk will be on Saturday 5th December.  Meet at 10:30am outside the Railway Tavern (opposite Bromley North Station).  The walk is free and will last about 2 hours.  It will be an opportunity to visit the 17th Century Bromley College, a quiet oasis with a rich history and 200 year old graffiti.  You will get a flavour of Bromley's Victorian heyday when the young HG Wells was experiencing life that would later shape his novels. 

September 26th was a beautiful sunny day and Peter Martin led us on an interesting heritage walk around the Bromley North conservation area. About 15 people were involved, many of whom had seen the BCS website publicising the event,  which was encouraging. We were also accompanied by a lively dog! We started off from outside The Railway Hotel built in 1879, newly restored by the enterprising pub chain Antic, containing significant Arts and Crafts movement features, and then walked along leafy North Street past Bromley Little Theatre, a former warehouse, and some old stables now occupied by the Family Mediation Bureau.

At College Green Peter mentioned the valuable work being done on the site by The Green Gym volunteer group with insect hotels and using old twigs to make a lovely walkway down College Slip, where we passed the Old Cottage now occupied and providing much-needed housing. I also reminded the group of a successful campaign in the 1980s to stop an office block development on College Green and another unsuccessful one to save the former Victorian Parish School building.

Bromley CollegeThen we had an interesting tour of Bromley College, aided by Kathleen Craig who took us into the chapel with its beautiful stained glass windows. We then walked in the grounds and at one point  looked out to the wildlife site running alongside Sheppard’s College, known as Site B, now threatened by a possible ugly new housing development. Another campaign to keep us all busy!

London Road is packed with old heritage buildings, such as the Swan and Mitre, the Star and Garter, The Partridge and The Bell Hotel where our walk ended.  Peter aptly drew our attention to mouldings and features influenced by the Dutch style as well as more Arts and Crafts influences. The Bell is another Antic success story with its historical association of being mentioned in Jane Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice as a coaching stop.  Peter has played a key role and many months of hard work in negotiating with Antic. We look forward to its future of providing community arts facilities as well as commercial provision which will help pay for the restoration. The Bromley North Traders have also been active in helping restoration of the exteriors of buildings in London Road, such as The Diner Inn.

After the walk some of us went to the Greyhound , now a Wetherspoons and containing numerous Bromley historical photographs and information about Charles Darwin. Many thanks to Peter for a most informative and enjoyable walk. We look forward to many more as publicised in the excellent Bromley Civic Society leaflets produced by our chair Tony Banfield, and Jeff Royce of Friends of Bromley Town Centre Parks and Gardens and available on our website.
TOWN CENTRE HOMES UNDER THREAT OF DEMOLITION:    
MEETING 25 NOVEMBER 2015
 
As most of us are aware, the Council’s so-called Opportunity Site G proposals collapsed spectacularly last year.  The Council’s original intention in the Town Centre Area Action Plan was to acquire, demolish and redevelop everything on the west side of the High Street from the Churchill Theatre down to the railway, including the 40 homes in Ethelbert Close.  The AAP concept was sold by the Executive to full Council on the supposed justification that, without massive new retail development, the “town will die”. The AAP Inspector was clear that, if to be considered, there should be a Masterplan and development must not be piecemeal. In the event, the only developer interested showed the concept to be totally non-viable and it has also been acknowledged by the Greater London Authority that the provisions for retail development in the London Plan have been greatly overestimated.
 
Not to be deterred, the Executive are now using the excuse of the adopted AAP and the shortage of housing to try to justify compulsory purchase of just the part of Site G comprising the homes in Ethelbert Close and the Town Church (a major community asset) for a block of 8 & 11 storey flats. The use of Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs) is meant to be exceptional and only where overriding public benefit can be shown.  The Council will have to justify their proposals at a CPO public inquiry if and when a planning application has been approved. 
 
Although entirely different from the adopted AAP and without the original justification of retail development, the required Masterplan and being piecemeal development, the Executive has not and does not intend to seek approval from the full Council for this radical departure from the AAP and the injustice to be perpetrated on the owners and tenants of Ethelbert Close and the Town Church.  The homes, most of which were built in 1937, support a community comprising young families, the elderly, and disabled people who, by necessity, need to be close to the Town Centre. The community is well established with many residents having lived in Ethelbert Close for a considerable number of years.
 
Those outside the Close but within Site G are still under the same potential threat in the future and those who live close to this area will undoubtedly be negatively affected by the plans to build high-rise buildings in place of the current houses in the Close.  Not least will be the impact on the historic environment of the High Street Conservation Area and Library and Church House Gardens.  The current development at Ringers Road is a good indication of what the Council intends in terms of scale and massing.
 
The proposals for the future of Ethelbert Close and its surrounding area “Opportunity Site G” remain shrouded in secrecy despite the Council holding a workshop with stakeholders and interested parties on 21 July 2015. This workshop, however, focussed only on potential design ideas for the redevelopment of Site G (including the building of high-rise flats), while failing to answer the critical question of whether any development should take place at all.
 
As of November, there is still no clarity from Bromley Council regarding the proposed redevelopment of either Site G as a whole or Ethelbert Close and there is increasing uncertainty about whether there will be a robust Consultation Process.  Bromley Civic Society has supported the residents and owners of Ethelbert Close over the last few years and there will be a collective MEETING taking place on 25TH NOVEMBER 2015 to discuss the plans for “Opportunity Site G”.
ss the plans for “Opportunity Site G”.
 
Date: Thursday 25th November 2015
Venue: Bromley Town Church, 2 Ethelbert Road, Bromley, BR1 1JA
Time: 7.00 p.m. – 9.30 p.m.
 
For further information, please contact:
Friends of Community G:
E-mail: communitygbromley@gmail.com

Orpington Priory Regeneration Project [OPRP] 

Bromley Civic Society commented in June about the sad fate of Bromley’s Museum and the Orpington Priory buildings in which it was based.
 
The Council has decided that the Priory is surplus to its requirements and the fate of the Grade II listed buildings is now in the balance. However, the steering group of OPRP has been working on plans to persuade the council to let their group take over the Priory and run it for the local community instead of the buildings being sold. Bromley Civic Society strongly supports this approach.
 
The Priory buildings and gardens were bought for the people of Orpington by the former Urban District Council in1949 and OPRP want it to remain in the community. They believe that if the Priory is sold to a developer it will mean the loss to the people of Bromley of one of its oldest and most historically valuable buildings. The Priory was successfully listed as an Asset of Community Value earlier this year something that will help to support the process if the Priory is to become a community hub.
 
It is intended that the proposed hub will focus on arts & heritage, community use, business use and education. One of the biggest losses with the closing of the museum has been the programme of educational visits offered to local schools, and OPRP want to re-introduce visits based on the National Curriculum. OPRP believe that by providing a community hub they will be contributing to the health and well-being of the local community, as set out in the government’s National Planning Policy Framework.
 
The steering group have many ideas to put forward in their bid and are currently preparing a petition to gather support for their proposals. If you would like to support OPRP in any way or find out more about their work, please contact Sally Pennington at the following email address:  sfp1351@gmail.com

 

Opportunity Site B – South Side of Tweedy Road – update on the Holder Mathias study

As reported in our September newsletter the Council are seeking to re-market the, so called, Opportunity Site B and have commissioned consultants, Holder Mathias, to do a preliminary massing study.  

The origins of what was to become the Site B fiasco lie with the Executive’s decision to put the formulation of the AAP Opportunity Site proposals in the hands of the Council’s Property wing rather than the Planning Department.  The Society challenged this at the time, and in a response from the Town Centre Project Director, Frank Whiting, who had been given the responsibility stated: “the Council has two separate roles as landowner and planning authority and it is important these roles are kept distinct from one another”.  It was assumed that the material considerations regarding the settings of the listed buildings and conservation area could be left to the Development Control Committee at the planning application stage rather than the development brief stage. As we now know the net result of this mishandling was the major fiasco of the subsequent scheme being refused twice by Development Control Committee and slashed to pieces in the Appeal Inspector’s report.  Interestingly, we have now had a verbal acknowledgement that it was a mistake to put the formulation of AAP policy for Site B in the hands of Property rather than Planning.  This admission clearly has implications for the validity of all the other AAP sites which have impact on the historic environment – not least the controversial site G!  

We have submitted detailed comments on the Holder Mathias study for Site B.  Of concern is that the study fails to address National Planning Policy and Heritage England guidance for the historic environment or to adequately address the constraints in the Appeal Inspector’s 2008 report which are supposed to be the basis for any future proposals for this sensitive site.  

One of the main points at issue is that the Council’s acquisition and demolition of the houses on the south side of Tweedy Road in the late 1980s for road widening incidentally restored to public view the historic northern setting of Bromley College and the Conservation Area which are designated heritage assets and which for over 200 years was the landmark/gateway to the town.

National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) says:  – “Local planning authorities should identify and assess the particular significance of any heritage asset that may be affected by a proposal (including by development affecting the setting of a heritage asset)” Historic England Guidance- Setting and the significance of heritage assets says:  “positive change could include the restoration of a building’s original designed landscape or the removal of structures impairing views of a building”.
View of Site B
NPPF says:  local planning authorities should look for opportunities for new development…within the setting of heritage assets to enhance or better reveal their significance.  Proposals that preserve those elements of the setting that make a positive contribution to or better reveal the significance of the asset should be treated favourably. We've made the obvious observation that the Holder Mathias study assumes that the recovered historic views of the setting of the heritage assets can simply be obscured by buildings again which certainly would not ‘better reveal their significance’.  Given that they are working to a brief from the Council it is reasonable to assume that is where the problem lies.



Encouragingly, we understand that the Council have, at least, asked Holder Mathias to think again.  Ultimately, the outcome is a test of how far the Councils commitment to redevelopment as land owner is allowed to compromise their statutory duties in regard to the historic environment under their care.

Trading on Heritage

It’s been encouraging to see that traders are increasingly adopting heritage as a trading asset. Prime examples are the extraordinary installation at Paperchase, the restorations at Chisholm Hunter (formerly Paynes), those at the Diner’s Inn with the newly revealed corner column, cornice and fine new fascia designed to match the old Weeks tiled signage on the side wall - one example of the take up of the Council’s excellent but short lived shopfront improvement scheme. Then there is  the continued retention of the old Kennedy’s shopfront and signage at Brodies and the giant photo mural of old Market Square in Metro Bank.

Wetherspoons have many historic pictures of the Old Town on display as do the Everest restaurant.  The latest display is in the Nat West Bank with a large photo mural of the Parish Church and history of the branch in old photos on the back wall. 

Heritage Interpretation Boards and Naval Walk signage – when will we get them?

Heritage Interpretation Boards which inform the passer-by are a normal and vital feature in any historic town.  We requested these as part of the Bromley North Improvements back in 2010 and were assured they would happen but found out earlier this year that the Council’s consultant designers had declared they would be ‘street clutter’. Without any one telling us, the idea was scrapped.  When we found out and complained it was agreed to re—instate the proposal.  Nearly a year later there is still no progress.

We’ve also expressed concern about the pointless removal, nearly a year ago, of the signage outside the Hill Car Park which used to direct shoppers along the expensively re-vamped Naval Walk into the Upper High Street. So many people still divert along the back alley leading to Edison Road.  Ironically, while this is perceived as a short cut it is actually a lot further to walk and deprives High Street Traders of vital footfall.

Taking up these issues again, recently, with the Head of Town Centre Development, Kevin Munnelly, we are told  Both the items you have identified below are being considered as part of the contingency budget allocation for the scheme. Once I am in position to clarify this allocation I will update you.” 

BCS Members eligible for National Trust passes

BCS members have a number of benefits, one of which is through our membership of Civic Voice, the national charity for the civic movement in England. Paid up members are eligible to receive a pass for two people to attend a National Trust property of your choice. If you are already a member of National Trust you can give the passes to friends or family. To apply for your pass please send a stamped addressed envelope to: Civic Voice, 60 Duke Street, Liverpool L1 5AA stating your name and that you are a member of BCS.
Copyright © 2015 Bromley Civic Society, All rights reserved.


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