The latest application for the Anston House site with three tower blocks of up to 15 storeys was approved in December. We were extremely disappointed as it ignores many critical planning policies and sets a precedent for similar high rise buildings across the city.
We submitted a twelve page objection to the application emphasising that it did not comply with planning policies that were the reason for rejecting the previous application.
The local residents’ group presented a strong case for rejection because of over-development, overbearing presence in the surrounding area, and detrimental effect on the listed Preston Park and on the houses in Dyke Road Drive – all contrary to numerous planning policies. In addition, the percentage of affordable housing was minimal and the amount of commercial space was inadequate. The previous application was rejected for similar reasons so logically this one should have been too.
For such a crucial application we were expecting an intense level of discussion but many critical questions were never debated or even asked. And there were so many questions that should have been asked. Why the massive overdevelopment of the site – 230 flats, and towers twice the height of any nearby buildings? Why were the issues of scale, height, overbearing impact, important views, overshadowing and overlooking not discussed and why were the policies that cover these issues completely ignored? How could it be acceptable for such high towers to be built up against small terraced housing? Whatever happened to the planning policies that specify that developments have to be sympathetic to the local area? How could the committee meekly accept that 13% affordable housing was acceptable when 40% is the current requirement?
To add insult to injury the spokesman for the Conservation Advisory Group, who is ex officio a member of the planning committee, was only called upon to speak after a majority of the councillors had confirmed that they were going to approve the application. So much for any consideration of the conservation issues. Reasons given by councillors for it were: a liking of tall buildings; the site has been derelict for years so anything is better than nothing; dislike of the design but something has to be built; we ought to be thankful for 13% affordable homes because it’s free. Only two councillors voted against the application on planning policy issues.
The result has driven massive holes into the planning policies. It will create a miserable environment for residents in the adjacent terraced housing, will dominate and overshadow Preston Park and will set a precedent for 15 storey tower blocks to become the norm. And the acceptance of 13% affordable housing sets the bar so low that other developers will see this as what they will be able to get away with.
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