Objection: The Sainsbury’s fence battle rages on

As normality slowly begins its return, rightly or wrongly, so do the planning battles. The Planning Inspector will finally be looking at the metal fence Sainsbury’s erected, without planning permission, on the patch of land next to their petrol station in New Cross Gate. It was back in February 2019 when the fence went up, surprising neighbours and shoppers alike.

The mini fire of Hatcham, May 2020

Any fence that is taller than one metre next to a public highway must receive planning permission before going up. This is because of public safety, what if the view of the road for pedestrians or drivers becomes restricted? We think this is a dangerous crossing for pedestrians due to a lack of lights and the fence doesn’t make it easier to see if any cars are looking to turn into the Sainsbury’s car park.

The patch of land actually falls within the Hatcham Conservation area which means there are restrictions on what could be built there. Essentially, developments must “enhance or preserve” the area. It’s hard to see how a metallic, pokey, daunting fence could contribute positively to the area. We know, we know, the advertising boards aren’t much to look at either but they came up long before we were around as a society. I think they went up before I even knew planning laws existed…

On Saturday, there was a small fire in the bushes enclosed by the fence. I think it must have been from a discarded cigarette, but because the fence was there residents couldn’t stop the spread of the fire but instead had to call the fire brigade. The crew from New Cross Fire station thankfully came within minutes. With the abnormally hot weather not stopping any time soon and a petrol station less than 30 metres away there needs to be a re-think of the fence to make it more accessible in case of similar emergencies.

Firefighters vs the Fence

Lewisham Council issued an enforcement notice for Sainsburys to take down the fence because:

“The development by virtue of its scale, siting, and design has resulted in substantial harm to the appearance of the surrounding environment and is considered to be a bulky and incongruous addition, dominating the street scene and detrimental to the Hatcham Conservation Area contrary to the NPPF (2018) Policies 7.4 and 7.8 of the London Plan (2016), DM Policies 30 and 36 of the Development Management Plan (2014), Core Strategy Policy 15 (2012) and the Hatcham Conservation Area Character Appraisal.”

Sainsbury’s have responded to the appeal by saying: “those matters have not occurred”.

Please respond to the Planning Inspectorate by 1/07/2020 with why you believe the fence should stay or go. It’s best if you refer to the council’s planning policies which they have cited above in your response. Quote reference APP/C5690/C/19/3230266 to ECAT@planninginspectorate.gov.uk Or you can respond on the Planning Inspectorate portal here

You can view the Hatcham Conservation Society’s response to the fence here (but please don’t copy and paste it for your response as it won’t have much weight). Individual responses are the most important in this case.

“Guerilla” gardening in Harts Lane

What the beginning of Harts Lane looks like on May 24, 2020

On Monday, I noticed that someone had planted some flowers and a shrub under the beautiful cherry tree which marks the beginning of Hatcham to the east. This patch of land is usually dominated by rubbish or a broken washing machine – gifts from unscrupulous fly-tippers.

I said a silent “thank you” to the anonymous green-fingered Hatchamite who had used some of their time to try to make this patch of land a bit more bearable.

Today, I decided to leave my mark on the soil. I dug a small hole and placed a pink flower I bought from the junk shop in New Cross Road into one corner. I picked out some broken pieces of glass, cigarette butts, and old terracotta pieces from the soil and scraped off some dirt from the surrounding pavements with a stiff brush.

As I crouched on the ground, watering can in my hand, a plump starling sat on the branches of the cherry tree to pick out some fruit to eat.

I was surprised by the remarks I received from various people cycling by. “It’s beautiful,” “good job”, “wow”. I felt guilty for taking credit for the work someone else had started.

I believe the Hatcham Conservation society should strive to make our area accessible and more beautiful for locals. We’ve long campaigned for a redesign of this section of Harts Lane to make it easier for cyclists, those with prams and wheelchair users to access Hatcham. There’s currently no dropped curb here making it impossible for wheelchair users to fit through the narrow pavement when it’s clogged with rubbish.

Lewisham council has around £260,000 to spend in New Cross. This is all money from the “community infrastructure levy”, a sort of tax developers have to pay to the local authority to have a development approved. We have asked for some of this money to go into this part of Hatcham.

A parklet – a parking space which has been transformed into a mini park – could also be wonderful in this spot of Hatcham. It would provide a place for nature to have a home and people to sit down and rest on their way home from shopping or work.

From Meristem: “Plants not Pollution”

The design company, Meristem, makes wonderful parklets. They have a form on their website where people can request them here. It’s not known whether the local authority will have to pay for them or if the design company offers them for free. But it might be worth applying if you have the time.

In the meantime, residents should take matters into their own hands. There are dozens of other tree pits in Hatcham waiting to be spruced up with some hardy plants. Guerilla gardening is not a new thing – it’s been happening for decades. Why not take a handful of wildflower seeds and bury them on a desolate patch of public land? The bees will thank you. Just make sure you water the plant.

Is there anywhere else in Hatcham you think would benefit from a parklet or better road design? Perhaps a parklet would be useful on New Cross Road where it’s extremely congested? Please give your suggestions in the comments or email Emily@Hatchamsociety.com

The Great Sinkhole of Hatcham

A small crisis has emerged under our feet this week.

The ‘sinkhole’ on May 19th, 2020

A miniature sinkhole has appeared in Hatcham Park Road, near the corner with Nettleton Road, raising questions over the council’s plans to potentially reopen Harts Lane and Hatcham Park Road to through-traffic. The hole could be linked to the major sewer line which runs down Hatcham Park Road and workers from Thames Water were seen examining the area on Monday.

One inquisitive neighbour, whose van ended up in a battle with the hole, said: “I can fit my whole arm in it”. The anonymous neighbour has kindly placed a cone on the road to alert drivers to the danger.

“S3” depicts the major sewer line servicing the area (image from Sainsbury’s application to develop their New Cross Gate site – please note, their application has now been withdrawn)

While the hole may seem trivial, it raises the question of whether our roads are capable of withstanding more traffic than what is currently present. The Hatcham Conservation society has been fighting the council’s plans to re-open Harts Lane to through-traffic from the congested New Cross Road.

The council released their New Cross Gate supplementary document in October, last year which included:

  • The recommendation of creating a “new circular route via Harts Lane”
  • The recommendation of creating a “secondary access to Hart [Sic] Lane via Hatcham Park Road – suitable for Bus traffic”

Harts Lane and Nettleton Road were closed to through-traffic in 2004 after a resident-led campaign and the Hatcham society are against the re-opening of any residential roads in the area which would see a huge increase in traffic into the currently quiet side-streets.

According to the council timeline, we were meant to see a response to the consultation on the council’s website by April 2020. But given the current situation, there has been a delay and it is not yet known when the results of the consultation will be released.

But it’s important to not be complacent – there can be no re-opening of any roads to traffic from New Cross Road in Hatcham.

Please sign up to our mailing list to keep up-to-date with the council’s consultation so you can help us oppose any negative changes to our roads.

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