Jim Gowans’ West Hill Watch, Oct 18

Fingers burnt in Surrey Street

The developer who has replaced all the timber sash windows to the front of 43 Surrey Street with plastic (see June/July issue of The Whistler ) has learned a very expensive lesson. He failed to apply for planning permission in the first instance, but then when Council officers caught up with him, his retrospective application was refused as the loss of timber sash windows was considered unacceptable in a Conservation Area. He, then, rather foolishly and without, it seems, reading the reasons for refusal, appealed to a planning inspector. The Planning Inspector (who is appointed by the Secretary of State and is independent of the local council) dismissed the appeal. This leaves the developer with the cost of now replacing the replacement windows! The windows which now have to be binned may have cost between £10,000 – £15,000 when the existing  timber windows could have been expertly repaired for a fraction of this sum or completely replaced for a similar amount, with energy savings being achieved by secondary glazing and draught proofing.

Thumbs up to West Hill Street

In contrast to 43 Surrey Street several properties here are in the process of being thoughtfully repaired or restored, notably No 1 where work has been completed to the ground floor windows and No 6 where the new owners have already reinstated the front garden wall and have plans to reinstate the timber sash windows and original appearance of the front elevation which, at the moment, is missing the mouldings and canted bay to the upper floor, which add to the charm of these terraced houses built a decade after the arrival of the railway in the 1840s.

But hands off a family dwelling!

Residents in West Hill Street have been alarmed by the application to convert 54 West Hill Street from a two-bedroom family dwelling to a five-bedroom house in multiple occupation. Over fifty objections were submitted, which drew attention to the proposed over-development of the site and the adverse effect this would have on neighbours. The planning officers agreed and have refused permission stating that the “. . limited circulation space, awkward layout and lack of practical communal space would represent a cramped and substandard level of accommodation to the detriment of future occupants . . .”  It is worth noting that this house is one of the three houses (55 West Hill Street and 26B West Hill Road) which were created from the West Hill Tavern when it ceased trading in the 1970s. The corner site and previous use means that the back yards created are small and close together, which makes them particularly unsuitable as communal amenity areas for five-roomed HMOs.  Despite the refusal of planning permission, extensive work to the inside and possibly in the yard of No. 54 continues unabated. Whether this is to address the issues of over-development or simply in the hope of permission being granted on appeal is unclear.


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