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Sunday, 2 September 2012

This is how it happens...

This is how it happens. A space entirely green – private garden, allotment with trees and hedges, playing field - is taken over for building a new estate of private houses. Local people campaign against this for a decade helping to win planning gain concessions which, as anticipated by the developer, reduces the original footprint of hard surface by 50% or even more. The houses are built and occupied. The original application included two 1930s houses on the main road. One was demolished to create Victoriana Way – the road that leads into the estate – the other was converted into a temporary sales office, its front garden hard surfaced to allow would-be buyers to park. This house, after the new estate was mainly occupied, was sold privately, but only after a new property with detached garage had been built on half of the old house’s rich back garden, and a double garage built into its other half. Whittle away, whittle whittle, whittle. The new owner of the old house has submitted a planning application to build another two storey house on top of this double garage which he declares ‘surplus to requirements’ – hardly surprising given the parking now available on his frontage - extending into the small space left behind his house for a lawn. Is this worth making a fuss about? Isn’t the main damage already done? Lin and I, since our road’s residents’ opinion has been formally requested, submitted an objection.

Subject: Comments on 2012/05776/PA have been received by the council.
Date: 30 August 2012 18:35:39 EEST
Comments made by Simon Baddeley of Beaudesert Road Residents
Thank you for informing us about this application to build a two storey house at the rear of 179 Hamstead Road, Handsworth, Birmingham, B20 2RL - 2012/05776/PA.
We believe that approving the proposed building will be detrimental to the area and therefore object to the application. Our objection is submitted in the context of policies to enhance the ‘liveability’ of our city, safety and security partnerships, the restoration of parks, street improvement schemes and measures to generate housing markets and the importance of not approving planning applications which set precedents contrary to these policies.For some, getting planning permission to dispose of part of their back garden for building is tantamount to finding oil there – especially if they are minded to take the profit and live elsewhere on the proceeds, bequeathing the in-filling to their abandoned neighbours. Parks and allotments and sometimes playing fields enjoy some statutory protection. Far fewer incentives or disincentives exist to protect private green space. 
Relentlessly we see the whittling away of city green space, diminishing the aesthetic of ‘leafy suburbs’, depleting the wildlife these spaces support, removing the Co2 processing capacity provided by trees and the absorbency that lessens flooding. Car ownership continues to rise. Everywhere we see householders and landlords slabbing over front and back gardens for yet more parking, building single, and in this case, even double garages on them. The Council, whilst constantly proclaiming its commitment to a cleaner, greener city, helps accelerate the hard-surfacing of Birmingham by approving applications of this kind. One reason for our objection to this application is that this development will destroy yet more green space, in an area that already has substantially less than the minimum recommended percentage of such space per head of population. The loss of even small green spaces in Handsworth, when aggregated, contributes to the continuing degradation of the urban environment, taking away yet more play areas, opportunities for cultivation and the capacity to absorb rainwater, subtracting from the local store of precipitated water and encouraging flash floods inside and, in the case of Handsworth, eastward into Perry Barr and the Tame River basin. 
This application involves the construction of a property extending over a recently built double garage in what was yet another mature garden next to Hampstead Road in an area that has already seen substantial and unpopular in-filling over recent decades. Between 2005-2008, no fewer than 84 new properties were constructed by Westbury Homes, now Persimmon Homes (ref: No. N/01514/03/FUL) on a large part of the Victoria Jubilee Allotments. Prior to that some 21 properties were constructed around a new road backing on to Bowling Green Lane and before that further houses were built around Crick Lane on another part of the Victoria Jubilee Allotments site.Another concern is that the applicant, whether intentionally or unintentionally, has created a back garden beside a new double garage, which consists of no more than a small lawn, as a precedent for circumventing advice on maintaining bio-diversity contained in the City’s 2008 Mature Suburbs Planning Guidance. It is through actions like these - equivalent of environmental ‘death by a thousand cuts’ - that our community experiences a relentless whittling away of its remaining green space; in this case a back garden made available for another house, in many other cases, gardens - front and back - stripped of lawns, flower beds, shrubs and trees to create yet more car-parking; homes with such tiny play-spaces for young children that they drop out of the family housing market, and become more liable for multi-occupation in an area already acknowledged as being blighted by an overabundance of such properties.  On this basis we withhold approval of any further hard surfaces being laid on our limited supply of green space, much of which has suffered from intense development over the years, not least the aforementioned estate accessed by Victoriana Way which from 2004 was built on private allotments.
As an additional reason for refusing this application we cite the planned development application N/04912/05/OUT in the rear of 173 Hamstead Road, Handsworth, B20 2RL rejected by the Planning Committee in 2005, for reasons which include those contained in our present objection to this application.
At first sight this application, with its required design and access statement, would appear  to conform to the City’s 2008 Mature Suburbs Planning Guidance on controlling residential intensification. The building shown in the application’s accompanying documents seeks to fit the style of other houses recently built on the new Victoriana Way and will be built over a recently constructed double garage, and extending into green space which, for the time being, is the applicant’s own back garden. 
But this application is far from an example of ‘preserving what is good and not making worse what is less good’ (first principle of Environmental Policy Advice 3.8 in the Birmingham Plan). However closely the proposed building matches the local vernacular with existing access to Victoriana Way, the fact remains that it is being built in a back garden. It represents yet another of many attempts at getting a windfall development past the planning rules and is clearly yet another opportunistic attempt at in-filling in one of Birmingham's best known ‘mature suburbs’.
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Jacqueline emailed me with an announcement. She’s archivist for Clavering in Essex, the village where I and my sister were born at Mill End Dairy Farm. Last year, I’d sent Jacqueline mementoes of my grandmother, Bar, and my mum, Barbara, for use in her book: ‘The story of the people of Clavering, at home and in service, during the Second World War’. 190 pages. 200+ illustrations. Fully indexed.


Clavering at War by Jacqueline Cooper
Saturday 29 September 11am - 1 pm
Clavering Christian Centre (former URC), Stortford Road

All welcome for coffee and cakes and the new book!

Enquiries  from author tel 01799 550462
Books from 24 Pelham Road, Clavering, Essex CB11 4PQ   £10 + pp postal copies
I guess it shows that I’m buccaneering the truth when on other occasions I say that all I learned of the countryside came from growing up with my stepfather, Jack. My grandmother, Bar Maine, bought an old cottage in Clavering in the 1930s and turned it into a farm – with Jersey cows, hens – full size as well as bantams – geese and some horses. 
Me on Gypsy, Bar on the hay wagon around 1945
She continued to live in and visit London, but the farm was her home, the place where she died in 1969. Jacqueline tells me it’s now a riding school and that its owner would be happy for me to arrange a visit. I shall certainly buy the book. I’m not sure it would be a good idea to revisit Mill End, despite its owner’s generous offer. Some things are meant to remain in another country, always present in imagination.
On Wednesday evening we drove down to the city to see the Edward Lear Exhibition - oil paintings, watercolours, drawings and engravings - brilliantly curated by Despina Zernioti -ζερνιώτη δέσποινα - displayed in a wonderfully made temporary structure, with gaps through which one glimpsed the grand décor of the palace...
... intended by Sir Thomas Maitland to impress the Ionians under our benign protection, by a talented team of helpers and supporters inside the Palace of St Michael and St George at the head of the Liston. We were entertained by one of the city bands in company with an assembly of visitors, here to say farewell to the exhibition which had run since May. 
Once I had read the journals of his almost solitary travels across Greece and Albania, and  a DVD series made a few years ago, that followed his routes comparing his landscapes with the same places now, I had to stop thinking of Lear as I, and most of his admirers still do, as a writer of enduring nonsense rhymes. Compared to Lear’s artistry in evoking a fascination with and love of place – especially Greece and most of all Corfu - his unique contribution to nonsense, long before Dadaism and Surrealism, seems a side line, possibly a sort of self-ridiculing compensation according to a psychological appreciation – one among five brilliantly illuminating essays in the exhibition catalogue – by Anthony Stevens. 
The Edward Lear Exhibition catalogue
An endearing and memorable clown becomes a troubled and courageous genius, explorer and remembrancer, his pen and brush connecting his eye and heart to the places through which he travels, touching things, even the sky and distant prospects – pre-photographic images as accurate and truthful as the most advanced cameras. One small sketch shows the Parthenon looming in isolated majesty beyond a grove of trees, surrounded by broad meadows. Amid the enthusiastic chat and pacings around the lovely exhibits I stared at these delicate tantalising landscapes, securely framed, protected by glass, neatly titled, I could hear their silence; grieve for the unreachable magic that Lear almost allows us to touch, and see and smell. We left morose, as I suspect did others.
Παλαιοκαστρίτσα - Paleocastritsa by Edward Lear

“When choosing somewhere to live” advised my stepfather, “settle somewhere where you can’t be disappointed. Go somewhere that has been comprehensively ruined” 
We’ve tried to do that and by and large succeeded. 
The Pimping of  Panorea by Maria Strani-Potts....Maria used this parable about Corfu where she was born, a citizen of the island.
...For years they had hated hard work and had come to resent the fact that they had to work in the fields and on the sea in order to survive. It is not known who had the idea first, but the notion that the time was ripe to exploit Panorea and to benefit from her eternal qualities sprang up suddenly and quickly spread widely amongst them. They decided that if they turned Panorea into a prostitute, they would benefit enormously. Panorea was so well known in the world, so popular, that they would have no problem in selling her charms at any price; so one morning members of the clan woke up, determined to take the lead in becoming her pimps. This would be beneficial to all, they proclaimed. It was such an easy thing to do. Panorea had been a muse to poets, painters, and writers. Kings, Emperors, and Empresses adored her and visited her often, and many scholars studied her history.  Pimping appealed to them; it was neither burdensome, demanding, nor did it need careful planning. They needed neither a substantial capital investment nor much in the way of hard work. In a very short space of time Panorea was turned into a commodity. In the beginning, fresh and wonderful as she was, she brought vast profits and satisfaction to her clients.....
Maria's writing always echoes in my mind, almost sounding aloud over my shoulder as I wandered by Lear's pictures of Corfu. I imagined a refutatory paragraph...
The woman is claiming rape. I detest and refute her ridiculous allegation. Even though it seems hardly necessary, I 've apologised - fulsomely and sincerely - for any hurt she may claim to have experienced as a  result of our very brief liaison. I've leaned over backwards to respect her temperament and sensitivities. Not only that, I have paid, through my lawyers, a generous sum to ensure that her exaggerated and embarrassing allegations are never brought to court. I am more than aware of the seriousness of the crime I'm so unfairly accused of, and in that light I have also given a very large donation to a local rape-crisis centre and indicated my readiness to fund the woman's visits. I will even pay for her to have long term psychiatric care, if she persists in succumbing to the mental problems she's managed to get her advisors to define as the result of 'a traumatic assault' bearing no relationship to actual events or the circumstances of our acquaintance - if that is what it was. If anyone has suffered with the level of hysteria and fuss surrounding what some might even view as a formative and even exciting experience, it is me. 

1 comment:

  1. So glad you saw the Lear exhibition. I managed to go twice. Wonderful catalogue too.


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Simon Baddeley