10 Years of the Oakmount Triangle Conservation Area
It is now almost exactly 10 years since the Triangle was awarded Conservation Area status by Southampton City Council so it seems a good time to both celebrate this achievement and remind ourselves what this means. The impetus for the conservation area status came from the then Government’s policy of urban infill, i.e., using underdeveloped plots to produce more housing. What this meant for the Triangle was a developer’s proposal to demolish an existing period family home of some architectural merit and replace it with a high density row of town houses. To better protect against such out-of-character developments, Triangle residents together with the support of local councillors and guided by council officers were successful in gaining conservation area status with the higher level of Article 4(2) protection. This status was awarded on the quality of the street scene, originating from John Smith, who as the original developer had adopted a uniform but varying architectural style.
What this means is that the fronts of properties are specifically protected against development and particularly from minor changes that cumulatively, over many years, will lead to loss of the street scene. The practical reality of this protection is that any resident who wants to make changes to either the front of the property or that are visible from the street will require planning permission from the council. The underlying principle being that that any changes should maintain or enhance the street scene. These planning applications include removal of trees and can be made without the usual council fees. [EDITORIAL NOTE: this is no longer the case sadly, but tree applications are still free] It is important to note that the Conservation Area status does not ban development but ensures it remains in character. For example, we have seen three new-build houses in the Triangle since Article 4 (2) status was awarded and these have all been designed to merge in with the prevailing architectural style.
The process of deciding what developments are permitted in the Triangle is quite straightforward in that there is a Character Appraisal and Management Plan that was produced as a joint document by the Council and the Residents’ Association (OTRA) when Article 4 (2) status was awarded. The definitive version is available on the Council’s website
We are also able to provide you with a hard copy together with the yellow summary leaflet that draws out its main points. This Management Plan shows many examples of excellent features that add to the street scene and lays out the general requirements for permitted development in the Appendices on pages 20-23. OTRA is the local residents association and drawn from interested residents. It has stakeholder status in planning decisions and acts to represent the collective view of residents in the planning process. Through collective experience it can suggest the likely response to planning applications and assist in making these successful. But, as with the Council, we are a rules based organisation and always apply the Schedules as laid down in the Management Plan.
As we celebrate 10 years as a Conservation Area at our forthcoming AGM we can look to our success in protecting the Triangle and maintaining it as a peaceful enclave of family homes within the city. It remains a much sought after area and we have all benefitted from the value (collectively estimated at £10 million) it adds to our properties. However, whilst we benefit from being able to live in a pleasant area we must remember that it carries with it the responsibilities of maintaining the conservation status and passing it on to future residents.
John Marshall OTRA Chair 7th October 2018