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Planning app: Change of use to Retail 5 Blenheim Ave

Laurie

Resident
On our Christmas walk, I noticed that there is a current planning application for a hair salon home business at 5 Blenheim Avenue. When I looked at the documents online, however, I also noticed that the application contains a change of use to A1 Retail. This isn't clear on the street notice.

While the statements re number of employees, clients, parking, business waste etc in the application may be made in good faith, I am very concerned by the fuller contents of the application and the implications of change of use of a property in the triangle.

Please can we have a discussion about this? The closing date for neighbour comments to the council is Tuesday 7 Jan, so the matter is urgent.
 

JULI SPARROW

Resident
Thanks for drawing our attention to this application. It seems urgent response is needed. Does anyone have the application details?
 

Pete Thomas

Committee
Conservation
Does anyone have the application details?

This is the direct link (which they seem to change from time to time), but should work


Otherwise you can search the address here:

 

JULI SPARROW

Resident
Copy of my comment:
Oakmount Triangle is entirely a residential area and traffic is generally limited to residential local needs. Parking is already a problem for residents with university staff and students taking over and due to Conservation Area regulations, off-street parking cannot be created. Children have always played or cycled in this area which is tucked away and not a through-road to anywhere. Bringing in commercial traffic and having a sign to advertise services would not be in keeping with conservation area requirements. The Title Deeds of our property contain limitations to running any form of commercial business. I presume the same must apply to this property.
Once permission is granted for one type of business, other properties could do the same and so a residential area would turn commercial. There are enough commercial properties that are empty within walking distance.
 

Laurie

Resident
Once permission is granted for one type of business, other properties could do the same and so a residential area would turn commercial. There are enough commercial properties that are empty within walking distance.

Note that the applicant is not the owner of the property. Also, once the change of use is granted, the property could subsequently be used for any business that falls within the category A1, particularly as the plans show that the area to be granted business use will have its own entrance:

"Shops, retail warehouses, hairdressers, undertakers, travel and ticket agencies, post offices, pet shops, sandwich bars, showrooms, domestic hire shops, dry cleaners, funeral directors and internet cafes."

How can we ensure that the existence of the application is being flagged to other residents - it's such a busy time of year and I don't know how many people are looking at this site right now.
 

Dave White

Committee
Conservation
Hi All,
We (i.e. our household) have just lodged an objection to this online - text shown below. I am not sure how else to inform neighbours - this forum is a good start though. We will mention this to people we know nearby. Our reasoning is given below...
The OTRA Committee is meeting on Sunday to write an OTRA response - committee members have been discussing this via the online committee forum, but if non-committee members on this forum give their views here then this will help to develop consensus.
Dave


We wish to lodge a strong objection to this application because it creates an A1 retail property within a wholly residential area. The proposed business (and other future businesses) will create additional traffic, and the shop frontage will be out of character with the OTRA Conservation and Management Plan. It will also detract from our local commercial hub of Portswood High Street where many alternative Hair Salons currently exist and other commercial units are empty and available. If conversions such as this application are permitted by the SCC, this will drive a diffusion of commercial activity that reduces both the success of the Portswood High Street 'hub' and also the amenity of the quiet residential areas such as the Oakmount Triangle. Approval of this change to A1 retail would set a precedent for other shop/retail businesses to be created in Highfield's residential areas in the future, which may have further negative impacts on both the Oakmount Triangle, the Highfield residential streets and also on Portswood High Street. The SCC Local Plan Review (March 2015) confirms the planning intent is to support the Portswood District Centre, which this application would go against.

We note that the A1 conversion permits a whole range of other alternative businesses being established in the future, which may create further disturbance, traffic and so forth compared to the estimates given by the current specific request.

The documents suggest that this application is prompted by a retirement of a hair stylist who wishes to continue seeing some clients at home. This should not be accommodated by SCC creating an A1 retail unit in a wholly residential Conservation Area including creation of a shop frontage, with the future potential alternative uses that this then permits. It will better serve our local community if our local Hair Salons and other shops/retail units remain in Portswood High Street or other nearby commercial areas.
 

Pete Thomas

Committee
Conservation
There has been a meeting, OTRA will be registering a very strong objection on behalf of the residents.

I have noticed from the latest objection by Dr Stras one very pertinent observation. The council has not followed the National Planning Policy Framework (which in other applications it claims to do)

The application states that it has had positive pre-application guidance, stating letter reference 18/00699/PREAPP2 from John Fanning, dated 19/11/2018. This is surprising and disappointing, as the National Planning Policy Framework (Feb 2019) states that
a) Local planning authorities should encourage applicants to "engage with the local community and, where relevant, with statutory and non-statutory consultees" (para 40); and
b) "the participation of other consenting bodies in pre-application discussions should enable early consideration of all the fundamental issues relating to whether a particular development will be acceptable in principle" (para 42).
It seems that pre-application advice has been given without the engagement of the local community through either the Oakmount Triangle Residents Association or the Highfield Residents Association. Moreover, that pre-application advice has not been made available in the application - despite the note that it was appended to the application proper.
 

Pete Thomas

Committee
Conservation
@John Marshall has now responded on the Application on behalf of OTRA.

See here

Comments are still open it seems . neigbour consultation expiry date is Jan 7, but according to the Notice on the lamp posts comment expiry date is Jan 10.

Someone please correct me if wrong but think this may mean that if you want to comment after 7 Jan you may need to choose type Other as opposed to Neighbour but can still comment up until Friday 10th (end of the day?).
 
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roger brown

Resident
Thanks Vijay. A number of us went to the meeting where the item was reached at about 10.20 pm.

Disappointingly for OTRA and the Conservation Area, the application was approved, in spite of strong and well argued objections from the OTRA Chair (Pete Thomas), supported by HRA, and from one of our local Councillors.

Best wishes

Roger Brown
 

Pete Thomas

Committee
Conservation
thankfully a lot of restrictions put in place if the panel approved it.
It was approved with exactly those conditions.

Anyone go to the meeting?

The applicant plus several residents who had objected. Representations were made on behalf of OTRA and all residents' objections by OTRA, Jerry Gillen of Highfield Residents Association and Gordon Cooper (one of our Portswood ward councillors).
 
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Pete Thomas

Committee
Conservation
I'm updating this thread as we got quite a few residents asking about the approval of an application that they (and we) were concerned about, especially in regard to any possible precedents set. Although we were not happy about the approval, at least we believe all your (and our) efforts in objecting were successful in forcing the conditions applied to the approval.

It had been suggested after the planning panel decision that OTRA might appeal. In fact the only appeal against a planning approval (as opposed to appealing a rejection) is to go to a Judicial Review. This would have been prohibitively expensive (probably well over £10,000) so the committee decided instead to get legal advice on the actual ramifications of the approval conditions.

We consulted with barrister Felicity Thomas of Pallant Chambers, the outcome of which was extremely positive in that the conditions are so specific to the size and type of the business that there is no realistic concern for us provided the conditions are not infringed.

We will report with more detail at the next AGM (hoping we may be able to have one next year!) when we will have finalised the minutes of the meeting with the barrister.
 

Pete Thomas

Committee
Conservation
As it looks very much like there will be no AGM at the moment it makes sense add more detail here.

Many residents were concerned about what kind of precedent the granting of such A1 retail use might set. Due the large number of resident objections (18) the application was considered at a planning panel held on 11 Feb 2020. OTRA and HRA attended to represent the residents' views which are recorded along with the application. OTRA is not opposed to small home businesses, our presentation at the panel concentrated on the general reclassification of the premises to A1 retail and any potentially damaging precedent this might set. In this case the scale of the business was outside the general planning guidelines for a home business, and so there were concerns about it's impact on the neighbourhood.

It was not until a few hours prior to the panel that we found out the proposed approval would be highly conditional, and so many of our biggest fears were potentially allayed. We made no objection to the appearance of the building conversion and are currently liaising with the residents in regard to an amendment and how this can best fit in visually with the conservation area.

As mentioned last year,following the (conditional) approval of the application there was a suggestion that OTRA should consider legal action against SCC in regard to the their decision. There is no means to appeal an approval decision except to instigate a judicial review. OTRA discussed this and decided firmly against it, however we did want some expert legal advice on any implications of the decision. We consulted specialist barrister Felicity Thomas of Pallant Chambers, who spent time visiting the Oakmount Triangle and meeting with members of the committee. In order for OTRA to save on legal costs, we opted to not receive a *formal report but to make our own notes based on an audio transcript of that meeting.

[EDIT * we have since received a report which I have attached to this post and may be useful along with our notes here]

OTRA notes - summary of legal advice from Felicity Thomas:

In spite of the initial application for general change of use to A1 retail, this conditional approval came with very tight restrictions in order to protect the character of the Triangle. Ms Thomas considered the conditions are well drafted by SCC. The property is still entirely residential (C3) with a hairdressing business attached. The conditions imposed are very restrictive. These conditions protect the local community and again, it cannot be stressed enough that there is no change of use.

  • If the owner ceases trading (see below), the building housing the hairdresser automatically reverts to residential.
  • There is no external appearance of it being a hairdressing business
  • Only two hairdressers employed (a rota of six different hairdressers probably fine as long as there were no more than two at any one time.
  • Operating hours are restricted to Wed - Sat 9:30 - 17:00. No more than 5 clients per day
  • No ‘walk in’ clients allowed – all clients must have made an appointment.
  • It is not permitted to advertise in the external windows

Ceasing trading is a bit vague and a number of different scenarios were discussed.

  • If the present owner stopped working in the salon but a member of the family who lived in the house took over the business, it was thought that this situation would not break the conditions.
  • If the present owner stopped trading for a few months and then restarted, again it was thought this would be within the conditions.
  • If the business ceases for longer and the building reverts back to residential, the owner would have to reapply for permission to restart the business.
  • A third party cannot take over the running of the business while the present owner lives in the property.
  • The property cannot be subdivided – so if the owner wants to divide the salon up into a nail section and a facial section, this would break the conditions.
  • As soon as the building is no longer used for hairdressing and is used for another purpose, then the permitted use falls away.

Technically, the owner could sell the property to someone who wants to continue running the hairdressing business under the conditions but this is very unlikely - and would have very limited value to any existing hairdressing business.

Precedent

It is right for the residents to be very vigilant in planning matters. If such a situation occurred in every house in The Triangle, it would change the nature of the area.

There are understandable fears about precedents, but SCC is not bound by them and should view every case on its own set of facts. (It was confirmed to us by Ward Councillor Gordon Cooper that this is very much the case). Precedents could go the other way – eg another similar application could be turned down purely because of of a previous approval (in order to avoid potential over-intensification of business)

Breaches of the conditions

The council will always want to know what the impact of the breaches is on the character of the area. If a few more clients than expected use the salon but there is no impact on noise and parking, the council will probably ignore the breach. But if the council is presented with evidence from residents that the character of the area is being adversely affected, then they could take action.
 

Attachments

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