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Planning Application for Gallia Court

Pete Thomas

Committee
Conservation
There is a proposal to renovate Gallia Court, this will affect the appearance mostly in regard to the colour of the balcony panels.


Galliaplans.jpg


It is proposed the panels will alternate these colours:

gallia-colours.jpg

We'd like to hear what residents think about this and of course, as always, you can make your opinions known on the planning application site.
 
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Pete Thomas

Committee
Conservation
I suggest that OTRA should contact SCC in regard to this as it may be worth seeing if there can be some consultation with them before we make any comments/objections on the application. I will report back here if there is any news.
 
Here is a mock-up of what the balconies will look like, using the specified colours from the manufacturers' brochure. For those who don't know Gallia Court, this is about half of the front - the same alternating pattern will be repeated on the other half. And of course it will be more visible in winter.

The Council's Management Plan says that "Gallia Court... detract(s) from the character of the area" and so I would have thought that anything that draws attention to it - i.e. the bright red panels - would harm the overall character of the area.

Proposed balconies v1.jpg
 

Peter Bevan

Secretary
Committee
We think it's an improvement on the existing appearance- though of course we don't live opposite. Might other colours ( e.g. greens) be a less startling alternative? And what's the view of Gallia Court residents themselves?
 
When the Council's project manager spoke to me in December, he indicated that the Council already had the two reds in stock - before he'd realised that they'd need planning permission! He did make a verbal offer to change them, though.

A few neighbours at this end of Blenheim have been looking for a solution that might allow SCC to use the darker red, and have come up with this:

Balconies Sienna Brown.jpg


(Sienna Brown, from the same catalogue)

alternatively we think that these two beiges would be best to blend in with the brickwork

Balconies Beige Stone.jpg
 
The beiges are very drab. Greens wold melt back in the environment slightly better. I suspect a one colour red scheme (probably wine) rather than alternative would be less 'noticeable'. I add for observation only - I am aware I do not live next door or opposite so would support those who do.
 

Toni Rolles

Resident
These panels inevitably get dirty and what is the chance they will be cleaned? Dirty beige may not be very pleasant to look at. These are flats for people needing sheltered accommodation I think. Perhaps as a group we could liven up the garden with some new trees/shrubs, for their and our benefit?
 

Laurie

Resident
An excellent suggestion by Toni just now!

Two issues occur to me:
1) Widespread consultation on matters that are largely down to personal preference can do more harm than good. There are many red doors on houses in the Triangle covered by the management plan. My own front door is yellow. I would no more hand the decision regarding what colour I should paint my front door - or my house, for that matter - to my neighbours than I would ask them about what colour car I should buy. Already on the forum here there are five different preferences that might be offered to the council - choose any of them, and someone is not going to be happy.

2) The consultation process of making public planning applications is an appropriate way for the council to solicit views from individuals affected by a planning decision. By all means, immediate neighbours should make representations in the process, but I don't see an imperative for OTRA to have a view here, and I'd suggest that a collective wielding of the management plan in an effort to camouflage council/sheltered housing is rather poor optics for a predominantly middle-class neighbourhood.

Residents' associations do a lot of good in their communities, but it doesn't take a lot to develop a reputation for nimbyism. I'd prefer to see the association reserving its planning interventions for matters that affect the entire area.
 

Pete Thomas

Committee
Conservation
I suggest that OTRA should contact SCC in regard to this a
I have now done this and had a nice chat with Stuart. It seems it was the residents who had chosen those colours. However Stuart from the council also wants the neighbours to be happy and have decided therefore to replace the glazing with glazing, which does not need permission so they will withdraw the application.
 
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Since my wife and I live next door to Gallia Court and over the years have got to know some of its residents quite well, I thought it would be worthwhile adding the following before this thread dies.

Gallia Court is owned by SCC. They let out five or six of the ten flats. The others have been bought by their Council tenants over the years and have since been sold on to private landlords who rent them out. As far as I know, there are no owner-occupiers. The Council-owned flats are not sheltered accommodation, but since eight out of ten are one-bed, it’s perhaps inevitable that many of the tenants are “senior citizens” (is that OK??).

The building is over 40 years old and evidently in need of refurbishment. The front balconies, which are currently cantilevered out from the front of the building, are life-expired, and are to be supported on additional beams and piers (shown in yellow on the plan that Pete posted above).

The colours of the front balcony panels were decided by SCC after some consultation with residents of Gallia, last year; a significant minority preferred green over red. SCC is the landlord and therefore in a position to impose its choices on its tenants, as amply demonstrated by its decision yesterday to abandon colours entirely. Owner-occupiers are entitled to paint their front doors whatever colour they wish: tenants have to choose from any options their landlord may be minded to offer.

If OTRA had gone ahead with opposing the planning application, it would presumably have been attempting to intervene on behalf of all Oakmount Triangle residents, including the dozen or so in Gallia, with the aim of reconciling Gallia’s tenants’ preferences (good suggestion, Peter; it’s a pity, given Covid restrictions, that none seem to be members) with the Management Plan for the Conservation Area. (The flats also have rear balconies, which are not covered by Conservation Area constraints. Maybe SCC will use coloured panels for those??)

When SCC drew up its planning application, I suspect that it had not consulted its own Management Plan for the Triangle. SCC’s most recent switch to like-for-like (reinforced glass) for the panels, thereby avoiding having to defend its choices to the Planning Committee, might support this.

A planning application is a very blunt instrument for resolving issues like this, since it can only be altered by formal objection, encouraging polarisation of views. If SCC Housing had consulted their own Heritage people before deciding on the colours, they might have come up with a more acceptable proposal. Unfortunately the formal application put OTRA into the invidious position of having to decide whether or not to hold SCC to its own Management Plan, by no means the first time this has happened.



This raises a more general misconception, that the Management Plan is something that OTRA imposes on residents, potentially against their will. The Management Plan is a Southampton City Council document that they (should) use when preparing or evaluating planning applications. Occasionally, residents will disagree with the Council’s interpretation of the Plan and wish to make their own views known, but ideally this shouldn’t happen very often.

It’s also worth remembering that the Plan is still in its initial form (2008) and inevitably does not cover every eventuality that could arise. SCC is supposed to carry out a Conservation Area Appraisal every five years, but if it has done so, it does not seem to have suggested revisions to the Plan.



Turning to the gardens at Gallia Court, these are maintained by SCC (minimally) supplemented from time to time by residents. For many years the front garden was looked after by an Irish lady called Cath; recently Abbie Shoebridge has been doing what she can from her wheelchair (she has a black spaniel as her assistance dog, you may have seen her around the neighbourhood). The front garden has already been partly wrecked by the contractors and once they are gone some assistance with replanting might well be appreciated.
 

Pete Thomas

Committee
Conservation
If OTRA had gone ahead with opposing the planning application, it would presumably have been attempting to intervene on behalf of all Oakmount Triangle residents, including the dozen or so in Gallia, with the aim of reconciling Gallia’s tenants’ preferences
Our no 1 priority was to reconcile, hence writing to SCC (Capital Projects Property Team).

The OTRA committee was already in discussion about this. If the letter to SCC had not been so immediately successful then the committee would have continued discussing a plan of action.

As we try to be as democratic as possible, we would have voted on an action, ideally based on views of members and residents and the management plan if possible, but there is not much to go on in the management plan. The closest I can find is p.17 regarding rendering or window frames (inappropriate...use of strong colours on rendering, pebbledash and windows), and yet we seem to get no objections to brightly coloured front doors, which feature favourably in the plan.

If there had been a consensus among members and residents (which so far appears unilkely) and it was not directly against anything in the management plan, then I am sure OTRA would have supported. Without a consensus I think OTRA would done its best to facilitate a consensus, or at least a significant majority. But without that, I feel it would not have been right for OTRA to make value judgments about specific colours, but that is just my personal opinion and may well have been outvoted by committee.

But luckily we were not in that difficult position.

This raises a more general misconception, that the Management Plan is something that OTRA imposes on residents, potentially against their will.
I will address that in a separate dedicated topic about the changes we have proposed to the management plan, and our current progress in that regard.

And what's the view of Gallia Court residents themselves?
I have heard from the SCC property team they voted narrowly in favour of red. That is why those were proposed.

it’s a pity, given Covid restrictions, that none seem to be members

One resident of Gallia was at the last AGM, and is a member. Or at least, was at that time.

The front garden has already been partly wrecked by the contractors and once they are gone some assistance with replanting might well be appreciated.

We will put out a call for volunteers to help.
 

Vijay

Resident
. As far as I know, there are no owner-occupiers.
There's at least one - me. However, no notice of this application has come through my door. This is the first I heard of it. I knew they were redoing the balconies, I was unaware they were subject to planning.
The colours of the front balcony panels were decided by SCC after some consultation with residents of Gallia, last year; a significant minority preferred green over red.
Really, now? I wasn't even asked - I think they must have only asked council tenants. There's certainly been no proper consultation here. Personally, I don't have a preference though. I live on the ground floor (flat 5), so they're well above my eyeline

it’s a pity, given Covid restrictions, that none seem to be members)
Ahem.

Turning to the gardens at Gallia Court, these are maintained by SCC (minimally) supplemented from time to time by residents. For many years the front garden was looked after by an Irish lady called Cath; recently Abbie Shoebridge has been doing what she can from her wheelchair (she has a black spaniel as her assistance dog, you may have seen her around the neighbourhood). The front garden has already been partly wrecked by the contractors and once they are gone some assistance with replanting might well be appreciated.
Once they're gone I intend to harass the council to return the communal areas - particularly the front garden - to the state they were in beforehand - they're the freeholder, they're responsible for the upkeep.

I have to say, I've learnt the hard way that the council is a terrible freeholder\property manager compared to the property management company who looked after the previous block I lived in for a very wide variety of reasons.
 

Pete Thomas

Committee
Conservation
There's at least one - me.
Hello Vijay - yes, we met at the AGM last year (it was you I was referring to in my post above)
Really, now? I wasn't even asked - I think they must have only asked council tenants.
That's a real shame. If my communication with SCC had had a different outcome, ie if they would have continued with the plan, I would certainly have lobbied for the Gallia residents to be consulted. After all these are your homes!
Once they're gone I intend to harass the council to return the communal areas - particularly the front garden - to the state they were in beforehand - they're the freeholder, they're responsible for the upkeep.
Please keep in touch, I'm sure we (OTRA) would support you in this.
 

Vijay

Resident
Please keep in touch, I'm sure we (OTRA) would support you in this.
Thanks Pete - you can't see them, but the contractors are down the side & round the back of the building too - particularly where they've been using the side as an access route the grass has become very threadbare.

As a sidenote - as well as the balconies, the council will be replacing all the doors (including ours) quite soon, so the contractors look set to be here a while.
 

Pete Thomas

Committee
Conservation
I received this from the project manager today:

Hi Pete, I hope that you are well and staying safe during these difficult times.

I thought that I would just write to you to give you an update on the works at Gallia Ct.

As you know we tried to withdraw the planning permission as there were some many objections to the proposed changes, but the planning officer was in two minds as to whether it would constitute development so advised us to amend the proposal to match the existing balustrades and let the application run its course.


So we have changed the works so that there are black balustrade supports and frosted glass infill panels which match the existing scheme and I am pleased to say that permission has been granted.

We are now commissioning the steelwork and glazing which should take a few weeks to manufacture and then we can install the new balustrades and be away from the site asap. We do have to replace the front doors at Gallia ct as well but the main works will be complete soon.



Yours sincerely,

Stuart
 
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