Monday, April 23, 2007

EXCLUSIVE: Locals Object to Blairs' New Home Planning Application

I admit that I don't spend too much time trawling through the minutae of Westminster City Council's Planning Commitee's agendas, but I've been leaked sent the papers for a meeting on 3 May regarding a planning application which relates to 29 Connaught Square, the new home of the Dear Leader and his darling wife once they depart Downing Street.

Now remember, the property has already cost them £3.5 million, but they're now wanting to expand it and link it to a house in the mews block at the rear - no doubt the servants' quarters or an office for Martha Greene (see HERE)... Now I am no expert in planning matters, but these are the papers which are being considered by the Planning Committee on 3 May (no doubt when the eyes of the media will be looking elsewhere...). They reveal that several of the Blairs' new neighbours have objected to their plans. How could they?! They can expect the wrath of the Mouth of the Mersey to descend upon them.
29 Connaught Square, W2, 2HL
Amalgamation with 5 Archery Close into simple dwelling with two storey glazed infill to rear, creation of roof terrace and associated internal alterations. External CCTV cameras. Solar panels to roof of Archery Close.

1. Grant conditional permission and conditional listed building consent.
2. Agree reasons for granting permission as set out in Informative 1 attached to the
draft decision letter.

Issues andComments
· This proposal relates to two properties in the Bayswater Conservation Area: 29
Connaught Square, which is a grade II listed townhouse that is relatively unaltered in plan form, and 5 Archery Close, which is a much altered, unlisted mews building.
· The proposal is to link the two properties to make one residential unit, carry out minor modification to the internal plan form of the listed building and add a small
roof terrace and solar panels. A recent library infill to the courtyard between the two buildings is proposed to be removed and replace with a lightweight glass enclosure. CCTV cameras are proposed to address the security needs of the proposed occupiers, Tony and Cherie Blair.
· Objections have been raised by an adjoining occupier on a number of design, listed building, residential amenity and structural grounds.
· The proposal is considered acceptable in design and listed building terms. The degree of alteration to the interior of the listed building is relatively small. The
most significant alteration is the replacement of the library room. The library room is a modern addition of no historic or architectural quality. Its replacement with a glazed structure linking the two buildings is considered an improvement.
· Objections have been raised to the CCTV equipment. The proposed cameras are discreet in size, design and colour and so should not be obtrusive.
· Concern has been expressed about the proposed solar panels. As they are to be located on the roof of the unlisted mews building and screened by a low parapet, it is not considered that they would have a significant impact on the conservation area.
· Objections have been raised to the proposed roof terrace. A number of other properties in the vicinity have similar high level terraces. The terrace is being created by the removal of the top floor of a poorly designed rear extension and the
reduction in height will allow uninterrupted views of the rear of the listed building, which is considered to be beneficial.
· It is not considered that the scheme will have a significant impact on residential amenity.
The application will be decided by a sub-committee of six councillors including, as luck would have it, two Conservative parliamentary candidates. Somehow I think the press benches might be full for this meeting...

Note: Just for the avoidance of doubt, can I make clear that I was not sent this document by anyone on the planning sub committee, or indeed by a Conservative councillor.


tedfoan said...


Why would anyone want to deprive the soon-to-be ex-Prime Minister of a bijou residence in London? We all know they will spend the next year or so in the USA supporting (Bill) Hilary Clingon by making lavishly paid speeches illustrating why they are the wunderkind of the western world and history will judge them well.

You're such a kill-joy!

verity said...

Bless you, Iain!

Matt Davis said...

Iain, sadly Planning Committees have very little leeway anymore and since the neighbours to almost any proposal normally object on the basic nimby principle the weight of the matter is whether those objections are strong enough on planning grounds to turn down the application. Since Westminster's officers are recommending approval and since they have thoroughly debunked the objections it seems to me that any refusal would be overturned at the inevitable appeal and so can't be justified on planning grounds alone.Sorry.

verity said...

Matt Davis - well, yes, but couldn't the planning officers cause them some high anxiety? Tony has a heart problem, you know. We, the public, need all the help we can get.

What is the point in laying out money in black candles if we are not going to get any help on the ground?

Anonymous said...

Yawn! There are rules and Blair and the objectors alike must follow them, and as Matt Davis says above, there's no story here. No wonder council tax rises when we have busybody neighbours objecting to roof-mounted solar panels.

Anonymous said...

exclusive? woooweeee! What really is the story here? Pretty much a non-story I would say.

FRED said...

Their plans, combined with the Officers comments look ok.
Why would the conservatives want to stop a legitimate application.
Verity is being politically evil on this one.
Politics is Policy or Personalities-- How many Times have I heard Verity or Iain banging that one.

jailhouselawyer said...

So, Tony has decided that he won't be going to jail then?

Paul Burgin said...

I am not a particular fan of Tony Blair myself believe it or not, but it ought to be stated that some of those proposed changes would be for security reasons. Sadly in this day and age, former Prime Ministers are still considered terrorist targets until the day they die and so, whilst I can sympathise with the irritation of the future neighbours it would be the same problem for them almost anywhere else.
As for the crowing about two Conservative Councillors, do I detect a hint of pure and prejudiced political bias? ;)

Chris Paul said...

Non story. If I want to see planning papers I go to the Planning Department and pick them up, or, so convenient, collect them from the table on the corridor just inside the Town Hall Extension by the St Peter's Square entrance. Public domain. Stop the pretence of cloak and dagger. We're not impressed. please Iain don't tumble down the slippery slope a la Fawkes.

mark williams said...

Iain, This "EXCLUSIVE" was a non-story when it was in in the Metro 6 weeks ago. It hasn't improved with age. In most councils, handling of planning applications are non-political and the council officers generally determine whether the application meets the local plan and other applicable standards. And that is usually the end of the story.

Pedant said...

Mark Williams. All planning applications must in law be dealt with by committee in a non-political manner. To hold a group meeting before such a meeting, for example, makes the decision open to challenge. Of course the reality is sometimes far from what is required, but won't be here.

steve said...

Petty Iain, petty.

Iain Dale said...

Anonymous - "pretty much a non story I would say".

Steve "petty"

Fred "Why would the conservatives want to stop a legitimate application."

No, not a non story or petty. And I didn;t say the Conservatives wanted to stop it. I said local residents had objected to it.

Mark Williams: Metro did indeed print that the Blairs wanted to join the two properties together, as did several other papers. They didn't print the officers' recommendations though.

Anonymous said...

Did I miss your post on Cameron having to take his wind turbine down because he didn't apply for planning?

Iain Dale said...

Anonymous, not true as far as I know. The people who put it up put it slightly in the wrong place and it had to be moved. But he had indeed applied for and been granted planning permission.

Another New Labour astroturfer dealt with...

Anonymous said...

Paul Bergin: "former Prime Ministers are still considered terrorist targets until the day they die..."

Tony Blair is widely hated for helping Bush to bomb Iraq unlike any other PM. He is far more of a target than any other ex-PM. I don't recall effigies of previous PMs burnt by angry crowds in the middle East and chanting wishing he was dead.

This house is totally unsuitable, being virtually right on the street with properties adjoining. There is no protection at all.

I can understand if his neighbours do not want what may be considered a war-criminal and a terrorist target living next door to them.

The Blairs should live in a fortress away from others. They will always be a liability and a security threat. Blair sent boys and girls to sacrifice their lives and Iraqi lives. It is time he made his own small sacrifices and it is time he thought for once about other people instead of himself.

Anonymous said...

A key issue here is who is paying for the renovation of this house. If this is to involve yet more taxpayer funded security for the Blairs then the nature of the work and the cost should be very closely scrutinised.

Will the cost of any security measures installed in this and other properties the Blairs own be refunded to the taxpayer on the sale of the properties?

This is also raises of what the future security burden of Mr & Mrs Blair and family on the taxpayer will be once Blair is no longer Prime Minister and how this compares with the security costs other former Prime Ministers and their families.

Auntie Flo'

Anonymous said...

Objections have been raised to the CCTV equipment. The proposed cameras are discreet in size, design and colour and so should not be obtrusive. (Iain)

If this is a security measure and it's to be anything like the ugly, - security equipment festooned, corporation green painted, high security fenced - police station that's been set up in two houses a few doors away from the government minister who is my MP, I don't blame local people for objecting.

Anonymous said...

Terminate their plans with extreme prejudice ! Yay !¬

Anonymous said...

Tony Blair may think CCTV is some sort of magic wand that has made Britain safer, while assualts have quadrupled under his premiership, but the Blairs will be a sitting target in this house.

Any amount of CCTV will not stop a missle launched through a window or a truck filled with explosives driven at speed into the house or a determined assassin. Somehow the Blairs will have to leave and enter this house. At any time they could be targetted.

Clearly, given Tony Blair's history and the level of anger over his association with Bush and the Iraq war, it is not sensible for the Blairs to think they can live in a house like this that is so exposed and unprotected. Despite their millions, they will never be able to live like the rest of us.

antifrank said...

It qualifies as bona fide news to me - well done Iain for getting this.

ezra said...

Well if Ribble Valley Tories refused repeated applications for a mosque on the gounds that the people who would use it are brown (as reported in the New York Times before any British national papers), I suppose these Tories could refuse Blair on the grounds that they don't like him.

Why do your job impartially and properly when you can persue personal prejudices and vendettas instead?

just waiting for a taxi in sussex gardens said...

"I can understand if his neighbours do not want what may be considered a war-criminal and a terrorist target living next door to them."

More to the point, Bayswater is the preferred workplace of about 20,000 whores. I shouldn't imagine they appreciate the tone of the neighbourhood being lowered.

just waiting for a taxi in sussex gardens said...

"...the Blairs will be a sitting target in this house."

On the other hand, you have to look on the bright side.

The Hitch said...

If peter fondlebum managed to bilk the tax payer out of £150k to provide "security" for a relatively modest flat several years ago, just imagine how much the Mersey tunnel will be trying to fiddle.

hatfield girl said...

When the commotion outside of the house where Pinochet was held under house arrest, and its determined every day presence is recalled, then the residence of another considered by many to be a war criminal is likely to be just as much a target, and the neighbours will suffer in the same way.

The Blairs cannot possibly think of living there; I know it's Bayswater but it really isn't fair.

Anonymous said...

The interesting thing is not the planning application which is not very contentious, but the listed building consent. Local residents might like to keep a very careful watch on works, eg do they seem to have commenced before permission has been granted (looks like it to me) and do the works absolutely follow the terms of the consent. Since absolutely everything down to the last plug hole is protected in a listed building (barmy law - I think courtesy of the Conservatives) most building works are almost impossible to carry out without infringing the law.
Breach of listed building consent is a criminal offence.
Keep watching

Anonymous said...

The trees in large sqaure pots in the front of the mews, likely conceal steel bollards to prevent vehicle ramming attacks.

Londoner said...

Visionary decision of Blairs to live right alongside the biggest concentration in London of Muslims from the Middle East. Perhaps a marauding terrorist will disguise himself as an Englishman. Wait for the closing of that side of the square to all traffic, registration of all neighbours with the police etc. Is that why he wanted identity cards?

Or maybe it's just a bit of speculative property development before sale, as they have now realised what a daft idea it always was to live there?

Alternatively maybe he could do a deal with Ted Heath's estate and put his stuff from Salisbury in there, along with some of his own, in return for the use of the house in Salisbury? "The Museum of Failed PMs" has a certain ring does it not?

verity said...

All this money and bother to protect Ceaucescu and Elena. Why can't they take their chances, like everyone else?

On the other hand, if there is a balcony on the first floor, that might be a nice place for them to emerge onto to wave at their adoring public ...

Anonymous said...

I have just looked at Westminster Development Plan and would like to amend my post at 3.02.
The planning application is contentious. It is contrary to Policy H1 of the plan. “Preventing the loss of housing”… Inter alia…planning permission will not be granted if the proposal results in a loss of housing both in terms of dwellings and floorspace.
Well the proposal will result in 1 dwelling not 2 and it looks like it envisages a loss of accommodation in floorspace terms. It is also fairly certain that parts of the building will be used as offices or to house security staff.
This policy is to encourage family life in Central London. Incorporating a family mews house into a large family house to make it into a house of ambassadorial proportions is hardly in pursuit of that goal.
The planning process is now "Plan-led" which means that great weight is given to what it actually says in the Plan as opposed to other possibly relevant criteria - this gives everyone a degree of certainty, so the neighbours who relied on this policy to keep the area as family friendly when they bought are right to object.

The Hitch said...

anon 3:40
Not only do I live in westminster , I also have experience of their planning policies having tried for permission to put up a three storey house.
They are wankers and start out with the point of view that the decision will be turned down , typical clueless civil aervant arseholes.
They dont even have to refer you to the planning commitee , thay can just turn you down.
Iain if you know anybody on the planning commitee who could help, theres a drink in it for you! (+;

(will a bag of sand do?)

Anonymous said...

Given that planning applications and consultation responses are meant to be available to the public on the Council website (but in this case do not appear to be)can someone explain under what law or regulation they have been censored, if they have been? I can understand why detailed floor plans should not be public but has someone been over-zealous?

Jess The Dog said...

The planning committee can always reject the case officer's recommendation (fingers crossed). Alas, there is no third party right of appeal! As pointed out, the neighbours should scrutinise the conditions of the permission (if granted) and contact the council if they are infringed, to start enforcement action (that would the Wicked Witch bleating about her "yooman rights")

Interestingly, Levy would have been asked some awkward questions about a change of use from residential to business use if his flat hadn't "caught fire".

Anonymous said...

Iain, shouldn't you get a piccy to go with this post ? After all, this story is now on the 'front page' of the Guardian's website !

Lord Monteagle said...

"Given that planning applications and consultation responses are meant to be available to the public on the Council website (but in this case do not appear to be)can someone explain under what law or regulation they have been censored, if they have been? I can understand why detailed floor plans should not be public but has someone been over-zealous?"

Gotta agree. The papers should really identify the Para of the Local Government Act (as amended) that allows the information to be exempt from publication?
I don't remember the exemption "because its tony"

Anonymous said...

There is are serious issue here that has been touched on by a prevous post.
1 The integration of 2 houses into one.
2. The size of the house and the possible use of it by the Blair Foundation and the police would mean that this application could have been incorrctly submitted. At the very least there should be a planning condition that the house should only be used as a residence and no commercial work or trade be allowed to be carried out within it.
The fact that there is a requirement for CCTV would indicate that someone will be monitoring them. This leads me to question whether this application was properly submitted.

Matt Davis said...

So tell me; since when have CCTV Cameras been a deterent to suicide bombers then?