On 5th February our committee met with Camden’s Head of Development Management, Bethany Cullen, and Enforcement Manager, Elizabeth Beaumont, to discuss the Bloomsbury Conservation Areas.
Overall, the meeting was positive and it seems that we will be working together in the future to combat some of the problems afflicting the conservation areas. We learned some interesting news which no doubt will change the landscape of conservation in Camden, but we cannot yet release the details of this to the public. We can release details of the following:
Fighting Telephone Box Blight
The neglect of telephone boxes and their inappropriate use as commercial premises has been negatively impacting on all of our conservation areas, but particularly the Bloomsbury Conservation Area. We have heard that Camden are working to solve these problems.
We heard that Camden are working to ensure that unnecessary and non-heritage telephone boxes are removed from the streets. Unfortunately Camden have limited powers to ensure their removal but are working with providers to remove them where necessary.
It is well known that many heritage (red) Telephone Boxes are being used as commercial premises, which we believe to be entirely inappropriate. We heard that providers sold some of their boxes to new owners who believed that they could set up shops in them. Whilst this has in some cases been granted planning permission, the subsequent spilling out of the activities in these boxes onto the pavement is not permitted and Camden’s enforcement team has been working with Highways to stop this happening. We are pleased to hear that we have a common interest in this issue at it was previously believed by the public that this usage of the highway had been permitted by Camden.
We will be taking up an offer to start going on ‘enforcement walks’ through the conservation areas to pick up on enforcement issues with Camden’s enforcement. This will certainly help us to get on top of enforcement issues, and also more easily clarify whether particular issues are subject to enforcement or not.
The process of determining small applications works well throughout our conservation areas, with our consultation responses being respected and positive discussion between ourselves and officers. However we do feel as though we significantly disagree on the merit of large developments which have been approved over the past few years. It is clear to us that there is a large difference of opinion between ourselves and Camden regarding the importance of heritage when it comes to these large developments, and it is of importance that we find a way to understand what is causing this difference of opinion and how we might bridge this gap.
When we raised the issue of the possibility of large Section 106 payments being to blame for the blight of overdevelopment, we were told that the size of Section 106 payments do not come into consideration in determining applications.