Caffe Naff

Just over two years ago Caffe Nero opened a cafe on Lordship Lane. The premises had previously been a very busy electrical retailer with planning consent as a shop (A1). To sell food and drink for consumption on the premises requires A3 consent. Caffe Nero opened its cafe without obtaining change of use planning consent from A1 to A3/A1. Council officers saught enforcement. Caffe Nero then applied for planning permission. The Planning Application came early 2007 before the dulwich community Council Planning Committee.

Personally, I had expected to approve the planning applciation as per officers recommendation. On the night Caffe Nero and its agents decided not to attend the planning committee. I’ve never seen this happen before or since as questions of the applicant always come up at planning committees. Officers gave oral evidence that Lordship Lane would, if the planning application were approved, have less than 50% shops – contrary to council policy as a high street rapidly declines once shops fall beneath a critical mass. We also heard evidence from neighbouring residents how Caffe Nero airconditioning condensing units were very noisy, going on/off 24/7 immediately outside bedroom windows and Caffe Nero were unresponsive to fix the problem.

On this basis, and with a heavy heart, that the eight committee members unanamously refused planning permission contrary to officer recommendations. The committee had three councillors whose regular jobs are as barristers – so we were meticulous exploring all the evidence presented.

Officers then issued two enforcement notices. One about the illegal A3 use and a second about the anti social noise. Caffe Nero then appealed the planning permission refusal. This formally delayed the two enforcement notices.

After a considerable period finally on Tuesday 24 January a Planning Inspector heard the Caffe Nero appeal. Caffe Nero team of seven kept suggesting that residents and council officers were imagining the noise disturbance and must be mistaken.

Sometime between now and the end of February we’re due to hear the planning inspectors decision.

80% E-Crete

Over 5% of global CO2 emissions from man comes from plain old contrete.

For every tonne of concrete, 1/2 tonne of CO2 is produced from the chemical reaction and another 1/3rd of a tonne of CO2 from the fossil fuels used to heating calcium carbonate to 1400 degrees C.

During the Soviet Union era they developed a concrete based on Geopolymers. This technology has been rediscovered by Australians. It raw materials are fly ash and slag waste from fossil fueled power stations – great recycling – and works at room temperatures. This technique produces 80% less CO2 than traditional concrete.

considering that in Southwark we have so many regeneration schemes that will require huge quantities of concrete – Elephant & Castle, Canada Water, Bermondsey Square, London Bridge, Blackfriars Road – we need to reduce the embedded energy of all these schemes.

So when will this technology reach our shores helping us make the 80% CO2 reduction we need to make to avoid catastrophic global warming?

New Grove Vale library

I’m delighted to report that last night my ward colleagues Cllr Richard Thomas, Cllr Jonathan Mitchell and I supported a new community library at 18-22 Grove Vale. The library component is something I proposed to the developer two years ago. Last night Southwark Council’s main Planning Council GRANTED planning permission for a new Community Library at 18-22 Grove Vale replacing the current Grove Vale Library. The scheme will include 22 flats, 25% renewable energy, green roofs. The new library will have twice the current floor space for users. This will enable school classes to visit, adult education and increasing the number of days and hours of opening. The new site being next to East Dulwich station will have significantly more footfall. The current library has just over 100,000 visits per year. I’m expecting this to increase by at least 50%. Local businesses in Grove Vale and the surrounding area should benefit from this new magnet for visitors.

The Planning Committee voted: James Gurling, Eliza Mann (reserve), Gordon Nardell, Althea Smith and Aubyn Graham for the scheme, with Robin Crookshank-Hilton voting against the scheme.

The expectation is that six months of finalising planning conditions. Then 18 months to complete the build.

Getting to this position would not have been possible without the developer and agents St.Aidan’s and many council officers, council departments and councillors sharing my vision and overcoming considerable hurdles.

Many thanks for all their hard work. What stars. A really great result for the residents East Dulwich and South Camberwell. 

Planning and Energy Bill

Currently councils are extremely limited in ensuring new developments meet the highest possible and practicable environmental standards.

A private members bill being promoted by Michael Fallon MP would allow councils, after  involving their communities, to set high energy efficiency standards for new developments and to require them to generate energy locally. This would dramatically save on CO2 emissions, create local jobs.

IF you want such a bill to happen then please contact our Dulwich & West Norwood MP Tessa Jowell and ask her to vote for it on 25 January – Rt. Hon. Tessa Jowell MP, House of Commons, Westminster, SW1A 0AA  

Telephone number –
020 7219 3409, Fax number – 020 7219 2702, E-mail address –

Railway Bridge – Red Post Hill

Tuesday 15 January the Dulwich Community Council Planning Committee met to decide, amongst other things, a Listed Building Consent to demolish the grade 2 listed bridge outside North Dulwich railway station on Red Post Hill. Weirdly the item was submitted as a late item with less than five clear days notice. Network Rail have known they’ve required permission since 2004.

I asked whether we could hear the justification for this demolition and judge whether Network Rails stated necessity justified this apparent vandalism. The Southwark Council legal officer stated we were not allowed to consider whether the demolition was justified in our minds. What a silly law. The logical extension is that no listed building is safe. 

It was clear that all the Conservative councillors were minded to allow the demolition. We discussed the details of the replacement and how alike Network Rail plan to return the bridge to its former glory. Sadly Network Rail only offered very limited and few architectural features will be recreated in the replacement bridge.

The application to demolish this part of our architectural heritage was approved. The voting was four Conservatives for the Listed Building Consent and myself against. Democracy in action.

What next. 26 weeks of Red Post Hill being closed to through motor vehicles so that bridge no one wants strengthened for 7.5 tonnes t o44 tonnes can take place.


Planning applications go on-line

This Thursday 10 January new Planning Application will go on-line. During the following six months the existing planning applications since 2003 will be data captured and added to the on-line system.

Considering that currently people who want to view a planning application have to make a special trip to the Planning Department offices at Chiltern House, Portland Street, SE17 this new on-line capability will be a real benefit. It will enable anyone to view a scheme remotely from the Planning Department from the comfort of their office, own home or local library.

I suspect many people will feel relieved to see plans for proposals and that fears they have are often not necessary. For many others, especially campaigning groups, it will give them a capability to get involved that practically they didn’t have before without taking time away from work, family or studies. Before becoming a councillor I spent many a lunch time dashing to Chiltern House to view a scheme and dash back to the office having viewed a planning application. Not something I could do more than very occassionally.

Well done to the Planning Department and the various IT suppliers for making this possible. Good luck for Thursday. Hope it all works!

New Grove Vale library – Dulwich Garden Centre

Southwark Council Planning Officers are currently preparing a report on this scheme. They will decide early next week whether to recommend this planning application be Granted or Refused. Since 19 November, when I last posted about this new Grove Vale library, the scheme has been revised. Unfortunately the library height proposed has been reduced. The top floor is now proposed to be set back and overall the building will appear less bulky. It also has lost much of its copper banding and wont be as striking. Shame.

If you want more details, want to support or oppose the scheme, then please get in touch with me.

The final decision by the full Planning Committee is expected to be taken 7pm 22 January at the Town Hall. These meeting have very long agendas so be prepared to wait some time and bring a book, snack, drink.

Mobile Operators…propaganda?

As a councillor I receive lots of post – typically 12 inches high a week and about 200-400 emails on a typical week. Boy does it take a lot of time to ensure I read everything that could be useful for me and the residents in East dulwich.

One newsletter caught my eye and thankfully I read it cover to cover – the Mobile Operators Association newsletter. It started by saying how much money has been spent on research proving mobiles and base stations are safe. It then talked about how every public authority in UK has been sent a list of all the mobile operators combined plans. Then buried on later pages how research so far indicates more medical research is needed to be sure.

1stly. Checking with Southwark officers they haven’t received such combined mobile operators plans.

2ndy. Why not state this last part about more medical research being needed on page 1. Could it be they just don’t expect many councillors to read that far into the newsletter.

How cynical is that?