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Objection to Ordnance Wharf Application

14th July

Ordnance Wharf - Planning Application No. 23/502647/Full

Further to our preliminary representation relating to requirements for a new Flood Risk Assessment following the publication of new guidance we submit herewith our detailed objections to this scheme.

The footprint and massing of this revised scheme is identical to the previous scheme (Application  No. 20/502048) submitted 3 years ago with minor changes to the detailing of the fenestration. Little has changed to address the raft of objections previously submitted by the Faversham Society, local interest groups and the community.

We note that as with the previous scheme the application is lacking in certain areas of significant detail which are necessary to enable officers to give full consideration to the impact of of the  scheme.

Omissions & Errors in the  Application

  1. The applicants incorrectly state that they own the land, their agent has signed the Certificate of Ownership.  They do not and the correct Certificate should be signed and notice served on the owner.  

2    The agents  covering letter states “Your letter to Nathan Anthony of Lee Evans dated 29th April 2020 was very helpful and this was used in the previously submitted Design and this proposal”.  Please can we request that this be posted on the portal?

3    The applicants, Faversham Joinery Ltd, propose to occupy the workshop training

facility. They have not completed the Employment section on the application form and have not provided  any details of the number of employees,  trainees or apprenticeships.  

  • The redline for the application embraces Flood Lane from Brent Hill to the site entrance.  No plans are submitted for the upgrade works proposed which are described in the DAS.    Suitable & safe access is a fundamental material consideration in the grant of any planning application and is not an appropriate detail to be reserved by condition.  The works propose to change materials to this shared surface and introduce obstructions in providing parking bollards and street lighting. Unspecified works of repair to the bridge are also planned however  no plans or detail have been submitted to illustrate the layout of these works.  This is an omission in the application.
  • The applicants have not marked the allocation of onsite car parking spaces on the plans. It is unclear as to what parking is available for visitors to the homes,  the public moorings, the café /sailing club and the workshop. They do state that half the moorings (9 total) will be for public use.  Fourteen spaces are marked on the plan and given the undercroft nature of the parking it can be assumed that 10 of these will be allocated to the 5 oversailing units. Half of these spaces are stated to be   allocated for resident boat storage on a proposed 50/50 private/public mooring allocation. This leaves 4 spaces to serve the two homes without undercoft parking. There is no provision for visitors, the café/sailing club,  joinery workshop and public moorings . Please request plans marking  the  allocation of spaces and note  our further comments on parking under the heading Grounds for Objection.
  • Bin storage for the homes is illustrated in the undercroft car park.  No detail is shown for bin storage for the workshop/training facility  and café . The bin collection point is marked on the plan by text with no detail illustrating the size and capacity  of the collection area or any screening.
  • The applicants have not issued any  plans of the site boundary to Flood Lane other than the sketch elevations of the proposed buildings.  It is unclear as to whether the Lsted brick flank walls on the site boundary adjoining Flood lane are to be retained. Brick walls  contribute to the character of the area which is  informed by  the  parallel run in Brent Hill leading into Flood `Lane and  the blast walls that define the Gunpowder works character in this part of the Conservation area. This is unsatisfactory and a detailed section  and plans along the frontage of the site, illustrating boundary features and hard and soft landscaping, should be submitted so that the impact on the Conservation Area and adjoining Purifier building can be ascertained.

The Faversham Neighbourhood Plan references the importance of this in stating “Development must have regard to the presence of the Purifier Building adjacent and the impact new development will have upon its setting” .

8    The DAS states that  the moorings, yacht club and café with seating outside area at the end of the site, should provide plenty of activity and that this area is about 25% of the site. It is not.  The site area (excluding the access road) is stated to be 954m2.  The café including the undercroft is circa 95m2 (10%) and the external seating marked in the public realm at the head of the dock is 18.5m2 (2%). 

9    The DAS references the submission of a structural report.  This is not published on the portal.  We presume this refers to the condition of the Historic Wharf walls.  We would also have expected to see this accompanied by a detailed schedule of repair.

10  Dinghy Sailing Club.  This is referenced in the DAS although no detail is appended to the application to illustrate how this will be constituted or operate from the site.  The nautical community  have commented that the basin is not fit for purpose for this leisure activity.  Our comments are restricted to the confines of the application boundary.  No detail has been provided to illustrate how dinghies will be launched or boarded.  A boat gantry  is referenced in the DAS and words are marked on the plan to indicate its general location. It is stated to be a focal point for the community, however no technical detail or plans of the gantry have been  provided to gauge this. The  footprint is not marked on the plans. Functionality and any obstruction to the operation of the adjacent parking cannot be determined.

11  The site has been derelict over a period of 30 years.  It is established that over time derelict brownfield land can develop an ecologically rich  and biodiverse habitat.  Why has no ecology survey been submitted to establish enhancement baselines to enable compliance with Policy DM28 of the Local Plan?  Biodiversity and Geological Conservation seeks to ensure that development proposals conserve, enhance and extend biodiversity, providing for net gains in biodiversity, where possible. This sets out criteria against which development proposals will be tested. This has particular relevance in the context of the unspecified highways lighting proposed and its potential impact on migrating eels.

12  The DAS references the inclusion of 3 D perspectives. Non have been posted on the portal and this omission should be corrected.

13  The applicants merely provide generic descriptions of the external materials to be used for the roof walls and fenestration.  The detail of materials  selected is a material consideration in a Conservation Area and these should be specified. The DAS makes casual reference to utilising Indian Sandstone in the public realm.  Indian sandstone has only been imported to the UK over the last 30 years and accordingly is inappropriate for a historic conservation area. Timber weatherboarding is no longer a viable cladding system post Grenfell.  Developers are currently addressing this by specifying faux wood cladding to overcome fire risk requirements.  Materials ‘pretending to be what they are not’ are inappropriate in a conservation area. Bonded gravel is proposed for sections of the access road.  This  landscape material should not be specified for highway wearing courses in these circumstances where there are likely to be extensive turning movements.

These suggestions do not provide confidence that materials selection will be appropriate and details should be submitted for approval with the application.

14  It would appear that the loading doors to the joinery workshop are obstructed by two car parking spaces.

15  The residential properties in the application are described as houses.  They are not.  Houses are founded on land, not a structural podium. A correct designation is maisonette with rooms in the roof.  Whilst this may seem pedantic the designation is important when considering whether this allocation meets identified housing needs. The average size of a UK new build three bed house is 1033 sq ft.  These maisonettes are 33% larger and have  restricted staircase access, no lifts and no gardens or amenity space. They are not suitable for family accommodation and do not address housing need.

16  A Canopy is proposed to the basin  frontage elevation  and the applicants state that this will be in timber, curved to reflect the shapes that relate to the Thames Spritsail Sailing Barges.  Insufficient information has been provided to gauge the impact of this theatrical feature. Detailed designs and perspectives are required to clarify the detail of the fabrication of this structure to  inform an understanding of the design and  its visual impact on the basin.

17  There is no Energy Statement or Sustainability report submitted with the application or any commitment  to the installation of solar panels and EV charging points. 

COMMENTARY & REASONS FOR REFUSAL

Use

The DAS is   confusing  as to the use, for which permission is sought, in relation to any community benefit offered.  The application form refers to unrestricted A3 use for a cafe bar and as such this is the proposed use that  the officers must consider. 

The referenced  community/recreational use  falls into Use Class F2 (b) - a hall or meeting place for the principal use of the local community, or (c) an area or place for outdoor sport or recreation. The DAS references a sailing club use, sea scouts use and community benefit. This is not the use that  the application has sought to establish.

The facility has an area of 35m2 (376 sq ft) and represents a derisory 3.5% of the building net area for community benefit.  This is smaller than the minimum standard for a small one bed studio flat and little more than a kiosk.  It is inadequate for sailing club use, or any other practical use for  community benefit.  This aspect of the proposals can only be considered to be a sop, introduced in an attempt  to address  the mixed-use requirements of the  Creek Neighbourhood plan and the emerging Faversham Neighbourhood Plan. As such the A3 use for this unit should be refused.

Consent is also sought for Use Class B -c for the workshop training facility.  

Both these uses do not accord with the proposed uses in the emerging Faversham Neighbourhood  Plan which allocates the site (Fav 20) for mixed use comprising:-  Offices and workshops (Use Class E), Residential development (Use Class C3), A community hall or other community uses (Use Class F2).   

Design

The applicants state “the buildings have been designed to reflect upon existing architectural styles and materials pallets in the immediate area and to reflect positively upon the adjacent Purifier Building in terms of scale, massing and use.” They then contradict this by stating “the taller four-storey (three full storeys with accommodation in the roof) building will reflect upon the large scale and mass of the Morrison’s superstore on the opposite side of the Creek and will serve as a strong focal building fronting the wider section of the Creek. It will be a warehouse style in weatherboarding with balconies of gantry style”.

It is evident from the composite elevation that the four-storey housing has a vertical emphasis with steep pitched frontage gable roofs, these are in direct conflict with the linear form and shallow pitched roof of the Purifier building. There is also a stark contrast in the fenestration of the two buildings.

The applicants additionally state that ‘we have changed the appearance of the development to give an industrial character".  It is not possible to  ascertain this character from the dock head elevations which resemble nothing other than housing. Waterside industrial/warehouse  buildings do not have a vertical emphasis, serried ranks of steep pitched gable fronted roofs,  balconies or large terraces  The introduction of timber cladding is an alien presence in the basin.

Contextual respect for adjoining buildings is standard good practice in the pursuit of good design. Extraordinarily the applicants make scant reference to the adjacent Purifier building.

The design does not reflect the immediate area which has a distinctive industrial basin character upstream from the bridge at the head of the Creek.  In describing  the vernacular reference, they say “The style of building responds to the local maritime context and the scale, height and form takes influence from local buildings along the Creek (both industrial and residential), notably properties fronting the Creek on Belvedere Road and Waterside Close and Oyster Bay House.”    The difference in these character areas is illustrated in the Creekside Neighbourhood plan.

The  buildings at Standard Quay are a quarter of a mile upstream from Ordnance Wharf.  We struggle to understand the immediate vernacular reference for this. Ordnance Wharf is  located in a special character area at the head of the tidal reach, overlooking a basin, and set within a landscape shaped by the gunpowder industry and  features extensive runs of brick blast walls.  The leisure attraction at Standard  Quay is  set in a Creekside location.  It has  a remarkably different character and has been developed  as a tourist magnet complete with a restaurant, wine bar, tearoom, antiques centre  craft exhibitions and retail space .

Homogenisation of design  across these very different places is bad urban design and bad for placemaking in Faversham.

To address the requirements for a ‘Landmark Building’ the applicants have introduced a ‘bolt on Disneyesque replica of a Thames sailing barge. Some say this could also be read as a Moorish arch or whale bones!  Detailed designs and perspectives are required to a  clarify the detail of this feature.   From the limited information supplied to date it would appear that the supporting posts obstruct clear passage across the front of the wharf and these will inhibit any nautical shore-based activity.

A landmark building is required  in this area and it is bad design practice to achieve this with a bolt on feature with no practical function other than screening a  large, 3.5m deep first floor open glazed terrace.  The structure and massing of a building defines landmark status, not a functionless feature which for  good reasons  is effectively  described in the housing industry lexicon as a “gob on”.

The DAS concedes (P11 para 7) that part of the development is four storeys, ignoring the provisions of policy OW2 in the Faversham Creek Neighbourhood plan. This restricts building heights to three storeys. A building with four floor plates cannot be described as a three-storey building.

In addition, the excessive height of the buildings obstructs protected vistas identified in `Faversham Neighbourhood plan.

The development flies in the face of policy  Fav20 in the emerging Faversham Neighbourhood  Plan which states that development should :-

  1. enhance the setting of listed buildings around the site, including the Purifier;
  2. complement the character of the Faversham Conservation Area, including retention of features that contribute to its special architectural or historic interest;
  3. preserve the 18th Century wharf walls and stone crane base;
  4. take account of the site line towards Saint Mary Magdalene Church & Davington Priory;
  5. use design and layout and appropriate construction techniques to avoid the loss of archaeological remains.

It is clear that this proposal does not align with the planning guidance detailed in policDM33 of the Local Plan -  Development (including changes of use and the demolition of unlisted buildings or other structures) within, affecting the setting of, or views into and out of conservation area, will preserve or enhance all features that contribute positively to the areas special character or appearance will preserve or enhance.

Site Access

The geometry of Flood Lane is varied and narrows significantly in the vicinity of the site.  At the centre point of the entrance to the site the road is 3.9 m wide and the pinch point on entry to Flood Lane from Brent Hill is 4.1m wide. The minimum width of a new shared surface road  without marked footpaths in the KCC guidance is 4.5m.

The road is unadopted, although enjoys the benefit of Public Rights of Way.  It is incapable of modification  to accommodate two-way traffic and there are  limited passing spaces and no areas of pedestrian  refuge are available other than by the allotment entrance.

Heavy construction traffic bringing concrete to the site and the heavy   piles will impose significant loads on the bridge in Flood Lane beyond its design tolerance.  A detailed survey and engineering report is required to identify bearing capacity and any reinforcement works necessary to support calculated loads.  This detail could lead to a requirement for significant works comprising alterations which are a material consideration .  As such this cannot be dealt with by condition in the submission of a Construction Management Plan.

These constraints  render the road  incapable of meeting adoption requirements. This is particularly  the case in relation to safety standards.  The applicants illustrate tracking for a fire tender to access the courtyard of the proposed new building although it is evident  that to exit the site it will need to reverse the 55m length of Flood Lane.  No swept path analysis or turning detail has been provided for refuse or delivery vehicles.  The applicants must  provide clear details to illustrate turning movements to establish that  there is no danger or  Health and Safety risks to the significant  pedestrian footfall that traverses Flood Lane.  If they cannot NPPF Para 109 indicates that the application should be refused.  ‘Development should only be prevented or refused on highway grounds if there would be an unacceptable impact on highway safety’

Grounds referenced for refusal by officers in the 2003 application detailed this: -Flood Lane, from its junction with Brent Hill, by reason of its restricted width and poor alignment with Brent Hill, is considered unsuitable to serve as a means of access to the proposed development.  This route is a well-used pedestrian route to the local store and town for which no designated footway can be accommodated.  The proposal is therefore contrary to PolicyT18 of the Kent Structure Plan and Policies IN4 and G1 of the Swale Borough Local Plan.

The alignment and configuration of Flood Lane are much the same as in 2003. The principles for refusal are as valid today as then.

Parking Allocation.

Flood Lane’s status is described on the Kent List of Streets as part publicly maintained highway/part private street and as such is not an adopted highway. We understand that title to the land is held by a disparate mix of public and private ownership with some areas of unclaimed land.  All these areas are publicly accessible.

As detailed above the applicants have made an inadequate total provision of 14 onsite car parking spaces

We have reviewed Swale Borough Councils Parking Standard Guidance (2019). The KCC highways consultation previously had no objection to  the scheme based on an assessment based on the standards scheduled in column 2 of the table below calculated for an edge of centre area where on street controls prevent all parking. 

As a consequence of its unadopted status Flood Lane has no car parking restriction at all, although as the applicants concede in point 10 of the covering letter parking is limited. This is due to competition for the ‘free’ spaces.  The absence of any on street parking controls in Flood Lane is a function of its unadopted status where the Highways authority cannot impose them.

 It is a matter of fact that extensive uncontrolled ‘fly’ parking takes place in the area with a bucolic village character, accessed from West St.  If insufficient parking is allocated to the scheme, overspill parking, arising from an inadequate on-site allocation, will migrate to this area and increase  competition for the limited spaces and encourage damaging spill over to the green.

An inadequate on-site allocation will also lead to overflow parking spillage in Flood Lane, North East of the barrier, in the area flanking the rear of the Purifier Building adjoining the proposed site entrance. This will disrupt and obstruct pedestrian flows on this busy and important pedestrian route.  This  has a high footfall taking  a short cut to the town from the large and growing catchments of North Preston, Davington and Oare and for children walking from the town to Davington School.  Push chairs and wheel chairs would be denied access.

There is no parking control in the area and accordingly the standards scheduled in column 4 of the Swale standards should be considered as appropriate for this area.

It is clear that there is a woefully inadequate provision at 60% below standard with a shortfall of 21 spaces.  More on-site parking is required to mitigate the risk of trespass on the private land and uncontrolled, obstructive, and dangerous parking in the locality.

Contamination.

The objection lodged by Professor Grant for the previous scheme addresses this issue comprehensively.

As an addendum to this we understand that piling is required to raise the housing levels above the flood risk level. This could trigger an escape of pollutants into the creek.  Bored piling screws are generally lubricated by significant volumes of water which will draw in highly contaminated arisings and  would be pumped into the creek.

Percussive piling would be the alternative, although this is also problematical.  Vibrations from the driving of percussive piles are amplified in water and there is a risk of harm to the adjacent and fragile Purifier building.  The photo below illustrates settlement cracks to the flank of the building on the elevation next to Ordnance Wharf.  This unlisted  heritage asset would be   vulnerable to this activity.

Overdevelopment

The applicant endeavours to justify overdevelopment  on viability grounds. There are significant abnormal costs to be met over and above standard  build costs.  These will be incurred  in  raising  the scheme out of the area at risk of flooding, identifying  & removing  contamination, piling  and capping  the site, repairing the dock walls, and preserving archaeology.  To address this cost burden the promoters have sought to maximise the revenue producing space in the scheme leading to overdevelopment. 

To understand the scale of overdevelopment we have undertaken an analysis of the plotting density.  The applicants do not specify the basis of measurement for the unit sizes in the application, however we anticipate  that these are the net internal areas representing  the revenue generating space and understating the gross area impact.   We have measured the gross external area of the building floorplates which is the area that will incur construction cost and defines the plotting metrics for the structure.

It is clear  that the development is plotted at a very high density at 71,700 sq ft/acre with a Floor area ratio (FAR) of 1.6.   This is unprecedented for a residential new build in Faversham  and to set a context  for this  standard housing layouts plot at 12- 14,000 sq ft/acre. Over development is also evident from the applicant’s inability to plot a compliant parking allocation for the site with a 60% shortfall against KCC standards and only 14 spaces against a calculated target  allocation of 35.

This is unsatisfactory and the application should be refused on the grounds of excessive density and overdevelopment.

Viability

The promoters justify over development and a use weighting dominated by housing as a means to generate extra revenue from the scheme in order to offset the  high-cost  burden imposed   by the abnormal cost items.  No viability assessment has been submitted and they have not addressed savings that can be made through value engineering.  This could  address  an excessive  build cost burden  imposed on the appraisal   which is inherent  in   the  design and chosen construction methodology.

 The heavy loading  of the specified traditional masonry form of construction requires deep bored piles, incurring  high abnormal costs and imposes a negative environmental impact.   The high-density design  is also inefficient with a gross to net development ratio of 64% which significantly increases the cost burden.  Thirty four percent of the building construction  cost is spent on non-remunerative  space which imposes a disproportionate cost penalty on project viability.

No consideration has been given to the viability of a scheme using Modern Methods of Construction.  Viability could be achieved by the design  of a lower density scheme where  light weight pods, fabricated off site,  could be  supported by a steel lattice frame bolted onto a raft foundation capping the contamination.

 This would be more economical to build and mitigate against overdevelopment as a revenue generating solution to achieve viability.

Further benefits would be achieved as no environmentally damaging piling would be required. A reduction in embedded carbon would be secured  and a more sustainable scheme delivered with higher energy efficiency standards.  The shorter life of this lower cost building  would also be more appropriate on a site that is set to be inundated by flooding by the end of the century.

The current traditional build scheme inherently lacks viability and this cannot  be satisfactorily achieved through plotting higher densities.  The application should be refused.

FLOOD

Please refer to our  detailed preliminary representation on this subject identifying that the Flood Risk Assessment is out of date in the light of updated guidance for flooding and coastal change.  This representation was informed by the outputs of the `Climate Centre Interactive Flood Map. We have marked the location of the site on the map below which shows the site as flooded in 2100 on a medium risk scenario and considers the cumulative impact of  the Leading Consensus opinion on Sea Level rise (IPCC 21).  

It is clear that the site is in the centre of the area at flood risk and will be inundated. The nearest  safe refuge on dry land is  200m away.  In the light of this we have additionally requested that the applicants submit an Emergency Evacuation  Plan in accordance with H&S  guidance  and reserve further comment until this has been received.   Applications have recently been refused in Barnstaple, Fairlight and Sutton Bridge  due to these schemes  being deemed as inadequate in the context of the provision of safe refuge.  This followed the publication of new Government guidance in 2021 on sea level change and application of climate change allowances.

IPCC 23 is now published in a preliminary summary appraisal which highlights the acceleration of global warning and the prospects of 1.5c being reached in the next 17 years if the current rate of  mitigation is  not  accelerated, which we think is unlikely.  In this scenario  IPCC  23 anticipates sea level rise of up to 4m. by the end of the century. It should be noted that sea level change cannot be reversed.  The catastrophic impact of this is shown below with a comparison of a  1.5c temperature increase set against  a 4c increase.

Detailed  comment is reserved until the updated Flood Risk Assessment  and Evacuation Plan is published. Notwithstanding this, our instinct is that the application should be refused as a consequence of climate change and the ensuing impacts of a severe and catastrophic flood risk.

Support for the scheme

Faversham residents are understandably fed up with the eyesore that this derelict scruffy site has presented over the years. It is apparent that the owners have nurtured this with a site management policy  of neglect, encouraging positive dereliction, in order to build planning support for their proposals.  As a consequence, some local residents have supported approval of the application out of a sense of  frustration  that ‘something has to be done about this’.  These are not valid grounds for approval.

There is no reason why something cannot be done and the if the application is  to be refused, we suggest that Swale contemporaneously serve notice on the owners under the provisions of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. Under Section 215 the local authority has the power to remedy land and buildings adversely affecting the amenity of an area. Notices are served by the local authority requiring defined works to be undertaken within a specified time period. Where notices are not complied with, and not the subject of appeal, landowners can be prosecuted and face the prospect of works being undertaken by the local authority in default and being charged for them under Section 219.

Conclusion

This application lacks clarity and has significant omissions.  From our informed and detailed  analysis of the proposals it is clear that there are extensive, policy backed grounds, rooted in the Approved Local Plan, The Faversham Creek Neighbourhood Plan and the emerging Faversham Neighbourhood Plan that can be applied to validate refusal for the following reasons:-

  1. Poorly conceived, inappropriate design, incompatible with the special character of the Flood Lane Conservation area.
  2. Overdevelopment.
  3. Insufficient detail submitted
  4. Site access unfit for purpose.
  5. Inadequate on-site parking provision. 
  6. A catastrophic risk of flooding.
  7. Insecure community benefit.
July 13, 2023

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