46 Watford Way Planning Objection

Objection to planning application for 46 WATFORD WAY, LONDON, NW4 3AL, Ref: 20/1111/FUL

Dear Sir or Madam,

I am writing to object to the above application in my capacity as London Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden.

I note that the applicant’s current planning application proposals are predicated on the basis that they have lawfully obtained planning permission H/01796/11 for a five-storey block of 59 rooms for the purposes of student accommodation, which was tied in with making provision for the accommodation to be used by Middlesex University students..

I question the legality of the implementation of the above-mentioned planning permission, because whilst it has been alleged that the conditions precedent to the planning permission have been discharged, and a material start on site has been made, this has not been followed up by an appropriate Certificate of Lawfulness to confirm it..

More importantly, it is evident that following the above activities to demonstrate the initial intention of the applicant to commence the approved development, they have since allowed the site to remain vacant and undeveloped, which shows that the original intention of building  the approved development did not happen; and suggest that the site was  left fallow.

Given the above, particularly in light of the period of time that has passed since consent , it would be right to say that the application site has by default acquired a ‘nil’ use. To this end, it would not be right for the applicant to rely upon the so called ‘implementation’ of the previous planning permission.

It is therefore imperative that the Council correctly establishes the legal position relating to the ‘implementation’ of the previous planning permission, and indeed, the status of the application site in terms of its authorised use, if it actually has one.

This would then show if it is lawful for the applicant to rely upon the previously approved development as a material consideration in the form of a fall-back position, to claim that the new  proposed development is also acceptable.

Principle of the Proposed Development

Notwithstanding the detailed matters referred to above, there are significant differences between the previously approved scheme, and what is currently being proposed.

The previously approved scheme comprised  only five storeys and only 59 rooms of student accommodation.  This approved scheme was therefore significantly smaller than what is currently being sought.  It is also interesting to note that when the Council considered the previous scheme, the applicant at that time had originally proposed a total of 105 rooms, but the Council considered this to be excessive and an over-intensification of the use of the site.

The proposed development is now for a total of seven-storeys and a total of 191 rooms for student accommodation.  This is significantly greater than what the Council previously agreed, so whilst the principle of the proposed land use may then  have been acceptable, the overall scale of development is an over-intensive use of the site.

Moreover, I note that the previous proposals were only allowed because the applicant was able to demonstrate through an agreement with Middlesex University, that they would be occupying all of the rooms for the purposes of student accommodation.

With respect to this current planning application, the supporting documents  argue that the applicant provides a wide range of accommodation that is affordable;  yet their  submissions do not demonstrate a local need for student housing that would need this scheme to be met, and nor is there any mention of any agreement or nomination rights linked to a place of education such as Middlesex..

There are contradictions within the material that has been submitted to  support the planning application, which might suggest that the proposed rooms could be used as non-self-contained accommodation, such as a house in multiple occupation or hostel, or possibly even as residential accommodation.  It is therefore important for the Council to establish and condition precisely the nature of the proposed use, should it be minded to give consent, otherwise it could be allowing a very high density residential development, which would offer no benefits in terms of student accommodation and exacerbate the impact on neighbouring  properties, as set out below.

Scale, Form and Design of the Proposed Development

The seven-storey building together with a partial roof terrace has been proposed on the argument  that it would ‘ book end’  the existing terrace of properties on Watford Way.  Watford Way has a sloping topography, which rises from the Hendon Central crossroads towards the application site.  As a result, the respective properties’ roof lines  are stepped  up the hill, With the application building becoming  the highest point in the streetscape, it would appear as the pinnacle point in the skyline. To this end, it is not attractive  in urban design or streetscape terms to over-egg this natural relationship, by proposing a block that is two storeys taller than the prevailing development.

The applicant’s design approach to the height of the proposed building is not justified in terms of high quality urban design and integration with the existing streetscene.  The bookend objective could equally be met by a five-storey building with an alternative fenestration treatment.  Notwithstanding this point, the proposed design has little regard for the elevation and fenestration of the existing terraced block to which it would become an extension.  There is no harmony or transition, with the proposed development manifesting itself as an abrupt and alien addition.  This would be harmful to both the character and appearance of the area.

The existing four and five-storey buildings within the immediate area are in the main pitched roof buildings, whereas the proposed building at seven-storeys, hash a steeply pitched mansard roof with an extensive crown served by dormer windows This adds to the scale and bulk of the proposed building.  This would result in a ‘top heavy’ and disproportionate  appearance, which would have no relevance to, or design connection with, the prevailing architecture.  This feature is a clear demonstration of an overly deep plan form, which always results in very bulky and incongruously shaped buildings.

The design treatment and choice of materials are also unacceptable , as they bear no resemblance to the local vernacular.  Whilst I accept that designers should be allowed to express some freedom with the architecture of a new development, there is nevertheless a duty to provide high quality design and materials; and more importantly, a scale and form of development that is in keeping with the character and appearance of the area.  The proposed development has not achieved this and would therefore result in demonstrable harm.

Impact on the Amenity of the Surrounding Properties

A local school and nursery building and the land surrounding them, sit adjacent to the application site. I am concerned about the overall scale and form of the proposed development along with its proximity to the shared boundary. I have already referred to the unacceptable height of the proposed development, but this together with its close proximity to the shared boundary with the school and nursery is going to result in a very oppressive and overbearing development, not least to mention the extent of the fenestrated elevation, which will directly overlook school and nursery premises, together with overshadowing and loss of daylight for the school.

The safety and well-being of pupils  ought to be the utmost priority when assessing this application, and I believe that a development that would be able to overlook the children in their school environment would be a serious invasion of their privacy and safety.  Apart from this, it is not acceptable to allow a development that would have so many windows overlooking a neighbouring property.  More than half of the rooms and all of the communal kitchens will overlook the school.  It is a characteristic of student accommodation that the rooms are occupied for a large part of the day.  This degree of overlooking and loss of privacy is harmful. Although not shown on any of the drawings, the developer has informally suggested to the school that shutters could be provided to reduce overlooking of the school and the nursery. To be effective, any such shutter would need to be of substantial construction and permanently fixed in a horizontal arrangement, seriously reducing the daylight entering the rooms and considerably restricting their outlook. An occupant attempting to overlook the school and nursery would be hidden. Such an addition to the building would have a profound effect on its appearance and the amenity of the occupants.

A large roof terrace is also proposed..  Given the oppressive nature of development, this terrace would only add to  the loss of privacy and increased overlooking of the school and nursery premises.

I further note that no daylight assessment has been submitted t, although there are references to it in the design and access statement.  Given the scale and proximity of the development to the school, the Council should insist on the applicant providing a comprehensive sunlight and daylight assessment report together with an overshadowing analysis. I am surprised that this was not made a validation requirement for a scheme of such magnitude.

Parking and Highway Safety

I note from the submissions that the proposed development is not going to provide  any offstreet car parking.  Whilst most students are unlikely to own a car, there are many who do own or have access to a car, which they will bring to the area.  Where will they park?  In the absence of any off-street car parking, this will result in additional onstreet car parking within an area that is already under pressure for parking space.

The provision of the cycle parking spaces is noted, but I remain to be convinced about the impact that this would have on helping to reduce dependency upon the private car.


In conclusion, and for all of the reasons given under the relevant headings above, I am opposed to the development because it would result in harmful overdevelopment and intensification of the use of the site to the detriment of the amenity of the neighbouring properties, in particular the school and nursery premises.

The scale, form and design of the proposed development is incongruous to the character and appearance of the area, and it would result in an overly dominant built form in the streetscene.

The proposed use as student accommodation is also questionable, as no robust evidence of need has been submitted to justify the number of rooms proposed.  The nature of the proposed use of the  accommodation needs to be carefully scrutinised.

The applicant’s reliance upon the previously implemented planning permission is also in issue. The differences between what has previously been deemed acceptable by the Council and what is now proposed are  in stark contrast to one another.  There is a planning history to this site, which dictates that the maximum permissible development has already been allowed.  There has been no demonstration of a material change in planning policy or circumstances which would justify an even greater development.

For all of the above reasons, this planning application should be refused.

Yours sincerely,

Andrew Dismore AM

London Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden

City Hall

The Queen’s Walk