The Mayor, and Mayoress of Bromley visited the Civic Society’s exhibition in the Glades at Open House 2023 this year.
The Society also ran two of it’s popular walks, “Victorian Bromley” and “The Bromley of HG Wells in His Own Words”, and Liz – one of our supporters who helped out – described as “the walks and talks, which everyone I spoke to, universally praised.”.
Our chair describes the exhibition’s context: “Most people don’t realise the Town is a treasure trove of Arts and Crafts architecture, also Dutch and French influence, Queen Anne, and Neo Georgian – it’s all there! Then there’s HG Wells, David Bowie and Hanif Kureishi… The question is asked will an Invasion of Tower Blocks put an end to all this character and history?”
The new exhibition contains many fascinating pictures from past centuries, from its origins as a Kentish market town through the Victorian Golden Age to the present time with many buildings in the Arts and Crafts style that can be seen today. There are plans to make them available online.
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Where to see it: Martin’s Hill is just two minutes walk from Market Square along Church Road behind Primark where Bromley’s name- sake shrub burst into spectacular bloom from mid April to the end of May.
The name ‘Bromley’ is from the Anglo Saxon ‘Bromleag’ or ‘Broomleigh’ literally meaning a clearing where broom grows.
Last month we conducted the walk “Bertie’s Bromley” to complement the Library Lates event. Despite the miserable weather, more than 30 people turned up for the walk, which was informative and entertaining. The title is derived from the family name for the famous author HG Wells . He was born on the High Street and described the Victorian Bromley that he grew up in, in his works.
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The first tour of the Former Town Halls, after their conversion and restoration, took place on Saturday 11th February (these tours are a membership benefit! join here). In 2018 the Old Town Hall on Tweedy Road, and the Town Hall Extension on Widmore Road, together with the courthouse, were sold to CastleForge, to convert to co-working offices. Now the buildings have been repaired and converted, Clockwise (who operate the shared office-space) has allowed some tours of the buildings to take place.
The Council is currently consulting on the Bromley Town Centre Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) which will govern how large and where future buildings will be, in the town centre. It will provide better control of the development (that affects the character and appearance of the town) by providing detailed guidance – in fifteen Guidance Notes and 8 Character Areas/Sub-Areas. The SPD is a dense document and long read (as it needs to be) but there’s 4 areas we would like you to comment on:
* That the proposals for the Palace Park and Civic Centre will not be watered down, now that the site will be given up
* That the Urban Open Space designation for the Church House Garden Depot (formerly the walled garden) will not be silently removed without consultation – and exactly what can be built there.
Have your say
Make your comments – not forgetting to cc us at : firstname.lastname@example.org * by email to: email@example.com; * in writing to: Head of Planning Policy and Strategy, London Borough of Bromley, Civic Centre, Stockwell Close, Bromley BR1 3UH; or * via bromley council’s survey monkey link (see our post here on how you might want to fill this in)
The council is consulting on how new buildings should appear, by creating an Urban Planning Guide for architects. Most of this document is good, there are only… the illustrations. These are nearly all cheap, ugly, and very undesirable. Including these will make it very hard to object to schemes like the brutalist-car-park design for Churchill Quarter, because they look just like what the council has used as best-example illustrations!
We would like to see these examples removed and replaced:
Figures 14, 16, 17, and 18. Examples of buildings that are too tall for anywhere in the borough (and the ‘decorative’ ones fail to use any good local examples or heritage features – brutalist balconies and random brick ends are not what we want to see in Bromley)
Figures 15, 32, 34. Poor choice of decorative features – especially balconies (no heritage features) – and failing to use good local examples. Sticking brick ends out of a wall is not depth and quality – try ‘vernacular’ features such as Kentish hung tiles and black weatherboarding
Figures 6, 23 and 25. These do demonstrate new buildings at a ‘human scale’ and ‘conformable’ to existing low level development, but… they are cheapskate, plain, short on windows and heritage features are completely absent. Use Trinity Village or the Bromley Hospital site developments, they are both better than these.
Figures 30, 31, 32. These ignore local heritage and take the cheapest interpretation of the 1960s. Appropriate for the Hayesford Park estate, but not suitable for a borough-wide guide.
In Bromley, the council has policies designed to stop ‘Protected Views’ from being destroyed by developers. In practise, this is not always the case. Two protected views that are on the line with current planning proposals:
(1) The East side of the Ravensbourne Valley, notably from Queens Mead
(2) View of Keston Ridge from the Broadway (lower High Street)
This protected view has already been partially blocked by the new Police station, but the proposals for 1 Westmoreland Road will completely close it.
The development provides 353 ‘build to rent’ flats in four towers: 24, 19, 12 and 10 storeys. The existing food store is retained, and some commercial space is provided. The development is car free – ie no parking spaces for residents (there might be some disabled spaces). There is parking for the Waitrose store however – reduced from the present levels. There is some new open space provided past the bridge – also a hard landscaped ‘piazza’ at the entrance to the store. The Build to Rent flats are to be controlled and managed by John Lewis Partnership, with a minimum of 10% affordable housing (by habitable room) in the form of Discount Market Rent at London Living Rent levels.
WHAT WE ARE OBJECTING TO:
Note for people thinking of commenting: Objections that simply say ‘…the buildings are too high’ or that express a dislike of tower blocks will carry little weight by themselves. However, look at the paragraphs below for phrases you could effectively make, remembering that your own words will be better than copying ours.
The points summarised below are expanded beneath this table:
Buildings on this scale and height are out of character with the rest of the town centre. The proposal will result in an intense cluster of tall buildings in a small area that will be hugely out of scale with existing two storey residential area just across Kentish Way in Prospect Way, Langdon Road, Palace View, Oakwood Avenue, and Wendover Road.
Heritage Assets will be harmed. The setting of Grade II listed Former St Mark’s School would be harmed by virtue of the proposed development being almost immediately opposite. From the west the proposed towers will form a backdrop to a view of the cupola and the historic roofline of the listed building.
A Precedent will be set for further tall buildings, even higher buildings elsewhere in the town centre. Bromley South Station, in particular, is included within Site 10 and is allocated for major large-scale development in the Local Plan, and further south along Mason’s Hill at the Bromley Common Renewal Area
The Local Infrastructure will be overloaded. The site is not in the Bromley Local Plan and is unplanned and developer-led. There must be doubts, therefore, whether the local physical and social infrastructure can cope … the impact on local health services; passengers passing through Bromley South Station, and water supply and drainage.
There is not enough Affordable Housing. … the level of affordable housing being provided at 10% (35 units) … this development, despite its huge scale, will do little to address genuine housing need in the Borough … studio or 1-bedroom flats occupied by single people who commute to Central London
Buildings on this scale and height are out of character with the rest of the town centre.
The proposal will result in an intense cluster of tall buildings in a small area that will be hugely out of scale with existing two storey residential area just across Kentish Way in Prospect Way, Langdon Road, Palace View, Oakwood Avenue, and Wendover Road.
The towers will loom massively over these roads, appearing as they will, over nearby rooftops, seen against the sky, affecting daylight and sunlight in some cases. They will produce an unpleasant aspect from these houses by virtue of their sheer overwhelming mass and size, creating a negative impact on existing residents’ well-being.
The Environmental Statement shows that some properties in Langdon Road and Prospect Place will experience shadows cast by the development at certain times of day. This is described as ‘minor adverse effect’ in the statement. The residents of Perigon Heights will suffer a significant ‘moderate to major adverse effect’ in terms of both daylight and sunlight as a result of the proposal.
In views from Mason Hill, the proposed towers will represent a dramatic and uncharacteristic change of scale – a ‘cliff face’ of glass and steel at the bottom of the hill. As such the proposals will bring about a profound change to the character of the southern part of Bromley. Policy D9 of the London Plan states that tall buildings should only be developed in locations identified as suitable in development plans. The Policy goes on to recommend that there should be ‘..an assessment of potential visual and cumulative impacts …to determine the maximum heights that could be acceptable..’ The site is not in an area identified in Bromley’s Local Plan and there has been no overall assessment of potential visual impacts. Such studies should be carried out before any permissions for tall buildings are granted.
Policy 47 of the Bromley Local Plan 2019 requires that proposals for tall and large buildings ‘..make a positive contribution to the townscape ensuring that their massing, scale and layout enhances the character of the surrounding area’ It is difficult to see how buildings of this nature can possibly make a positive contribution to the townscape.
The Bromley Town Centre SPD says that (para. 9.22) ‘…building heights should step down towards the eastern and southern edges in response to the lower rise character of the High Street and Masons Hill environs.’. The drawings and visual representations shown in the Design and Access Statement at para 4.5.3 show some ‘stepping down’ of the buildings. The stepping down proposed, however, is nothing like enough to integrate buildings of the size proposed with the surrounding neighbourhood. Inevitably there will be a very marked transition between the 24-storey tower and other residential property across Kentish Way and along Mason’s Hill.
Banal statements in the application about providing ‘wayfinding markers’ and ‘gateway to the town centre’ do not justify building on this scale. Bromley does not need any more gateposts!
Heritage Assets will be harmed.
The setting of Grade II listed Former St Mark’s School would be harmed by virtue of the proposed development being almost immediately opposite. From the west the proposed towers will form a backdrop to a view of the cupola and the historic roofline of the listed building.
A Precedent will be set for further tall buildings.
The proposals could set a precedent for further, even higher buildings elsewhere in the town centre. Bromley South Station, in particular, is included within Site 10 and is allocated for major large-scale development in the Local Plan. Development proposals in the future for the station will inevitably be guided by the heights of any buildings already permitted on the Waitrose site. The result is likely to be an even larger cluster of yet higher buildings emerging in the future. It will be difficult to resolve design conflicts between tall buildings on the Waitrose site and future tall buildings on Bromley South Station.
Further south along Mason’s Hill there begins the Bromley Common Renewal Area where proposals are ‘…expected to maximise opportunities to create a successful transition zone from Bromley Town Centre to the suburban and semi-rural urban fringe and produce a positive gateway to Bromley Town Centre….’. (SPD para 9.6). This suggests a very real risk of a spread of further tall buildings further south along Bromley Common.
The Local Infrastructure will be overloaded
The site is not allocated in the Bromley Local Plan and, as such, is unplanned and developer-led. There must be doubts, therefore, whether the local physical and social infrastructure can cope with such a large and sudden uplift in the number of residential units on the site. Of particular concern is the impact on local health services; passengers passing through the already congested Bromley South Station, and water supply and drainage. These matters are dealt with, supposedly, in the Environmental Statement that accompanies the application.
[Note: The Transport analysis in Environmental Statement concludes that the proposals would lead to a 1% increase of passengers on rail services between Bromley South and central London during the AM peak – this, it is said, will have no material impact on rail platform circulation and rail services ].
There is potentially a very large sum (over £7m) payable though the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL), Section 106 and Carbon Offset (para 9.9 of the Financial Viability Assessment). Over £3 million of this is payable through Bromley Council’s CIL. The purpose of this is to overcome problems caused by the development. It is not clear, however, how this is to be spent. How much, if any, will be spent in the local area? Or will it just be used to keep the Council tax down? Can a new doctor’s surgery be provided?…where will it be located? More information is required.
The number of delivery and service vehicles is likely to be considerable. Servicing and access arrangements have not been re-thought as required by the SPD (para 9.21) and the Waitrose store servicing access and vehicular access/roads serving the Police Station remain much as they are at present. Problems of congestion at the junction of the High Street and the road leading to the Waitrose car park will worsen, and existing conflicts between police vehicles, delivery vehicles, Waitrose customers and vehicles parked for rail drop off and pick up will be perpetuated.
There is not enough Affordable Housing
Considering the scale of development proposed on the site, the level of affordable housing being provided at 10% (35 units) is significantly below that which is required.
The process highlights the loopholes surrounding the provision of affordable housing with the result that this development, despite its huge scale, will do little to address genuine housing need in the Borough.
Furthermore, in providing just 7 three bedroom units, the proposal does very little for families in the Borough. The bulk of the provision (225 units) is for studio or 1-bedroom flats likely to be occupied by single people who commute to Central London. This is unlikely to lead to a viable local community.
[Note: Bromley’s Local Plan refers to a 2014 assessment that the highest need in the Borough is for one-bedroom units (53%) followed by 2 bedroom (21%) and 3 bedroom (20%) units.
The proposal provides 64% studio and I bed units, 34% 2 bed units, and 2% 3 bed units]
There were a number of mills recorded in the Doomsday Book along the River Ravensbourne in Bromley, but the only one that survived until the modern era is this one.
It is often called ‘Glass Mill Pond’ as there was a glass mill on the higher bank. In Georgian times it ground pre-made glass, some of which was shipped over from China, into the convex lenses that were fashionable in large houses. They scattered the light, and frequently had little paintings on the rear and fancy lattice frames.
The mill also ground glass for scientific instruments.
Currently, Thames 21 are carrying out restoration work on the river, which will include recreating the pond, separated from the river by a bank, over which the river can wash when the water levels are high. As this section has not been dredged for 30 years, there has been a lot of silt to remove.
The Ha-Ha was an important part of the park, as it kept the local farmer’s livestock – ie cattle – out of the gardens so they didn’t eat all the ornamental plants! If correctly built, at over 8 foot high (including a ditch in front of it) the Ha-Ha should also keep out deer.
The recently revealed Ha-Ha, is a fine brick example, added by James Pulham when his company built the Fernery, Cascade and Folly for the (new) Lord of The Manor of Bromley, Coles Child.
Originally a feature of formal French gardens of the early 18th century, the ha-ha was first described in print in 1709 by the gardening enthusiast Dezallier d’Argenville in his La Theorie et la Practique du Jardinage (The Theory and Practice of Gardening). According to d’Argenville – and his first English translator, John James – the ha-ha derived its name from the success of the optical illusion it created from a distance on viewers of the garden: the concealed ditch and wall would ‘surprise the eye coming near it, and make one cry,‘Ah! Ah!’’