Cambridge Road Estate Planning Application 20/02942/FUL

Summary

·        The proposed scheme will leave a biodiversity crater in Norbiton and is a massive fail on sustainability issues. The Environmental Statement is flawed and the mitigation unrealistic. There is no biodiversity gain from this application and there will be a huge impact from pollutants arising from tree loss on air quality, and increased amounts of sewage entering the Hogsmill. The council have a huge conflict of interest here and by the allowing this will fail in their biodiversity duty and their declaration of a Climate Emergency.

·        The scheme is not future proofed and is therefore unsustainable; it has not understood that our current demands on the environment have led to the global pandemic and it has not undertaken a health impact assessment, which should be undertaken as a matter of urgency.

·        With a predicted 6881 people in an area already densely populated and with many new multi-storey blocks already granted planning permission; there should be an assessment of the cumulative impacts of these developments on health, biodiversity, water, etc.

·        Kingston Council spends a modest sum of money on a subscription to a records centre that produces maps based on London Mayoral guidance that indicate the Cambridge road estate, in Norbiton, is in an Area of Deficiency of access to Open Space and nature; yet Kingston council pays a premium to consultants who attest in the Environmental Statement, that the Open Space in proximity to CRE is within policy guidelines; includes a burial ground SINC and Richmond Park SAC SSSI (another borough) and that wildlife will not be affected by an increase to 6881 people. Can new residents walk their dogs in the cemetery? On graves, during funeral services?

·        The Council should not grant planning permission on a development if there's an outstanding and unresolved issue about a PROW. The plans do not state how existing PROW 37 (on the Definitive map) will be maintained. This has been the case since November 2019 when it was raised with the Head of Regeneration and the Asset department. This case is now with the Ombudsman.

·        Amenity will be lost from Norbiton residents in cases, for the remainder of our lives. This includes a well-established set of footpaths based on Radburn lines, which separate people from traffic, total 1 km in length, and include PROW 37. These quiet alleyways are the key to understanding the wildlife usage of the estate and will be lost. Gated estates will replace public open space, this is ‘key fob’ amenity.

·        Unacceptable loss of mature trees: Sixty- one trees will be felled we are told, although there is silence as to what will happen to the 50 garden trees. Remaining trees will die slowly in the changed environment they find themselves, with reduced quantities of food and nutrients, as roots are severed, water levels are changed, and building footprints are constructed on their root-plates. The British Standards have not been applied to tree root protection zones.

·        To reduce compensating the Council/public for the tree loss under CAVAT (some of the trees have been valued at >£48,000) a tree retention plan around many trees does not follow British Standard 5837. This standard imposes constraints based on stem diameter crown spread, crown height; the root protection area is calculated from the stem diameter.

·        The tree report indicates that Block B will be built on the root protection area of the Ely Court Willow. Page 40 of the Flood Risk Assessment shows that Blocks C1 C2 and A1 and A5 are built on the root protection areas of mature trees.

·        The Flood Risk Assessment indicates that even more perimeter trees - than could be imagined- will actually be lost to the new water pipes and deep attenuation tanks that require incorporating. This demonstrates how deficient the plans around sustainability.

·        Failure to recognise the ecology of the site: many plant species were not even recorded, some of them important for the seed eating house sparrows such as vervain, buck’s- horn plantain, sweet violet, wood avens, pellitory -of- the- wall, sweet woodruff, procumbent pearlwort, dwarf mallow, broad-leaved dock, common orache, common burdock, autumn hawkbit, lesser trefoil, knotgrass, not so negligible. Their function and beauty are not recognised, not mitigated and is a biodiversity fail.

·        Bogus claims regarding the habitat creation: the Environmental Statement is based on erroneous statements such as ‘rain gardens and swales will be created’; yet the Flood Risk Assessment states that there is ‘no space’ for rain gardens and swales ‘will not work’ due to the impermeable clay. The same with the so - called biodiversity roofs, the roof log piles are a euphenism for satellite dishes and the electrical components that are always on flat roofs.

·        Bogus bat assessment: the “little sustained foraging averaging 20 bat passes per night per location” is not truthful. There was actually up to 350 passes in a night. The figures may be averaging two cycles of equipment failure, unsuitable temperatures in April 2020 when it was too cold for bats to feed. Met office temperature data for the April recording period gives night time temperatures of 5and 6 degrees centigrade. This is not allowed according to professional guidelines.

·        So, the averaged figure of 20 passes per night per station does not reflect mere commuting activity; it reflects the positioning of the station, equipment function and the unsuitable temperatures in April. Unless data that did not follow Bat Conservation Trust Survey Guidelines is omitted from the average calculations, the evaluation is political and not ecological and the mitigation is inappropriate.

·        The bird survey was a non-survey; it was executed during in July and August so carried out at the wrong time of year and did not quantify the important house sparrow territories, which is a National Priority Species. As it was an incomplete survey the mitigation proposed will not work. House sparrows are so called because they nest around houses not tower blocks.

·        Where will all the new residents exercise their dogs. Why do the consultants state there is no evidence that cats impact on bird populations when many developments around heathland have pet covenants?

·        The Mitigation for Phase 1 should be signed off before any further phases are allowed. The Mitigation for Phase 1 should be made clear and should be transparent.

·        The Outline planning permission sought for the subsequent phases of development mean that there will be no guarantee that the claims for net gain for biodiversity in future and the developers will be free to diminish these gains. This is a promise for the future with no guarantee on deliverability.

 

1.Open space provision

The Environmental Statement for the so-called regeneration of the Cambridge Road Estate redefines the meaning of open space. On page 93 it states (slightly paraphrased)

“Baseline evidence has identified a number of open spaces, which exceed policy requirements in terms of size and proximity including the Royal Parks which exceed the recommended sizes for Regional and Metropolitan parks and a closer number of Parks and Gardens- namely Kingston Cemetery- which is defined as ‘Parks and Garden’s in the Kingston Green Spaces strategy’.

       i.          Allotments are also included in the Open Space assessment but there are no allotment spaces available at the moment, which will probably remain the case for years.

      ii.          In fact, Cambridge road estate is 7.71 ha of an Area of Deficiency to Open space as defined by the Mayor.

     iii.          The Major has actually pledged not to increase the numbers of people living in an AoD (more than 1Km from quality open space). It is not sustainable to bring more 6881 people (2.41 people per unit), their dogs and more cats to an area with the worst access to open space in the borough;

     iv.          Planned areas of housing as outlined in the Strategic Environmental Assessment for the Core Strategy 2012 actively avoided increasing the numbers of housing units close to the Richmond Park SSSI NNR SAC and Wimbledon Common SSSI SAC as well as Wisley and Ockham Commons SSSI SAC. This was on the basis of not increasing footfall in proximity to protected areas. Richmond Park is now seen as one of the justifications for increasing the units in Norbiton to 250 per ha.

      v.          The development claims to increase to a ‘minor beneficial level’ the amount of public open space but this includes the so-called Net Gain required in the National Planning Policy Framework, which does not amount to very much at all. 2.8 ha in the old; 2.9 ha in the new.

     vi.          In fact, most new open space will be accessible by key fob or by climbing onto the ’biodiverse’ roof as most blocks will be gated communities and the green space only accessible by residents to that block.

   vii.          As the open space is important for so-called Priority species, it is the diminishing quality of open space that is the most worrying. Most of it will be unproductive remaining in shade most of the day.

  viii.          New habitats proposed are bogus, by cross referencing 1,255 sqm of rain gardens and SUDs channels proposed in the ES with part 1 of the FLOOD RISK ASSESSMENT it states that ‘open water storage systems are not suitable for this development.’

     ix.          The FRA states ‘there is a lack of space’ (page 23); ‘and impermeable clay’.

      x.          Attenuation tanks will therefore be used with Green roofs page 17 FRA as well as the use of proprietary modular crate systems that store a lot of water in small areas.

     xi.          The infrastructure required for piping additional water around the estate is also a reason for additional loss of trees and informal space near the J-pitch.

   xii.          At Acton Gardens (Countryside’s sister development) the so-called biodiversity roofs were in fact, storage facilities for satellite dishes and other electrical components.

 

1a Rights of Way

       i.          The Council should not grant planning permission on a development if there's an outstanding and unresolved issue about a PROW. The plans do not state how existing PROW 37 (on the Definitive map) will be maintained.

      ii.          This plan is a massive loss of amenity and will lead to more car use as people will lose footpaths. They will wish to avoid the entire area for the next 13 years especially if they suffer from exposure to poor air quality.

     iii.          The estate was designed on ‘Radburn lines’ to separate people from traffic. This equates to 1km of public footpaths - as well as PROW 37 on Kingston’s Definitive Map - which pivots on Washington road and will be lost to this development.

     iv.          Currently, it is possible to approach the estate from the north along School Passage PROW, walk south along the western boundary footpath and onto the PROW 37 and the walk east along 250m of pathways through the estate to Burritt Road, hardly encountering a vehicle. Each new block will possess its own road, so the alleys will be replaced by roads.

      v.          There are more than >9 public footpaths or alleyways that will be lost (currently at arbitration with the Ombudsman).

     vi.          The privatised model of the gated estate- enclosure 21st century style- ensure that formal gardens are the dominant culture; not community, but exclusivity and disconnectedness.

   vii.          Understanding the current levels and the nature of the open space is key to understanding the nature conservation value at the site.

 

2 Trees and Plants

       i.          There are >183 trees of >30 species on the Cambridge Road Estate. Most trees are more than 50 years old and include London plane, oak, ash, beech, willow, alder, hawthorn as was the intention in the seventies to provide residents with an enhanced natural environment, surrounded by native species.

      ii.          An additional 50 trees and 50metres of hedgerow are in private gardens-especially evergreens and fruit trees, including apple, plum, pear massive cherries and olives, these assist in providing the tree cover, food, shelter and navigation lines that attract birds and bats.

     iii.          Sixty- one trees will be felled we are told, although there is silence as to what will happen to the 50 garden trees. Many of the remaining trees will die slowly in the changed environment they find themselves, with reduced quantities of food and nutrients as roots are severed, water levels are changed, and the building footprints are on their root-plates.

     iv.          To reduce compensating the Council/Public for the tree loss under CAVAT (some of the trees have been valued at >£48,000) a tree retention plan around many trees does not follow British Standard 5837. This standard imposes constraints based on stem diameter crown spread, crown height and the root protection area calculated from the stem diameter and the theoretical RPA.  

      v.          The tree report indicates that Block B will be built on the root protection area of the Ely Court Willow. Page 40 of the Flood Risk Assessment shows that Blocks C1 C2 and A1 and A5 are built on the root protection areas of trees. The Flood Risk Assessment indicates that even more perimeter trees -than could be imagined- will actually be lost to the new water pipes and attenuation tanks that require incorporation.

     vi.          The mature trees that will be lost immediately and in a future slow decline are our only line of defence against increasing air pollution, for sequestering CO2, and supporting local wildlife populations and corridors. This is an unacceptable loss to Norbiton which is a ward that has already seen massive tree loss.

 

2a Plants

       i.          The consultants stated that the amenity grassland was of negligible value and not considered further in the assessment. But in fact, it was heaving with wildlife, including bees, butterflies, grasshoppers and bugs.

      ii.          Many plant species were not even recorded, some of them important for the seed eating house sparrows such as vervain, buck’s- horn plantain, sweet violet, wood avens, pellitory -of- the- wall, sweet woodruff, procumbent pearlwort, dwarf mallow, broad-leaved

     iii.          common orache, common burdock, autumn hawkbit, lesser trefoil, knotgrass, slender St. John’s wort, fox and cubs and grasses such as common and brown bent and many more; not so negligible now when you look properly. This interest and function is not recognised and so not mitigated

     iv.          Many species of fungi were recorded in the grassland in the Autumn. There are many species of fungi on the site including both mycorrhizal and saprotrophic species. These provide hosts for fungus gnats and in turn assist foraging bats at the end of the year.

      v.          They are largely located on the western boundary and the grass along Hampden road; brown roll rims, scaly caps, clouded funnels, shaggy inkcaps, velvet shank, silver stainers and various mycena species are found. These are all the nutrient recyclers and assist in carbon sequestration these associations will be broken, in the regeneration.

3 Bats

       i.          There is no disagreement on the number of bat species recorded on the estate, which is four: the three pipistrelle bat species and early occurrences of several noctule bats at certain times of the year.

      ii.          There is no disagreement that bats use certain features as commuting routes through the estate, particularly along both quadrants of the western boundary, which is very well vegetated. We know there are bat roosts in the cemetery and along Bonner Hill road where there is foraging activity all the year round. The dominant species is the common pipistrelle.

     iii.          However, an error of judgement has been made by diminishing the amount of foraging activity that occurs on the estate by averaging across suitable and unsuitable sites; also Bat Conservation Trust Guidelines have not been followed by surveying in temperatures below 10 degrees centigrade (April 2020).

     iv.          The last two years we have also been monitoring bat activity in the neighbourhood, undertaking bat walks, lending bat detectors to residents and placing static bat detectors in gardens around the estate. Some residents have even posted their own recordings https://www.earth.org.uk/bats-at-16WW.html

      v.          Our findings have been in stark contrast to those expounded in the Environmental Statement. We have found that bats feed throughout the night and this is qualified in the data by terminal phase or ‘feeding buzzes’.

     vi.          An Anabat Express detector left in a garden near the western boundary 18.9.20 recorded all night activity and residents attest to some hot spots over their gardens at the south-western alley, which didn’t feature at all in the ES.

   vii.          Foraging activity (feeding buzzes) was recorded during a Soundwalk September 2019 near the Hawks road clinic (repeated 2020) discussed here: https://janeswalks.blogspot.com/2020/10/soundwalk.html .

  viii.          We have invited local residents to view the bat activity at some of these locations. We would not choose one of the car parks or brightly lit areas near the tower blocks to go and study bats. This might explain some of the low numbers of bat activity bringing down the average to “little sustained foraging averaging 20 bat passes per night per location” (ES 8.106) [4 static detector stations].

     ix.          In fact, when drilling down to the data obtained from the individual statics it was found that on a night in August 2019 there were (according to the consultants own data) 350-178 bat passes over station CRE 2. On another night in August there was 120 passes at station CRE 1 and 178 September CRE1.

The figures generated correspond very well to publicly available data from Queen Elizabeth Olympic park, where static detectors monitor the activity http://www.batslondon.com/ and are more than local importance at certain times of the year for common pipistrelle bats.

      x.          The “little sustained foraging averaging 20 bat passes per night per location” (ES 8.106) may indicate that the two cycles of equipment failure - 20 nights of microphone malfunction CRE 4 - where a nil return was made, was included in this average? 

     xi.          Unsuitable temperatures in April when it was too cold for bats to feed, also brought down that average. The met office temperature data for the April recording period gives night time temperatures of 5and 6 degrees centigrade.

   xii.          Bat Conservation Trust Guidelines 2016 indicate that static surveys in April are weather dependent and conditions may not be suitable for surveys. Surveys carried out below 10 degrees should be justified by the ecologist (page 22). The April data should indeed be omitted if the weather is as stated not in line with that required to reveal representative activity.

  xiii.          So, the averaged figure of 20 passes per night per station does not reflect mere commuting activity; it reflects the positioning of the station, equipment function and the unsuitable temperatures in April. Unless data that did not follow Bat Conservation Trust Survey Guidelines is omitted from the average calculations, the evaluation is political and not ecological.

  xiv.          If the number of bat passes during August/September 2019 is 178 at CRE 1, then something else entirely is occurring here; the western quadrants of the Cambridge road estate are part of the Core Sustenance Zone of a breeding population of common pipistrelle bats.

   xv.          It is not ecology to state that these bats can obtain their needs from elsewhere, perhaps the Hogsmill river without looking at the sheer number of floodlights emanating from the sports fields, sewage works and waste transfer station rendering the Hogsmill unsuitable.

  xvi.          There will be no likelihood of these animals foraging around tower blocks and they will be designed out of the future. There is plenty of research regarding the effect on all species when the urban gradient becomes more than 60% built surface - even pipistrelle bats reach a tipping point.

 xvii.          Local bat roosts are dependent on the insects that are generated from the large tree canopies on CRE. The impact on insect prey has been poorly dealt with in the ES and there will be a greatly reduced insect communities on the estate in the new shaded, wind tunnelled environment.

 

 

3a Lighting

       i.          There is a schism in the ES regarding lighting. On the one hand it states that the estate is poorly lit and that this will be improved in the new iteration. However nowhere does it suggest that the lights will be bat friendly, except in the bat chapter.

      ii.          For this reason, there is scepticism that the lights will be maintained at 2700k (ES page 183). It might be the case that there will be warm white lighting on the estate, but this will be obliterated by the inevitable security lights that will spring up everywhere on the corner of buildings near the electronic gates.

     iii.          Only a very tightly worded set of conditions will ensure that there will be lighting on the estate that follows the Bat Conservation Trust Guidelines and there should be NO lighting additional to the 2700k lights.

     iv.          Lighting is also the major route for depleting the insect food that all these species require as prey species and the Invertebrate section of the ES could be much improved if it had been carried out by children from the nearby primary school.

 

 

4 Birds-house sparrows

       i.          The bird survey was a non-survey; it was executed during in July and August so carried out at the wrong time of year. As it was an incomplete survey, I will only deal with the house sparrow data as these are the priority species that must have the features that they are using re-provided in the new development according to Planning and Wildlife Legislation and Policy.

      ii.          They state that there were only 25 house sparrows on the site. This is actually not the case. I did a territory census (9th April 2019) and found approximately 30 territories (representing 60 birds) but possibly increasing to >40 territories later in the year, with the appearance of additional singing males especially by 13.5.20.

·        More than 8 nests along Cambridge Grove Road

·        More than 3 near Sherford block

·        >2 Singing males at Stapleford Close

·        ~5 territories at Willingham Way

·        3 houses where breeding was occurring at Franklin Crescent

 

       i.          It was difficult to quantify the number of birds at Willingham Way and Franklin due to privacy considerations. But there was more than one nest at each of the three houses/garages along the latter. After breeding there have been up to 100 birds at a communal roost although there is a rate of loss amongst young birds depending on the environmental conditions.

      ii.          Placing bat boxes on tower blocks is not a mitigation strategy for house sparrows, perhaps it would work for black redstart or birds that use cliff tops. It is not stated the height at which any of the boxes will be erected but sparrows need overhanging eaves, dropped tiles, vegetation links, squabbling areas, dust baths, straggly privet hedges, food for chicks; not tower blocks.

 

 

5 Invertebrates

       i.          The invertebrate paragraph within the Environmental Statement, is a short lazy assessment and perhaps where the greatest injustice/ignorance can be found, they state there is ‘no woodland habitat and little deadwood for stag beetles and at 8.12 common and widespread habitats may provide pollen and nectar’.

      ii.          I know that children from local schools would have been able to identify many bugs and insects to family level and comment on their value as prey species for birds and bats, role in soil aeration and pollination. Given the amount of tree canopy, and the potential for arboreal beetle groups, caterpillars of lepidoptera bugs, spiders we should expect more than this.

     iii.          Despite capturing 350 bat passes during one night of static detector monitoring of bats, the consultants assume this feast to be random, and not a function of a complex web of life that has developed over the last 50 years.

     iv.          There are several bee keepers in Norbiton; our bees are often found in the summer canopy of the limes. A relatively small tree positively vibrating with bees in the summer along the footpath by the Piper Hall with pedestrians unaware of the frantic foraging occurring above their heads.

      v.          Some years, painted ladies are found nectaring on the lime flowers. Local lepidoptera include grass moths such Pyralid moths, yellow underwings and many species of butterfly. There is some ragwort-depending on the maintenance cycle- and occasionally cinnabar moths are seen.

     vi.          Plants that have important insect associations such as bird’s foot trefoil, which dominates the grass along Hampden Road. The latter provides a nectar source at the beginning of the year for abundant red-tailed bumble bees. But it is also important for butterflies and common blue is a local species in Norbiton. In fact, this grass heaves with life in the Spring and Summer and hosts small colonies of yellow meadow ant that survive the mowing regime; the sandy component exhibits holes for ovipositing solitary bees. Some of the mining bees recorded locally are national Bap priority species.

   vii.          I imagine it would be argued by the developers that the biodiversity/brown/green roofs would offer this warm dry habitat but I am sceptical about the ‘logs on roof scenario’ after seeing Acton Gardens; there the roof tops were used for electrical components and satellite dishes and the biodiversity roofs were not apparent. Any sedum rolls that had been inserted in between the hardware was not optimised/had died.

  viii.          At the western boundary the soil is rich in arthropods and coleoptera arising from the organic cultivation a few years ago. Arthropods are frequently encountered along Hampden road and the limes (of course) are full of bright red galls from the nail gall mite.

     ix.          A stag beetle as found on an estate path 2019. They are seen flying through the estate and our gardens from time to time. Southeast England and in particular the urban and suburban parts of south London represent the stronghold of stag beetle in the UK. The preferred oviposition site for the beetle from survey results (Smith, 2002 Page 14) appears to be apple trees, followed by cherry species.

      x.          There are a large number of fruit trees on the estate, sufficient for an orchard, although no account of these trees has been (orchard would have been a good way of achieving Net Gain, as it is Priority habitat and was suggested but ignored).

     xi.          The cherries on site are uncommonly large and these will have beetle associations. There should be a watching brief on their demise and the consultants should hang their heads in shame for not acknowledging this.

 

Net Gain is a gain for species, a gain for habitat, ecological processes and flood retention. All that can be seen here is a massive loss of biodiversity and destruction of the  web of life; a total gain for humans  arising from an improperly conducted Environmental Impact Assessment and no Health Impact Assessment.

 

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