Pump House, Seething Wells change of use application 23/01636/FUL REFUSED

Despite 81 objections, including those from CPRE and the Kingston Society, the officer's report recommended approval of the Pump House planning application to be presented at the Surbiton Neighbourhood Committee. However, councillors did not agree and unanimously 'refused to approve' the application on four grounds paraphrased below and available on the councils YouTube channel Surbiton Neighbourhood 25.4.24.

  1. The change of use to office and car parking was not seen as compatible with Metropolitan Open Land (MoL). Cllr. Hayes said that office use was not normally considered appropriate on Mol.
  2. Fragmentation of the Pump House from the rest of the site severing the link with the rest of the site, which would prejudice future use as a nature conservation site.
  3. Core strategy: Surbiton neighbourhood policy S1 and the Surbiton vision to make safe the site for the public (riverside walk) and nature conservation.
  4. Conservation area appraisal pertaining to the sites special industrial character and links to public health.

Discussion topics included:

- The impacts of the application would be felt some distance outside the tightly drawn red line plan, including the hard and soft landscaping. This could introduce ornamental species, especially grasses, with the potential to be invasive of the Open Mosaic Habitat [the definition a council officer struggled with] (see previous post and seething-wells-goes-to-place-committee.html ). Extensive landscaping is not necessary or required due to the extensive natural seed bank, read about the Restharrow here seething-wells-pump-house The landscaping looked more like a developers show home rather than a heritage building.

- Severing the link between the Pump House and the rest of the site (as seen above) perhaps prejudicing the scope for future uses was a common theme. This would be exacerbated by the erection of fences for health and safety reasons. Vehicular and staff movements on the site would lead to an unacceptable level of disturbance to undermine remaining wildlife features, especially nesting birds. But again, fencing would conflict with policy preserving openness, which is inherent in the Mol designation

The Officer's report makes no mention of the listed structures on the site, only the offsite listed buildings. This application may lead to the removal of the crane bases, guard rails, and the rake to the Chelsea Tunnel, as none of them are depicted in the landscaping.

There was a joint 5 minutes for all commentators at the meeting to put the community case, and my presentation is below:

'My name is Alison Fure. I have been a member of LBG since the 1980’s and am the current trainer, training people for their bat roost visitor licences.

I have been monitoring bat roosts at Seething Wells since 1997 when I found a Daubenton’s maternity colony. 20yrs of monitoring visits include: 10 years of batty boat trips & monitoring from the Portsmouth Road and Barge Walk + hours of recordings & infra- red and thermal camera footage.

Our data submitted to GiGL does not end in 2020 as per the applicant’s surveys. The consultants state that no roost data was provided by Gigl but this is a disingenuous statement as Gigl are not allowed to do so, made clear in their T&C’s.

The consultants claim to have contacted LBG but we have no evidence, instead I contacted them to discuss their use of data, but was given short shrift. London Bat Group attest the Pump House is a winter bat roost, with additional uses; previous roosting activity would normally assess a building as high potential for bats, equating to 3 surveys (not one survey). Bats do not have to present to confirm a roost.

I have provided the council with documents from an application to Elmbridge Council 2017 showing a roost avoidance buffer zone around the barge tunnel. A similar exclusion zone has not been provided for the barge tunnel or Chelsea Tunnel within this application.

The officer’s report does not name the Chelsea Tunnel; the rake down to the tunnel runs alongside the Pump House. It is a listed structure on the site; ignored in the inventory of listed buildings.'


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