#ThirdTimeLucky – Living wall for First & Last in #EXEStThomas

I’ve learned to relish any victory, however small. And it seems there is a small success in the matter of a living green wall on the south gable of the First & Last redevelopment.

Back in 2014, a planning application was lodged with Exeter City Council for a change of use from existing public house and one first floor dwelling in to three dwellings plus an additional new build dwelling and associated ancillary facilities [14/4821/03].

I had reservations at the time as the First & Last is at a busy junction where 4 major roads converge – Cowick Street, Cowick Lane, Dunsford Road and Buddle Lane. There is often traffic congestion and chaos at the junction – and not only at morning and evening rush hours.

The bus stop is in the wrong place, meaning the yellow box junction is ineffective, and the phasing of the traffic lights needs sorting out.

As part of the consultation on the planning application, I made my views known. Could the development be car-free? Could  Devon County Council [as the Local Highway Authority] request some section 106 monies from the developer to look at sorting out the traffic problems? The answer to both questions was NO.

But there was something interesting and exciting contained within the submitted design statement. As part of the landscaping plans, James Barnfield [of Hilton Barnfield Architects] was suggesting a living green wall for the south gabel of the new building.

first-last-landscaping-in-design-statement-hilton-barnfield-architects
First & Last | Landscaping outline in Design Statement [Hilton Barnfield Architects]
The application was approved under delegated powers on 25 February 2015.

As is usual certain planning conditions were attached to the approval.

Condition 2 of the original planning decision only permitted development in strict accordance with the submitted details received by the Local Planning Authority on 16 December2014 (dwg. no’s 0084_FIR_PL_1.9; 2.0 (rev B); 2.1; 2.2; 3.0; 3.1; 3.2; 4.0; 4.1), as modified by other conditions of this consent.

And Condition 3 stated ”Notwithstanding condition 2, details of all external materials to be used in the proposed new dwelling shall be submitted to the Local Planning Authority and the development shall not be started before their approval is obtained in writing and the materials used in the construction of the development shall correspond with the approved details in all respects.”

first-last-dwg0084_fir_pl_3-2
First & Last | DWG0084_FIR_PL_3.2 [Hilton Barnfield Architects]
So far, so good.

But often in planing, the original applicant sells the site onto a new developer to actually deliver the plans. And this is the case here – with new architects appointed for the scheme.

But rather than a living vertical garden, green felt pockets appeared in August 2016:

First & Last | Felt pockets [close-up] First & Last | Felt pockets

Then in September 2016, the felt pockets were removed and replace with faux plastic greenery:

First & Last | Plastic flowers [close-up] First & Last | Plastic flowers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I result, I asked ECC Panning Officers to investigate enforcement action to get the new developers to comply with the original decision notice.

That led the new developers to submit a new planning application [16/1515/03], asking for a retrospective variation of condition 2 of Planning Application 14/4821/03 for revised plans showing removal of planted gable wall and replace with rendered finish, to match render used on refurbished building.

The application was considered at a Delegation Briefing held on 10 January 2017.

First & Last | Officers Report 16/1515/03
First & Last | Officers Report 16/1515/03

The Project Manager informed that plastic flowers had been planted instead of real plants, which doesn’t comply with the revised planning approval. An objection had been received stating the need for real plants for ecological benefits.

A Member provided a brief purchase history of the property. The construction of the property would be the same if it was planted as a ‘living wall’. A condition needs to be in place to replace with real plants with replanting as needed.

The members decided to refuse the Variation of Condition 2 and supported the change to real plants to create a green living wall.

The decision notice was issued on 12 January 2017.

First & Last | Decision notice 16/1515/03
First & Last | Decision Notice 16/1515/03

So in the near future, we can expect to see real living greenery forming a vertical garden on the south gable on the new building on the old First and Last development.

First & Last | Visualisation of living vertical garden [Hilton Barnfield Architects]
First & Last | Visualisation of living vertical garden [Hilton Barnfield Architects]
Further reading:
My Storify feed on the issue: 07/10/16 | Sedum Garden on First & Last development

My Storify feed on the issue: 12/12/16 | First & Last in #EXEStThomas

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Planning Application 16/1515/03 | First & Last

I would like to make a formal objection to Planning Application 16/1515/03 – Variation of condition 2 of Planning Application 14/4821/03 for revised plans showing removal of planted gable wall and replace with rendered finish, to match render used on refurbished building.

screen-shot-2017-01-05-at-06-17-14

This new planning application seems to have originated when I asked what enforcement action Exeter City Council would be taking in relation to non-compliance with Condition 2 of the original planning decision [14/4821/03]

This condition only permitted development in strict accordance with the submitted details received by the Local Planning Authority on 16 December2014 (dwg. no’s 0084_FIR_PL_1.9; 2.0 (rev B); 2.1; 2.2; 3.0; 3.1; 3.2; 4.0; 4.1), as modified by other conditions of this consent.

In particular, dwg 0084_FIR_PL_3.2 was very clear that the proposed south gable elevation would be planted with sedum.

0084_fir_pl_3-2-proposed-south-elevation
DWG 0084_FIR_PL_3.2

I also note that Condition 3 stated ”Notwithstanding condition 2, details of all external materials to be used in the proposed new dwelling shall be submitted to the Local Planning Authority and the

development shall not be started before their approval is obtained in writing and the materials used in the construction of the development shall correspond with the approved details in all respects.”

Once planning permission was granted the initial applicant sold the site with planning approved, yet I can only conclude that the new developer did not carry out this condition as I am sure that the Local Planning Authority would have given approval for either the green felt pockets or the plastic flowers that appeared on this gable end.

first-last-plastic-wall-01

2016-08-16-16-22-09

I made a submission to the original planning application, noting the bus – often congested – nature of the junction at the First & Last and would have liked the development to have been car-free. I had also hoped that Devon County Council might have negotiated some s106 monies to improve traffic flow here. Neither of this suggestions were adopted.

However, I was grateful that the original architects had endeavoured to introduce some biodiversity in to this highly urbanised environment and perhaps go some way to contribute to mitigating the air pollution locally.

In addition, such a planted gable end, if installed well with durable natural planting and an appropriate growing medium,  would have added visual interest to this junction of the city

The new planning application form suggests that the developer is asking for a  variation due to the onerous nature of maintaining such a planted wall.

screen-shot-2017-01-05-at-12-51-18

Yet I have seen from sites on-line there are various low maintenance solutions to installing a green wall that would work with an irrigation system/programme.

As I understand it, a green wall can be installed on many walls that have an appropriate waterproofing measure for irrigation.  Maintenance is fairly modest, particularly if using a sedum but obviously more onerous than a painted render wall.  The south facing nature of the wall at the First & Last makes it well suited to healthy growth, although taking some time for the installation to mature.

I would like to think that it would be a missed opportunity to substitute planting a sedum on this gable elevation with a blank render façade.

In addition I note that the Design Statement that accompanied the original planning application made mention of the sustainability of this location

This proposal is inherently sustainable by virtue of its location. It also makes use of an existing vacant building in a city centre location.

The location is within walking distance of Exeter City Centre and local amenities in the St. Thomas district. Cycle routes connect the site with the city centre and routes out of the city.

The new build dwelling will be built to at least the thermal performance required within Building Regulations and the existing dwelling will

The existing building will have all windows and glazed doors upgraded to double glazing and loft insulation will be introduced throughout. These measures, together with an entrance lobby will help to control the internal climate and keep heating demand for the building to a minimum.

The spatial planning of the dwellings has been developed in order to maximise natural lighting. This will reduce the need for artificial lighting and therefore energy demands for the properties.

The dwellings will be served by a district heating supply, served from the basement of the new build dwelling, accessed via the shared garden.

Dwellings will be fitted with low energy lighting throughout and A++ rated appliances will be installed. Low flow taps will help to reduce water consumption and all apartments are designed to accommodate showers.

A cycle store is provided with space for 6 bikes.

I trust that the completed development reflected these aims?

#EXEStThomas – Planning Application 16/15/15/03 [CA]

Exeter City Council’s weekly planning list contains an application affecting the character/appearance of a conservation area.

screen-shot-2016-12-09-at-06-12-40 screen-shot-2016-12-09-at-06-13-33

Planning application 16/1515/03 [CA] seeks a variation of a planning condition placed on the First & Last , 90 Cowick Street by an earlier planning application 14/4821/03.

I was keen for the re-development of the First & Last to be “car-free” for a variety of reasons – one of which  was the congestion caused by the bad layout of the yellow box junction – and made a submission to that effect.

The application received approval without the need to deliver a “car-free” development.

Despite this set-back, I was pleased as the architect [James Barnfield of Hilton Barnfield] sought to mitigate the presence of the busy – often congested – junction by suggesting that “the entire blank south gable elevation will be planted, creating a vertical garden” [Design Statement 2.06: Landscaping]

screen-shot-2016-12-12-at-15-21-59

I was quite excited by this feature, as it would go some way to addressing air pollution issues at this location – part of  ECC’s Air Quality Management Area [AQMA] due to exceedences of the annual mean nitrogen dioxide (NO2) objective limit.

And it seemed to find favour with ECC’s Planning Department. Condition 2 of the [delegated] planning approval stated:  “The development hereby permitted shall not be carried out otherwise than in strict accordance with the submitted details received by the Local Planning Authority on 16 December 2014 (Dwg Nos 0084_FIR_PL1.9; 2.0 (Rev B); 2.1; 2.2; 3.0; 3.1; 3.2; 4.0; 4.1), as modified by other conditions of this consent.  REASON: In order to ensure compliance with the approved drawings”.

Drawing 0084_FIR_PL_3.2 [Proposed South Elevation] is quite clear – the legend states “Proposed sedum planted gable wall”.

0084_fir_pl_3-2
0084_FIR_PL_3.2

But was this sedum wall delivered? Well, no. At first, we saw a series of felt pockets:

2016-08-16-16-22-09

2016-08-16-16-22-20

Then. without any warning, the felt pockets were removed and replaced with facsimile plastic *flowers*.

first-last-plastic-wall-01

first-last-plastic-wall-02

I’m not sure how the developers managed to convince the Planning Department of these changes: Condition 3 of the of the [delegated] planning approval stated:  “Notwithstanding condition 2, details of all external materials to be used in the proposed new dwelling shall be submitted to the Local Planning Authority and the development shall not be started before their approval is obtained in writing and the materials used in the construction of the development shall correspond with the approved details in all respects. Reason: To ensure that the materials conform with the visual amenity requirements of the area.”

Now I’m sure that the original architect and developer were suggesting a sedum wall just to give the drivers and bus passengers a splash of green on their journeys along Cowick Lane. Of course not, it’s on a south-facing wall. They wanted this green wall to be a living environment there, something to address the air quality.

I went back to James, who told me that his brief from the developer was to deliver a plan to gain planning approval. Since gaining that permission, the original developer sold the site with approval to another developer, who has since delivered the 4 new dwellings.

And it is that new developer who has put in the new planning application [16/1515/03] for the variation of condition 2 of Planning Application 14/4821/03 for revised plans showing removal of planted gable wall and replace with rendered finish, to match render used on refurbished building.

screen-shot-2016-12-13-at-05-19-18So why do the new developers want to vary  the condition? According to their application form, the reason is “reviewed maintenance of planted gable wall following installation.”

screen-shot-2016-12-13-at-07-51-40

But why has this new application came forward now? Maybe it has something to do with me making  enquiries about enforcement of Condition 2 attached to the original planning application?

I’m already working on my set of objections to this new planning application.

Further reading:
Read the article on the E&E website

Read the article on the E&E Facebook timeline

My Storify feed on the subject: 12/12/16 | First & Last in #EXEStThomas

St Thomas Community News | First & Last Junction

stt-newsletter-header-march-2016 First & Last

2016-02-22 08.38.28
Cllrs Hannah Packham and Paul Bull at the First & Last Junction during the busy morning rush hour

Over the years, our local councillors have considered many options surrounding the junction at First & Last – where 4 busy roads converge: Cowick Lane, Dunsford Road, Buddle Lane and Cowick Street.

At times, drivers ignore the rules surrounding yellow box junctions – yet according to Cllr Paul Bull, Devon County Council refuse to install cameras to aid enforcement.

Cllr Paul Bull suggestions: “Since the rules say that there should be no obstructions on the exit from a box junction, it may be time to discuss moving the bus stop outside Trophyman.

“There is no out-bound bus stop on the opposite side of the road – the equilvalent stops are around the corner: the A to Alphington stops 50m or so along Cowick Lane and the E/F1/F2 Exwick services stop outside the entrance to Bowhill school.

“In-bound there is a stop for the A bus on the opposite side to the road to  the out-bound one. However, there isn’t an equivalent one on Buddle Lane – but if  an in-bound bus stopone was placed in the lay-by by The Green Gables, the one at the First and Last  could be removed”

Your Labour team are keen to know your views

First & Last | Is the pavement too narrow?

Building works on one corner of the First & Last junction have closed the footway (the posh name for pavement used by DCC’s highways officers).

2015-07-21 10.07.24

I am pleased to report that, despite comments I’ve heard, there has not been a wall collapse on the corner of Dunsford Road and Buddle Lane outside the Old School House.

This is not a Devon Highways scheme and doesn’t involve any highway alterations.

Mercury Construction are working on the perimeter wall of Bowhill School site.  As part of these works the wall outside the Old School House was to be rebuilt, as it was  beginning to show signs of movement and their were evident cracks after having stood for countless years.

The works were scheduled for the school holidays to minimise disruption, but a recent structural survey identified that the wall was in an unsafe condition to leave by an active footway.

The footway was closed two weeks ago on the 8th July and the works commenced shortly afterwards.

2015-07-21 10.06.03

A Cowick resident has pointed out to me that the pavement here is too narrow at this dangerous location and wondered if DCC should take this opportunity widenthe footway at this location.

So, is the pavement too narrow?

In Design Manual for Roads and Bridges HD39/1 Volume 7 Pavement Design and Maintenance Section 2 Pavement Design and Construction Part 5 Footway Design [May 2001]

2. DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS
2.10 Geometry
Where possible the footway width should be sufficient to allow two wheelchairs or double buggies to pass. The basic geometrical parameters are set out in Table 2.3.

Screen shot 2015-07-28 at 06.58.50

The Highways Agency DDA Design Compliance Assessment Guide [March 2010] has this to say:

3.1.2 Widths
3.1.2.1 The recommended minimum width of footway/footpath is shown in Figure 3.1.2.

Screen shot 2015-07-28 at 06.40.34

• A clear width of 2000mm allows two wheelchairs to pass one another comfortably. This should be regarded as the minimum under normal circumstances.
• Where this is not possible because of physical constraints 1500mm could be regarded as the minimum acceptable under most circumstances, giving sufficient space for a wheelchair user and a walker to pass one another.
• The absolute minimum, where there is an obstacle, should be 1000mm clear space. The maximum length of restricted width should be 6 metres.
• If there are local restrictions or obstacles causing this sort of reduction in width they should be grouped in a logical and regular pattern to assist visually impaired people.

DCC have told me the cost to widen the footway on this corner would be substantial and prohibitive in the current financial climate. In addition to the physical construction of the widened footway, there would be a need for alterations to railings, traffic signals and sensor loops, push-button signals, utility services, etc.

Also, this junction is also clearly running at capacity in terms of trying to get as many vehicles and pedestrians through the junction in the shortest possible time period. The junction layout is almost unchanged in the last century so understandably this challenge has increased.

Screen shot 2015-07-28 at 06.17.39
First & Last junction

Each of the four legs of the junction has three lanes (both directions) including a right-turn lane on each approach. There is no viable option to alter or improve this layout as the buildings restrict the available width. Any widening of the roads would impinge on the footways and vice versa.

To widen the footway outside the Old School House  would involve narrowing of the road which is really a non-starter.

The ‘swept path’ is the name given to the area of road surface a vehicle uses in negotiating a manoeuvre or corner. As the drawing below shows for a longer vehicle the swept path is considerably wider than the vehicle itself and this can lead to problems at tight junctions.

Screen shot 2015-07-28 at 07.10.40
The swept path of a large turning vehicle can be much wider than its actual width

 

The First & Last junction is already restrictive for HGVs, buses, etc. so to narrow the junction further by widening a footway, whilst still maintaining three lanes on each approach as needed is not practical.

And that response shows the primary focus of the Highways team – roads, not pavements.

Perhaps rather than a pretty pictures of an articulated lorry going round the corner, what is needed is a picture of a children’s buggy meeting a bicycle or disabled pedestrian inside the railings?

Have we lost an opportunity for want of some lateral thinking?

The opportunity to move the wall back, not to narrow the road.

The wall needs rebuilding.  Why not rebuild it one metre further back?  This would provide a wider pavement.  And there would be NO need to touch the road, the rails or any other expensive kit!

But it seems although both under the remit of Devon County Council, the Education and Highways services work in silos and don’t talk to each other.

The scheme to repair this failing wall is part of a large programme of works by DCC Education department on the Bowhill School site. And these works had no highways impact until there was a need to close the footway due to the wall being assessed as dangerous.

The Bowhill School works are in progress and so the works have already been designed, put out to tender to contractors and the contract awarded to Mercury Construction.

As Mercury are now working on site, there is no scope for redesigning the works and changing the contract and programme.

Wholesale changes and increasing costs are an impossibility at this stage and would have had to have been proposed during the initial design to have been included.

The main trouble is no-one has ever mentioned problems with the footpath being too narrow here before. I haven’t heard about concerns and it seems neither has any other local councillor. Nor has DCC.

With no previous history of reports of the footway width as being a problem on this corner, then there would have been no motivation to address this issue.

I will be taking a greater interest in this corner in future.

 

 

 

Bus stop at the First & Last

Along with my co-councillor, Heather Morris, I have long considered the many options surrounding the junction at First & Last – where 4 busy roads converge: Cowick Lane, Dunsford Road, Buddle Lane and Cowick Street.

Yellow box junction at F&L
Yellow box junction at F&L

I had a faint hope that, with the First & Last empty for so long, DCC would buy it up and knock it down and widen the junction. Now that the pub is to be redeveloped for housing that dream has disappeared.

According to Stagecoach SW, the First & Last bus stop is the busiest bus stop in Exeter. I think that means 18 of their buses are timetabled to stop here, but after spending (far too much) time here, I often see that buses DO NOT stop as there are no passengers to pick up or set down.

And if there are passengers, the fact that Stagecoach don’t use the Smartcard technology they have on their buses, the bus remains at the stop for long times (especially in rush hour) as those passengers pay with cash – and need change.

So I believe the only alternative is to move the bus stop.

The case can easily be made – the junction only “works’ at present because of the yellow box junction…but as it stands the current yellow box junction is probably illegal!

Here’s the relevant section of Traffic Signs Manual Chapter 5
(v) the carriageway beyond the junction should be free from obstruction (this may necessitate the imposition of waiting or loading restrictions, or the adjustment of bus stops on the lengths concerned)
so the only way to make the yellow box junction suitable would be to move the bus stop!

The first point to make is that there is no out-bound bus stop on the opposite side of the road – the equilvalent stops are around the corner: the A to Alphington stops 50m or so along Cowick Lane and the E/F1/F2 Exwick services stop outside the entrance to Bowhill school.

In-bound there is a stop for the A bus on the opposite side to the road to  the out-bound one.

However, there isn’t an equivalent one on Buddle Lane – but if  one was placed in the lay-by by The Green Gables, the one at F&L could be removed.

Passengers alighting at F&L have 2 main destinations – the school and the doctor’s surgery

The school would be served by the new stop on Buddle Lane for children from the Exwick direction; those travelling from Alphingside could easily alight at existing stop on Cowick Lane, a slightly longer walk, admittedly

For pasengers wishing to get to the doctors’ surgery on Cowick Street, they could use the stop outside the Sawyers Arms – the distance from this stop to the pedestrian crossing to the GP surgery is exactly the same as from F&L stop (I know, as I’ve paced it out!)

DCC are ultimately responsible for the siting of bus stops – but of course, they would take guidance from Stagecoach SW on this.

And we must take into account the views of the bus users who use this stop.

#EXEStThomas – Planning Application 14/4821/03

There is now a planning application lodged with Exeter City Council – 14/4821/03 – for a “change of use from existing public house and one first floor dwelling in to three dwellings plus an additional new build dwelling and associated ancillary facilites.”

Following a meeting with the Case Officer,  made the following comments as part of the public consultation:

I am pleased that the plan provides for 6 cycle spaces [2:03: Amount]

design-report-2-03

The Design Report document from architects Hilton Barnfield clearly acknowledges that the development site is in “a city centre location with good public transport connections” [1.02: Site Analysis].

design-report-1-02

And later in the report it states ‘the location is within walking distance of Exeter city centre and local amenities in the St Thomas district. Cycle routes connect the site with the city centre and routes out of the city” [4.00: Sustainability Statement].

design-report-4-00

However, one fact that is missing from the report is that the site is across the road from a bus stop that is, according to Stagecoach, the busiest in Exeter – there are 18 Stagecoach buses an hour timetabled to use this stop, along several out-of-town services throughout the day.

This alone, I would hope, would make this site a suitable candidate for a “car-free” development. And this would mean a restriction on residents applying fora permit in any Residential Parking Zones, as was the case of the old print works in Albion Street, St Thomas.

However, as we discovered when viewing the ground plan, I would question if there was enough space provided to enable 4 cars to manoeuvre into and out of the designated spaces.

So I would maintain, that as drawn, there is inadequate space to enable the provision of 4 car parking spaces. Yet again, to me, pointing towards a “car-free” development.

The junction at the First & Last is where 4 busy roads [Cowick Lane, Dunsford Road, Buddle Lane and Cowick Street] meet.

There is always chaos, confusion and congestion at rush hour – often resulting in the yellow box junction being illegally blocked. But I have spent many hours at this junction and I can confirm that this congestion isn’t always limited to rush hour – it can happen at any time of day.

The Design Report mentions that the site includes “a large used site to the rear with existing vehicular access’ [1,02: Site Analysis] but it latter mentions “the busy road intersection [2.02: Layout].

design-report-2-02

As it stands, the current courtyard has good visibility of the junction – the whole width is bounded by a low wall with a wide entrance provided.

I haven’t compared the planned width of the new entrance with the current one, but with a new building in place, the view of the junction to the right would be severely impaired and, in my view, would be extremely dangerous.

But my reservations don’t end there.

The entrance to this courtyard is immediately opposite the set-back white STOP line for traffic in Cowick Lane to turn right into Cowick Street – this is to enable the A bus [and other long long vehicles] to make the left turn from Cowick Street into Cowick Lane.

design-report-groundplan

I believe that this would make the vehicular entrance into the new parking courtyard hazardous.

The only way to reduce the danger would be to proscribe that exit could only be by LEFT turn into Cowick Lane, and that ingress would only be from vehicles coming from Buddle Lane.

As these conditions cannot be made, I would hope that Devon County Council as Local Highways Authority would come to a similar conclusion to me – that providing parking spaces for this development would not be appropriate.

So my only conclusion is that this development should be car-free.