Bingfield Park Container-land ?

FootpathA whole load of ugly blue containers have turned up off Pembroke Street alongside Sparkplug and Bingfield Park.  The containers re-route the public right of way and create an unpleasant and dangerous spot for pedestrians as the evenings draw in.   One of the great features in the redesign of Bingfield Park was the improved lighting, sight lines and access.  Containerland These containers ruin it – they dont’ appear to be licensed – even though they are either on the public highway or on Council/Greenspace land.  I guess they are associated with the mildly shambolic building site where the old Marquis of Salisbury pub used to be.  WIll see what council can do – will raise with Cllr Convery as this cuts across several Departments. 

I have written to Jeffrey Adams, the Chief Executive of the United House Housing Association who’s name is on the fencing.  If anyone else would like to write his email is here .

UPDATE

Jeffrey Adams go back to me today – the containers will be moved in 10-14 days.

About William Perrin

Active in Kings Cross London and South Oxfordshire, founder of Talk About Local, helping people find a voice online and a trustee of The Indigo Trust , Good Things Foundation and ThreeSixtyGiving as well as Connect8.
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4 Responses to Bingfield Park Container-land ?

  1. Paul Convery says:

    These containers have been placed on the hard surfaces which are the remnants of the stopped-up Freeling Street. As Will remarks, this blocks the sight-lines into the Park, re-routes a right of way and creates a dangerous blind spot. It is both unsightly and unsafe.

    Some time ago, as the Residents Associaiton fighting the school site development, we established this is not public highway but is Greenspace land and forms part of Bingfield Park.

    These containers belong to United House which is a buildings and maintenace company that is one of the owners in Partners for Islington, a PFI vehicle that has contracts to renovate and manage street properties owned by the Council.

    I have now asked Greenspace to explain whether an agreement has been made between Islington Council (via Greenspace) and United House. Any such agreement has not been made after any consultation with either the public generally or elected members specifically.

    I have also enquired to see whether planning permission been sought for this temporary use. Rupert Perry and I are respectively Chair and vice chair of the West Area planning subcommittee and have no recollection of this being run past us. It may be one of those scandalous but regular situations where decisions have been taken by officers using delegated powers and then buried away in a summary report.

  2. Paul Convery says:

    Now received the following:

    From: Adams, Jeffrey (UHL) [mailto:JAdams@unitedhouse.net]
    Sent: 23 October 2006 16:43
    To: paul@convery.org.uk
    Subject: United House containers on land at Freeling Street, off Pembroke Street, N1

    Dear Paul

    Thank you for your email of Sunday. In the time available I have managed to establish the following:

    1. The containers do belong to United House and are, in fact, part of the PFI No 2 contract. They are placed there under licence with the Highways Department of Islington Council and a six-month licence has been granted.

    However, I can confirm that they will be moved within the next 10-14 working days, as it transpires that the site, unknown to us, has already been promised to another builder who I believe is carrying out work on the old school site (?).

    2. There are protocols in place between the client, Partners for Improvement in Islington and Islington Council and Homes for Islington, which I am sure cover the points you raise in the latter part of your email. I would also just like to make the point that we have had enormous difficulties in finding suitable convenient locations for these containers to enable the PFI contract to go forward, and you picked up the point yourself that we are a fair way from the work site. However, in this case because we are a fair distance from the work site, it causes its own problems all around.

    However, I do apologise for any inconvenience but we will continue to liaise with the Highways Department to see how we can move things forward.

    If I can be of any help on any future issues, please do not hesitate to contact me.

    Regards

    Jeffrey Adams
    Group Chief Executive
    United House Limited
    01322 616 663

  3. Stuart Cottis says:

    These containers now appear to have turned up on Rufford Street even further away (I presume) from the place their contents are being used. Great! This diminishes space for us to park in our own street for which we pay our beloved local authority a not insignificant sum per year (on top of the high Council Tax).

    What is the PFI No 2 Contract? How does it benefit any of us and when were any of us consulted on having these unsightly containers placed in our street?

  4. Paul Convery says:

    Here’s the latest exchange in a long exchange:

    ——————————————————————————–
    From: Paul Convery
    Sent: 16 November 2006 12:09
    To: ‘Loveland, Graham’; ‘Rupert Perry’; ‘Murphy, Philippa’
    Cc: ‘Kainth, Bram’; ‘Holland, Martin’; ‘OLeary, Kevin’; ‘OLeary, Kevin’
    Subject: RE: United House containers on Rufford and Randells Roads

    Graham,

    I am grateful for your views. But I am surprised that you can say with any certainty that your enforcement manager’s view is a “realistic and reasonable assessment”?

    Have you seen this development? Can you tell me how long “temporary” lasts? Do you know how distant from the works these are sited? Are you aware there are definite alternative locations? And do you recognise the loss of amenity to residents and actual street danger now posed by these containers?

    I suggest a site visit at the very least. Perhaps this could arranged ahead of the meeting now being arranged for either 27th or 28th November.

    Regards.

    ——————————————————————————–
    From: Loveland, Graham [mailto:Graham.Loveland@islington.gov.uk]
    Sent: 16 November 2006 10:40
    To: Rupert Perry; paul@convery.org.uk; Murphy, Philippa
    Cc: Kainth, Bram; Holland, Martin; OLeary, Kevin; OLeary, Kevin
    Subject: RE: United House containers on Rufford and Randells Roads

    If I may comment here.

    I think the view of our enforcement manager – that these structures, by virtue of their short term nature, are outside of planning control – is a sensible and realistic assessment, especially given that they are not in place to facilitate a change of use of the land on which they are located – rather they are there to facilitate building/refurbishment works. Thus it would be a very different situation is, say, a container was located on land and a retail use was taking place from that container.

    Beyond this, I assume they are in relatively close proximity to the where the works are taking place and, to that extent, are also covered by that part of the general (permitted development) order relating to structures, plant etc associated with development in progress.

    Beyond this, it is clear that, were the structures deemed to be unacceptable, there is a potential remedy through the licence that has been granted, although (and I think that this is point that Phillipa is making here) we need to recognise that they are necessary to enable the building works to take place and, to that extent, we need to be clear as to where there may be an alternative and more acceptable location.

    Graham Loveland
    Assistant Director (Planning)
    Planning Division
    Environment and Regeneration Department
    Islington Council
    020 7527 2680
    graham.loveland@islington.gov.uk

    Location Map: http://www.islington.gov.uk/images/environment/222us.jpg

    ——————————————————————————–
    From: Rupert Perry [mailto:ipperry@btinternet.com]
    Sent: 16 November 2006 09:01
    To: paul@convery.org.uk; Murphy, Philippa
    Cc: Kainth, Bram; Holland, Martin; OLeary, Kevin; Loveland, Graham
    Subject: Re: United House containers on Rufford and Randells Roads

    I too am astonished. I do recollect planning permission being sort for temporary situations of 6 months. As we all know from building works, they very often go on much longer than expected, so it is far better for all concerned that planning permission is sought in advance. We castigate private developers when they fail to do this, so I think it is incumbent on the Council to get its act together and set a good example.
    cheers Rupert
    —– Original Message —–
    From: Paul Convery
    To: ‘Murphy, Philippa’
    Cc: ‘Kainth, Bram’ ; ‘Holland, Martin’ ; ‘OLeary, Kevin’ ; ‘Loveland, Graham’ ; ‘Rupert Perry’
    Sent: Wednesday, November 15, 2006 8:26 PM
    Subject: RE: United House containers on Rufford and Randells Roads

    Dear Philippa

    I regret that almost every communication on this matter raises more questions than are answered. You now tell me that startling news that “the council has a legal obligation to facilitate the siting of the containers somewhere within the local area”. The Council (as the owner of many street properties) may have a contractual arrangement with PFI2, but that is nothing compared with statutory duties on the Council to properly apply the law relating to development control or highways management. To ignore planning law in order to facilitate Council’s own development would be a very serious matter. If I did this as an elected Member, I would certainly face disqualification.

    I am going to seek legal advice on this matter but, in the meantime, I would be very grateful if we could arrange that meeting with Kevin, highways and planning to resolve this.

    Regards

    ——————————————————————————–

    Cllr Paul Convery
    Labour Councillor for Caledonian Ward, LB Islington
    Home: 94 Gifford Street, London N1 0DF
    07768-117120
    http://www.islingtonlabour.org.uk/caledonian

    ——————————————————————————–
    From: Murphy, Philippa [mailto:Philippa.Murphy@islington.gov.uk]
    Sent: 13 November 2006 15:06
    To: paul@convery.org.uk
    Cc: Kainth, Bram; Holland, Martin; OLeary, Kevin; Loveland, Graham
    Subject: Re: United House containers on Rufford and Randells Roads

    Dear Cllr Convery,

    Further to your email this morning, I would agree that my summary of Andrew’s advice was perhaps too brief and that I should have made it clearer that it was given in relation to the arrangements relating to specifically these containers. I presumed that as the containers have been moved to what are, hopefully, more suitable locations, that the Planning element of your enquiry was of less significance now; please accept my apologies.

    I have asked Andrew to clarify his advice, given the associated construction around the containers and their length of stay and he has advised that in his opinion, “a period of 6 months is sufficiently short for us to accept that their placement (including associated stairs/shutters/walkways) does not constitute development pursuant to the Planning Act. I could find no specific guidance (case law or central government guidance), on how near “near” is. In the absence of such advice, I would suggest that it is to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, using a common-sense approach”. Given this advice, and that the council has a legal obligation to facilitate the siting of the containers somewhere within the local area, we can hopefully find a more positive way forward than attempting to use planning enforcement. I will let Kevin know that you would like a meeting on his return, but as identifying a mutually acceptable solution will require a very detailed knowledge of Highways regulations, I thought it may be more effective for you to meet with Martin Holland, Head of Highways and perhaps, Bram Kainth, the Assistant Director of Street Management? Kevin will be happy to attend as well, if you think this will be helpful. Please let me know and I will make the necessary arrangements. Kevin is on annual leave today, but I know he was concerned that we find a solution which is acceptable members and which allows us to meet our legal obligations.

    Kevin has recently asked his management team to do some thinking about improving consultation with Members. There are some areas of concern, such as this, where legislation (Section 171 of the Highways Act) and council policy, state that consultation is not required; the “Assisting Pedestrians and Shoppers” policy, which was approved by Executive a few months ago, delegates such decisions to officers. The majority of applications for containers are not sensitive and are approved through this process, which has quite detailed restrictions, without any problems being caused. Therefore, the main challenge, in this instance for the Highways team, is to identify those applications that may cause concern, and although the number of containers in this instance would suggest it to be a likely candidate, this can also be very subjective and the inclination is therefore simply to follow the approved process. Even if the Highways team were to correctly identify those it would be beneficial to consult on, there are then additional issues about how any consultation should then be taken forward. As the policy states that it is not necessary, there is therefore no guidance on when and how to consult or the length of time required or how to deal with the results of the consultation should there be differing opinions. There are also issues about the deadlines we are required to meet in processing applications and the resources available to undertake the consultations. Having said of all this, Kevin and his management team are looking to make some positive progress on improving consultation and I am sure that he would welcome any comments regarding difficult areas such as this.

    I hope that this is satisfactory and await your response regarding the meeting.

    With kind regards,
    Philippa Murphy
    Executive Assistant to Kevin O’Leary, Director
    of Environment & Regeneration
    London Borough of Islington
    Environment & Regeneration
    222 Upper Street
    London
    N1 1YA

    Tel: 020 7527 2300
    Fax: 020 7527 2932
    email: Philippa.murphy@islington.gov.uk

    website: http://www.islington.gov.uk

    —–Original Message—–
    From: Paul Convery [mailto:paul@convery.org.uk]
    Sent: 13 November 2006 09:51
    To: Murphy, Philippa
    Cc: Kainth, Bram
    Subject: RE: United House containers on Rufford and Randells Roads

    I am sorry, this does not justify the earlier statement “Planning department have advised that the containers do not need planning permission”.

    This is a single sentence existential thought about what constitutes “development”. The temporary office cabins actually have substantial construction around them – flights of stairs, walkway and are shuttered around in heavy timber. Their planned duration of stay is for at least 6 months and this, to any fair minded person, would constitute physical development. All Andrew Marx really advises is that if one wanted to remove these containers, then highways action would be quicker. However, it seems as if Highways has already agreed and encouraged this.

    There has been no consultation with elected members or any substantive engagement with residents and this is unacceptable.

    I suggest a meeting with Kevin is required in order to resolve this.

    ——————————————————————————–

    Cllr Paul Convery
    Labour Councillor for Caledonian Ward, LB Islington
    Home: 94 Gifford Street, London N1 0DF
    07768-117120
    http://www.islingtonlabour.org.uk/caledonian

    ——————————————————————————–
    From: Murphy, Philippa [mailto:Philippa.Murphy@islington.gov.uk]
    Sent: 13 November 2006 09:40
    To: paul@convery.org.uk
    Cc: Kainth, Bram
    Subject: RE: United House containers on Rufford and Randells Roads

    Dear Cllr Convery,

    Please see the following guidance provided by Andrew Marx, the Development Control Enforcement Manager, in our Planning Division:

    Apart from the permitted development rights for temporary structures required in connection with building works, there is also an argument to be made whether the temporary placement of storage containers actually constitutes “development” at all. There is some case law where temporary office cabins are confirmed as “development” due to their general characteristics of permanence. However, in this instance it is clear that such containers are removable structures intended to be used for a very limited time, and my advice would be not to launch an attempt securing their removal through planning legislation, but through highways legislation or some other controls that are quicker.

    I hope that this is helpful.
    With kind regards,
    Philippa Murphy
    Executive Assistant to Kevin O’Leary, Director
    of Environment & Regeneration

    London Borough of Islington
    Environment & Regeneration
    222 Upper Street
    London
    N1 1YA

    Tel: 020 7527 2300
    Fax: 020 7527 2932
    email: Philippa.murphy@islington.gov.uk

    website: http://www.islington.gov.uk

    —–Original Message—–
    From: Paul Convery [mailto:paul@convery.org.uk]
    Sent: 10 November 2006 17:53
    To: Murphy, Philippa
    Cc: Kainth, Bram; OLeary, Kevin
    Subject: RE: United House containers on Rufford and Randells Roads

    Thank you for this reply.

    Please may I see the written advice given by the Borough’s planners? My understanding is that temporary structures do require planning permission unless they are ancillary to a worksite for which consent has been obtained. The fact that a structure is temporary in itself does not excuse the requirement for planning permission.

    I will deal with the other substantive matter in due course.

    ——————————————————————————–

    Cllr Paul Convery
    Labour Councillor for Caledonian Ward, LB Islington
    Home: 94 Gifford Street, London N1 0DF
    07768-117120
    http://www.islingtonlabour.org.uk/caledonian

    Section 100F of the Local Government Act 1972 applies to this request. Islington’s rules require you to supply the requested information within 10 days.

    ——————————————————————————–
    From: Murphy, Philippa [mailto:Philippa.Murphy@islington.gov.uk]
    Sent: 10 November 2006 16:58
    To: paul@convery.org.uk
    Cc: Kainth, Bram; ERMT Correspondence
    Subject: RE: United House containers on Rufford and Randells Roads

    Dear Cllr Convery

    Please accept our apologies for the delay in responding to you.

    Firstly, I can confirm that our Planning department have advised that the containers do not need planning permission as they are not permanent structures.

    I can also advise that the containers were moved from Freeling Street to their new locations on Rufford Street by our Highways department, in an attempt to be helpful and to resolve the concerns identified in your previous correspondence and to allow Freeling street to be used as site access for the company developing the old school site. The containers do belong to United House, the contractors carrying out repairs to the HFI properties in the area. The containers are now in 2 locations on Rufford Street, the majority are alongside the open ground overlooking the railway and away from residential property. The Highways department have also advised that the remainder are next to Paget Christian Centre, with the agreement of the Church, who are arranging for power to be supplied to the containers. The containers are licensed in accordance with the Highways Act and in accordance with the Council’s policy “Assisting Pedestrians and Shoppers”. Residents have been advised of the arrangements by the contractors and the letter is attached.

    I hope that this new arrangement is satisfactory. I can also confirm that, according to the records in our Street management division, the land where the containers were originally sites on Freeling Street is still in fact highway rather than Greenspace and that James Gilchrist is investigating what records they have in Greenspace, so that we can resolve this for the future.

    I hope that this is satisfactory. Please let me know if you require any further information.

    With kind regards,
    Philippa Murphy
    Executive Assistant to Kevin O’Leary, Director
    of Environment & Regeneration
    London Borough of Islington
    Environment & Regeneration
    222 Upper Street
    London
    N1 1YA

    Tel: 020 7527 2300
    Fax: 020 7527 2932
    email: Philippa.murphy@islington.gov.uk

    website: http://www.islington.gov.uk

    —–Original Message—–
    From: Paul Convery [mailto:paul@convery.org.uk]
    Sent: 09 November 2006 16:49
    To: OLeary, Kevin
    Cc: Kainth, Bram
    Subject: RE: United House containers on Rufford and Randells Roads

    Could I ask what progress has been made in resolving this? Over a week has elapsed.

    ——————————————————————————–

    Cllr Paul Convery
    Labour Councillor for Caledonian Ward, LB Islington
    Home: 94 Gifford Street, London N1 0DF
    07768-117120
    http://www.islingtonlabour.org.uk/caledonian

    ——————————————————————————–
    From: OLeary, Kevin [mailto:Kevin.OLeary@islington.gov.uk]
    Sent: 03 November 2006 11:19
    To: paul@convery.org.uk
    Cc: Kainth, Bram
    Subject: RE: United House containers on Rufford and Randells Roads

    Paul,

    Please be assured I have made very similar points already internally and have asked for Highways to determine alternative locations.

    Kevin.
    —–Original Message—–
    From: Paul Convery [mailto:paul@convery.org.uk]
    Sent: 03 November 2006 11:15
    To: Kainth, Bram
    Cc: OLeary, Kevin
    Subject: United House containers on Rufford and Randells Roads

    Dear Bram,

    Following the objections to United House placing containers in Bingfield Park, the company has now located 12 industrial sized storage containers, some double-decked, on Rufford and Randalls Roads. On enquiry I understand that Islington Highways actually suggested these locations to United House. Frankly this is outrageous. These are in a residential neighbourhood and the loss of amenity to the people who live around here (including light loss to the residential flats at Paget Centre) is quite unacceptable. The positioning of these containers creates a very dangerous section of pathway and has, incidentally, caused damage to a streetlamp.

    You need to consider three matters very urgently:

    Firstly, planning permission is required as these are not temporary buildings ancillary to a worksite and could therefore not be classed as permitted development.
    Secondly, it is quite wrong for Highways to simply authorise such a disruptive use of public highway without any consultaiton at all
    Thirdly, it is quite clear there are other far more suitable locations (e.g. non residential streets or available ex railway lands) available; indeed a short conversation with some local people and elected members could have recommended alternative sites quite easily

    The consequence of this is that Islingotn Council is now at legal risk from these actions. Please let me know very what alternative course of action you now propose. I have copied this to Kevin because there are cross departmental issues here and this is a matter of considerable urgency.

    Regards

    ——————————————————————————–

    Cllr Paul Convery
    Labour Councillor for Caledonian Ward, LB Islington
    Home: 94 Gifford Street, London N1 0DF
    07768-117120
    http://www.islingtonlabour.org.uk/caledonian

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