Sutton North Lib Dem Councillors

Cllrs Ruth Dombey, Marlene Heron and Steve Penneck working hard for Sutton North all year round Learn more

Update on Helena House

by Ruth, Marlene, and Steve on 23 December, 2021

Two important pieces of news about Helena House.  Firstly the government-appointed Planning Inspector has overturned the Council’s decision to refuse the application for a part-5, part-8 storey building with 41 flats on this site and allowed the developer’s appeal to build.

Sutton had turned down the application because of the scale and massing of the building, which is above the height limit for the site, the blank wall on the northern side (the visible approach from Angel Hill), and the lack of public realm or public benefits to offset the scale of the building.  

Despite the concerns raised by residents and councillors, and the impact on Sutton Green opposite, the Government’s Inspector approved the plans.   Although she acknowledges the prominence of the side of the building, and the lack of windows, when approaching the town centre from the north, she felt that the building ‘would contribute to an attractive street scene’.

At the appeal hearing Cllr Steve Penneck argued that the building would have a dominating impact on Sutton Green.  He stressed the historic value of Sutton Green, with the popular children’s playground and the café meaning that is well used.  From the Green you can get clear views of Helena House, so the impact of such a large building would be dominating and out of character for the area.  The Inspector agreed that the proposed building, given its height and massing, would be a prominent feature in the street scene.  However, given the open nature of the park, she concluded that ‘the height of the proposal would not harm the spacious aspect provided by this green space’.

In the meantime Sutton’s Planning Department has turned down yet another application from the developer; this time to convert the existing building to provide 25 flats.  Your ward councillors had opposed this on several grounds:  poor design – especially the look of the black metallic cladding proposed and the unattractive design of the north wall; lack of clarity about the supply of affordable housing; and the small size of some of the flats, and the lack of private amenity space for some. 

The application was refused planning permission by Sutton Council as planning officers felt that the heavy and dark facing material proposed for the front, and the blank elevations on the sides with no windows would lead to a  ‘development which would appear incongruous, bulky and unduly dominant within the local townscape’.   In addition they were concerned about the lack of light and amenity for the flats, which would provide a poor standard for residents; and the lack of an agreement to prohibit future occupiers from applying for residential car parking permits, and ensure the submission of a development Travel Plan.

In the meantime, rubbish continues to pile up at the front of the building.  It is the responsibility of the owner to keep this clear, and we have asked Council officers to remind them to clear this, and keep it clear.

There have been several planning applications for Helena House, and we would all like this eye-sore site developed, but we had hoped for an application of high quality which paid attention to its important location opposite the Green, and at the entrance to the town centre.  It’s a pity that developers and the Government’s Inspector do not share our ambition for our local area.

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