Heron House - offices / hotel / flats?



To be clear, this is not a planning application in the conventional sense, but a “prior approval” application. This follows changes to change of use in recent years which mean that office to residential conversions no longer need full planning permission. The borough can only consider transport/highways, contamination, flooding and noise impacts when determining these applications - they can’t ask for any kind of section 106 contribution and can’t apply development plan policies outside of these areas. Prior approval is simply an officer determination so it won’t go to planning committee.

I am not at all surprised that this is happening to Heron House as it is exactly the kind of dowdy (but well connected) office block that the government was thinking of in making the changes.


What about social housing provision?
Can the council insist on any percentage of the units for social housing?


No, affordable housing policies can’t be applied. They will almost certainly be 100% private. This has happened to quite a few older office blocks in London in recent years: see this report (which I wrote :slight_smile: ) http://www.londoncouncils.gov.uk/our-key-themes/housing-and-planning/permitted-development-rights/impact-permitted-development-rights


As mentioned above & after looking at the parking properly - I agree there will be nowhere near enough parking spaces!

But at the moment I’m sure the car park behind the building certainly has more than 8 parking spaces - I’ll check later when I’m passing.

As far as I know the wide pavement at the front of Heron House is owned by them and not LC - Don’t know if this makes a difference with their application or not.


Guess the hotel / chain idea is dead in the water then.


You’d need full planning permission to change use to a hotel so (from the owner’s POV) not sure why they would do that over residential flats.


PS if you’re interested in what does and doesn’t count as permitted development under the current rules I recommend this handy chart from NLP: http://nlpplanning.com/uploads/ffiles/2015/08/776168.pdf


Brilliant, the insider insight we get here on SE23.life. Thanks for sharing, @simonk133 :thumbsup:


@simonk133, good article. If it has got prior approval, is Lewisham just publishing it for people’s information. Are locals entitled to question their supporting documents if they feel they don’t support the developers assumption or do we assume that the members of the council will do that?


Just checked & at the moment there is 21 parking spaces!


Yup - but the proposal document states that the ones on the right hand side of your photo will be used for the offices that will remain on the lower ground floor of the property. Only those on the left hand side will be available for residents.

As shown on the ground floor layout plan prepared by PSK Chartered Building Surveyors (Drawing No.’s HH-4843-0), 8 of the 17 on-site car parking spaces would be allocated to future residents. This equates to a car parking space / unit ratio of 0.33 (i.e. 33% provision), which accords with the latest version of The London Plan. Theses spaces would be assigned to the 4-two bed units. The remaining 20 one bed units would not benefit from on-site car parking.

(my own emphasis)

What I like, is the document later goes on to state;

When the results of the parking ‘stress’ survey are examined in light of the development proposals, it is considered that even under an unlikely / ‘worst’ case scenario in which all residents that will not benefit from an on-site parking space (i.e. 16) owned a vehicle, there is sufficient spare on-street capacity within the study / cordon area, surrounding the site to accommodate this demand.

(again, my own emphasis)

Their own document states that the available night time capacity of the surrounding streets (which covers quite a large area) is ~15 spaces. So that leaves any over-spill reliant on shared bays and having to move the car during the day.

And that’s without allowing any capacity for day use for local shop owners, shoppers, people using the pools, etc…


It hasn’t been determined yet. I assume the council can take representations as usual, it’s just that the grounds for refusal are very limited. (but parking can of course be a transport/highways impact - there may be precedents for PA being refused on such grounds but I’d need to do some digging)


Many thanks @simonk133 for the links.

I didn’t appreciate late in the night the title of the application (Prior approval)

I welcome that the owners want to use more effectively the building, but am disappointed that the plans are not taking into account at least London minimum space standards. You are absolutely right and I will repeat it: this type of approval is not allowed to consider things such as policies on minimum space standards, or dual aspect outlook. And it shows.

One bed flats are from 30-48m2, whereas the standard for 2 people is 50m2 & 39 for one person. This means that 5 flats are more than 20% short on a minimum space for one person flats and no 1beds are suitable for couples. None of the 2 bed places meet the min standard of 60m2. Also some internal walls seem to end in the middle of windows, which surely shows desperation rather than good solution.

So if you know the owner try and point out that a picture of a bed on a plan is not the same as putting a real bed in the space allocated.


Hi @BorderPaul
Yes you can make your representation to the planning department.

@armadillo has a transport issue contradiction that is within the scope of assessment so I hope he will also put in his comment to the palnning department.


I think the main issues here for existing residents is parking!

And think this has to be looked at in more detail.

This in my opinion would be a valid point for peeps & organisations to go against this & request more parking spaces for residential use.

Just my thoughts, but happy to share opinions with fellow traders.


If this was left I don’t think it would be much of an issue.

I think 21 parking spaces would be okay for this development.


Comment submitted via the planning portal. I didn’t get any feedback to say that the comment had been received, so I’m kinda hoping that it made it across to the relevant peeps…


Forest Hill already has more than its fair share of affordable housing in my opinion. Have a look at the housing estates off London Road, Dartmouth Road, Shackleton Close, Perry Vale, Dacres Road, Inglemere Road, Sydenham Park Road and more.

I agree that we’re totally knackered around here for parking spaces but, as someone else has pointed out already on this thread, Heron House provides significantly more parking than the new development at 53c Dartmouth Road and the big block of flats behind the Big Breakfast put together.

Ideally, for the sake of the town, these flats will be created and used as homes for young couples some of whom will work locally or from home (and local coffee bars) and others will commute - but who will all contribute to our community by using local shops, eating/drinking places and services.

Just let it fly!

53 Dartmouth Road

We certainly have a decent proportion of what might be deemed traditional social housing; what is scarcer is the type of product which would be more suitable for people on middling incomes who may struggle to pay local rents and certainly couldn’t buy at full market value, but who would also never meet the eligibility criteria for a social home. I’m thinking of schemes like shared ownership and intermediate rent, which are thin on the ground here and indeed across London. Something like these would be very suitable for this type of block - not necessarily the whole block, but as a share among the private flats, to provide a broader offering. Often those within the eligibility bracket would be exactly the sort of young working couples you refer to.


Yes Simon, I totally agree with that.

I’m sorry, I got my social / part-ownership / affordable all a bit skewiff.