Conservation – where do we draw the line; this is a debate currently taking place within the Brentham Society.
The Society aims for “conservation”, to preserve the character of the estate while still allowing it to be somewhere that residents can enjoy modern living. As a conservation area, Ealing Council undertakes an assessment every 10 years, so that the various planning guidelines can be updated to control developments that may be changing the character of the estate. Over the years the guidelines for what is allowed have changed, and some alterations to houses that have been allowed in the past would not be allowed under the present guidelines.
It is important to note that it is the duty of the local authority to use their legal powers to safeguard and enhance the special qualities of the estate, and although the Society has a strong and positive influence, the ultimate decisions on individual planning applications are taken by Ealing Council. Their decisions are based on Brentham Garden Suburb’s Character Appraisal 2008, which can be read here.
The concept of cumulative or incremental damage comes into play here. Individual alterations may seem to be within the spirit of the estate, but if they are replicated in several other areas, they may have a cumulative detrimental effect. An example would be additions of large extensions at the side of houses, which may damage a vista between houses.This is why the guidelines are reviewed every 10 years. Some conservation areas have lost their status because this cumulative damage has destroyed the very character of the area, and so cumulative damage and loss of original character is one of the main areas of concern for the Brentham Society. As more development occurs it is inevitable that the criteria become more demanding because of the danger of incremental change to the original character.
Another example which comes to mind is the brilliant white paint which many of our houses now sport, and which has become a part of the character of the estate. As built, the houses had a soft buff render or were lightly whitewashed, and there are examples of this still remaining for comparison. By the time the Conservation Area was first introduced white was the predominant colour, and the guidelines have allowed this to continue. Brentham houses are mostly in blocks and it is important that the colour is uniform across the block, although not necessarily across the estate as a whole. It is a matter of opinion which of the two colours looks better, with many conservationists preferring the buff approach.
So where do we draw the line? It would be impossible to maintain the estate as it was originally designed; simple things such as the provision of inside lavatories would not be allowed. The original ethos of the estate (co-partnership) has also been lost over the years, as houses are no longer rented but predominantly owner occupied. It is also ironic that the gradual increase in the size of many of the houses has priced out the very people for whom the estate was originally developed
In a Conservation area it is not what is considered attractive but what is considered to best reflect the original visual character that is important and sometimes we have to compromise with the desire to extend and modernize our houses so that we can retain our conservation status. Is there any more we could do to improve the conservation of our area. We would welcome your views on how far we should aim to take conservation so do let me know. You can contact us here or add a comment for others to see under the “Leave a Reply” below.