Pagoda Planning Proposals – Garden Grabbing?

UPDATE: Image removed due to rights issues – originally from this PDF file.

The current owners of the awesomely beautiful, and historically fascinating Pagoda in Blackheath have put in a planning request to Lewisham Council, to turn part of their back garden into an “eco-house”. The full details are here, and the documents submitted are here.

I highly recommend a look through the plans. Whatever your opinion on the site, it is a well put together document, full of historical photos and paintings of the Pagoda, the area around, and a spectacular Tithe Map from 1762:

UPDATE: Image removed due to rights issues. Original can be found here.

It could be argued that this is an example of garden grabbing, dressed up with a fig-leaf of eco green-washing. The primary definition of an eco-house in my mind is one that reduces dependency on resources, such as fuel, electricity and water, through innovative uses of alternative technologies, such as heat pumps, solar panels, wind farms etc. From what I can understand of the plans, this appears to be a retirement flat with some turf on the roof.

From the planning documents:

Although The Pagoda was originally designed as pavilion for taking tea, entertaining and enjoying the distant views it was later extended and adapted into a house over a period. It was listed when a house and it will continue to be so. The viability of this in social and economic terms is not compromised by this application.

The planning document includes a letter from John Payne Estate Agents, confirming that in their opinion, the remaining garden attached to the Pagoda would still be “sufficient” for a house of that size. (Page 17 of 25).

The proposal also quotes Blackheath Historian Neil Rhind (who was not referring to the specific plans for the Pagoda’s garden), when justifying the addition of a new architectural style to the area (page 11 of 25):

‘…it is not just the architectural set-pieces, listed buildings or formal uniform terraces that set Blackheath’s overall character. It is the juxtaposition of these with a rich and varied mixture of buildings of different periods; unexpected corners, strange historic survivals, and stylish new additions – all these give Blackheath its distinctive and pleasing character.’

I wonder if Mr Rhind feels like a film critic misquoted on a movie poster! The Blackheath Society felt that they could not endorse the plans (page 17 of 25):

The wooden pergola running the length of the pond, erected by the present owners, combine to provide a most attractive outlook from the house and undoubtedly enhance its current setting. In our view, their loss would be detrimental to that setting. If the current plans were to be approved, the long pergola (which we accept is modern and in need of restoration) would be lost, while the 1920s pergola would be taken out of the Pagoda garden and become a prominent feature outside the main living room of the new building.

We accept that the essential character of the Pagoda’s setting is a walled garden and that your proposals seek to retain that character. Nevertheless, the proposed new building would be very close indeed to the principal garden elevation of the house and would occupy more than half the present garden area: its very high wall would result in the Pagoda finding itself in a heavily reduced setting. A slightly smaller footprint of the new structure, moved slightly further South, and retaining the pergola, would change this significantly.

Lewisham’s Conservation Area Policy specifically mentions safeguarding larger gardens of listed buildings: the planning authorities will need to be persuaded that the planting proposed in the scheme, on the boundary wall and for the roof element, will result in a permanently acceptable replacement for the lost planting and greenery.

Taking all the above into account, and with considerable sympathy for your proposals, as matters stand the consensus of the committee is that we should not support the scheme in its present form.

Following this, the plans were modified to move the boundary wall slightly to the south.

The proposals were originally submitted back in February. The planning department have not yet reached a verdict.

(The images shown above are from the planning documents, which are publicly held by Lewisham Council. I will take them down if they are subject to copyright).


Filed under blackheath, history, maps, planning

6 responses to “Pagoda Planning Proposals – Garden Grabbing?

  1. Troopa

    Dear Bugler,

    I am glad you have taken an interest in the proposals at the Pagoda and that you have in your mind’s eye what an eco house should be. If you would care to read the rest of the application documents, in particular the 30+ page ‘Sustainability Report’ I think you may learn some more about what a proper eco house is and how through intelligent design the dependence on fossil fuels and external sources of energy can be reduced to a minimum before turning to alternative technologies to provide the rest of the remaining demand.

    I hope that you will concur that this is not a fig leaf of eco green washing but a genuine effort to push forward the boundaries of what is possible in true low carbon design.

    As for your opinions about architectural style and retirement flats with turf on the roof you are welcome to them, afterall that is what your blog is for.

    Please note that all planning documents are subject to copyright.


    • Images have now been removed. I read the sustainability report. This is what an eco-house looks like. I think it would be a shame if such a beautiful and historical building was denied its garden.


        Dear whoever
        These proposals make me physically sick. If they want to build an eco house build it some place else! If this family feel that way about the pagoda estate its time to move, and let someone who will love and respect and cherish it buy it, they have obviously lived there too long. I pray GOD and the community block this!

  2. Anonymous

    you do not have to publish that if you don’t think its right but thats how I feel.

  3. Paul T

    I note that although the application was turned down at the committee stage, it was approved on appeal. The appeal was supported by Neil Rhind and the Blackheath Society, which probably had much to do with its success.

    However, it’s worth noting that the applicants attempt to censor your blog by removing the documents is completely unreasonable. PLanning documents are indeed subject to copyright – but one is allowed to reproduce copyright documents in the case of “Fair Use”. And the Use here is quite clearly, and specifically, Criticism and Review. When discussing the merits of a case, it is entirely reasonable, even necessary, to reproduce illustrations of that case. There is a huge amount of case law on this, and I don’t believe the appellant would have any chance whatsoever of damages from your reproduction of their material.

    So, in conclusion, while the applicants are to be congratulated on their successful appeal, it’s a shame that they should seek to stifle open debate about their application.

  4. Gardener

    I just drove past the Pagoda where the destruction of that lovely garden is in full swing. Every tree on the site is for the chop. What with chainsaws buzzing, chipping machinery grinding away and fires burning, it’s like a modern version of the end of The Cherry Orchard, and just as sad.

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