This picture shows one of many small electricity substations scattered across Greenford, next to what is left of a small detached house. Yesterday morning, residents of Bennetts Avenue were stunned when what they took to be the renovation of the house suddenly became a demolition. About three weeks ago there were signs that something was happening. Smoke from a bonfire in the back garden hung in the air for days, as a large tree was taken down and burnt, along with something that smelt as though it really shouldn’t have been burnt. It was all too much for whoever made the call to the fire brigade – three engines turned up on a Sunday morning. Skips appeared and were filled as the house was gutted. It came as a complete surprise when the roof was stripped and walls taken down as the house was demolished. No one has received notification of a planning application. Residents I have spoken to are particularly angry at the loss of a unique and charming house which they loved (the house before and after).
The suspicion is that the owner of the property plans to build a block of flats on the site as quickly as possible and then apply for retrospective planning permission. The fact that the demolition took place at the weekend, when the council’s planning offices are closed, suggests that the person organising this knows how to play an overloaded system and plans to make as much money as they can from the project, as quickly as they can. The site clearance was carried out very cheaply, with no regard for the safety or convenience of neighbours (there was nothing to screen the surrounding area from dust and debris), or the fact that it is right next to a substation. There are fears that the same lack of care will be taken with the construction of whatever replaces the house. Those undertaking the work have begun to realise that they are not welcome and there is now a slightly intimidating atmosphere when they are around. I suspect the council’s planning department will receive a lot of calls and emails tomorrow morning.
Local planning departments across the UK are under a great deal of pressure, with huge workloads, and there has been talk of simplifying or speeding up the process. Those affected by incidents like this one are concerned that the lifting of restrictions will result in a mushrooming of inappropriate building projects. Others, who wait for years for clearance to to proceed with projects like the loft extension seen on the building to the left of the picture, continue to lobby for change.
Images and text ©Albertina McNeill 2012. Please do not reproduce without permission. All rights reserved. Do not add any of these images to Pinterest or similar sites as this will be regarded as a violation of copyright.