Tag Archives: localism

The Lenham Coop, RAMAC’s Variation in Sustainable Code

The co-op development is a very good example of how the planning approach has developed over the last few years in seeing what will certainly happen with the major developments around Lenham.

In summary, RAMAC / CoOp have requested a variation in their planning consent to reduce the “sustainability” of the flats in the roof of the new building.  The reduction is effectively from 4, the minimum required in London, to almost 3 the absolute minimum requirement.

Simply said.  Quote a reasonable code to get planning approval and then ask to reduce it having started to build.  I have no doubt that the planners will agree.

So, what is going on?

Looking at the recent application to vary the flats from code level 4 to level 3, ( these codes are indications of the ”sustainability” of the homes. the higher the value the higher, supposedly, the better )

The argument proposes that the flats are being developed distinct from the rest of the building and that the rest of the buildings’ structure defines the quality of the structure of the flats, and their hands are tied. Of course this is the case – but the developer is asking for a variation with the proposal that these flats are constrained by the structure of the shop, and cannot comply with a code of sustainability that is now a legal minimum requirement in London and wishes to push their compliance down. [to a level that is a minimum requirement for affordable homes!].

But its all one building, built by the same developer based on the same set of plans.  If the proposed flats can’t be built to the agreed standard, then leave the roof void empty!

And the Noise Issue.

Associated with this, is the noise levels that Lenham is about to be subjected to. Not just the occasional visiting lorry and clank of trolleys being unloaded, but the constant running of what will be very powerful fans and pumps for both air-sourced heat pumps for warming (the flats) and air-sourced heat pumps for cooling (the Coops fridges) . i have no doubt that these systems, the warming for the flats and the cooling for the shop’s refrigerated areas, will be separate and running almost constantly.  I will get to the separation in a moment, but the various codes for sustainability propose that electric heating in a domestic property effectively implies sustainability.

And the cost of running these heat pumps

There is no consideration of the potential very high financial cost in running these systems – pity the flats occupants. The developer comments that they are going to put solar PV panels on the roof and that this will mitigate the cost of running the heat pumps, however the heat pumps will have most use in the winter when there is minimal to no solar gain. Stating that the solar and the heat pumps are a great idea as a combination is disingenuous. A heat pump potentially multiplies the energy delivered by the electricity possibly 3-fold. a solar water heater is between 3 and 5 times as effective at drawing energy from the sun as solar PV.

Having solar water heating rather than solar PV on a roof where space is limited is by far a better solution than solar PV.  The developer might well state that, with the payments under the Feed-In Tariff, the system becomes economically viable, however I would state, with a level of certainty, that the lease-holder (the flat occupier / owner) will be the last person to gain this added income.

Going back to the separate heat pumps – one for heating and one for cooling. Has there been any consideration of a system combining the 2? Personally, I doubt it. also, going back to the stated maximum space available being sufficient for 4-kilowatts of PV , this seems to be more a coincidence [that 4-kw gives the maximum per kW Feed-In Tariff, which is most likely going to the freeholder or the Co-op].

Were there a serious interest in the use of solar, the roof would be covered in it regardless of the fact that this will knock the tariff down by one level [has planning stopped them putting up more panels?]. Again I would say that the whole solar installation is more of a stunt than a serious attempt at building a sustainable set of ”eco-flats”.

Looking at the flats as somewhere to live, unless there is a significant barrier between the flats and the shop they will potentially be a horror to live in – despite complying with all the relevant regulations. [note the consultation exercise with govt and the industry probably didn’t have a consumer on it, ie somebody who might be expected to buy and live in these ”compliant” properties]. In summer being difficult to cool because of the heat coming up from the shop floor, the windows  certainly for a couple of the flats needing to be kept closed to avoid the noise from the various heating and cooling pumps and fans. In winter being expensive to heat for reasons stated previously. However it might well be that the effects that the shop itself generates sufficient heat that goes up that they need minimal winter heating. That being the case, I expect the flats will be quite noisy. As to the noise levels in the surrounding properties, the developers have stated that when there is lots of traffic on the Faversham and Maidstone Roads, those current noise levels are as high as the additional levels that can be expected from these heating and cooling fans and pumps – thus that noise is ok. But the heating and cooling fans and pumps will likely be working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Are heat pumps worth it?

I personally considered putting a heat pump into my property – I am still looking for the optimum position so that it is not an irritation for my neighbours. But then, I like to consider myself a ”good neighbour”. I wonder if in years to come the Coop will state ”but we’re only renting it, don’t blame us” – remember they have been involved from Day One.

This development, while not particularly wanted by Lenham, could have been designed and implemented as a very high-quality statement of what could be done by a developer that cared for its local community and wanted the best. What we are going to have delivered, based on the initial; [current/] planning application was mediocre at best. They have now downgraded it from that level.

As to the further developments in LENHAM,

We have the potential to see a planned development of our community in a direction that most communities don’t have that opportunity to guide. I am concerned that what will happen is a series of housing estates built to a regime of satisfying all requirements at the lowest possible cost, the highest possible profit and little regard for the local environment and population – just as we are seeing here. Against that, I am certain that this second-rate structure will, of course, win many awards presented by their self-congratulatory peers.

Of course I will be accused of scaremongering, that of course this gambit of getting planning permission for a structure at one reasonable but not high level of sustainability has only been used in this one instance.  Have a look at the planning applications for the Groom Way development and tell me this same cunning plan wasn’t used here.

The development in Lenham is going to make a lot of developers much richer and our community, both those who live here and those newcomers much poorer.

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Lenham Coop

With the possibility of a supermarket opening up in Lenham getting ever closer, here’s a few thoughts on what this means in a wider context.

Back in 2012 the Coop presented its case to Lenham, there must have been a good 200 people present in the village Hall and there was an overwhelming view against the Coop, a few supporting it, but just individuals, in the broad sense the view of Lenham against Coop was unanimous. 

But Coop being a big company, and in this sense a bully (verb: use superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force them to do something.) decided that Lenham would have a supermarket, their supermarket and carried on submitting plans.  Why on earth have the meeting at all? Why not simply say “sod you lot, you’re little people, we can do what we want”  

The plans so far accepted are for the redevelopment of the old ironmongers with a shop included, flats above and parking spaces for flat owners (leasehold) and a small number for shop customers.

Okay, lets assume Coop goes ahead, its a sad assumption and as with other small towns and villages, this represents the start of the loss of a character that differentiates us from every other medium sized clone village. 

First off the challenge to the existing shops, I can see the big change being availability and active promotion of cheap booze, our current store doesn’t, this new one, as with all the other coops, southern or otherwise, will. A proportion of the window space will be booze.

Take this a step further, if you are under 18 in the middle of Lenham, getting booze means being a lot more devious than simply pretending you are over 18, we have a shop owner who is a responsible member of the community, often on the counter and I would say accountable when not.

The Coop will have a single salaried employee and 17 part timers, my guess is zero hours contracts, hours set to avoid coop having too many staff responsibilities and certainly a target of most being minimum wage. My guess is it will be a bit easier to get cheaper booze when maybe one shouldn’t.  Maybe I’m wrong, but I do wonder where the kids do get their drink.

Whatever, drinking will most likely  go up, my guess is that its not just the local shops that will be challenged but also the two pubs.

So, 1 full time and 17 part time, certainly no careers there and each part timer will have to rely on some kind of state support, especially if on a  zero hours contract.  

Looking at the newsagent, I recognise him and I guess family and staff, I’m happy to shop there for my Times and Mail, I don’t take advantage of the deliver service, but this shop clearly offers a very important amenity in providing that service. I have no doubt the Coop will not compete here, but then they will certainly sell newspapers. Once entrenched it will be only too easy to pick up a newspaper with the groceries, if that happens too much will we see the demise of the dedicated newsagent?

No Newsagent, thus no more deliveries, no more part time jobs for the kids and a bit less money circulating in the village and no experience for subsequent generations of kids of work. Go on from here and nobody to notice that Mrs Smith / Jones  whoever hasn’t taken the newspaper from the letterbox, nor a point of communication for those who go to the newsagent.  A nail in the coffin of our community.

A store like the coop relies on convenience, its easy to shop there, simply drive up, park, nip in, purchase and gone. Might as well do it on-line. But where to park? Certainly not in front, those 5 spaces will soon be filled up and I guess most likely by staff? But no, they are for customers, so staff will park in the square or behind the Red Lion. So will the customers? Well actually I struggle to find a parking space myself, but its not a big deal. But Coop need footfall, can’t have customers put off by people unable to park, so our fairly informal approach to parking in Lenham will be the new problem that I am sure will be solved by the Coop!

Watch this space, regular visits by the parking wardens to enforce any waiting limits and what about making the square a pay parking area. after all, the money raised can be spent on the community. 

Prices won’t be cheaper. Certainly not when buying ingredients. Try buying a tray of eggs and the equivalent of a bag of spuds from the Coop at the same price you can pay at the butchers. Ready meals though, the bane of modern society, chock full of salt and sugar, now that’s what the coop will major in. Okay, people are free to buy what they like, but isn’t there something fundamentally wrong in replacing or risking the livelihood of stores where the push is towards a basic healthy diet with a convenient approach to purchasing mass produced pap? 

Do I want a local coop? No. Lenham isn’t perfect, but it has its own character  this will only detract from it. Will the Coop make Lenham a better community?  Of course it won’t. It is an organisation that has no regard for Lenham beyond what money it can make from us – that’s the nature of big business, it is undeniable.

Anyway, what happened to Call me Dave’s Localism?  

 

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