Y Columns

Update at 25.6.14.

The following email was sent on 11.6.13. by a Camden Officer

Dear Councillors

I am writing to update you in relation to the above block of flats which is currently being built alongside Talacre Park and in front of Talacre Sports Centre, following a permission in 2006. The development has a footpath leading from Prince of Wales Road to the Sports Centre and has four Y shaped columns in order to support part of the building that oversails this footpath. The footpath and other open areas are privately owned and maintained, but are subject to control by clauses in a S106 legal agreement to ensure the safety of pedestrians.

As you are aware the issue of the actual positioning of these Y shaped columns along the footpath has been subject of numerous complaints by local residents, mainly relating to public safety, and thus has been subject of extensive consideration by the Council. I am writing to advise you of what has happened so far, including the receipt of legal advice, and of the Council’s proposed course of action.

In summary, we have been given legal advice that makes it clear the columns are lawful in their current location and therefore the Council can take no action against them or the building they support. However the council does retain the capacity, through the existing S106 agreement to ensure that this area is completed in a manner which would minimise any potential community safety concerns.  The detailed explanation of how we have arrived at this position is set out below:

The Council’s planning enforcement team investigated the Y shaped columns as built on site and compared them to the drawings attached to the original planning permission granted 10/01/2006 (Ref: 2005/4187) as revised by a Lawful Development Certificate dated 5/11/2008 (Ref: 2008/3688).

The Y columns were measured on site and on the Lawful Development Certificate drawing. It was found that the columns had been built at a range of 808-850mm from the park boundary fence rather than all 350mm as shown on the plan; this meant that the width of the footpath between the columns and main building facade was reduced from 2.0 metres (on plan) to approx. 1.72 metres as built. Also the built columns were marginally thicker at 399mm instead of 350mm. However the overall width of the path outside of the columns is not affected and indeed as built it is slightly wider than as approved, i.e. approx 3.2m instead of 2.9m.

Officer’s concluded based on this evaluation that on balance the difference constituted a material change from the approved scheme, albeit a minor one in the overall context and scale of the whole building involved. Officers requested that the developer submits a ‘Minor Material Amendment’ application in order to regularise the planning position.

The developer in response asserted that he was relying on the later approval of ‘Non Material Amendments’ to the original planning permission which was granted on 27 April 2012 (ref 2012/0151/P). This approved “various external alterations to all elevations of the buildings and internal alterations to layouts…” as shown on drawings listed on the notice, including drawing (PL) 100/P1. The purpose of this approval was to allow various minor changes to the internal floorplans and the facade details of all elevations, which were all considered to be not materially different from the original scheme, as this was being worked up in more detail by new architects. However the above-mentioned approved drawing of the ground floor layout also shows the Y shaped columns in a different position from that shown on the original permission. It also shows them in a slightly different position from that as actually built, but this difference between the measurements of the application plan and those of the built Y columns is negligible - the distance between the park fence and columns is 781mm in the approved drawing compared to 808-850mm as built. Otherwise there is no change from this approved plan in the thickness of the columns or in the footpath width between columns and building facade. 

The applicant did not draw officers attention to the change to the Y columns either as part of the pre-app discussions nor on the documents accompanying the Non Material Amendments application. Furthermore the change was so minor in the context of the scheme drawings overall, that they were not picked up by the officer making the assessment. This reflects the relatively minor nature of the change.  Given the level of concern about the issue the Council sought its own advice from Counsel as to whether the positioning of the Y columns constitutes a breach of planning control. Counsel concluded that the ‘Non Material Amendment’ application granted on 27 April 2012 also approved a different positioning of the Y columns from that shown on the original planning permission as the columns shown on the latest approved drawings supersede those of the original permission. Counsel's full advice is attached. Whilst we are happy to release the full advice on this occasion any Counsel’s advice is legally privileged and hence they are not normally disclosed.

Given this the positioning of the Y columns is not a breach of planning control and no further action can be taken in planning terms against the columns as built.

However, the Council retains control over this aspect of the development through the S106 legal agreement which the developer has entered into, and can seek such measures as it considers necessary to ensure safe and commodious access to and from Talacre Sports Centre. Accordingly, Council officers have proposed the additional provision of safety mirrors along the footpath, and the developer has indicated that he is happy to introduce these measures in the spirit of cooperation. The Council consider that, with this added measure, pedestrian safety will in no way be compromised.

I realise that you will be disappointed in the outcome of this investigation however I hope that this summary explains the Council’s current position on this contentious issue and the actions that officers intend to take to further improve public safety along the footpath.

David Jenkins remains the single point of contact for all matters in relation to the development and will be in touch with you and other interested people in the normal way to update on progress.



[Ed Watson, Asst Director Regeneration and Planning, LB of Camden]

Situation at 1.6.13. See above for update

The position of the four Y shaped columns in the pedestrian footpath has been the subject of a considerable amount of correspondence etc. Some of it is shown in (a) to (g) below. This footpath replaces the pavements on either side of Dalby Street which were used by pedestrians to reach the Talacre Sports Centre.

In order to obtain planning approval, purchase Dalby Street and have Dalby Street "stopped up", the developer had to conform to obligations which ensured that pedestrians had a clear view along the entire new footpath.

To quote from the “Pedestrian Access Plan” which is part of the s106 legal agreement “7. That visibility along the Pedestrian Access Way shall be such that there shall be no areas that cannot be seen by a pedestrian walking along the footpath”.

Due to the existence of these columns, the precise location of them was established as having to be that shown in the planning approval drawings (see (g)) ie 0.2m (8 inches) from the park fence.

This footpath is the main pedestrian route to the Talacre Sports Centre and the only route after dusk when the Talacre Town Green is closed. The Sports Centre which includes one of the largest gymnastics areas in the country, has a third of the number of visitors of the London Zoo.

Safety and perception of safety along the footpath was a critical factor in the decisions over planning consent. Items (a) to (e) below also addressed the inconsistency arising due to the existence of columns at all as it was questionable as to whether the view was not compromised by their existence even in the position defined by the approved drawing. However, the Council was of the opinion that at 0.2m into the footpath, the position of these columns was acceptable.


Because this is of such importance, we are setting out under (a) to (g) below some relevant correspondence:

a) 20.10.08 from a senior planning officer in reply to our observation  concerning the inconsistency between the architects drawings and the Agreed Pedestrian Access Plan,

“I understand from the Highway Engineers that the footway plans referred to in the Stopping-up Order do not show these columns and that it appears that this was an unfortunate oversight in the drafting of the pedestrian access plans rather than a deliberate subsequent intent to omit the columns, which are structurally necessary for the building and also part of the scheme granted planning permission.”.


(b) 21.10.08 from the Acting Assistant Director Planning.

“I have looked into this again in detail. The columns have been an unchanged feature of the scheme throughout. The 4 columns are narrow and well spaced apart, and in a line along the boundary rather than straddling the footpath. The pedestrian plan identifies and sets criteria for detailed community safety, to meet the objective of pedestrian safety. My considered view is that the columns do not prejudice reaching this outcome, and meet the test of clause 7 in this respect”.


(c) 10.11.08 from a senior planning officer

“1. We do not agree with you that the columns will provide hiding places for people, although the columns are not totally flush with the path edge, this is probably a result of the structural need to have them slightly recessed from the cantilevered floors above and we consider that the positioning slightly set away from the park edge are not significantly different from the approved plans nor worse in community safety terms.”

 (d)        Reply to Freedom of Information (FOI) Act request

Response. We can confirm that there will be 4 columns on the footpath, placed to one side of it near the boundary with the park, as shown on the approved plans for both permissions dated 10.1.06 ref 2005/4187/P and 5.11.08 ref 2008/3688/P”.

(e) Reply received 1.12.09 to FOI request 

“Further to your form, received on 16 November 2009, we are pleased to enclose the requested information:

The plans approved through the planning process provide clear through visibility between the sports centre entrance and Prince of Wales Road. The purpose of this through visibility is for personal security reasons, so that any activity on the pedestrian route can be observed from either Prince of Wales Road or the sports centre entrance. As I assume you are aware, there has been an issue with respect to the proposed columns that would be sited in the pedestrian path being accidentally omitted from some plans. There are now four proposed, with the need for the fifth, closest to Prince of Wales Road, now deleted. Approved plan KTW4/P/A1/02/F, from the Certificate of Lawfulness decision dated 5 November 2008, shows the proposed four columns.

  The four columns are narrow and well spaced apart, and in a line along the boundary rather than straddling the footpath. The Pedestrian Access Plan identifies and sets criteria for detailed community safety, to meet the objective of pedestrian safety. The columns do not prejudice reaching this outcome, and meet the test in clause 7 in this respect. The through visibility is demonstrated on KTW4/P/A1/02/F, or on any of the other plans you listed”.

(f)    Response to a Councillor Adrian Oliver’s written question at the full Council meeting of 18.1.10

 “TO THE: executive member for community development and planning

BY: Councillor Adrian Oliver

Regarding the Dalby Street development, paragraph 7 in the Pedestrian Access Plan states "That visibility along the Pedestrian Access Way shall be such that there shall be no areas that cannot be seen by a pedestrian walking along the footpath”. Yet agreed architect’s drawing KTW4/P/A1/02/F shows that there will be four columns in the pedestrian footpath and if built, the development will clearly contravene the Pedestrian Access Plan. Given that pedestrian safety was an important consideration for Sport England, the Mayor of London and the Planning Inspector, and is no doubt a concern for local residents and users of the sports centre, will Camden Council allow the Dalby Street development to proceed?


The approved plan for this development shows four structural columns for the building which are placed along the edge of the footpath at its boundary with the open space. These columns have been an unchanged feature of the scheme since its inception.  The four columns are narrow and well spaced apart in a line along the boundary rather than straddling the footpath and are not considered to present a community safety hazard.  The pedestrian plan identifies and sets criteria for detailed community safety, to meet the objective of pedestrian safety.  The view of officers is that the columns do not meaningfully prejudice reaching this outcome, and in this respect meet the test in clause 7 of the Pedestrian Access Plan which requires “No areas that cannot be seen by a pedestrian walking along the footpath”.  Thus it is considered that in these circumstances the Council have no reason for not allowing the scheme to proceed.”

(g) Response from Charles Thuaire, Senior Planning Officer to FOI request of Peter Cuming, Chair of Friends of Talacre Gardens re size and position of Y columns. The original request was made in 2009 and resent on 24.3.10.

 “I refer to your enquiry dated 24.3.10 regarding measurements for the Dalby Street proposed development.

The measurements given below are taken from the approved set of plans for the Certificate of Lawfulness application ref 2008/3688/P, which you can verify for yourself from plans held on the Council's website.

The information requested is as follows:

A. distance between park fence and column= 0.2m
B. width of column= 0.4m
C. distance between column and building= 2.1m
D. height of column below Y-fork, ie. Before main column splits into 2 sideways columns= ranges from 2.3m at northern end column to 2.7m at southern end column”.

This photo demonstrates the distance of 0.8m (32 inches) between the columns where they have been built and the boundary fence line. Instead of 0.8m, they should have been 0.2m (8 inches) away from the fence.