Update on Plumstead's crumbling buildings and filthy High Street (with wider repercussions)
A few snippets of news about Plumstead High Street have come out regarding the state of buildings and lack of public realm and street maintenance. I previously covered how Plumstead Councillor Matthew Morrow replied to a resident (after about 5 weeks of waiting) to say that a decrepit and dilapidated building on Plumstead High Street was not worthy of enforcement action according to Council staff. He gave no indication he would challenge it, despite the building being suitable for a Section 215 enforcement notice.
If buildings like that aren’t to see enforcement then pretty much no building in the borough will, and landlords and owners can rest easy by letting buildings fall apart to the detriment of their locations.
Since then, the News Shopper have taken up the story (see here) as a result of pressure from a newly formed local campaign group named PARC (see @PARC on Twitter). Greenwich Council’s reply to the article was predictably weak:
Surely it’s now time to stop “encouraging” owners when buildings are left to rot over a number of years and start taking actual action. What funds are they waiting for? Taxpayers money to pay for things owners should do? And anyway, they have received income such as £400,000 from the King’s Highway housing development in Plumstead and yet not spent one penny on improving the town but managed to send £54,000 to Greenwich Town Centre.
It’s no surprise they instantly jump on their leisure centre plans – which has nothing to do with the state of the High Street. And it’s funded by flogging off locally owned public buildings instead of securing external funds.
I passed the building again to see if any recent changes could have explained why they didn’t think it was worthy of enforcement action. It’s as bad as ever. The window frames above street level are broken. Bird infestation is apparent with a huge amount of bird droppings over street furniture and pavements outside:
To show this is still a current problem, a cracked bird egg had recently dropped down onto a window ledge:
It’s located near food outlets and is a health hazard. It’s appears structurally unsound and is a blot on the area which alone is enough for Section 215 enforcement. This Planning Law site says this about S215:
“The “condition of land” refers to the current state of the land, and a section 215 notice can be used to require works going beyond mere maintenance, so as to remedy the appearance of the land. (See also Allsop v Derbyshire Dales DC  EWHC 3562 (Admin).) Something that affects visual amenity is enough to justify issuing a section 215 notice.”
The reference to land also includes buildings and structures. Section 215 is low risk for councils, even if they lose any appeal. Costs are minimal. Councils have solid foundations in prior case law to act and buildings such as those on Plumstead High street have a very solid chance of being suitable for such action. If the owner does not take action the council can do so and charge them.
This site gives a useful overview of S215 notices, which apply to buildings as well as land:
“Many of the problems of untidy land and buildings are relatively easy to put right for example:
- blocked gutters and down pipes – water ingress will eventually destroy a building through frost and rot,
- fallen fences,
- dilapidated walls / broken windows / graffiti,
- land with fly tipping, industrial or demolition waste,
- builders rubble,
- dumped sofas/furniture,
- abandoned vehicles,
- dumped tyres or
- overgrown gardens.
A notice can be served on the owner or occupier of any private land or building which is in an unreasonably untidy condition and which the Council consider has an adverse affect on the amenity of the area.
The Notice will specify what needs to be done to correct the situation within a given timescale. It is an offence not to comply with the notice within the specified period. If the requirements of the notice are not carried out in the required timescale the landowner could be fined and have a criminal record.
There is a right of appeal against a notice issued under this section to the Magistrates Court. Failure to comply with the requirements of the notice constitutes a criminal offence subject on conviction to a fine not exceeding £1000.
The Council is also empowered to enter land to carry out the works specified in the notice and reclaim costs from the land owner – usually by means of a land charge on the land or property.”
The state of the pavement, with the bird crap covering large expanses, came to mind when I saw that Jackie Smith, Greenwich Cabinet Member for Community Safety and the Environment and with interests in three properties in Woolwich, stated once again in a council meeting that Plumstead High Street was deep-cleaned (jet washed) last year. As this post shows, it wasn’t cleaned in full, as photos taken just after revealed:
Instead of looking into why that happened, she chose to respond to a residents question at a full council meeting this week with two paragraphs about separate issues:
The point of such deflection and making separate points is a mystery. It convinces no one that things are ok when its clearly evident to thousands on a daily basis. Those mentioned schemes are good, and street cleaners do a great job in very tough circumstances, but its not the issue at hand.
It does nothing to dispel the notion that some councillors aren’t acting as resident’s champions in pushing for better but are defending failing departments instead.
When the results of the last deep clean were clearly inadequate why not acknowledge that, state that departments will be asked about it and ensure it doesn’t happen again?
Anyway, the good news is they expect to do it in April 2017. Still a three month wait which seems excessive when the equipment is already owned but there you go. Lets see if a proper job is done this time throughout the entire High Street.
The newly created PARC group, along with the Plumstead People Facebook group (which just went through the 8000 member barrier) mean they’ll be plenty watching closely. Other Facebook groups have started to document the widespread issues in the area including the Plumstead and Abbey Wood Environmental Group.