The picture above is of Ladywell Lodge, Dressington Avenue, one of the remaining buildings from the Ladywell Infirmary, part of the Bermondsey Workhouse which occupied a large swathe of land in Ladywell at the beginning of the last century ( the whole area where Dressington Avenue, Slagrove Place etc are now). It's Council-owned and comes under the Brockley PFI housing area (part of it is residential and the rest is Abbey Manor College).
It's not in a conservation area and so, in accordance with the terms of their contract, Regenter B3 applied to replace the existing wooden sash windows with UPVC ones. Residents, Ladywell Society and Ute and I all objected on the grounds that it was a historically and architecturally important local building and that the UPVC windows would be out of keeping.
I'm delighted to have learnt today that Lewisham Planning agreed with us and have turned the application down on the following grounds:
"the windows proposed, by reason of their material, would be inappropriate to the appearance of the building and would fail to respect the period and architectural characteristics of the building, contrary to Policies URB 3 Urban Design and URB 6 Alterations and Extensions in the adopted Unitary Development Plan (July 2004)".
Personally, I think the building may be a candidate for listing by English Heritage, though I imagine it has been altered quite significantly inside.
So another small victory in the ongoing battle led by Ladywell Society and leaseholders against UPVCisation of Ladywell by Lewisham Council. The leaseholders I've had contact with in the building are delighted. The downside is that the work that will now be carried out to these properties as part of the Brockley PFI Decent Homes programme will not achieve as high standards of thermal efficiency as other properties in the PFI area.
This isn't because it is impossible, or against planning law etc, but because it costs more and the limitations of the PFI contract as agreed between Lewisham and Regenter B3 mean that residents in Victorian properties in the conservation area and properties such as this are only getting their windows over-hauled and draught-proofed, not wooden framed double glazing as they could get. As in most cases they are solid brick walls, not cavity, they are also not getting wall insulation, so besides loft insulation, the improvements the Council is making to the thermal efficiency of these homes, is pretty minimal compared to others in the PFI programme.
It is shocking that in the 1500-page PFI contract, so little attention was paid to how to improve the thermal efficiency of the conservation area and Victorian properties, which form a significant part of the PFI area. I think the Council needs to look again at this, and consider whether it could installing wooden-framed double glazing or at the very least secondary glazing for these homes over the next few years, and, when homes are redecorated or relet, installing internal wall insulation to bring them up to reasonable standards of energy efficiency.
Better still, these issues need to be taken on board at a regional level, by the Mayor of London, and at a national level, by the Cabinet Member for Climate Change and Energy. By all means start with a programme to roll out free cavity wall and loft insulation to all those homes that can have it - it would achieve the biggest bang for your buck in the short term (Green Party policy, not yet government policy), but we also need to start thinking about the 40% or so of London homes that are solid wall Victorian properties - more of a challenge, but key to reducing London's carbon emissions. So if you happen to be reading this, Ed Milliband, I suspect the conservation area tenants in Brockley PFI would love to be in a pilot scheme for improving the thermal efficiency of Victorian Conservation Area Council housing . . .