In January 2010 - as reported in Newsletter 178 - all residents of the Wavertree Garden Suburb Conservation Area received a letter from Liverpool City Council's Planning Manager, seeking their views on possible changes to the Council's policy regarding window replacement and the accommodation of cars in front gardens. Eventually, on 24th August, a report on the subject was submitted to the Council's Planning Committee - though neither we nor the residents were informed of this until after the event.

The report to the Planning Committee stated:

"The majority of residents supported the following:
i. Windows: When replacing windows, uPVC frames could be used provided that the design copies that of the existing historic timber frames.

ii. Front gardens:
When creating off-road parking, a single paved driveway for one or two cars should be laid together with a minimum-sized opening in the front hedge to allow car access with or without gates; the remainder of the garden and hedge should be retained.

In both instances the residents supported the approach already taken by Council planning officers."

The report also made reference to the recent (April 2010) decision of a government Planning Inspector regarding the uPVC windows installed at 12 Heywood Road. The Inspector confirmed the Council's refusal of retrospective planning permission for these windows, and in his report on his visit to the area he was very critical of uPVC as a window material:

"The painted timber frames I saw [at dwellings elsewhere within the Conservation Area] were warm, vital and organic in character. ... By contrast, the uPVC frames at No.12 exhibit the cold, smooth, mechanical, reflective sheen of a synthetic moulded material. ... Most of the timber frames I saw had a high ratio of pane to frame. The uPVC design at No.12 simulates this by sandwiching a pattern of faux glazing bars between two large panes of glass prior to sealing them into a double glazed unit. To a disinterested observer they look similar to the design of timber frames but upon closer inspection the uPVC simulation is unconvincing. ... I conclude on this issue that, as a result of their mode of assembly, materials of construction and appearance, the windows the subject of this appeal neither preserve nor enhance the character or appearance of the Wavertree Garden Suburb Conservation Area."

In September, the Planning Manager sent a second letter to all residents of the Conservation Area, informing them that the Planning Committee had welcomed the results of the consultation process, and agreed that the 'majority view' on windows and front gardens (i.e. points i and ii as set out above) will become Council policy. What the letter should also have emphasised is that PLANNING PERMISSION IS STILL LIKELY TO BE NEEDED for window replacement - especially if uPVC is used - and for the construction of hardstandings in front gardens. At the very least, residents should seek the advice of Council officers (phone 0151 233 3021 and ask for someone to call you back) before signing a contract or arranging for any work to be carried out.

The policy on windows states that the design of new windows must "copy those of the area's historic timber windows". The word 'copy' is not defined - but the policy certainly does NOT authorise the 'sandwiched glazing bar' style of uPVC window which tends to be supplied as standard by double-glazing companies. We have suggested to the Planning Department that further guidance should be issued, making clear which elements of window design are of particular importance.

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