Applications for planning approval are normally only granted if the proposal is in line with the Council’s stated planning policies. These are set out in a number of different documents.
The Council’s main planning policies are laid out in its 2015 “Local Plan”, a huge and unwieldy document:
The parts of the Local Plan most relevant to the Ladbroke communal gardens are Chapter 33 on “An engaging public realm” and Chapter 34 on “Renewing the legacy”.
In the 1970s, for each conservation area the Council adopted a document called a Conservation Area Proposals Statement or CAPS that sets out in some considerable detail what it would like to see in that area. The Ladbroke CAPS (drafted with the help of the Ladbroke Association) can be found at
It was adopted in 1976 and revised in 1988. It has now been overtaken by the Ladbroke Conservation Area Appraisal, so is no longer extant. Nevertheless it contains interssting material on the communal gardens.
In 2015, the Council adopted a “Conservation Area Appraisal” for the Ladbroke Conservation Area. This aims to describe the features of the area to help guide both planning officers in assessing planning applications and residents preparing to make planning applications.
Below we give the most relevant extracts from these three policy documents. Comments by the Ladbroke Association in blue in square brackets.
EXTRACTS FROM THE LOCAL PLAN PARTICULARLY RELEVANT TO COMMUNAL GARDENS AND THE BUILDINGS ADJOINING THEM
The Local Plan consists of a series of explanatory texts followed by statements of policy, each policy being numbered. The policies are shown in boxes, and the Council must decide planning applications in accordance with them unless there are good reasons for departting from the policy.
Extracts from CHAPTER 33: AN ENGAGING PUBLIC REALM
33.1.1 Kensington and Chelsea is distinguished by a high quality network of streets, squares and public spaces. The public realm is widely recognised and valued for providing the setting for our rich architectural heritage. This is a strategic matter for the Royal Borough, being central to our success as an attractive place to live, work and visit. Establishing a new street network, based on our historic patterns, will be at the heart of the successful regeneration of the north, and enhancing the public realm will be a key part of maintaining the success of the borough as a whole.
33.1.2 The public realm is not just the two-dimensional streetscape, although that is an important component. The public realm is the full threedimensional space of streets and parks, and how they connect together and contribute to making our neighbourhoods and centres distinctive and memorable. It is the public realm therefore which gives the borough its strong sense of place. The way buildings relate to streets, and the way streets relate to one another, are thus as important as the management and maintenance of the streetscape and our parks and gardens.
33.1.3 An Engaging Public Realm is an integral part of the Local Plan’s central vision of Building on Success. It is regarded as critical by residents to their quality of life, and also underpins the national and international reputation of Kensington and Chelsea.
CO 4: Strategic Objective for An Engaging Public Realm
Our strategic objective for an engaging public realm is to endow a strong local sense of place by maintaining and extending our excellent public realm to all parts of the borough.
33.2 What this means for the borough
33.2.1 The streets, spaces and places provide a range of opportunities for external living, while making it easier and more attractive to walk, cycle and take public transport. They are also the location of the world renowned Notting Hill Carnival.
33.2.2 Open spaces support physical as well as passive activities, from playing sport to sitting and relaxing. They are places where people meet and come together. Paying particular attention to making the public realm safer and more enjoyable improves external living, while also enhancing the appearance of the borough.
Parks, Gardens, Open Spaces and Waterways
33.3.21 The benefit of open space is wider than pure aesthetics, it also provides a valuable recreational resource, and contributes to wildlife habitats and biodiversity and has benefits in minimising noise and air pollution. The borough has a long history and tradition of high quality parks and gardens, such as Kensington Gardens, the Physic Garden, Holland Park, Royal Hospital and Ranelagh Gardens.
33.3.22 There are 100 garden squares within the borough. There are also 15 open spaces on England’s Registered Parks and Gardens, including Kensington Gardens, Holland Park, Brompton and Kensal cemeteries and Kensington Roof Gardens, the latter being the only roof garden on the national register.
[The 16 gardens of the Ladbroke Estate are listed as a single registered garden.]
33.3.25 The Parks Strategy, Local Biodiversity Action Plan, the Play Strategy and regular updating of Playable Spaces Audits provide both a qualitative and quantitative audit of play and open spaces in the borough. There are limited opportunities to create larger areas of public open space because of the location and potential size of development opportunities and the fact that many sites have constrained boundaries. Small areas of open space might be possible, but these are often better managed if they are communal to the adjacent development, rather than public – as the garden square tradition of this borough demonstrates. The provision of new public open space is, therefore, not seen as a strategic issue for this borough, and will be assessed on a case by case basis, using the up-to-date information from on-going audits of play and open space. Contributions towards the maintenance of the existing public open spaces with appropriate play facilities will be sought from developers while communal external open space which can greatly improve the quality of life of residents, can be designed into quite small schemes. This will therefore, be the focus of our policy.
33.3.26 Maintaining open spaces ensures the ecological and biological diversity of the borough and contributes positively not only to wildlife habitats but also to the quality of life for residents and those visiting and working here. Optimising wildlife habitat ensures that the borough and London provides feeding, breeding and nesting areas for a variety of bird and mammal species, which are often marginalised by increasing development pressures.
Policy CR 5: Parks, Gardens, Open Spaces and Waterways
The Council will protect, enhance and make the most of existing parks, gardens and open spaces, and require new high quality outdoor spaces to be provided. To deliver this the Council will, in relation to: Parks, Gardens and Open Spaces
Trees and Landscape
33.3.29 Trees and landscaping are considered an important aspect of any development as have the potential to improve quality of life within the Borough and contribute to its high quality character. The Borough has approximately 7,000 street trees and approximately 500 Tree Preservation Orders. Trees
on private open space, such as those located within residential gardens can also contribute to the public realm.
33.3.30 Although trees provide amenity, wildlife habitat and biodiversity values, there may be occasions where a tree may need to be felled, particularly if it is likely to cause serious damage to property or injury to people. Most commonly the tree will not have to be removed in its entirety – just the limbs causing the potential danger. Good planning when selecting a tree will ensure the long-term function of the site and the tree’s longevity, and can avoid unnecessary felling.
33.3.31 There is a growing awareness that trees and habitats for wildlife.They also help to address climate change issues and are important for human mental health. Designing landscaping so that it is compatible with its intended purpose and function allow for optimised visual and physical benefit.
33.3.32 Street trees and trees in general are an important element of the urban environment and provide contrast to the built environment. Street trees are not only attractive and add to the character of the townscape but also act as noise and wind barriers and filter out pollution. The Council takes great pride in its strong tradition of managing street trees, being the first Council in London to employ arboricultural officers.
33.3.33 Development, particularly during construction or demolition can have a negative impact on the health of trees. However, protective measures can be implemented to ensure harmony between trees and development.
Policy CR 6: Trees and landscape
The Council will require the protection of existing trees and the provision of new trees that compliment existing or create new, high quality green areas which deliver amenity and biodiversity benefits. To deliver this the Council will:
Extracts from CHAPTER 34: RENEWING THE LEGACY
Renewing the Legacy Conservation, quality and design
34.1.1 The borough has inherited a remarkable historic townscape and a large number of historic buildings. The exceptional quality of the built environment and finely grained mix of uses underpins the borough’s success as a highly desirable place in which to live, work and invest. Over 4,000 buildings are ‘listed’ and there are over 100 garden squares. Conservation areas cover more than 70 per cent of the borough. The Royal Borough is known for its legacy of Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian architecture, interspersed with corner shops, pubs, studios and small pockets of mixed uses, but there are also a number of twentieth century buildings which continue the legacy of high quality design. Our listed buildings and conservation areas contribute immensely to local distinctiveness both within the borough and to London as a whole.
34.1.2 Renewing the Legacy is an integral part of the Local Plan’s central vision of Building on Success. The exceptional quality of the built environment underpins the reputation of both Kensington and Chelsea, and our residents’ quality of life.
CO 5 Strategic Objective for Renewing the Legacy
Our strategic objective to renew the legacy is not simply to ensure no diminution in the excellence we have inherited, but to pass to the next generation a borough that is better than today, of the highest quality and inclusive for all. This will be achieved by taking great care to maintain, conserve and enhance the glorious built heritage we have inherited and to ensure that where new development takes place, it enhances the borough.
34.3. Planning policies
Context and Character
34.3.1 The borough’s townscape is unique in its high quality, finely grained, historic built environment and has a strong sense of identity and character. The Council has a reputation of upholding high standards of conservation and design. The character and appearance of the borough is highly valued, locally, nationally and internationally.
Heritage Assets – Conservation Areas And Historic Places
34.3.19 The historic environment is central to the character of the borough and the Council has a duty to pay special attention to the desirability of preserving or enhancing the character or appearance of conservation areas.
34.3.20 The character and appearance of a conservation area is not only provided by the high quality and appearance of individual buildings within the area and the interrelationship between them but it is also gained from whole and partial street views as well as views into and out of the area. Therefore development that impacts setting, including the effect on views, gaps and vistas and other character and appearance issues identified
Policy CL 1 Context and Character
The Council will require all development to respect the existing context, character and appearance, taking opportunities available to improve the quality and character of buildings and the area and the way it functions, including being inclusive for all. To deliver this the Council will:
34.3.34 The borough’s dense historic pattern of development and the close proximity of buildings means that new buildings and extensions need to take careful account of the living and working conditions of neighbours, with particular regard to natural light, light pollution, privacy, noise and disturbance.
34.3.35 The historic character and dense nature of the borough means that the living conditions that might be expected elsewhere in modern developments are most unlikely to be achieved here. Particular attention needs to be paid to these matters to attempt to address rising public expectations in relation to living conditions, including access to open space. However, implementing living conditions by fixed standards, normally derived from modern suburban development, could undermine the Council’s duty to preserve and enhance the character and appearance of conservation areas. It is the overall design, taking all factors into account including the area’s character, that will be the determinant of whether a proposal provides reasonable living conditions.
34.3.36 In assessing whether sunlight and daylight conditions are good, both inside buildings and in gardens and open spaces, the Council will have regard to the most recent Building Research Establishment guidance, both for new development, and for properties affected by new development.
34.3.37 Issues of daylight and sunlight are most likely to occur where the amount of adjoining habitable accommodation is limited, or situated within the lower floors of buildings with openings on to lightwells. Mathematical calculation to assess daylighting and sunlighting may be an inappropriate measure in these situations; on-site judgment will often be necessary.
34.3.38 When considering privacy, a distance of about 18 metres between opposite habitable rooms reduces inter-visibility to a degree acceptable to most people, but there are many instances in the historic fabric of the borough of distances less than this. Privacy of gardens and courtyards is also important.
[In communal gardens there is a particular problem when balconies and terraces above ground level at the backs of houses can result in undue overlooking and noise for the users of the garden.]
34.3.39 Terraces on roofs of main buildings or extensions can be visually intrusive and result in serious intrusion into the privacy and quiet enjoyment of neighbouring residential properties. They can, however, provide a valuable small area of open space for residents.
34.3.40 An overbearing or over-dominant sense of enclosure can significantly reduce the quality of living conditions both inside and outside. The impact on the sense of enclosure, is dependent on on-site judgment.
34.3.41 The level and type of activity generated by the development in its final form, as well as during construction, can affect the conditions of building users, through increased traffic, parking, noise, odours and vibrations in addition to impacts created by the development’s physical structure which can have microclimatic effects. The anticipated level of activity as well as the effects on the local microclimate should be taken into consideration.
Policy CL 5 Living Conditions
The Council will require all development ensures good living conditions for occupants of new, existing and neighbouring buildings. To deliver this the Council will:
Small-Scale Alterations And Additions
34.3.42 There is great pressure for the adaptation of buildings in the borough. 34.3.43 Small-scale alterations and additions comprise minor external changes to the appearance of a building or its curtilage, including balustrades, alarms, cameras, awnings, grilles, shutters (and other security equipment), telecommunications equipment, satellite dishes, railings, walls, piers, gates, forecourt parking, balconies, small terraces, flagpoles, signs which that are not advertisements, servicing and mechanical plant, and removing physical barriers to access.
[Balustrades and railings between private and communal gardens in particular are important to the character of a communal garden.]
34.3.44 Although small alterations and additions may have a negligible impact, if unsympathetically designed and sited, they may individually harm the appearance of a building or its setting. It is the individual and cumulative effect of these small-scale alterations and additions which can negatively impact on the borough’s overall highquality townscape. Their control is, therefore, a matter of strategic importance.
[This can be a particular problem in communal gardens, where small alterations to gardens, especially if cumulative, can have a real detrimental effect on the character of the garden.]
34.3.45 A high proportion of the borough’s dwellings are flats. While dwellinghouses have permitted development rights, buildings such as mansion blocks, often in multiple ownership, do not have such rights. The Council receives a high number of planning applications affecting these types of properties. A consistent approach to alterations and additions across the building can ensure that the visual coherence of the building is maintained.
Policy CL 6 Small-scale Alterations and Additions
The Council will require that alterations and additions do not harm the existing character and appearance of the building and its context. To deliver this the Council will resist smallscale development that:
Existing Buildings – Extensions And Modifications
34.3.77 The combination of the borough’s high land values, high residential densities, modest building heights and the expanse of the conservation areas, has resulted in pressures for a wide variety of residential extensions and modifications.
34.3.78 It is important that extensions and modifications, including conservatories, respect those aspects of character and integrity of the original building and group of buildings that contribute to local distinctiveness such as height, width, depth, building line, footprint, position, symmetry, rhythm, materials, finishes, detailed design, proportions or dimensions of fenestration, important gaps and a sense of garden openness.
34.3.79 The rear and sides of some buildings may also be distinguished architecturally. Where, for example, they overlook communal gardens, these elevations may be of as much importance as the front. While these elevations of buildings are generally subordinate to the front, they often have a simple dignity and harmony which makes them attractive.
34.3.80 Extensions and infill development may have an unfortunate effect in closing an important townscape gap, or in unbalancing an otherwise symmetrical elevation of a terrace, detached or semi-detached property.
34.3.81 Conservatories are a popular form of residential extension in the borough. They are principally garden features and should be located with this principle in mind. It is important that they fit in with the historic character of the borough and therefore their location in relation to the building and garden, their impact on neighbouring properties, their size and detailed design will be carefully considered.
[Note also Appeal Case APP/K5600/A/13/2204821 regarding a conservatory at first floor level at the back of 28 Elgin Crescent, in which the Inspector upheld the refusal of planning permission. The Inspector noted that the CAPS regarded first floor conservatories as alien features to be resisted, and also criticised the design which did not relate well to the architectural style etc of the original dwelling.]
34.3.82 Some modifications to buildings have the potential to cause harm, especially if they are not sensitive to the original character of the building or their cumulative impact detracts from the external appearance of the building. Conversely, if handled in a careful and sympathetic manner they have the potential to result in an improvement to the quality and character of the building. Such details may include changes to windows or glazing patterns; projecting mouldings; chimneys and other architectural details; front walls; railings; the replacement of panelled entrance doors; the repair or replacement of stucco; the permanent removal of projected mouldings and the rendering or painting of a brick-faced building.
34.3.19 As the majority of the Borough’s built development is of modest height, extensions and modifications at roof level can alter the townscape character. Therefore, extensions and modifications need to be assessed carefully and ensure they do not individually or cumulatively dominate the original building.
34.3.21 Conservatories are a popular form of residential extension within the Royal Borough. They are principally garden features and therefore they should be located with this principle in mind. It is important that they fit in with the historic character of the Borough and therefore their location in relation to the building and garden, their impact on neighbouring properties, their size and detailed design will be carefully considered.
Policy CL 9 Existing Buildings – Extensions and Modifications
The Council will require extensions and modifications to existing buildings to be subordinate to the original building, to allow the form of the original building to be clearly understood, and to reinforce the character and integrity of the original building, or group of buildings. To deliver this the Council will resist proposals for extensions if:
34.3.90 The quality and character of an area is not only provided by the individual buildings but it is also gained from views into, within, and out of the area. When considering development that will impacts on views, vistas and gaps, it is important to respect the local context.
34.3.91 The borough contains some of the best examples of Victorian and Edwardian townscape in London. Overall, the residential environment is of the highest quality. This is evident not only in the public realm, but also at the rear and sides of properties, particularly around areas of private gardens. The presence of mature rear gardens and greenery softens the dense urban scene and provides relief and visual interest when viewed from the street through gaps between buildings or when a corner building has an open return frontage. A similar pleasant contrast may occur by a view of the sky or rear elevations of nearby properties.
34.3.92 Residents’ appreciation and enjoyment of the borough as a whole and the special character and appearance of conservation areas in particular derives from both public viewpoints and views from within their dwellings. Not only the street scenes, but views from other buildings, including upper floors, and gardens, are important to residents living conditions. These will be considered proportionate to the significance of the view. In particular, careful regard will be had to conservation area appraisal documents.
34.3.93 On the rare occasions that development has an impact beyond the immediate street, a wider assessment of the impact needs to be carried out in accordance to the methodology set out in the Views and Building Heights SPD.
34.3.94 It is important that the impact of development on views within the townscape, including in and around conservation areas, as well as of landmarks defining points of townscape interest is taken into account. In addition to the strategic view from St Paul’s to King Henry’s Mount in Richmond Park, identified in the London Plan, the borough also has specifically recognised views that are important to protect. These are set out in the Views and Building Heights SPD.
Policy CL 11: Views
The Council will require all development to protect and enhance views, vistas, gaps and the skyline that contribute to the character and quality of the area. To deliver this the Council will:
Although this document has been overtaken by the Ladbroke Conservation Area Appraisal, it still contains useful material that can be referred to.
SECTION 1: CONSERVATION – Introduction to conservation in RBKC (para 3.3 – page 4)
“Trees make a very important contribution to the townscape of the Royal Borough, and carefully planned replanting schemes must be implemented if the Conservation Areas are not ultimately to lose their pleasant, leafy image. The Town and Country Amenities Act 1974 makes provision for an assessment of all trees in Conservation Areas and the use of Tree Preservation Orders to safeguard them. Most Communal Gardens are run by Garden Committees, who should make sure that phased replanting does take place. The ravages of Dutch Elm disease in the north of the Borough have at least provided for a good opportunity to plan for the future.”
Ways in which the characteristic features of a Conservation Area can be interfered with (para 3.7, B2, B3 B4, C3, C4, C6 – pages 7-8)
“B2. Problem: Loss of original railings to private gardens and garden squares.
Effect: This entails loss of an original element, often railings or balustrades whose design was in keeping with the intended character of the area, and its replacement, usually by a cheaper, less elegant structure such as fencing or wire mesh, to the detriment of the townscape.
B3. Problem: Loss of trees through lack of planned replanting.
Effect: Loss of pleasant, soft leafy atmosphere – replacement by hard barren urban image.
B4: Problem: Poor maintenance of garden.
Effect: Loss of “Control”, – an air of neglect and abandon.”
C3: Problem: Side extensions.
Effect (ii): may obstruct views between properties to gardens behind, – an important characteristic of the Ladbroke Conservation Area.
C4: Problem: Rear extensions.
Effect: May appear irregular and obtrusive when viewed from neighbouring houses.
SECTION 3: TOWNSCAPE – Streets and Gardens(para 1.15, 1.16 and 1.18 – page 21)
“1.15. The trees and garden spaces provide a softness and greenness which diffuses through the whole estate. The fact that the communal gardens are not accessible to the general public adds an element of mystery to their other characteristics. Glimpses of the gardens may be caught from the street between the groups of houses – or through the railings where they directly abut onto the road, so that the eye is constantly reminded of their existence.
1.6. This tantalising effect is lost when the gaps between the housing groups are filled in with side extensions, and the whole character of a street could eventually be altered by such incremental changes.
1.18. None of the remarkable features of this Conservation Area were arrived at by accident; the area did not evolve but was deliberately planned to have the visual effect that it does. Through the study and understanding of the original objectives it is hoped that the same themes can continue to manifest themselves in any future changes which take place.”
SECTION 4: PROPOSALS: BUILDINGS – Extensions and alterations (pages 23-24)
“It is unrealistic, and occasionally undesirable, to assume that no further change will take place in a conservation area. Conservation area status, by virtue of the proposals contained in this document and the policies in the District Plan, enables change to be guided in the way most appropriate to the character of the area. Precedents created by out-of-date policies will not carry the same weight as in the past.
Ladbroke Conservation Area has a variety of houses, flats and other dwellings. Pressure exists to reinstate some dwellings currently in multiple occupation to single family dwellings and also to improve the quality of the accommodation in sub-divided properties. These general trends often lead to increasing the quality of care given to individual dwellings, communal gardens and the spaces that surround dwellings.
Some extensions and alterations to single family dwellings do not require specific planning permission and in respect of them the guidance in this Statement, in the District Plan and in Annual Monitoring Reports will be found useful. Planning applications will be assessed in the light of it. The General Development Order 1988 sets out when a planning application is not needed….
The Ladbroke Estate is characterised by the presence of mature gardens containing parkland trees and luxuriant shrubbery to the rear of many properties. These gardens are generally shared communal gardens, often with individual gardens adjoining. The presence of this vegetation softens the dense urban development and provides relief when viewed through the gaps between buildings. These gaps and views are a crucial part of the character of Ladbroke Conservation Area and constitute a planned feature of the original Victorian layout.
Additionally, within parts of the conservation area, the gaps between buildings contribute to the quality of the streetscape providing a rhythm of alternating buildings and spaces.
By the construction of extensions filling these gaps an essential part of the character of the area is lost forever. Any proposals which would have the effect of blocking a gap between buildings and so losing views through to the gardens to the rear, or adversely affecting the quality of the streetscape, are unlikely to be acceptable. This also applies to return frontages on street corner sites.
The rears of buildings within Ladbroke Conservation Area fall into two categories: those to which the architect gave as much importance as the front elevations and those buildings having a rear elevation design subordinate to the main front elevation. Where buildings adjoin a communal garden area they are often stuccoed and detailed and form part of a regular sequence. Important rear elevations are identified on Map 2.
In dealing with any application for an extension of these formal rear elevations special consideration will be given to the relationship of the proposal with the design of the whole elevation. Unless it can be demonstrated that the extension complements the original design concept it is unlikely to be acceptable and extensions rising up to or above eaves level are particularly unwelcome.
In other cases proposals for rear extensions will be treated sympathetically where they accord with the guidance set out in the District Plan and do not result in the loss of garden space. Detailed criteria for this kind of development is to be included in the Unitary Development Plan now in preparation.
Proposals for the erection of conservatories are treated in the same way as other forms of extension. A conservatory above ground floor level, by virtue of its materials and construction, can appear as an alien and incongruous element uncharacteristic of this Area and the period of its development. Also an increased tendency to create problems of overlooking and consequent loss of privacy arises where conservatories are located above ground floor level. The erection of conservatories on the roof of dwellings or over existing rear extensions above ground floor level will normally be resisted.”
SECTION 5: STREETS AND OPEN SPACES – Communal gardens (pages 30-32)
The communal gardens which many of the houses in this area back onto are a special feature of the Ladbroke Estate. They are generally privately owned and run by elected Garden Committees under the provisions of the Kensington Improvement Act 1851. This Act also enables the Council to raise a rate from adjoining ratepayers for maintenance purposes.
There is other legislation affecting garden squares in addition to the Town and Country Planning Act 1971. The Town Gardens Protection Act 1863 enables local authorities to take charge of enclosed gardens which are in a state of neglect. The squares of the Ladbroke Conservation Area are scheduled in the London Squares Preservation Act 1931 and, in exercising its functions under the Act, the Council will ensure that the main purpose of the squares, ‘an ornamental garden, pleasure ground, or ground for play, rest or recreation’, is safeguarded. The National Heritage Act 1983 provides that the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England may compile a register of gardens and designed landscapes. The registers comprise gardens of national importance only and ones which were conceived or started before 1939. They carry no statutory force but are produced for the information of owners, local authorities and other organisations with the purpose of identifying historic gardens to encourage their protection and conservation. The register for Greater London includes Ladbroke Square Gardens.
The railings separating the garden enclosures from the road were an important architectural feature of Ladbroke, as well as serving a necessary security function. Original railings should be retained and inappropriate modern fencing replaced wherever possible. Garden Committees are encouraged to approach the council for advice and assistance when considering enhancement schemes to reinstate traditional design railings. Attention must also be paid to maintenance, as the most distinctive feature of railings is their regular geometry. Missing heads and rails and leaning sections of railings all detract from the visual effect.
Originally iron railings formed many of the boundaries between the individual back gardens and the garden squares, but many have, over time, decayed or been replaced by hedges or fencing. These railings too are an important architectural feature, although not as visible to the general public as those along the road frontages of the squares.
Some gardens are bounded by ornamental balustrading which, similarly, constitute an important design element which should be preserved. The Council welcomes comprehensive enhancement schemes for the reinstatement of railings and balustrades at the rear of properties adjoining communal gardens.
Sadly there is a need today for higher levels of security for communal gardens, an objective often in conflict with the desire to reinstate traditional railings which do not afford adequate security. Wire mesh, barbed wire, concrete posts and chain-link fencing are not acceptable solutions to this problem, particularly when placed along the line of the original fencing, having as they do a significant visually detrimental effect on the area. Neither are close-boarded wooden fencing or wood panelling, as these have the added disadvantages of closing off the glimpses into the gardens from the road that are such a feature of the Ladbroke area. A possible solution may be to site traditional railings along the boundary line with a more secure railing or fence sited a metre or two behind this and partially screened by planting.
There is generally a presumption against works and development on or directly affecting communal gardens. This is not designed to prohibit works of a minor nature which the Garden Committee might wish to carry out, such as the provision of play equipment, small gardeners’ huts, fountains, etc., but is intended to prevent or restrict development on a larger scale or relating to adjoining houses.
Surface car parking in communal gardens, the construction of car parks beneath them and vehicular access through them to the rear of adjoining properties will not be permitted. This restriction also extends to car parking adjacent to such gardens in the rear gardens of detached or end-of-terrace houses. This can lead to disturbance to users of the garden when several cars are parked or when the owner carries out maintenance and repair work. Exceptions may be considered when it is proposed to provide access and standing room for one vehicle only and some situations will exist where on-site parking is permitted development. The Council’s Town Planning Department should be consulted as to whether this latter point is applicable in any particular case.
Much of the charm of the garden squares derives not only from the ‘tree character’ they give to the Ladbroke area, but also the mix of trees, flowers and shrubs. It is essential in order to maintain this character and balance that future planting is planned to ensure semi-mature trees are established when older ones have to be removed. For this reason and to avoid the siting of inappropriate species in locations where they may cause problems, such as overshadowing and disruption to underground services at a later date, Garden Committees are encouraged to approach the Council’s Arboriculturist for advice on long term replanting schemes as well as care and maintenance of the gardens.
The Council’s extensive controls over all work to trees are explained at Appendix II.
Because the communal gardens were part of the original design of the Ladbroke Estate architects gave front and rear elevations of many of the houses equal importance, creating a direct relationship between the gardens and the rear of adjoining houses. To maintain this relationship, a feature of Ladbroke, further proposals for rear extensions to houses backing onto communal gardens will not generally be allowed (refer Section 4 – rear extensions).”
SECTION 5: STREETS AND OPEN SPACES – Trees and Planting (page 33)
The Ladbroke Estate is particularly well endowed with trees. Many of these are located in the communal gardens which are such a feature of the Area, whilst there is also substantial mature planting on individual properties. This is especially so in the south-west corner of Ladbroke which is characterised by leafy crescents, whereas to the east the streetscape contains less planting and the ‘hard-soft-hard-soft’ effect of alternate streets and garden squares is very prominent.
Because of the large number of mature trees on private property the planting of street trees by the Council has not been extensive, although notable areas do exist at the southern end of Ladbroke Grove and Lansdowne Road, around St. John’s Church and along Ladbroke Road. The Council will continue to plant street trees where suitable sites are identified, although future opportunities are likely to be limited. Such planting will be restricted to the south and west of the Ladbroke Conservation Area so as not to adversely affect the special urban character of the more formal eastern part. Native forest species of trees will be favoured rather than ornamentals, such as the flowering cherry, as the former are an established and important part of the Ladbroke character.
All trees in communal gardens and the majority on individual properties are covered by Tree Preservation Orders. These Orders do not cover street trees as the Council itself owns and maintains them. For further information on these Orders and the general protection given to all trees in the conservation area refer to Section 6 ‘Communal Gardens’ and Appendix II Trees’.
There is a general presumption in favour of the retention of trees unless they are potentially a public danger. New planting will be encouraged so that semi-mature trees will be established when older ones have to be removed.
SECTION 7: PRIORITIES FOR ENHANCEMENT (page 41)
– Replacement of railings around some communal gardens. This remains a priority for enhancement. Further design guidance on garden square enclosures is contained within the section on Communal Gardens. The Council will encourage, wherever possible, Garden Square Committees to improve the enclosures to the gardens and will offer advice on the erection of new railings.
– Restoring the gates to Ladbroke Square from Kensington Park Gardens. This remains a priority as although the gates are in place they are in poor condition. Restoration will involve ironwork repairs as well as repainting.
– Replacement of elms by forest-like trees
– Restoring the tree character of the area
Both these enhancement proposals came at the time of the worst ravages of Dutch elm disease. In the period since 1976 considerable replacement planting has taken place. Although a long term programme of tree management in the Area is essential, planting of new forest-like trees is no longer a priority.
The following are the extracts that refer to the communal gardens.
Interoduction: Summary of character
The Ladbroke Conserrvation Area was designated in 1969, one of the Royal Borough’s earliest designations. It was developed speculatively from south to north by a number of different architects, developers and builders between the 1820s and the mid 1870s. Early plans were drawn up by Thomas Allason; his ideas for a circus and communal gardens were progressed by other architects who added the crescents and placed the gardens behind the houses. Architects who worked on the estate included James Thomson, Thomas Allom, William Reynolds and Thomas Pocock.
1.6 The buildings in the area make up a large and vital part of the character of the conservation area. In the Ladbroke area many terraces were designed to follow the contours of the hill so that the parapets (at roof level) remained continuous and unbroken. The types of housing built are highly significant and distinctive to the area. The terraces are either half or fully stuccoed with elaborate detailing; and pairs or trios of villas are of key special interest to the area. The setting of these houses is created by the gardens around them and the space in between them. A very special feature of the Ladbroke estate is the terrace ends, which were often designed to have the appearance of a symmetrical detached house.
1.7 However, the great innovation of the Ladbroke estate was the communal gardens situated behind the houses and therefore accessed directly from the owner’s rooms rather than by crossing a road into a central square as was usual at that time. Rather than providing a formal architectural set piece, this was simply more practical and must have played a part in the subsequent garden suburb movement and the evolution of the British back garden from service yard and vegetable patch to a place of leisure. The fact that many rear elevations onto the communal gardens are well designed in their own right brings about a relationship whereby each creates the setting for the other.
2.25 Highly significant features of the Ladbroke Conservation Area are the 16 private communal gardens that are located behind the terraces to the rear of the houses. All but two are almost completely landlocked between terraces, with the exceptions being Ladbroke Square which has one side fronting onto the street of the same name and Ladbroke Grove Garden which is located unusually to the front of a terrace.
2.26 The gardens are all registered Historic Parks & Gardens (Grade II) and each one has a slightly different character. The original idea for these is attributed to Thomas Allason, a distinguished architect and specialist in landscape design, but was refined by James Thomson, (who was a pupil of J.B. Papworth, the designer of the Montpellier Estate in Cheltenham) and others. At this time in London, private shared gardens were being built at the centre of formal squares which were accessed from the front door of each house, and across a road. Rear yards were accessed from the servants’ quarters and used as service areas.
2.27 The Victorians were discovering the health benefits of fresh air and this must have prompted this innovative design. The communal gardens in Ladbroke were designed to be accessed directly from the rear of the house. Most of the houses backing onto communal gardens were designed also to have a private garden or yard. The communal gardens were intended only for use by the families living in the surrounding houses and their servants and friends in their company. Gardeners accessed the gardens from gate in the railings along the street side of the gardens and original gates and railings here are rare and of great heritage value.
2.28 The gardens were an integral part of the estate and were a selling feature of the area. They were intended to have an Arcadian parkland feel rather than that of a domestic garden. The map of 1862-5 best shows the layout of the gardens, many of which still have their gravel paths encircling the garden; these turn in figure of eight patterns in the larger gardens.
2.29 The backdrop of the gardens is provided by the rear elevations of the houses that surround them which are often as finely detailed as the frontages. In most of the communal gardens, the houses have their own private garden area, separated from each other and from the communal garden with cast iron railings or bottle balustrades. A good number of original railings survive and make an important contribution to the character of the conservation area in themselves and by allowing the private and communal gardens to merge in an open and leafy manner. Each garden has its own uniform pattern of railings or balustrades, and where these are missing or have been replaced by walls or fences, the character of the area would be enhanced by their reinstatement.
2.30 Unfortunately, some private rear gardens, and their boundaries fronting the communal gardens, have suffered from visually insensitive and historically inappropriate alterations or additions. The private gardens are generally low-key with natural stone paving, low railings, and carefully managed planting to give some privacy, while maintaining the visual amenity of the ensemble that they make with the communal gardens. Light pollution from over-large windows or glass extensions can also be an issue in these valuable dark spaces.
2.31 There are usually service entrances into the communal gardens from the street, either where the side of the garden meets the street or between two terraces. The latter in particular form important gaps in the street scene and inappropriate modern gates in these locations would compromise the area’s historic character. The best examples of such gaps are in Kensington Park Gardens, where a magnificent archway gives access to Stanley Gardens South; and ornamental gates with the crest of Felix Ladbroke lead into Ladbroke Square. All original gates are of the highest conservation value.
2.32 In some gardens it appears that a line of trees was planted just beyond the private gardens in a similar way that trees were often planted in front gardens. Another common feature was a shrub bed immediately behind the private gardens in what is known as ‘no man’s land’ or the ‘buffer zone’. These trees and shrubs gave privacy to the private gardens without creating a solid barrier. The central lawns, on the other hand were intended to be more open with groups of trees planted at intervals.
2.33 Some of the gardens retain a few of the original trees and many of these trees, such as the mature London Planes of Arundel & Ladbroke Garden, should live there for decades more. Other original trees are now coming to the end of their natural life spans and will require replacement to ensure that the characteristic wooded appearance of many of the gardens is retained.
3.58 Rear elevation design is a particularly special feature of the Ladbroke Estate. Many of the rear elevations that are seen from communal gardens were designed with elevations that strongly echo the front elevations. The houses on Stanley Gardens have fully stuccoed rear elevations of similar design to the fronts with pilasters, capitals and cornices as well as the addition of curved bays. The houses with Dutch gables to their frontages on Lansdowne Road also have the same Dutch gables, arched windows and decorative finishes to their rear elevations. Fittingly some of the largest houses in the area (Kensington Park Gardens) overlook the largest garden (Ladbroke Square) with suitably elegant rear elevations.
3.59 Other rear elevations fronting communal gardens are less detailed but nonetheless clearly designed as a set piece with shared features and a high degree of uniformity. Examples of these are the brick and stucco elevations looking onto Arundel-Ladbroke Gardens from Arundel Gardens; and fully stuccoed groups looking onto Rosmead Garden from Elgin Crescent. Rears overlooking communal gardens are almost all designed to be flat without closet wings (although some have gables).
3.60 These formal rear elevations combined with the communal gardens are a highly significant feature of the heritage and character of the Ladbroke Conservation Area, designed to be appreciated in the same way as the front elevations.
3.61 Many other rear elevations overlooking individual private gardens follow the traditional format of stock brick rear with projecting closet wing. The height and projection of the closet wings vary from one street to another but their unifying characteristic is that they all follow the same pattern.
3.62 Other rear elevations, particularly to villa pairs, have canted or round bays rising through several storeys to the rear. Other pairs were built with flat backs and no rear projections.
3.63 Traditional fenestration on rear elevations also forms a uniform pattern. The decorative rear elevations have matching windows that sit next to each other on the same line, but others, such as those with closet wings have windows that are higher or lower according to whether they light a room or a stair landing inside. Both patterns of fenestration are equally important to the character of the conservation area as are other historic window types such as long round headed stair windows which sometimes have stained glass.
3.64 In several places, additions to the formal rear elevations have harmed the group and its prestige. Elsewhere new extensions have, in places, broken the established pattern, as have paint or render on some rear elevations that are part of brick terraces.
3.72 Many front gardens contain generous planting space where the shrubs and greenery make a welcome contribution. Examples of these can be seen to the terraces at nos. 8-30 (William Chadwick, 1848) and 56-70 (Thomas Pocock, 1851-2) Kensington Park Road and nos. 25-35 Ladbroke Grove (Francis Read, 1839-40) and most of the villa pairs and triplets.
3.73 The private back gardens leading onto the communal gardens often have similar planting which merges with that of the communal garden across their railings (where these remain). Private gardens therefore contribute to the haven of nature and peace of these special areas.
3.74 Traditionally the private gardens were separated from the communal garden by railings (sometimes mounted on low plinths and usually matching along that side of the garden) or in some cases bottle balustrades. This gives the same appearance as a front garden fronted with railings, or a parkland enclosure, and allows the greenery in the private gardens to be seen.
3.75 Houses not backing onto communal gardens tend to have old brick walls dividing the gardens that have great character of their own.
3.76 Gardens make an important contribution to the character of the conservation area but are sensitive to change. Removal of planting, removal of parts of the wall to accommodate parking and the introduction of non-original style boundaries all occur across the area with varying levels of harm.
3.77 Some back gardens have seen the loss of greenery to modernisation including hard surfaces for patios, enlarged lightwells or the construction of intrusive structures including solid fences to the boundaries. This harm to the area’s verdant character is compounded where it can easily be seen from the communal gardens or neighbouring windows. Restoration of railings or bottle balustrades on the other hand can enhance the setting of the communal garden.
6.4 Negative features affecting communal gardens:
• Poorly designed rear extensions.
• Extensions and unsympathetic alterations and additions to formal rear elevations.
• Light pollution from basement skylights, large areas of glazing, etc.
• Change in garden / patio level.
• Loss of boundary railings and use of non-original boundaries, such as timber fences.
• Removal of mature trees.
• Loss of original landscape design intent eg privacy planting.
• Installation of structures such as hard standings, garages, sheds.
• Similar issues to front elevations, such as loss of historic detail to rooflines, windows, painting not conforming to the group, infilling of gaps, etc.
• Use of unsympathetic materials such as tarmac.
• Alterations to the original fenestration, especially above lower ground floor level.
• Oversized lightwells.
Page last updated 29.1.2016