One of the key points raised by residents at the Have Your Say crime meeting on 3rd October was the limitation on home owners for the installation of security equipment on their property. Examples were given of residents that had been forced to remove security equipment, only for their property to be burgled later.
As an action point from the meeting, our local councillors approached the council’s planning officers to obtain advice on what might be feasible within the constraints of planning regulations. The planning officers responded to state:
“Our City Plan policy 44 covers security measures, and notes in the accompanying text that ‘Security measures and surveillance equipment must, wherever possible, be sensitively designed and positioned to avoid detrimental visual effects, as Westminster’s historic townscapes are sensitive to visual intrusion. Measures should provide effective protection and embrace good design’.
“Whilst alarm boxes and cameras can have a potential to clutter buildings, officers consider that a balance can be struck in this particular case to secure a coordinated approach to the installation of security measures. Whilst some harm to the appearance of buildings may arise from these measures, subject to following the suggested approach below the harm could be considered to be outweighed by the public benefits arising from the greater security of the buildings.”
Planning consent will be needed for any such installation, but by following the following approach given by the planning officers, the chance of such a planning application being successful is significantly increased:
One alarm box per building (and not one per flat should the building be more subdivided internally – with the strong preference for the flat occupying lower ground floor level) could be set into the location highlighted below. It should have a white casing to better harmonise with the render to the building, though in this location would still appear a readily visible deterrent. It would not be acceptable if it incorporated the lights that some alarm boxes can have.
Set both slightly away from, and beneath, the bridge across to the main entrance door the box would appear difficult to reach in terms of unauthorised access to it.
Locations that would appear appropriate for the installation of security cameras are listed below. Note that this guidance is for planning purposes only and residents are recommended to also consult data protection legal guidance on the installation of CCTV.
To front entrance doors, a video camera incorporated into a doorbell arrangement would be supported, provided the casing matched the colouring of the door framing (ie. as below, if the framing is white in colour then the casing should also be white – essentially all door frames in Connaught Square are either black or white, which are both commercially available colours for such equipment).
A location for a small camera in dome form – thus allowing for a wider coverage of the main front entrance and front lightwell area – could be acceptable in either of the following two locations. Firstly, on the render band/cill course above ground floor level and immediately adjoining the first floor balcony, or within the front lightwell in the location suggested below. The wiring should be discreetly taken along the top of the balcony and enter the building at a point which would not harm internal fabric of importance to the listed buildings.
The officers add that “We would keep an open mind to advancing technology, recognising that smaller and more discreet cameras are becoming more readily commercially available, such as the example below.”