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5 February 2018

LOCAL CONSERVATION AREAS: Part 1 High Beeches

Conservation Areas are places with special architectural or historic interest, which deserve careful management to protect that character. Bexley is fortunate in that is has 23 across the borough. Special controls apply to buildings in these areas and each one has an area appraisal and management plan.

The High Beeches Conservation Area was designated in 2005 and brought into being in 2008. Its area includes High Beeches, part of The Grove, part of The Spinney and part of St James Way. It was justified by features such as Mature Beech trees along avenues with grass verges and a backdrop of well-designed 1930s "styled" properties; the quality and preservation of these examples of housing; the balance, harmony, rhythm of built form and the related open spaces, particularly in front and between the properties; vistas along tree lines roads and views between buildings to the green space and trees beyond; and many original building characteristics such as hipped roofs and curved metal windows.

The area is situated on formerly open farmland and was developed as a residential estate in the mid-1930s. Trees were always integral to the character of this area and those along High Beeches itself appear from old maps to reflect those along the original field boundary. There are many splendid mature trees throughout the Conservation area, which enhance and add to its special qualities. High Beeches and its immediate surroundings were developed on part of the former North Cray Place estate, the grounds of which (together with those of Foots Cray Place) now form the public open space known as Footscray Meadows.

A particular feature of the area is the former entrance Lodge (No. 68 St James Way) to North Cray Place on the junction of St James Way and High Beeches. This bears the date 1891 and the initials of Robert Arnold Vansittart, the grandson of Lord Bexley who owned both Foots Cray Place and North Cray Place. On the border of the area are two other former entrance Lodges. One (No. 77 St James Way) led to Honeyden, later renamed Cray Hall, built in 1816. Sadly, its matching gothic-cottage style has been largely lost by enlargement and the addition in recent years of artificial stone cladding. The other Lodge (No. 1 St James Way) is a weather-boarded cottage that once led to Manor Farm. Today, both are divided from what were their former main houses by the dual carriageway.

The acquisition of Conservation Area status brings with it additional planning controls, the aim of which is to assist in the 'preservation and enhancement' of the area. These include the need for planning consent for the enlargement of a house over 10% of the size of the original building; cladding any part of the exterior of a property in stone, artificial stone, timber, plastic or tiles; and the enlargement of a house by additions to or alteration of its roof. Notification has also to be given of felling or lopping of trees.

The complete Area Appraisal and Management Plan for the High Beeches Conservation Area can be seen by following this Link