YOUR report on Harrow Council's conservation guidelines ['New council planning guidelines to protect conservation areas', Observer, May 1] unwittingly conceals alarming evidence that our council puts conservation before public safety.

The planning document for conservation at Roxborough Park and the Grove (Harrow on the Hill) claims that "in line with English Heritage's guidance it is essential a flexible approach is taken to the requirements of the Building Regulations and Fire Precautions Act."

English Heritage was aghast when asked if it really prioritised conservation over fire safety precautions. It immediately disowned Harrow Council's claim. Replying to my enquiry, a spokesman wrote: "I would agree the phrase implies that safety precautions should take second place to character considerations. This could be misleading. Our guidance does not mean ignoring basic safety requirements but applying thought to find a solution which enhances the conservation area whilst meeting the requirements for safety."

Harrow Council has already demonstrated its indifference to our safety by cynically overriding strong objections from the fire service to unnecessary road humps imposed all over Harrow on the Hill. The fire fighters - who know better than the council - fear the humps will further delay attendance times at fires like the one at Coniston Court in November.

Harrow Council had no right to implicate English Heritage in its irresponsible attitude to public safety. English Heritage rejected the councl's further assertion that "rigorous application of general planning and highways policies should be relaxed where they would be in conflict with the prerservation or enhancement of the area's character or appearance."

English Heritage has sent a suggested correction to conservation officer Lorna Pierce. It includes the advice: "Where a conflict with general planning and highways policies occurs, special care must be taken to find a solution which meets both the needs of the local community and the historical environment."

Will Harrow Council for once eat humble pie and learn a lesson?


Byron Hill Road Harrow on the Hill