Archive for March, 2009

NORTHCOTE WARD E-bulletin March 2009

Author: Cyril Richert

I received today the latest newsletter from the  Councillors of Northcote ward:

NORTHCOTE WARD E-bulletin March 2009

Welcome to our latest bulletin with reports on local issues including Wandsworth’s decision to freeze Council tax at current levels, details of the Easter Holiday Fun programme and the latest on the Clapham Junction planning application. Please forward the bulletin to friends and neighbours in the area.

Philip Beddows, Peter Dawson and Martin Johnson

Councillors, Northcote Ward, Battersea,

Wandsworth Borough Council.


Among all the topics, the most important news regarding our action is the date of the Planning Committee to decide on Metro’s proposal to build 2 tower blocks with the redevelopment of the station.

Clapham Junction Planning Application

We expect the Planning Committee to consider this application at its meeting on Wednesday May 20th.

Our renewed thanks to everyone who has let us know their views about this application – it is probably the most important to affect Northcote Ward in a generation. If you have not yet submitted your views to the Council’s Planning department please do so as soon as possible.

The Clapham Junction action group has analysed the representations made so far and plotted them on a local map. See the article on their website.

The website of Metro Shopping Fund, the developer, is:

Whatever your own views send your comments, including your postal address, to Mark Hunter at

Copies should be sent to

1. Cllr Leslie McDonnell, Chairman of the Planning Applications Committee, with a request to circulate your views to members of the committee –

2. Cllr Edward Lister, Council Leader –

3. Your Northcote ward councillors

We will ensure that the views of Northcote residents are properly represented when the application is discussed so please do let us know what you think of it.

First of all, big thank for quoting our article in the newsletter. So the date is to be Wednesday May 20th. As Tony Belton (Cllr for Latchmere ward, member of the Planning Applications Committee) told us during our Public Meeting, one of the reason explaining the decision to refuse the planning application for Putney towers was the number of Putney locals attending the Planning Committee meeting, the day of the decision. He said “it is actually quite difficult to do something unpopular when surrounded by 100 people who don’t like what you are doing. It’s much easier to do something like that if you are surrounded, as you were in the Ram Brewery case, by 20 or 10 people.”

So it is very important that you make the most efforts to attend the meeting:

Date: Wednesday 20th May 2009 – 7.30pm (we advise you to come earlier, possibly 7-7.15pm)
Venue: Wandsworth Borough Council, The Town Hall, Wandsworth High Street, London SW18 2PU (more details how to get there on the website)

Related topic quoted from the newsletter, regarding another redevelopment decision is:

Springfield – Redevelopment Proposals Rejected

We welcome the rejection last week of proposals for the redevelopment of the Springfield site as being “out of keeping with the surrounding residential area”. See Springfield plans rejected

As Northcote councillor Martin Johnson said at the Planning committee:

“The effects of the development would have been felt far wider than just the neighbouring Tooting wards. Northcote would certainly have been affected”.

Read our previous article on recent planning rejections:

March 18, 2009 at 8:41 am

Recycling and Waste Minimisation – Public Meeting organised by the Battersea Society

The Battersea Society is organising a Public Meeting on Recycling and Waste Minimisation

Date: Thursday 19 March 2009
Time: 7.00 – 9.00 pm
Venue: Dimson Hall in Battersea Church Road (which is opposite to St. Mary’s the Parish Church of Battersea . It is fairly close to Battersea Bridge. Buses 49, 345 , 319 all from Clapham Junction).

A Waste of Time and Energy??

The Battersea Society believes that it is timely to look at the issue of recycling in the light of some adverse press reports, and the likely effects of the depression/recession with the fall in waste materials prices. Does the advance in incineration technology make this a more viable use of our waste.

At the same time recycling levels in Wandsworth are set to be only 26% in 2008/2009 with only modest target increases thereinafter. How can we expect people to cooperate to achieve an increase if they are beginning to question the rationale.

The obvious way to produce a significant improvement is to reduce the waste we generate in the first place with an increased emphasis on waste minimisation yet where are the incentives in the system to encourage this?

These and many more questions will arise during the course of the evening.

The meeting will do this by taking a local (Wandsworth) view of what is currently happening in a London wide context.

To do this, there will be highly qualified speakers to present the current picture and answer your questions.

  • Matthew Thompson, Chief Executive of the London Community Recycling Network,
  • Michael Singham the Senior Waste Policy Officer Wandsworth Council

March 13, 2009 at 10:53 am

In the Press

In reference to our previous article “Planning Decision Deferred Again“, South London Press published an article on the Council’s Planning Officer raising concerns about a large number of aspects of the scheme submitted by Metro Shopping Fund (click on the article to see it bigger).

South London Press - 27th Feb 2009

March 13, 2009 at 10:13 am

Wandsworth 2018: the case for no towers!

Author: Cyril Richert

The council has distributed a brochure in February about its vision for Wandsworth for the next ten years: Our Wandsworth 2018.

The seven priorities to the scheme are:

  1. making Wandsworth safer,
  2. improving the environment and transport,
  3. building a prosperous community,
  4. ensuring children and young people meet their potential,
  5. improving health and social care,
  6. meeting housing needs
  7. supporting active citizenship in the community.

Council leader Edward Lister said: “The aim of Our Wandsworth 2018 is to meet head-on the challenges we know we face, such as population growth, climate change and health issues, and what local people have told us they want to see, such as good quality parks, less pollution and action to tackle anti-social behaviour. But it’s not just the council’s plan – it was drawn up with our partners on the Wandsworth Local Strategic Partnership (WLSP) and is the long-term vision of how we will work together to improve the lives of the people in the borough over the next ten years.

Regarding Clapham Junction station, this is cited in the “transport” section, p12 and it says:

What we’ll do: Improve passenger facilities and accessibility at key local railway stations including making Clapham Junction fit for the 21st century.

First, to be fair, the changes occurring in Clapham Junction Station to improve passenger facilities and accessibility are part of the Government’s £370 million Access for All scheme, which envisaged the station being step-free by the end of 2009. This programme is entirely funded by the government and contractors are installing 9 lifts at Clapham Junction station. The Brighton Yard entrance at the top of St John’s Hill will be re-opened with a ticket office to provide direct access to the overbridge and the lifts.

Referring to the Wandsworth 2018 brochure, Michael Snaith was writing to the Council regarding the planning application:

Our Wandsworth 2018This is Battersea, not New York. We are failry homogenous community of low-rise, mostly brick-built and frequently Victorian or Edwardian buildings. The photo spread accross the opening page of the council’s “Our Wandsworth” brochure amply demonstrates how out of scales and unsympathetic in character  are the few existing high-rise blocks in the area. Standing out like a sor thumb is putting it mildly. Places like the sad, greying concrete towers of the Winstanley Estate are a relic of the Sixities craze for high-rise. As a “good place to live” quote par of the slogan you spread accross the aforementionned photo, they have been discredited and many of their fellows have been demolished.

Yet Metro wishes to inflict two monstrosities on us, bang in the centre of Battersea, that at 42 stories are roughly twice the height of the tallest Winstanley tower. They are also to be covered in stainless steel blue and yellow cladding which will make them stand out even more – if that’s possible. even in the developers’ own flatteringly constructed mock-ups, these towers look hideous, overpowering and totally out of keeping with their surroundings. Cutting them down a few floors – a favourite developer’s trick – is not an option. At 21 floors they’d still be an eyesore. No towers. Period.

[…] With the cafés, bars and small shops around Battersea Rise, Northcote Road and St John’s Hill, and Clapham Common nearby we have a village feeling, and you do encounter local friends in the street. It is a comfortable, human-scale place to be – and a Conservation Area. Those alien towers would overshadow everything, with no way to avoid seeing them.

The brochure Our Wandsworth 2018 says: “our vision: We want Wandsworth to be a community of global citizens living within environmental limits in an attractive high quality environment”. Do you think that most people will see these monsters as contributing to that “attractive environment”?

[…] In its “Our Wandsworth” brochure, it claims: “We listened to the concerns local people have now and for the future.” In every aspect, the Metro Shopping plan seems to be in conflict with the council’s own stated aims for the borough in its “long-term vision for the future” and should be voted down by the planning committee, unanimously, once and for all.

March 12, 2009 at 8:47 am

Artificial support orchestrated by the developers

Author: Cyril Richert

Up to the 4th of March 2009, we counted 550 objections on the Council’s website.

Most of the presentations are detailed, with arguments to express opinions on the plan. On 90% of the letters, you reject the towers, saying they are “two monstrosities“, “hideous, overpowering and totally out of keeping with their surroundings“,  “alien“, “obscene“, “out of scales, out of character“, “overwhelming“, “inappropriate“, “eyesore“, “aggressive/confrontational“, “send this proposal to Canary Wharf where it belongs, not nappy valley“, “poor design“, “feel horrified“… etc. This is definitely the number one objection and case for rejection; I don’t understand why it is not the number one preoccupation of the Council for the scheme, especially after their Wandsworth 2018 brochure claiming for a good place to live now and a better place for the future. You should read the letter sent by a local resident on that here.

But there are countless of other objections regarding the station development, the transport system, the environment consideration, the congestion created by the new residents. You can find very detailed letters on the Council website, and some of them have been published on our website here and there.

Even the Planning Officer is very concerned with the flaws in the proposal, as demonstrated by his letter sent to the developers here.

On the other hand, as we were denouncing the level of support recorded by the Council in December, most of them if not all being duplicate letters or sent by the same person (who happens to be working for a PR agency linked to the developers), we are now counting 162 presentations of support.

I was very curious to read about the arguments to defend the design, shape and height of the towers, the beauty of the schemes, and probably plenty of other positive arguments. Unfortunately there was no surprise: most (if not all) of the new support are again duplicate support card, with the same text as last December:

I would like to express my support for the Metro Shopping Fund’s redevelopment for Clapham Junction Station.

The proposals will help regenerate the Town Centre and will transform the station. This is once in a life time opportunity, it the plans are not supported we will face years of continued dreadful conditions at the station. I urge the Council to support the proposals.

Support cardYou can see an example of those “support cards” on the left hand side (click on the image to enlarge).

Therefore I cannot call them “letters of support” as they are just copies of formatted text by a PR agency working for the developers, not even local letters (one is coming from Liverpool!). In addition you probably noticed that they are only support for the station redevelopment, not the two 42 stories tower blocks Metro proposes to build.

If you remove those automated-without argumentation-fake support, some of them with not details but just a name, the number of support drops to less than… 50! Amazing, isn’t it?

In the document attached (click on the link) I have listed with colour codes the type of support letter:

  • orange: cards printed by developers/PR agency with the exact text above (I would like to express… etc) = 90 submissions
  • green: emails or letters with the exact text above (I would like to express… etc) = 25 submissions
  • pink: duplicate from the same person = 2 submissions (the Planning Officer removed dozens previously)
  • white: others = 45 submissions

So, 550 objections vs 45 genuine supports (i.e. not formatted by a PR agency).

But where is it located exactly?

We display two maps below with the following colours:
= objections to the planning permission
orange = “artificial” support with standard letter/card (organised by the PR agency)
blue= “genuine” support

map1= red vs orange+blue
(click on the map to see it bigger)

Map1 - Objections vs Support

map2= red vs blue (click on the map to see it bigger)

Map1 - Objections vs Support (we removed the "artificial" support)

As you can see, there can be NO doubt at all that there is a massive rejection of the developers’ proposal!

March 11, 2009 at 9:49 am 3 comments

Open Letter to the Councillors of Shaftesbury Ward

From : Cyril Richert
To : Cllr Guy Senior ; Cllr Paul Ellis; Cllr James Cousins
Date : Wed, 4 March 2009, 12h52mn 25s
Object : Letter to the Councillors of Shaftesbury Ward

Dear Cllr Guy Senior,
Dear Cllr Paul Ellis,
Dear Cllr James Cousins,

In light of the campaign against the proposal of building inappropriate tower blocks in Clapham Junction, I have requested the opinion of your colleagues of the adjacent wards. I have also sent you specific questions that your colleagues have addressed in appropriate ways.

Your absence at recent events involving significant changes to the borough have raised concern among voters. Important decisions need to be made concerning our future that will dramatically impact our daily lives and change the neighbourhood of which we are all members.

As elected officials, your responsibility to represent our interests is clear, yet by your very absence it seems that our interests are not your top priority. On the numerous occasions where elected officials from neighbouring communities have taken the time to discuss the many concerns facing Clapham Junction, your absence was noticeable and I must inquire as to why it is so difficult to engage you, our elected representative, in a discussion of such great importance.

Early in the beginning of our campaign we were pleased that your Conservative Colleagues in Northcote ward such as Cllrs Johnson, Beddows and Dawson, published in the Wandsworth Borough News of the 19th November 2008 a call to encourage residents to ensure that their views are submitted to the Council so that the Planning Committee is fully aware of their views and comment when the application is considered. We relayed the article in a post here. There was no news from Shaftesbury ward.

Later, in December, I wrote to all the Councillors about our public meeting organised in January. I received a nice response from Cllr Philip Beddows on the same day, telling me he intends to be at the meeting, cc’ing his two colleagues from Northcote Road. Later in this same evening, I received another email from Cllr Peter Dawson, confirming that the date of the public meeting was in his diary and requesting information.

Regarding Latchmere ward, Tony Belton contacted me on the 14th November spontaneously after receiving my leaflet, and we met later after exchanging several emails. And on the same day of December when I received emails from the Councillors of Northcote ward, Cllr Leonie Cooper contacted me offering her help.

In addition, you must know that, albeit fully aware of the need for the members of the Planning Committee not to pre-determine the decision, I asked the majority of the Council to provide a speaker to answer general queries about the plan and regretted the silence of the Councillors of Shaftesbury ward.

Following the public meeting organised on the 28th of February, I did not see any of you (yes, Cllr Ellis said that he was there, but apparently he couldn’t hear despite the microphones as he did not notice when I clearly deplored – before Cllr Johnson spoke – that no news had been recieved from the Shaftesbury ward councillors).

I was concerned to read in Cllr Cousins and Cllr Ellis’ emails a few days later that they think members of the Council have to remain silent – which was clearly not shared by their colleagues from the adjoining wards.

When I emailed all of you (twice) regarding recent consequences of road planning, I received a specific response from Latchmere ward and very detailed (email and phone conversation) from Northcote ward…. and from Shaftesbury: just emails to forward to Cllr Senior (from whom I am still awaiting a response).

I am trying to understand the reasons why issues of the constituents are not addressed the same way in your ward (my ward) as they are in the other wards. I would really appreciate if you could actually explain the situation and I remain available should you want to discuss more.

I look forward to your responses.

Best regards

Cyril Richert

Here are the answers:

From: Paul Ellis (Cllr)
To : Cyril Richert; Cllr Guy Senior; Cllr James Cousins
Date : Thu, 5 March 2009, 17h46mn 40s
Object : RE: Letter to the Councillors of Shaftesbury Ward

Dear Mr Richert

Thank you for your further email. As was stated quite clearly in my email of 30 January, I have replied to all letters and emails from constituents about this particular development proposal. All comments, including your own, will be taken into consideration if I am required to vote on this application. Whenever there is a planning application, no matter how large or small, a full consultation and residents are encouraged to write to the Planning Department to give their views, and this proposal is no exception.

The guidelines regarding predetermination have been explained to you on a number of occasions; if others chose to ignore them and run the risk they are precluded from voting that is a matter for them.

Best wishes

Paul Ellis

I note the criticism on Paul Ellis’ colleagues: Cllrs Johnson, Beddows, Dawson, Belton and Cooper, who should better adopt his “objective” posture. Surely they will appreciate and the constituents too. His previous letter can be seen here with comments about the real meaning of pre-determination.

From: James Cousins
To : Cyril Richert
Cc : Cllr Guy Senior ; Cllr Paul Ellis
Date : Wed, 4 March 2009, 13h07mn 28s
Object : RE: Letter to the Councillors of Shaftesbury Ward

Dear Mr Richert,

Many thanks for your email.

Unfortunately I am working away from home and cannot give it the time it deserves until the weekend so I hope you will forgive a delay in a full reply.

However, to give a brief response. For a major decision which might go to full council you are well aware of the need for councillors to avoid pre-determination. I recognise other councillors have spoken out, but personally feel they have gone too far. I am not sure how much you know of the ‘reasonable man’ in English law, but I would suspect, for example, that a reasonable man would view Cllr Belton’s comments featured on your video as pre-determination.

The stance is clearly down to the individual councillor. I am not qualified to comment on where the line is drawn, and therefore, on this subject, I would prefer not to take the risk of pre-determination. I would hope you can understand and respect that decision.


James Cousins.

Post on Cllr Cousins' blog 4th MarchJames Cousins is apparently the only Councillor to have a blog. I sent a comment on Wednesday 4th March, questioning the point of not addressing the concern of the voters in any way. At the date (Monday 8.30am) I publish this article, the comment has not been validated and published (see here on the page – although you can see what I wrote by clicking on the thumbnail on the left hand side). Apparently his cautious attitude about not showing any pre-determination goes to the point that even comments of his constituents are trapped 😉

And of course, no news of Cllr Guy Senior who will probably only show up for the next elections when he will need your votes 😉

Update 09 March: Further reply from James Cousins.

From: James Cousins
To : Cyril Richert
Cc : Cllr Guy Senior ; Cllr Paul Ellis
Date : Mon, 9 March 2009,
10h12mn 03s
Object :
Re: Re : Letter to the Councillors of Shaftesbury Ward

Dear M Richert,

Further to my original email, my apologies I could not write more fully at the time, but my thanks for allowing me the opportunity to clear up your misunderstanding.

Having had the opportunity to more fully read through your emails I am not sure how much more I can add. I understan you believe my actions have caused concerns among local residents. But this is not an analysis I can share.

I believe that I am one of the more accessible councillors and am always happy to engage in a constructive dialogue with residents. On this subject I have corresponded with a number of people who have approached me in a variety of ways. On each occasion I have replied, detailing my interpretation of pre-determination and assisted as far as I can, encouraging them to make their representations to the planning department (as well as detailing how they can do this) and on at least one occasion liaising with the planning department to provide more details.

With regard to pre-determination I am afraid you have misinterpreted my initial email, perhaps because I was not clear enough. It is for each councillor to judge their own actions on pre-determination, these may be challenged on appeal. Personally, I prefer not to take the risk. It is for other councillors to decide how far they are prepared to go.

Your attempt to suggest that my feeling that Cllr Belton’s remarks are further than I would like to go is politically motivated is, unfortunately, very wide of the mark. Cllr Belton and I have a lot of political differences, as I am sure he would confirm, but this is not one of them.


James Cousins.

March 9, 2009 at 8:30 am

Network Rail justification: we have not planned any funding before at least 2014, so you MUST accept the proposal!

Author: Cyril Richert

Concerns have been expressed by Mark Hunter, the planning officer, with regard to the role and the transparency of Network Rail in relation to the package of benefits provided. In particular he pointed out that clarity was needed on the funding and the specific benefits that would be provided by the development.

Mark Hunter wrote to Network Rail on 23 January to seek clarification.

After saying that the Council has undertaken a major consultation exercise [er, really? When? A public meeting maybe? Ooops no, the Council did not want to organise it], the Planning Officer reminded us that the Core Strategy Policy does seek substantial improvements to the station through a section 106 Agreement [if you want to know all about this bribery extortion agreement, read the explanation from Julia here]. And Mark Hunter emphasises:

the benefits to be secured are for the most part significant infrastructure improvements that directly benefit Network Rail and … your organisation should be funding these improvements.

Therefore it seems that Mark Hunter is trying to assess whether these improvements are actually at the expense of other policy considerations such as affordable housing, public realm improvements or sustainability measures.

He is rightly pointing out that it is disappointing that Network Rail has not been willing to make any commitment to provide funding for additional work such as platform lengthening. The statement from Network Rail accompanying the planning application says: “Clapham Junction is set to benefit from a separate but related improvement schemes in the coming year”.

He is clearly criticizing Network Rail for being aware of big opportunities for them to save money, but refusing to make any clear commitment on their plan and instead sticking to broad statements. Network Rail Strategic Business Plan 2006 included £156 millions for station improvements. How come none of this was allocated to CJ?

Other questions that spring to mind, on which we need answers, include:

  • does the development plan include the Brighton Yard entrance re-opening in 2009, or does it set that aside?
  • are we going to get the explanation and detailed information we need on the Funding and strategy for the East London Line extension?
  • are we going to get details of the package of works proposed and funding – what works?
  • When are the developers going to provide a compelling case for their proposal to close the current subway main entrance?

Here comes Network Rail’s answer to the points made by the council’s planning officer.

According to them:

  1. Network Rail was already working on ways of improving CJ station BUT have been told by Wandsworth Council to work with Metro Shopping Fund [i.e. it’s not us, the Council obliged us to work with MSF, but we wanted to spend our own money independently].
  2. They have now been working with MSF for 5 years [how come nobody told us about the plan and skyscrapers, etc… within the past 5 years?]
  3. They are pleased to hear that the proposed improvements are welcomed [actually they are mistaken because the Planning Officer said: “considerable concern has been expressed”].
  4. In the absence of funding from other sources [does it translate as: in the absence of funding from Wandsworth Council?] Network Rail saw an opportunity of working with Metro [oh, I thought they were forced!].
  5. The footbridge is much more logical than the subway [really? Then most of the travellers using the station must be completely illogical passengers, poor them…].
  6. The proposal has been designed to consider future growth until 2026 [so what do we do then? Build another skyscraper?].
  7. The core of the proposed station improvements is to close the subway at both ends, allowing access to the station only from the footbridge [instead of distributing all this literature about escalators and roof garden, what about asking people what they REALLY think? As has been expressed by the Planning Officer, opinion from a number of quarters is that removing the current entrance/exit will lead to further inconvenience for those interchanging with buses and coming to and from the town centre… let alone creating a longer walk to the platforms].
  8. The new ‘town centre’ will be moved from the current St John’s street (plus Northcote road)/Lavender Hill/Falcon Road/St John’s Hill crossroads with the iconic Arding and Hobbs tower, to the Grand Theatre [therefore losing connection with the shops in Northcote Road and Lavender Hill].
  9. Metro will create a dedicated drop-off taxi facility for the first time at CJ [however the Council has also voted to relocate the taxi-rank from the centre of St. John’s Hill to the kerbside, which will provide a better drop-off facility].
  10. A significant contribution that Network Rail is making is by releasing its land (Brighton buildings, St John’s Hill station entrance, arches in Grant Road [but Brendan, speaking on behalf of the developers said “Network Rail do not have enough land to lengthen and straighten the platforms to current standards, which is why Metro are proposing making land they control available to Network Rail for that purpose”, so it looks rather the opposite…].
  11. Network Rail Strategic Plan 2006, which referred to proposals for Clapham Junction station, has been abandoned due to complexity and cost [and nothing replaced. Good management tactic for saving money!]
    The new plan starts in April 2009 and finishes in 2014?. As Network Rail is expecting the MSF proposal to be approved, nothing is planned for CJ before 2014? [is there a word for forcing people to do something they don’t want by removing any alternative?]
  12. Network Rail Plan review in 2008 was asking for £56 million independently of Metro’s proposal [it is not clear here if it was ‘just in case’ or if they intended to spend that amount in addition to the £39.5m of MSF] but [such a shame] it was refused and ‘only’ £20-£25m granted [with such a pittance, surely nothing can be done!].
  13. In addition to the funding detailed above, two other commitments have been made at CJ station. The National Stations Improvement Programme has allocated £2m (funding stair access, information panels, subway improvements, waiting facilities).
  14. The Access for All scheme is spending £12m at CJ. MSF will use all the lifts installed by the government [thus saving money]
  15. The Brighton Yard entrance in 2009 will be designed to accommodate no more than 30% of the passengers who use the existing St John’s Hill entrance [great, then it means up to 30% of passengers redirected to Brighton Yard entrance = 30% less congestion than currently! Hip hip hip…].

Basically, according to Network Rail, as the Council did not show them any sign of wrongdoing [and even ‘encouraged’ them to work with Metro Shopping Fund on their proposal], the only recent improvements included in the Network Rail Plan (CP4) are in line with the proposal and of course [as apparently Network Rail could not imagine otherwise] nothing is planned to be funded independently before…2014!

Well, it seems there are now two possible solutions which we could all get together to explore:

  1. Network Rail to look at their contingency plan and make amendments [yes, they can].
  2. MSF to start back from scratch, forget about their hideous towers and redesign a complete new proposal, incorporating the views and objections of the people who live there.

MSF proposal is quoted £39.5m + the 2 skyscrapers mandatory, to compare with about £40m (minimum) for a proposal that does not have the ugly tower blocks. What is your choice for the future of your neighbourhood? Go and vote, write to the Council and let them know your views!

And I kept the best bit for the end: the knife in the back. Network Rail writes in the letter:

It does concern me that many of your points raised are at odds with the atmosphere of the businesslike and constructive discussions I have had with your Council’s officers and I understand have been experienced by our colleagues in the development team“.

And last but not least:

In the event that your comments have been the result of scheme objections, then please let Network Rail and metro work with you to help, inform and explain our position“.

Can I remind everybody that Network Rail refused to participate in the Public Meeting, claiming that they were busy answering to the Council’s request? Who are they making fool of?

March 6, 2009 at 12:16 am 4 comments

Finance matters

Author: Cyril Richert

Metro Shopping Fund is the joint venture between Delancey and Land Securities who submitted the proposal for Clapham Junction re-development (read about their latest brochure here)

In an article published last year, the Daily Telegraph wrote: “Cash is king… and Delancey’s got plenty“. Delancey is the property company Jamie Ritblat set up when he left British Land (then, managed by his father) in 1995. Father and son are now working in Jamie’s company. According to the Telegraph, “just weeks before the credit crunch effectively froze the commercial property market in August, Delancey completed the last of a tranche of deals that saw it sell £1.5bn of investment, largely office, property. Six months later, that sector of the market had fallen by between 10pc and 20pc. At the same time, the father and son team were out talking to investors to raise Delancey’s largest fund to date, the €1.5bn (£1.1bn) European evergreen fund. Add debt to that and the pair have firepower of anything up to €6bn. […] By creating a fund that has no fixed life, Delancey has a pool of cash it can tap into as and when the company chooses.“.

On the other hand, Land Securities does not seem that lucky. Land Securities is Britain’s largest property company and got the go-ahead for its project of building a huge redevelopment in London’s Victoria last month.  As you can read in our previous article on section 106 (also known as section 106 agreement), planning obligations can include the payment of cash to the council – to recompense, for example, the loss of public space – contributions towards infrastructure, or a minimal level of affordable housing on a site. But the Land Securities felt short in providing affordable housing (claiming it was outweighed with other benefits of the £1bn proposal) in a desperate move to save money.

The game in the current economic torment  is to increase the financial payback  from schemes at the expense of section 106 contributions. Last month, an independent report for the government warned that “there will be pressures to change and renegotiate section 106 agreements“. “Many developers do not feel there is sufficient profit in schemes now to deliver numbers agreed in more optimistic times,” said the report by Professor Michael Parkinson, director of the the European Institute of Urban Affairs, quoted by the Financial Times.

This is already what happens for Clapham Junction redevelopment as Metro Shopping Fund’s commitment is about £40m for CJ station improvement if they can build their two tower blocks (to be compared with about £40m that could be funded by the Government and Network Rail independently – and even £60m was asked by NR last year but turned down). For that, they cannot provide affordable accommodation, they told the Council. But the Valuation Office report does state that should permission be granted, the development would be unlikely to start in the near future and given the length of any build programme (here 3 years minimum – it won’t be achieved for the East London Line and the Olympic Games anyway), the economic conditions are likely to be different at the end of the programme.

Last but not least, there is not certainety (although as said above we are not talking about small players, but everyone has got issues) that the development will go ahead, should the permission be granted. By getting planning permission for a tower that would quadruple the amount of development on a site, the developer quadruples the site value without laying a brick. This additional value is then sold off for cash or simply sits in the developer’s portfolio, acting as a collateral acquisitions. This is apparently what was planned for the Battersea Power Station redevelopment where the developers did not intend to build anything at the Power Station and were just procrastinating while the condition of the building deteriorates (the Dyson tower was a good way of wasting 2 years in a public inquiry but it was so blatantly ridiculous, that they had to withdraw it).

March 5, 2009 at 2:30 pm

A better consultation

Author: Cyril Richert

In his letter to the developers, Wandsworth Council planning officer was asking for further and better consultation: Mr Hunter acknowledges the campaign for additional consultation including the provision of scale models at the station and requests Metro Shopping Fund to consider whether they would like to be involved in such an exercise.

I was talking recently with Jane Ellison about the consultation and was actually deploring the fact that instead of consulting ahead, presenting to the residents different solutions and requesting feedback, it seems that the preferred option is to push ahead only one solution, and wait until numerous effort is spent to oppose it (think about the Putney towers or the Battersea Power Station redevelopment).

However this approach can work. As Simon Jenkins was quoting the example of Paris in his recent article in the Evening Standard, we have over there a good example of major station/shopping mall redevelopment.

plan-de-metro-parisLes Halles, located at the heart of Paris, is a major transport hub (actually the largest subway hub in Europe) with a convergence of three lines of RER (a network of express underground lines) leading out of the city to the south, east and west, the completely automatic and newest metro line Meteor, and 3 lines of standard metro. You have currently 800,000 travellers a day, tens of thousands of neighbours, of visitors, of customers of the numerous businesses, in total 40 million people a year. Also, Les Halles is a large commercial centre in Paris. The budget (although certain to rise in the future) is at present £150-£200 millions.

I know we are focusing on Clapham Junction, and some will say it is not as important… or as romantic as Paris ( :-p ), but you certainly noted some similarities in term of transport importance and budget.

So, what happened? In 2005, the Mayor of Paris announced a vast new initiative: a complete change and reconstruction of Les Halles. The base line is a concept that will still be satisfactory in 25 years time.

In order to do so, a competition was organised, and exhibition available to visitors. The first architecture competition for a new Halles in 2004 failed to convince, and of the four finalists — the others were Jean Nouvel, Rem Koolhaas and Winy Maas — only Mr. Mangin’s conservative proposal for the gardens was retained. A new competition was organized, with Mr. Berger and Mr. Anziutti now chosen from among 10 finalists, including Massimiliano Fuksas, Toyo Ito and Paul Chemetov. So for the same budget as CJ redevelopment (even less apparently), the discussion and competition was much better!

The chosen design (press release here in French) will in effect reach 66 feet below the ground to the roof of the station, though the shopping areas will remain largely intact. The principal novelty will be a so-called patio, measuring roughly 215 feet by 150 feet, which will be open to ground level and protected from the elements by the canopy (the CJ proposal includes also a canopy).

Amazing, isn’t it? It does not have towers… French must be magicians, they don’t need to build tower blocks everywhere to restore and improve a major transport hub and town centre area!

Berger-Anziutti - Les Halles (Paris) - Canope 1 Berger-Anziutti - Les Halles (Paris) - Canope 2

Other designs (once again you will notice that nobody is proposing a tower block on top of the major transport hub!), not approved, were :
















March 4, 2009 at 3:55 pm 8 comments

Section 106 dictating our landscape

Author: Julia Matcham

First, trying to sum up what has been going on regarding Clapham Junction development plans, one has to go back a bit to really understand the Council’s motivations. It is fairly boring to read the extracts from the Council’s Core Strategy Doc. (see at the bottom of this article for further explanation), but only by getting the idea of the dynamics which affect all Councils can one appreciate the impact of Section 106. (Click here to see description of possible agreements under the act as spelled out by lawyers offering their services, but if you Google Section 106 it will bring up this famously useful section as top of a long list of items on the subject).

Briefly, Section 106 is part of Planning Law by which the side effects of a given planning consent are paid for by the developer. For example a large development may have peripheral effects re-, for example, road relocations, road signs, re-plantations of trees, etc, and the legality of recompense, financial or in terms of works, for such events is built into Section 106.

While it sounds rational, it is easy to see that this act is open to abuse, effectively facilitating bribery and extortion depending on the participants desires to get what they want. It is hard to imagine that Councils do not bargain necessary local works to be implemented against planning consents granted or that developers of large projects don’t foresee a percentage of notional profit going to the Council for ‘this and that’ !

This is exactly what seems to be happening where the Ram Brewery (Wandsworth Town Centre) development is concerned, where the developers propose to deal with the current road bottleneck system in return for 11 tall buildings, two of which are actual tower blocks. It is also what is happening in the current (I think) stalemate between the developers of the Power Station Site and the Council where they are trying to bargain a huge tower against restoring the Power Station. Otherwise no go! What is strictly legal regarding this Acts highly flexible possibilities must be a very difficult to determine.

Effectively something similar is happening at the Junction. According to Metro Shopping Fund they can’t afford to renovate the Junction (under Section 106) unless they can have two tower blocks, which also suits the Council who are bent on solving their housing targets. It certainly seems strange that the Councils ‘Core Strategy Document’ quoted below makes little or no reference to Network Rail whose job it truly is to make CJ fit for use, but instead happily talks about the development of the Junction as an oncoming fact. The impression one gets from the document is that, but for Mark Hunter calling the developers to account, and ourselves making a boring fuss about ugly tower blocks being inappropriate, the Council would have quietly achieved its ‘London Plan’ (see below) housing objective, together with ‘improving’ the Junction, in one happy bit of rewarding three-way bartering, achieved, thanks to Metro Shopping, and Network Rail (happy to be co-operative in return for getting its work, which it swears it couldn’t afford, done for it!).

Unfortunately, the Council cannot help but be a thick-skinned beast trying to fulfill objectives handed down to them by others. In their need to do this, ugly things like tower blocks become ‘taller buildings’ which become ‘interesting landmarks’ . They simply find justifications for what they want.

I have to say that to me, reading the Core Strategy document, it looks as though the Council have had this development in mind, together with its presumed Section 106 benefits, for long before we got to know anything about it.

If we allow Section 106 to dictate deal after deal where Councils get their work done in return for planning permission for Tower Blocks our local landscape will be transformed into an ugly, unsociable, inhuman-in-scale, boring, environment!

Councils must do better than this when considering major developments. We need to see more than one way of developing the Junction, more than one style of architecture to imagine in place and a general plan which includes the good of the current community living in the buildings affected.

The Core Strategy Document is the Council’s Bible and although they write it themselves they have to take into account Government protocols.
The following are just the most relevant passages.

Incorporated into it is this information:-

The London Plan:

  • Requires 7,450 new homes to be provided in Wandsworth over the period 2007/8 to 2016/17, with an annual target of 745. The Plan calls for 50% of all new homes in London to be affordable. Within this context, councils are to set their own targets to reflect local circumstances.
  • Designates Vauxhall/Nine Elms/Battersea as an Opportunity Area, where mixed development is promoted to accommodate both new jobs and new homes.
  • Identifies the town centres of Putney, Wandsworth, Clapham Junction and Tooting as Major Centres, and Balham as a District Centre, where retailing, services, employment, leisure and housing should be promoted along with opportunities for mixed development.

A bit further down is the line…

Seeks the promotion of tall buildings on suitable sites ….

So one gathers that the Council is doing what it is told …Again later it says:

There are redevelopment opportunities in Clapham Junction. The main issue here is how these opportunities could assist in providing the much needed redevelopment of the station.

No mention of Network Rails responsibilities!

Also from Core Strategy Doc.

Clapham Junction Station and adjoining sites

4.99 The station remains almost unchanged from its nineteenth century appearance.

Growing passenger numbers mean that its existing connections become cramped due to overcrowding. The increasing importance of Clapham Junction as an interchange warrants the creation of a station fit for the twenty-first century. It should have first class facilities for passengers, be inclusive in design, as well as being a quality civic building. The existing station approaches from the south and north offer a limited retail experience. The opportunity exists to re-structure the station approaches and provide an enhanced shopping area, together with a substantial residential and employment content. The good public transport connections to central London, Gatwick and Heathrow airports and south London and south-east England make the area a suitable location for high trip generating office development. Given the strategic importance of the station there may be justification for some taller buildings. These may help to reinforce and add visual significance to the town centre and a significant level of additional housing would make more efficient use of transport infrastructure, reducing dependency on car travel.

And then later …

The area may be suitable for taller buildings given the proximity to Clapham Junction Station. There is an opportunity to create a new urban public space of high quality. The Council considers there is potential for a Primary Care Centre to be located in Clapham Junction/north Battersea (see policy IS6 and supporting text).

And then later…

4.105 The Clapham Junction station proposals, as well as providing a modern accessible station, will offer potential to provide attractive modern shopping floorspace which should relieve pressure on the independent shops in Northcote Road, allowing this area to continue its specialist and complementary shopping role.

No mention of Network Rail. It is assumed that the developers will pay.

March 3, 2009 at 12:10 pm

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