Archive for April, 2009

Leaflet distribution

No towers for Clapham JunctionThe Clapham Junction Action Group has published a new leaflet available on the link here.

We intend to distribute the leaflet from the 2 May onward and are looking for help. If you can spare 1 or 2 hours helping to distribute some papers in the vicinity of Clapham Junction, please contact us here.

April 28, 2009 at 12:40 pm

The twin towers: a missed opportunity for developing office space

[From Cyril Richert: Following the resubmitted application by Metro Shopping Fund and the invitation to submit comments, we publish below, with the consent of its author, two letters sent to the Planning Officer developing the case for businesses and the miss-opportunity for Clapham Junction.]

Author: Simon Ho

Dear Mark

resubmitted application 2008/4488 for Development at Clapham Junction Station

Many thanks for getting into contact re the resubmission of the aforementioned planning application. It is clear that the resubmission still fails to answer my greatest concern over the proposal, which is:

The scheme completely fails to take an unmissable opportunity to take full advantage of the site location, and in doing so will fail to allow the town centre to reach its full potential, and indeed does not maximise the rental value of the proposed retail. In otherwords, I object on the grounds that this scheme will fail to maximise the regeneration potential of the town, and in doing so represent an irreversible blight on that opportunity.

Thanks to new and current transport infrastructure, by 2015 the site will have:

A new tube service to Clapham High Street in Lambeth and Denmark Hill and Peckham in Southwark, due to the East London Line Phase 2, which is now a TfL commitment.
6 minutes direct rail connection to London Victoria.
8 minute direct rail connection to Waterloo.
25 minutes direct rail connection to Gatwick.
35 minutes direct rail connection to Heathrow T5, due to the new proposed Airtrack scheme, due to open 2015.
11 minutes direct rail connection to Shepherds Bush and Europes largest urban shopping mall (Westfield London).

It is already ranked 37th in CACI’s Prime Location Rankings (Paddington being 32nd, Borough 38th), which is based upon a model that relates prime rent potential to accessibility of a location (contact Dan Parr at for further information).

The fundamental problem with the scheme is that it has been developed under a system of appraisal that has only looked at the values of office space as is currently available at Clapham Junction. With the availability of only sub-prime office stock, and inadequate levels of floorspace availability, the current market for office is severely under-shopped and under-valued. If the development were to seek to establish prime office units at this location, then the evaluation of these units, based upon the accessibility of the location, would be quite different. It would then work to set a new benchmark to enable further inward investment and development of office and workspace uses in the area, including land at LIDL and Boots.

With such great accessibility to Central London, both airports, and the highly skilled and qualified workforce of South West London and Surrey, this location could easily attract a major international company as an occupier, lifting up the business profile of Wandsworth as a whole.

Furthermore, the accessibility to Central London and the 2 main London airports, would make the location ideal for a hotel operator.

Both hotel and office space is missing from the scheme; and therefore I object to the scheme on its potential to represent a severe missed opportunity to regenerate the area. More residential will do nothing to improve the area and provide little in the way of a much needed daytime economy for caterers, service providers, retailers and convenience stores in the area.

Furthermore, without developing a stronger daytime population at this location the viability, of the whole retail scheme is at risk; considering the fact that the Westfield London is only 11 minutes away, and will only become more accessible as the London Overground service improves over time.

Simon Ho

[Below is the original objection sent by Simon Ho, detailing the case for businesses and employment]

FAO Mark Hunter

Dear Mark,

Following our telephone conversation this morning, please find below my initial response to the application for 2 new station buildings, a new shopping centre and 2 residential towers.

This response is represents my own views. However, I am also about to become a committee member of a new Wayford Estate residents association. Our very first first official comittee meeting is currently set to 20th November 2008. There has been some delay in setting up our association, which is complicated by the fact that Paul Isaacs (man responsible for setting up resident associations) is leaving this week. Bearing in mind the importance of this application to our estate, and the usefulness of an official response from our new association, I would be very grateful if
you were able to look into the issue of how we can ensure Paul’s replacement can secure the official status of our association prior to the 17th of November, and to schedule in an appropriate comittee meeting prior to that date, with if possible planning officers in attendance to talk us through the application, and receive our formal feedback.

I should also identify myself as a regeneration and planning professional, with experience in both retail and housing market assessments. However, I do not have any vested interests for this site, other than from the perspective of being a resident in the area.

Here are my views on the application:


I think the retail proposals are a very positive feature of the application. A revitalised shopping area by the station will secure a much better focus of activity for Clapham Junction and substantially improve the quality of life for residents living in the area. My main concerns are:

1. The walking link along Falcon Road, underneath the railway bridge

Despite some efforts to clean the walls, remains an unnattractive environment for pedestrians. Considering the importance of the walk-in catchment to the new retail centre, I would like to be assured that improvements to this link are made; through, for example, pavement widening and the installation of ‘wall covers’ to hide the ugly and dirty sides of the walls below the railway bridge – similar to efforts made in places such as Waterloo.

2. Retail Planning and Town Centre Management

The applicant has provided a retail assessment, as required by PPS6, that demonstrates that the impacts of the retail development will be sustainable. I am also aware that the council have been preparing their own retail needs assessments for the borough, which probably confirm the need identified. However, PPS6 also identifies the important, complementary role of town centre strategies.

My concern is that an important development such as this needs to be brought forward in the context of an overall town centre strategy; that ensures the performance and vitality of the town centre is maximised as a whole. My particular concern is the need for a strong leasing, management and public realm improvement strategy for St Johns Road. I would like to highlight a recent case in Derby, where the local authority failed to adequately plan for improving the rest of the town centre, in the context of the major extension to the Westfield Derby centre, leaving them to have to retrofit a strategy after the fact, with no related S106 funding support to do so from the applicant. On the other hand, I would like to direct you to the strategy work performed for Northampton Town Centre, which provides the council an overall ‘vision’ of how the town centre will improve, and what role the Grosvenor Extension will play.

Details of the Northampton Retail Strategy, can be found below:

It sounds like you may have already put together the strands of a retail strategy for the town centre. In which case I would be keen to review it, and urge that effort is made to communicate this strategy to ensure that St Johns Road is able to develop, since without a strong St Johns Road, the overall performance of the centre, including the applicants ‘ interests, will be diminished. I was aware of a consultation process in regards to improvements to the main Clapham Junction road junction – it would be nice to see how these proposals fit in with an overall strategy to improve the retail environment in this area.

My view would be securing S106 funds to help formulate and implement a stronger town centre strategy, which could include the need to create strategic town centre management roles, and establishment of a BID for St Johns Street would be highly beneficial.


My immediate concern with the application is that I cannot locate a Housing Market and Impact Assessment in the application section of the website.

Considering the applicants case for not providing any affordable housing on the scheme, and the intention to spend the increase
level of profit on the station buildings (rather than contributing to provide affordable housing in another location), I do have a
concern that the applicant has neglected the need to consider the role and impact this development of 556 homes will have on the
Clapham Junction community, with no indication of what positive benefits the scheme will provide, or even evidence that the
proposed mix is what the current market is looking for.

In particular I have a concern that:

a. Insufficient S106, or allocation of land-use within the application will be allocated to improve upon the current provision of community facilities at Clapham Junction. I have a particular concern that this development will not only avoid the provision of additional affordable housing, but provide little to improve the quality of life of social housing tenants living in the Battersea Estates. These people will benefit least from the station building improvements, and suffer most from living in an area where property values are forever increasing, and developments that provide little in terms of providing them affordable leisure and community activities. For example, a residents association currently only receives £300 per year to cover the costs of their activities. It seems to me that the applicant could actually afford to do a lot for this area, with contributions to the surrounding estates, that would amount to a fraction of what they are spending on Station Buildings, which should receive more funding from Transport for London for such capital investment. Insufficiently affordable space in Clapham Junction also presents an issue for supporting more arts and creative industries in the area; essential for incubating independent trade and providing the context to create more cultural activity in the area. This would be important for creating a town centre with a point of difference to the new mall opening in White City.

b. Insufficient consideration appears to have been made on the intended buyers of the new residential units. Will they be to buy-to-let investors or owner occupiers? From looking at the types of apartments for sale in Clapham Junction, and my own experience of researching into the market housing needs of those famous ‘Prosperous Professionals’, I am very concerned about the bias towards 1 bedroom flats and a lack of 3 bedroom units in the application. This is crucial, since the housing mix will determine the outcome of the type of resident that will live in the development, which will have a follow on impact on the type of community created. To put it plainly, if built with the buy-to-let market in mind, you will have a transient community of private renters, who play a weaker civic role in communities, whilst if it is owner-occupiers, you will have created a sustainable community with a stronger civic spirit. This is crucial to the governments agenda of place making.


Considering the application at the Falcon Grove Job Centre for a hotel, I am surprised that the applicant for this scheme hasn’t also considered a hotel. Hotels would generate local jobs and could provide useful meeting and conference room facilities for the local economy.

Without any accompanying Office Market Assessment, it is difficult to assess whether a serious opportunity has been missed to
increase opportunities for local employment in the area, and to take advantage of Clapham Junction’s location, with unrivalled
accessibility to the South East workforce. My immediate reaction to this application is that it is out of date; now that the housing bubble has burst, and that it is highly unlikely that government and the banks will permit the same lending conditions in the foreseeable future that supported the buy-to-let market, that this planning application seems to be hinged upon.

My concern is that the application is the most major opportunity that Clapham Junction will ever receive to determine and define its identity. I for one think that this application seeks to just mirror the current identity as a place where people live to work elsewhere. This identity has negative impacts not only on the transport network (which will be exhasperated by this application), but on the sense of place of Clapham Junction, and a negative impact on the daytime economy of the centre.

Considering the applicants desire for 42 storey towers, there does seem to be a woeful lost opportunity for real inward investment into the economy of Wandswortth. These could, if an office occupier was considered, become truly distinctive landmarks – a beacon for further gains in employment use in the area, rather than what the residential towers will signify.

I would need to see the applicants or the councils reasoning for not bringing forward employment use. An analysis of current office vacancies is not enough, since a major new office development would enable the area to satisfy a demand from a major employer, who would not consider the office supply currently available in Clapham Junction. The amazing accessibility of the location (better than Victoria and Waterloo combined) and the availability of a ‘Prosperous Professional’ walk and bus-in catchment would clearly present a major opportunity for an employer, seeking to attract access to good employees.

With the opening of White City in a few weeks time, Clapham Junction could really benefit from a development that not only helps to retain spend by improving the retail, but provides a greater number of town centre uses, to support the town centre economy. The lack of employment space at Clapham Junction, combined with a resident catchment who predominantly work in the city, means that the daytime economy of Clapham Junction suffers, and is much more vulnerable to the impacts of competing centres.

I suspect that if the applicant were to re-appraise the market for the buy-to-let market, they might find that other uses, such as office and hotel, might well be more profitable for them. Considering the current collapse of house values going on in CJ at this very moment, I do see it being a wise move for the council to approve the application for the proposed residential units. An application for offices and employment use would be more favourable, as these would add to the values of existing residential properties, rather than detract from them.

Nature of ‘Medical Centre’

I think it will very important to develop this ‘Medical Centre’ to be much more than a proposal to blandly satisfy a planning requirement. It should be developed in a positive way that would form a civic hub for this new centre. My colleague James Lennon is presenting a talk on the role of ‘Polyclinics’ as kernels to regeneration activity at our Regeneration seminar in a couple of weeks time. It would be great if yourself and your colleagues could attend.

Details are available on the web link below:

All the best

Simon Ho

April 28, 2009 at 10:55 am 1 comment

NORTHCOTE WARD E-bulletin April 2009

Author: Cyril Richert

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

NORTHCOTE WARD E-bulletin April 2009

Welcome to our latest bulletin with reports on the Grade II listing of the Bolingbroke and confirmation of NHS plans for a health centre there; the latest consultation about the Clapham Junction planning application; support for local businesses; details of local roads to be re-surfaced and several dates for your diary. Please forward the bulletin to friends and neighbours.

Philip Beddows, Peter Dawson and Martin Johnson

Councillors, Northcote Ward, Battersea,

Wandsworth Borough Council.


Among all the topics, there was once again a call for people to submit their views regarding the Clapham Junction redevelopment proposal.

Clapham Junction Planning ApplicationClapham Junction Planning Application

Make sure you have submitted your views by May 1st. If as seems likely this application is to be considered at the Planning Committee on May 20th the officers’ report will be finalised in early May so don’t wait until the last moment to send in your views.

Full details of the application, including further recent submissions by the developers, are available at search the planning register

(Enter application number 2008/4488).

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.

It is important to remind everybody that there is an opportunity to let the Council know their concern and Councillors of Northcote ward are taking seriously the opinions of the local residents.

As we said previously, it is also 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)

Read our previous article on recent planning rejections:

April 27, 2009 at 5:30 pm 1 comment

No tower for Battersea Power station, finally

Author: Cyril Richert

A few weeks ago the developers unveiled the news proposal for Battersea Power Station redevelopment after a plan including a 250 meter skyscraper was scrapped.

According to the article in the Evening Standard:

“The latest proposal for the £4 billion project shows a glass roof curving over Giles Gilbert Scott’s Grade II listed building, with a series of medium-rise blocks on either side.

Crucially for fans of the structure, its famous chimneys are to be left intact. In the previous, rejected design, a huge eco-chimney and an accompanying dome were meant to contain a wind turbine for energy and provide heating for the office blocks, making it carbon-neutral.

The developers have now redesigned the scheme with Uruguayan architect Rafael Vinoly as part of a public consultation by Wandsworth Council on the regeneration of the Nine Elms area.

Rob Tincknell, managing director of developer Treasury Holdings, told the magazine Building Design: “The site will be transformed into the first large-scale, urban, carbon-neutral development in the UK. It will provide around 13,000 jobs and 3,500 homes and a new six-acre riverside park with direct access to Battersea Park.”

The scheme has also received a cautious welcome from Save Britain’s Heritage. Secretary William Palin said: “The positive thing is the space in front of the power station – that’s important. But the curved roof looks incongruous – the wonderful thing about the power station is the angularity of it. I don’t think it complements the building.”

The development also includes extending the Northern Line to the site by 2015 – the first privately funded extension of the Tube.”

It is interesting to remember the comments made by Rob Tincknell before last project was rejected:  “it is either the go-ahead for the glass tower, or the power station may be doomed“. As I was writing back in February, apparently he has changed his mind and decided to compromise… and oh surprise, after all it was not impossible to make a project including medium-rise buildings, none of them exceeding the size of the chimneys of the Power station.



Morality: never believe developers!

April 27, 2009 at 9:59 am 1 comment

Martin Linton is fighting against the twin towers

Author: Cyril Richert

Martin Linton sent me an email a few days ago about his recent actions regarding the case on tall buildings and his fight against the Clapham Junction redevelopment proposal. We will be particularly interested to hear the outcome from the Parliament debate on tower blocks in Battersea (following the recent failure of the Battersea Power Station proposal, a new plan has been unveiled: no skyscraper anymore and no building taller than Battersea Power station chimneys).

Parliament to debate tower blocks in Battersea

BATTERSEA MP Martin Linton has called a debate next week in Parliament to discuss the issue of tall buildings.

Martin is objecting to plans for super-size towers in Clapham Junction and in Wandsworth.

The debate will happen on Wednesday 29th May, 4pm-4.30pm (Westminster Hall – Private Members’ Debate) and should be broadcast on BBC Parliament and/or (but I have no experience on it) and minutes might be available here. Anyway we will report on it on this website as soon as we hear about the outcome, so keep an eye.

Inquiry into Tower Blocks on Young’s Brewery site

Martin has won a public inquiry on Wandsworth’s controversial decision to approve two tower blocks-one of 32 storeys and one of 42- on Young’s brewery site in Wandsworth. Wandsworth Councillors voted in November to allow developers to build up to 42 storeys – twice as high as any tower block in the area. But Martin wrote to planning minister asking her to use her powers to ‘call in’ the development, overriding the Council’s decision and referring it to a public inquiry.

There are serious concerns that public safety has not been properly considered by Wandsworth Council given the proximity to the gasometers. ” said Martin

There is more information on all these stories on

In addition, stalls will be held in Northcote ward (corner of St John’s Road and Comyn Road) on Saturday 2nd and Saturday 9th May.

Here is a link with his latest leaflet, talking about is objection to the current plan of buidling two 42-storey tower blocks.

April 26, 2009 at 1:09 pm 1 comment

The comment of a local resident on the developers’ resubmitted application

[From Cyril Richert: Following the resubmitted application by Metro Shopping Fund and the invitation to submit comments, we publish below, with the consent of its author, the response sent by a local resident.]

Author: A resident from Barnard Road


Dear Mr Hunter

I write in order to register my objection in relation to the amendments associated to:

2008/4488 – Planning application for redevelopment.

Firstly, I write to state my dissatisfaction to the level of information contained within your public consultation letter of the 04/04/09.

Local Planning Authority’s have a duty to ensure that the public are consulted on planning applications in a correct and appropriate manner.

I am concerned and dissatisfied that your letter merely states that amendments have been made. Whilst currently working in an alternate Local Planning Authority, and regularly requiring to inform the public of amended plans or additional information associated to planning applications it is considered a necessity to detail what the changes are.

It is highly inappropriate to expect the public to ‘spot the difference’ between the original and amended submission, and something I suspect that Local Government Ombudsmen would be most interested in. As such I would consider that misinforming the public is a form of maladministration

Notwithstanding, this matter having taken a significant amount of time to review your website, I would consider that the proposed changes to be un-substantive and the additional information received undemonstrative to the applicants case and I would like to state the following:

The conclusions made within the Environmental Assessment submitted are subjective and do not take account of the true harmful impact of the development.

  • The views provided are unrepresentative of the proposed development, but nonetheless merely indicate the incongruous appearance of the development.
  • The extension of the East London Line and the northbound line to Milton Keynes are not associated to the proposed development and would occur as a result of funding from Transport for London irrespective of the development proposal.
  • The station capacity assessment does not demonstrate that the development proposal would provide safe and convenient access for all.
  • The shadow analysis is not representative of the true impact of the development within an entire day.

As such my original objection to the proposed development remains as below.

Design and Character:

  • The historical grain of this part of Clapham Junction characterises this area as distinct from the area to the north of the railway line on Falcon Road.
  • The surrounding buildings in the immediate context of the site are of an approximate maximum height of 5 storeys. A proposed development of this height, design and scale would incongruously pierce the skyline, with little relationship between the proposal and the adjoining built form.
  • The two 42 storey high part of the development will dominate and compete with the adjoining historic and listed buildings (notably The Falcon of which is notably Grade II listed).
  • The nearby ex Local Authority Council 60’s/70’s tower blocks in Battersea do not set any kind of precedent for development of this form and merely act as an example of what should not be repeated. The only more modern tall buildings in the area are positioned a significant distance away in the Wandsworth riverside area.
  • As it is noted by the applicant within the supporting documents both national and local planning policy advocate the re-use of ‘brownfield land’ and the efficient use of land. However, it should be noted that the same national planning documents also state that this should not be at the expense of the local character of the area or historic buildings and features (PPS1 and PPG15).
  • Insufficient information has been submitted regarding the impact of the tall building. The plans provided on the Council’s website are poorly photocopied black and white plans and do not give an accurate illustration of the proposed development and insufficient details have been provided of the buildings impact on long, intermediate and short distance views and protected viewing corridors (as required in accordance with the CABE/English Heritage jointly produced Guidance on Tall Buildings [2008]).
  • The two 42 storey buildings in this location will be out of keeping and incongruous in the streetscene, causing a harmful impact within both the local and wider built context, to detriment of the historical grain and visual amenity of the area. A development more appropriate to Canary Wharf or Singapore will not respond positively to the local context of this particular part of Clapham Junction.

Need to Corroborate Retail Study Impact

  • A retail capacity study has been submitted in support of the development. In the absence of a specialist Council Officer that would be able to assess a Retail Impact Assessment of this nature, the Council should be outsourcing a private retail consultant to corroborate the results of the study.
  • In the absence of such an analysis, the Retail Impact Assessment does not adequately demonstrate that the proposed shopping centre development would not cause further detriment on the vitality of the existing shopping and local market areas within St Johns Hill, Battersea Rise, Northcote Road and Battersea High Street – providing competition with these local retail centres and re-aligning pedestrian movements away from the principal cross-roads, discouraging movement in to Northcote Road.
  • There are already a number of vacant units within these shopping areas and the construction of a further shopping hub, may lead to further vacancies and boarded up shops, rather than regenerate an existing historic area and local trade.

Safe and Convenient Access for All

  • The proposed redevelopment will result in the relocation of the principal entrance into the station to a first floor level, with limited access being provided via two escalators and a lift. The commuters that use the station at peak hours will already be aware of the congestion to the ticket machines and in both the under and over passes to the platforms. This will only be further unduly increased as a result of the development with access further restricted for both able and disabled people.
  • Removing ground floor pedestrian access at the street level will only result in further congestion and delay to access the escalators and lifts, and could impede the free flow of pedestrian movements within the pavement to the detriment of highway safety.
  • The concentration of pedestrian movements within the overpass and the closure of the existing underpass will lead to further congestion and health and safety concerns.
  • The relocation of the taxi rank behind the predominant built form fronting St Johns Hill may improve highway safety in comparison to its existing location. However, the taxi ranks position is currently self regulated in terms of crime and disorder, by natural public surveillance within the street. This area of the Borough is littered with unlicensed mini-cab drivers and the proposed location of the taxi rank away from St Johns Hill and the likely antisocial or criminal activity that could arise as a result of this relatively hidden position of the new taxi rank should be taken into account.

Parking Provision

  • It is accepted that the residential development is located within a highly sustainable location in terms of its proximity to the train station and bus stops, however car ownership is still high within the Borough would be inevitable unless a mechanism can be imposed to control the future levels of car ownership for the development.
  • Clearly insufficient parking provision for both the residential and commercial uses has been incorporated and residents will seek to apply for a permit or park vehicles within the surrounding roads outside of the parking permit hours as a result. In the event of approving the application, unless the residents are legally bound to be exempt from applying to the Councils parking permit scheme as part of a S.106 Legal Agreement, residents will park within the area, interrupting the free flow of traffic.

S.106 Community/Infrastructure Contributions

  • Community and infrastructure financial contributions are required as a result of the development. It has not been detailed as to where the associated community/infrastructure contributions will be spent. The application should have been scoped/assessed in this regard and the resulting document should be publicly available.
  • If the Council are minded to approve the application despite these valid objections, there will be an obvious need to upgrade the existing road network to appropriately cater for pedestrians and the increased vehicular traffic within the primary crossroads at Clapham Junction and Falcon Lane. In particular, additional traffic calming and pedestrian islands should be installed where the new road layout poorly follows the natural desire lines from the station to the existing traffic calming features at the crossroads and linking Falcon Lane.

Energy Efficiency

  • The applicant has stated an intention to design the buildings to be 20% above Building Regulations standards. However, a design stage interim certificate by a BREAM/Code for Sustainable Homes independent Accredited Assessor should be provided to support this statement, rather than assume this to be the case. Often these can be statements made by an applicant rather than the end reality.


  • For the 42 storey buildings, a Sun/Shadow Analysis should be provided to demonstrate that there would be neutral impact on the occupants of the adjoining buildings, at limited times of the day.
  • If planning permission is granted restrictions should be imposed on the construction of the development and the hours of site deliveries outside of peak commuting hours and anti-social hours (5:30pm – 9:00am), to safeguard neighbouring residents privacy and the free flow of traffic at peak times.

Temporary Planning Permission/Conservation Area Consent

  • The Government guidance contained within paragraph 3.16 – 3.19, and 4.27 of PPG15 states that ‘consent for demolition should not be given unless there are acceptable and detailed plans for any redevelopment,’ whether the buildings are listed or not.
  • The same presumption should also be given to a temporary solution on this basis, until a suitable permanent solution has been granted.

In conclusion, on the above basis, and in the respect of Local, London wide, and national policy/guidance the Local Planning Authority should suitably refuse the applications on the above grounds given the harmful impact on the character of the area, and absence of sufficient information to demonstrate that the proposed developments will not have a harmful impact on the existing retail and market centres, highway and pedestrian safety, and the occupants of the neighbouring buildings.

Yours sincerely

April 25, 2009 at 4:20 pm 1 comment

Our response to the developers’ claim that the CJAG displayed misleading images

Twin towers from severus road[From Cyril Richert: In a previous article, I commented the response sent by the developers to the Planning Officer regarding the proposed development in Clapham Junction station. In their letter, the developers said: “It is unfortunate that those objecting to the application have chosen to refer to only a small number of these images and indeed to publish their own deliberately distorted and misleading images“. Here is the response sent to the Planning Officer on behalf of the Clapham Junction Action Group. You can also refer to our article about their threat of legal action.

On the left, a view provided by the developers… so they cannot say we mislead, it’s already bad enough 😉 ]

Author: Kate Williams

Dear Mr Hunter,

Thank you for drawing to our attention the resubmitted application by Metro Shopping Fund and for your invitation to submit comments. It is noted that these comments are requested by 18th April 2009; however given that the application was re-submitted over a public holiday and the fact that many of our members have been experiencing problems accessing Wandsworth’s website for significant periods since then, we hope that you will understand that it will take several days or weeks to provide a full response. The application contains a large amount of new information albeit that the principal point of objection for the vast majority of local residents – the overwhelming height of the proposed towers – remains unchanged. We will therefore continue to study the new information and forward our comments as soon as we are able.

We would, however, like to respond at this opportunity to comments by King Sturge which appear to question aspects of the campaign conducted by our members. In particular we refer to the statement: “It is unfortunate that those objecting to the application have chosen to refer to only a small number of these images and indeed to publish their own deliberately distorted and misleading images.”

First, we should like to point out that the images we have referred to most frequently are those contained in MSFs printed literature and posters, or circulated to the press as part of MSF’s publicity campaign. These show the towers cut off at around the 12th floor (posters displayed at Clapham Junction station), towers viewed from an elevated position against a striking purple sky (press photograph), and distant views from Northcote and Grant Roads (Copies of ‘The Beat’). These are, of course, the images that the developers themselves have selected to show us and which we strongly believe, for the various reasons we have discussed, to be grossly misrepresentative of the true appearance and scale of the proposed development.

In addition, we have frequently referred to an image which is available only on MSF’s website and which shows one of the towers looming above the Falcon pub. This image has been produced from street level and is, we consider, one of the few images which appears accurately to represent the true impact of the development measurable against a recognisable local landmark. Again, this is MSF’s own image and it is disappointing that none exist from a slightly different angle which would have revealed both towers.

It was for this reason that CJAG proposed in January 2009 to publish its own mock-up taking this image as a starting point and superimposing the second tower. This image was included in a draft of a leaflet which we proposed to distribute at that time, and was posted on our website for comment. Although the draft was available for around two weeks prior to the leaflet being printed, MSF chose to respond on the day before the proposed distribution by means of a lawyer’s letter threatening the members of CJAG with court action for malicious falsehood claiming damages and costs. This grossly disproportionate response simply highlights the bullying measures that MSF are prepared to take against local people exercising their rights to object, and the lengths to which they appear prepared to go to ensure that alternative representations of their proposals do not enter the public domain.

For the record, we do not consider the image that we produced to be misrepresentative in any way. Indeed, because it showed both towers instead of just one, we consider it to be considerably more representative than MSF’s own image. However, under threat of legal action we were able to withdraw the image from publication and ensure that it was not used in the leaflet that we went ahead to distribute.

The Council will be well aware that we have been campaigning for several months for a more meaningful consultation to be held which should, in our view, include the display of scale models within the station itself – not hidden away in the car park at times when the majority of people are unable to view them. MSF give these reasonable requests short shrift, considering that it is solely the Council’s duty to inform and consult. This overlooks the fact that scale models are available only from MSF and not from the Council, and that the Council is entitled to expect full support from a developer proposing so extensive a development which will impact on many thousands of people. The fact that MSF’s consultation has, by its own admission, reached only 1000 people (many of whom appear to have been passing through the station from locations as far a-field as Brighton and Liverpool) underlines the great concerns we hold that local people have been denied a proper debate.

To underline our point we would refer MSF’s latest publication “The Beat 3” which asks local residents to respond on the following heavily weighted question:

“If you think that the redevelopment plans for the Clapham Junction are a good idea, then please make your views known to Wandsworth Council. There are some local people who are determined to stop the application which would mean that these station improvements would not be able to go ahead as proposed.”

It is clear that almost everyone supports a redevelopment of Clapham Junction and particularly of the station which is well recognised as presenting and overcrowded and unpleasant environment. However, to suggest that these issues can only be resolved by means of the proposal submitted by MSF is manipulative in the extreme. The failings of Network Rail can be addressed in many other ways which do not involve the construction of two 42 storey tower blocks and the creation of 23,000m2 of retail space to compete with much loved local shops. Indeed, significant improvements are taking place already which are not mentioned in any of the distributed literature from MSF.

In summary, therefore, we object most strongly to the assertion that our campaign has been selective and misleading – indeed we believe that local residents are being misled by information circulated by the developers themselves. We are advised that such matters are extremely serious and could influence the outcome of any future planning appeal.

Yours faithfully

Kate Williams
For and on behalf of Clapham Junction Action Group

April 24, 2009 at 4:19 pm 2 comments

The developers’ letter

Author: Cyril Richert

On the 26 March 2009, the developers (MSF) replied to the question raised by Mark Hunter, the Town Planner in charge of Clapham Junction redevelopment proposal on the 23 January 2009 (see our previous article here – you can also read Network Rail justifications following a similar letter from Mark Hunter).

You might not have noted this event (I bet few did) as we received in the post a letter dated 4th April asking for comments to be sent up to 18th April. It is interesting to notice that the developers took more than 2 months to reply, sent a 20 page letter (amongst other documents available on the Council website) and the residents are expected to make their mind within 2 weeks. I am actually very curious to know how many people read the developers’ submission and whether it persuaded them to include new arguments in any presentation they sent to the Planning department. Feel free to comment below this article.

In a previous article, Kate Williams listed the main concerns of the Planning Officer.

As a reminder, Mark Hunter stated right at the beginning of his letter :

On the information received, I do not consider that the Officers are in a position to provide your application with a positive recommendation at the present time.

I can unveil part of the mystery right from the beginning: you will have difficulties to find the changes, as the developers write:

“[…] we have made a number of changes to elements of the detailed design of the scheme. Although each of the changes are relatively small, together they affect a large number of the submitted plans.

{05/05/2009: this part of the article has been amended and a full and final submission is being made by the Clapham Junction Action Group available in this article here}

We will be publishing reactions in further articles, including Kate Williams’ answer to the developers referring on “those objecting to the applications have chosen to refer to only a small number of these images and indeed to publish their own deliberately distorted and misleading images“, along with other resident comments.

April 23, 2009 at 1:20 pm

Planning Forum meeting: some feedback

Author: Cyril Richert

On April the 7th, I was invited to attend a Planning Forum at Wandsworth Borough Town Hall. The meeting was chaired by Councillor Leslie McDonnell, Chairman of Planning Committee, with Tony McDonald, Head of Development Control, John Horrocks (Putney Society), Harvey Heath (Battersea Society), Julia Matcham and Peter Deakins (CJAG and responsibilities in resident associations)… and approximately a  dozen others whose names I did not catch or did not know (apologies for that).

I will not give full minutes of the meeting (they should be available here) but I have a few comments.

The meeting started with comments on the previous forum which was… 13th November 2007. Even though there were some exceptional circumstances, it  still puzzles me that no-one in the Council has taken any time for such an important subject as planning discussions with the Community.

There was some explanation following on the involvement of the Mayor of London in planning decisions. My understanding is that the Mayor was only able to make direct refusal in the past. Now, he can “call the application to himself” and take ownership of the application and can hence approve or refuse the planning proposal. Mr McDonald made a comment on the more pro-active cooperation and relationship Wandsworth Council has now with the new Mayor… er which is less amazing considering the fact that it was previously Ken Livingston. The standard process consist on preparing a report to be sent to the Mayor, who can reply and decide whether he wants to take the application for himself. Otherwise, after Planning Committee, the decision is referred to the Mayor who can decide to call it or not. Of course the Secretary of State (or Communities Secretary) has overall precedent, a good example is the recent case for the Ram Brewery.

Taller Buildings

The main part of the agenda was the discussion on “taller buildings”. The Council reiterated its policy expressed by Cllr Lister, Leader of the Council, on this website in January: “Tall buildings […] can, if well designed, create attractive landmarks underlining aspects of the borough’s character and act as a catalyst for regeneration, providing they are located in appropriate locations and acceptable in terms of design and impact on their surroundings. […] In my view, the Planning Applications Committee and the Council has been entirely consistent in its interpretation of the tall buildings policy: a policy which, I consider, is robust and allows the promotion of appropriate development.

I note that the Core Strategy /Tall buildings section 4.132 refers to “tall buildings […] in appropriate location in terms of design and impact on their surroundings“. It looks awkward that the word appropriate is linked to design, as I don’t know architects who would submit a planning that they do not consider as “appropriate”. Therefore the statement can be considered as a sort of blessing on any submission. At least it does not give any indication on a global policy in the borough.

Mr McDonald advocated that the planning officers give mouthfuls of advice to the developers, very often considering in advance the environment, the quality of design and the type of construction and do not hesitate to inform applicants whether their potential proposal is likely to be approved or refused by the Planning Committee. Mr Horrocks rightly questioned the role of the planning Committee for them to rely on the town planners to escape responsibilities. The absence of directive means that residents are not aware of the process until it is often too late for them to act.

In addition I was aghast that Mr McDonald justified a successful application by citing vague examples of conversation with people who first opposed a scheme but years later were quite pleased with the realisation. What about environment that have definitely been smashed for decades by catastrophic planning decisions? Examples of areas which changed and got damaged with the implementation of developments, considered years later as hideous and confrontational by citizens? As a resident recently said: ““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 soar 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.

Once again, the Clapham Junction Action Group joins the Battersea Society in calling for a proper and fit for purpose master plan for buildings in Wandsworth Borough: it would save a lot of time (and countless effort) to say in advance and clearly: don’t go tall!

Other particular schemes were also named, with some news on a revisiting scheme for Battersea Power station redevelopment (apparently it has been massively scaled down insize) and the case for Nine Elms redevelopment (the Battersea Society prepared am outline planning brief) should be discussed at the next meeting. Of course, as soon as we will have time to dig out some information on that, we will publish them on the website.

Next Meeting will be organised on November, Tuesday 10th 2009.

Part quote from a letter from Julia Matcham to Councillor Leslie McDonnell, Chairman of Planning Committee, Mr McDonald, Borough Planner, plus Copy to Mark Hunter (Planning Officer in charge of the Clapham Junction redevelopment proposal).

This letter was written subsequent to the Planning Forum meeting at which individual cases are NOT discussed, for fear of ‘prejudicing the outcome’ but the principles involved are.

I find it ironic that the Council who, we learn, have been talking to the developers about Clapham Junction for 5 years, along with Network Rail who were directed by the Council to work with the developers, can use the defence of ‘prejudicing the outcome’ when not answering our questions. It is evident that the Council themselves have been deeply involved and are quite likely to have grown to have an enthusiasm for the project in exactly the same way, that we all agreed at the meeting, architects inevitably had for their own pet projects. Why would that not be so? Do you not think that is ‘prejudicing the outcome’? Five years of the Council getting used to the ideas as against very little warning to local people about what was brewing? To say nothing of the Section 106 ‘improvements’ being temptingly waved under their noses by the developers! So much for ‘prejudicing the outcome’!

For that very reason there should be more than one plan proposed for a development this important. That is the only way really to understand, objectively, the possibilities. It is the biggest Junction in Europe! It deserves special consideration. It is shameful that, effectively, it is developers who are calling the shots.

Surely by way of fairness, at the very least local consultation should have taken place long ago and a great deal more effort put into publicising the plans? It is hardly surprising that people think that the Council arranges matters in such a way as to favour their own preferred outcomes.
The euphemistically called ‘taller buildings’, while discussed at length, never really got to the point, which is that if you had a referendum in the borough very few people would want Tower Blocks. The Council must have the common sense to know that, yet they still want to plant them on us wherever they think they can get away with it.

Planning consents are effectively traded for Section 106 agreements for local works of all sorts. It is quite disgraceful that urban development is victim of this sort of thing.

Yes, it keeps the Council Tax down and meets the Councils housing targets, but at the price of degrading our environment now, and for future generations. Please think again!

One more thing. As we were leaving the meeting we mentioned the fact that, re-the Clapham Junction development, the developers flooded the station with postcards for people to complete. Either yourself, or Mr Mc Donald commented that both sides had done some of that.
This is untrue.

What we did was to leaflet LOCAL people (most of whom knew nothing about the proposed plans) at our own expense, to tell them about what was happening, and to invite them to a meeting where the Council was unable to say much for fear of prejudicing the outcome, and where we discussed with local people as much as we had been allowed to learn in the short time we had been given.

What the developers did was to give post-paid cards to TRAVELLERS who, unless they happened to be local, were unlikely to care what happened as long as the station was improved. How many were local do you think?

And then they flooded the area with glossy, expensive brochures. They also threatened the Action Group with legal action on a trivial basis but which was clearly intended to intimidate. As if they hadn’t enough advantage already!

Do you really think all things there are equal?

Yours sincerely,

Julia Matcham

You can read our article on a better consultation here.

April 19, 2009 at 8:49 pm

A message from the Chairman of Planning Applications Committee

Author: Cyril Richert

I received today an email from Councillor Leslie McDonnell, Chairman of Planning Applications Committee. I publish it below in full:

From: McDonnell, Leslie (Cllr)
To : Cyril Richert
Date : Thu, 2 April 2009,
14h45mn 21s
Object : Objection to 42-storey towers at Clapham Junction

Thank you for your recent email. I am very aware of the massive interest which the application relating to the proposed Clapham Junction Station redevelopment has engendered.

It has been made clear both to the developers and to Rail Track that their design will not only have to satisfy the constraints of the current Unitary Development Plan and the emerging Local Development Formula, but satisfy the Committee that there is sufficient local gain for the community.

The Planning Applications Committee is quasi-judicial, and as it’s Chairman I have a duty of strict impartiality. I am nonetheless fully aware of the strength of feeling expressed at the earlier open meeting, and in the large number of letters and emails which I am currently receiving.

It seems most likely that the application will be coming before Committee on 20 May.

Yours sincerely

Councillor Leslie McDonnell

Chairman of Planning Applications Committee

So, the 20th May, is likely to be THE date.

April 2, 2009 at 2:58 pm

April 2009