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

April 24, 2009 at 4:19 pm 2 comments

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

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Entry filed under: Twin towers in Clapham Junction.

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

2 Comments

  • 1. Brendan  |  April 27, 2009 at 9:56 am

    Good morning Kate>

    I read with interest CJAG’s latest response to Metro Shopping Fund’s application, as posted above.

    Naturally, I disagree with your interpretation of the nature, letter and spirit of Metro’s proposals. However, I must draw attention to some inaccuracies in an otherwise lucidly drafted objection:

    -In your penultimate paragraph, you have written that,

    ‘…significant improvements are taking place already which are not mentioned in any of the distributed literature from MSF.’

    This is not correct. Metro Shopping Fund have never denied, or attempted to claim credit for, the ‘Access for All’ rail improvements currently underway. In the most recent example, a letter was written to residents of the Latchmere area to the north of the station, outlining the the specific benefits Metro’s proposals would bring to users of the Grant Road entrance –

    “Network Rail’s current ‘Access for All’ works will provide step-free access to all platforms and extra ticket dispensers as well as basic improvements but only from the St John’s Hill side of the station. These works will not deliver access improvements from Grant Road.”

    Given that you may not live in the Grant Road area however, you could have done well to consult CJAG’s own blog archive. I commented on Cyril’s article of 17th February entitled
    “Metro published a leaflet: some misrepresentation and misleading falsehood”; my comments there clearly outline what Metro’s proposals would be provide that the ‘Access for All’ scheme cannot.

    – You reiterate CJAG’s assertion that;
    ‘The failings of Network Rail can be addressed in many other ways which do not involve the construction of two 42 storey tower blocks.’

    As bald as the fact is, the refurbishment of Clapham Jucntion station into a transport hub fit for the 21-st century will not be addressed in any other feasible way, no matter how heartfelt your aesthetic dislike of the residential towers.

    In mutiple responses to Cyril’s post of the 19th February, entitled “Clapham Junction station to welcome the East London line in 2012”, I detailed the reasons why Network Rail are working with Metro (to release money and land essential for the rail upgrades) and why Metro’s planning application contains the residential towers (generation of sufficient revenue from a relatively small site in order to fund the rail upgrades whilst minimising sunlight/sighline obtrusion).

    I can only repeat the facts: without the Metro partnership, the £20m allocated from the Office of Rail Regualtion for platform lengthening at Clapham Junction will then have to go to improving other parts of the extensive route network and not to Clapham Junction. Network Rail cannot apply for any more funding until 2014, with no guarantee of success.

    Yours,

    Brendan Keown
    On behalf of Metro Shopping Fund

  • 2. Kate Williams  |  April 28, 2009 at 9:03 pm

    Dear Brendan,

    Thank you very much for responding to our letter – it is good to have this opportunity to debate some aspects of your proposals.

    First, I should like to clarify that we fully acknowledge that Metro has not claimed credit for the station improvements being carried out by Network Rail. Our point was that these are not mentioned in any of the literature distributed by the consortium. Such an omission cannot help but give the impression that Metro is the ‘only show in town’ so far as station improvements are concerned; a view which is reinforced by Metro’s frequent claims to be ‘improving’ Clapham Junction station.

    In actual fact, Metro’s ‘improvements’ concern only the entrances to the station and do not impact on the problems of access to or overcrowding of the platforms. Nor indeed do they create any extra capacity within the station: instead, the plan is simply to reverse the present situation whereby local people enter the station via the underpass, whilst those changing trains are directed to the over-pass.

    Given the failures of both Metro and the Council to explain these facts, we have taken it upon ourselves to publish this information. Placed in context, it is apparent that the gain to local residents is minimal and that if real improvements are to be made, we must look elsewhere.

    Turning to the specific example you mention of improvements to disabled access North of the Station, I confess that I was not aware of your newsletter published selectively to those living in the Grant Road area. No doubt these issues should be addressed by the Government’s Access for All scheme, if the results of the present improvements are as unsatisfactory as you say. Certainly the Metro scheme provides one solution insofar as lifts access will be provided from North of the Station to the overpass, to link with the lifts presently being provided to platforms by Network Rail. However, this is not the only conceivable solution, and another solution might be formed by providing a lift access from the underpass to platforms 3 and 4. This would enable wheelchair users and those with buggies to take lifts to the overpass and access the other platforms in this way. Distances for those accessing the station from the North-East would be the same as under the Metro proposals, and only slightly longer for those coming from the North-West. Either way, it is the government’s Access for All scheme which is making wheelchair access to platforms feasible, and not the proposals currently submitted by Metro.

    On the subject of the much publicised ‘land-swap’, we believe that it is misleading to state that the only solution to platform straightening at platforms 15-17 can be provided through the Metro scheme. So far as we are aware, the land concerned is currently in the ownership of Network Rail itself (the embankment adjoining Junction Approach) and PCS. PCS is not connected to Metro and has already made its objections to the scheme known. If Metro’s proposal is to go ahead, then this will involve the compulsory purchase of PCS’s site, at a loss to the community of many jobs. In actual fact, the proposals do not impinge, so far as we can see, upon PCS’s offices, but merely upon Junction Approach and the car park beyond, both of which will vanish under Metro’s proposals. If an access is to be kept open to the car park, then this can presumably be accomplished by tunnelling beneath the platform straightening works – possibly at additional cost to Network Rail, but at great benefit to PCS and the local community.

    We are not engineers, and our access to information is limited. However, it is clear that Metro’s proposals represent but one solution to the station’s many problems, and that these may be addressed in many other ways – including, if absolutely necessary, by waiting until 2014 for further improvements. This is not our preferred solution by any means, but it underlines the truth in our statement that “the failings of Network Rail can be addressed in many other ways which do not involve the construction of two 42 storey tower blocks”.

    Yes, of course our main objection to Metro’s proposals is the blight on our community which we believe will result from the construction of huge tower blocks. However, this is not the sole cause of our objection. We are also concerned that a huge shopping centre will be built to compete with much loved local shops. We are concerned about the traffic and parking impact of a major retail outlet and 556 new homes. We are concerned about extra walking distances to the station, about parking in the vicinity, about flooding from rainwater run-off and drainage, about the wind tunnelling effect of skyscrapers on the platforms and local roads, about the disruption of three years of construction, about planning blight, about the loss of jobs, and about the failed chances of making Clapham Junction a centre for business and employment. We are concerned that Metro’s proposals represent nothing but an opportunity for developers and the Council to prise fees and Council tax from 1000 new residents who are not local families or those in desperate need of accommodation, but those who can well afford to live in luxury apartments on the riverbank or in the plethora of local homes currently for sale or rent. There is nothing in Metro’s current proposals which make them a necessary part of local improvements, and much within them that detract from that aim.

    This is the reason for our objection, and we look forward to more spirited debates before this proposal is put to the Council on 20th May.

    Yours

    Kate Williams


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