Archive for May 10, 2009

Debate or just bait?

Author: Cyril Richert

One of the local resident sent us this email below, received on Friday, from the Developers’ Public Relations company (their representative, Brendan Keown commented also several posts on this website). It makes interesting reading (especially the few words I put in bold), as you need to keep in mind that they reiterated several time their refusal for any further consultation:

  • Before the Public Meeting, where they were invited, they refused to participate, replying: “We are happy to talk to answer any further query that were raised but public meeting forums are not the best way to discuss elements of the scheme“.
  • In their more recent letter, responding to the Planning Officer’s request for further consultation, MSF suggested that prior to submission, they already had lengthy discussions with the Council, the GLA and other consultees, along with local societies (it does not look like the Battersea Society was very happy with that) and 4 days public exhibition and they refuse to hold any further consultation now that the application has been submitted.
  • It is also noticeable that they put down the offer made by the South London Press to organise a meeting between the Clapham Junction Action Group and themselves.

Since attending the exhibition on Metro Shopping Fund’s plans to rejuvenate Clapham Junction, you may have seen and heard much debate on the topic. To date, hundreds of people from Wandsworth and across London have already filled in ‘support postcards’, e-mailed Wandsworth planning officers and written letters to Wandsworth Council, urging councillors to back this once-in-a-generation opportunity.

With the planning application due to be considered by Wandsworth Council Planning Committee later this month on Wednesday, 20th May, there is not long to go. The debate still continues, and we are asking you to take a little time to demonstrate your support to the Planning Officer Mark Hunter at planningapplications@wandsworth.gov.uk or via Wandsworth’s planning portal website http://www.wandsworth.gov.uk/apply/showCaseFile.do?appNumber=2008/4488.

It is also important show councillors how strongly local people feel, by attending the planning meeting itself at Wandsworth Town Hall (on Wandsworth High Street, London, SW18 2PU) 7.30p.m., Wednesday 20th May.

If you have any questions about the scheme or how to get to Wandsworth Town hall, please get in touch by email or call me on 020 7566 7964.

Thank you and I hope to see you there on the night.

Yours sincerely,

Brendan Keown
Senior Account Executive

QUATRO
Public Relations
20-24 Old Street
London
EC1V 9AB

So, is the debate they are welcoming spelled D.E.B.A.T.E or is it D-BAIT.

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May 10, 2009 at 9:58 pm 5 comments

Jane Ellison’s objection

[From Cyril Richert: We publish below, with the consent of its author, the presentation sent by Jane Ellison, the Conservative Parliamentary Spokesperson for Battersea, to Mark Hunter, the Planning Officer. Link with original PDF document is here.]


Author: Jane Ellison, Conservative Parliamentary Spokesperson for Battersea

Dear Mr Hunter

Whilst there is near-universal support for the strategic objective of improving a station as important and busy as Clapham Junction the overwhelming number of people who have contacted me also feel that the negative aspects of the current application, sadly, outweigh the benefits for the local area.

Living just off the Falcon Road, I am also a local resident and regular station-user so can comment from personal experience too. I have considered the original applications and the subsequent submissions this year from Metro Shopping Fund and Network Rail and cannot support the current proposals.

I therefore urge the Council’s Planning Committee to refuse the applications.

Some of my reasons for urging refusal can be summarised as follows:

1. The parlous state to which the nation’s finances have been reduced by the current Government has given added impetus to the argument that this is ‘a once in a lifetime’ to improve the station. It is argued by Network Rail that they cannot afford strategic investment in Britain’s busiest station and the only way they can fund improvements to the station is by working with a developer who needs a mix of retail and residential capacity on the site to achieve their return on investment.

It is precisely this ‘once in a lifetime’ argument that convinces me these proposals are unacceptable. Given the disruption and timescales likely to be involved in this development will we emerge at the end with a modern station fit to serve the travelling public of this area for decades to come? Much hangs on this critical question and I believe that the answer to it is No, with too many fundamental issues of station access, capacity and interchange still inadequately addressed.

2. The corollary of the ‘once in a lifetime’ argument is the argument that the proposed residential development at the site – the 42 storey tower blocks on which most local objections have centred – is a ‘price worth paying’ for station improvements. I cannot agree with this argument.

I think tall buildings of appropriate and attractive design, in a location that provides the right context, have a significant part to play in the economy and the evolving skyline of both our city and our area.

However the scale, height and density of the proposed towers are overwhelming and inappropriate for this location. Even accepting that issues of design are necessarily subjective it is interesting to note that unlike other developments these towers have found few friends to argue that they will enhance the local scene. Those who do not object to them have generally cited the ‘price worth paying’ argument above.

The Clapham Junction town centre is predominantly Victorian and Edwardian in character with low to mid rise buildings and some taller blocks to the north on the Winstanley estate. The proposed towers would I feel be overbearing and incongruous in this context. I regret that in design and conception the proposed towers do not look to enhance a townscape with its economic and social roots in the great age of the railways. As the Council’s Conservation Appraisal & Management Strategy for Clapham Junction (Paragraph 5.1 Draft 2008) says of the area “generally a high quality commercial centre containing a high proportion of valuable Victorian and Edwardian buildings. All these buildings make a positive contribution to the historic and architectural character of the conservation area.”

Would our successors look back and say the same of the proposed landmark towers above the station in a hundred years time? I doubt it.

3. The final point I would make is about a potential missed opportunity should this proposal go through. The area needs more high quality office space not less and in the Clapham Junction station site there is a golden opportunity to create an attractive and sustainable business environment to contribute to our local economy. With rail connections second to none and a vibrant local town centre only minutes from Central London and (with the coming of the East London line in 2011/12) in due course Docklands, it would be ideal. The proposed additional retail space offers nothing like the same opportunity.

Yours sincerely,

Jane Ellison

Conservative Parliamentary Spokesman

May 10, 2009 at 9:00 pm

Councillor David Walden’s objection

[From Cyril Richert: We publish below, with the consent of its author, the presentation sent by David Walden, Councillor for Queenstown ward, to Mark Hunter, the Planning Officer. Link with original PDF document is here.]


Author: David Walden, Councillor for Queenstown ward

Dear Mr Hunter,

I draw attention to the fact that I am a ward councillor for the Queenstown Ward. Although Queenstown Ward is at some distance from the site, my membership of the Council’s Passenger Transport Liaison Group over the last 3 years (thereby allowing me to participate in detailed discussions with the local bus and train operators), plus my experience as a regular user of the station for over 25 years, and as a resident in the St. John’s Hill area for a similar period, enables me to offer some comments on this proposal from a transport context.

INADEQUATE PROVISION FOR TRANSPORT USERS

The proposals in relation to the station itself and the interchange arrangements with other local transport are unsatisfactory, in that they in no way offer a complete solution to the acknowledged problems with which Clapham Junction Station must contend as a transport hub. No bus stops would be removed from the congested local roads, and indeed road traffic in the area would increase significantly because of the number of residential car parking spaces that are proposed. The last thing the Clapham Junction area needs is more road traffic.

Turning to the station itself, although two new station entrances are proposed, these provide access to an ageing footbridge which it is not proposed to upgrade or improve in any way. Many of the steps down to the platforms from this bridge are steep and narrow (those to Platforms 11 and 12 being particularly bad). Facilities at platform level are also unacceptably poor (the platform awnings on platforms 9, 10, 11 and 12 are wholly inadequate, and no improvement to these appears currently to be planned). Additionally, the complete closure of the subway as a means of access to the station is unnecessary and unhelpful for station users, given the shortcomings of the staircases down to the platforms from the footbridge to which I have already referred.

All intending passengers starting their journeys at Clapham Junction would in future be forced to use the staircases descending from the footbridge to reach the platforms. In my opinion, all that is needed is a reduction in use of the subway, and this can be achieved by the (already in progress) Brighton Yard reopening, together with some form of access directly from St John’s Hill to the footbridge. This would allow those entering the station to use the subway if they preferred. Step free access to the platforms is already being provided, of course.

Some supporters of the scheme have argued that this is a “once in a lifetime  opportunity” to improve station facilities for the 21st century. In my opinion, this proposal should be seen more as a huge missed opportunity to improve the station facilities. It should be recalled at this point that Clapham Junction is the 5th busiest railway station in the country (if interchange passengers are included-only 4 of the central London termini are busier). A more fundamental approach to solving Clapham Junction Station’s shortcomings is needed, and in my opinion, the present proposal does not begin to address those shortcomings. It should therefore not be seen as the solution to the problems that Clapham Junction Station faces as it attempts to serve as a major public transport node.

RAIL IMPROVEMENTS DO NOT APPEAR TO DEPEND ON THIS PROPOSAL

Network Rail is currently planning for the delivery of a project to allow 10 coach trains to operate on the suburban lines into Victoria Station. These trains serve platforms 14 and 15 at Clapham Junction Station, which will require lengthening to allow these longer trains to operate. This platform lengthening is project 15.05 of Network Rail’s CP4 Delivery Plan (published on 31 March 2009). Additional land to the south of the station is required to allow this platform extension to be carried out (since a realignment of the tracks will be necessary to allow the platforms to be of the required length-which incidentally addresses a long standing issue with the gap between the platform and the trains here).

I show below the key assumptions Network Rail are making with regard to the project (copied directly from the Network Rail document).

Key assumptions

  • That SDO will not be an acceptable alternative to platform extensions at this location;
  • that developer contributions may be available within the timescales required;
  • that no significant issues will be encountered with the purchase of land;
  • it is expected that the land will be acquired as part of the commercial property development. If this does not proceed then it will be necessary to purchase the land either directly or via a Transport and Works Act Order;

NB (my addition); SDO is an abbreviation for Selective Door Opening, whereby some doors remain closed where not all coaches forming a train calling at a station can be alongside a platform edge.

This shows that the proposed development, while welcome as potentially offering a contribution to Network Rail’s costs of delivering the lengthening of the trains on the South London suburban network, is not an essential requirement for that project to take place (since Network Rail indicates that it would use its compulsory powers to acquire the necessary land in any case).

Other supporters of the proposals have said that this proposed development, with its very tall buildings and other attempts to maximise capital values from the site, is the only way to secure the necessary improvements to the rail corridors using the station. The fact that Network Rail itself says that a Transport and Works Act acquisition would be used to obtain the land needed for the lengthening of platforms 14 and 15 surely gives the lie to that contention.

A further project aims to deliver 10 coach trains on the suburban lines towards Waterloo Station. The platforms that these trains would use (3-6 and 10 and 11) are either already of sufficient length to accommodate the longer trains, or can easily be extended without the need to acquire additional land.

CONCLUSION

To summarise, while I agree that there is a pressing need for improvements to Clapham
Junction station, it is my opinion that this proposal only partially addresses the need for those improvements, whereas the impact of the overall scale and type of the proposed development on the surrounding residential and local shopping areas is unacceptable (and I associate myself with Councillor Dawson’s comments on this aspect).

I therefore urge rejection of this proposal.

Yours sincerely

Councillor David Walden

Queenstown Ward

May 10, 2009 at 8:38 pm 2 comments

Councillor Peter Dawson’s objection

[From Cyril Richert: We publish below, with the consent of its author, the presentation sent by Peter Dawson, Councillor for Northcote ward, to Mark Hunter, the Planning Officer. Link with original PDF document is here.]


Author: Peter Dawson, Councillor for Northcote ward

Dear Mr Hunter

In my capacity as a Northcote Ward councillor I have received many representations about these applications particularly from ward residents the overwhelming majority of which raise serious concerns and objections.

Having studied the applications as originally submitted in 2008 and the subsequent submissions this year from Metro Shopping Fund and Network Rail I have come to the conclusion, for the reasons set out below, that I cannot support these applications and would urge the Planning Committee to refuse them.

  1. The scale, height and density of the proposed 42 storey tower blocks are overwhelming and inappropriate for this location. This is not mitigated by the design of the towers which are overbearing in appearance and entirely out of character with the surrounding areas. The townscape to the south, east and west is predominantly Victorian and Edwardian terraces on which the proposed tower blocks would have a harmful impact while doing little, if anything to enhance the residential estates to the north of the station. In this context the local conservation area is described in the Council’s Conservation Appraisal & Management Strategy for Clapham Junction (Paragraph 5.1 Draft 2008) as “generally a high quality commercial centre containing a high proportion of valuable Victorian and Edwardian buildings. All these buildings make a positive contribution to the historic and architectural character of the conservation area.” Further in Paragraph 4.3 “The character and appearance of Clapham Junction Conservation area rely upon the strength of its architectural origins, which are essentially Victorian, and its association with the development of the railways”. In my view there is little relationship between the current proposals and the surrounding area. Adevelopment of this nature will be at the expense of the area’s character. Clapham Junction Town Centre is not a large locality, such as Canary Wharf, where buildings of this scale could be placed in an attractive and acceptable setting.
  2. The loss of current office space offering employment to some 450 people and the lack of new prime office accommodation in the proposals will have a significant impact on the commercial day-time economy of the Clapham Junction Town Centre area. This lack of new prime office accommodation would be a lost opportunity to encourage one or more major employers to base themselves in this Town Centre. It fails to capitalise on the existing excellent rail connections into and out of London which will be improved even further by the East London Line extension. The loss of office based employment potentially puts at further risk the valued local shopping parades of Lavender Hill, St John’s Hill, St John’s Road and Northcote Road.
  3. The proposals to ameliorate the interface between the rail network at Clapham Junction and the bus network are inadequate. Even the latest submissions from the developer only partially address the major problems experienced currently. As any redevelopment of this site is likely to determine the nature of the rail / bus interchange for years, if not decades, ahead this is a matter of major importance for the future well being of the Town Centre.
  4. The proposals in relation to the station itself are also unsatisfactory and partial. Though two new station entrances are proposed these provide access to an ageing footbridge which it is not proposed to upgrade and no through access is provided. Some supporters of the scheme have argued that this is a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to improve station facilities for the 21st century. Unfortunately this aspiration is not reflected in the reality of the proposals.

In addition I am concerned about the timing of any development as Metro Shopping Fund has not acquired key parts of the site and apparently does not expect work to start for at least 3 years. If the current scheme is approved Network Rail and other agencies are unlikely to give further serious thought to alternative ways of funding much needed developments at the station. While I acknowledge that some people do support the proposals mainly because of the pressing need to greatly improve the station facilities and they consider the tower blocks a “price worth paying” I do not agree with this point of view.

Improvements are desperately required at Clapham Junction station, not least because of passenger safety concerns, but in my view this application only partially addresses the problems at the station while the impact of the overall scale and type of proposed development on the surrounding residential and local shopping areas is unacceptable.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Dawson

Councillor Northcote Ward

May 10, 2009 at 8:27 pm 5 comments


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