Archive for May 13, 2009

MSF proposal for Clapham Junction recommended for refusal… but

Author: Cyril Richert

As pointed out by James Cousins (Councillor – Shaftesbury) and Tony Belton (Councillor -Latchmere) by emails, the agenda for next week’s planning applications committee has just been published on the council’s website.

The report of the Planning Officer is available here (click to view the full document). The recommendation is to be refused (p74) on the grounds that: –

1) The local planning authority is not satisfied that the package provides sufficient benefit to public transport infrastructure in the town centre and is therefore contrary to Core Strategy (Submitted Version) PL 13.

2) The local planning authority is not satisfied, on the basis of the information provided and the late modification to the financial package, that affordable housing should be omitted from the scheme. The proposal is therefore contrary to Core Strategy (Submitted Version) Policy IS 5.

Additional reasons are

  • The application would be premature in the absence of an approved scheme for
    the redevelopment of Clapham Junction Station and its vicinity.
  • The demolition of buildings in the conservation area would be premature in
    the absence of an approved scheme to replace the buildings.

So, the good news is that the officers’ recommendation is against, which will probably be decisive. It is probably also good that the grounds are pretty extensive, namely insufficient benefit to public transport, omission of affordable housing not justified, premature in advance of approved scheme for redevelopment of Station BUT it does not say anything about massing, height, etc.

In other words, the planning officer gives his blessing for the construction of two 42 storey tower block in the area, writing (p42):

In longer views, a tall building could be seen as marking the town centre. […]

The site would be well integrated with the surrounding urban area by the provision of the new areas of public realm and increased access points into and through the site, alleviating the congestion points that exist at present. The quality and character of the new public spaces together with the towers would deliver a legible urban environment. […]

Many of the objections to the design do not give any specific reason as to why they do not like the tall buildings; just that they do not like the tall buildings and this is not a suitable location for them. […]

In summary, whilst the proposed towers have proved controversial in the responses to consultation and whilst such matters can frequently be a subjective matter of debate, they have a considered design and have been located in the most appropriate position, in terms of urban design principles on this site. They would have some relationship to the existing towers in the immediate locality and could be seen to re-enforce and define the town centre. It is also considered that in design terms, this is an appropriate location for tall buildings considering the surrounding context as well as assessing them against CABE and English Heritage Criteria for tall buildings.

Speaking about the level of presentation, the figures compiled in the dossier only confirmed our numerous comments on the level of support. Reporting on the consultation (i.e. the comments received by the Council) it says (p18):

626 objections (including 219 with no full address): with 3 pages explaining why towers are an eyesore…etc.
vs
67 support letters (including 6 with no full address) + postcards + pre-formated emails

And counting the comments received after the developers’ resubmission (reconsultation):

51 further objections (2 with no full address) raising the same issues as previously outlined.
vs
1 support

There is no doubt that it confirms plainly what we said all allong: RESIDENTS DO NOT WANT TOWERS! [In addition Tony Belton presented today a petition with 550 names and Philip Beddows 200 names – collected with the online petition of the CJAG – of people against the twin towers].

I am a bit stunned by the comment that “many of the objections to the design do not give any specific reason as to why they do not like the tall buildings; just that they do not like the tall buildings and this is not a suitable location for them“.

On the contrary, hundred of letters have shown with long full arguments why this what not appropriate for the location. As an example of many others, you can read the letter of Michael Snaith, or with more details and plenty of reference, our report to the Planning Committee, or the letters of Councillor Peter Dawson and Jane Ellison amongst others.

In addition the subject was raised at the Parliament by Martin Linton (watch/read here) saying: “here are many areas—Clapham junction being a good example—which have a Victorian town centre that is not historic, but nevertheless has a coherence and is loved by people who live in it.Is the town planner saying that someone writing that he chose to live in Battersea rather than Croydon because he does not want a certain type of architecture is not relevant? Next time, criticising a yellow skyscrapers with green spots will not be considered because it is not a specific reason?

My first assumption is that the Planning Officer was concentrating on technical details and following rules dictated by Wandsworth Borough Council policy regarding the appropriate location for tall buildings.

Therefore, if the developers were to overcome the stated objections and come back with another application with similar scale towers they would then say, and Planning law and precedent would support them, “But you did not object to the previous application on the grounds of scale and massing so you can’t object now”.

It depends now on the members of the Planning Committee (list here) to represent the view of their constituents and definitely put an end to what some called “phallocratic” designs during the last electoral campaign.

Regarding the case for office space, the Planning Officer wipes away any interest and writes (p42):

The applicant has also stated that there is only limited space to accommodate the new station building and associated facilities, therefore the introduction of offices would require a reduction in space for other uses and the enhanced retail facilities would attract a wider range of retailers than currently within the town centre. In their view, Clapham Junction and Battersea are not established office locations; do not have the critical mass to attract occupiers to locate; there are no identified office requirements in Clapham Junction or the surrounding area of Battersea, therefore offices would be built on wholly speculative basis.

This is exactly the opposite of what a lot of people think , as we developed arguments on the risk of  missed opportunity for developing office space and previously here.

If you think, as we do,  that the scale and massing is important, then you still need to try and get the Committee to support an amendment to the paper so as to include those amongst the grounds for objection. Let the Councillors who will be taking the decision know your opinion and urge them to consider appropriatly the major concern of the residents!

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May 13, 2009 at 5:37 pm 13 comments

In the press

Author: Cyril Richert

Yesterday in the Wandsworth Guardian:

Wandsworth twin tower development decision due

7:20am Tuesday 12th May 2009

A decision on whether to allow a 42-storey twin tower development in Clapham Junction is due next week.

As well as the skyscapers containing 556 flats the controversial plans, by Metro Shopping Fund (MSF), involve a two-floor shopping plaza and a facelift for Clapham Junction station.

Campaigners argued the towers are too tall, criticised the lack of affordable housing and said station redevelopment should be paid for by rail authorities.

While weighing up the £400million development on Wednesday, May 20, Wandsworth Council’s planning applications committee will judge whether concessions on height and affordable housing are worth trading for station development.

MSF said without the scheme Clapham Junction would “get worse over the next decade”.

Glenn Burton, MSF development director, said: “Without new retail space high street chains, which are a vital part of the mix for a vibrant town centre, will either continue to compete for space with independent retailers which inevitably forces up rents, or they will leave the town centre.

“Our scheme addresses these issues and will help stop the town centre’s decline.”

But Battersea MP Martin Linton, who has called for a parliamentary debate on tall buildings and has presented a petition signed by 552 residents against the proposal to the council, disagreed.

“The development earmarks some £49 million for station improvements and the bulk of this would be spent on building escalators and lifts to the overbridge.

“This is certainly a benefit to Network Rail and Transport for London because it reduces the problem of overcrowding in the tunnel and spreads passengers more evenly along the platform.

“Benefits to local people will be modest. Many will find they have to walk further to the trains,” he said.

“The great majority of people in Battersea face the problem that their sons and daughters cannot afford to rent or buy in the area and are forced to move far away, breaking up families and depriving elderly residents of the care and contact they would normally expect from their children and grandchildren.”

Kate Williams, part of the Clapham Junction Action Group (CJAG), a campaign group set up by residents, said the overwhelming majority of local people were against the scheme.

She said: “Clapham Junction is an area improving all the time and we feel this will be put backwards by the development.”

CJAG was threatened with legal action earlier this year when it attempted to expose allegedly misleading photographs of the twin tower development.

For your information, the Parliamentary debate called by Martin Linton can be watched here (text and video), and you an read about the threat to CJAG there.

May 13, 2009 at 3:19 pm

Misleading image

Author: Cyril Richert

The developers are advertising their redevelopment proposal at Clapham Junction station and ask for our support:

MSF proposal showing only the station redevelopment.

Despite their communication tricks efforts, residents aware of the plan know that the station redevelopment represents less than 20% of the total amount they are proposing to invest in the scheme. The main part of it being two 42 storey towers:

Twin towers from severus road Scale model of the twin towers at Clapham Junction

Towers from Debenhams and TK-Maxx Tower aboveFalcon

So, who is displaying misleading images?

May 13, 2009 at 8:22 am 3 comments


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