Archive for July, 2009

Voices are coming from all directions for a review on Council’s guidelines for planning

Author: Cyril Richert

In a previous article we have shown that the lack of clarity in the Council guidelines for planning (i.e. the Core Strategy) was seen by many developers as encouragement for tall buildings.

However, recent campaigns (Putney towers, Clapham Junction Twin towers, CJ Hotel, Tileman House…) have shown that residents were definitely against those development and they have been asking with constance that their views be considered at the earliest stage of the application process… not only at the last minute in a gambling game of presentations and lobbying.

Despite those concerns, the core strategy document submitted to the Secretary of States is still encouraging looking favourably to the expansion of taller buildings without much respect for their environment:

  • Policy PL 12 (p69) “WandsworthHigher buildings reflecting the status of the town centre while respecting existing landmark buildings may be appropriate on some sites, such as at the northern end of the Ram Brewery site.
  • Policy PL 13 (p73) “Clapham Junction Taller buildings could not only help deliver significant regeneration benefits but also give a visual focus to the town centre
  • Policy PL 14 (p78) “PutneyDevelopments are likely to be at a higher density than existing buildings” [including] “proposals for tall buildings“.

English Heritage has recently published a statement listing 81 conservation areas in London, nearly one in five (1 in 7 in England) , threatened by “neglect, decay or damaging change” and at risk of losing their unique character. It includes Clapham Junction and East Putney in Wandsworth Borough, especially the two areas where apparently efforts are concentrating nowadays to build towers.

English Heritage provides guidelines to local authorities for their role in:

  1. including policies in local development documents to safeguard the character or appearance of conservation areas;
  2. developing active conservation area management strategies in conjunction with the local community to provide clear policies and guidance, including Council works to the public realm;
  3. ensuring that an adequate regime of planning control is in place to manage pressures for unsympathetic change through Article 4 directions reinforced by prompt action against unauthorised changes.

Voices are raising from every direction against the current policy championed by the Council.

Last year, responding to the proposal to erect two 42-storey skyscrapers in Clapham Junction, the Battersea Society was writing:

The borough council should take the initiative in ensuring that a master plan is produced, as a much more ambitious exercise intended to maximise the potential for regeneration and transport and public realm improvements in the entire area of St John’s Road, Lavender Hill, Falcon Road, St John’s Hill, Grant Road and Plough Road.

On the recent application for Tileman House, the Putney Society has expressed regret that the council has no clear and detailed planning policies for Putney town centre. They said:

  • There is no town centre plan and no specific guidance to suggest where tall buildings would be appropriate.
  • The Unitary Development Plan is now elderly and of lessening relevance.
  • The new Core Strategy for the Local Development Framework is useful but of limited value.
  • There was modest public involvement in its production and it is doubtful whether it has wide public support.
  • Its policies are strategic and of limited use in assessing the merits of individual proposals.

No wonder that developers are concerned that they seem to be preparing redevelopment proposals in a policy vacuum and that, as has happened both at Tileman House and, earlier, at the East Putney, ‘Oracle’, Putney Place scheme, their proposals have caused dismay to local residents and also the council.  Are the developers being misled by the council’s lack of specific planning policies?  It appears so.

It is for the council, as the local planning authority, to produce these background detailed policies: that is what a local planning authority is for.

In similar views, Justine Greening, MP for Putney, said:

As residents we want the area to be improved and regenerated with jobs, facilities and good quality homes but we are being placed in a position of constantly having to object to piecemeal, inappropriate developments that do not address the needs of the local community. An overall strategy for Upper Richmond Road is required so that developers can be clearer about the principles they are expected to meet.

Last but not least, Battersea MP Martin Linton called a debate in Parliament to discuss the issue of tall buildings (see here, with videos). During the discussion, Ian Wright (Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government) said:

Within that broad strategic confine, on every single individual planning application, the views of local people must be invited and given serious consideration.

The Government strongly endorse the messages in the revised guidance, which the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment and English Heritage issued together in 2007, called “Guidance on tall buildings“. The guidance should be given serious and careful attention by all those designing tall buildings and considering their location.

We urge the Council to revise its Core Strategy document and give guidelines for a clearer and more detailed policy on tall buildings. Broad reference encouraging tall buildings should be replaced, reflecting the views expressed by the local residents; suggestions could be such as:

The height of the building(s) should fit comfortably with the adjoining buildings; any new building should compliment its neighbours, not ignore them.

A Design Brief, included in the Supplementary Planning Documents should add details to policies laid out in development plan documents.

The height of the building should fit comfortably with the adjoining buildings, which are not expected to be redeveloped for many decades, if at all.  This would mean that each part of the scheme submitted in 2008 ought to be reduced in height: the western part of the frontage by 4 storeys, the central part by 5/6 storeys and the eastern part by 3 storeys; the rear block by some 4 storeys.  The new building should compliment its neighbours, not ignore them.

July 19, 2009 at 9:38 pm

Nine Elms – final project?

Author: Cyril Richert

As reported by Wandsworth Guardian in June, the project for Nine Elms and Battersea Power-station redevelopment evolved again. Rob Tincknell, managing director of Treasury Holdings (the owner of the building) said:

The [eco dome] scheme was the wrong time, the transport costings were not right and the plan was massively over designed

Real Estate Opportunities (REO) unveils another design (again!) at a public exhibition in June. It says this project is more financially viable than the last and includes a design that “respects” Sir Gilbert Scott’s Grade II* masterpiece.

So out the eco-dome; out the curvy glass roof too.

Proposal for Battersea Power Station

Despite nobody is highly questioning the opportunity to construct tall building in the area of Nine Elms (but not taller than the chimneys of the power station), critics claim the density and proximity of the terraces to the station is inappropriate.

The Battersea Society said that the new housing must include a proper share of affordable housing and family accommodations. Furthermore it supports a boost for public transport (including the idea of a tram) and emphasises the importance of creating attractive surroundings at ground level, so that it will be a pleasure to walk and cycle through Nine Elms. It urges Wandsworth Council and the Mayor of London to rule out the area as a location for a major shopping centre as it might kill off other centres(you can think of Knightsbridge but also Clapham Junction or Brixton).

[More information, including a short film, on the developer’s website]

July 18, 2009 at 5:49 pm 2 comments

Neighbours’ Street Party

This Sunday (19th July), there will be a co-ordinated effort around the country to get neighbours together for a party.

The Big Lunch  is part of the 2012 Olympics Team Green Britain initiative and has a website offering advice on everything from getting permission to close your road, to what food to serve. You can also use the site to find the nearest street party to your house.

While the local council is in support of the party it couldn’t help with funding, but local businesses have stepped up to the challenge.

Restaurants Chez Manny (French), Galapagos (Mediterranean) and Royal Nepalese (Indian) are joining forces to lay on a £5-a-head barbecue, while ­Sambrook’s, a local brewery, will be sorting the beers.

Mental health charity Sound Minds is taking care of the tunes, with reggae and rock bands as well as DJs set to play.

Other locals will run stalls on the day, including a man selling his home-made apple juice and a book stall by local author Isabel Losada, author of The Battersea Park Road to Enlightenment.

The street party is planned for the afternoon but the organisers are already planning the after party and have a ­licence until midnight.

BATTERSEA  HIGH STREET
THIS SUNDAY 19TH JULY
START 12PM – LICENSE TILL MIDNIGHT

July 18, 2009 at 9:57 am

Tileman House – Comments

Author: Cyril Richert

We have reported in a separate article about the planning application submitted to the Council to redevelop the site of Tileman House.

Three Councillors (Ravi Govindia, Jeremy Larsson and Leslie McDonnell, also chair of the Planning Committee, from East Putney ward) have published a letter (see here/bottom) addressed to residents of the vicinity of Upper Richmond Road where they encourage present favourably the case for the development:

The alternative would be for the property to remain empty for a long period of time running the risk of it becoming an eyesore. […] proposals for a mixed commercial/residential development should have the advantage of bringing the buildings into use and adding to the attraction of Putney Town centre as a destination. […] Any redevelopments on the Upper Richmond Road will attract s106 gains which will be used to improve the infrastructure in the immediate area. It is important that as Wandsworth Town Centre develops further, Putney does not lose out.

However, the application has generally created a massive opposition.

There is already an animated debate with more than 90 messages (since mid-June, as of today) on the PutneySW15.com website. As written in the first post, most of the comments “fail to see how the minor alterations made to the plans address the concerns expressed in the hundreds of comments sent against the last application“.

On the Council website, the latest count on the revised application is 179 objections and 3 in favour (as of 17/07). A lot of the objections are repeating the words “insulting our intelligence” and ” I do not want“. In addition, as confirmed by the Chairman of the Planning Committee, hundreds of comments on the previous application (ref 2008/5428) will be reported to the planning committee.

John Horrocks, for the Putney Society, said:

To the general public, given that their concern, when looking at this application, is what the proposed building would look like from the Upper Richmond Road, this new application is no different from last year’s application (No 2008/5428). In this context, the two applications are identical.

The Society’s objections to last year’s application were set out in our letter of 23 February 2009.  The Society has since produced a Design Brief (dated June 2009) which details how this site should be redeveloped if a satisfactory building is to be achieved. […]

On all these points the application is in conflict with the council’s planning standards and policies as set out in the various planning policy documents which now make up the ‘development plan’.  We see no reason why a departure from these policies would be appropriate here.  There would be no advantage to Putney in doing so.

Justine Greening, Conservative MP for Putney said:

I am writing to object to the latest planning application for Tileman House.

I remain concerned about the height of the proposed building, especially of the rear block. Additionally, the properties in St John’s Avenue will be overlooked by a number of balconies at the rear of Tileman House in a way that they are not currently and this will clearly be an intrusion for those residents. […]

I request that my constituents’ concerns are fully taken into account during the planning process and I would be grateful if you could continue to keep me informed of progress on this application.

Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate Stuart King said:

The conduct of the developer in this case is deeply cynical. The tactics of withdrawal, inconsequential amendment and resubmission are nothing more than a war of attrition with local residents, who remain overwhelmingly against this overdevelopment. It is time-consuming for everyone concerned and deeply undemocratic. I pay tribute to the civic contribution those who feel so passionately against this overdevelopment continue to show.

Residents and I support regeneration of Upper Richmond Road and this site in particular. But that regeneration cannot be at any price and certainly not at the price that entails a 15-storey tower on the site’s Upper Richmond Road frontage. The reduction in bulk to the rear offers a negligible positive improvement on light and overlooking to residents of St John’s Avenue, and the further reduction in what was already an unacceptably low proportion of affordable housing is equally intolerable given Putney’s shortage of affordable homes.

This application is likely to come before the Planning Applications Committee on 20th August.

If you want to let the Council know your view, contacts details are available HERE with reference to Planning Application No 2009/1773.

July 17, 2009 at 6:59 pm

Tileman House – Upper Richmond House

Author: Cyril Richert

Tileman House - locationThe Council has published the documents for the redevelopment of the site called Tileman House involving demolition of existing buildings on site and erection of building of between eight and fifteen storeys to provide 89 flats (22 affordable), roof terraces and balconies together with 807sq.m. ground floor commercial floorspace (flexible use for A1 (shops)/A2 (financial and professional services)/A3 (cafe/restaurant use)/A4 (drinking establishments) or D1 (non-residential institutions); 1600sq.m. office floorspace (Class B1); basement car park of 73 spaces (plus 2 at surface level for car club).

This is an alterations to the previous application (ref: 2008/5428) to include; reduction in height of rear block by 2 storeys, loss of 10 residential units (including loss of 3 affordable units), reduction to the rear building line of the east block.

Tileman drawing

Tileman: comparison with existing building

More information (including comparison with the previous application) is provided by the developers in their documentation (download here) or directly on the Council’s website.

This application is likely to come before the Planning Applications Committee on 20th August.

If you want to let the Council know your view, contacts details are available HERE with reference to Planning Application No 2009/1773.

July 17, 2009 at 5:26 pm 2 comments

Core strategy consultation

Author: Cyril Richert

The Core Strategy sets out the Council’s spatial vision, strategic objectives and spatial strategy on how the borough should develop over the next 15 years along with core policies and information on monitoring and implementation. This document is part of the Local Development Framework (LDF) and must be in general conformity with the London Plan. When adopted (after further consultation should take place in early 2010), these documents will, together with the London Plan, constitute the statutory development plan for the Borough.

The Core Strategy 2009 document was submitted to the Secretary of State on 20 March 2009. The plan will now be examined by an independent Planning Inspector and exhibition at the Town Hall (Room 123) should be held from the 14 July 2009.

The Core Strategy is therefore a document of the utmost importance. As shown in the previous campaigns against towers in the area of Clapham Junction Town Centre, the current document failed to give proper guidelines to the developers and was in total discrepancy with the views of  local residents (more than 1000 protest against the Twin Towers’ proposal).

As stated by the Planning Officer report (p42) on the application for the Twin towers/station redevelopment, Policy PL13 ‘Clapham Junction and adjoining area” of the Core Strategy says:

“Taller buildings could not only help deliver significant regeneration projects but also give a visual focus to the Town Centre,” and further, “Taller buildings in this location could be justified due to the proximity of Clapham Junction Station and its accessibility to high frequency public transport”.

Therefore the Council along with the developers concluded that the proposal would accord with Core Strategy Policies. Furthermore, this is actually Wandsworth planning service which encouraged the developers to go with the proposed design of skyscrapers, as confirmed in the report (p46):

The applicants were originally considering a redevelopment of ‘Stop Shop’ shopping centre site around the retained St John’s Hill entrance. However early discussions identified that a key driver in any approach to development here should be to address the Council’s Ten Point Plan for improving Clapham Junction, as well as improving the public realm and permeability of the site. To this end the design has evolved […]

In similar views, a meeting with the developer of the proposed 16 -storey tower block hotel at the bottom of Mossbury Road highlighted also that the decision to proceed with the hotel scheme was specifically driven by the Council’s recommendation in its Core Strategy document that Clapham Junction was a suitable location for regeneration through the construction of tall buildings. Two years had been spent developing the plans during which Redwood had met with the Council planners 3 or 4 times.

However, despite all previous objection, the Core strategy document submitted in March to the Secretary of State specifies clearly the case for tall building and the encouragement to construct them in Clapham Junction Town Centre Area:

P71-75 of the document:

4.99 – Given the strategic importance of the station there may be justification for some taller buildings. These may help to reinforce and add visual significance to the town centre…

4.100 – The area may be suitable for taller buildings given the proximity to Clapham Junction Station.

4.101 – There are opportunities to provide high quality sustainable development with street frontages with taller buildings.

It is clear that in case there is no drastic amendment to those guidelines, it will widely re-open all encouragements to developers to submit more pharaonic projects that the community will have to fight with the same energy they voiced their refusal of twin skyscrapers, but still without more support from the Council.

Clapham Junction Town Centre is characterised by Edwardian and Victorian houses. Applications for constructions should respect the environment and not exceed the size of neighbouring (proportionate to neighbourhood, e.g. the rotunda of Harding and Hobbs should stay as the focus point in the area).

The Council could easily amend the Core Strategy and also take advantage of the Supplementary Planning Documents (an optional document) to add details to policies laid out in development plan documents (these may take the form of design guides, area development briefs, a master plan or issue-based documents).

You will find some additional information on the dates and linked documents on our Agenda page.

July 15, 2009 at 4:22 pm

A major station redevelopment project

Author: Cyril Richert

Clapham Junction vs Birmingham Station

Clapham Junction Station nowadays

Each day about 2,000 trains, most stopping, pass through the station, more than through any other station in Europe. At peak times 180 trains with about 135,000 passengers per hour pass through of which 65% stop. Interchanges make some 40% of the activity and by that count too it is the busiest station in the United Kingdom. Over the year, about 22 million passengers use Clapham Junction Station, i.e. 60,000 a day and TfL estimates to 10,000 users between 7am and 10 am only. The station has 17 platforms (platform 1 should welcome the tube by 2012) and is managed (franchise) by South West Trains on behalf of Network Rail. Clapham Junction station is often described as a utter disgrace, dangerous and users consider consider refurbishing the station as the most important priority.

Birmingham Station nowadays

Birmingham New Street is a name of one of the busiest railway stations in the UK outside London with about 35 million passengers a year. The railway station is formed by 13 platforms and also The Pallasades Centre next to the station. The station is managed by Network Rail. New Street is frequently derided as one of the most run down and unwelcoming of all the major stations on the British railway network.

But all similarities stop here: Clapham Junction Station has be left aside in the latest financing perspective for Network Rail to 2014, while Birmingham enjoys a £600 million project redevelopment, focused on the railway station.

Birmingham Station redevelopment

Financing

On 12 February 2009, the government announced that the Department for Transport will be providing £160 million on top of the £128 million that is to be provided through a government White Paper named Delivering a Sustainable Railway.  A further £100 million will be provided by the Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform and will be channelled through the regional development agency (Advantage West Midlands). The announcement brought the total amount of Government spending on the project to £388 million as it agreed to meet all the funding grants sought by the different stakeholders, including Birmingham City Council and Network Rail. It is believed to approach £600 million with additional investment from private sector.

Design competition

1-new-street-station

The submitted projects were received by the end of January 2008 and a short list of 6 architects was announced in February 2008. It included Foreign Office Architects and Rafael Viñoly Architects along with CRAB Studio, IDOM UK, LAB architecture studio and UN Studio from 47 entries from the UK, Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden and the US.

The subject of the competition was described such as:

Expressions of Interest are invited for the appointment of a Concept Designer to develop the overarching vision for the building envelope and atrium roof that will define the external form to the £550m redevelopment of New Street Station, Birmingham. Its design will need to act as the catalyst for the transformation of the station, such that it is seen as more than just a functional entity, but becomes an integral part of the city and reflects the aspirations of modern day Birmingham. The Concept Designer will also be responsible for the building’s integration with the surrounding area, generating ideas for the station’s new central atrium roof, since it is likely to be surrounded by tall buildings, as well as informing the brief for new public spaces and possible art works associated with the redevelopment.

A provisional sum of £30m (Q2 2005 prices) has been allocated for the atrium space and external façade works. Although the external envelope may help to inform the interior, the detailed reconfiguration of the station, its organisational structure and operation has been the subject of a previous contract. The Concept Designer will be required to develop their vision in conjunction with an Integrated Project Team that will primarily comprise Network Rail, a Delivery Partner and a Lead Consultant. The Lead Consultant will be an engineering led company.

Eligibility

The selection process is open to registered architects / designers. Candidates will need to demonstrate their ability to lead the design vision for the redevelopment of a major UK railway station. The successful candidate will need to be capable of producing (within the specified budget) an exceptional and functional design that will portray the dynamic, international character of modern day Birmingham. The Expressions of Interest will be assessed on the basis of the design / architectural practice. However, teams going through to the second stage may wish to include other appropriate professionals/consultants amongst their members, which might include a structural engineer, lighting engineer etc.

Artist view of New street stationThe jury consisted of members from the participating organisations, Network Rail, Birmingham City Council, Advantage West Midlands and Centro, as well as Christophe Egret as RIBA architect adviser (the competition organiser). RIBA declared the name of the winner mid-2008: after over five years of preliminary planning, international design consultancy Atkins (hired to oversee the development) in collaboration with Foreign Office Architects (FOA, Alejandro Zaera-Polo winner of the competition for the design of the station) will be the joint designers of the New Street Station, to be known as the New Street Gateway.

Details of the project

The redevelopment will

  1. increase passenger capacity to 52 million a year (more than double the current users),
  2. remove a notorious congestion in the rail network,
  3. include re-modelling the platforms,
  4. construct a contemporary concourse with a 2,800m² atrium to bring in natural light,
  5. improve pedestrian links to the city centre,
  6. re-defining the image of the building using stunning architecture.

Artist view of New street station

The project will be redeveloped in two phases enabling the station to continue to operate throughout construction. This will minimise disruption for passengers and make it possible for Gateway to deliver the first half of the project by early 2011.

Birmingham council estimates the station will lead to £2bn of economic benefits.

CABE (the government’s architecture body) said:

We reiterate our support for the aspiration to enhance the existing train station, to make it a European standard interchange and to produce a coherent piece of city.  The project is complex and the constraints of the railway operations and the site are great; it is more than ‘just a railway station’ and the project demands collaboration with other partners, including the City and the retail operators who have air rights over the station.Artist view of New street station

However they cautiously highlighted some concerns related to clarity of the diagram of the building, the impact of the south entrance, the shopping centre at the expense of the experience of taking a train.

It is noticeable that the project will include also 2 towers of 30 stories, one residential and the other one for office space. However the project was mainly focused on the station redevelopment and the designer of the station was not associated with the towers. CABE is not supportive of the towers which they consider have indeterminate design but will have a huge impact on the city.

Website of the project: http://www.newstreetnewstart.co.uk

July 13, 2009 at 1:17 pm 1 comment

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