Archive for November 11, 2009

Ram Brewery enquiry notice: adjourned

Author: Sylvia Harrison

The Inspector adjourned the Enquiry this afternoon, and will reconvene on Tuesday morning at 10am.

There are two reasons:

  1. The Wandsworth Society is not quite ready to produce their evidence [UPDATE], and
  2. the Expert Witness for the Mayor is no longer available.

Therefore, the Inspector and his Assistant will take an unaccompanied walk round the Town, particularly looking at the listed buildings and the conservation area, on Friday.

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November 11, 2009 at 6:25 pm 4 comments

Wandsworth Society vs Ram Brewery development: proof of evidence

Author: Cyril Richert

Below are extracts of the different topics raised by the Wandsworth Society against the current planning application for the Ram Brewery redevelopment.

The Society has considered the proposals in the light of:

  1. the Unitary Development Plan (adopted in August 2003) excluding the 12 policies which have not been saved
  2. the submitted Local Development Framework of which the Core Strategy is the subject of a Public Hearing expected to begin in February 2010
  3. the London Plan (consolidated at February 2008)

Design principles

The Wandsworth Society believe that residential towers of 42 and 32 stories are totally inappropriate in Wandsworth Town Centre.  There is no precedent for buildings of this height in SW London, or indeed anywhere in the capital apart from the City and Docklands. The taller tower exceeds the height of the London Eye (135m) and both towers are higher than Battersea Power Station(113m) and the Tate Modern(99m). […]

The maximisation of development in order  to maximise  the development return cannot be relevant when considering the planning merits of the scheme. […]

The Wandsworth Society is concerned that the quality of the public areas will be adversely affected by Venturi wind tunnel effects. […]

The Wandsworth Society is concerned that the sheer size and scale of the proposals are difficult to appreciate from the submitted documents[…].  The design, scale and massing of all the building blocks will, at close quarters from the surrounding streets, be overwhelming and dominant but this is not apparent from the photographs in the developer’s document “Heritage, Townscape and Visual Assessment”. […]

The proposed towers are a massive intrusion into the Wandsworth skyline and are entirely disproportionate in their scale to the town centre. […]

Affordable Housing

In respect of the National Planning Guidelines, the Ram Brewery fails on all counts. […] Equally, the affordable housing provision on the combined sites is in breach of the Council’s own housing policy. […]

The Ram Brewery development is not a major contribution to housing need in the area, nor indeed would the flats to be built be of a price or type that would meet urgent social needs locally.[…]

On these points alone therefore, at the heart of the proposals, the development meets neither the Council’s criteria nor the Government’s PPS1 quality of design criteria.

Transport

On-street parking in the immediate vicinity is restricted by permit; thus, outside normal shopping hours, there will be even more pressure, particularly for evening and night-time use of the leisure facilities. […]

The scheme makes no provision for a dedicated or protected pedestrian route (save for the possible bridge link in the future). […]

Wandsworth Town Station (approx ½ mile from the nearest point of the site) is already at full capacity during rush hour periods. Network Rail has no current plans to lengthen the platforms in the near future to accommodate 12 car trains nor have the operators any immediate plans to increase the capacity of the trains. Permission for the development at East Putney Station (84-88 Upper Richmond Road) was refused upon grounds, amongst others, of lack of overland train capacity (Application No2008/3321). […]

An important criterion in identifying appropriate locations for tall buildings is their relationship to the Transport Infrastructure (CABE/English Heritage: Guidance on Tall Buildings). […] Bearing in mind the colossal scale of the Ram Brewery scheme, we consider the transport provision to be inadequate and that Wandsworth Town Centre cannot be considered an appropriate location for such tall buildings.

Historic Environment

Conservation Areas are defined as “areas of special architectural or historic interest, the character or appearance of which is desirable to preserve or enhance” –  that is the wording of the legislation in which Conservation Areas are enshrined. […] The proposed developments do not meet these criteria. The proposed blocks both on the main Ram Brewery site and on the Capital Studios site will overwhelm the historic Listed Buildings around and within their sites, which, as a consequence, will be reduced to insignificant proportions. […]

It is certainly due to the “ugly, overpowering Arndale Centre” (now Southside) that the Council sought to protect the remainder of the town centre by giving it Conservation Area status. Thus, the Wandsworth Society has to ask why the Council considers the proposed development acceptable within the parameters they have established already.

Conditions of Planning Permission

The following items shown on the Council’s list of potential obligations should be treated, The Wandsworth Society believes, as conditions attached to any planning permission, rather than being paid for out of the amount the developers could reasonably be expected to set aside to fulfill planning obligations under S106:-

  1. Public rights of way through the site
  2. The Riverside walk alongside the River Wandle
  3. Highway improvements required to facilitate the development
  4. Provision of affordable housing
  5. Community facilities within the Brewery buildings and the preservation of these   buildings
  6. Car park management
  7. On-site cycle parking
  8. A children’s play area

The principal matters that we believe should be treated as planning obligations as part of a Section 106 Agreement and under Section 278 of the Highways Act 1980 are:-

  1. Highway improvements
  2. Improvements to Wandsworth Town Station
  3. Provision of a bus interchange, co-ordination of town centre bus stops and provision of enhanced bus routes
  4. Improvements to the access between the Thames Riverside and the town centre, including provision of a broad bridge link across Armoury Way
  5. River Wandle enhancement works

[…] The public was quite unaware of the deal being struck between the developers and the Council with regard to the tranches of money being provided to fund significant road improvements, until the publication of the Council’s Planning Committee Report. Out of a total of £40.916 million under the Section 106 Agreement, £38 million is to fund the gyratory works. There may be contrary views as to how the total should be spent. […]

Whilst the Wandsworth Society has been promoting the restoration of the High Street to two-way traffic, partial pedestrianisation and the re-routing of through traffic around the town centre for over 23 years, they do not accept that a development on the unacceptable scale of the Ram Brewery proposal should be the price to pay  to achieve our ambition.

Summary

There are many aspects of the proposals for both the Ram Brewery site and the Cockpen House site to which we strongly object.

In the order in which they are dealt with in the above proof of evidence, they can be summarised as follows:-

  1. The height of the proposed towers is out of all proportion to any existing buildings built or approved in South-West London.
  2. The towers are out of scale with the centre of Wandsworth and will dominate and overwhelm the centre of the town.
  3. The layout of the scheme fails to compensate for the height of the towers, and is far too dense and is lacking in human scale.
  4. The massing and density of the scheme should be greatly reduced.
  5. The provision of open space and landscaping is unimaginative and inadequate.
  6. The visual appearance of the scheme is overbearing and detrimental to the surrounding neighbourhood.
  7. The retail content of the scheme will not satisfy local needs nor those of retailers.
  8. The car parking provision is inadequate to support a retail scheme of this size.
  9. There is insufficient affordable housing provided across the two schemes, which fall short of the provision demanded in the draft LDF and the London Plan.
  10. The residential content provided is not of the size or type required to satisfy local housing needs.
  11. There are many failings in the design of the housing on both the Ram Brewery and Cockpen House sites and many flats fall short of Council or Government standards.
  12. The road system is inadequate to cope with another development of this scale in Wandsworth .
  13. Public transport in the town centre is overcrowded and inadequate.
  14. The proposals are harmful to the character and appearance of the Conservation Area, and fail to respect the grain of the area.
  15. The massive scale of the scheme totally destroys the setting of the many listed buildings in the centre of Wandsworth, both within and outside the site.
  16. The applicants cannot guarantee to meet the funding required under the S106 agreement and funds are no known to be available from elsewhere.
  17. The S106 agreement places the responsibility of funding the proposed gyratory system on this development alone, which has led to over – intensive development and the loss of other possible public benefits.
  18. The scheme fails to provide a suitable bridge link across Armoury Way between the town centre and the riverside area.
  19. The heavy loss of employment land on the Ram Brewery and Cockpen House sites is not being replaced by affordable employment accommodation elsewhere in the area.
  20. The cumulative effect of these two schemes places unacceptable pressure on local transport and services.

November 11, 2009 at 2:22 pm

Ram Brewery inquiry: report from week 1

Author: Shirley Passmore [Wandsworth Society]

Difficult to describe what has been going on. Apart from opening speeches as described by Tony Belton, 7 witnesses for the development, both for Minerva and for the Council, have so far given evidence and been questioned closely. You really need to be there. General awareness now that the funding for road works, however probable, is not guaranteed for a variety of reasons. We shall listen to Transport for London tomorrow (Wed) and then the Mayor of London’s people. Possibly some third party speakers will be invited to speak.

In Week 3 there will be two days given over to the Health & Safety Executive who object on the grounds of the hazard of the adjacent gas holder and then a day of the council refuting the claims.

Week1

For Minerva:

i) Daniel Cove, the architect, full of his own skills and expertise and of course enthusiasm for the buildings. We had opportunity to study the various models which seem to show hundreds of little ants crawling about at the base of the buildings, people of course.

ii) Dr Chris Miele (conservation) was very interesting on the conservation aspects and obviously historically very knowledgeable. Spolt it by saying he thought scheme did not harm the listed buildings. (Wandsworth town centre has biggest concentration of listed buildings in borough, 43, of which 10 are Grade II*)

iii) Paul Burley (planning) unable to answer several questions relating to his Proof of Evidence, constantly referred us to the other experts. He didn’t think that WBC being more than on London Plan target for new homes was any reason why development might be reduced somewhat. Said the views chosen (eg no viewpoints such as from the Crane and the adjacent cottages) were those suggested by WBC. Said, basically, that lack of amenity space (6m sq instead of WBC guideline of 20m sq), poor quality of light to some flats, short distances between windows, and almost anything else that was not as planning guidelines had been accepted by WBC… so that was all right then.

iv) David Hunter Yeats (traffic) Main drift of his evidence (as of all speakers) was that everything was acceptable because of the benefits to be brought by providing funding for new road system. But said also that traffic from the site would be so insignificant it would not be noticed among the present 2000 an hour each way around the system (each way on a one-way system?)

Lots of quotes about the over-capacity of network Rail and buses so they were well able to cope. Other statistics showed the opposite to be true. Under-provision of public car-parking for shops & restaurants was excused on the basis that the Southside car parks could be used (almost every development in the town centre has used this excuse, won’t be long before NCP car park is full all day).

Week 2 (so far…)

For Council:

John Webb for council (conservation). His Proof of Evidence, 42 pages, did spell out all the wonderful historical heritage in the town centre and also listed some 11 various planning policies designed to protect heritage buildings, did say there was some harm done, but after all the 42 pages he summed it up in one about para that approved of everything and denied serious damage. Got a probing questioning from John Dawson [Wandsworth Society].

Tim Cronin for council (planning) making case that scheme conformed to London Plan, UDP, Core Strategy, Govt guidelines. But it’s all a matter of interpretation ‘may be appropriate’ can also mean ‘may not be’. Questioning of him continues tomorrow.

The Wandsworth has closely questioned all the witnesses so far. The Inspector and the Assistant Inspector make the witnesses answer further questions from them if they consider a Wandsworth Society point has not been answered fully. It has been a tiring and nerve-wracking experience for the society questioners.

Section 106 Agreement was produced yesterday for first time and is being studied by the society.

The timetable for the Ram Brewery inquiry is available on our Agenda page.

November 11, 2009 at 1:26 pm

Ram Brewery Development – Meeting report (7th November)

Ram Brewery, Wandsworth High Street SW18After the approval of the Ram Brewery redevelopment project, including 2 skyscrapers, by Wandsworth Borough Council last year, the planning was stopped by the government as the Communities Secretary called for an inquiry.

Details and explanation on the inquiry process can be read in our previous article. You will find schedule detail and dates in our Agenda page.

Martin Linton MP organised a meeting for everyone who is giving evidence against, or supporting the objections to, the Ram Brewery inquiry on Saturday (7th) at 1.30 pm at the Salvation Army in Ram Street.

Cllr Tony Belton–  who is going to be giving evidence against the scheme – wants to organise a rota of people so that we have a schedule where as far as possible “we” get coverage of every day’s discussion of the enquiry and can compare notes and share perceptions and ideas. If you can help, please contact him.

Author: Julia Matcham

Martin Linton MP arranged and chaired this small meeting, the purpose of which was to discuss the ‘evidence’ (informed comments) that representatives of various groups intend to give to the enquiry that is currently taking place. Those present included Cllr Tony Belton, and representatives of the Wandsworth Society, The Tonsleys (TRA), Clapham Junction Action Group (CJAG), Riverside West, as well as other concerned individuals.

As you know, the secretary of State called-in the current plans which the Council had passed. The ensuing enquiry started on Tues Nov 3rd and will continue until Fri Dec 4th.

Two Inspectors representing the Secretary of State are hearing evidence from the many interested parties. Various people, mostly representing affected groups, have asked to be allowed to speak formally and will be called upon to do so … presumably on a given date. It is unclear if further written comments can be added at this point. For those who wish to try, the Planning Officer is Toby Feltham. Members of the public can attend, and I understand, are allowed to make comments. Certainly the idea is that individuals may be cross questioned by the Inspectors. The sessions run from Tuesday- Friday and anyone can go! [1]

At the enquiry there are three QC’s in attendance representing the interests of :-

(a) The Applicants/developers Minerva. (QC Russell Harris)

(b) The Council. (QC Neal Cameron)

(c) The Mayor of London. (QC John Hobson)

Opposing on behalf of the Health and Safety Executive is MS Corinne Patry Hoskins. Representatives of the Health and Safety Executive, and The Wandsworth Society, are also in attendance throughout the proceedings.

Obviously, with three heavyweight QC’s, the composition of the opposition is seriously weighted against those who would like the current plan refused.

To be clear, this isn’t simply a case of can the developers look again at the plan? It is YES or NO to what the Council have already passed. Some minor alterations are just possible but there will be no changes that will truly soften the blow… unless it is a refusal!

On the optimistic side, both Tony Belton and Martin Linton pointed out that the three QC’s hardly know what they talking about as they don’t live here and have no experience of the area. Tony Belton and Martin Linton both felt that ordinary residents talking to the Inspectors could also have a lot of influence. They also commented that, while the QC’s may get bored hearing repetitive comments from the residents, for the examiners, repetitive comments would do more good than harm.

Everyone [at the meeting] is against the height of the two tower blocks (42 and 32 stories) and the other extravagant heights (mostly 10 stories) and the precedent this would be setting for Wandsworth borough. Also James Smith representing the Tonsleys (TRA) pointed out that they live in 2 storey Victorian houses and that the towers will not only be oppressive and obscure their views, but they are so high they will inevitably block the sun during the afternoon. They said that insufficient attention had been paid to the adverse consequences of such high buildings and others felt similarly about the wind corridors that would be created.

The subject of pressure that the new residents would inevitably put on Wandsworth Town Station (notoriously dangerously overcrowded at rush hour times) was also raised. The developers suggestion that people will take a bus to Clapham Junction was greeted with laughter given that the buses are also overcrowded and the traffic flow so slow.

Tony Belton was particularly concerned about the one-way gyratory system about which there had been, and still is, insufficient information. The deal between the Council and Minerva depends on the solution of this part of the plan. Under section 106 theoretically the Council get their clogged road system problem resolved in exchange for giving Planning Permission for this boring, unimaginative and over dense development. Transport for London say they will not give any money for this purpose and improvements to the road system must rely entirely on the 106 agreement between the Council and the Developers. All reminiscent of the 2 x 42 storey Clapham Junction Towers without which NO progress in other respects could possibly be made. [2]

The developers (and sad to say the Council too) threaten people with this all-or-nothing strategy but it frequently turns out they could, in the event, manage something different, as they have with the proposed and now deceased tower within the Power Station development.

Theoretically, these matters should not be political, but in practice, the Planning Committee is totally dominated by Conservatives and they tend to vote as a block.

The iniquitous (in my opinion) 106 agreements which allow all Councils (of whatever colour) to trade Planning Permissions for tower blocks etc in exchange for a very large contribution from the developer in respect of other matters (e.g. road systems and station repairs!), frequently not even connected with the proposed development, is likely to provide an incentive for all developers and Councils to litter every town in England with ‘iconic’ buildings! What price any rational thinking from those responsible for designing our landscape when the developers are heavily subsidising Councils’ expenses and keeping their Council Tax low? We all want low taxes but surely that shouldn’t be at the expense of having our cities ruined by greedy developers!

But ordinary residents can make a difference if they are active enough about getting their message across. We have for the moment stopped the building of skyscrapers at Clapham Junction and we have obliged the Council to think again about their tall buildings policy. Hopefully we may similarly oblige the Council to think again about the towers at the Ram Brewery site.

[1] The venue for the Inquiry is at Wandsworth Town Hall, London.

The Inquiry opens at 10 a.m. on Tuesday 3 November 2009. On subsequent days, normal sitting times will be 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. until 5 p.m. with short breaks during the morning and afternoon sessions. Friday afternoon adjournments may be a little earlier, with the possibility of 9.30 a.m. starts to make up any lost time.

The Inquiry is currently programmed to last for 20 days, sitting from: Tuesday 3 November to Friday 6 November; Tuesday 10 November to Friday 13 November; Tuesday 17 November to Friday 20 November; Tuesday 24 November to Friday 27 November; and Tuesday 1 December to Friday 4 December 2009.

Representations by any interested persons is allowed after hearing from the main parties (the applicant, the Mayor of London, WB Council, the Health and Safety Executive, the Primary Care Trust).

[2] As you will have heard, the Council still hasn’t come up with any details and it’s still a complete mystery how it can cost £38 million to turn Armoury Way back into a two-way street. According to council minutes it cost £21,500 to introduce the one-way system in 1969 and even allowing for inflation it’s difficult to see how prices can have gone up by 2,000 per cent.

November 11, 2009 at 11:57 am 6 comments


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