Posts filed under ‘Tall building policy’

Tall buildings in Clapham Junction

Author: Cyril Richert

The Planning and Transportation Overview and Scrutiny Committee (in charge of Planning policy – as bizarre as it sounds, the Planning Application Committee is only in charge of the applications, not of the policy determining the applications!) was presented a report by the Borough Planner with minor amendments to the proposed Local Development Framework policies in respect to affordable housing and Tall Buildings, especially in Clapham Junction area.

The report details the final changes to the affordable housing and tall buildings policies, which have been forwarded to the Inspector (as part of the review of Wandsworth’s LDF).

The report states (page 4):

13. The wording of Policy IS3 d. has been amended to read: –
Policy IS3 d. (Tall buildings)
“Tall buildings, that is those which significantly exceed the prevailing height of surrounding buildings, may be appropriate in locations which are well served by public transport, such as the town centres and Nine Elms near Vauxhall, or at other defined focal points of activity, providing they can justify themselves in terms of the benefits they may
bring for regeneration, townscape and public realm and their effect on the existing historic environment. Tall buildings are likely to be inappropriate in other areas. Detailed criteria for the assessment of tall buildings and consideration of the appropriateness of tall buildings on individual sites will be contained in the Development Management Policies Document and Site Specific Allocations Document.

14. The wording of Policy PL13 e. (part of Clapham Junction and the adjoining area) has been amended to remove the reference to tall buildings in a specific area. This policy now reads: –
The area around Falcon Lane should be restructured to secure an extension to the town centre in a compact and sustainable form consistent with the distinctiveness of Clapham Junction. This should take the form of a mixed-use development with good quality streets. Additional new housing can be provided in higher density mixed use redevelopment of low density retail facilities on the north side of the town centre on or close to Lavender Hill, to include enhanced retail provision where appropriate.

On step in the right direction, but there is still no clear guidelines given to developers to where tall building could or could not be acceptable.

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September 12, 2009 at 4:25 pm

In the press

SLP-090825

August 26, 2009 at 8:57 am

Justine Greening’s view on planning: involve local communities

Justine Greening, MP for Putney and Shadow London minister, is writing to us:

Dear Cyril,

As you’ve seen, we’ve got our developers in Putney too! I think the best way forward is if I put you in touch to meet up with Jane Ellison our Conservative candidate for Battersea. […]

I am a firm believer that we need to make planning as local as possible to communities because they’re best placed to know what will work. If developers ever contact me then I always tell them to consult as much as possible with the community – after all the people who are likely to buy their developments are going to probably like the area and therefore be pretty much like the people who already live there, so finding out what the community wants is actually the best way of making sure that when we get more housing and regeneration it actually works, is something people will want to move into, and that’s in everyone’s interest.

Nationally, on the Conservative side we were against the recent Planning Bill that went through earlier this year, precisely because it took planning further away from local communities – its the one process that people do tend to get involved in. Though Ministers have had top down targets on housing I think the lessons from trying that approach have been that however badly we need to get more housing (and we do have an acute need), you can’t just ram through targets because it just sends a green light out to developers to max out their plots of land whatever the inappropriateness of the design and then communities and their councils vote down development anyway, so we’ve ended up much less new housing nationally than we could have with a planning process that allows communities to have their own debate and reach a more balanced view that works for them.

We’ve got a further policy paper coming out with more ideas shortly, but running through a lot of what we’re saying is that people should be able to better decide for themselves.

I hope that helps and I’ve no doubt Jane will be in touch!

Best Wishes,

Justine

August 24, 2009 at 3:15 pm

Tall building policy – proposal

Author: Cyril Richert

In view of the consultation on the new Local Development Framework (LDF) and the Core Strategy document (which sets out the the Council’s vision on the development of the borough for the next 15 years – more explanation here), we are working with the Battersea, Wandsworth and Putney Societies to submit a global comment on the “tall” building policy.

As promised, we are displaying the following draft, and wish you to participate to the debate by leaving your view/comment (form at the bottom of the article).

The final document will be officially submitted at the end of the month of August.

Core Strategy

Wandsworth Borough Council

Subject: “Tall” buildings

The Wandsworth, Putney and Battersea Societies represent the northern half of the borough. We are responding to the Inspector’s concerns about Wandsworth Council’s “Tall” buildings policy IS3(d.

The Societies believe this policy to be fundamentally flawed and contradictory of other planning policies. We are opposed to it, and wish to see straightforward, clear statements of policy which determine a core strategy understood by the Council and prospective developers alike.

A synopsis of the Societies’ views are as follows.

“Tall” buildings, those significantly taller than their neighbourhood, must be considered in their urban context. Proposals for such buildings should not simply attempt to show that they do not harm matters of planning importance but that they contribute positively to the character, appearance and quality of the Borough and surrounding London hinterland.

“Tall” buildings must stand up too to scrutiny in terms of need, appropriate location, architectural quality in their own right and their contribution to urban design.

Wandsworth Borough is neither a city nor a commercial centre but largely urban and residential. We identify the following policy constraints by which Planning Permission for “Tall” buildings would be refused.

  • TB1 Conservation Areas where historic environmental considerations and character are of significance
  • TB2 Buffer zones to Conservation Areas where a building would have an adverse effect upon a view or setting or focal point within a Conservation Area
  • TB3 Transport where proposals are further than 400 metres from a major transport node and there is insufficient access to public transport
  • TB4 Residential where a proposal will be within or adjacent to a residential area and have an adverse impact on the public and private realm
  • TB5 Views and Open Spaces where a proposal will have an adverse effect (a) locally and (b) in a wider London context upon open spaces, views, historic buildings and their settings.

Along with the above specific planning issues, the following matters which arise from the gist of Wandsworth Council’s “Tall” buildings policy and our knowledge and experience of the Council’s aims for the future of the Borough, also need consideration when drawing up a policy for “Tall” Buildings.

  • ‘Landmark’, ‘signature’, ‘iconic’ or similarly described buildings should not be encouraged for their own sake, except in areas clearly identifiable as having opportunity and not in conflict with 1-5 above.
  • Economics (aka Regeneration) should not be a planning factor determining the future of a site including such issues as site purchase costs.

Further consideration should also be given to sustainability issues for any building but especially for “Tall” buildings. Any “Tall” building must prove to be sustainable in terms, for example, of its negative carbon footprint, judged by construction, maintenance, services infrastructure, traffic and transport over its lifetimLastly, the Societies are most concerned that:

i) should individual boroughs adopt ad hoc strategic policies about “Tall” buildings, their impact could be far reaching, leading inevitably to an insidious, thin spread across London’s suburbs of individual tall buildings or loose clusters of them as one locality mimics another, raising the built skyline;

ii) that policies on Conservation Areas and the protection of Listed Buildings and their settings, townscape and the wider built environment should be reinforced. Whilst existing policies are sound and currently supported by Governments strategic objectives in PPG’s, they can be disregarded without arguments for doing so being subject to vigorous analysis.

That is why, the Wandsworth, Putney and Battersea Societies require clear constraints to restrict “Tall” buildings as has been presented.

You will find other articles on the core strategy debate on the website:

August 20, 2009 at 8:00 am 12 comments

Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea: policy on tall buildings

Author: Cyril Richert

It is very interesting to read the policy on tall buildings proposed in The Draft Core Strategy for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea:

Introduction

4.1 English Heritage and CABE’s ‘Guidance on tall buildings’ encourages local planning authorities to include specific policies for tall buildings in development plans clearly identifying, in map-based form, areas which are appropriate, sensitive or inappropriate for tall buildings (para. 2.4 and 2.6). The London Plan also states that boroughs may wish to identify defined areas of specific character that could be sensitive to tall buildings within their development plans (Policy 4B.9).

4.2 The London Plan indicates that boroughs should explain what aspects of local character tall buildings could affect and ‘not impose unsubstantiated borough-wide height restrictions’ (Policy 4B.9). Furthermore, English Heritage and CABE’s Guidance on tall buildings recommends that local authorities should carry out a detailed urban design study when assigning appropriate and inappropriate areas for tall buildings. The urban design study should identify the elements that create local character, such as streetscape, scale, height, urban grain, natural topography as well as significant views.

4.3 In line with the London Plan and English Heritage and CABE’s joint guidance this analysis identifies appropriate, sensitive or inappropriate areas for tall buildings based on a detailed urban design and character study. This has been done through two converging approaches:

  • a sieve analysis designed to protect sensitive areas and views, and
  • a proactive assessment of where tall buildings could benefit the locality, improve sustainability and enhance the city image.

Summary

Identification of inappropriate, sensitive and appropriate areas for tall buildings

5.1 This supplementary planning document provides policy guidance on the planning and development of tall buildings within the Royal Borough. It is in direct response to the considerable importance placed by this Council, the Greater London Authority and central government on delivering sustainable development, and to the role that high quality design plays in a borough widely renowned for its superb historic built environment. Tall buildings represent only one model for high-density development.

5.2 It is not enough that tall building proposals demonstrate that they simply do not harm matters of planning importance, but that they contribute positively to the character, appearance and quality of the Royal Borough. They must stand up to scrutiny in terms of appropriate location, architectural quality in their own right and their contribution to urban design. Based on the sieve and proactive analyses, this document identifies six categories of area: three inappropriate, two highly sensitive and one possible area for the development of tall buildings.

5.3 Inappropriate areas for tall buildings

1. Conservation areas
TB1 Within the Royal Borough’s conservation areas historic environment considerations are of such significance that tall buildings will normally be refused.

2. Protected metropolitan view corridor
TB5 In accordance with wider national and metropolitan guidance tall buildings should normally be refused within the strategic viewing corridor of King Henry’s Mound to St. Paul’s Cathedral.

3. Areas outside major transport nodes and corridors
TB7 Outside the 400m (0.25mi) walkbands of major transport nodes, the development of tall buildings should generally be refused due to insufficient accessibility unless it is instrumental in bringing about significant public transport improvements.

5.4 Highly sensitive areas for tall buildings

4. Buffer zones of conservation areas
TB2 Tall buildings will normally be refused within the buffer zones surrounding conservation areas and at greater distances where the building would have an adverse effect on a focal or axial view from within a conservation area.

5. Backdrops of London panoramas and river prospect and landmark viewing corridors
TB6 New tall buildings will normally be refused within a landmark viewing corridor or a London panorama or river prospect backdrop.

5.5 Possible areas for tall buildings

6. Gateways and non sensitive areas
TB19 Areas around Latimer Road Station and Westbourne Park Station, along with gateway areas along the western border of the borough are designated as areas where tall buildings may be appropriate, subject to detailed planning and design considerations. Outside of these areas proposals for tall buildings will not be accepted.

5.6 Other key considerations
TB13 ‘Metropolitan landmarks’ should not be developed in the borough, since Kensington and Chelsea is a predominantly residential borough without opportunity areas as set out in the London Plan.

TB18 Tall buildings should only be located where there is a strong argument for sustainability, accessibility and improvement of the city image.

TB20 Tall buildings should be of outstanding architectural, sustainable and urban design qualities.

We can compare those guidelines with the ones proposed by Wandsworth Borough Council. In the Draft Stage One Urban Design Statement June 2009, we can read (page 18):

4.5 Revised Policy wording: It is recommended that Policy IS3 d – Tall buildings, is amended to read:

Tall buildings, that is those which significantly exceed the prevailing height of surrounding buildings, may be appropriate in locations which  are well served by public transport, such as the town centres and Nine Elms near Vauxhall, or at other defined focal points of activity, taking account of the existing historic context, providing they can justify themselves in terms of the benefits they bring for regeneration,  townscape and public realm. Tall buildings are likely to be inappropriate in other areas.

As we wrote previously, WBC’s core strategy document submitted to the Secretary of States is looking favourably to the expansion of taller buildings in Wandsworth borough:

  • 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“.

To encourage “landmark buildings” and “visual focus” in town centres is translated as “tall” by developers (and planning officers?). However, it does not necessarily mean “tall”, as the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea specifies (Core Strategy – p103):

Exceptional architectural and design quality will complement a significantly strengthened revitalised retail offer, drawing on innovative and modern approaches to create ‘iconic’ buildings and open space. Iconic does not necessarily mean tall, as Barkers in Kensington High Street demonstrates. Building heights will need to respect the character and appearance of adjoining conservation areas.

August 14, 2009 at 3:41 pm

Tall Buildings – Note of Exploratory Meeting (16 June)

Author: Cyril Richert

Wandsworth Borough Council is currently proceeding to the set-up of a new Local Development Framework (LDF) in conformity to the London Plan. The Core Strategy sets out the the Council’s vision on the development of the borough for the next 15 years (more explanation here).

The Core Strategy 2009 document was submitted to the Secretary of State on 20 March 2009 and an Exploratory Meeting was held on Tuesday 16 June 2009 (full notes are available here). The Inspector considered that additional work may need to be undertaken and that some changes are required in order make it sound. Her concerns related to three areas: affordable housing, tall buildings and implementation and monitoring. The purpose of this exploratory meeting was to hear from the Council what it intended to do in response to the concerns identified.

On the second point, tall building, it says:

15. The Inspector set the scene by referring to government-endorsed Guidance on Tall Buildings published by English Heritage (EH) and the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE). This urges local planning authorities to consider the scope for tall buildings as part of its strategic  planning. In identifying areas where tall buildings might or might not be  appropriate, local planning authorities should as matter of good practice,  carry out a detailed urban design study, identifying the constraints and  opportunities in their particular area. This work should inform specific  policies and locations in the development plan, clearly identifying in a mapbased  form areas that are appropriate, sensitive or inappropriate for tall  buildings. No such study had been submitted in support of the Core  Strategy and it was unclear from the submission document and the evidence base what had informed the Council’s approach to identifying  locations where tall buildings may be appropriate in both place-based and issue-based policies.

16. In response to concerns about the absence of an urban design study, the Council recently produced a Draft Stage One Urban Design Statement June 2009, copies of which have been provided to EH for comment and to the Inspector. The Inspector advised the Council that she would look carefully at the final version of this document to see

  • what account had been taken of the historic context of the wider area, the character of the immediate context, opportunities where tall buildings might enhance the overall townscape and sites where the removal of past mistakes might achieve the same outcome
  • whether there is any conflict between locations identified in the CS as areas where tall buildings might be appropriate and protecting strategically important views, and if so how this would be addressed
  • what changes (if any) are suggested to issue-based and place-based tall buildings policies stemming from the ongoing discussions with EH

17. In response, the Council confirmed that the Draft Stage 1 Urban Design Statement drew together all sources of information used to inform CS policies relating to locations where tall buildings might be appropriate, subject to meeting specific criteria. This draft document would be reviewed in the light of comments made by EH. The impact of tall buildings on strategic London views would also take into account the London View Management Framework and the Mayor’s recently published draft revised guidance on this subject.

18. It was intended to give more emphasise to the importance of historic context and to clarify how the Council would weigh the balance of costs and benefits when assessing proposals for tall buildings. The Council was also considering standardising references to tall buildings in the CS place-based policies. Any proposed changes to policy wording following discussions with EH would be reported to members in July.

19. A Stage Two Urban Design Statement would be produced for lower level DPDs. This would look at individual sites within the broad locations where tall buildings might be appropriate, indicating for example, areas where such buildings would not be acceptable, or where maximum building heights would need to be specified so as to protect strategic views.

20. EH confirmed that it had been in discussion with the Council about the CS approach to the location of tall buildings. It had been consulted on the draft Stage One Study and raised a number of issues with the Council, including what account had been taken of the London View Management Framework as adopted, and as proposed to be revised. Further information had been requested on landmark buildings in historic areas, and how CABE/EH guidance would be integrated into the tall buildings assessment criteria being developed as part of the Stage Two Study.

21. EH welcomed the Council’s commitment to give further thought to the height of buildings affecting views of the World Heritage site at Westminster and the relationship between building heights and strategic views. EH considered that amendments were required to policy wording to ensure that the costs and benefits of tall buildings would be given equal consideration.

22. In EH’s view, the publication of the revised Urban Design Statement and changes to CS Policy IS 3 and place-based policies relating to the location of tall buildings, together with clarification of the criteria for assessing tall buildings, represented the way forward on this issue. Whilst these minor changes would require a sustainability appraisal update, in EH’s view there would be no need for further public consultation.

In the Draft Stage One Urban Design Statement June 2009, we can read (page 14):

3.26 […] As EH/CABE guidance says “in the right place, tall buildings can make positive contributions to city
life
”. (Paragraph 1.1) “In the right place they can serve as beacons of regeneration and stimulate further investment”. Wandsworth has
identified this fundamental principle as being particularly relevant to 15 Wandsworth Town and Clapham Junction. The work described in the  following paragraphs of this report has begun to bring together different policy strands into spatially specific analyses, such as the protection of historic context with promotion of regeneration objectives. […]

4.4 It was always intended that the Policy should be construed as self-contained, integrating both the pro’s and con’s for tall buildings in one place, starting with the overarching statement at point (a) that “The Council will protect and reinforce the existing varied character and heritage of the borough.” By continuing with other constraints and requirements before identifying areas within which tall buildings might be appropriate it was intended that locations not identified were to be regarded as not even having the potential to be appropriate. However, for the avoidance of doubt the following is a suggested re-wording of the Policy outlined below.

4.5 Revised Policy wording: It is recommended that Policy IS3 d – Tall buildings, is amended to
read:

Tall buildings, that is those which significantly exceed the prevailing height of surrounding buildings, may be appropriate in locations which  are well served by public transport, such as the town centres and Nine Elms near Vauxhall, or at other defined focal points of activity, taking account of the existing historic context, providing they can justify themselves in terms of the benefits they bring for regeneration,  townscape and public realm. Tall buildings are likely to be inappropriate in other areas. Detailed criteria for the assessment of tall buildings and consideration of the appropriateness of tall buildings on individual sites will be contained in the Development Management  Policies Document and Site Specific Allocations Document.

4.6 A map has now been prepared showing all the locations in the borough where tall buildings may be appropriate […]

To read more about our thoughts on the Core Strategy and suggested amendments, read our article: Voices are coming from all directions for a review on Council’s guidelines for planning.

You might also consider whether the proposed 42-storey twin towers for Clapham Junction, encouraged by WBC planning services, were in line with point 4.4 above stating: “The Council will protect and reinforce the existing varied character and heritage of the borough”

More news on our views on the Core strategy coming soon...

August 12, 2009 at 8:49 am

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

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