Posts filed under ‘Ram Brewery’

Ram Brewery inquiry: report day12

Author: Julia Matcham

Friday 20th of Nov 09 at The Inquiry on DAY 12

Apparently the session had started at 9 am and I arrived at the time it was scheduled to start:10 am. It was eventually ‘adjourned’ at 1.30pm until next Tuesday, so anyone coming to the afternoon session as billed, from 2pm – 5pm’ would have found an empty hall. I guess that sort of thing is unavoidable but one could be forgiven for thinking that starting on Tuesday and either stopping early or missing out altogether the Friday session is very convenient for long weekends, even a City Break.

I have never been to one of these things before so this is an incoherent account of what seemed to be going on. The room was full of important looking persons.

On the stage were the two inspectors. To the right of them and at an angle was a table (also on stage) at which sat whoever was being currently grilled.

Off stage, to the left, side-on to the stage, were two rows of tables occupied by a united front of those in favour of the development. The three QC’s were side by side at the front, but most of the grilling was done by QC Neal Cameron for Minerva and a small amount by QC John Hobson for the Mayor of London.

Off stage to the right and facing the QCs were a similar number of persons (about 12) from Health and Safety team.

When I arrived, currently being grilled at the small table and looking a bit lonely was a representative of the HSE (Health and Safety Executive) Stewart Reston.

Everyone involved had about 4 huge folders of documents, the sort of size that you see when choosing your furnishing fabrics or carpet. So from the start it was clear that all I could do was to use my antennae to guess what they were on about.

Documents were constantly referred to (eg Doc. HSB Page 37 para 4.1); obviously these references were meaningless to local people attending with only a few hours to spare (although heaps of documents were on desks behind the public area). I am not saying that this can be helped, but that that is how it is.

Very fine tuning seemed to be the order of the day. Who exactly should be responsible for applying the Health and Safety rules. It sounded like the HSE felt the Council should have been more, or equally, responsible. It sounded like the Council were being blamed by the HSE for paying insufficient attention to Health & Safety (and hence the recall) while the Council were blaming HSE for not providing enough information.

None of this was crystal clear because it was peppered with references to documents.

Then there was a whole lot more paper shuffling and arguments about the difference between whether ‘due weight’ should be given (to H&S matters) or, ‘great weight’ as was evidently written on a different piece of paper! Gosh it was exciting. And then there a bit about ‘risk versus socio economic benefits’ which ought to have been interesting but wasn’t because it wasn’t really explored. Probably a lot of it was designed to remind the inspectors of points in the applicants favour (supposedly).

Then from QC John Hobson (for the Mayor of London) there was some argument about the validity of HSE recommendations.

It seemed to me the general idea, while subtly manifested, was to discredit the HSE.

As a relief came a change of scene; Stewart Reston was thanked, and a new witness was put ‘in the box’ ,that is, at the table. The new witness looked excitingly different from all the men in business suits. Dr Deaves (hope I have that right) has a beard and looked like a young version of Bernard Shaw. He was a chief engineer with safety and liability qualifications (and a lot more) and was called as an expert witness.

It became clear that he had written a document about which he was to be cross examined.

The subject was in particular the gasholder adjacent to the development and its potential for blowing up and causing at the worst a devastating fireball. Dr Deaves was not found wanting in the examination by QC Neil Cameron for Minerva. Dr Deaves knew how it all worked, exactly, and every circumstance that could happen, and the area of devastation that could occur were these various events to actually take place. He described the physics of the various possible accidents and gave a calm description of the serial failures that could happen and what it would lead to, and how many people would die instantly and the effects of flash fires. He knew the level of ‘societal risk’ there would be if the building went ahead. He knew the thickness of the walls of the rings of ‘our’ gasholder in comparison with others (no worse). He also knew the likelihood of an event was about 10 in 1 million (I hope I got that right).

QC Neil Cameron had evidently read Dr Deaves document with extreme thoroughness and was doing his best for an hour and a half to question every detail, including every turn of phrase, and possible implication. Dr Deaves appeared to be an un-perturbed, accurate, man of Science unburdened by any obligation to anything other than honesty!

The Inspectors diligently took note of every detail.

To be continued in our next…

Tuesday:

  1. Martin Linton will speak.
  2. Followed by Fr Deaves being cross examined again.
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November 21, 2009 at 12:39 am 2 comments

Ram Brewery inquiry: report from week 3

Author: Shirley Passmore [Wandsworth Society]

The Health & Safety position seems to be that the risk from the gasholder would be classified as ‘tolerable’ [1].

It is not expected to blow up any day soon. However accidents do happen (6-8 a year) and although there are people living now within the vicinity and subject to this tolerable risk they are in a widely-spaced area. It is unacceptable to add hundreds more in a concentrated mass righ t next to the gasholder.

HSE would have expected to be consulted on the development before the application went in but they were not. They have expertise on how to minimise the effects of a major accident by suitable building design. A glass-fronted tower full of people is not the best kind of building to have next to a gasholder.

Mr Williams was cross-examined by the QC Mr Harris, endlessly, and in my opinion rather pointlessly. He was trying to discount Mr William’s evidence on how the HSE measured risks and the distances within which they would be serious in terms of loss of life. Since it is admitted that the risk is not high , one wonders what the questioning proved. The fact remains there is a ‘tolerable’ risk and as one can never tell if/when an accident will happen, it is unwise to put a tower full of people at risk.

I left before the end but more HSE issues tomorrow. Timetable in the AGENDA page. Anyone who wants to speak on day 16 must tell Toby Felpham of WBC.

[1] HSE to be consulted on various development proposals including: proposed development in the vicinity of existing hazardous installations where the siting would increase the risk or consequences of a major accident and development within an area that has been notified to the LPA by the HSE because of the presence of hazardous substances and involves:

  • residential
  • more than 250sqm retail floorspace
  • more than 500sqm offices floorspace
  • more than 750sqm floorspace for an industrial purpose
  • transport links
  • or which would be likely to result in a material increase in the number of people working within or visiting the notified area

The HSE note refers to three progress review papers concerning methodology: in May 2002, August 2002 and 2003/04 (MSDU Bulletin) respectively, which were used to clarify the LUP assessment approach to be adopted within the unit until a new siting policy for gasholders is formally agreed.

November 19, 2009 at 2:45 pm

Ram Brewery Inquiry Week 1&2 – Report

See also Shirley Passmore’s report HERE.

Author: Sylvia Harrison

I read Shirley’s account interest and would like to add a few more comments:

WEEK 1

Tuesday 3 November 2009

I attended the first day, when all the procedures were explained. Everybody is drowning in paper. I fear for the trees felled in the name of the RAM BREWERY! The absence of what has now become known as ‘The Road Map’ seemed to be the most problematical topic for the afternoon session, as well as the Inspector’s request for a breakdown of the Section 106 agreement!

EVIDENCE FOR THE APPLICANT (MINERVA)

Daniel Cove, Architect

Obviously totally in love with the design! He made a number of references to the response from CABE which obviously touched a nerve, so I would think this will be something which is raised at a later date.

It was my impression that the Inspector was very helpful to the Wandsworth Society, frequently involving them in consultation with the Architect, who, in the end, did not finish his presentation and asked for another hour the following morning.

I did not eventually hear his final presentation, but I was concerned about the lack of ‘joined-up’ thinking, as he made the comment that his analysis stopped short of the North Side of Armoury Way, even though he did draw a diagram of the Town Centre ‘Core’ with some venn diagrams and expressed the view that the development will encourage visitors from North of the development and provide a walking route to the Thames.

Wednesday 4 November

I spent time doing some research on the Counsels and Minerva, so I could more fully understand the major issues!

Thursday 5 November

Chris Miele – another Partner in Montague Evens

I came in on the end of Chris Miele’s presentation as by this time the Enquiry appeared to be running behind. Again no copies of Proof of Evidence on the ‘Back Table’.

I finally found a reference to the height of the towers apart from the number of storeys. 145.4 metres and 114 metres respectively. To refresh people’s memories, the following is a quotation from Minerva’s own site, which gives some additional information:

This development comprises three individual sites: The Ram Brewery, Capital Studios site and 20-30 Buckhold Road, London SW18. The sites were acquired for a total purchase price of £83.5 million. Resolutions to grant planning consent have been passed by Wandsworth Council to redevelop these sites, with planning consent to follow subject to a Section 106 being agreed. However, the scheme has been called in by the Secretary of State for a public inquiry. The schemes are residential led mixed-use regeneration opportunities in an affluent catchment area of South-West London. Combined, they will comprise 1036 apartments and 238,000 sq.ft. of retail, restaurant and other commercial accommodation, incorporating heritage buildings with modern architecture, including two towers of 32 and 42. storey’s. The developments will incorporate high quality public realm including a riverside walk, 2 public squares and a public viewing gallery in one of the towers.

We have recently exchanged contracts to acquire 1-9 Church Row for £8 million. This acquisition comprises 8 town houses with developable land, adjoining our existing buildings. This will be subject to a future separate planning application.
Minerva November 2009

David Hunter-Yates (Highways)

Again no copy of Proof of Evidence! However, I didn’t need one, as he read from it with great gusto! This is the point which exasperated me most of all, as well as the ones quoted by Shirley.

He assumed Wandsworth Town Station could take extra passengers, and was not overcrowded at peak times as, when it rained, it looked as though the train was full because passengers did not want to walk up the platform and get wet! This was his case for the station having more shelters. He also made an assumption the development would only generate approximately 80 additional passengers therefore it would have no impact.

Paul Burley – Partner in Montague Evans

Like Shirley, I was singularly disappointed with Paul Burley’s Proof of Evidence. He only provided a summary for the ‘back table’ so I was unable to follow many of his points, as I did not have sight of the whole Proof during the day. It was my impression that he knew little about the nature of Wandsworth, in spite of the potted history contained in his evidence. He was asked questions about the Section 106 agreement, and agreed that it was ‘usual’ to stage the draw-down of the funding pending agreed occupancy. He did provide a schedule of indicative timescale for payment of the ‘Gyratory’ contribution over a period of 6 years. It was anticipated completion would be by 2018, if permission was granted, which means building would start in the Autumn of 2010.

He was questioned on the ‘notion’ of a Town Centre, in view of the fact that Wandsworth Borough has at least four: Tooting, Wandsworth Town, Putney and Clapham Junction. He agreed Southside had the character of a Centre, but it is not ‘nice’ enough. He had lots of ideas about what shops there should be including high end properties and quoted Neal’s Yard in Covent Garden of an example of how small units can develop character. He had, of course, forgotten the biggest draw for Neal’s Yard ha been the improvements and incorporation of the Donmar Warehouse!

One interesting point I did pick up from his presentation was that the gasometer is just 80 metres from the North East corner of the site. I assume this statement will be developed further by the Health and Safety Executive.

Friday 6 November

EVIDENCE FOR WANDSWORTH COUNCIL

I did not attend the Enquiry, but downloaded Robert Stone’s Proof of Evidence – 42 pages with 10 pages of Appendices and for the first time I saw an ‘indicative’ proposed road network and an analysis of the ability of the proposed transport networks to meet future demands. I found the document well-written, interesting and informative.

WEEK 2

Tuesday 10 November

John Webb– Forward Planner, particularly relating to Heritage and Conservation matters

I did not attend for the morning session, but a colleague gave me the following notes which supplement Shirley’s:

  • Residents were shown a copy letter received from English Heritage dated 6 November, commenting on the London Borough of Wandsworth’s Local Development Framework and changes to the Core Strategy. They also made comments on the Stage One Urban Design Statement – Tall Buildings (September 2009). English Heritage suggested that the relevant principal Policy requires further amendment.
  • Mr Webb stated the scheme was well-integrated and complimentary
  • Overall the impact will be beneficial
  • A town centre must continually adapt to stay relevant to people’s needs
  • He agreed there would be likely adverse impacts on adjacent residential properties

I came in just in time for the very skilful cross-questioning from the Wandsworth Society. See Shirley’s comments.

Wednesday 11 November

Tim Cronin – Planning

I found him articulate and professional. He had presented his evidence the previous day, so he was subjected to cross-questioning both by the Council’s Counsel and the Wandsworth Society.

I did pick up some interesting points in relation to the emerging Tall Buildings Strategy. He recognized that robust criteria were required, and that the draft policy included the suggestion that a building will be designated as tall when it was 12 storeys and above, rising to 30, and that this was the absolute maximum. However, the 42 storeys suggested for the Ram Brewery project had stand-alone reasons for being acceptable. Again, questions were then raised in connection with the Gyratory System and the Section 106 agreement and the supposed ‘trade off’ between the Transport scheme and Social Housing.

NOTES:

A letter was circulated today as an add-on to John Stone’s evidence. It was from South-West Trains and confirmed that they had submitted a proposal to the Department for Transport for the use of additional rolling stock that would meet their criteria for providing additional capacity into Waterloo during the morning peak period.

A number of people have been asking about Section 106. The document contained in this link is worth studying if you are interested.

MAYOR OF LONDON

The Counsel reviewed his Proof of Evidence and introduced his Witnesses.

Gordon Adam, Transport for London

I missed this one. But I understand that one of the key points was to do with parking and the lack of it on the site. There was also a general discussion of the gyratory system, when the Inspector made the following comment: The Enquiry is not to look at the merits or otherwise of the gyratory system, only the Ram Brewery Site.

Michael O’Callaghan – Transport for London

A link to his proof of evidence is on the Council website (albeit in black and white) so I was able to look at this in advance. The residents were given a copy of a brief summary with a feasibility study for the removal of the gyratory system in Wandsworth Town Centre and an outline delivery programme for the project. Link HERE.

I understood the situation as being that Tfl are not prepared to carry out any work whatsoever unless they get the whole £38 million from Minerva, although if there was a shortfall over and above this amount, they might be prepared to find some funding to complete the project. Their estimate is completion by 2018.

The people in attendance were shown a CD-Rom Video clip showing a traffic simulation analysis called VISSIM. This demonstrated what happens now and what could happen in the future when the gyratory system was removed. There then followed a lively question and answer session which covered virtually all of the provision, and not just the area round the Ram Brewery which the Inspector had indicated. This session was very well managed by the Wandsworth Society, who brought up the major points of concern, a number of which had been raised by other residents. In particular a resident from the Tonsley’s said that the traffic simulation seems to predict a greater increase in traffic down Old York Road. This could devastate what is a much-used and loved area in the Borough which includes a number of restaurants, cafes and small shops and a very popular public house opposite Wandsworth Town Station.

The Enquiry was adjourned until Tuesday 17 November.

I hope others will be able to pick up on the next week or so, as I cannot attend any more sessions until the week commencing 24 November.

November 12, 2009 at 10:43 pm

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.

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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