Archive for December, 2008
All during the last 3 months of this year you have been sending some 400 comments to the Council, with about 90% expressing your objection to the planning proposal including the two 142m high tower blocks beside Clapham Junction station.
On behalf of the Clapham Junction Action Group I thank you for your help, raising your concern.
Your views were also published in the press, as some examples below (click on the articles to enlarge):
However, as a member of the Council recently pointed, a crucial point of the action is the number of comments/objection received. With Putney’s project getting more than 500 presentations, it played an important role in the Planning Committee decision to reject the planning proposal ; here for Clapham Junction we have still some way to go to beat that record. I urge people who haven’t sent their views to the Council to do so. And alway remember that each single voice count, so it is important that people write personally instead of sending a group objection.
A Councillor for Northcote Ward Battersea sent me a specific question about the leaflet, wondering where I have got the impression that the Council has said that there is only a choice between the proposed scheme or nothing at all for the next 30 years (the opening paragraph of the box headed “Blackmail”). He added that he personally does not recognize that as being the Council’s position.
First and foremost, I welcome the email and thank him for the comment. He is showing the attention that I would expect from all the Council representatives to the residents. Here below are some clarifications.
When I say “Council” I am talking about the “Wandsworth Council” as a whole entity, not about specific individuals. I fully understand that Councillors for Northcote Ward are encouraging residents to ensure that their views are submitted to the Council so that the Planning committee is fully aware of their comments when the application is considered. I made a note about their appeal in the press.
However there are a number of points leading to this assessment.
First, early in October, I had a discussion with the Council’s planning officer. He clearly stated what I wrote: he was going to consider my comment, but I needed to know that this is “either the two tower blocks as per the planning application, or nothing at all for the next 30 years, as neither the Council, the Government or Network Rail want to fund“. This, I call blackmail! (And it was my statement to the journalist reproduced in an article of the South London Press). We also published an exchange with Kate Williams on the website.
Second, I had a quick exchange of emails with another member of the Council as he responded to one of the residents saying (I quote): “It is fair to say that the application is attracting a large number of representations, both for and against.” It would be more accurate to say that about 90% of local residents who sent comments object to the planning, but he chose to be rather economical with the details and made a fairly creative interpretation of the facts. And using pure rhetoric and rudeness in responding “I stand by my comment that this application has attracted a large number of representations (please note the word representations) both for and against. I have no intention of arguing semantics with you and regard the matter as closed” is unfortunately not going to help in changing my opinion. What he calls “semantic“, I call creative writing and question his unbiased view on the subject as a major member of the planning committee.
Third, I am deeply disappointed to see that there is absolutely no news at all from the Councillors of Shaftesbury Ward: why are they not raising the concerns of their constituents?
Fourth, I personally think it awkward that there are so many submissions for building skyscrapers in Wandsworth (Putney, Ram Brewery development and the Battersea Power Station project… what else tomorrow?). Maybe because the Council is keen to consider them?
I welcome the debate on this website, and take the opportunity to remind everyone about the public meeting on the 28th of January at the Wessez House where opportunity to express all views will be offered.
The Clapham Junction Action Group has published a new leaflet available on the link here.
We intend to distribute the leaflet from the 10th January onward and are looking for help. If you can spare 1 or 2 hours helping to distribute some papers in the vicinity of Clapham Junction, please contact us here.
Last but not least, we remind you about the public meeting, organised with the help of the Battersea Society:
Wednesday 28th January, 2009
Public meeting on the Clapham Junction planning proposal
With a range of speakers, including Martin Linton MP, Kate Williams (Clapham Junction Action Group) and the Battersea Society.
All residents are welcome, please come along
Venue: Wessex House, 1a St Johns Hill SW11 1TN (Night club in front of Clapham Junction station)
Time: between 7pm and 9pm
We received an email form Julia Matcham, former member of an Action Group in the vicinity and who keep writing regular newsletters.
ALERT : Clapham Junction Redevelopment
I should have been quicker off the mark over this particularly as I only found out accidentally (by means of a small poster at the Station) that plans were now being considered. In my opinion the whole matter should be much better publicised and subject to public proper and extensive consultation. It is the biggest Junction in Europe and not someone’s back extension. Reading other people’s objections on the planning site makes it very clear WHY there should be thorough discussion.
I am informed that the area/property* is owned by Network Rail plus Metro Shopping Fund who (I think) encompass Delancey and Land Securities.
I asked who is actually responsible for Clapham Junction Station and was told -Network Rail – who have said they have no plans for updating the station in any foreseeable future.
So the only way the Council can see an improvement to the station (for which they are NOT responsible) is by giving planning permission to these people who will say they need the towers to pay for the station.This is to my mind quite outrageous. Clapham Junction Station is a public resource and should be properly funded by the government. Any subsidiary developments around the station should be another story and considered on behalf of local residents and retailers, not on behalf of developers.
One has to ask why then are the Council encouraging this situation? Why should the Council should even consider facilitating an unecessary deal of this sort? Why not leave it as it is until the government/Network-Rail are shamed into doing something about Clapham Junction because it is truly a national disgrace. It is not the Council’s responsibility. Is it that this huge development would bring in a lot of income?
Proposed are 2 hideous 42 storey towers = 556 housing units.
And, if I remember rightly, approx 50 retail units. Do we need them? Isn’t St John’s Road enough?
This is a high price for local people to pay for a cleaned up station with an lift and an inconvenient new entrance up the hill.
Parking underneath the new buildings cannot possibly be enough for the housing units and increased trade.
Coincidentally a new ‘Polyclinic’ is proposed in the Grant Road area …and where is their trade going to park and wait for their afflicted relations? Asda’s car park? No, that will be full of parkers for the 50 retail shopping units and the overflow from the 556 flats!
Then there is the question of density of our local population; the height, ugliness and inappropriateness of what is proposed; the effect of 50 new retail outlets on St Johns Road . All because Network Rail/government will not take proper responsibility for it’s own station.
In any rational world, in the event of it being necessary, more than one way of designing such a large public area would be considered regardless of who actually owns the properties. That way we might get some decent architecture in the borough. I asked about this and I am told by Mark Hunter (Planning Dept) who is in charge of the application that while anyone can put in a planning application, only those with a financial interest in such a large property would be likely to do so.
As I see it, this isn’t for us…the beneficiaries will be the developers plus quite a bit of income for the council. Network Rail shamelessly provide convenient leverage for predatory developers. Maybe it isn’t yet a done deal…
*All the buildings except the pub on the corner.
One of our primary aims has been to ensure that a proper consultation takes place in which the views of local residents are actively encouraged. As a result, the Council has agreed to consider any representations made to it before the Planning Committee meeting decides the proposal some time in February (date to be announced).
The following exchange took place on 5th December 2008 between the Council’s planning officer (CPO in blue-italic), and Kate Williams of our Action Group (KW responses in bold). In fairness to the Council, we undertake to publish the Council’s response in full.
CPO “With regard to your letter of objection sent by e-mail on 4th November, you raised a number of points to which I have not responded. Unfortunately, given the large number of points raised in letters, it is not possible with such an application to write in response to each one, however, I intend to write a full and frank report to Committee, which should therein, respond to points raised in correspondence, as well as taking into account all other material considerations.
This is a very complex planning application, with many interlinked issues. However, to provide some response to the points you raise;
As you point out, the accommodation in the proposed development is predominantly one and two bedroom flats, and the target would not therefore be families, however, it must be considered if this specific location is one that is suitable for families. In locations where developments are more suitable for families, Officer’s would certainly look for developments to provide a greater proportion of family housing. The noise attenuation of the development has been assessed in relation to Planning Policy Guidance 24 ‘Noise,’ which gives stringent guidance which would need to be met in relation to the provision of residential properties adjacent to noisy uses. Your assessment of the residential use in tall buildings appears somewhat bleak when you refer to ‘no-go zones’, I would point to examples such as the Barbican Towers, the Trellick Tower, and many such examples in the Docklands, where high rise living is popular and works well, and are not ‘hotbeds of crime and anti-social behaviour.’ “
KW: “My point relating to tower blocks is that these are not, generally, regarded as desirable places to live and I wonder what measures the Council is taking to ensure that the entire development does not end up as a ‘white elephant’ unable to attract any of the residents that the developers seem to be so confident of enticing. Indeed, the Trellick tower that you compare the development to started life with a very poor reputation for crime and anti social behaviour. This led to security measures being taken in the late 70s and to the Tower only emerging as a desirable place to live in the 1980s, largely due to the reputation of its brutalist architect Erno Goldfinger. My concern is that in an economic climate not dissimilar to the 1970s, no-one will choose to live in high rise flats above Clapham Junction station and measures may need to be taken to fill the apartments with the types of resident who made Trellick Tower such an undesirable place. Indeed, with most of the latest river developments still unoccupied, I am concerned that this outcome is almost guaranteed.
Whilst the comparison to Trellick Tower is apt, the comparisons to the Barbican and Canary Wharf are not. These are areas of intense high rise development and their effect has been to displace the local communities entirely in favour of executives and wealthy retirees. I am no more keen on having executive islands in the vicinity than on creating an inner city nightmare. Our community has one of the best mixes of class, occupation and age that I have encountered anywhere in London . If anything, what we need is more affordable housing for families, and it is this that the Council should strive to achieve.”
CPO: “With regard to the relocated station entrance, the main solution proposed to station congestion and overcrowding is to provide new entrance buildings to the station via escalators and lifts to the existing over bridge, (which is two and a half times the width of the subway). This approach allows the existing subway to be used for interchange between trains only, relieving the worst points of congestion, and spreads passengers along the platforms, the principle of which was devised by passenger flow modelling work undertaken by Network Rail and Transport for London. This approach would also have the benefit of providing for disabled/pushchair access via lifts from the entrance buildings to the bridge, as well as direct level access from Brighton Buildings to the bridge, with a dedicated disabled drop-off/pick up point in Brighton Yard. This would link with the DfT Access for All proposals to include lifts from the overbridge to platforms 1-16. The approach allows for increased capacity and facilities for ticketing and train information and, although a slightly further distance to walk for some people, the comfort of the passenger experience should be enhanced. The passenger flow modelling work by TfL and Network Rail indicates that allowing for access and egress points from the existing tunnel as well as the over bridge would quickly lead to a return to congestion. Further congestion also occurs at present at the station/shopping mall exit to St John’s Hill, where people exiting the station and those waiting for buses converge. The current proposals would create an enhanced public realm, allowing better dispersal of passengers through the improved permeability of the site, re-siting of bus stops and taxi rank and improved and expanded cycle parking facilities. The proposals have been designed to integrate with the Councils proposed Exemplar scheme for improvements to traffic flow, public realm and pedestrian facilities in the immediate vicinity. The proposal also includes the applicants giving land to Network Rail adjacent to platform 17 to allow for the straightening of platforms 15-17 and the removal of the existing gaps between platforms and trains, and would allow for Network rail to potentially lengthen platforms and allow longer trains to operate.“
KW: “Regarding the station development, it is a pity that this has been the subject of much mis-information which I have taken some trouble since first writing to investigate. I am not at all opposed to the development of the station nor to the entrance reverting to the Brighton Buildings where it was originally. I understand, however, that the majority of the actual improvement work will be carried out by Network Rail including platform straightening and the provision of lifts and stairs to platforms. As far as I can see, this leaves only the provision of new entrances and escalators to be carried out by the developers, whereas in many documents I have seen (including the Mayor’s consultation report) they appear to take credit for the entire scheme. The provision of new entrance buildings (when one of these already exists) seems to be a very poor deal for the people of Clapham Junction opposed to the towers, and does little to make up for the lack of any affordable housing within the scheme. Indeed, much of the purpose of these entrances appears to be to create new retail space, and costs could surely be saved by Network Rail providing straightforward station facilities in place of the proposed commercial uses?”
CPO: “With regard to the position of Network Rail funding, they state that ‘funding for improvements to the Station (other than for lift access from the over bridge to platforms already identified) is not identified in the current or next funding periods The earliest funding could come forward is in the period 2014 to 2019, but would require support from the Government and Office of Rail Regulation, and there is no certainty on funding nor what the competing priorities would be at that time.’ “
KW: “In my original e-mail, I asked for clarification as to the steps that the Council has taken to hold Network Rail to its current commitment (as set out in its Strategic Plan 2006-14) to carry out the whole of the scheme itself. What justification does Network Rail give for now reneging on this promise, and what benefits is it hoping to realise through the disposal of lands associated with the development? There appear to be some very difficult questions which need to be asked, and the Councillors need to be absolutely satisfied that the necessary linkage of the proposed development to the station upgrade has been adequately demonstrated. In many people’s minds this issue is key as almost all agree that the station is woefully inadequate at present. I should very much appreciate your detailed response on this issue since I have no wish to misinform others in our campaign against this development. Copies of any correspondence or minutes of meetings in which Network Rail has been asked to respond on these issues would be greatly appreciated.”
CPO: “One further point I would like to clarify was raised at the Northcote Ward meeting, and which has been the subject of some misinformation, is the issue of relating the height of the proposal to Tower 42 (formerly the Nat West Tower ). Whilst both would indeed have 42 floors, Office buildings are however constructed approximately 1 metre per floor larger than residential buildings. Tower 42 has a height 183m, whereas the proposal for Clapham Junction would be 142m. “
KW: “I have been very careful always to point out that the proposed towers have the same number of floors as the Nat West Tower, and have never claimed that they are the same height. Indeed, since their height was not mentioned in the Planning Consultation leaflet, I only recently learned that the Clapham Junction development will reach as high as 142 metres, sufficient for the Aviation Authority to require aircraft warning lights! Indeed, if there has been any misinformation then, with respect, it comes from the omission of this information from the Council’s Planning Consultation Document, and by the display of pictures which cut the towers off at their bases. In my original e-mail, I asked for scale models to be provided at the station. If people are to be properly informed as to the height of these towers, then it is of very great importance that this should be done. I have no doubt that the developers are able to provide such models, or at the very least publicity posters displaying their full height. I shall continue campaigning for this and hope very much that the Council considers this part of its duty to inform.”
We do very much appreciate that the Council has much to do and that our requests create additional work. However, this is a proposal which has very significant implications for the entire borough and, whether people are for or against it, it is of paramount importance that they should be properly informed.
Here are more photos that neither the developers nor the Council planning proposal leaflet chose to show you:
If you consult the developer’s website, you will see some amazing statement:
“Metro Shopping Fund widely consulted the local community on its plans and received very positive feedback and constructive input in to shaping the final proposals.“
On the consultation page of the website, you can even read:
“Metro Shopping Fund was keen to hear the views and opinions on its plans for Clapham Junction from as many local people as possible.
Our four day consultation event at Clapham Junction attracted around a thousand local people, both residents and station users.
Feedback from the local community was very positive with strong support for the proposed station improvements, new public realm and proposed new shopping street. While over 72% of respondents rated the proposed residential buildings as satisfactory or better.“
Of course they received strong support for the station improvement! Everybody would like the station to be redeveloped, with better access, better amenities, no overcrowding any more and up to the standard that is deserved by the busiest inter-rail connection in Europe.
But if you remember the number of objections displayed on the Council website, most of them with countless arguments against the tower developement and the damage caused to the vicinity, the 90% representations asking to refuse the scheme and reconsider the planning developement, calling that a wide support in favour of the plan is stretching the reality a bit too far !
As the Council would like us to believe that there is only one choice:
- either the construction of the 2 skyscrapers of 42 storey each + refurbishment of the station,
- or nothing at all for the next 30 years,
we have already shown that there are already commitments on station improvement, independently of tower block construction.
I have also received some alternative suggestions for the development of the surroundings of Clapham Junction area.
Peter Deakins, a local resident, rightly pointed out that the new proposals are likely to be no better for the wider Community than what already exists, but could in fact be very damaging to existing businesses. At the same time rights that the public has had the benefit of for very, very many years are noted as being removed.
He has published a document, with his Architectural Practice, to add to proposals that are currently being discussed and present his view to upgrade the major part of the surroundings of the vicinity. The document has been widely distributed throughout Battersea and Wandsworth including to many members of the Wandsworth, Battersea and Clapham Amenity Societies, and additionally to many local businesses – particularly those around the Junction and members of business groups such as the Wandsworth Chamber of Commerce.
According to him, the feedback that he has received so far has been very supportive indeed, both for the major issues that were illustrated in the leaflet of a) vastly improving and reducing dangerous aspects of the current traffic circulation by making much better use of roads that are already in the public domain as ‘public rights of way’, whilst also b) making the barrier between North and South Battersea formed by the Railway Lines and the Station itself to be much less overwhelming.
Stating that Clapham Junction Station is currently very rundown and needs upgrading as long as the surrounding areas, and that the station also forms a formidable barrier between North and South Battersea, the ideas outlined in the plan suggest solutions to help to reverse continuing decay.
A presentation of the proposal is shown in the picture below:
Within the 30 about letters from supporters for the current planning proposal including the two skyscrapers beside Clapham Junction station (10% of all representations sent to the Council), only a some use more than a few words to justify their opinion.
Amongst the reasons the most often raised, I can cite:
“This is once in a life time opportunity, if the plans are not supported we will face years of continued dreadful conditions at the station“
We cannot be categoric on this, in either way actually. But we know as a fact that Network rail has committed to some station improvement, including “straightening of platforms 14 to 17 and lengthening of all platforms is proposed to facilitate train lengthening. In addition the provision of additional passenger capacity and improved access by rafting over the station and providing a new entrance to the station” (Network Rail’s Strategic Plan) and in addition the extension of the East London Line (that could reach Clapham Junction by 2015-2018) requires it as the station is already running at capacity.
On the other hand, with the current crisis and the financial difficulties of the developers, the already 3 years of works, noise, lorries, dust could not happen before a while. The developers, once granted the permission, can stand on it and do nothing for 5 years; it will be always time for them at a later stage to even sell it to others for a bigger profit with the right to build skyscrapers in the vicinity.
“Clapham Junction will be an important interchange into London during the 2012 Olympics, we need to follow the theme of regeneration and provide stimulus“.
Same reason as above, there is no guarantee than anything will happen for 2012 with the green light for the planning proposal. Actually the better chance is that the planning application is refused, therefore forcing Network rail to act and start the improvements that it has committed on and are currently being delayed.
“Station overcrowded; redevelopment will ease the misery , bring life and vibrancy“.
There are a lot of other ways to explore. First the shops and local business are not happy at all with the planning proposal. As shown here, the Falcon has raised good objections, along with PCS (employing 240 employees in the Falcon House, job which will be destroyed if the planning go ahead such as). We also submitted an alternative planning as example of other suggestions.
“I have some hope than buildings will be reduce by half“
Er… then you need to oppose the planning, because supporting it means you are in favour of the two 42-storey tower blocks.
“the two residential towers fit perfectly with the surroundings“.
Here the one supporter (there is only one supporter stating it in his letter) seems to agree with the Mayor of London who said the towers are “attractive city elements contributing positively to the London skyline” (comments coming from the man who, before his election, vowed to put a stop to Ken’s ‘phallocratic towers’ and claimed that the previous Mayor was intent on ‘wrecking London’s skyline’).
Allow us, as for the majority of the 350 people who objected, to disagree and state that the towers will overwhelm the existing community, and will be of inappropriate form, size, height, design, materials and appearance with our neighbourhood of Victorian and low rise developments.
“benefits of improving access to the station , shopping facilities and job creation outweight the disadvantages“.
First the improvement of the station is not linked with the towers (despite what the developers and the Council want us to believe) as many changes have already been budgeted by Network Rail such as lifts, platform, access. Second, with the 240 job loss of PCS and the few others from the Windsor Castle pub, the balance is unlikely to be positive in term of job creation.
Last but not least, the disadvantages are enormous disadvantages which would have consequences on the all area for 50 years at least damaging the vicinity maybe forever.
As part of the proposed scheme, all of the current office space within the Clapham Junction complex will be lost and there are no plans to provide new offices. As one of the objectors to the scheme has put it : “Did you know that Clapham Junction is the 13th most accessible employment location in the whole of London? Without a stronger level of employment, Clapham Junction will continue to fail its tremendous potential. … If the developers took into account CJ’s accessibility, and lobbied for creating a new connection between CJ and Heathrow, then we’d be talking about something altogether different.”
Here are some of the comments from local employers regarding the proposals:
PCS is the Trade Union in occupation at Falcon House, since its construction more than 20 years ago. Many of PCS’s staff either live locally in Clapham Junction area or are reliant on the proximity of rail services at Clapham Junction station for their journey to work. The PCS is one of the few major employers still present in Clapham Junction, with a staff of approximatively 240 who, together , contribute significantly to the social and economic life of the centre. As the Head Quarter of a trade union with 300,000 members, Falcon House receives as many as 350 visitors per week according to a contribution sent to the Planning Application Committee.
Representation of PCS highlights two fundamental errors in the planning application:
- no reference made to the absence of any satisfactory relocation premises,
- no reference on effects of the loss of 241 full time jobs in Clapham Junction.
In addition, PCS made clear that there is no offer of alternative premises and there is a false assessment in the planning statement saying that PCS wants to relocate closer to Westminster.
The Falcon pub is also objecting to the plan, stating that the application will have an unacceptable impact upon the operation of the Falcon, and highlighting a complete lack of consideration for the business. For example, if the company cannot bring service vehicles to the rear of the building (the Falcon has a right of access, stated on the Land Registry, over the land to the rear of the public house, which the developers have ignored) they will have to park outside the property on either St John’s Hill or Falcon Road. Dray lorries can take up to an hour to load and, accordingly, there will inevitably be significant impact for the safe and free flow of traffic through the Junction.
The fact that no thought has been given to future service arrangements for the Falcon is a significant deficiency in the application submission.
The developers’ representatives at the exhibition last January made clear that the new centre will seek to attract multiple businesses currently in St John’s Road. However, by closing the entrance to the under-pass and moving the main station entrance further up the hill, they will affect the access to the current shopping area of St John’s Road and Northcote Road. (For users who have been in the vicinity long enough to remember times when the tunnel was closed – in favour of the Brighton Yard entrance – they know that it just does not work as well).
In addition, some of the representations objecting to the plans, rightly question the quality of the businesses in the new mall, pointing out that Southside in Wandsworth Town has a substantial number of unlet units and questionning how viable the proposal will be. They ask for more local shops and services, and no more Starbucks or chain restaurants.