Posts filed under ‘Wandsworth Town’
Author: Cyril Richert
We have just received the decision of the Secretary of State regarding the Ram Brewery redevelopment plan Inquiry.
I will just copy below the main decision regarding the scheme with skyscrapers and will develop some analysis later (as soon as I have time this weekend).
erection of 8 new buildings comprised of 2 towers at the northern end of the Ram Brewery site up to 32 and 42 storeys in height with retained listed stable block and new 3-storey building fronting Armoury Way; 2-9 storey buildings consisting of 4 residential blocks above first/second floor level… etc
The Inspector recommended that Application A should be refused. For the reasons given below, the Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector’s conclusions, and agrees with his recommendation.
Author: Cyril Richert
Back in December 18, 2009 I wrote: “Ram Brewery: the Secretary of State could make a decision before next election“. In view of the date for the decision (before May 27th) I was much too optimistic and Tony Belton was right to point out that in his view it was delaying the decision after the election, for the new Secretary of State (good luck fellow!).
Yesterday I received the following letter (see PDF here) saying that:
the Secretary of State will not be in a position to reach a decision on this appeal [Ram Brewery] by 27 May. This is because of the general election and the need, following that election, for any new Ministers to be briefed on planning casework. Therefore [...] the Secretary of State hereby gives notice that he has varied the timetable previously set and he will now issue his decision on or before 17 June 2010.
Author: Cyril Richert
Step1: The Inspector criticizes Wandsworth Borough Council for its lack of evidence on defining tall buildings area and supporting evidence
In a letter received on September 24th 2009, we can read:
“Following submission [of the new Core Strategy/vision of the Council for the future of the borough], the Inspector undertaking the Examination of the Core Strategy identified concerns in relation to the policies and supporting evidence on affordable housing and tall buildings, and the lack of comprehensive table indicating the relationship between the Core Strategy policies, the related infrastructure requires to deliver the policies and the indicators which will be used to monitor delivery of the plan.
The Council has now provided the Inspector with the additional information required, including an affordable housing economic viability assessment and a Stage One Urban Design Statement and is proposed a number of changes to the Core Strategy. As recommended by the Inspector, the Council is now consulting on the proposed changes to the Core Strategy [...] All other proposed changes [i.e. except percentage of affordable homes] in relation to tall buildings and affordable housing are open to representations in relation to soundness!”
(click on the image to enlarge).
The Inspector’s concerns in relation to tall buildings reflected the representations made by EH on the proposed submission version, namely that the tall buildings policy has not been informed by an urban design study in accordance with the Government endorsed EH/CABE “Guidance on Tall Buildings 2007”.
To address English Heritage’s and the Inspector’s concerns, the Planning Service produced a high level urban design statement, bringing together the information that was used to identify the locations which may be suitable for tall buildings (PAPER NO. 09-744 / PLANNING AND TRANSPORTATION OVERVIEW AND SCRUTINY COMMITTEE – 10TH SEPTEMBER 2009 / EXECUTIVE – 14TH SEPTEMBER 2009).
The Council published a map with colours of preferable heights (P78 of SSAD2).
I specifically highlight the location of Osiers Estate on the map.
- Numbers without brackets: height at which buildings are considered tall buildings.
- Numbers inside brackets: height above which buildings are unlikely to be considered acceptable.
In addition in SSAD1, p74, you can read:
Views: High building proposals could have an impact on sensitive views of the site from Wandsworth Park, the Thames and Wandle Riversides and from the opposite bank of the Thames, particularly Hurlingham Park. More local views from the Spit and The Causeway, including Causeway Island, will be important and should be considered.
Tall buildings: In accordance with the Council’s Stage 2 Urban Design Study – Tall Buildings, applications for development of 9 storeys and above will be subject to the criteria of the tall buildings policy contained in the emerging DMPD. Applications for buildings of more than 18 storeys will generally be unacceptable, and will only be considered in exceptional circumstances. Any tall building proposed should not harm sensitive views from Wandsworth Park and the Thames riverside or the setting of Prospect House, Point Pleasant – listed grade II.
Step3: The Council approved a 21 storey tower in Osiers Industrial Estate
Redevelopment of Osiers Industrial Estate (1-20 ENTERPRISE WAY – existing 20 storage and sheds located to the North and South of Enterprise Way ) application 2009/3017 went before the planning committee on the 7 January 2010
The conclusion in report of the planning officer said:
The 21-storey tower challenges the policy framework for the redevelopment [...].With this aspect of the scheme the judgement for the Committee is whether the benefits the scheme will bring for the regeneration, townscape and public realm justify its inclusion in the proposals.
The very high density of the development in a poor PTAL [transport facilities] area also poses a challenge to the policy framework.
However the recommendation was to grant permission and the Council approved the scheme in a straight forward decision where only the 2 Labour Councillors opposed.
It includes a tower of 21 stories. There is no exceptional circumstances highlighted in the report.
Draw your own conclusion…!
Regarding specifically Osiers Estate, Stuart King, Labour parliamentary candidate for Putney wrote a statement on his blog and is said to petition the local residents. Others will meet with Justine Greening (Putney MP) to talk about the issue.
Author: Cyril Richert
Just hundred yards away from the site where the majority of the planning committee approved the skyscrapers proposal for the Ram Brewery site in December 2008 (called in by the Secretary of State and subject of a Public Inquiry last November), a scheme including a 21 storey-tower was approved last week. Similar arguments against high density, size and increased pressure on public transport in an already congested location. More than 100 objections. Same story also as Labour councillors Belton and Randall opposed the scheme, which resulted in a split vote 6/2 in favour on January 7th 2010.
The planning application 2009/3017 (Enterprise Way – Osiers Industrial Estate) is described as demolition of existing buildings an erection of 8 buildings ranging in height from 2 to 21 storeys comprising 275 flats of which 89 would be affordable; 3,587sq.m. of commercial floor space to include shops, financial and professional services, restaurant, food and drinking uses, office , health and leisure uses. Basement car parking provided for 165 vehicles with vehicle access onto Enterprise Way. Provision of landscaping and ecological enhancements, including new surfacing to Enterprise Way and Wandle Riverside area.
The Planning report that I will refer to below is available HERE (pdf).
In the immediate proximity (Wandsworth Riverside Quarter) 204 flats have been built and an additional 504 residential units are proposed (of which 187 would be “affordable”). As a reminder, the Ram Brewery development, also approved by Wandsworth Council is proposing 1000 new apartments.
The quantum of affordable housing represents 32% of the overall units and it is said that any increase of contribution or affordable housing would render the scheme un-viable. The GLA highlight that considering the lack of information regarding residential quality and amenity, the proposal cannot be considered acceptable at this stage. Although they do not criticize the design, they highlight that the ground floor proposal does not comply with London Plan Policy and ask the Council to consider the impact on the immediate local and wider context.
Regarding transport, it is considered that there is a convenient access to local amenities with Wandsworth Town Station a 600m walk and close to East Putney Underground station and bus roads with existing spare capacity according to TfL. However (as also highlighted in the Ram Brewery scheme), Wandsworth Town station operates in excess of 116% but the development is said not to create any significant worsening (although if you add all the current plannings you can seriously wonder if any consideration was given to the long term issue).
The developers have calculated their contribution to the public realm under section 106 to £1.4m which raises questions due to its very low level (in comparison, for example, with the £41m proposed for the Ram Brewery scheme). The Wandsworth NHS has requested an additional contribution of £1.2m which the developers have dismissed. The planning officer recommended an overall contribution for a total of £2.3m.
I counted 106 objections (not 72 as in the report). Considering the area, mostly consisting of unused (but listed) buildings, industries and commercial units, along with the 8-storey Council offices, it is not surprising that the level of representations would be different from an area such as Clapham Junction, located at the heart of a thriving important area of Victorian and Edwardian houses (similar level of presentations as for the Ram Brewery development and same comment). However more than 100 objections and no support at all should be addressed effectively by the Council.
Objections say that the development is too dense and out of character and proportion with the surrounding, Wandsworth park is already over-used and proposed improvements not significant in respect to the size of the development, that the number of car parking is insufficient and that Wandsworth Town Station is already overcrowded.
Councillor Maddan (Conservatives) also objected and underlined several inaccuracies (such as saying that there is a boat service, assuming rail plans while not committed, reference to the Bolingbroke hospital while the site is closed…).
The Wandsworth Society said that the proposal to change the use of the site from industrial employment to mix-use residential/commercial has yet to be approved. The density (864hrph) is about twice the one recommended by the London plan (300-650hrph) for site as this with PTAL2 (Public Transport Accessibility Level). The planning officer, talking about density, confirmed that the proposed schemed is in considerable excess of both the urban and central setting (page 53 of the report). The development includes also a tower several stories higher than any other buildings built or planned between the River Wandle or Wandsworth Park.
Town planning policy
Wandsworth Borough Council current draft Site Specific Allocations Document says (p73 p74):
Applications for buildings of more than 12 18 storeys will generally be unacceptable, and will only be considered in exceptional circumstances.
Comment from the report of Planning Officer said (p61):
The 21-storey tower challenges the policy framework for the redevelopment here as did the 15-storey WRQ Phase III proposal in 2007. With this aspect of the scheme the judgement for the Committee is whether the benefits the scheme will bring for the regeneration, townscape and public realm justify its inclusion in the proposals.
The proposal was approved by the planning committee on the 7 January 2010 (with the 2 Labour councillors opposing – read comment on their website). Tony Belton said:
“All the Tory councillors on the Committee voted for the application but without having much to say in support of it. One of them said that it would be “good” for the Government’s healthy living programme if residents had to walk that distance for the crowded 220 bus!“
[I have contacted Martin Johnson to have a comment on the Conservatives side but have not received a response yet. Of course I will include the view when I get it]
Author: Cyril Richert
Sian Evans, the Secretary of State, has published a statement regarding the Ram Brewery Inquiry with an apparent intention to issue a decision before next general election (due by June 2010 at latest). [*]
“Following the closure of the Inquiry, the Inspector is now preparing his report and recommendation(s) for submission to the Secretary of State for their consideration.
In accordance with Schedule 2 to the above Act, I am writing to let you know that the Secretary of State will issue their decision(s) on or before 27 May 2010.“
In any case, it could mean that we are likely to have a recommendation from the Inspector early May 2010.
Read also our article: Ram Brewery Inquiry is over: what next?
[*] That’s the usual story of the glass half full or half empty: you could think also that a general election is likely to happen before the decision.
Author: Shirley Passmore
We learned this week that the Secretary of State has refused planning permission for a development in Ealing town centre for a 25-storey tower and 6 further blocks of between 2 – 11 storeys, by architects Foster and Partners (full report HERE).
A piece of very good news for the Wandsworth objectors (ie. most of the local population of all political parties and none) is that the formidable Russell Harris QC [representing Minerva in the Ram Brewery Inquiry], who conducted the case for Minerva and was also the QC acting for Glenkerrin at Ealing, did not win. We thought he might be unbeatable!
The proposed scheme is different from that for the Ram site in many respects but there are interesting similarities. The area around the site is similar to Wandsworth, a mixture of very old, of Victorian (2-6 storey), and more recent buildings of doubtful merit. There are also many listed buildings nearby.
The main differences are that the proposed tower is ‘only’ 25 storeys high and there is only one. The proposed density for the site is way above the highest required level in the London Plan, and Ealing is categorised as a Metropolitan Centre as opposed to a Major Centre for Wandsworth.
However, euphoria over the result must be dampened down somewhat because, as one reads through the inspector’s report, one wonders when he will find anything to oppose. It is a glowing appraisal of the benefits of landmark towers and their suitability on town centre sites, of the benefits that very high density can bring, and of how the scheme conforms to the London Plan and Ealing’s UDP in nearly every way.
We are soon made to understand that any thoughts that well-researched objections to density, building standards, lack of public open space, traffic generation, poor public transport, wind around towers, retail needs, affordable housing, parking spaces, etc etc, might because for rejection is in the realm of wishful thinking. They were all considered but brushed aside.
Feeling more and more depressed but realising that there must be a rainbow at the end one comes to paragraph 685. Ah, at last!
Here PPG 15 is spelled out ‘environmental stewardship demands protection of the historic environment’, and London Plan Policy 4b1. requires that ‘development proposals should protect local history, context, built heritage, character and communities’ and finally in paragraph 797 (of 802)
“Notwithstanding these clear benefits [as defined throughout the report] the design would be inappropriate in its surroundings, and would fail to preserve or enhance the character or appearance of the Town Centre conservation area…”
Para 802 recommends refusal by the Secretary of State. He said:
Notwithstanding [...] clear benefits, I consider that the bulk, massing and certain aspects of the design would be inappropriate in its surroundings, and would fail to preserve or enhance the character or appearance of the Town Centre conservation area, and the setting of Haven Green conservation area, for the reasons set out in full in my consideration of the main issues. The massing of development facing Haven Green, and the elevations to Ealing Broadway are of particular concern. The height of the southern elevation of the scheme would in my judgment also harm the setting of the Grade II* listed Church of Christ the Saviour, diminishing its role as an important Town Centre landmark. While I accept that, considered in isolation, the design of the proposed tower is of high architectural quality, I consider that it would not contribute to the distinctiveness and identity of Ealing, and would be dominant and overbearing in the predominantly low rise context of Ealing Town Centre and development surrounding Haven Green. [...]
I recommend that planning permission for the application should be refused.
It is clear to see why Russell Harris is in great demand by developers at Public Inquiries. His documented case takes every objection, however slight, and pulls it apart in a logical and clear manner. However, he is not immune to picking policies from either current or emerging plans to suit and then suggesting the one not chosen is irrelevant. He also shows his irritation with the “articulate and educated section of the community” whom he thought “wasted much time over issues not identified by the S of S“.
So in the end it all came down to landmark towers being suitable in the right place but heritage and local context comes first. Hooray. Let us hope our inspector comes to the same conclusion.
The decision follows a public inquiry earlier this year into the high-rise £500 million project backed by developer Glenkerrin which would have created 567 homes.
The Secretary of State agreed with the planning inspector that the development of the 1.7ha plot would have had a ‘dominant and overbearing impact’ on the area and ‘seriously detract from [its] distinctiveness and identity’.
After winning the Mayor of London’s backing earlier this year, the whole project was called in by previous Communities Secretary Hazel Blears.
The Secretary of State considers that, although the application proposal is broadly in compliance with the development plan in many respects, there are significant areas of conflict, most particularly in relation to design principles and conservation. He also considers that the proposal does not fully accord with national policy in PPS1 and PPG15 in these respects. He has therefore gone on to consider whether there are material considerations of sufficient weight to overcome these.
He acknowledges that the proposed scheme would deliver a number of substantial benefits and fulfil some important objectives of development plan policy by contributing strongly to the Council’s regeneration objectives including reinforcing the status of Ealing as a Metropolitan Centre. The scheme would include, among other benefits, a landmark tower of high quality design and attractive pedestrian streets and spaces which would improve the permeability of the site. It would also deliver a significant volume of housing. Against these benefits, however, the Secretary of State considers that the bulk, massing and certain aspects of the design of the scheme would be inappropriate in its surroundings. It would fail to preserve or enhance the character and appearance of the Town Centre conservation area and the setting of the Haven Green conservation area, as well as harming the setting of the Grade II* listed Church of Christ the Saviour.
In coming to his decision, the Secretary of State has taken full account of the views of CABE in their support for the quality of the proposed buildings and streetscape improvements that the proposed scheme would deliver. However, he notes that CABE’s views did not include consideration of the way in which the scheme would relate to its wider surroundings, and he regards that as a key design objective of PPS1. He sees it as essential for the design qualities of the proposal to be considered in context, and he considers that its dominant and overbearing impact would seriously detract from the distinctiveness and identity of Ealing Town Centre and the Haven Green area.
Overall, therefore, the Secretary of State concludes that, although the scheme would comply with some specific development plan policies relating to the regeneration of Ealing Town Centre and would bring many benefits to the area, these are of insufficient weight to determine the application other than in accordance with those national and development plan policies relating to conservation and design in order to ensure that the distinctive existing character of the area is maintained.
Author: Shirley Passmore
The Wandsworth Society was given a fair hearing of its case against, but the rest of the local public was relegated to one day out of the 20 days of actual inquiry time.
All individuals spoke, and listed, very good reasons for asking the Inspectors to recommend refusal to the Secretary of State. Some, I think, said things that the SofS will have to consider seriously, included amongst these was Cyril Richert’s paper for the Clapham Junction Action Group.
Lined up against the public’s amateurs were three QC’s. The most formidable was Russell Harris for Minerva, who has won numerous similar Inquiries. The Wandsworth Society did not go on the final day to hear his summing up. To listen to his, no doubt competent, attempt to destroy the public’s case would have been too depressing.
There were six main issues to be resolved:
1. Did it comply with Governmental, Regional, and Local Planning Policies for the area?
2. Was it acceptable not to provide an adequate number of affordable homes or a mixed community (by having a majority of one-bedroom flats, no family homes, and the affordable homes on one site only)? Did the development conform to good design and standards for housing ?
3. Could the transport system cope?
4. Did the proposals contravene all the Planning Policies that seek to protect the historic environment and, in this case, the many listed buildings on the site and surrounding it? Would it have an adverse effect on the setting and character of the Wandsworth Town Conservation Area?
5. Was it unsafe to put a glass tower of people next to a gasholder of potentially explosive methane gas?
6. Was it acceptable to approve a possibly unacceptable (in planning terms) development because it might provide enough funds to remove Wandsworth’s gyratory road system?
When will we hear the decision and what will it be?
Neither question is answerable but we can at least hazard a guess. The first is the simpler. It is unlikely that it will take less than three months, probably considerably longer because of the complexities of some of the issues.
The second…..who knows?
All the Planning Policies relating to Issues 1, and 4, are open to interpretation. The Wandsworth Society and individuals put forward telling evidence of the environmental damage that will be done but it’s largely a matter of opinion…. The inspectors, the public’s, Minerva’s.
Issue 3 was won by the public. As things stand it is obvious that the public transport system cannot take yet more development in the area. But, of course that depends on the outcome of Issue 6.
Issue 6 will probably decide the result of Issue 2 also. Ironically, Issue 6 is not part of the planning application but an add-on to make it acceptable. The most telling admissions from witnesses for both WBC and the GLA was that without the road proposals they would not have recommended approval.
The most complicated and time-consuming issue of the whole Inquiry was Issue 5, the case against put by the Health & Safety Executive. It is accepted that the likelihood of the gasholder exploding in a fireball is not great, but the trouble with anything that might happen once in a thousand years is that you never can tell when the ‘once’ will happen. Debate revolved around how serious the results of an explosion would be.
If the HSE have won their case the proposals will be refused planning permission . If the Inspectors feel strongly that the development is unacceptable for other reasons, they have enough Planning Policy ammunition to shoot the proposals down. On the other hand, the benefit of any doubt has to go to the developer because the local planning authority (WBC) and the GLA / Mayor of London have (to their shame) already approved these proposals. Proposals that will alter the character of Wandsworth, both the town and the borough, for ever.
Author: Shirley Passmore
This week, week 5 of the Inquiry, will firstly be about what is called the Section 106 agreement between the council and Minerva on how much money will be forthcoming, and when, for a variety of requirements made necessary as a result of the development, plus other money used as a kind of bribe to get the proposals acceptable. This latter is £38,000,000 for removal of the Wandsworth gyratory system. There has to be a legally binding document. and as at last week, we believe this had still to be settled. Then there will be discussion on what conditions should be made if the Sec of State decides to grant permission.
On Wednesday there are to be site visits by the inspectors with, among others, representatives of the objectors .
On Thursday, probably the last day,the legal teams will sum up their cases. Firstly the HSE lawyer, then Mr Hobson QC for the London Mayor. He will be followed by Mr Cameron for WBC, and finally Mr Harris QC for Minerva who has the last word.
It has been a long, sometimes tedious Inquiry, but the inspectors can be in no doubt that local people do not want massive towers looming over them and stealing the sky. Whether the inspectors can agree with us that the proposals do not conform to enough planning policies to warrant refusal, only time will tell. I think we shall have some months to wait.
Author: Cyril Richert
I was back at the Public Inquiry on Friday to give my testimony (see HERE with other information). It gave me the opportunity to take more photos… and even a very short video of the entrance.
Ram Brewery Inquiry, Capital Studio, Friday 27th
Author: Cyril Richert
In order to follow the events of the Ram Brewery Inquiry, I will list below the links to related article and contributions you might be interested to see:
- Pre-inquiry note
- Reports on the different days (report from week 1 by Shirley Passmore, Week 1&2 by Sylvia Harrison, report day12 by Julia Matcham)
- Martin Linton MP: evidence (Tuesday 24th)
- Wandsworth Society: proof of evidence (Thursday 26th)
- Cllr Tony Belton: evidence (Friday 27th)
- Cyril Richert: evidence (Friday 27th)
- Jonathan Smith: evidence (Friday 27th)
- Sylvia Harrison: evidence (Friday 27th)
- and many others which I did not receive by email, but feel free to send them and they will be added here.
Contributions can be sent by email to Toby Feltham: TFeltham@wandsworth.gov.uk