Asda ditched their plan to remove all greenery around Clapham Junction store after residents outrage

Author: Cyril Richert

Asda’s planning application (2020/3073) was approved last week, by officer’s delegation (which means it did not go before the Councillor’s committee but was just ratified by a planning officer). However it is worth reading the details of the officer’s report, as we discovered that Asda amended their plan to ditch their very controversial idea of replacing all greenery by a porous resin finish.

Amendments: Proposed removal of trees and vegetation to gardens and landscaped areas and replacement porous resin omitted from the proposals. Landscaped areas would either be retained, or existing low lying vegetation removed and replaced with bark mulch and replacement planting.

Therefore it appears that what is approved is only painting the existing white paint elements of the building with a dark grey colour, and refurbishing the clock tower (including fixing of the clocks).


Example of bark mulch ground

However, as we suspected, it is a cost cutting exercise and while existing trees should be retained, some of the lower vegetation should be replaced by “low maintenance ground” covered with bark mulch.

  • The part along Falcon Lane /car park should retain existing planting
  • The large part at the corner of Falcon Lane/Lavender Hill should only keep the 3 trees but all the other vegetation should disappear and be replaced by bark mulch.
  • The green patch beside the post office should be replace by “low maintenance ground cover planting completed with bark mulch“.
  • The steps and side-walk should be enlarged to provide a much wider access.

revised-drawingWe still deeply regret that the plan that was approved included removing the largest area of vegetation replaced with bark mulch. It might be low maintenance in term of pruning as there is no greenery except a few trees, but it might very quickly become dirty with detritus if it is not properly cleaned regularly and maintained (the recommendation is to mulch twice a year at least).

UPDATE 22/10/2020 – No waste of time: Asda is already removing plants.

According to the report (individual comments are removed from the Council’s website after decision taken) the proposal generated and impressive 98 objections and … 0 support! There is no doubt that it was a great help to the officer to explain to Asda why they needed to change their plans.

Indeed, it is very likely that Asda decided to submit an amended version of their application after being warned by Wandsworth planning officers that such a plan to remove all greenery, as they initially intended, was creating an outcry in the area and that it could lead to refusal.

On the other hand, the planning officer used clearly part of his report to highlight the lack of power of the planning authority in Asda’s plans:

“The landscaped areas are not considered to be development requiring planning permission and the originally approved landscaped areas under the original reference number (84/N/2574) had not been conditioned to be maintained and retained in perpetuity. As such, the local planning authority have limited control over these areas unless development as defined under Section 55 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (as amended)* is proposed.”

We can easily translate the sentence: “the local planning authority have limited control over these areas” by “Alas, I couldn’t do better than that“; indeed trees and shrubs are not protected and therefore Asda does not requires permission to modify the areas.

Although we welcome the opening of the staircase/ramp access, we regret the lack of communication. As Walmart was looking to sell Asda, it is easy to picture a cost cutting manager in front of a spreadsheet in Leeds office, making decisions to save money on a large scale to improve the attractiveness of the business and ‘sexing up’ the deal.

We couldn’t agree less with our friends from Lavender Hill for Me to regret that Asda, the main employer in Clapham Junction, fails to engage with the area. The store manager was contacted on Asda’s proposal but declined any comment and directed us to central office in Leeds. We contacted Media Relations, who asked us to send questions by email only and never contacted us later. It is particularly a shame as it was a good occasion to work with local amenities to improve those area with a minimum cost.

Unfortunately the poor relationship between Asda and Clapham Junction is not recent. Some of you might remember, 10 years ago, the decision of Leeds’ management to name the store “Asda Clapham” and eventually to choose to run a poll to decide where it was! We strongly advise you to read a post from James Cousin’s blog, which comments are still appropriate nowadays.

* NB: Section 55 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (as amended) specifies the conditions necessary to require planning application.

Asda sold to TDR Capital

Walmart sold Asda at the beginning of October for £6.8bn to a consortium run by two billionaire brothers from Blackburn, Zuber and Mohsin Issa, and private equity firm TDR Capital.

According to BBC News, Walmart said it expected to report a $2.5bn (£1.9bn) loss for its next financial year, but also that, under the new owners, Asda will invest £1bn in the supermarket over the next three years.

Local residents want more greenery and sustainable plans for Asda, while the store wants the opposite…

Author: Cyril Richert

When he declared last year about the environmental ambition of the borough “I know Wandsworth residents will want to help and play their part in achieving that goal“, Ravi Govindia, the leader of Wandsworth Council, was right!

Since our article on Asda wanting to remove all greenery around the premises, including mature trees and thick hedges, we have received several comments including proposal on what instead should have been a good move from the store operator. Continue reading

Controversial plan to remove all vegetation around Asda store

Author: Cyril Richert

Asda has submitted a plan to refurbish part of the existing structure and remove the greenery around the car park.

Toward the end of Summer, Asda submitted a planning application (2020/3073) labelled as “alterations”. The proposal consists mainly on:

  1. painting the existing white paint elements of the building with a dark grey colour, and refurbishing the clock tower (including fixing of the clocks),
  2. all vegetation to be removed and replaced by a smooth finished.

Continue reading

Revealed: The proposed future of Arding & Hobbs (Debenhams)

Authors: Cyril Richert & David Curran

As we confirmed some time ago – Debenhams at Clapham Junction will never reopen. It’s a great shame to lose it, and our sympathy is with our many readers who used to work there. But it raises a very immediate question of what happens next with our local landmark.

The owner of the building is W.RE (W. Real Estate limited). They bought the building a few years ago, expecting that Debenhams would probably depart at some stage. Everything accelerated as Debenhams started to run into financial difficulties last year and asked for rent cuts so they could afford to keep trading. W.RE refused and Debenhams confirmed to us in an email in October 2019 that “the store will remain trading until – at least – 23 June 2020“, although no exit date was set yet. Unfortunately came the Covid19 crisis and the department stores decided comprehensively not to reopen for even a few months (see our previous article for more details).

In the meantime it appears that the new owner was carrying extensive research on future developments, working with architects and consultants on multiple options. As W.RE develop plans for the building’s future they have run a series of public webinars, where they have been commendably frank about their plans for the building. They have also been happy to have detailed discussions with CJAG.

The previous building, in 1890

This is a very important moment for Clapham Junction – it’s our landmark building, and as the largest unit apart from Asda it’s also a flagship part of the trade of the town centre – even in Debenhams’ most troubled stage, having a major store that sold a lot of things here was important in attracting shoppers to the town centre as a whole, and a lot of the smaller and independent businesses nearby benefitted from this.T K Maxx and Boots are understandably popular, but every local town centre has one – but only Clapham Junction had a department store!

If W.RE get this right, Clapham Junction will benefit…  but get it wrong and the problems will be widely felt for many years!  Which is why we’ve been reassured by the frank and open way the developers have engaged so far. They are clearly very conscious of the importance of the building they have bought, and we welcome their commitment to take an approach that makes the most of its potential. In the rest of this article we explore the emerging proposals in some detail, picking out some aspects we know have been especially welcomed, as well as areas where we have concerns.

Continue reading

Parma Crescent: controversial development amended

Lavender Hill for Me,  a community website working to support Lavender Hill in Battersea, has reported on a proposal to replace an unusually small house which had an unusually large garden on Parma Crescent with a rather larger building housing five flats. The description of the planning application 2020/0906 is:

Demolition of existing building and erection of part two-storey, part three-storey building to provide 5 flats (1x 1 bedroom flat 3 x 2 bedroom flats and 1x 3 bedroom flat) with associated cycle and bin stores.

It proved to be quite a controversial proposal, attracting 44 objections, and not much in the way of supportive comment. As spotted by Lavender Hill for Me, the plans were changed part way through the process – with the side of the building closest to Lavender Hill chopped back somewhat, an the height of the roof reduced slightly as well.

See more detailed on the proposal directly on Lavender Hill for Me’s article and feel free to comment. As usual we will keep you posted on any amendments in the future.

Planning Forum meeting 1st July 2020

Author: Cyril Richert

Remote planning forum on July 1st 2020

On Wednesday 1st July was organised the Planning Forum meeting. For special times come special meetings and for the first time the meeting was organised fully remote, using Microsoft Team video-conference tool. We had the usual “We lost him“… “We lost him completely now“… “Sorry folks, that’s the technology…” but all in all it was a prolific meeting well organised. Continue reading

Deceptive presentation

Author: Cyril Richert

The latest Brightside received in July 2020 is showing Wandsworth Council’s ambition to increase the number of homes it would build, from 1500 previously to 2500 being the new target, by 2025, with at least 65% being affordable.

The article is ambiguous, to say the least, about the portion of Council housing considered but as the latest target available in December 2019 in the draft London plan gave 19,500 new units by 2029 (of which 50% should be affordable), we might assume that the 1500 or now 2500 target is made of social housing (but then the Council is saying that only 65% would be affordable!).

But the purpose of this article is not to discuss hypothetical targets and planned figured, but to demonstrate the deceptive presentation of Wandsworth Council with a few simple pictures below, as it is worth a thousand words. Continue reading

Is Peabody’s work damaging properties in Comyn road?

Author: Cyril Richert

Peabody’s construction site – Comyn Road

At the start of it there were a lot of mini earthquakes. Now it seems like there are tiles shifting and cracks appearing“. Hence started the email from one of the local resident in Comyn Road. Another one said “I am fed up with my house shaking whilst I am trying to work“. Continue reading

Debenhams has gone in Clapham Junction. What next?

Author: Cyril Richert & David Curran

Debenhams in Clapham Junction – all board up and closed in June 2020

As many (most?) of you will have noticed, Debenhams is now fully disappearing from Clapham Junction. The lockdown period was surely the last nail on the coffin for the Arding & Hobbs occupancy, and the boards that are now surrounding the ground floor are announcing that the building is “looking ahead to the next chapter of its history” as the owners have put in the leaflet they distributed in the area (download the leaflet here).

The new owner of the building wanted Debenhams out for redevelopment

As we reported last OctoberW Real Estate, the new owner of the building (bought for circa £48 million), wanted them out so they can redevelop some or all of the property. Continue reading