Mayor issues green light to development in Clapham Junction

On 12 November 2008 the Mayor’s office issued a planning report to Wandsworth Council giving a barely qualified green light to the Clapham Junction Scheme. The full document is available HERE.

The full document makes terrifying reading! In summary, the Mayor approves the design of the towers finding them “attractive city elements contributing positively to the London skyline. Rather confusingly, he also adds that they would have “minimum impact on locally important views or views of listed buildings. The buildings do not feature in any strategic views.

He cannot have it both ways: either the buildings have minimal impact, or else they tower over the skyline. Clearly the latter is true, as the 42-storey shiny stainless steel towers will stand on the crest of the London escarpment and be visible for miles around.

These comments are unbelievable 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’. We can only assume that he personally had no hand in writing it. However, his office’s report on Clapham Junction adds to the recent accusations of ‘flip-flopping’ in response to the proposed ‘three ugly sisters’ development at Waterloo, and the skyscrapers at Ram’s Brewery, both of which Mr Johnson initially opposed (during his campaign) but now supports (once elected).

The report concludes that, although the scheme does not presently comply with the London Plan, some minor adjustments could be made which would overcome any objections.  These require:

  • The developers to show that the re-provision of lost office space is not economically viable;
  • Further consideration as to whether any affordable housing can be provided, possibly at the expense of scaling down the station development (paragraphs 33 to 36);
  • A children’s play area for the (optimistic) projection of 38 under-5s living in the 556 mostly one and two bedroom flats (note: only 8 family sized units of three bedrooms are planned);
  • Further information and discussion regarding disabled access;
  • The provision of power points for electric cars and ‘green’ walls or roofs to meet targets on sustainability;
  • Fewer car parking spaces to meet targets on reducing car use (therefore allowing the occupants of the towers to park hundred vehicles in nearby streets?).

We wonder what utopian world the author of this report is living in delivering this politically motivated agenda?  Affordable housing is to be welcomed – goodness knows, the area could do with more teachers and nurses – however should this really be at the cost of the only promise that might make this development worthwhile for the local residents? The proposed station development is already meagre, consisting of two shiny new entrances and escalators.  There are no plans to replace the rickety old overpass and the shortcut through the underpass will be closed to access and not redeveloped.  Nor will the developers be doing anything to provide lift access to platforms or to reduce the dangerous gaps on Platforms 15-17.  These measures are being left to the taxpayers through Network Rail.

And with only 239 car parking spaces presently proposed for 556 flats, it is already clear that the occupants of the towers will be jostling for places on nearby roads. How will the reduction of car parking spaces possibly help?

The Mayor’s report also contains some glaring inaccuracies, including:

  • That the towers will have 39 storeys, whereas 42 are actually planned (the same number as the Nat West Tower) [as shown on the developer’s website]
  • That Network Rail has no plans to redevelop the station until at least 2019.  In fact, Network Rail’s Strategic Plan already includes proposals for new station entrances and improved access to platforms by rafting over the station within its current funding period (2006-14).
  • That Clapham Junction is not a significant office location.  In fact there are 6050 m2 of office space within the station complex alone which will be demolished as part of the re-development.  Many businesses operate in the area contributing to its vibrant local economy and even the American Embassy will be moving to nearby Nine Elms in the next few years.

The Mayor’s report is a consultation report and does not provide a final decision on the scheme. Following the Council’s consideration of the scheme at its committee in February, the developers will be referred back to the Mayor, who will then issue a final decision. At this stage all consultation responses that the Council has received will be reported to the Mayor.

The Mayor must be persuaded to honour his election commitments and listen to the people of Battersea who are overwhelmingly opposed to the construction of tower blocks in our vicinity. Please copy all of your comments to the Council to the Mayor’s office on mayor@london.gov.uk (and maybe also Sarah Thomas, Principal Strategic Planner – Planning Decisions Unit, sarah.thomas@london.gov.uk). As he once said: “When I look at some of the plans for the phallocratic towers that Ken wants to erect in the suburbs, I wonder whether we have learned anything from the experience of the last 50 years.”  We agree.  Please get writing! (and don’t forget that the press is also always keen to know your view).

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