Author: Cyril Richert
Yesterday we held our public meeting at the Wessex House from 7pm to 9pm.
In front of a large audience (according to several observers, more than 100 people attended) I had the occasion to introduce the debate, with a few words regarding the speakers and those who where invited but where not on the platform (I heard clearly some noises from the public when I quoted the reason given by Delancey, and I cannot resist quoting them here again for your enjoyment: “We are happy to talk to answer any further query that were raised but public meeting forums are not the best way to discuss elements of the scheme.”)
Tony Tuck told us about the role of the Battersea Society in this debate. He highlighted the response of the Society to the proposals for a redevelopment of Clapham Junction Station, questioned the lack of affordable housing, the design of the towers (quoting CABE’s comments) and stressed the urgent need for an overall vision for Battersea Town Centre, including the need of a global policy on tall buildings in Wandsworth.
Kate Williams, on behalf of the Clapham Junction Action Group, focused on the comments made by the local residents, with some of the 400 letters and emails sent to the Council. We had a bit of a laugh when she told us about the number of support messages sent from the same email address, coincidently working, apparently, for a communication agency (I heard some “name and shame” from the public 😉 ). She highlighted the importance for the residents to write to the Council and send their views (there is no specific target on the number of letters, but one of the reasons for the acceptance of the Ram Brewery project was the lack of comments, and the more than 500 objections for the project in Putney played an important role in the Planning Committee’s decision to reject the proposal). Always remember that every single voice counts, so it is important that people write personally instead of sending a group objection.
Martin Linton, our MP for Battersea, who joined us immediately after attending an important vote on the 3rd runway in Heathrow in Westminster, spoke about the role of the government, spending £9 million on the installation of lifts to make the station step-free by the end of 2009, and the commitment of Network Rail to provide a budget for station improvements (reopening of Brighton Yard, complete with gate-line and ticketing facilities, to complement the lifts and the straightening and lengthening of platforms). He also expressed his concerns about the lack of affordable housing and his desire, along with that of the other Societies in Wandsworth, for a global policy on tall buildings in the Borough.
Approximately one hour was devoted to the public, giving people the opportunity to discuss, make points and raise questions. Tony Belton, Councillor for Latchmere ward, leader of the opposition Labour Group and member of the Planning Committee, confirmed the importance of personal communication, and also suggested sending letters/emails to the Secretary of the Planning Committee, Martin Newton, asking that they be circulated amongst the members. He said: “As a member of the planning committee, I’m officially not meant to pre-judge. All I can say is that I have never voted for a 42-storey block before and I’d be interested in the arguments that would persuade me to do so. Draw your own conclusions from that“. He urged people to attend the planning meeting (which may take place as soon as March 12th) where the towers will be discussed, saying: “It’s difficult to do something unpopular when you’re standing beside 100 people who don’t like what you’re doing.”
Other participants talked about their concern for the buildings which will be destroyed by the scheme, such as The Windsor Castle, the issue of insufficient parking spaces, the support of the Mayor of London (Boris Johnson’s office declared that “the towers would be attractive city elements contributing to London’s skyline“) despite minor comments, the size of the 500 new flats, etc.
All three of the Councillors of Northcote ward added their comments and acknowledged the concerns of their constituents. Peter Dawson referred to the decision on the Putney Towers as very important, because it gives the key grounds on which such a planning application could be refused, and suggested to careful reading of the report published.
There was no news of the Councillors in Shaftesbury ward (someone confirmed to me that despite appearances, they really exist!).
We finished the meeting after 2 hours, by 9pm.
I would like once again to thank all of the participants, especially those on the platform with us: Martin Linton, who rushed from Parliament to join us, Tony Tuck and the Battersea Society (with their secretary, Harvey Heath). I won’t forget Wendy Deakins, who helped with the organisation of the venue, and Peter Deakins, who displayed drawings to show alternative developments of the area. Pamela Price provided wonderful Wessex House, with lighting from Phil (Lolli Parties) and Darren for the sound (SLR). A photographic record of the event was taken by Chrysoulla Rosling and video (coming soon on this website) was recorded by Pierre-Phillipe Ravier. Bindu Joshi was a great hand with the microphone amongst the public. Thanks also for all of the help we had, in the Clapham Action Group, from you, distributing leaflets and helping where needed, from all of you who attended the meeting, and from you too for reading this website.
Last but not least, special thanks for Tony Belton who spontaneously asked for some donation from the public to help fund the meeting.
Stay with us, it’s not over: we have just received a leaflet from Metro Shopping this morning advertising their proposal!
The Planning Applications Committee will be meeting either for the 12th of March or later. As Tony Tuck emailed me today: “If people get to that meeting in sufficient numbers to cause a move into he Council Chamber then I think it will not only be a powerful psychological factor, but a great eye opener for those people in “the public realm”, as I put it last night, who have not seen local democracy in action.“. You can be sure that the Clapham Junction Action Group will join the efforts of the Battersea Society on that aim.