[From Cyril Richert: In a previous article, I commented the response sent by the developers to the Planning Officer regarding the proposed development in Clapham Junction station. In their letter, the developers said: “It is unfortunate that those objecting to the application have chosen to refer to only a small number of these images and indeed to publish their own deliberately distorted and misleading images“. Here is the response sent to the Planning Officer on behalf of the Clapham Junction Action Group. You can also refer to our article about their threat of legal action.
On the left, a view provided by the developers… so they cannot say we mislead, it’s already bad enough 😉 ]
Author: Kate Williams
Dear Mr Hunter,
Thank you for drawing to our attention the resubmitted application by Metro Shopping Fund and for your invitation to submit comments. It is noted that these comments are requested by 18th April 2009; however given that the application was re-submitted over a public holiday and the fact that many of our members have been experiencing problems accessing Wandsworth’s website for significant periods since then, we hope that you will understand that it will take several days or weeks to provide a full response. The application contains a large amount of new information albeit that the principal point of objection for the vast majority of local residents – the overwhelming height of the proposed towers – remains unchanged. We will therefore continue to study the new information and forward our comments as soon as we are able.
We would, however, like to respond at this opportunity to comments by King Sturge which appear to question aspects of the campaign conducted by our members. In particular we refer to the statement: “It is unfortunate that those objecting to the application have chosen to refer to only a small number of these images and indeed to publish their own deliberately distorted and misleading images.”
First, we should like to point out that the images we have referred to most frequently are those contained in MSFs printed literature and posters, or circulated to the press as part of MSF’s publicity campaign. These show the towers cut off at around the 12th floor (posters displayed at Clapham Junction station), towers viewed from an elevated position against a striking purple sky (press photograph), and distant views from Northcote and Grant Roads (Copies of ‘The Beat’). These are, of course, the images that the developers themselves have selected to show us and which we strongly believe, for the various reasons we have discussed, to be grossly misrepresentative of the true appearance and scale of the proposed development.
In addition, we have frequently referred to an image which is available only on MSF’s website and which shows one of the towers looming above the Falcon pub. This image has been produced from street level and is, we consider, one of the few images which appears accurately to represent the true impact of the development measurable against a recognisable local landmark. Again, this is MSF’s own image and it is disappointing that none exist from a slightly different angle which would have revealed both towers.
It was for this reason that CJAG proposed in January 2009 to publish its own mock-up taking this image as a starting point and superimposing the second tower. This image was included in a draft of a leaflet which we proposed to distribute at that time, and was posted on our website for comment. Although the draft was available for around two weeks prior to the leaflet being printed, MSF chose to respond on the day before the proposed distribution by means of a lawyer’s letter threatening the members of CJAG with court action for malicious falsehood claiming damages and costs. This grossly disproportionate response simply highlights the bullying measures that MSF are prepared to take against local people exercising their rights to object, and the lengths to which they appear prepared to go to ensure that alternative representations of their proposals do not enter the public domain.
For the record, we do not consider the image that we produced to be misrepresentative in any way. Indeed, because it showed both towers instead of just one, we consider it to be considerably more representative than MSF’s own image. However, under threat of legal action we were able to withdraw the image from publication and ensure that it was not used in the leaflet that we went ahead to distribute.
The Council will be well aware that we have been campaigning for several months for a more meaningful consultation to be held which should, in our view, include the display of scale models within the station itself – not hidden away in the car park at times when the majority of people are unable to view them. MSF give these reasonable requests short shrift, considering that it is solely the Council’s duty to inform and consult. This overlooks the fact that scale models are available only from MSF and not from the Council, and that the Council is entitled to expect full support from a developer proposing so extensive a development which will impact on many thousands of people. The fact that MSF’s consultation has, by its own admission, reached only 1000 people (many of whom appear to have been passing through the station from locations as far a-field as Brighton and Liverpool) underlines the great concerns we hold that local people have been denied a proper debate.
To underline our point we would refer MSF’s latest publication “The Beat 3” which asks local residents to respond on the following heavily weighted question:
“If you think that the redevelopment plans for the Clapham Junction are a good idea, then please make your views known to Wandsworth Council. There are some local people who are determined to stop the application which would mean that these station improvements would not be able to go ahead as proposed.”
It is clear that almost everyone supports a redevelopment of Clapham Junction and particularly of the station which is well recognised as presenting and overcrowded and unpleasant environment. However, to suggest that these issues can only be resolved by means of the proposal submitted by MSF is manipulative in the extreme. The failings of Network Rail can be addressed in many other ways which do not involve the construction of two 42 storey tower blocks and the creation of 23,000m2 of retail space to compete with much loved local shops. Indeed, significant improvements are taking place already which are not mentioned in any of the distributed literature from MSF.
In summary, therefore, we object most strongly to the assertion that our campaign has been selective and misleading – indeed we believe that local residents are being misled by information circulated by the developers themselves. We are advised that such matters are extremely serious and could influence the outcome of any future planning appeal.
For and on behalf of Clapham Junction Action Group