Clapham Junction Action Group Report to the Planning Committee

Author: Kate Williams

The Clapham Junction Action Group has published its report to the Planning Officer on Metro’s Revised Plans. The aim of our report is to ensure that the views of the community are properly represented and summarised, and we have therefore conducted a detailed review not only of Metro’s proposals, but also of the hundreds of letters published on Wandworth Council’s website. The letters of objection greatly outnumber those in support, and whilst the former are detailed with reasons given as to why the proposals should be rejected, the ‘letters’ of support are mostly in response to the developers’ postcard campaign or are in identical terms copied to the developers’ PR agents. Campaigns such as this do not call for reasoned arguments and as one local resident put it:

I am aware that whilst residents have been sent questionnaires asking for views on the improvements needed at the station … I do not recall one asking for confirmation of agreement to a 42 storey tower. It is therefore misleading to state that the development has incorporated meaningful consultation.

You can read the full report here (click to download), and read Metro’s summary of its revised proposals for the station improvements (which is published in seven parts) by following the links below:

Station improvement proposals – part1
Station improvement proposals – part2
Station improvement proposals – part3
Station improvement proposals – part4
Station improvement proposals – part5
Station improvement proposals – part6
Station improvement proposals – part7

Summary of CJAG’s Report

Whilst the full submission from Metro consists of many hundreds of pages, it is clear that very little has changed since its original application. The proposal still contains plans for two 42 storey towers, and a 23,000m2 shopping centre to compete with local shops.

CJAG’s main objection is to the appearance of the development and its lack of any human scale. Our report refers to planning guidelines which require tall buildings to be in context to the local environment and take account of the character of the area. MSF’s plans, by contrast, compete so violently with the surrounding area as to overwhelm and change its character entirely. The small footprint of the site is set to be developed beyond its reasonable capacity with the addition of 556 new flats and 23,000m2 of retail space, representing an urban density far in excess of anything that exists currently within over a mile of the site.

No independent analysis appears to have been commissioned on the impact of the towers on protected viewing corridors, and it is clear that their prominent location on the crest of the London Escarpment means that they would be highly visible from all parts of Battersea and most parts of London.

Our report draws on the overwhelming opposition within the community (615 objections on Wandsworth Council’s site (up to 23rd April)). Notwithstanding the Council’s policy on tall buildings (which CJAG believes should be reconsidered), the Council has a duty to take these objections into account and consider this to be the predominant case for rejection of the current proposals.

In addition, there are a great many other reasons why Metro’s proposals should be rejected when they are considered by the Council’s Planning Committee on 20th May. These include:

Loss of Amenity:

  • Clapham Junction Station: Metro’s plans for Clapham Junction station do not go anywhere near far enough, and may result in a situation worse than at present. Metro’s ‘improvements’ concern only the entrances to the station and do not impact on the problems of access to or overcrowding of the platforms. Nor do they create any extra capacity within the station: instead, the plan is simply to reverse the present situation whereby local people enter the station via the underpass, whilst those changing trains are directed to the over-pass. Placed in context, it is apparent that the gain to local residents is minimal and that if real improvements are to be made, we must look elsewhere.
  • Walking Distances: Metro has produced no evidence to back up its claim that the majority of station users will enjoy reduced walking distances to the station. In fact, when waling distances across the much longer over-bridge are taken into account, most travellers will have further to go to catch their trains.
  • Bus Facilities: At present, Metro’s proposals relating to bus facilities extends only so far as suggesting the relocation of a number of bus stops to bring them closer to the new station entrances. Although it now appears that Network Rail will provide a modicum of additional space for an integrated bus interchange in Grant Road, this relies upon future development and funding by the Council and TfL. An integrated bus/train interchange facility should be central to any plan to redevelop the site and not ‘parked’ for future consideration.
  • Traffic: Metro’s claims are entirely contradictory. If the development is to attract shoppers who are currently shopping outside of Clapham Junction town centre, then it is obvious that there will be an increase in traffic around the site. It appears extremely naïve to assume that a huge new shopping centre can be built, but that this will generate no significant increase in traffic or pressure on town centre car parking spaces.
  • Parking: Metro base their parking proposals on two assumptions, both of which are flawed. First, they state that restrictions on local street parking ‘will ensure’ that visitors do not use residential bays. This is incorrect. The majority of local parking allows for visitors to ‘pay and display’ on meters which allow for up to two hours. Second, Metro support their case by reference to vacant spaces in car parks owned or operated by Asda, LidL and Boots. We have spoken with the managers of each of these outlets and understand that none has been consulted about these proposals. Furthermore, they would object most strongly if shoppers were to use their facilities to shop elsewhere.
  • Medical Facilities: Initially Metro proposed to include an additional medical surgery within the development. It has since transpired, following a highly embarrassing letter from the Primary Care Trust, that this is to be a private medical facility and that Metro made no efforts to consult with the PCT regarding local needs.
  • Schools: Metro consider that there is plenty of capacity in local schools. In fact the issue of school places (particularly at reception and secondary school level) is of extreme concern to local people.

Retail Impact

The proposed retail development is considered to be unnecessary and having the potential to overwhelm the existing retail centres on St John’s Road and Northcote Road with numbers of predominantly chain outlets. Northcote Road currently enjoys a status as London’s most popular shopping street, whilst St John’s Road is attracting new ‘status’ outlets all the time. The area enjoys a wide range of shopping from cheap discount outlets right through to expensive boutiques, high quality independent food shops and a department store. No fewer than 7 supermarkets currently operate in the immediate vicinity.

It is therefore difficult to see what case can be made for such extensive additional retail provision at Clapham Junction. No independent retail capacity study appears to have been carried out. Metro’s own Retail Impact Assessment does not adequately demonstrate that the proposed shopping centre development would not cause further detriment on the vitality of the existing shopping and local market areas within St Johns Hill, Battersea Rise, Northcote Road and Battersea High Street – providing competition with these local retail centres and re-aligning pedestrian movements away from the principal cross-roads, discouraging movement in to Northcote Road.

Loss of Jobs and Failed Opportunity for Business

Metro’s proposal involves the compulsory purchase of offices belonging to the only significant office employer in the area, the Public and Commercial Sector Union (PCS). With such great accessibility to Central London, both airports, and the highly skilled and qualified workforce of South West London and Surrey, this location could easily attract a major international company as an occupier, lifting up the business profile of Wandsworth as a whole. The scheme completely fails to take full advantage of the site location, and in doing so represents an irreversible blight on that opportunity.

Inadequacy of Section 106 Commitments

Since the current station is set to be destroyed, it can be no part of Metro’s Section 106 commitments that a new station will be provided. These matters should be discounted and other Section 106 commitments required. A sizeable provision of affordable housing, in line with Wandsworth’s Council’s guidelines should be committed. Provision of affordable housing might to some extent, alleviate the demographic impact of starter homes for executives and buy-to-let investments being the sole focus of the site.

Insufficient affordable space in Clapham Junction also presents an issue for supporting more arts and creative industries in the area; essential for incubating independent trade and providing the context to create more cultural activity in the area. This would be important for creating a town centre with a point of difference.

[more information on section106 here]

Wind tunnelling

Metro’s wind tunnelling analysis considers insufficient locations on the station platforms, but demonstrates that in two out of the four locations measured, wind conditions are considered to be ‘unacceptable’. Unacceptable conditions will also be felt on the cross roads outsider the Falcon Pub and Arding and Hobbs. This situation is completely insupportable. One has only to visit Canary Wharf to experience the effects of wind tunnelling. On raw winter days the effects are miserable, and barely less so at other times of the year.

Disruption and Planning Blight

Whilst Metro has not seen fit to comment on the viability of the scheme under the present economic climate, it is noted that the Council does not consider that the development is likely to proceed in the near future. This matter will blight properties in the area for the foreseeable future. In addition, it is not at all clear whether present proposals including the Exemplar Scheme, South West Trains’ proposal to open a third entrance to Clapham Junction Station and plans for a further medical facility in the area, will proceed if the scheme is approved. These much needed improvements would be of real and immediate benefit and should not be put on hold pending a highly speculative development which may not proceed at all.

Conclusions

It is simply not sensible to approve an application which has no economic viability in the near future, and far more sensible to consider such proposals at times when they are more likely to proceed immediately. Such an approach would limit the impact on local residents, whilst allowing time for alternative and more popular proposals to emerge.

What is called for is a complete rethink of the strategy for Clapham Junction and the uses that the site might best be put to. Given the hiatus which exists as a result of the present economic climate, there may well be an unprecedented opportunity now to do so. Whatever plans emerge from such a process should be sympathetic in scale and directed to the needs of the local community. They should take as their starting point the creation of a proper station that reflects Clapham Junction’s strategic importance, the benefits of local work opportunities, and the need for affordable homes.

At the present time, however, the Council has a duty to reject Metro’s proposal for all of the reasons stated above. The community has spoken in unprecedented numbers and their views deserve to be recognised.

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11 thoughts on “Clapham Junction Action Group Report to the Planning Committee

  1. Jack> I left a comment on the scheme regarding the hotel 155 Falcon Road. I rather disagree with your statement finding it: “a state of the art hotel” and will go through the plan later (with the poor information available – as once again the residents are the last to know).

    Reader have to remember that originally the scheme for the station was made of 3 towers. Following some “protest” it was reduced to to… and it seems the left over just crossed the street… not really appealling.

    The future of the project will much depend on the decision of hte Clapham Juncuion station redevelopment. However, with the huge opposition on tall buildings it will be difficult to explain that a tall building in 155 Falcon Road is acceptable, but a tall building 5 yards further, accross the road, is not.

    I did not find your article on the scheme for Clapham Junction on your site (very well designed by the way!).

    You can write something about it using our leaflets:
    http://towerscj.wordpress.com/2009/04/28/leaflet-distribution-2/
    http://towerscj.wordpress.com/2008/12/18/leaflet-distribution/

    and of course feel free to use all the material of this website.

    You have another example of a development in Clapham Junction here:
    http://towerscj.wordpress.com/2009/02/17/another-redevelopment-in-clapham-junction/

  2. See my comments on the http://www.loveclapham.com website regarding the extensive consulation that has already taken place on the hotel project since November 2007, including a public presentation to the Clapham Junction Town Centre Partnership and two exhibition days in April 2008.

    The hotel at 155 Falcon Road has been designed carefully to meet the perceived demand (after careful research) for a town centre hotel on this site. There is very well established demand for such a hotel and this is likely to increase after recent announcements on the East London Line and the Borough’s new diplomatic quarter.

    The location of the proposed hotel offers connections with public transport unequalled in any other existing or proposed hotel in the area. In addition the hotel is designed to be at the more affordable end of the market. Informed opinion is that this is the right product on the right site.

    Could I please correct Mr Richert’s statement that a hotel is proposed at 155 Mossbury Road. I assume that this is a typographic error.

    Readers may wish to see our own blog at http://www.newhotelclaphamjunction.wordpress.com which also gives details of the planning application numbers. The full design rationale of the hotel scheme may be seen in the Design and Access Statement on the Wandsworth Council website

  3. architecturerosemont> I replied on the http://www.loveclapham.com website regarding your statement about the extensive consultation. For the readers, I will copy below this part.

    As a resident of Mossbury Road, I have not received any information (nor my neighbours I checked with). The usage of “extension consultation” is therefore unappropriate. There is a possibility that the consultation happened in other places (such as Wandsworth town) and you missed the close vicinity for some reason though.

    However if you provide me with all the information regarding your plan, it will help to draft our article on the scheme, rather than using the few information available here and there. I will of course pay a specific attention to your website, that I have added in our list of links for the debate.

    As a resident, should an application been logged, the Council has the obligation to inform. This has clearly not been done. Do you know why?

    Regarding your statement “The hotel at 155 Falcon Road has been designed carefully to meet the perceived demand (after careful research) for a town centre hotel on this site.“, this is what the designers of the two 42 storey skyscapers accross the street have replied too. However I think we have shown, along with the planning officer, that a lot of concerns were raised.

    PS the mention of 155 Mossbury was my mistake of course, as the building’s address is 155 Falcon Rd. I corrected in my comment.

  4. Hello Jack, thank you very much for your comments on the article. Yes of course we would be very pleased if you would use your site to give the issue further publicity and please do feel free to copy both the article and the long submission which it is linked to.

    Regarding the hotel proposal, I will reserve judgment for the time being as the proposals have only gone up on Wandsworth’s website today and do not appear to be downloading successfully yet. However, I should be very interested to hear from Rosemont architects about the developers’ plans for further consultation. I note that leaflets were apparently distributed but am quite sure I did not receive one in Barnard Road – less than 200 yards from the proposed site. In general I would be in favour of a hotel in the area, which does at least create opportunities for local business and jobs. However, once again the scale of what is proposed is worrying. If the twin towers do not go ahead, then it will be by far the tallest building south of the tracks. If they do, then it appears only a short time before Clapham Junction will resemble Croydon with clusters of tall buildings. Whatever next?

    Regards

    Kate Williams

  5. We have to stand by our statement that extensive consultation took place on the hotel project for 155 Falcon Road.

    This commenced with the public presentation of the first draft project at the Clapham Junction Town Centre Partnership in November 2007. Such meetings are advertised by the Council and are attended by a full range of local residents, businesses, organisations etc.

    Later and after modifications to the scheme a director of the applicant company and his secretary personally hand delivered invitations to the April 2008 public exhibitions to all letter boxes in Mossbury Road and to other local addresses including businesses. The public exhibition was held on two occasions to allow people a choice. Quite a few residents and others attended and their names were recorded as a visitor’s book was signed.

    Since then the hotel design has been changed and refined in response to the comments raised. The applicants and the designers recognise the need for public participation in the process.

    There is a very large amount of information relating to the application and we think it best if all the information is seen before comments are made, rather than knee jerk reactions based on your own statement that you have not seen all the information. The information should be freely available from Wandsworth Council. Please contact them if you are unable to access the information. We know that the applications have been registered.

    With regard to the demand for a hotel we have submitted a full analysis with the application. Much of such analysis is available from The Mayor for London.

    We would also like to clarify that the hotel application has no connection at all with the station application. The hotel applicant is a family business that has been active locally for many years.

  6. As I said, in the next days, I will try to draft an article on the subject on this website.

    With the interest raised here, surely we will have the opportunity to carry on with the debate.
    Albeit you state that there is no link with the station application, the decision of that scheme will surely have consequences in the vicinity.
    … hopefully only a few days to wait.

  7. I would really hope that the debate about the hotel project should be totally separate from the debate about Clapham Junction Station.

    Maybe you should set up a separate website to assist clarity of debate. Of course starting a website with your own opinion doesn’t definitively mean that there is openess of debate.

    At the end of the day the debate that matters is that of the elected councillors on the planning applications sub committee.

    Kate Williams has at least indicated support for a hotel use. She is not the first to do so; in fact as we haven’t found anybody against the principle of a hotel here.

    Personally I would have grave misgivings about entering into a debate on a website already apparently giving an opinion that is “No to towers etc…….” as it starts by lumping in two 42 storey buildings on higher ground with a single 16 storey and slimmer building on lower ground. Hopefully when you get into the detail of the application and understand some of the design rationale things will be seen differently.

    If there is to be a debate about the hotel project we would therefore argue that it should not be on the coat tails of opinions already formed on any other project.

    In our opinion the debate must also take on board the issue of regeneration as well as architecture. In today’s climate securing the delivery of real regeneration is difficult, but all the adopted planning and economic policies for the area recognise that they must go together. Such policies were themselves adopted after very extensive consultation by the Council. Wandsworth Council is known for the rigour of its consultation processes and in the past established local partnerships have achieved great successes in this field.

    Clapham Junction has a town centre partnership for this reason, and that is why they were our first consultee on the hotel project. The consultation process continues.

  8. I am happy to hear that “The consultation process continues.” When I look at the debate around Nine Elms and the future of Battersea Power station, it looks (at first impression) as if eventually a better deal was possible to achieve for everyone.

    I am not opposed to hotels in the neighbourhood either, and actually welcome favourably the facilities for business. However I would argue that any development in the vicinity should consider the environment and surrounding area, keeping in mind the guidance provided in PPG15 (Local highway and planning authorities should take great care to avoid or minimise impacts on the various elements of the historic environment and their settings).
    http://towerscj.wordpress.com/2009/05/01/tall-buildings-and-planning-policy-martin-linton/

    As Kate mentioned, should we consider this scheme in the current area, this would be the tallest building this side of the railway, overwhelming the current iconic Arding&Hobbs and Falcon pub buildings, which define the character of the Junction.

  9. The applicants and their professional team are of course well aware of PPG15 and have considered the requirements of that in making the proposal that has been submitted for consent. We agree that care needs to be taken in Conservation Areas and when you eventually read the design rationale we hope that you will at least see that we have done so.

    We certainly don’t agree that our proposal will “overwhelm” the Arding and Hobbs and Falcon buildings, both unadjacent.

    It should be noted that the current guise of Arding and Hobbs is not what was originally built on the site and it’s later rather exuberant rococo corner is in fact rather different to the general design of buildings in the town centre. Similarly the “Fitness First” building is not typical either. Infact when you look around while there is a general character there is considerable diversity, especially in the existing unsatisfactory buildings in Falcon Road.

    One of the beauties of English town centres is the considerable diversity which also adds to the vitality. One could therefore argue that a slavish extension of the more typical characteristics of the Conservation Area to Falcon Road simply wasted the opportunity given by the site.

    We know that the hotel application if built would be the tallest building south of the railway. However the final scheme at the station needs to be agreed, and the hotel proposal needs to be seen in the overall context, including that of buildings to the north which you have acknowledged are already at least 16 stories. The Design and Access Statement shows that this has also been considered in arriving at the applications submitted.

  10. 2 very different views there.

    As a local resident I’ll just put in my thoughts.

    The towers in the falcon road estate can not really be seen from the key approach roads into Clapham Junction so in effect to anyone not approaching from the north are not there. When you do see them at the top of St Johns hill I agree they are already there and are, in anyone’s view, quite an overwhelming eyesore. I think they should be a great example of what should never be done again and they are no way near 42 stories.
    A 42 story building in the centre of the city is a bold statement of the intention to be a key financial and business centre. This is not appropriate for other areas and especially not for residential areas.

    The argument about an overall context is a little flawed. Just because a taller building comes along which is really bad doesn’t mean one a few floors smaller is appropriate.
    Would an argument like that in court when being on trial for speeding stand up “I know I was doing 105 in a 70 but the guy behind me was doing 120”? Can’t imagine any judge saying “fair point..sorry for keeping you”. Inappropriate is inappropriate whatever the context. Yes if the majority of buildings in the area are 30-40 stories as in Canary wharf but that is not the case in the south Falcon and Northcote region.

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