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.
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.
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.
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.