Author: Cyril Richert
It is now confirmed that the Clapham Junction planning application has been formally withdrawn by the developers (Metro Shopping Fund).
Cllr James Cousins thinks on his blog that “with the developer’s withdrawal the application will not be considered by the committee“. However I hope that there will be discussion about the matter as it has created an unprecedented level of objection for an application apparently encouraged by the Council a few years ago.
Councillor Leslie McDonnell, chairman of the Planning Applications Committee confirmed the news and added that the item has now been withdrawn from the agenda. In their statement the company (MSF) said:
“The Fund has worked hard with your Council and other consultees to put forward a comprehensive scheme which addressed fully the key objectives of your Council.
We are deeply disappointed therefore that the report to the Committee was not able to give the proposal its backing.
Without it the Fund will not be pursuing these applications, as it strives to work in concord with the local authorities in whose boroughs it invests.“
Paul Cahalan, from the Wandsworth Guardian quoted MSF saying:
“We have invested significant resources to date, however in the absence of the council’s support at the last moment we have been forced to withdraw our application.
We believe a project of this scale would have helped to stimulate the wider London economy while providing lasting benefits for all local stakeholders including job creation and improved infrastructure.
Metro will now review its position and consider what its future options might be.“
As I said to the journalist, it is good news the site has been rejected. However I don’t know yet whether we have to celebrate. There are still several questions to be answered, and incertainty:
- What is stopping developers coming back in six months with another development? They could resubmit later, just tackling the issues on which the officers recommended against…
- Have Metro decided they stand more of a chance when there is not so much political pressure on conservative councillors to be seen to be doing the popular thing? After next year’s general and council elections perhaps?
- Is it a trick to avoid a debate on tall building which would have certainly aroused on Wednesday on tall building policy, and avoid the chance of setting a precedent?
All in all, in either the Planning Officer’s report and in MSF’s letter, we learn the same thing. Whilst we appreciate that the Planning Committee is expected to be a neutral arbiter, it is quite clear that the planning department itself has been most encouraging of this type of proposal. This is admitted at page 46 of Mark Hunter’s report where he makes clear that metro initially proposed only to develop the Stop Shop but that the Council asked them to go back and consider a ‘holistic approach’ to include station refurbishment. It is also clear that several different designs for the flats (monolithic block, three towers and then two towers) were consulted on and agreed with planning officers.
On the other hand, while it appears that everyone wants improvements to Clapham Junction station, 1,000-plus local residents have made the effort to tell the Council their objections (by letter or signed petitions) against the scheme including the 42-storey towers.
It would be a shame to let the debate die on this issue when so much interest has been generated. It is now the task of the Council to answer their concern and make sure that we do not face a similar case (with a modicum of affordable housing provided) in 2 months, 6 months, 1 year or more. It is clear that the planning department have been encouraged by Council policy to seek out such schemes. Is there any way that the Council meeting on Wednesday can be used to move a motion that the Council reconsider its strategy on tall buildings for the site/the borough?
Last but not least, the Council should join Martin Linton in his call upon Network Rail to do something about the overcrowding of the station and platforms and pursue a land acquisition policy to perform the platform straightening works? According to the article, the MP for Battersea said:
“I will be writing to the Office of the Rail Regulator to ask him to take another look at the capital programme for improvements to Clapham Junction station now that we know that the Delancey development is not going ahead.“
Be certain, we will be looking forward to the response!