Ram Brewery Inquiry Week 1&2 – Report

See also Shirley Passmore’s report HERE.

Author: Sylvia Harrison

I read Shirley’s account interest and would like to add a few more comments:

WEEK 1

Tuesday 3 November 2009

I attended the first day, when all the procedures were explained. Everybody is drowning in paper. I fear for the trees felled in the name of the RAM BREWERY! The absence of what has now become known as ‘The Road Map’ seemed to be the most problematical topic for the afternoon session, as well as the Inspector’s request for a breakdown of the Section 106 agreement!

EVIDENCE FOR THE APPLICANT (MINERVA)

Daniel Cove, Architect

Obviously totally in love with the design! He made a number of references to the response from CABE which obviously touched a nerve, so I would think this will be something which is raised at a later date.

It was my impression that the Inspector was very helpful to the Wandsworth Society, frequently involving them in consultation with the Architect, who, in the end, did not finish his presentation and asked for another hour the following morning.

I did not eventually hear his final presentation, but I was concerned about the lack of ‘joined-up’ thinking, as he made the comment that his analysis stopped short of the North Side of Armoury Way, even though he did draw a diagram of the Town Centre ‘Core’ with some venn diagrams and expressed the view that the development will encourage visitors from North of the development and provide a walking route to the Thames.

Wednesday 4 November

I spent time doing some research on the Counsels and Minerva, so I could more fully understand the major issues!

Thursday 5 November

Chris Miele – another Partner in Montague Evens

I came in on the end of Chris Miele’s presentation as by this time the Enquiry appeared to be running behind. Again no copies of Proof of Evidence on the ‘Back Table’.

I finally found a reference to the height of the towers apart from the number of storeys. 145.4 metres and 114 metres respectively. To refresh people’s memories, the following is a quotation from Minerva’s own site, which gives some additional information:

This development comprises three individual sites: The Ram Brewery, Capital Studios site and 20-30 Buckhold Road, London SW18. The sites were acquired for a total purchase price of £83.5 million. Resolutions to grant planning consent have been passed by Wandsworth Council to redevelop these sites, with planning consent to follow subject to a Section 106 being agreed. However, the scheme has been called in by the Secretary of State for a public inquiry. The schemes are residential led mixed-use regeneration opportunities in an affluent catchment area of South-West London. Combined, they will comprise 1036 apartments and 238,000 sq.ft. of retail, restaurant and other commercial accommodation, incorporating heritage buildings with modern architecture, including two towers of 32 and 42. storey’s. The developments will incorporate high quality public realm including a riverside walk, 2 public squares and a public viewing gallery in one of the towers.

We have recently exchanged contracts to acquire 1-9 Church Row for £8 million. This acquisition comprises 8 town houses with developable land, adjoining our existing buildings. This will be subject to a future separate planning application.
Minerva November 2009

David Hunter-Yates (Highways)

Again no copy of Proof of Evidence! However, I didn’t need one, as he read from it with great gusto! This is the point which exasperated me most of all, as well as the ones quoted by Shirley.

He assumed Wandsworth Town Station could take extra passengers, and was not overcrowded at peak times as, when it rained, it looked as though the train was full because passengers did not want to walk up the platform and get wet! This was his case for the station having more shelters. He also made an assumption the development would only generate approximately 80 additional passengers therefore it would have no impact.

Paul Burley – Partner in Montague Evans

Like Shirley, I was singularly disappointed with Paul Burley’s Proof of Evidence. He only provided a summary for the ‘back table’ so I was unable to follow many of his points, as I did not have sight of the whole Proof during the day. It was my impression that he knew little about the nature of Wandsworth, in spite of the potted history contained in his evidence. He was asked questions about the Section 106 agreement, and agreed that it was ‘usual’ to stage the draw-down of the funding pending agreed occupancy. He did provide a schedule of indicative timescale for payment of the ‘Gyratory’ contribution over a period of 6 years. It was anticipated completion would be by 2018, if permission was granted, which means building would start in the Autumn of 2010.

He was questioned on the ‘notion’ of a Town Centre, in view of the fact that Wandsworth Borough has at least four: Tooting, Wandsworth Town, Putney and Clapham Junction. He agreed Southside had the character of a Centre, but it is not ‘nice’ enough. He had lots of ideas about what shops there should be including high end properties and quoted Neal’s Yard in Covent Garden of an example of how small units can develop character. He had, of course, forgotten the biggest draw for Neal’s Yard ha been the improvements and incorporation of the Donmar Warehouse!

One interesting point I did pick up from his presentation was that the gasometer is just 80 metres from the North East corner of the site. I assume this statement will be developed further by the Health and Safety Executive.

Friday 6 November

EVIDENCE FOR WANDSWORTH COUNCIL

I did not attend the Enquiry, but downloaded Robert Stone’s Proof of Evidence – 42 pages with 10 pages of Appendices and for the first time I saw an ‘indicative’ proposed road network and an analysis of the ability of the proposed transport networks to meet future demands. I found the document well-written, interesting and informative.

WEEK 2

Tuesday 10 November

John Webb– Forward Planner, particularly relating to Heritage and Conservation matters

I did not attend for the morning session, but a colleague gave me the following notes which supplement Shirley’s:

  • Residents were shown a copy letter received from English Heritage dated 6 November, commenting on the London Borough of Wandsworth’s Local Development Framework and changes to the Core Strategy. They also made comments on the Stage One Urban Design Statement – Tall Buildings (September 2009). English Heritage suggested that the relevant principal Policy requires further amendment.
  • Mr Webb stated the scheme was well-integrated and complimentary
  • Overall the impact will be beneficial
  • A town centre must continually adapt to stay relevant to people’s needs
  • He agreed there would be likely adverse impacts on adjacent residential properties

I came in just in time for the very skilful cross-questioning from the Wandsworth Society. See Shirley’s comments.

Wednesday 11 November

Tim Cronin – Planning

I found him articulate and professional. He had presented his evidence the previous day, so he was subjected to cross-questioning both by the Council’s Counsel and the Wandsworth Society.

I did pick up some interesting points in relation to the emerging Tall Buildings Strategy. He recognized that robust criteria were required, and that the draft policy included the suggestion that a building will be designated as tall when it was 12 storeys and above, rising to 30, and that this was the absolute maximum. However, the 42 storeys suggested for the Ram Brewery project had stand-alone reasons for being acceptable. Again, questions were then raised in connection with the Gyratory System and the Section 106 agreement and the supposed ‘trade off’ between the Transport scheme and Social Housing.

NOTES:

A letter was circulated today as an add-on to John Stone’s evidence. It was from South-West Trains and confirmed that they had submitted a proposal to the Department for Transport for the use of additional rolling stock that would meet their criteria for providing additional capacity into Waterloo during the morning peak period.

A number of people have been asking about Section 106. The document contained in this link is worth studying if you are interested.

MAYOR OF LONDON

The Counsel reviewed his Proof of Evidence and introduced his Witnesses.

Gordon Adam, Transport for London

I missed this one. But I understand that one of the key points was to do with parking and the lack of it on the site. There was also a general discussion of the gyratory system, when the Inspector made the following comment: The Enquiry is not to look at the merits or otherwise of the gyratory system, only the Ram Brewery Site.

Michael O’Callaghan – Transport for London

A link to his proof of evidence is on the Council website (albeit in black and white) so I was able to look at this in advance. The residents were given a copy of a brief summary with a feasibility study for the removal of the gyratory system in Wandsworth Town Centre and an outline delivery programme for the project. Link HERE.

I understood the situation as being that Tfl are not prepared to carry out any work whatsoever unless they get the whole £38 million from Minerva, although if there was a shortfall over and above this amount, they might be prepared to find some funding to complete the project. Their estimate is completion by 2018.

The people in attendance were shown a CD-Rom Video clip showing a traffic simulation analysis called VISSIM. This demonstrated what happens now and what could happen in the future when the gyratory system was removed. There then followed a lively question and answer session which covered virtually all of the provision, and not just the area round the Ram Brewery which the Inspector had indicated. This session was very well managed by the Wandsworth Society, who brought up the major points of concern, a number of which had been raised by other residents. In particular a resident from the Tonsley’s said that the traffic simulation seems to predict a greater increase in traffic down Old York Road. This could devastate what is a much-used and loved area in the Borough which includes a number of restaurants, cafes and small shops and a very popular public house opposite Wandsworth Town Station.

The Enquiry was adjourned until Tuesday 17 November.

I hope others will be able to pick up on the next week or so, as I cannot attend any more sessions until the week commencing 24 November.

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