Planning consultation: some progress and a responsive Council

Author: Cyril Richert

The Proposed Submission versions of the DMPD (Development Management Policies Document) and SSAD (Site Specific Allocation Document), which provide detailed policies to support the delivery of the Core Strategy, are still under public consultation up to the 10th December 2010.

The Clapham Junction Action Group has submitted a contribution that you can read HERE.

We must say that we have been impressed by the effort made by the Council officers in charge of the consultation, and Martin Howell and his team have been particularly responsive, participating to  several meetings organised by societies and partnerships.

The meeting organised by the Putney Society at the end of November was well attended (~65 people) and Martin Howell outlined the changes and reasons behind the changes and was confronted by local residents over the appropriateness of high rises in Putney in particular. He confirmed that applications would be scrutinised against the policies contained in the DMPD. He also mentioned that these were based on the vision outlined and already approved.

In addition, the team agreed to answer questions sent by the Clapham Junction Action Group (special thank to Kristen McGavock). You will find below the questions in bold, answers and some comments in dark red when appropriate.

Questions regarding the consultation on the Development Management Policies Document and the Site Specific Allocation Document – 30th November 2010

Development Management Policies Document

Question 1: DMS 1 a: “use a design-led approach to optimise the potential of sites”> What is the definition of the potential of site. Is it a potential in term of profit? In term of density? Or is it in term of public realm?

Reference to optimising the potential of sites relates to making the maximum use of previously developed land in terms of density. This is in accordance with Core Strategy Policy IS1 and Planning Policy Statement 3 – Housing. However, we acknowledge that this could be further clarified in the context and potentially in the policy, to ensure that it is clear what we mean.

Question 2: DMS 1 d: “aim to minimise any impact on natural features”> Those words have replaced the previous “need to justify and mitigate any impact”. Why is there no longer a need to justify an impact?

Preferred options versions of policy DMS1h and i were seen to have a degree of duplication as they both related to impacts on natural features/landscape features. These policies were merged into proposed submission version of policy DMS1d. It is acknowledged that the policy now lacks the need to justify impacts where they do occur, but we feel that only having to justify impacts, and not attempt to minimise them, was not good enough either. We suggest the following change and would welcome your feedback “are sympathetic to local landscape characteristics and avoid, remedy or mitigate any impact on natural features, open spaces and strategic views.

Yes, the proposal including “avoid, remedy or mitigate any impact” is much stronger than the current “minimise” and can imply a strong justification for any proposal with even the smallest impact as it should avoid it.

Question 3: DMS 4: Tall buildings v. :“that the proposal will have an acceptable visual impact on surrounding areas”> What is the definition of acceptable? Could it be acceptable to have a negative impact on surrounding while a positive contribution could compensate in the same area?

The preferred options version of this clause only required applicants to “show, through a detailed design analysis, how the proposal visually affects surrounding areas”. The implied purpose of providing this design analysis was to enable officers, members and local residents to be able to make an informed assessment on the acceptability of the visual impact of a proposal. We felt that the way the policy was written did not make it explicit that this was the reason for providing the information, and that one could argue that to simply provide the information would satisfy the criteria. We have amended this in the proposed submission version to require applicants to “show, through a detailed design analysis, that the proposal will have an acceptable visual impact on surrounding areas.” We acknowledge that this criteria, like many planning policies, results in a degree of subjectivity, requiring value judgements to be made about whether something is acceptable or not. It would not be possible to write a policy to explain what is ‘acceptable’ in every case. A decision has to be taken about whether the visual impact of a proposal is acceptable, weighing up pros and cons and different people’s views. This criteria should not be read in isolation, as an assessment of the schemes acceptability needs to be made in terms of all of the criteria in policy DMS4.

During the Ram Brewery Inquiry, a lot of time was spent on the Applicant Visual Representations of the scheme. In his final report the Inspector wrote: “the use of a wide angle lens has the effect of distorting perspective and distance, and thus the spatial relationship between foreground and background. Existing buildings, and therefore the new ones, appear further away or smaller than they are or would be in reality, This was particularly apparent to me when I compared the AVRs to the actual views from the same viewpoints and is also demonstrated in the Wandsworth Society’s comparable 40º AVRs”. Therefore, regarding the visual impact, it should be clarified.

We suggest (change in bold) that DMS4 should require applicants to “show, through a detailed design analysis, that the proposal will have an acceptable visual impact on surrounding areas. The applicant’s Applicant Visual Representations must accurately represent what would be seen by the human eye.

Question 4: DMS 4: Tall buildings xii: What is the justification for the removal of “Applications must describe how the proposal responds positively to any characteristic alignment and setbacks of the surrounding buildings”? (this has not been justified as a “duplication” anywhere else in the DMPD. In several parts of the borough the setbacks are important and a characteristic of many streets)

We take the point that this should have been retained – will be included in
submission version.

Site Specific Allocation Document

Question 5: How do you explain the contradiction between CS-PL13 “Taller buildings could not only help deliver significant regeneration benefits but also give a visual focus to the town centre” and S2UDS-2.34: “the centre has a rich historic heritage and as such is considered sensitive to tall building”.

The Core Strategy identified broad areas where tall buildings ‘may be appropriate,’ but acknowledged that some sites within these areas will be sensitive to, or inappropriate for, tall buildings. Further work has now been carried out in the Council’s Stage 2 Urban Design Assessment which looks at these broad areas to identify their appropriateness for tall buildings. The work that has been carried out in relation to Clapham Junction has concluded that the entire town centre is sensitive to tall buildings, and any applications for tall buildings will therefore have to be well justified in terms of policy DMS4.

Question 5b: In view of this contradiction between the CS and the S2UDS, what consideration was given to the government inspector demand [1] “to amend policies relating to the locations where tall buildings may be acceptable (Policies IS 3, PL 11, PL 12, PL 13, PL 14) to reflect the Council’s Stage 1 Urban Design Statement and to acknowledge the ongoing work in the Stage 2 Urban Design Statement and lower level DPDs.”

[1] Report to the London Borough of Wandsworth by Linda Wride Dip TP MRTPI – 14 June 2010

The changes required by the Inspector in order to make the plan sound were set out in a schedule of changes in Annex A of the Inspectors report. Change IC15 directed the changes to be made to Core Strategy Policy PL13b, and these were made in the adopted version of the Core Strategy.

Question 6: Height of buildings: how do you justify the choice of number of floors rather the height expressed in meters to measure the size of buildings (for example the PCS building in Clapham Junction is 5 storeys high but the hotel proposal granted on the over-side,155 Falcon Road, is 8 storeys for a similar size).

The Stage 2 Urban Design Study describes in para 2.1 that the heights are expressed in metres and this assumes an average storey height of 3 metres. This is based on a middle ground between average residential floor to ceiling heights which are generally 2.5m and average commercial floor to ceiling heights which are generally 3-4m. We will be including reference to this in the context of policy DMS4 in the submission version. Expressing building height in storeys rather than metres is preferable as people relate more to storeys than
metres.

Storeys may be preferable for the general public, but meters are certainly more accurate for architects and developers.

Question 7: Re-SSAD 4.1.1 Asda, Lidl, Boots and 155 Falcon Lane, SW11 – page 110
Can you explain the consideration given to the proposal regarding the loss of green space and the loss of value due to the reduction of land on the current Boots and Lidl location? What was the cost consideration and what is the feasibility within the next 15 years? (duration of the proposed LDF)

The proposal to realign Falcon Lane to the south of its current alignment would allow an active frontage to be provided on both sides of Falcon Lane. At present it is a two way road providing access and egress to three retail units that are directed at least in part to car-borne customers and carrying a variable level of through traffic. Falcon Lane has a relatively small pedestrian movement along it and in fact has only a footway on its northern side. On the southern side it has a narrow strip of green space. It is considered that a realignment of Falcon lane would permit the active frontage on the Southside. Within any realignment tree planting could be considered to mitigate against the loss of the existing trees on the green space. The realignment would clearly need to be undertaken in conjunction with the owners of the Boots and Lidl sites and the resultant scheme would need to be of a scale to achieve an appropriate economic viability. There has been no cost consideration applied to this proposal and the intention is to flag up a potential improvement. The Council currently has no plans to realign Falcon Lane. If a developer where to come forward it would be for them to undertake the necessary assessments of viability in the first instance. It is unclear as to the likelihood of such a scheme coming forward in the next 15 years with the existing economic
uncertainties. However, it is possible that one of the sites may come forward for development and identification in the SSAD of a potential wider redevelopment is considered worthwhile.

Question 8: Re-SSAD 4.1.2 Lanner and Griffon House, Winstanley Road, SW11 – page 112
How do you explain the contradiction between the current explanation and recommendation (including tall building seen as inappropriate) and the current developments of buildings up to 11 storeys? Is there an assumption that those development are temporary?

The application for the higher element in this location (2010/2279) was received at a time when the Proposed Submission version of the Core Strategy was a material consideration. At that time, the Core Strategy identified that tall buildings may be appropriate in locations which are well served by public transport, such as the town centres and Nine Elms near Vauxhall, or at other defined focal points of activity, providing they can justify themselves in terms of the benefits they bring for regeneration, townscape and public realm. As the site has excellent public transport accessibility, consideration of a tall building in this location was not contrary to policy at that time. As you know, the policy was amended by the Inspector to firm up that it is only the sites within town centres, focal points, and Nine Elms near Vauxhall that may be appropriate for tall buildings, and the reference to ‘locations which are well served by public transport’ has been removed. The Stage 2 Urban Design Study and the SSAD were updated after the change to the Core Strategy policy was made, and as this site is outside the town centre, it is identified as inappropriate for tall buildings. The more recent application for a lower building (2010/2853) was considered to be appropriate in its context.

Question 9: Re-SSAD 4.1.7 Peabody Estate, St Johns Hill, SW11 – page 118
Changes have been made within the town centre boundary to include the south of Peabody Estate. Therefore, as confirmed with the amended SSAD, this site is not anymore inappropriate for tall building but only sensitive. The Council cannot ignore that Peabody estate has been working for more than a year on a proposal including a 21, 13 and 10-storey tower (the tallest tower will be seen as 28 storey high from the bottom of the hill where it should be located).
Does this amendment mean to facilitate the redevelopment of Peabody estate by allowing tall building? What safe-lines have been considered to prevent the erection of tall buildings in this area in future. Why is there no mention of the government inspector’s recommendation that the site is not suitable for tall buildings?[2]

[2] The argument that the Peabody site is appropriate for tall buildings because of its high PTAL was rejected by the Core Strategy Inspector

Part of the site has been included in the town centre to promote active town centre uses along the St John’s Hill frontage allowing better integration into the town centre. The Inspector’s conclusion was that only sites within town centres, focal points of activity and Nine Elms near Vauxhall may be appropriate for tall building and this did not extend to all ‘areas with good public transport accessibility’. The Inspector did not conclude that the Peabody site is inappropriate for tall buildings. You will see that the SSAD identifies that buildings of five storeys and above will be regarded as tall buildings and this does not represent a change in the level at which the criteria in policy DMS4 will apply.

This answer is a bit twisting the argument. On page 33 of the DMPD and SSAD preferred options statement of consultation it says that “The argument that the Peabody site is appropriate for tall buildings because of its high PTAL was rejected by the Core Strategy Inspector“; many people will consider that the Council is trying to find another way of allowing tall building by including the site in the town centre boundaries. Therefore it should also be clarified as the change as strong implications in view of the current potential redevelopment of the site (“inappropriate” to tall building being currently changed to read “sensitive”).

We suggest the following change (in bold): “…applications for buildings of 5 or more storeys will be subject to the criteria of the tall buildings policy contained in DMPD Policy DMS4.  In accordance with Core Strategy policy IS3d tall buildings in this location are likely to be inappropriate. The level of affordable housing will be set in accordance with Core Strategy IS5d.

Policy IS5d is related to the percentage of affordable housing and therefore is not appropriate regarding tall buildings. On the contrary the reading of target for affordable housing can be seen as an incentive to build tall, in order to comply with the rules set out in CS IS5.

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One thought on “Planning consultation: some progress and a responsive Council

  1. Well done, CJAG on excellent work keeping up with the planning process and submitting detailed responses and questions.
    Good on the Council too to engage with you on this.
    Thanks are owed!

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