Peabody redevelopment: can we trust the Council?

Author: Cyril Richert

Wandsworth Borough Council denies that its plan to change the boundaries of Clapham Junction town centre to includes the Peabody estate is an attempt to allow Peabody Trust to redevelop the site with much taller buildings. However Peabody Trust submitted a comment during the planning consultation process showing that they praise the work of the council to allow taller building in the site.

Proposal for the redevelopment on Peabody Estate

Peabody started to talk with the borough planners in February-March 2008 about their scheme. Following an international competition and eventually chose Hawkins\Brown to draw up plans for a £100 million new estate (to be compared with a cost of £8-10m to refurbish only). One of the goal was to maximise the density and potential of the site; therefore the architects designed a 650-home estate for Peabody at Clapham Junction that more than double the capacity of the existing development.

On the sketches published (article in BDonline), they showed a 21-storey tower, along with  a 13-storey and 10-storey building. Located at the top of the hill (they will appear to be about 28 storeys when viewed from Arding and Hobbs and will nearly double the size of the estate in Grant Road).

[click on the image to see it bigger]

The change of town centre boundaries allows for bigger tower

In our response to the consultation on 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, we highlighted the change made allowing for taller building on the site.

The SSAD 27/11/09 said:

Tall buildings: In accordance with Council’s Stage 2 Urban Design Study – Tall Buildings, applications for buildings of 5 or more storeys will be subject to the criteria of the tall buildings policy contained in the emerging DMPD. In accordance with Core Strategy policy IS3d, tall buildings in this location are likely to be inappropriate.

The current proposed SSAD says:

Tall buildings: In accordance with Council’s Stage 2 Urban Design Study – Tall Buildings, applications for buildings of 5 or more storeys will be subject to the criteria of the tall buildings policy contained in DMPD Policy DMS4. The part of the site within the town centre is identified as being sensitive to tall buildings, whilst on the southern part of the site adjacent to Wandsworth Common they are likely to be inappropriate, in accordance with Core Strategy Policy IS5d

You will appreciate that the previous part that we highlighted in bold, stating that tall building in this location are likely to be inappropriate (CS IS3d) has been removed and replace with only a mention of the southern part of the site, the remaining becoming only “sensitive”.

This is a direct consequence of the change of town centre boundaries (area where tall buildings are allowed but sensitive) to include part of the Peabody Estate (previously in an area where tall building are considered inappropriate).

Peabody Trust praise the Council for the change

In a response to last year’s Wandsworth Borough Council consultation, The Peabody Trust wrote:

The Peabody Trust (Peabody) welcomes the fact the preferred options for the SSAD promotes the Clapham Estate as a development site suitable for, primarily residential development.

Furthermore, Peabody supports the wording on page 94 under ‘Street Blocks’ within the Design Principles section. Whilst the document identifies that anything of five storeys or more would be considered as a tall building in this location, it identifies the opportunity to build in excess of five storeys across most of the site. Reference is made to the fact that further west across the site the built form could be more intense of six to eight storeys with taller buildings towards St John’s Hill. This approach follows the dialogue we have had with the Council over the last two years, reflected in the pre-application proposals which have been developed by Hawkins Brown Architects, on behalf of Peabody.

However, they wanted the Council to remove the wording “in accordance with Core Strategy policy IS3(d), tall buildings in this location are likely to be inappropriate“, which they claim contradicted the Core Strategy policy IS3(d) which states that tall buildings may be appropriate in locations that are well served by public transport.

In last year examination, the government 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 Council has agreed to Peabody’s request (as you can see in the amending version above) and changing the boundary of the town centre in order to allow part of the estate (where tall buildings are planed) is a way to twist the argument made by the inspector.

This is a strong evidence supporting all what we have said all along: We consider the boundary change in the DMPD to be an attempt to justify the inclusion of part of the estate in the “sensitive but not inappropriate to tall building” area for town centres, rather than the promotion of the St John’s Hill frontage.

If the Council is willing to show that this is not the case they can easily change the policy back to an appropriate wording: In accordance with Core Strategy policy IS3d, tall buildings in this location are likely to be inappropriate.

We will surely be discussing all of that in our meeting with the government inspector on Tuesday 11th October and we will report on this website.

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