Author: David Hargreaves
Regarding the Peabody Estate, in principle I am not opposed to redevelopment. The existing layout is fortress-like and the buildings are gloomy. Opening it all up would be good. The Peabody people seem to be amenable to discussion and, at least partially, sensitive to local opinion. The latest version of their plans is a big improvement on the first version.
HOWEVER, I do think we should attempt to hold the line as best we can on height. The 8 storeys on the Lumiere were supposedly an “exception” permitted by the Council against local opposition. The re-designation of the town centre to permit a tower block on part of the Peabody site is a consummately devious Council manoeuvre. There is no doubt a slippery slope could easily come into operation, permitting at some future date yet higher buildings close by. Like it or not, the Lumiere is now a fait-accompli and there is a new 8 storey benchmark for height at the top of St John’s Hill.
In my view, 10 storeys is excessive, and anything above that entirely out of order. Looking at the new plans and thinking about the geography, it does seem that the highest proposed buildings are in fact located at the most prominently visible position on the estate, fronting or almost fronting onto St John’s Hill. These would be starkly visible from, say, the area Arding & Hobbs (especially the Falcon Pub and the station main entrance), with all the added elevation effect of the hill enhancing their towering presence, plus the wide open space of the railway cutting in the other direction gives no cover at all.
Proposal for some changes
If, and it’s a big if, buildings higher than 8 storeys are to be permitted anywhere on the site, would it not be a better idea to locate them more towards the centre of the estate, surrounded by buildings of lower height, thus helping to conceal their towering nature and offering a more graduated prospect of the estate’s overall height to observers? Wandsworth appears quite happy to re-designate the official boundaries of the town centre, so I expect they could handle whatever changes such an initiative might demand.
It does seem to me that a number of buildings towards the centre of the estate could more comfortably have some floors added, enabling the more prominent buildings at the edges, notably anything of 12 storeys, to be capped at a much more appropriate height for the general environment.
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