Author: Cyril Richert
Surprise and joy amongst Peabody’s team, huge relief on the officers faces. Peabody’s plan has been approved after more than 2 hours of “debate”. Motion to refuse proposed by Cllr Tony Belton was supported by Cllr Maurice Heaster and Cllr Angela Graham. Vote to approve (with minor conditions such as take photos of the lodges for memory!) was supported by 6 Cllrs: Nick Cuff (chair), Vanessa Graham, John Hallmark, Matthew Maxwell Scott, Guy Humphries and Steffi Sutters.
It all started before the meeting actually. In the afternoon, Councillors were told that Peabody was going to make a presentation to the members of the committee. It is against all rules, and only after the complaint of Cllr Martin Johnson they decided to replace Peabody with an officer (to speak with Peabody’s words!).
The gallery was full, and chairs were lined up in the room. Peabodys team was there of course (project manager Richard Stanway-Williams, director – and former project leader – Claire Benny, and other members of the project team).
A handful of residents of Peabody, lead by the chair of the resident association were there with posters to show support to the proposal. And the more than 50 other were local resident who raised objections and concerned by the detrimental effect of the plan.
They also opened a second room with video material as not everybody was able to fit in the meeting room.
It all started with a 5 minute speech from Cllr Martin Johnson (and on behalf of his ward colleagues, who contrary to practice, were not authorised to speak) who strongly put the case for refusal of the proposal on the ground of:
- traffic: entrance misconceived on Comyn Road, pressure of additional vehicles;
- bulk and massing: The plan is “over-bearing, over-dominant” and the councillor noted the “quite fortunately for this application, only a few months ago  the town centre boundary was changed to shift part of the site in which the towers were situated […] Even so, the officer says page 159 of the report there will be a substantial adverse impact when viewed from Clapham Junction station entrance“;
- and children: Martin Johnson said that “one of the most serious long-term consequences of this proposal is the more than 200 children possibly living on the site“. The councillor does not feel that there is any approaching enough space for them.
He said that the Council should not recreate a “21st century Winstanley estate” (the towers block s on the north of the railway line built in the 1960’s) and that “Peabody has been exceptionally negligent with this proposal and hope they will completely reconsider their approach of the site“.
Expressions were low and depressed on faces of Peabody’s team.
Then followed a presentation by the officer of Peabody’s proposal with slide-show.
Councillor Hallmark started with question on the traffic and stress on existing roads but was “reassured” by the officers and even added that the entrance being only 20 meters away from Boutflower road it won’t have effect on car coming into Comyn road (forgetting that car can drive both ways!). It was apparent that he was not against the scheme.
On traffic, Cllr Heaster said that having experience with figures, “you can make them say one thing or another” and that they “are looking at a site which is already decanting and not at its full capacity“. He said that he cannot see “how you can expect only a handful of additional traffic nuisance” (round of claps from the audience). He added that from his own experience, “Comyn Road is a notoriously narrow road that has a lot of problems with traffic flows and cannot bear more“(round of claps from the audience). Cllr Heaster said he wanted something that he can “be proud of, and wondered how he can be proud of something that is pushing the problems towards the residential areas” and thinks that there is enough reasons simply on transport to demonstrate the plan is flawed and that it should be rejected.
Cllr Humphries made a comment saying that Comyn road should be made a one-way road (round of applaud), but officers said that it raises other problems and could have adverse consequences on the other streets.
Cllr Angela Graham said that she went to visit the estate ( to know what she was talking about) and she thinks that officers are under-estimating the consequences because of the number of families who will live on the site, especially with the introduction of active frontages and people stopping before them.
Cllr Belton highlighted that “with the march of the skyscrapers coming along from Vauxall and the river valley, we are now talking about 5 blocks on top of the hill which will make them much more significant than on the river front“. And he think a 12-storey block would set a precedent. He asked about the change of the boundaries of the town centre which is “clearly designed to include the 12 storey-block“. He said he will have “real problem with this application on the base of the height alone” (many claps in the audience).
Again the officers lied and even found new justifications saying that it was on the demand of the Clapham Junction Town Centre partnership and in view of the new Brighton Yard station entrance (which was never put forward as a reason before!).
Cllr Heaster added also that buildings should be of quality, architectural merit for the high blocks, which is not achieved with the proposal. He sees ground to “refuse this proposal on the basis of height, massing and density of this proposal“. He asked for clarification to know how high (in term of meters) the buildings are… which the chair, Cllr Cuff, rebuked saying more or less that it was irrelevant.
The officers said that the tall buildings passed the 15 points test … we have shown in our letter that all the members of the committee have received on Monday that it was flawed, wrong and a lie to declare such pass (read our comments on the failure for the 15 tests HERE).
Cllr Angela Graham added that she agrees that it was very dense, and the she has also think the design (a long wall of blocks along the railway) could be better.
Cllr Sutters said that she wanted to put things into perspective and it was not a mini-Manhatan (which Cllr Belton referred to commenting on Vauxall) and that it was “technically a very good scheme” that ticks a lot of boxes, but she was “unhappy with the views on St Johns Hill“, it looks that the building adjacent to the Victorian terrace does not really work. She noticed “different irritating things about the design, including the way the elevation are done” as long corridor of blocks are an absolute “no-no” for plenty of reasons and “they are not good“.
Cllr Vanessa Graham said she was concerned with the landscaping and she was not satisfied and think that we need much more soft surface, not mainly hard surface: “it cannot be only hard surface!” and that they need a really strong condition on the need of soft landscaping. Regarding the lodges, heritage of the past masonry school, there should be also a strong condition that the buildings should be photographed, surveyed and reports made.
Eventually Cllr Belton proposed a rejection on the ground of the over-bearing proportion, massing, height, traffic implication (round of applaud).
With Conservative Cllrs Heaster and Angela Graham supporting the reasons for refusal of Labour Cllr Belton, and with Cllr Sutters talking about being unhappy with irritating aspects of the scheme and Cllr Vanessa Graham asking for strong review of the hard surface landscaping, along with comments from Cllrs Humphries and Maxwell Scott, it seemed clear to the audience that there were a lot of criticisms and rejection was on its way; people from Peabody were looking nervous and pessimistic on the outcome, glaring at the officers as if they really needed to reverse the tide!
However it became clear that the vote was fixed when the chair, Cllr Nick Cuff said at 9.30pm: “I’ve got the feeling that it might be a tight vote here“.
Cllr Belton’s motion (seconded by Cllr Heaster) said:
The Council is not satisfied by the development proposed and failure of the tests from Policy DMS3 by virtue of inappropriate height, bulk and massing on the brow of the hill, over-bearing impact on Comyn Road and Eckstein Road, inappropriate visual impact on St Johns Hill and Brighton Yard and insufficient quality on the architectural merit of an unprecedented height proposed in Clapham Junction.
Cllr Belton, Cllr Heaster and Cllr A. Graham, only 3 out of 9 members, voted in favour. It was rejected.
At that point it was possible to put forward another motion, or to abstain and not approve the scheme as such. You know what happened:
Cllr Sutters, Cllr V. Graham, Cllr Scott, Cllr Hallmark and the chair, Cllr Cuff voted to follow the recommendation of the officer and approve the scheme!
SHAME shouted the audience!
At the end of our letter to the Committee members (that most of them have ignored!) we wrote:
The opportunity exists for the Planning Committee to send a clear message based on the views of many hundreds of local residents. Any failure to do so will result in years of continued wrangling over the type of scheme which might be considered acceptable and the ways in which the community’s interests might best be served.
Here we are. Unfortunately you can be prepared with more pressure for filling Clapham Junction with taller buildings, starting with the station (for the record I bet 20 storeys on next application).
The first thing you can do, and that you really should do, in regard of the poor consideration given to your objection by the the 6 committee members, is to let them now how shameful their attitude has been.
Conservative Councillors told us they received enormous pressure from the party and from Ravi Govindia, leader of Wandsworth Council (although it seen as illegal to apply the whip of such committee!!) – feel free to include him in your correspondence: email@example.com
Everyone should now write a word, send a little email to the different Councillors who voted in favour of this flawed scheme, ignoring all the breach of the policies(we showed that it breaches Council policies DMS1, DMS4, DMPD, DMH1, DMT1), ignoring all the information and analysis we have been sending, ignoring their ward colleagues who know the area and most of all, ignoring the 300 local residents who have written letters to explain their objections!
EMAIL AND SHAME:
The second thing is to alert directly the Board members of Peabody of the arrogant (ignorant of the local community) attitude of their team.
- firstname.lastname@example.org (say to address to the Board’s members)
As one of my neighbour put:
“I don’t understand what the process of planning consultancy is about? If over 300 people have objected and nothing is done – what is the purpose of having a process at all?“
Yes, we wonder…
 We reported here and sent numerous warning on consequences!