Author: Cyril Richert
Is Wandsworth a new free land for developers wishing to erect high luxury towers ? Was there a pledge from the Conservatives at the last local election to transform Wandsworth landscape? Or is it the case that developers come in number for higher schemes because they know that the Council will look at their proposals with sympathy (and maybe even encourage them)? And why developers ignore Wandsworth planning documents when submitting applications to the Council?
Within the last 12 months we’ve seen several major developments, all including very high towers, proposed for Wandsworth, within 1.5 mile of Clapham Junction.
- 26 storey tower at Garratt Lane – Planning application (Council’s proposal)
- 25+ storey towers at Falcon Bridge – Pre-consultation (Council’s proposal)
- 28 storey tower at Lambard Road – Pre-consultation
A common characteristic to all those schemes is that they contradict the Local Plan, Wandsworth own planning documents. However in all cases it is obvious that pre-discussions with the Council did not discourage developers in anyway to pursue their plans.
Part of Wandsworth Local Plan is the Site Specific Allocation Document (SSAD) produce by the Council’s planning department to give guidelines to what is possible and what they would consider inappropriate. The indications given in the SSAD and the schemes proposed by the developers couldn’t be more apart:
Tall buildings: In accordance with the Stage 2 Urban Design Study – Tall Buildings, the site is sensitive to tall buildings […] Para 2.8 of the S2UDS refers to both the offices in Garratt Lane and Welbeck House as “less successful” and some reduction of existing storey heights will be sought, in part, on both sites. This is to ensure a better relationship to adjoining listed buildings and to enhance the appearance of the Wandsworth Town Conservation Area
>>> The Council is proposing a 26 storey tower (while existing building are 6-9 storeys)
On the picture produced in the draft Wandsworth Stage 2 Urban Design Study (S2UDS) – Tall Buildings (December 2009), one can see that the site at the corner of Grant Road/Falcon Road is considered, by Wandsworth planners, as suitable for a maximum of 6-storey building. The draft says (page 22):
2.43 The site of 140-150 Falcon Road and the area fronting on to Grant Road immediately to the north of the station suffers from a poor layout and design. In common with the rest of the town centre south of the railway this part of Falcon Road contains buildings of generally of three to four storeys. Here, applications for development of 5 storeys and above will be subject to the criteria of the tall buildings policy. Applications for buildings of more than 6 storeys will generally be unacceptable, and will only be considered in exceptional circumstances.
>>> The Council’s project team working on the area has suggested in all its pre-consultation exhibitions and documents that several towers up to 25 storey could be erected at the location.
Tall buildings: In accordance with Core Strategy Policy IS3d, tall buildings in this location are likely to be inappropriate. In accordance with DMPD Policy DMS4, the height at which a development in this location will be considered to be tall is 9 storeys.
>>> Private developers are running public pre-consultation with a proposal to build a 28 storey tower at the location.
Last April, The Putney Society, Wandsworth Society, the Clapham Junction Action Group and Friends of Putney Common community group published a dossier to express their concerns at the way Wandsworth Council has dealt with a number of important planning applications, in the context of published planning policy documents and guidelines.
Is it surprising that in view of the previous decisions, and while the leader of the Council declared a few month ago that planning policies are only guidelines, developers feel all welcome to submit their schemes without specific attention to the local planning documents?