Author: Cyril Richert
Plans to erect buildings ranging from 7 to 15 storeys near the Tonsleys and Wandsworth Town train station, in place of the current Homebase store (p.a. 2016/7356), were rejected unanimously by the Planning Application Committee (PAC) on Wednesday 26 April 2017.
It was the second time a plan to redevelop the Homebase site was refused. On 27 July 2016, the Council decided to refuse planning permission (by reason of the height, scale and massing of the 17 storeys Station building proposed and its relationship with the surrounding townscape). That scheme (p.a. 2015/6608) included some modifications to the initially proposed design of the 17 storey tower, following the deferment of PAC consideration at the last minute a few months earlier.
The Council officers recommended again (for the second time) the now revised scheme for approval. Their report was not short of contradiction, stating for example: –
- “the proposed development would be a readily noticeable addition to the street scene, […] CGI’s demonstrate that whilst the development would be highly visible, given the context of the site the impact upon the surrounding area is considered acceptable” (point 3.13)
- “Whilst the Station Building would introduce a new element to the skyline and is of a larger scale than its immediate context, it is considered that the Station Building would act as a ‘marker’ building and would not significantly detract from the Victorian character of the surrounding area” (point 3.14)
- “the development, while significantly altering the existing appearance of the site, would not have a significant impact on the townscape” (p 3.18)
- And of course leading towards the usual officer’s conclusion: “Whilst the various concerns raised by residents and other consultees have been taken into account […], the proposal would offer significant public benefits […] which is a key planning benefit of the scheme.” (point 21.12)
The Wandsworth Guardian reported that Labour spokesperson for planning Cllr Tony Belton said he was “glad” the committee listened to the feeling of residents adding:
“We feel the decision reflects the strength of people’s feelings and I’m glad to see the people had their way.”
Wandsworth Society’s chairman David Kirk, who was present in the public gallery at the meeting, said:
“The three Fairfield councillors were united in opposition to the scheme. They had clearly listened to the concerns of local residents and the Wandsworth and Battersea Societies, and Cllr Stuart Thom had made a strong opening statement on behalf of local residents”
David Kirk also noted that there were frequent references during the debate to the unsatisfactory nature generally of the ‘tall buildings policy’ – or, at least, the regular apparent failure to follow it – and there were calls for a review, which he hoped would now follow. In any event, the Homebase site owners and developers would need to decide what action they should now take, as would also the B&Q owners and developers of a neighbouring site. The latter have recently submitted a planning application (2017/0580) which involves even taller buildings – to which the Wandsworth Society has also strongly objected.
There is no doubt that the decision will affect B&Q’s scheme (read our article). Will B&Q developer choose to defer to submit amendments? Will the application be submitted to the PAC? Will the officers recommend it? And most important, will it be the start of new consideration from the majority council towards tall buildings in Wandsworth? We shall see sooner rather than later.