Council’s gift before local election: 20 storey tower beside Grant Road station entrance

Author: Cyril Richert

Finally, after 4 years of work on the Winstanley and York redevelopment project, and as local residents expressed the wish of less towers in the 2013 consultation, the Council is proposing a 20 storey tower in Grant Road, the tallest building in the area so far.

Planning Application 2017/6864 is proposing the construction of 3 buildings ranging from 6 to 20 storeys including a total of 139 residential units, a 5175sqm School and Chapel and 219 sqm of flexible commercial uses, car parking, the realignment of Thomas Baines Road and other associated works.

The site is currently mainly occupied by a car park, grass and open areas. The scheme will result as a loss of the most important trees, especially located on the site of the proposed tower.

Red: tree removed  | Yellow: tree retained | Green: new tree

If all goes as planned, the scheme should be approved just before the local election, and therefore giving the go-ahead to the plan for transforming the area into a cluster of dense and tall building, making the high tower a precedent that the next application could follow, whatever is the outcome after May.

The Council own application cannot even reach the local plan target on affordable housing

Click to see the colour’s meaning

In the Affordability report, we can read that the Applicant (i.e. the Council) proposes to provide 46 affordable residential units within a single building (the lowest block on the corner of Plough Road – the tower won’t have any) which equates to 33% by unit numbers and 31% by habitable rooms. The 46 affordable units are proposed to be provided as social rented tenure, which is very welcome. Rent levels will be set by the Council and will reflect the existing rents of those residents being relocated.

In order to highlight that it cannot go further (London’s plan specifies 35%), the report says “the provision of 33% affordable housing therefore creates a viability deficit“.

Proposal criticised by Wandsworth Design Review Panel

The Design Review Panel is less than enthusiastic about the proposal. In their report, they write:

“we would have liked to have seen greater clarity of how this [first phase of the Winstanley/York Road Masterplan] fits into the broader landscape strategy, particularly the ambitions for Grant Road. […] We feel the schematic proposals for this block clearly show it has been less well considered and needs more work to improve its urban response and architectural quality”.

Specifically on the building along Plough road they say:

“It would appear that the architects have been given insufficient time to prepare a scheme and the evidence from the submission bears this out.”

However the panel is comfortable with the massing and height of the proposed 20 storey tower and they see it as announcing the future of the masterplan:

“We feel the proposed tower works in the townscape as part of the unfolding sequence of towers on the approach to Clapham Junction station.”

In their documents, the applicants (i.e. Council’s team) are presenting the tower as “a landmark” and “a key marker to the station entrance“. All usual arguments to justify towers in the borough.

Arguments from residents against towers dismissed

The Winstanley& York regeneration team presented their scheme during one of the recent exhibition. Labelled as a “consultation” in their document, no comment from the residents were taken into consideration to modify the proposal.

Example of comment received:

“The 20 storey tower block next to Clapham junction station is an eyesore. It is without any visual attraction and will tower over an area of “people-height” buildings in what Wandsworth council promotes as “your town centre.” A lot of us have stayed and been part of an antisocial community- was hoping for a lot more low rise properties with gardens.”

Other objections displayed on the Council’s website are showing similar discontent:

  • “I find it unfortunate that you have not directly approached residents when the proposed development will have such major impact on their living space.”
  • “Twenty storey building. This is not New York. The grass area was put there for a reason.”
  • “In earlier versions of the proposal, developers demonstrated a new grass area /landscaped cover to the existing lower ground carpark area directly in front of Sendall Court, which would provide a new green space that could be used by residents of all ages. This has now been removed but I think developers should be forced to consider bringing it back.”

Response from the developers:

“The site has been identified as one with the potential to deliver a tall building due to its proximity to Clapham Junction Station. This is supported by local and national planning policy and the design approach is endorsed by the GLA and Wandsworth’s Design Review Panel.”

In other words, thank you very much for your comment but we don’t care, we know better what is good for you!

Of course it echoes the treatment given to the initial consultation (2013) for the future Winstanley&York estates. According to the booklet produced by the project teams-open-day-exhibition-boards in 2013, the number one thing that residents wanted to change was: Improved homes with fewer towers

Winstanley and York Road open day exhibition board – 2013

Many objections have also been submitted from residents directly affected by the new 6 storey building proposed on the corner of Grant Road and Plough  Road:

  • “The proposed building is disproportionate to the site and its surrounding, given that its size will inevitably impact on our access to natural light in Time House [and] complicate our right to privacy.”

A done deal already

While elements highlighted by the Design Review Panel show that the Council is rushing out to get that application approved by its committee before the May local election, the decision bears very little suspense:

  • The project is led by Wandsworth Council, with a Council master-plan team, working closely with officers. Therefore the recommendation to the Committee will be obviously to approve.
  • The Tory Councillors in the committee will have no problem to ignore resident concerns as they don’t stand a chance in this Labour ward (Latchmere Ward) at the May local election.
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