Author: Cyril Richert
A development up to 10 storeys facing Putney High Street, has been granted by a Government Inspector in appeal after Wandsworth Planning Committee refused it (despite recommendation to approve from the officers).
Renowned architects Grimshaw proposed a series of building up to 10 storeys in 2017 on a site surrounding (but without) the corner of Putney High Street and Putney Bridge Road to replace several buildings of 3 storeys (pictured above) comprising 115 flats and 8 mews houses, with 27 associated parking spaces (p.a. 2017/1874).
The site currently accommodates a collection of individual buildings, varying in height between 3 and 4 storeys and comprising shops on the ground floor with storage and offices above and frontages to Putney High Street and Putney Bridge Road.
As usual the scheme was recommended for approval by officer (and why not, as the Council already allowed many similar massive schemes along Putney Bridge Road since Tileman House, which started the transformation of the area with a 15 storey proposal in Putney Bridge Road). There was some hint however that the officer was stretching the possibilities by writing: “the proposal was at the limit of acceptability“.
You will notice that from the image at the top of the article, at the moment, there is no tall building either at the corner of Putney Bridge Road and Putney High Street as presented on the developers drawing at the left of the scheme. We will present the other scheme later – but it was noted by Councillors that the two sites should have been developed together and not with completely separate applications.
During Planning Committee 25th January 2018, Councillors decided (by 9 votes to 1) to reject the scheme. Councillor Torrington (Conservatives), for example, noted that a building over six storeys was tall in the area and although there were taller buildings such as Jubilee House (just opposite – 5-9 storeys) and Putney Wharf Tower by the riverside other tall buildings were surrounded by more space where there were no adjoining properties. Councillor Carpenter (Labour) stated that the applicants should conform to the SSAD and develop the two sites as a single site. He suggested that, if this was not possible, the Council should seek to make a Compulsory Purchase Order as the current proposals made no economic or planning sense.
The Local Plan policies (SSAD 2015, policies area 73 p168) said:
The site is sensitive to tall buildings, and the height at which a development in this location will be considered to be tall is 6 storeys.[…] Any new development should provide a new, public square within the site where pedestrians have priority over vehicles.
The decision was torn into pieces during Appeal, the Planning Inspector deciding that – in views of Wandsworth Council other decision to interpret the SSAD and Local Plan policies to allow other tall building in the area, there was no material for refusal of this one. In her decision, Inspector Christina Downes wrote:
- There is no requirement to develop policy area 73 comprehensively [i.e. with the site at the corner of Putney Bridge Road and Putney High Street] [and] it should be noted that the Council has expressed no intention or willingness to consider exercising its compulsory purchase powers (which is what Cllr Carpenter suggested but the Council refused).
- There are other buildings of scale within the vicinity.
- The area spatial strategy for Putney Town Centre North in the SSAD considers that there are 4 sites with development potential to provide the opportunity for exciting new development that will enhance this highly accessible town centre.
- [Surrounding tall buildings of Jubilee House and Lindner House] are both detractors in the streetscape and it would seem to me inappropriate to take design cues from them.
- In the case of policy area 73 there is no specific requirement for the square to be at ground floor level.
- The SSAD […] encourage higher density development in town centres and it is inevitable that this would result in impacts on the amenity of surrounding uses.
After years of granting planning permission for whatever massive and obstructing building was proposed, the Council seems suddenly to realise that there might be time to moderate the expansion. However, recent refusal such as Homebase (Swanden Way) and Osiers site, along with this one in Putney, have all be turned over and granted by either the Mayor of London or Appeal procedure. Is the Council getting back, as a boomerang, the result of their loose policies?
An application to redevelop the corner of Putney Bridge Road and Putney High Street was submitted around the same period (but not yet decided) for erection of a mixed use development of between seven and ten-storeys to accommodate retail, offices and hotel (p.a. 2017/5724).
The Putney Society objected:
“This scheme [extends] the same excessive height around the corner and on to the High Street, where buildings opposite within the Embankment Conservation Area are just four storeys, and any excuse about matching Jubilee House becomes irrelevant. “
However, in view of the approval of the scheme around it (described above), the battle is definitely lost.
This article has been published also on local community website PutneySW15.com.