Meeting Report – Hotel Developer Tim Glass from Oak Trading Company Ltd

>> Your chance to contribute: tell us what your think on Clapham Junction station redevelopment

Author: Cyril Richert, reviewed by Tim Glass

A new development has been proposed for Woburn House, 155 Falcon Road. We reported last month on the planning application (read HERE).

The site is currently occupied by a five storey office building, of mid-20th century origin. Oak Trading Co Ltd has submitted two separate application for:

  • 2010/1620: Residential redevelopment on the current car park. The building has been designed to harmonise with the existing terrace of houses in Mossbury Road and will comprise 3 x 1 bedroom and 3 x 2 bedroom flats over three floors.
  • 2010/1455: 8-storey hotel (~70 rooms) to be build with entrance on Falcon road; a commercial shop/restaurant unit on the ground floor.

Kate Williams and I met on Thursday 27th with Tim Glass, Director of Oak Trading Company Ltd. As for our previous meeting (for their application of a 16-storey building last year) the meeting was really pleasant and we had a very good and interesting discussion on the development of the site.

Tim Glass confessed that the former application (16-storey building) was unlikely to approved, once the submission for two skyscrapers at Clapham Junction station was withdrawn. If it was to be known before they probably wouldn’t have pursued it.

As per the references above, there are two separate applications to replace the existing Woburn House + car park.

Woburn House: In the new proposal, their intention is to keep the existing structure of the building, which will be transformed in appearance, including a good quality reconstituted stone cladding system. It will be a much more sustainable building with hotel facilities but should also be cheaper to build than a totally new structure, as previously proposed. There will be 3 additional floors but the building still be less tall than the existing office building opposite it in Falcon Road.

They hope to get a similar rent per hotel room as in the previous scheme and the absence of kitchen facility should reduce extra costs as well as needs for servicing (now expected to be approx. 7 a week instead of 13 in the previous plan).

Tim Glass stressed that viability is very finely balanced, due to the substantially reduced scheme (not withstanding the above), but if the scheme proceeds it should attract operators such as Travelodge or Premier Inn, amongst others. However they haven’t closed a deal with a hotel operator yet and this will also be a key point for the project to go ahead.

On the ground floor of the hotel there is a plan for an independent retail or café/restaurant unit. In the absence of an “in house” café or restaurant for the hotel, it probably makes more sense to have a café/restaurant in the independent unit and, consequently, application has been made for both A1 (retail) and A3 (restaurant) uses.

The separate unit would be a lock up shop arrangement –serviced from the front in Falcon Road-which is a pretty common arrangement for a unit of this size (ie not very big- approx 65 sq m). There is no rear or other access to the unit.

Residential Units: 6 residential units will be build on the existing car park: three 1-bedroom flats and  three 2-bedrooms flats.

It was design to integrate with the existing Victorian terrace houses of the street and, albeit having only one entrance and extension at the back, it will look like 2 similar houses.

They have consulted with their prime neighbour who is happy with the new layout after they agreed to step-down 1 floor at the back so it does not overlook his garden.

The developer is not planning any wider consultation other than the leaflets distributed in the neighbourhood.

They do not expect any section 106 contribution, which may easily destroy the financial viability of the overall project.

If permission is granted by the council, and assuming a hotel operator is found, the objective is to commence construction in approximately 6 months. Spring next year could be a possible start.

In addition to those applications, Tim Glass confirmed that they have also submitted an application to extend the life of an existing consent (first granted in 2000) for a redevelopment of the existing building and adding a new 6th floor, to provide a restaurant, office space and 3 floors of residential apartments. Tim Glass commented that it seemed sensible to renew this permission, as something of a “backstop”, but it doesn’t provide the appearance of a new building in the same way that the current proposed hotel scheme does and probably isn’t viable in current circumstances anyway

The Clapham Junction Action Group is to formally comment on the project in the forthcoming weeks.

You will see bellow photos and drawing of the applications (click on the thumbnail to see it bigger).

New Hotel Falcon Road – round 2

Author: Cyril Richert

Residents of Mossbury road, Falcon road and area have recently received a leaflet presenting a proposed development of Woburn House, 155 Falcon Road.

The site is currently occupied by a five storey office building, of mid-20th century origin. The site is within the Clapham Junction Conservation Area, and viewable in the context of the Grade II listed Falcon Public House, and the Grade II Listed Arding & Hobbs (now Debenhams) department store. It is proposed to demolish the existing 5 storey building and erect a 7 storey replacement + 2 Victorian style properties.

You might remember that a previous application was presented last summer tohotel0 develop a 16 storey hotel and that it was refused by Wandsworth Borough Council.

The application was met with strong opposition from local residents (85 objections), local societies, English Heritage, the Mayor of London and Martin Linton, MP for Battersea.

Criticisms included:

  1. size of the building (16 storey building);
  2. the proposed development does not respect the historical and architectural homogeneity of its neighbouring buildings;
  3. noise and disturbance in parking caused by a 132 room hotel (potential noise from the delivery vans, servicing, etc);
  4. increase traffic all along the road (proposed entrance on Mossbury, a one way residential street) and create additional pressure on the limited parking.

Oak Trading Co Ltd have now prepared a completely revised scheme, which has recently been submitted for Planning Consent (I couldn’t find the reference number on the Council’s website), and may be summarised as follows (extract from the developer’s brochure):-

  • The structural elements of the existing building are to be retained but the existing building will be comprehensively refurbished, including complete recladding and extended (including 3 additional floors) to provide a 70 room hotel (approximately half the height of the previous scheme).
  • The main entrance to the hotel will be from Falcon Road (not Mossbury Road as per the previous application).
  • There will still be a commercial shop/restaurant unit on the ground floor but this will be independent from the hotel and, as before, its entrance will also be from Falcon Road.
  • A separate application is to be submitted shortly for a residential redevelopment of the car park which, although adjoining the hotel, will also be independent from the hotel/commercial unit.  This building has been designed to harmonise with the existing terrace of houses in Mossbury Road and will comprise 3 x 1 bedroom and 3 x 2 bedroom flats over three floors.

This building will also provide an appropriate buffer/transition between the existing terrace of houses and the proposed hotel and is of the same scale as the existing buildings higher up Mossbury Road and stepping down with the contours.

The least we can say is that the developers listened carefully to all arguments and tried to address each of them in their new proposal.

  1. Size of the building: it is now a 7 8 storey building (instead of 16)
  2. Conservation area: the new building is much smaller and based on a comprehensive refurbishment of the existing building. The proposed overall height of the development will be lower than the existing building which is immediately opposite it in Falcon Road. In addition 2 Victorian style residential developments will be build, similar to the one existing in Mossbury road.
  3. Noise and disturbance: there will be less servicing (such as refuse collection, deliveries etc.) to the new scheme because the hotel is about half the previous size and secondly, because there are no “in-house” café/ restaurant/bar facilities.
  4. Increase traffic and parking in a small one way residential road: the main entrance to the hotel will be from Falcon Road (not Mossbury Road as per the previous application).

You will find below a few images from the developer’s leaflet.

As we did last year, we will try to meet with the developers as soon as possible. Of course we will have in view our recent comments and representation on the Site Specific Documents for Clapham Junction area. However we can already praise the work done by the developers in listening and addressing the concerns and objections raised by their previous application.

Boris backs council on hotel scheme

Author: Cyril Richert

In today’s news bulletin from Wandsworth Council you can read:

“London Mayor Boris Johnson has backed a council decision to turn down a planning application for a 132-bedroom hotel at Clapham Junction.

In June councillors rejected proposals for a new a 16-storey hotel on the site of Woburn House – a five-storey office block at 155 Falcon Road.

Councillors on the planning applications committee said the building would be too bulky for the site and concluded that it would result in an “overbearing and dominant development” which would fail to preserve or enhance the Clapham Junction conservation area.

Following this rejection, the developers asked the Mayor to intervene and overturn the council’s decision.

But after studying the application and the council’s reasons for refusal, the Mayor has confirmed that he will not be intervening.

In the formal response to the referral, the Mayor’s report states: “Having regard to the details of the application, the matters set out in the committee report and the council’s draft decision notice, there are no sound planning reasons for the Mayor to intervene in this particular case.

Planning applications chairman Leslie McDonnell said: “I am pleased that the Mayor has endorsed our decision to refuse this application.

We had no problem with a hotel in this location – it would clearly be a benefit to the town centre. The concerns were more about whether the site could accommodate a building of this size.

“There is scope for a taller building here but it must respect its immediate surroundings and the properties around it. It must be of the right scale and size for its location.“”

Although I praise the decision of the Mayor of London, I am concerned by the statement from the Planning applications chairman Leslie McDonnell re-asserting that Clapham Junction is a scope for taller building (a nicer word to say skyscraper). Not only it seems to ignore the hundreds of people who wrote recently to the Council against such schemes, but I would like to know exactly his definition of a taller building that “must respect its immediate surroundings” and the properties around it, knowing that properties in Clapham Junction are 3-4 storey high. Is it 5 stories? 6? (for 5 years the Council’s services have been working on 42 stories…!)

That’s one of the reason why we, along with many others,  are calling for a review of Wandsworth Borough Council Core Strategy.

The Mayor of London rejects Clapham Junction hotel appeal

Author: Cyril Richert

Via Councillor Cousins’ blog, we learn that the Mayor of London rejected Clapham Junction hotel appeal.

The Mayor has decided that he is content with Wandsworth Council taking the decision, meaning the council’s refusal of the application stands. […]

The developer can still appeal to the Planning Inspectorate – which is the last option remaining to them.  If they do, all objections made to the council will be carried forward.

We reported about the Council’s decision in our previous article here. Official minutes of the meeting (25 June 2009) are now available on the Council’s website (link here).

The planning application for a 16 storey hotel at 155 Falcon Rd in Clapham Junction was thrown out by Wandsworth Borough Council

Author: Imogen Radford with notes from Julia Matcham

Wandsworth Council planning committee agreed unanimously at its meeting 25 June to reject the planning application.

Planning applications chairman Leslie McDonnell said:

“We had no problem with a hotel in this location – it would clearly be a benefit to the town centre.

The concerns were more about whether the site could accommodate a building of this size. The new structure would be out of scale with the nearby houses in Mossbury Road.

There is scope for a taller building here but it must respect its immediate surroundings and the properties around it.

It would be regrettable if the council’s decision were overturned. We are not saying we do not want investment here – just that any development must be of the right scale and size for its location.”

The committee concluded that the scheme would result in an overbearing and dominant development which would fail to preserve or enhance the Clapham Junction conservation area.

In rejecting the application the planning committee took account of the recommendation of the planning officer to reject the application because of the ‘unduly prominent‘ height of the design and that it would ‘fail to preserve or enhance the character of the Clapham Junction conservation area‘. In addition the proposed hotel was not accessible to people with disabilities and did not meet sustainability and environmental criteria.

At the meeting Councillor Martin Johnson outlined concerns about the unsuitability of the proposal. He spoke extensively about the downside of the proposal and put forward many arguments we would agree with about the unsuitability of tall buildings in this area.

Councillor Tony Belton said that the council should reconsider its emerging policy towards buildings in view of the clear public view that they were not wanted.

Some members of the committee were keen to see regeneration in the area, but doubts were expressed about whether such a scheme would really help to regenerate the area as claimed. Councillor Belton pointed out that people often use hotels literally just for bed and breakfast and then spend the rest of the day in London on either tourism or business, and that the developers were only claiming to be creating 30 jobs and these were relatively low paid.

Some councillors spoke about benefits of having a hotel in terms of regeneration for the area, but no one spoke up for the design or defended the height of the building. It seems that the recommendation of the planning officer and the comments of many is that the building would tower over surrounding buildings and would be inappropriate for the conservation area clearly swayed the committee. Even if they didn’t state that this was the reason for the rejection, the decision is another nail in the coffin for unwanted tall buildings in the area, and a recognition of the public view that such proposals would be unsuitable and unwanted.

On the request of the applicant the decision has now been referred to the Mayor of London who will decide whether to intervene. The applicant argues that by rejecting the scheme the council risks deterring further investment in the town centre contrary to the Mayor’s regeneration policies.

But the Mayor’s office had objected to the application in relation to sustainable construction techniques and the lack of disabled access facilities, amongst other things (you can read the Mayor’s office opinion here).

Although the chair of the planning committee was careful not to rule out tall buildings on principle, it is clear that this building was rejected for that reason. Perhaps the council will now listen to people who live and work in the area who don’t want to see its character changed or to see a succession of threats to change its character by yet more unsuitable proposals.

In the press

Author: Cyril Richert

I cannot make the Planning Committee meeting tonight but some others will report for us on the website.

I have just spotted this article below in Wandsworth Guardian. It will add a little bit more pressure for tonight … 😉

Wandsworth councillors advised to reject 16-storey Clapham Junction hotel plan

7:20am Wednesday 24th June 2009

Wandsworth councillors are expected to reject plans for a 16-storey hotel in Clapham Junction on Thursday night, just 48 hours after heritage group English Heritage (EH) said the area was “at risk of losing its character”.

[…]

On Tuesday English Heritage said 81 of 486 conservation areas surveyed in London – including Clapham Junction – were threatened by “neglect, decay or damaging change”.

The list is part of English Heritage’s At Risk Register, which identifies areas that have deteriorated in the last three years or are at a risk of doing so in the next three years.

The statement from English Heritage they refer to is here (BBC website).

We have reported about the planning officer recommendation there.

Clapham Junction Hotel: Town planner recommends refusal.

Author: Cyril Richert

The planning officer has recommended that the Planning Applications Committee reject the application for a 16 storey hotel in 155 Falcon Road (site of the old Job Centre, bottom of Mossbury Road).

Recommendation is that, subject to any Direction from the Mayor of London, planning permission be refused on the grounds that: –

  1. The proposed building by reason of its height would be an unduly prominent and incongruous development and together with its poor detailed design would fail to preserve or enhance the character of the Clapham Junction Conservation Area and the setting of nearby listed buildings…
  2. The proposal does not comply with sustainable design and climate change policies in terms of renewable energy and low carbon development contrary to Core Strategy…
  3. The proposal does not ensure an accessible environment for people with disabilities and fails to include any wheelchair accessible bedrooms…

[Full document is available here]

The report follows essentially two objections: the one submitted by English Heritage (commented here) and the one submitted by the Mayor of London’s office (commented here).

Height: the report follows the objections of English Heritage

On the height issue, the comment highlight that “for most objectors, the height of the building is the most significant and contentious aspect of the proposal“. As we have previously written, the decision to proceed with the hotel scheme was specifically driven by the Council’s recommendation in its Core Strategy document that Clapham Junction was a suitable location for regeneration through the construction of tall buildings (part. 4.132 of the document). However the town planner follows here the argument of so many objections, in line with English Heritage and CABE, and says: “there are serious doubts as to whether the application site can adequately accommodate a building of this size in townscape terms. […] The proposed building significantly exceeds the prevailing height of surrounding buildings, while there are no other examples of tall buildings within the Clapham Junction Town Centre“.

We also note that the planning officer considers the size of this very compact site and writes: “The new building would result in an overdevelopment of the site reflected in the exceptional high plot ratio and it would be an unduly bulky and prominent building in relation to the extent of site. […] The proposed building does not physically integrate with its surroundings and would dwarf the surrounding buildings; in particular it would be out of scale with the houses in Mossbury Road. In this context, the site would not be suitable for a sixteen-storey building“.

More surprising (but very welcomed) when you keep in mind the very positive view given by the planning service to the erection of two 42-storey towers in a previous application in Clapham Junction, less than 50 yards away from the proposed site of the hotel, the town planner says: “the building does not relate to its environment, and it would be highly prominent in views from most directions. Although the proposal would replace a building of no particular merit, and a taller building than the existing height might be achievable, it is difficult to argue that this proposal meets the policy tests and would not make a positive contribution to the townscape and the public realm“.

English Heritage’s comment was also deeply used in criticising the design and the report says that “the development does not respect the grain of the conservation area, and due to its sheer size and design it would fail to preserve or enhance the character and appearance of the conservation area. […] The proposed building would impinge on the local views towards the two listed buildings of the former Arding and Hobbs building and the Falcon public house“.

Techniques and guidelines: the report follows the objections of the Mayor of London’s office

The report quotes the criticisms of the Mayor of London’s letter in reference to sustainable construction techniques, comments that the proposals does not comply with the climate policies of the London Plan and the issue on lack of enough disable access facilities. In addition the planning officer says that “notwithstanding the above analysis, it is considered the proposal would result in an unneighbourly overbearing and dominant development when viewed from properties in Mossbury Road, and would create an undue sense of enclosure“.

The application will be presented before the Planning Committee on June 25th

After the number of objections made by the Mayor of London’s letter (along with suggestions to possible remedies) the developers were expecting to go before the Planning Committee at a later date (July or later) in order to have further time to submit more documents supporting their case. However, the planning officer considers that “there is an “in-principle” objection to the height of the proposed development and that this would not be overcome by additional graphics“.

We can only welcome this recommendation and hope that this will prefigure further changes in the Core Strategy regarding the possibility of tall buildings in applications submitted for Clapham Junction.

(The news was also published a few days ago on Cllr Cousins’ blog)

The decision to proceed with the hotel scheme was specifically driven by the Council’s recommendation in its Core Strategy document that Clapham Junction was a suitable location for regeneration through the construction of tall buildings (part. 4.132 of the document).

Analysis of presentations: 85 objections vs 12 supports

Author: Cyril Richert

Up to June the 19th, we counted 85 objections on the Council’s website. There is only 12 letters supporting the application.

Most of the objections are concentrating on the size of the building (excessive development of the site, not in scale with the nearby Victorian and Edwardian low rise houses, out of character and inappropriate impact on conservation area, makes a mockery of the whole principle of conservation area, etc) and some highlight that the recent campaign against the station redevelopment has clearly shown that residents do not want tall towers.

Additional objections show concerns on noise, deliveries, congestion (parking space) and impact on neighbours (all what you can also already read here and there for example on our website).

As we did in the previous campaign against the application including the twin towers, we display below the map visualising the location of most of the letters (some locations couldn’t be automatically determined on Google map) with the following colours:

  • red = objections to the planning permission
  • blue= support

Objections (red) vs Supports (blue)(click on the map to see it bigger)

As presented by this map, the “extensive” consultation conducted by the developers in the adjacent street of Mossbury Road was clearly not sufficiant and a clear concern is shown by residents in the all vicinity of Clapham Junction town centre.

Hotel in CJ: Societies' objections

[From Cyril Richert: We publish below the objections sent by the Battersea Society (download letter here) and the Wandsworth Society (download letter here).]

Author: Battersea Society

15 June 2009

The Battersea Society acknowledges that hotel accommodation is a desirable use in Battersea Town Centre, and potentially on this site, but wishes to object to the scale and height of this proposed building.

We consider a 16-storey building would be entirely out of place on a site which is so significant in relation to the Clapham Junction Conservation Area and the listed buildings it contains.

We note two specific points in relation to the present proposal:

  1. It does not appear that the plans have been developed in consultation with an operator for a hotel once built. We suggest that an operating plan ought to have been developed as a basis for decisions regarding number and size of rooms required for economic viability and the grade of hotel accommodation appropriate for this site.
  2. The height of the proposed tower is the result of using only part of the site for the bedroom block, and alternative approaches coudl have been adopted.

We urge the council to reject the present proposal.


Author: Wandsworth Society

8 June 2009

We have been provided with drawings of the proposal and would wish to raise objection on the following grounds:

We believe that the height and general massing is excessive in this location, although we accept that the proposed use would be suitable, being close to the transport interchange and shopping facilities.

The height of sixteen floors would be completely out of character with the conservation area and would dominate the adjoining low-rise Victorian houses in Mossbury Road whose residents would suffer from a substantially increased noise level with deliveries at all time of the day and night.

Service traffic will be considerable for a hotel of 132 rooms, including a conference centre and could cause serious problems for this already very busy road junction. There will also be greatly increased pressure on residents’ parking space, as no on-site parking, or dropping-off spaces for guests is provided and outside business hours parking will be difficultor impossible to control. There are no off-street public parking areas in the immediate vicinity. we understand the nearby supermarkets are adamant that their car parks are for shoppers only.

In the absence of a comprehensive plan for the area, we believe that the proposal will set a precedence for buildings of similar height and mass that is unacceptable.

We trust that you will take these objections into account in your consideration and report to the Committee and recommend refusal for the application.