NORTHCOTE WARD E-bulletin May 2009

Author: Cyril Richert

I received the latest newsletter from the  Councillors of Northcote ward:

NORTHCOTE WARD E-bulletin May 2009

Special edition – Clapham Junction planning application WITHDRAWN by the Developers.

Welcome to our latest bulletin with a report on the withdrawal of the Clapham Junction planning application together with information about half term activities; the Wandsworth Heritage Festival; the Northcote Road carnival & the Lavender Hill festival and the move of Battersea’s Citizens Advice Bureau to Northcote Ward. Please forward the bulletin to friends and neighbours.

Philip Beddows, Peter Dawson and Martin Johnson

Councillors, Northcote Ward, Battersea,

Wandsworth Borough Council.


Among all the topics, the main one was commenting the Clapham Junction redevelopment proposal (I included links to articles on this website).

Clapham Junction Planning Application – WITHDRAWN

We learnt late on Monday afternoon (May 18th) that the developer, Metro Shopping Fund, had withdrawn its Clapham Junction planning application.

This welcome news was announced some 48 hours before Wandsworth’s Planning Committee met on Wednesday evening (May 20th) to consider the application. The report by the Borough Planning Officer was recommending that the application be refused because

a. there was insufficient benefit to public transport infrastructure in the town centre

b. affordable housing was omitted from the scheme.

A spokesman for the developer is reported as saying “We are deeply disappointed therefore that the report to the committee was not able to give the proposal its backing”.

As ward councillors we have taken an active role in connection with this application by urging local residents and businesses to make their views known to the Planning Department as well as speaking about the application at the Ward report back meeting last November and at the public meeting in January this year.

Martin Johnson, who is a member of the Planning Committee, was intending to propose additional reasons at Wednesday’s meeting for refusing the application including the scale, design and massing of the proposals and the sheer inadequacy of the proposed improvements to the station access.

At the Wandsworth Council meeting on May 13th Philip Beddows presented the online petition, organised by the Clapham Junction Action Group, opposing the proposals.

Peter Dawson made a written submission to the Planning Department on May 5th opposing the proposals much of which was quoted in the Planning Officer’s report to committee. The main points in his letter relate to the scale, height, design and density of the proposed 42 storey tower blocks being inappropriate at this location and out of character; the lack of new prime office accommodation and the loss of current office space and jobs from the town centre; the inadequate proposals relating to the bus / rail interchange and the partial nature of the station proposals.

The full text of the letter is available at the Planning website.

Overall we had come to the conclusion that though improvements are desperately required at Clapham Junction station, not least because of passenger safety concerns, this application only partially addressed the problems at the station while the impact of the overall scale and type of development on the surrounding residential and local shopping areas was unacceptable.

Jane Ellison opposed this application

Battersea’s Conservative Parliamentary spokesperson, Jane Ellison, wrote to the Council’s Planning Department on May 5th setting out her objections to these proposals.

Full text of her letter is at

In our next e-bulletin we will include a commentary on the planning process and what might happen next.

Read our article on the withdrawal:

Planning Committee Meeting 20 May 2009

Author: Cyril Richert

The Planning Applications Committee meeting was hold on Wednesday 20 May at the Town Hall. As confirmed by Councillor Leslie McDonnell, chairman, the application for Clapham Junction station redevelopment was withdrawn by the applicants (Metro Shopping Fund) on Monday (follow the link to read our comment).

Planning Committee - Public spaceThe small space reserved for public in room 122/123 (about 30 seats) was crowded with more than 40 people, some people seating on the floor or standing near the door. Additionally, two rows of seats were also disposed in front, directly in the main room. That was not enough, and people kept coming crossing others leaving. [1]

The meeting started at 7.30pm. After agreeing on the Minutes of the previous meeting, Cllr McDonnell said that on Monday at about 3.30pm the applicants withdrew their application for Clapham Junction station, and therefore this item would not be debated. However Cllr Belton made a short statement highlighting that more than 600 residents objected (actually more than 800 objections) and he wishes that such application does not set a precedent. Cllr McDonnell replied that there is no relation between Planning Officer and Councillors.

And then…. That’s it.

Planning Committee - room 122For the next 1 1/2 hour it went on with the other applications. The discussion was extensive on Trade Tower Plantation Wharf which was criticised for scale and proportion issues within the vicinity which led eventually to refusal (it is encouraging that several councillors made the points).

Finished at 9.15pm…. I cannot imagine what time it would have finished should you have had the full agenda.

[1] An email was sent to everyone on our mailing list, in addition to the topic posted on the website, stating that the item was withdrawn from the agenda. Apparently more than 60 people decided it was still worth showing their concern!

Thank You

Author: Cyril Richert

Kate and I would like to thank you all for the support you gave to the campaign, writing to the Council, attending the public meeting, signing petitions, distributing leaflets… etc. None of that would have been achievable without you and this is a great example of local democracy we should all be proud of.

I thank the Labour party, the Libdems and PCS who helped us to provide the more than 20,000 leaflets we distributed since November 2008.

I thank also the Councillors of Northcote ward along with the Councillors of Latchmere ward who have shown great concern and encouraged everyone to express their view to the Council.

Last but not least, a special thank to Ruth who gave me this (I guess there is a message):Wine, cheese and bread with a box saying "Lasting everyday design against throwawayism"

Clapham Junction twin towers planning application withdrawn

Author: Cyril Richert

It is now confirmed that the Clapham Junction planning application has been formally withdrawn by the developers (Metro Shopping Fund).

Cllr James Cousins thinks on his blog that “with the developer’s withdrawal the application will not be considered by the committee“. However I hope that there will be discussion about the matter as it has created an unprecedented level of objection for an application apparently encouraged by the Council a few years ago.

Councillor Leslie McDonnell, chairman of the Planning Applications Committee confirmed the news and added that the  item has now been withdrawn from the agenda. In their statement the company (MSF) said:

The Fund has worked hard with your Council and other consultees to put forward a comprehensive scheme which addressed fully the key objectives of your Council.

We are deeply disappointed therefore that the report to the Committee was not able to give the proposal its backing.

Without it the Fund will not be pursuing these applications, as it strives to work in concord with the local authorities in whose boroughs it invests.

Paul Cahalan, from the Wandsworth Guardian quoted MSF saying:

We have invested significant resources to date, however in the absence of the council’s support at the last moment we have been forced to withdraw our application.

We believe a project of this scale would have helped to stimulate the wider London economy while providing lasting benefits for all local stakeholders including job creation and improved infrastructure.

Metro will now review its position and consider what its future options might be.

As I said to the journalist, it is good news the site has been rejected. However I don’t know yet whether we have to celebrate. There are still several questions to be answered, and incertainty:

  • What is stopping developers coming back in six months with another development? They could resubmit later, just tackling the issues on which the officers recommended against…
  • Have Metro decided they stand more of a chance when there is not so much political pressure on conservative councillors to be seen to be doing the popular thing? After next year’s general and council elections perhaps?
  • Is it a trick to avoid a debate on tall building which would have certainly aroused on Wednesday on tall building policy, and avoid the chance of setting a precedent?

All in all, in either the Planning Officer’s report and in MSF’s letter, we learn the same thing. Whilst we appreciate that the Planning Committee is expected to be a neutral arbiter, it is quite clear that the planning department itself has been most encouraging of this type of proposal. This is admitted at page 46 of Mark Hunter’s report where he makes clear that metro initially proposed only to develop the Stop Shop but that the Council asked them to go back and consider a ‘holistic approach’ to include station refurbishment. It is also clear that several different designs for the flats (monolithic block, three towers and then two towers) were consulted on and agreed with planning officers.

On the other hand, while it appears that everyone wants improvements to Clapham Junction station, 1,000-plus local residents have made the effort to tell the Council their objections (by letter or signed petitions) against the scheme including the 42-storey towers.

It would be a shame to let the debate die on this issue when so much interest has been generated. It is now the task of the Council to answer their concern and make sure that we do not face a similar case (with a modicum of affordable housing provided) in 2 months, 6 months, 1 year or more. It is  clear that the planning department have been encouraged by Council policy to seek out such schemes. Is there any way that the Council meeting on Wednesday can be used to move a motion that the Council reconsider its strategy on tall buildings for the site/the borough?

Last but not least, the Council should join Martin Linton in his call upon Network Rail to do something about the overcrowding of the station and platforms and pursue a land acquisition policy to perform the platform straightening works? According to the article, the MP for Battersea said:

I will be writing to the Office of the Rail Regulator to ask him to take another look at the capital programme for improvements to Clapham Junction station now that we know that the Delancey development is not going ahead.

Be certain, we will be looking forward to the response!

Open letter to the members of the Planning Committee

Authors: Kate Williams, Cyril Richert

Below is a letter sent to the Planning Committee members (copy all Councillors), in response to the Planning Officer’s report on the Clapham Junction redevelopment proposal.

Dear Sirs and Ladies,

We have read with interest the Chief Planning Officer’s report to the Committee on Metro Shopping Fund’s application to develop the site of Clapham Junction Station. Naturally, we welcome its conclusion that the application should be refused on grounds that insufficient Section 106 commitments have been made, first through the lack of any affordable housing, and second through inadequate commitments to develop the station. We have argued in our own Planning Submission to the Committee that, since the proposal involves the demolition of the existing station entrances, it can be no part of Metro’s Section 106 commitments that a new ones should be provided. We are pleased that this argument has found resonance with the Chief Planning Officer.

We would urge you to accede to Mr Hunter’s recommendation that the application should be refused on these grounds.

However, in view of the unprecedented levels of objection raised which are recognised within the report, we consider that it is fundamental to the interests of the community at large that the Committee also rejects this application on the wider grounds that the scale of the proposed development is inappropriate to its location and that the proposed ‘tall buildings’ in particular are unacceptable in terms of their height and design. As Mr Hunter has acknowledged, this is the key issue for the vast majority of protesters.

The report is most carefully worded in this respect, presenting a case for a design rationale having been followed in the proposal of the ‘tall buildings’. Whilst this might explain the reason why the scheme has been pursued to this late stage of design, it does not answer the many concerns people have that it will overwhelm the local community and detract from its current amenity. Contrary to the suggestion that the objectors do not give any specific reason why they do not like the tall buildings and do not consider them suitable for this location, very many people have in fact been most specific in this regard. We summarise many of these points of objection in our Submission to the Planning Committee and do not propose to repeat them here. Suffice to say, the majority of the population are not architects and can give no comment on detailed aspect of the design. They are non-the-less horrified that proposals of this inhuman scale and garish appearance could possibly be given the go ahead no matter what benefits might be realised in terms of the station’s re-development.

At page 74 of the Chief Planning Officer’s report he states:

“Should members consider that, notwithstanding the general policy support for taller buildings here, this scheme, on its merits is inappropriate, such comments could be incorporated into the decision.”

We urge you to act upon this suggestion and to incorporate into your decision the resolution that the scale of the proposed development is inappropriate to its location and that the proposed ‘tall buildings’ in particular are unacceptable in terms of their height and design. Any decision which is not made on these grounds will fail to represent the true outcome of the Council’s consultation and leave the developers with the impression that adding some affordable housing to the design will overcome the Council’s objections. Notwithstanding the role that the Council might have played in encouraging a proposal of this nature on the site, the time has come to recognise that this was a mistake and that any redevelopment of the site should be on a far more sympathetic scale taking account of the location’s natural and unique purpose as a transport interchange and its opportunities for attracting business.

The fact that the current economic climate means that the current application is unlikely to proceed in the near future, gives the Committee an opportunity to rethink its strategy and invite a wider set of proposals from both Network Rail and other developers to develop the site in a manner of which we can all be proud.

Although these are the main reasons for our objection, there are other aspects of the proposal which we believe also merit mention in the Committee’s decision. These include:

Parking: this is probably the second most cited reason for objection amongst protestors. Metro’s proposals are contradictory and rely upon flawed assumptions. Full details are provided in our Submission and are in no way answered by the Chief Planning Officer’s report.

Retail Impact: contrary to the developers’ assertion that the town centre is declining, the opposite is manifestly the case. In spite of the current recession, new outlets are opening and pressure on businesses in Northcote Road may well be eased as rents reduce in line with economic factors. No consideration appears to have been given to commissioning an independent retail analysis in light of the changed economic circumstances.

Lack of Office Space: An assumption appears to have been formed that Clapham Junction is an undesirable location for offices to locate. We consider this to be a flawed assumption based on current office provision in the area. Again, full details of our reasoning appear in our Submission.

Wind Tunnelling: Of the 60 locations measured, only four are on station platforms (all on Platform 16). Two of these locations are considered to suffer from unacceptable wind tunnelling in winter, with one of them being unacceptable all year round. Contrary to the developers’ assertion that these are not locations in which people are expected to stand and wait, the opposite is obviously true. Short of proposing full cover for all platforms (to which Network Rail would undoubtedly object) it is difficult to see what amelioration could be proposed to deal with this.

Disruption and Planning Blight: the scale of the proposed development ensures a minimum of three years’ severe disruption to the community, and if the plans do not go ahead immediately this will only prolong the agony. Proposals such as the Council’s exemplar scheme and the opening of a third station access at Brighton Yard would undoubtedly be delayed by these plans.

For all of the above reasons, we would urge you to reject Metro’s proposal on grounds far wider than those currently proposed by the Chief Planning Officer. The opportunity exists for the Planning Committee to send a clear message based on the views of many hundreds of local residents. Any failure to do so will result in years of continued wrangling over the type of scheme which might be considered acceptable and the ways in which the community’s interests might best be served.

Yours faithfully

Kate Williams and Cyril Richert

On behalf of the Clapham Junction Action Group

Planning Policy Members

Author: Cyril Richert

We urge everyone to attend the Planning Committee meeting on 20 May 2009. All details are here but I copy them below:

So it is very important that you make the most efforts to attend the meeting, especially after the blessing of the Planning Officer on the two 42 storey towers:

Date: Wednesday 20 May 2009 – 7.30pm (we advise you to come earlier, possibly 7-7.15pm).
Venue: Wandsworth Borough Council, The Town Hall, Wandsworth High Street, London SW18 2PU (more details how to get there on the website).

In order to make things easier, you might want to take the list of the committee members I compiled for you, with photos (*) below (you can print it and bring it with you on the day):

Councillor Leslie McDonnell (Chairman)

Councillor Piers McCausland (Deputy Chairman)

Councillor Tony Belton (Opposition Speaker)

Councillor Ms Dee Church

Councillor Mrs. Vanessa Graham

Councillor John Hallmark

Councillor Ms Susan John-Richards

Councillor Martin D. Johnson

Councillor Andrew Penfold

Councillor Dr. Billi Randall

Councillor Ms Rosemary Torrington

Councillor Mrs. Caroline Usher

(*) I cannot assure you they will wear the same piece of clothing as on photos.

For your information, the list of emails is:;;;;;;;;;;;

Committee secretary: Martin Newton

Planning Committee event: some information

We urge everyone to attend the Planning Committee meeting on 20 May 2009. All details are here but I copy them below:

Date: Wednesday 20 May 2009 – 7.30pm (we advise you to come earlier, possibly 7-7.15pm).
Venue: Wandsworth Borough Council, The Town Hall, Wandsworth High Street, London SW18 2PU (more details how to get there on the website).

So it is very important that you make the most efforts to attend the meeting, especially after the blessing of the Planning Officer on the two 42 storey towers.

Author: Cyril Richert

A few days ago I asked two questions regarding the organisation of the planning committee meeting on 20 May. I received the following answer from the Committee Secretary (in blue):

1- Is there any rule regarding presentation/speaker ?

I can confirm that public speaking is not allowed at the Planning Applications Committee. The only speakers are members of the Committee and, with the Committee’s consent, ward members who are not members of the Committee that particularly wish to speak on an issue affecting their ward.

2- Would it be possible to make a video of the meeting (in line with our call for democracy in action, and as per the public debate)?

I have discussed your request for recording the meeting with the Chairman, Councillor McDonnell. The Committee have occasionally received similar requests in the past (although not for a video recording) and the policy has previously been not to agree such requests. After due consideration, the Chairman has asked me to inform you that he intends to proceed with past convention and to not accede to your request to record the meeting. However, I can confirm that because of the possibility that a large number of people will wish to attend next week’s meeting, and the fact that Committee Room 123 can only cater for around 50 members of the public, additional seating is to be provided in Room 122 opposite and a camera positioned in Room 123 will relay sound and vision to a screen in room 122, thereby ensuring that everybody who wishes to attend and hear the discussions and decision on the application will comfortably be able to do so.

I then asked if it was possible to record video in Room 122, and/or to have the official video from the Council made available afterwards.

Bearing in mind the Chairman’s decision on your request to film the meeting I think the answer would also have to be no to filming in Room 122, as the meeting would be being broadcast in this room and allowing you to film there would give you the opportunity to record the proceedings as they are relayed onto the screen in that room.

I am not aware of any intention to make the Council’s transmission from the meeting available after the meeting – the equipment is being used solely to ensure that any members of the public that do attend the Town Hall and are unable to get in to Room 123 due to numbers attending are able to see and hear the debate and decision as it happens.

MSF proposal for Clapham Junction recommended for refusal… but

Author: Cyril Richert

As pointed out by James Cousins (Councillor – Shaftesbury) and Tony Belton (Councillor -Latchmere) by emails, the agenda for next week’s planning applications committee has just been published on the council’s website.

The report of the Planning Officer is available here (click to view the full document). The recommendation is to be refused (p74) on the grounds that: –

1) The local planning authority is not satisfied that the package provides sufficient benefit to public transport infrastructure in the town centre and is therefore contrary to Core Strategy (Submitted Version) PL 13.

2) The local planning authority is not satisfied, on the basis of the information provided and the late modification to the financial package, that affordable housing should be omitted from the scheme. The proposal is therefore contrary to Core Strategy (Submitted Version) Policy IS 5.

Additional reasons are

  • The application would be premature in the absence of an approved scheme for
    the redevelopment of Clapham Junction Station and its vicinity.
  • The demolition of buildings in the conservation area would be premature in
    the absence of an approved scheme to replace the buildings.

So, the good news is that the officers’ recommendation is against, which will probably be decisive. It is probably also good that the grounds are pretty extensive, namely insufficient benefit to public transport, omission of affordable housing not justified, premature in advance of approved scheme for redevelopment of Station BUT it does not say anything about massing, height, etc.

In other words, the planning officer gives his blessing for the construction of two 42 storey tower block in the area, writing (p42):

In longer views, a tall building could be seen as marking the town centre. […]

The site would be well integrated with the surrounding urban area by the provision of the new areas of public realm and increased access points into and through the site, alleviating the congestion points that exist at present. The quality and character of the new public spaces together with the towers would deliver a legible urban environment. […]

Many of the objections to the design do not give any specific reason as to why they do not like the tall buildings; just that they do not like the tall buildings and this is not a suitable location for them. […]

In summary, whilst the proposed towers have proved controversial in the responses to consultation and whilst such matters can frequently be a subjective matter of debate, they have a considered design and have been located in the most appropriate position, in terms of urban design principles on this site. They would have some relationship to the existing towers in the immediate locality and could be seen to re-enforce and define the town centre. It is also considered that in design terms, this is an appropriate location for tall buildings considering the surrounding context as well as assessing them against CABE and English Heritage Criteria for tall buildings.

Speaking about the level of presentation, the figures compiled in the dossier only confirmed our numerous comments on the level of support. Reporting on the consultation (i.e. the comments received by the Council) it says (p18):

626 objections (including 219 with no full address): with 3 pages explaining why towers are an eyesore…etc.
67 support letters (including 6 with no full address) + postcards + pre-formated emails

And counting the comments received after the developers’ resubmission (reconsultation):

51 further objections (2 with no full address) raising the same issues as previously outlined.
1 support

There is no doubt that it confirms plainly what we said all allong: RESIDENTS DO NOT WANT TOWERS! [In addition Tony Belton presented today a petition with 550 names and Philip Beddows 200 names – collected with the online petition of the CJAG – of people against the twin towers].

I am a bit stunned by the comment that “many of the objections to the design do not give any specific reason as to why they do not like the tall buildings; just that they do not like the tall buildings and this is not a suitable location for them“.

On the contrary, hundred of letters have shown with long full arguments why this what not appropriate for the location. As an example of many others, you can read the letter of Michael Snaith, or with more details and plenty of reference, our report to the Planning Committee, or the letters of Councillor Peter Dawson and Jane Ellison amongst others.

In addition the subject was raised at the Parliament by Martin Linton (watch/read here) saying: “here are many areas—Clapham junction being a good example—which have a Victorian town centre that is not historic, but nevertheless has a coherence and is loved by people who live in it.Is the town planner saying that someone writing that he chose to live in Battersea rather than Croydon because he does not want a certain type of architecture is not relevant? Next time, criticising a yellow skyscrapers with green spots will not be considered because it is not a specific reason?

My first assumption is that the Planning Officer was concentrating on technical details and following rules dictated by Wandsworth Borough Council policy regarding the appropriate location for tall buildings.

Therefore, if the developers were to overcome the stated objections and come back with another application with similar scale towers they would then say, and Planning law and precedent would support them, “But you did not object to the previous application on the grounds of scale and massing so you can’t object now”.

It depends now on the members of the Planning Committee (list here) to represent the view of their constituents and definitely put an end to what some called “phallocratic” designs during the last electoral campaign.

Regarding the case for office space, the Planning Officer wipes away any interest and writes (p42):

The applicant has also stated that there is only limited space to accommodate the new station building and associated facilities, therefore the introduction of offices would require a reduction in space for other uses and the enhanced retail facilities would attract a wider range of retailers than currently within the town centre. In their view, Clapham Junction and Battersea are not established office locations; do not have the critical mass to attract occupiers to locate; there are no identified office requirements in Clapham Junction or the surrounding area of Battersea, therefore offices would be built on wholly speculative basis.

This is exactly the opposite of what a lot of people think , as we developed arguments on the risk of  missed opportunity for developing office space and previously here.

If you think, as we do,  that the scale and massing is important, then you still need to try and get the Committee to support an amendment to the paper so as to include those amongst the grounds for objection. Let the Councillors who will be taking the decision know your opinion and urge them to consider appropriatly the major concern of the residents!

In the press

Author: Cyril Richert

Yesterday in the Wandsworth Guardian:

Wandsworth twin tower development decision due

7:20am Tuesday 12th May 2009

A decision on whether to allow a 42-storey twin tower development in Clapham Junction is due next week.

As well as the skyscapers containing 556 flats the controversial plans, by Metro Shopping Fund (MSF), involve a two-floor shopping plaza and a facelift for Clapham Junction station.

Campaigners argued the towers are too tall, criticised the lack of affordable housing and said station redevelopment should be paid for by rail authorities.

While weighing up the £400million development on Wednesday, May 20, Wandsworth Council’s planning applications committee will judge whether concessions on height and affordable housing are worth trading for station development.

MSF said without the scheme Clapham Junction would “get worse over the next decade”.

Glenn Burton, MSF development director, said: “Without new retail space high street chains, which are a vital part of the mix for a vibrant town centre, will either continue to compete for space with independent retailers which inevitably forces up rents, or they will leave the town centre.

“Our scheme addresses these issues and will help stop the town centre’s decline.”

But Battersea MP Martin Linton, who has called for a parliamentary debate on tall buildings and has presented a petition signed by 552 residents against the proposal to the council, disagreed.

“The development earmarks some £49 million for station improvements and the bulk of this would be spent on building escalators and lifts to the overbridge.

“This is certainly a benefit to Network Rail and Transport for London because it reduces the problem of overcrowding in the tunnel and spreads passengers more evenly along the platform.

“Benefits to local people will be modest. Many will find they have to walk further to the trains,” he said.

“The great majority of people in Battersea face the problem that their sons and daughters cannot afford to rent or buy in the area and are forced to move far away, breaking up families and depriving elderly residents of the care and contact they would normally expect from their children and grandchildren.”

Kate Williams, part of the Clapham Junction Action Group (CJAG), a campaign group set up by residents, said the overwhelming majority of local people were against the scheme.

She said: “Clapham Junction is an area improving all the time and we feel this will be put backwards by the development.”

CJAG was threatened with legal action earlier this year when it attempted to expose allegedly misleading photographs of the twin tower development.

For your information, the Parliamentary debate called by Martin Linton can be watched here (text and video), and you an read about the threat to CJAG there.