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.
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!