Will London become New York or Dubai?

Author: Cyril Richert

(Picture: BBC Newsnight/YouTube)

(Picture: BBC Newsnight/YouTube)

An article was posted 2 weeks ago on the Independant, showing how London might look like if all its planned skyscraper are built. It is based on the work of Stephen Smith of the BBC’s Newsnight who reported about the 250-odd high rise towers to be built in London which are currently in planning or in progress. Continue reading

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Public Meeting York area: the videos

Author: Cyril Richert

leafletOn the 1st of November, more than 90 people attended the Public Meeting organised in York Gardens library by CJAG, in order to talk about the developments planned for York Road, Lombard Road and Clapham Junction area. This was also a very good opportunity to talk about the general planning strategy, implementation of planning policies by the Council.  Continue reading

BBC expose Wandsworth Council allowing a developer to drop all office space from development

Author: Cyril Richert

_One_Nine_Elms__by_CIT_and_Green_Properties_webYesterday night, BBC News (10pm) showed a report from Political Editor Tim Donovan (3’08”) about the permission given to a Chinese developer to double the size of a new luxury hotel in Nine Elms at the expense of office space and the associated jobs.

Developer Dalian Wanda has dropped all 10,000 sqm of office space from its planned riverside development at One Nine Elms in Vauxhall, along with his promise of nearly a thousand new jobs. The space has been replaced by more luxury hotel rooms and private apartments.

The report says that Wandsworth planning documents reveal it will mean at least 400 fewer jobs – nearly half those originally intended – being brought to an economic “opportunity area”. Continue reading

Tall buildings and planning policy – Martin Linton

Author: Cyril Richert

As I reported a few days ago, Battersea MP Martin Linton has called a debate in Parliament to discuss the issue of tall buildings.

The debate was recorded on Parliament TV, in Westminster Hall, Wednesday 29 April, 4pm and you can watch it below.

In his speech he is reminding the number of tall building applications in Wandsworth borough. You can refer to our articles on similar subjects:

Westminster Hall – Tall buildings and planning policy – Part 1

Westminster Hall – Tall buildings and planning policy – Part 2

The full text is available on the Parliament website (careful: not user friendly report). The debate is also available (in a much nicer presentation) on this website.

I will highlight a few quotes:

Martin Linton about Wandsworth Council:

Wandsworth planning committee passed the Young’s brewery scheme although 71 of the 90 public responses were opposed to it. I cannot think what possessed it to do so. English Heritage was against it, the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment was against it, and both said that there should be a tall buildings strategy for the whole of Wandsworth, which there is not. All the local amenity societies were against it. The Wandsworth Society brought a deputation to the committee to argue against it. The society, which comprises sensitive, thoughtful and civic-minded people, believes that, at least in the Wandsworth context, any building over five or six storeys should be considered tall and that there should be a presumption against its construction. However, the seven Conservative members of the committee all supported the scheme and only my two Labour colleagues opposed it.

Martin Linton about the campaign against the twin towers in Clapham Junction:

A huge campaign is under way to stop the towers at Clapham Junction. People feel that they would look completely out of place in a Victorian town centre, where all the buildings have between four and seven storeys. The Clapham Junction Action Group has been set up and is fighting a spirited campaign. The theme of the campaign is that we want to keep our town centre on a human scale. We have 614 objectors on the planning department website so far and we are aiming for 1,000.

Martin Linton about the wider issue of tall buildings and planning policy:

  • if there are no height and density guidelines, how does a developer know how much to pay for a site? He does not even know how many flats he will be allowed to build. He has to second-guess the decision of the planning committee
  • developers should be told exactly where tall buildings will and will not be allowed. If the policy is to confine tower blocks to clusters, which I would support, they should be told exactly where they are. If the policy is to allow landmark buildings, they should be told where those landmarks can be. We must not leave every developer to argue that his building is a landmark, because believe you me, they all will.
  • I say bring back the height guidelines. That will give developers the certainty that they need to plan; it will give architects the discipline that they need to flourish; and it will give the public the reassurance of knowing that their local planning committee will not allow a 42-storey tower to be built around the corner from their house.

Mark Field (Conservatives MP for Cities of London and Westminster) on the Mayor of London:

I share some of his concerns, particularly about a 42-storey building in an area such as Clapham Junction. […] we hope that the Mayor of London, of whatever colour, will use his powers and work closely with the local boroughs to maintain some of the brilliance of London, without having a huge number of tall buildings.

Ian Wright (Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government) on guidelines:

Within that broad strategic confine, on every single individual planning application, the views of local people must be invited and given serious consideration.

The Government strongly endorse the messages in the revised guidance, which the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment and English Heritage issued together in 2007, called “Guidance on tall buildings“. The guidance should be given serious and careful attention by all those designing tall buildings and considering their location. It is a vital complement to national planning guidance, and is likely to be an important—I stress the word important—material consideration for local planning authorities or planning inspectors in cases that involve tall buildings.

Martin Linton ask whether Clapham Junction can be protected from tall buildings:

I appreciate the importance of world heritage sites in planning. But there 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. It would be just as badly affected by an inappropriate tower block as a world heritage site. Is the system not capable of looking beyond world heritage sites at town centres that have a particular character?

The answer of the Minister was short (time out): “Yes, this is part of policy guidance 15“.

So, what does say Policy Guidance 15, that the Minister couldn’t explain as time was out for the debate? Here it is and is indeed appropriate to Clapham Junction area:

PPG15 underlines that major new transport infrastructure developments can have an especially wide-ranging impact on the historic environment, not just visually and physically, but indirectly, for example, by altering patterns of movement or commerce and generating new development pressures or opportunities in historic areas. Local highway and planning authorities should take great care to avoid or minimise impacts on the various elements of the historic environment and their settings (para. 5.2).

Public Meeting: the videos

Author: Cyril Richert

On the 28th of January, we organised a Public Meeting, with the help of the Battersea Society, in order to talk about the Clapham Junction redevelopment proposal submitted by Metro Shopping Fund. I already told here that several people were invited to the platform to speak and explain their views, including the developers, but they declined to come (Delancey said that “public meeting forums are not the best way to discuss elements of the scheme“!). However we had a fantastic audience, 3 great speakers with Tony Tuck, Kate Williams and Martin Linton and I already reported about the meeting at the end of January here.

Now (after a few issues) you will be able to watch again those great moments of local democracy in action with the entire video of the meeting published below. If you missed it, this is the occasion for you to catch up and have a taste of the event. If you have friends interested but did not have the chance to attend, feel free to forward the link.

Public meeting Part 1: Introduction

More information about speakers and invitations here.

Public meeting Part 2: Speaker = Tony Tuck, chairman of the Battersea Society

Public meeting Part 3: Speaker = Kate Williams, one of the founders of the Clapham Junction Action Group

If you want more details about the number of representations received by the council and the issue with certain support messages, read here.

Public meeting Part 4: Speaker = Martin Linton, MP for Battersea

Public meeting Part 5: Questions/Statements from the public

The first speaker from the floor is Shirley Passmore, from the Wandsworth Society. She underlined the failure of the campaign against the Ram Brewery development due to the poor involvement of the local residents and that “it does really matter to get all of you to write“.

Not intending to make any publicity (we are not related), I am just linking for those interested by the topic raised. At 4:23, the book the lady is talking about is called London Heritage Pubs, An inside story (Jane Jephcote is co-writer) and you will find details of the The Windsor Castle, which is subject to demolition in the development proposal.

There was a comment about the Battersea Power Station scheme. You can find our article about the planning proposal here.

At the end of this video, the Councillor talking is Tony Belton, Councillor for Latchmere ward, leader of the opposition Labour Group and member of the Planning Applications Committee. Answering to a question from the public, he confirmed that “the number does not matter (as even 1 objection should be considered) but clearly if there are 500 objections, that is considered with greater weight. So the more people who write in, the better” and he advised to write to the Chairman of the committee, Councillor Leslie McDonnell, or to the Secretary of the Planning Committee, Martin Newton, asking that the letter be circulated amongst the members (he added that he thinks this is more powerful than the objections on the Council’s website). He also highlighted the number of Putney locals attending the Planning Committee meeting, the day of the decision, and said “it is actually quite difficult to do something unpopular when surrounded by 100 people who don’t like what you are doing. It’s much easier to do something like that if you are surrounded, as you were in the Ram Brewery case, by 20 or 10 people.”

So for those who have not written yet, it is still time to do it. Information about where and who to write to (and copy as many people as possible) are on our website here.

All three of the Councillors of Northcote ward added their comments.

Martin D. Johnson (also a member of the Planning Applications Committee) told us that the Borough planner was still waiting for some very important information from the developers before they can start writing their report and their recommendations (we will publish a full article on that), therefore the date of March, 12th for the meeting was the earliest (indeed we have heard since then that it was not going to happen before April, maybe even later). He was also questioning whether these towers are the right way of securing improvements for the station. Although he highlighted that the planning is not just about the towers and hope that when people write about the application, they include comments on other issues, as “there is not point for the Council to turn down this scheme only to face a similar one only a little bit smaller” (job losses, such as PCS, lack of affordable housing, station facilities and, especially with the current economic time, whether it is sensible to have more shops when you have still empty units in Northcote road and around).

Philip Beddows talked about the environment, the necessity to have “somewhere where you actually love to be and can be proud of, rather than an environment that can be replicated anywhere” (he mentioned that he co-chair with Tony Belton a campaign called “SW11 tch Back to Battersea”). He rightly said that the decision from the Planning committee is going to affect the long term of Battersea and “we need to consider the legacy that the decision will leave on the people who will be leaving here beyond us“. He also talked about buses and car parking and said that such a development should not even have 1 car space as it is already congested. Eventually he suggested to have a look to the work of Peter Deakins displayed on the other side of the room.

and Peter Dawson made a point about their call for people to write to the Council and let them know their view on the different issues of the proposal. He suggested that people “do look at the decision about the refusal of the towers in Putney. It makes very interesting reading; it uses planning words; it uses planning terminology“.

Special mention to Councillor  Paul Ellis (Shaftesbury ward), as apparently he did not notice my statement regarding Shaftesbury ward  and wrote to me. Right at the beginning of the video above, I say: “For the last 4 months of the campaign, I emailed several times the Councillors and I’ve never had any answer from the 3 councillors of Shaftesbury. However, the councillors of Northcote road have been quite responsive.

Public meeting Part 6: Conclusion

Again, big thanks to everybody attending.