Another tall tower for Wandsworth Town centre
The Council's planning committee gave the green light on 18 June to an application (2015/0662) by Pocket developers to build a 25/22-storey residential tower (86 apartments) in Mapleton Crescent. The 'pocket' site of vacant land is tucked behind the southern end of the Southside shopping centre. The Society objected to the scheme, mainly on the grounds that the building's height would be excessive. We welcomed, however, the much higher proportion of "affordable" properties (73%) than in other recent major schemes; we were impressed by many features of the design; and this scheme offered improved access to the Wandle. Our views were highlighted in a front page story in the Wandsworth and South London Press on 19 June. You can read the Society's comments in detail here.
The Society considered the Council’s draft Air Quality Action Plan which you can access at www.wandsworth.gov.uk/airquality. The Society’s response is here. The Council expects to finalise its Action Plan before the end of the year. (The Society has also considered the Council’s revised Cycling strategy and will comment on this subject in due course.) If you are interested in joining the Pollution monitoring team which the Society is now planning to set up please e-mail email@example.com or contact Philip Whyte who leads our Planning group.
Building of Crossrail2, which could cost around £30 billion, might start in 2020 and be completed by 2030, but no decisions have yet been taken on funding sources and the project’s affordability or on the route and its construction. It is widely agreed that the project could deliver many benefits to local people. It is supported by Wandsworth Council, this society and other local organisations.
The Department for Transport consulted recently about the ‘safeguarding’ of relevant areas of land against local infrastructure and building developments that could interfere with the construction of Crossrail2 along the proposed route – including a stretch from Clapham Junction to Tooting that would involve a tunnel built beneath Wandsworth Common. Such a tunnel would require a substantial ventilation and emergency access shaft, or shafts, on or near the Common. Transport for London (TfL) had proposed that a potential site in the area of the children’s playground near the Common’s Skylark cafe and another site on Trinity Fields should be safeguarded and designated as
Areas of Surface Interest.
In response to widespread concerns, including those expressed by the Council and the Society, these particular sites have not now been designated for safeguarding. Instead, TfL will consider potential alternative sites (or possibly a single site) about which there will be further consultation later this year. TfL has also indicated that it will be prepared to consider, as recommended by the Society, a possible alternative to the route across the Common. The Council has confirmed that it will consult closely with the Wandsworth Common Management Advisory Committee (MAC), on which the Society is represented, about any implications for the Common. Full details about the new Safeguarding Directions can be found here.
Replacing Wandsworth Town’s gyratory road system
Transport for London (TfL) has been considering plans for replacing the town’s gyratory road system for some time. You can see the proposals (draft plans, with maps, commentary and artists’ impressions) that were consulted on in 2014-15 here. The Society’s submission dated 19 February 2015 is here. The Council’s ‘report back’ on that earlier round of consultation is here.
Wandsworth Council and South Thames College re-development scheme
A scheme for the re-development of adjacent sites in Wandsworth Town centre owned by Wandsworth Council and South Thames College was announced in July and feedback sought.
In our comments on the initial proposals, the Wandsworth Society welcomed in principle the redevelopment of the site and removal of existing buildings. A contemporary design for the new buildings would be appropriate and the approach adopted by the architects could produce an acceptable scheme. But the height of new buildings proposed, particularly a 26-storey tower, was excessive and had to be addressed – in accordance with the Council’s own recent and clear statements on new development in the neighbourhood. These included the statement in the Site Specific Allocations Document that new development in the area “will be expected to preserve or enhance the character and appearance of the Conservation Area and should not cause harm to the setting of any listed building”. We therefore expressed the Society’s opposition to the scheme as currently presented. See our letter here.
The Council’s planning applications committee approved the scheme (by a majority of 6 to 4) at its meeting on 16 December. The Council’s press release of 17 December, “New shops, library and 200 homes for Wandsworth Town”, can be seen at www.wandsworth.gov.uk.
Our letter asking the Mayor of London to direct refusal of the application or take it over for his own determination is here. In essence, our argument was that “the decision [by the Council] to recommend the application for approval was based on a report to the Planning Applications Committee that failed to give proper weight to significant parts of the Local Plan and did not properly assess the justification for the tall building and the harm it caused”.
The Mayor’s response to our request is here. Since then we have been pursuing the possibility that the scheme might be called-in by the Secretary of State (see our February Newsletter, page 2 here).
Failure of Council planning procedures and the Prime Minister’s ‘localism’ policy
The Wandsworth Society, along with the Putney Society, the Clapham Junction Action Group and the Friends of Putney Common, wrote to David Cameron in April 2014 to protest about major failings in Wandsworth Council’s planning procedures. We called on the Prime Minister to set up an urgent independent review. Our full report is here. A summary of our concerns and the responses we received were included in a report by our Chairman and Vice-Chairman in the June 2014 Newsletter. A further letter from the Department of Communities and Local Government is here. We shall be discussing our concerns further with the Council.
The historic Ram Brewery site in the centre of Wandsworth Town was vacated by Young’s Brewery in 2006. Development plans, involving one tower block of 42 storeys and another of 32 storeys, were subsequently drawn up by Minerva plc and approved by the Council. Protests by the Wandsworth Society and others led to the scheme being ‘called in’ by the Secretary of State and the holding of a public inquiry in 2010. We, together with the Health and Safety Executive, were the principal objectors. The inquiry rejected the developer’s proposals.
The developers’ revised plan involved a (single) 36-storey tower. There was much that was welcome in the plan, but a 36-storey tower seemed to us too high a price to pay for the restoration of the listed brewery buildings, or to bring about the much needed regeneration of the town centre. We campaigned, therefore, for the new plan to be rejected. The Council’s approval of it in July 2013, despite our and other local and national bodies’ efforts, was not unexpected but immensely depressing. After the Council’s decision, it soon became clear that there was no realistic prospect of the new scheme being called in or a further public inquiry – despite the Council’s substantial overriding, as we saw it, of its own planning policies.
In January 2014 the site (with a reported development value of £600 million) was sold to the Greenland Group, a Chinese government-owned company which has, as the Wandsworth Council leader noted at the time, “deep pockets”. The new owners have inherited the approved development plan and have announced their plans for the development of the ‘Ram Quarter’.
For further comment on this major site and a picture demonstrating the impact of a 36-storey tower on the surrounding townscape, see our February 2014 and April 2014 Newsletters.
The Council expects to remove this spring the white lines that currently segregate cyclists from pedestrians on shared lanes on Wandsworth and Tooting Commons. The Secretary of State for Transport accepted last autumn a Planning Inspector’s recommendation that the relevant Council Orders should be confirmed. The Inspector’s report is here. The reasons why we and the Wandsworth Common Management Advisory Committee supported the Council’s proposed action are explained in our November Newsletter here.
The Wandle, our under-appreciated second river, already has stretches of enhanced bank and the Spit open space at the river’s mouth. However there is still much to do to create what is potentially a linear park. We support the linking of the Wandle Trail through to Carshalton for walkers and cyclists.
Battersea Arts Centre and Wandsworth Museum
A huge fire on Friday 13 February destroyed a large part of the BAC complex, but, thanks to prompt and impressive action by the London Fire Brigade, the front parts of the building were saved, no one was hurt and the BAC was quickly back in business (see www.bac.org.uk). The BAC and Wandsworth Museum had only recently announced that they would be uniting “to create a brand new home for culture and heritage in South West London”. Their joint press release is here. The shared vision and enthusiasm for bringing about that change have not burnt away. And, happily, much of this fine Grade ll* listed building – designed by local resident Edward William Mountford, and opened in 1893 as Battersea Town Hall – is saved.