The best way to get the station improved? To refuse the planning permission

6 mins read

Interesting email received on the 18th December, in response to Kate, from the Council’s planning office, who must be praised for always responding promptly and with details to our comments and questions.

Dear Ms Williams,
I refer to your e-mail of 5th December below and to our telephone conversation of 12th December.
In our conversation you requested further information regarding the news item on the Council’s website regarding the opening of an additional entrance to the Station to Brighton Yard. I am told by the the Transportation Planning Group Leader that a South West Trains representative at the Passenger Transport Liaison Group meeting said that a new entrance to Brighton Yard, complete with gate-line and ticketing facilities, would have to be provided to make the station accessible and complement the lifts already proposed through the Access for All programme, which envisaged the station being step-free by the end of 2009. On questioning, the representative confirmed that this access would not be “on demand” only. He also advised that any redevelopment at the Station would supersede this. I understand that several members were present and were certainly led to believe that a new entrance is a proposed, irrespective of redevelopment, though obviously it would be to a different, lesser specification. However, I understand that the claim made has not yet been confirmed by DfT and Network Rail. I was not at the meeting myself.
With regard to your concerns on the consultation responses, I have spoken to the Head of Development Control within the Planning Division here, who is satisfied that, as the e-mails sent by Mrs Lithgow provide a name and address of the person writing that e-mail, then they must be accepted as submitted. I am told that any duplicated e-mails have now been removed from the website. Please let me know if this is not the case.
With regard to your concerns on the quality of residential accommodation provided in high rise buildings, I am not aware of any evidence that would support this view, and certainly nothing from the Mayor or the Government in their advice or policies on planning.  Whilst there is some concern regarding the number of one and two bedroom units here, the applicants state that this particular location is not one that is particularly suitable for families, and it must be said that such an argument does have some logic here. You will be aware that the Planning Applications Committee resolved to grant permission for a residential tower on the former Young’s brewery site, which has an equivalent height to Clapham Junction, and a dwelling mix which is predominantly non family accommodation. You may be aware that the Mayor in the consolidated London Plan 2008 has set the Council a target  of providing 7,000 new dwellings up to 2017.
In respect of additional information from Network Rail, I am in the process of writing to them, to obtain further information and clarity in relation to funding proposals, their claims in the Strategic Rail Plan and the Rail Utilisation Strategy, and to look at possible commitment to provide any other improvements at the station.  Let me know if you do not have a copy of the letter from Network Rail accompanying the Planning Application, and their response to consultation.
I am also in the process of writing to the developers in respect of all the points raised, including the concerns expressed including your request that a model be provided at the Station. I will let you know what response I get.

From this email, we get the information that a South West Trains representative at the Passenger Transport Liaison Group meeting said that a new entrance to Brighton Yard, complete with gate-line and ticketing facilities, would have to be provided to make the station accessible and complement the lifts already proposed through the Access for All programme, which envisaged the station being step-free by the end of 2009.
Great, so the station is going to be improved in 2009, the so-much-needed Brighton Yard entrance re-opened, lifts provided, and Clapham Junction is going to become step-free by the end of the year [1]. I assume that those improvements will come with other (minor) refurbishment regarding the ticket area and the straightening of platforms 14 to 17 and lengthening of all platforms proposed in Network Rail Strategic Plan will come along. Hmmm 2009 looks brighter for commuters!
Er… actually not sure. As the SW representative added: any redevelopment at the Station would supersede this. Therefore, in other words, if acceptance is given to the Metro Shopping Fund project of skyscrapers, the station redevelopment will be postponed. In addition as we will have 3 entrances by the end of 2009, one will be shut by the developer’s project!

As we understand it then, if we want some station redevelopement NOW and not in the uncertain future, the Council need to refuse the application. Be sure that we, the Clapham Junction Action Group, will press on the message.

Regarding the type of accommodation in the rest of the comment, again that’s a confirmation of what we said: “the applicants state that this particular location is not one that is particularly suitable for families, and it must be said that such an argument does have some logic here ” means that as those towers are cells for train-spotters (I have nothing against train-spotters, but they are not the same as community residents), it is obvious that no family would like to live above the busiest railway station in Britain. In addition, we need to correct the statement about the Ram Brewery, and remind that, albeit not being in the skyscrapers themselves,  Ram Brewery development holds a number of affordable accommodation and family accommodation: provision of 831 residential units, of which 207 are affordable; housing providing a mixture of 1-bedroom to 4-bedroom flats + Provision of 216 flats (ranging from studios to 4-bedroom units, of which 115 would be ‘affordable’ for Cockpen House).
However we welcome the initiative of the senior planner, who is writing to Network Rail [2] , to obtain further information and clarity in relation to funding proposals, their claims in the Strategic Rail Plan and the Rail Utilisation Strategy, and to look at possible commitment to provide any other improvements at the station. We hope to get the information as soon as possible, and be assured that we will publicise it here.
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[1] Martin Linton (Labour MP for Battersea) has published a new issue of his newsletter, the Bugle. He is confirming that “contractors are installing 9 lifts at Clapham Junction station as part of the Government’s £370 million Access fo All scheme. The Brighton Yard entrance at the top of St John’s Hill will be re-opened with a ticket office to provide direct access to the overbridge and the lifts“.
[2] As Jane Ellison (Conservative Parliamentary Spokesperson for Battersea) said in her leaflet, she wrote to Network Rail in November 2008 asking them to clarify their stance on the current proposals and to comment on their future plans for Clapham Junction. She put to them many of the questions that are being asked locally, including “can we have the station improvements without the two tower blocks?” and “what public funds are allocated to Clapham Junction”.
Network Rail Spokesman answered:

You ask if the scheme is a way of avoiding spending money so that it can be diverted elsewhere. On the contrary, the new entrances, ticket hall and related improvements are works that are required to meet long term passenger growth projection and Network Rail would not have the capabilities of providing these improvements alone. The rail industry would not be in a position to offer these benefits to passengers if working in isolation.
With regards to the Access for All improvements, this scheme will deliver step-free access from station entrace to platform. This will see nine lifts installed, taking passengers directly from the footbridge to the platforms. There will also be a newly design interim entrance at Brighton Yard. Cosntruction work begin in April 208 and is expected to be completed by September 2009. As you may be aware, in order to minimise disruption to commuters, the concrete lifts shafts are being lifted into position over the Christmas period at the same time as the track renewals (Windsor ladder upgrade).
There is additional ivnestment planned for Clapham Junction. Currently we have numerous improvments in the planning stages but these are yet to receive the third party funding required to secure the go-ahead. Such improvments include platform lenghtening to allow longer trains (10/12 cars) – primarely on the Sussex route but also on the Wessex route; the reopemning of platform 1 to make way for the London Overground; improvements to toilet facilities and the subway.

We know that this is a misrepresentation, as the rail industry is not working in isolation. It gets money from the Government (£370 millions) and the opening of Brighton Yard in 2009, including lifts and new ticket entrance will be Government funded (see just above, statement from Martin Linton MP). In addition, they did not at all answered the question from Jane Ellison regarding the current planning proposal but are just talking about their own commitment, independent of the application!
In addition they added:

We are in the process of arranging a meeting with the LB Wandsworth to further discuss our proposals for Clapham Junction.

Good to hear… we are writing to them to ask them to provide a speaker for our Public Meeting on the 28th January (everyone’s welcome, please come along).

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CJAG News editor and Clapham Junction Action Group co-founder and coordinator since 2008, Cyril has lived in Clapham Junction since 2001.
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