[From Cyril Richert: We publish below, with the consent of its author, the presentation sent by Peter Dawson, Councillor for Northcote ward, to Mark Hunter, the Planning Officer. Link with original PDF document is here.]
Author: Peter Dawson, Councillor for Northcote ward
Dear Mr Hunter
In my capacity as a Northcote Ward councillor I have received many representations about these applications particularly from ward residents the overwhelming majority of which raise serious concerns and objections.
Having studied the applications as originally submitted in 2008 and the subsequent submissions this year from Metro Shopping Fund and Network Rail I have come to the conclusion, for the reasons set out below, that I cannot support these applications and would urge the Planning Committee to refuse them.
- The scale, height and density of the proposed 42 storey tower blocks are overwhelming and inappropriate for this location. This is not mitigated by the design of the towers which are overbearing in appearance and entirely out of character with the surrounding areas. The townscape to the south, east and west is predominantly Victorian and Edwardian terraces on which the proposed tower blocks would have a harmful impact while doing little, if anything to enhance the residential estates to the north of the station. In this context the local conservation area is described in the Council’s Conservation Appraisal & Management Strategy for Clapham Junction (Paragraph 5.1 Draft 2008) as “generally a high quality commercial centre containing a high proportion of valuable Victorian and Edwardian buildings. All these buildings make a positive contribution to the historic and architectural character of the conservation area.” Further in Paragraph 4.3 “The character and appearance of Clapham Junction Conservation area rely upon the strength of its architectural origins, which are essentially Victorian, and its association with the development of the railways”. In my view there is little relationship between the current proposals and the surrounding area. Adevelopment of this nature will be at the expense of the area’s character. Clapham Junction Town Centre is not a large locality, such as Canary Wharf, where buildings of this scale could be placed in an attractive and acceptable setting.
- The loss of current office space offering employment to some 450 people and the lack of new prime office accommodation in the proposals will have a significant impact on the commercial day-time economy of the Clapham Junction Town Centre area. This lack of new prime office accommodation would be a lost opportunity to encourage one or more major employers to base themselves in this Town Centre. It fails to capitalise on the existing excellent rail connections into and out of London which will be improved even further by the East London Line extension. The loss of office based employment potentially puts at further risk the valued local shopping parades of Lavender Hill, St John’s Hill, St John’s Road and Northcote Road.
- The proposals to ameliorate the interface between the rail network at Clapham Junction and the bus network are inadequate. Even the latest submissions from the developer only partially address the major problems experienced currently. As any redevelopment of this site is likely to determine the nature of the rail / bus interchange for years, if not decades, ahead this is a matter of major importance for the future well being of the Town Centre.
- The proposals in relation to the station itself are also unsatisfactory and partial. Though two new station entrances are proposed these provide access to an ageing footbridge which it is not proposed to upgrade and no through access is provided. Some supporters of the scheme have argued that this is a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to improve station facilities for the 21st century. Unfortunately this aspiration is not reflected in the reality of the proposals.
In addition I am concerned about the timing of any development as Metro Shopping Fund has not acquired key parts of the site and apparently does not expect work to start for at least 3 years. If the current scheme is approved Network Rail and other agencies are unlikely to give further serious thought to alternative ways of funding much needed developments at the station. While I acknowledge that some people do support the proposals mainly because of the pressing need to greatly improve the station facilities and they consider the tower blocks a “price worth paying” I do not agree with this point of view.
Improvements are desperately required at Clapham Junction station, not least because of passenger safety concerns, but in my view this application only partially addresses the problems at the station while the impact of the overall scale and type of proposed development on the surrounding residential and local shopping areas is unacceptable.
Councillor Northcote Ward