MSF proposal for Clapham Junction recommended for refusal… but

4 mins read

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.
1 support
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!

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CJI editor and Clapham Junction Action Group co-founder and coordinator since 2008, Cyril has lived in Clapham Junction since 2001.
He is also funder and CEO of Habilis-Digital Ltd, a digital agency creating and managing websites and Internet solutions.


  1. With regards to the proposed development (the twin tower idea), I am pleased that the local residents’ objections are having an impact on council deliberations.
    Can I just say also that the council MUST have a long-term strategy – as well as a short-term reaction – for developing the station and improving the surroundings of the station. The longer-term view must be to consistently reject developments that are out of scale and character with the rest of the area. Skyscrapers – very tall buildings of whatever design – would threaten the neighbourhood.
    Let’s go for sensitive design IN KEEPING with the current area. St Pancras is a model of such development.
    Jane Clifton

  2. Jane Clifton: “I am pleased that the local residents’ objections are having an impact on council deliberations“> Don’t be pleased too quickly, we don’t know the result yet. One thing is now certain: it has not impact at all on the town planner.

  3. My objections to the 42-storey blocks, as set out in letters to the planning officer were not just about the intrusive size but also about the possible microclimate that could be created in their vicinity such as increased wind strength at their base, the detrimental effect that the ‘shopping mall’ would have on the existing shops in the area and the street security implications of the pedestrianised walkways for station access, especially after the shops close. As a nearby resident I am concerned about the shadow cast in the afternoon/evening and removal of light to my house in Mossbury Road.

  4. I am very happy that the ill judged planning application for the redevelopment proposed at Clapham Junction has been rejected. However there is no reference in the refusal to the height of the tower blocks. These are completely out of proportion to the local area and should not be a part of future planning submissions and the long term plan for the area.

  5. John> Be careful, the application has NOT been refused. There is solely a recommendation for refusal from the planning officer based on the elements I gave above.

  6. If the Council is listening to the residence of the area, then the height of these buildings should be the first reason for application refusal! If they don’t and give the go ahead, they will be amongst the tallest buildings in the country! Clapham Junctions beauty is in its town like architecture with fantastic commons, it’s un-concrete like feel if you will but yet being very accessible to the heart of London. Clapham Junction has the potential to be a commercial focal point of the south west. Sticking two sky scrapers in its centre will destroy it, like the way that high rise has destroyed Wandsworth town centre!
    Architecturally, high rise buildings are a cheap solution for housing at the expense of residents and businesses of the area

  7. Am I dreaming? The planning officer accuses the objectors of not having reasons, other than subjective ones, to resist the towers. What about ruining our environment? What is more crucial and important in people’s lives than the environment in which they live? By contrast, the planning officer’s arguments are, in my view, just jargon and fluff : “marking the town centre” (we know our town centre, love it, and do not need it “marked”), “considered design” (excuse me, but, what does that mean exactly?), “re-enforce and define the town centre” (Again, who dreamt up the idea that Battersea town centre needed needed re-enforcing and defining – certainly not the residents!). JUST GIVE US AN IMPROVED AND DECENT STATION.

  8. I agree with what seems to be the general opinion in the objections that the height and massing are of utmost importantance. We should endevour to remove any loophole that may allow buildings of this scale in Clapham Junction / Battersea in the future. I will be writing to the council again and would encorage others to do so.

  9. I agree that we must do everything possible to make sure that this proposal is rejected on the basis of the size and height of these towers. I have read many clear, specific and detailed objections to the towers so am at a loss to understand what else they need to hear.

  10. Having read the Committee Report, it is severe neglect that a reason for refusal has not been applied in relation to the adverse impact the design of the proposed development has on the historic character of the area and the Conservation Area. The assumptions that the development meets with the CABE/English Heritage Design Guidance is flawed given that the joint authors of the document object to the development. CABE in relation to the design proposal and English Heritage object in principal against new tall buildings in this historic Conservation Area.
    As such my objection still stands and I have requested that the Planning Officer publishes this by way of the Committee Update paper.

  11. In view of the upcoming Committee Decision on the Clapham Junction ‘Twin Towers’ development, this Wednesday, I urge all the councilors to understand
    that objection to the proposed development is not restricted to considerations of affordable housing, benefits to public transport, the relationship with the proposed wider re-development of the CJ area or demolition of existing buildings.
    I write because I am concerned that we, the objectors, are being told that ‘insufficient reasons’ have been given for objection to the Towers and that the bulk of the objections are from those who simply don’t like tall buildings.
    I find this conclusion patronizing, insensitive, unreasonable and bullying. The towers are totally unsympathetic to the existing landscape. If this development was to take place in New York then it is very likely that no one would be concerned, unless of course it was on a plot currently providing valuable recreational space for inner city dwellers. We do not think it reasonable that Wandsworth Council in collusion with a firm of property developers should be providing an eyesore, a provider of unwanted shadow and a wind tunnel, as well as a massive increase in population. There are other far more imaginative schemes of providing housing. They might, of course, be less readily lucrative for the councilors and developers, but they could provide homes for people without ruining the resident population’s lives. I ask how many of our councilors would enjoy living within sight of these buildings , which they claim will ‘deliver a legible urban environment’ and could ‘re-enforce and define the town centre’. Thank you, but I think we find it quite easy to understand the nature of the Junction, we don’t need preaching to by self-appointed guardians of the urban aesthetic.

  12. I live in Beauchamp Road Clapham and would like to register my objection to the proposed building of 2 high rise towers in the centre of Clapham. They would be an eyesore on the landscape. Had I wanted such views I would have chosen to live in Hong Kong, New York or even other parts of London but I chose to live in Clapham where the towers would be quite out of keeping.

  13. I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiments expressed by Mrs Kerr. I would also add that although, as her message implies, she may be lucky enough to be able to choose where she lives, others are not so fortunate and would just have these towers foisted upon them without the least possibility of escape.

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