Author: Imogen Radford with notes from Julia Matcham
Wandsworth Council planning committee agreed unanimously at its meeting 25 June to reject the planning application.
Planning applications chairman Leslie McDonnell said:
“We had no problem with a hotel in this location – it would clearly be a benefit to the town centre.
The concerns were more about whether the site could accommodate a building of this size. The new structure would be out of scale with the nearby houses in Mossbury Road.
There is scope for a taller building here but it must respect its immediate surroundings and the properties around it.
It would be regrettable if the council’s decision were overturned. We are not saying we do not want investment here – just that any development must be of the right scale and size for its location.”
The committee concluded that the scheme would result in an overbearing and dominant development which would fail to preserve or enhance the Clapham Junction conservation area.
In rejecting the application the planning committee took account of the recommendation of the planning officer to reject the application because of the ‘unduly prominent‘ height of the design and that it would ‘fail to preserve or enhance the character of the Clapham Junction conservation area‘. In addition the proposed hotel was not accessible to people with disabilities and did not meet sustainability and environmental criteria.
At the meeting Councillor Martin Johnson outlined concerns about the unsuitability of the proposal. He spoke extensively about the downside of the proposal and put forward many arguments we would agree with about the unsuitability of tall buildings in this area.
Councillor Tony Belton said that the council should reconsider its emerging policy towards buildings in view of the clear public view that they were not wanted.
Some members of the committee were keen to see regeneration in the area, but doubts were expressed about whether such a scheme would really help to regenerate the area as claimed. Councillor Belton pointed out that people often use hotels literally just for bed and breakfast and then spend the rest of the day in London on either tourism or business, and that the developers were only claiming to be creating 30 jobs and these were relatively low paid.
Some councillors spoke about benefits of having a hotel in terms of regeneration for the area, but no one spoke up for the design or defended the height of the building. It seems that the recommendation of the planning officer and the comments of many is that the building would tower over surrounding buildings and would be inappropriate for the conservation area clearly swayed the committee. Even if they didn’t state that this was the reason for the rejection, the decision is another nail in the coffin for unwanted tall buildings in the area, and a recognition of the public view that such proposals would be unsuitable and unwanted.
On the request of the applicant the decision has now been referred to the Mayor of London who will decide whether to intervene. The applicant argues that by rejecting the scheme the council risks deterring further investment in the town centre contrary to the Mayor’s regeneration policies.
But the Mayor’s office had objected to the application in relation to sustainable construction techniques and the lack of disabled access facilities, amongst other things (you can read the Mayor’s office opinion here).
Although the chair of the planning committee was careful not to rule out tall buildings on principle, it is clear that this building was rejected for that reason. Perhaps the council will now listen to people who live and work in the area who don’t want to see its character changed or to see a succession of threats to change its character by yet more unsuitable proposals.