Author: Cyril Richert
Step1: The Inspector criticizes Wandsworth Borough Council for its lack of evidence on defining tall buildings area and supporting evidence
In a letter received on September 24th 2009, we can read:
“Following submission [of the new Core Strategy/vision of the Council for the future of the borough], the Inspector undertaking the Examination of the Core Strategy identified concerns in relation to the policies and supporting evidence on affordable housing and tall buildings, and the lack of comprehensive table indicating the relationship between the Core Strategy policies, the related infrastructure requires to deliver the policies and the indicators which will be used to monitor delivery of the plan.
The Council has now provided the Inspector with the additional information required, including an affordable housing economic viability assessment and a Stage One Urban Design Statement and is proposed a number of changes to the Core Strategy. As recommended by the Inspector, the Council is now consulting on the proposed changes to the Core Strategy […] All other proposed changes [i.e. except percentage of affordable homes] in relation to tall buildings and affordable housing are open to representations in relation to soundness!”
(click on the image to enlarge).
The Inspector’s concerns in relation to tall buildings reflected the representations made by EH on the proposed submission version, namely that the tall buildings policy has not been informed by an urban design study in accordance with the Government endorsed EH/CABE “Guidance on Tall Buildings 2007”.
Step2: The Council publish a Sites Specific Allocations (SSAD1 & SSAD2) where guidelines are made for size of buildings in specific areas of the borough
To address English Heritage’s and the Inspector’s concerns, the Planning Service produced a high level urban design statement, bringing together the information that was used to identify the locations which may be suitable for tall buildings (PAPER NO. 09-744 / PLANNING AND TRANSPORTATION OVERVIEW AND SCRUTINY COMMITTEE – 10TH SEPTEMBER 2009 / EXECUTIVE – 14TH SEPTEMBER 2009).
The Council published a map with colours of preferable heights (P78 of SSAD2).
I specifically highlight the location of Osiers Estate on the map.
- Numbers without brackets: height at which buildings are considered tall buildings.
- Numbers inside brackets: height above which buildings are unlikely to be considered acceptable.
In addition in SSAD1, p74, you can read:
Views: High building proposals could have an impact on sensitive views of the site from Wandsworth Park, the Thames and Wandle Riversides and from the opposite bank of the Thames, particularly Hurlingham Park. More local views from the Spit and The Causeway, including Causeway Island, will be important and should be considered.
Tall buildings: In accordance with the Council’s Stage 2 Urban Design Study – Tall Buildings, applications for development of 9 storeys and above will be subject to the criteria of the tall buildings policy contained in the emerging DMPD. Applications for buildings of more than 18 storeys will generally be unacceptable, and will only be considered in exceptional circumstances. Any tall building proposed should not harm sensitive views from Wandsworth Park and the Thames riverside or the setting of Prospect House, Point Pleasant – listed grade II.
Step3: The Council approved a 21 storey tower in Osiers Industrial Estate
Redevelopment of Osiers Industrial Estate (1-20 ENTERPRISE WAY – existing 20 storage and sheds located to the North and South of Enterprise Way ) application 2009/3017 went before the planning committee on the 7 January 2010
The conclusion in report of the planning officer said:
The 21-storey tower challenges the policy framework for the redevelopment […].With this aspect of the scheme the judgement for the Committee is whether the benefits the scheme will bring for the regeneration, townscape and public realm justify its inclusion in the proposals.
The very high density of the development in a poor PTAL [transport facilities] area also poses a challenge to the policy framework.
However the recommendation was to grant permission and the Council approved the scheme in a straight forward decision where only the 2 Labour Councillors opposed.
It includes a tower of 21 stories. There is no exceptional circumstances highlighted in the report.
Draw your own conclusion…!
Regarding specifically Osiers Estate, Stuart King, Labour parliamentary candidate for Putney wrote a statement on his blog and is said to petition the local residents. Others will meet with Justine Greening (Putney MP) to talk about the issue.
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For ten years I was the elected Chairman of the Wandsworth Challenge Partnership, the Single Regeneration Partnership for Wandsworth Town Centre, which included the mouth of the Wandle.
It may be about 15 (fifteen!) years ago that after a great deal of debate, the Partnership commissioned at great public expense of consultants fees and consultation by local interested groups and individuals an Urban Design Framework which gave a sort of template for the area with which there was general accord. All that seems to have been forgotten or dumped and what seems to be happening now is a free for all without a comprehensive concept of the sort of place people want.
The “Vision” was a Wandsworth Delta (sic) being a place where the unique feature of the Wandle and the development opportunities could be fused into an exemplar project. The word “exemplar” has now been hijacked to cover a few highways improvements in Clapham Junction and the Delta project looks like a fond memory.
That appears to be resulting in an anarchic scramble for mass and poor design at the expense of a decent environment. All the aspirations seem to have been binned.
What’s more if many of the schemes get planning consent it’s likely/probable that the procurement process (i.e. getting it built) will result in loss of quality and detail. You only need to look around recently built schemes to appreciate that (locally and nationally).
I don’t have an aversion to tall buildings used sparingly and in the right place, but the overall grain, density and quality need to come together. In one hundred years will people say “now that really was something good!” about what is apparently happening at the Delta? I think not if current directions are maintained.
Wandsworth is the wild west for developers as someone said to me recently…
…………………….and the architects are the indians.