A few comments on Woburn House proposal

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>> Your chance to contribute: tell us what your think on Clapham Junction station redevelopment
Author: Cyril Richert
Here is the submission-comment sent to the planning officer regarding the new proposal for a hotel development on the site of Woburn House, 155 Falcon Road (PDF download).
Paul Landsberg
The Planning Service
Wandsworth Council
The Town Hall
Wandsworth High Street
London SW18 2PU

Planning Application 2010/1455 – Woburn House (155 Flacon Road SW11)

29th May 2010
Dear Mr Landsberg,
A new application is now proposed for the redevelopment of Woburn House, 155 Falcon Road (with a “contingency” on ref 2010/1020).
The site is currently occupied by a five storey office building, of mid-20th century origin. The site is within the Clapham Junction Conservation Area, and viewable in the context of the Grade II listed Falcon Public House, and the Grade II Listed Arding & Hobbs (now Debenhams) department store. It is proposed to demolish the existing 5 storey building and erect a 8 storey replacement + 2 Victorian style properties.
A previous application was presented last year to develop a 16 storey hotel and it was refused by Wandsworth Borough Council.
The former application was met with strong opposition from local residents (85 objections), local societies, English Heritage, the Mayor of London and Martin Linton, MP for Battersea.
Criticisms included:

  1. size of the building (16 storey building);
  2. the proposed development does not respect the historical and architectural homogeneity of its neighbouring buildings;
  3. noise and disturbance in parking caused by a 132 room hotel (potential noise from the delivery vans, servicing, etc);
  4. increase traffic all along the road (proposed entrance on Mossbury, a one way residential street) and create additional pressure on the limited parking.

In our representation last summer, we raised two fundamental questions that has to be addressed by the proposal:

  1. Is the scheme an opportunity for the vicinity; and is it going to enhance Clapham Junction?
  2. And is it going to create benefits and lead for future other redevelopments of Clapham Junction?

The least we can say is that the developers listened to all arguments and tried to address them in their new proposal.

  1. Size of the building: it is now a 8 storey building (instead of 16)
  2. Conservation area: the new building is much smaller and based on a refurbishment of the existing building. The proposed overall height of the development is said to be lower than the existing building which is immediately opposite it in Falcon Road. In addition 2 Victorian style residential developments will be build, similar to the one existing in Mossbury road.
  3. Noise and disturbance: there will be less servicing (such as refuse collection, deliveries etc.) to the new scheme because the hotel is about half the previous size and secondly, because there are no “in-house” café/ restaurant/bar facilities. The separate retail unit is planned to be a lock up shop arrangement –serviced from the front in Falcon Road.
  4. Increase traffic and parking in a small one way residential road: the main entrance to the hotel will be from Falcon Road (not Mossbury Road as per the previous application).

However we think it is necessary to make a few comments on the application regarding the following points:

  1. Size of the building
  2. Parking

Size of the building
The proposed site is very compact and lies at the bottom of an area of homogeneous Victorian and Edwardian low rise houses.
When we met with Tim Glass, director of Oak Trading Company Ltd in June 2009 regarding the proposal for a 16 storey building, he commented that although there was scope for cutting down the tower by a couple of stories (~14) or so, any more would make a hotel proposal non-viable. When we met 11 months later the viability became 8 storeys as he also commented: “I can honestly say that there is enough doubt about the viability of the existing 8 storey building proposal to know that we couldn’t reduce it by another floor and would have to go to appeal”. We fully understand the point of the developer about the viability of the project, but it is also obvious that we cannot put into consideration the interest of any developer on assessing the pros and cons of projects.
In its submission to the Council about the Site Specific Allocation Document  the Clapham Junction Action Group did not consider that the borough’s evidence supports a justification of any of tall building locations as justified.  Density (that can be justified with the PTAL rate of Clapham Junction) and tall buildings are two different concepts. Therefore, as it is still apparent in the SSAD, we recommended that the proposed size limit for Clapham Junction area be limited to 5-6 storey (below the size of Arding & Hobbs rotunda) maximum and taller buildings (6 storeys) be located along the railway.
We agreed in recent conversations with the developer that it would be more appropriate to talk in term of meters (5 storeys of the PCS building might make more storeys on the new hotel proposal) and we acknowledge that the proposed plan is showing a size lower height than the roof of the opposite PCS building. However, in term of urban architecture and regarding the existing low rise (2-4 storeys) properties of the entire street of Mossbury road we still consider that the design of the building would be more appropriate with 1 or 2 storey less (making it similar in size to the cupola in the building hosting Fitness First). In addition we note that the claim of PCS being taller is only accurate when considering the smaller ad-up roof, not covering the all building. The point shouldn’t be to rival with the size of surrounding buildings but to seat harmoniously with the other buildings.
We also note that the first application for redevelopment of the Wessex House building  (St John’s Hill) was refused by the Council for being 1 storey too tall in the street.

Therefore, without putting aside all the merits of the scheme, amendments should be encouraged to remove 1 floor (less than 15% of the rooms). The frontage of the top one or even two storeys could be slightly slanted backwards (perhaps with dormer style windows) or slightly stepped back (perhaps with small balconies in front) or both. This will enable the building to harmonise better with its neighbours.

This “diminishing” effect is a clear feature of the neighbourhood architecture and recent similar applications such as the Wessex house have tried to conform with it (pic. left) or Wigmore street (pic. right).
Wessex House redevelopment vue 2
We think there is a lack of information on parking which creates the space for future issues if the matter is not addressed properly.
The proposals (hotel + adjoining 6 units will be build on the existing car park) will definitely create additional pressure on the street.
Regarding the residential properties, there will be only 2 spaces only in front of the residential properties (current car park removed) for, potentially, 6 needs.

We know that the site’s location is classified at the highest PTAL (Public Transport Accessibility Level) possible, in terms of access by public transport. In addition, the London Plan, which is referred to in the Councils Core Strategy states that for hotels:

  • Small hotels, particularly those in central London, should have no on site parking provision.
  • Hotels in town centres should generally not have on-site parking provision or coach parking beyond operational requirements.

The current street limits to resident permit and pay-and-display only from 8.30am to 6.30pm from Monday to Saturday. However it is obvious for any passer by on Friday night and Saturday night that the street if often used by people leaving their cars when going to restaurants/pubs/nightclubs. It is reasonable to believe that the hotel will create additional pressure; if even only 5 out of the 70 guests hire a car for the WE and park overnight, it will use the street parking over its capacity thus preventing residents themselves to park in their street.
However we believe it is possible to find a work around without involving any additional cost. Two enforcements could be implemented:

  • making the street “resident only” parking;
  • getting into an agreement with Lidl or ShopStop for using their car park for hotel guests.

The developer acknowledged the situation and said  “There is no need for guests to park in Mossbury Road and I agree that this should be actively discouraged. Perhaps the residents only parking period (for residents only spaces) could be extended -even to all night, and I don’t think that any one is likely to risk a ticket or being clamped/towed away for the sake of a £10 charge for parking 100yds or so away.”
We acknowledged the merits of this proposal and the interest of a hotel scheme in the immediate proximity to the station. We think that work with developers showing concerns for the area should be encouraged. However, we believe that the council should discuss our points regarding the size of the building and the essential issue of parking.
While assessing the different aspects of this scheme, the council will have the opportunity to set an example for future developments in the borough as well as promoting a clear benefit for the community.
Yours faithfully
Cyril Richert
On behalf of the Clapham Junction Action Group

You can also refer to other articles we have published:

  1. New Hotel Falcon Road – round 2
  2. Meeting Report – Hotel Developer Tim Glass from Oak Trading Company Ltd
  3. Hotel proposal for Falcon road: issues raised and responses from the developer

I also encourage you to give your view to the planning department:
Ref: Planning Application 2010/1455 – Woburn House (155 Flacon Road SW11)
Paul Landsberg
The Planning Service
Wandsworth Council
The Town Hall
Wandsworth High Street
London SW18 2PU

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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.