Peabody redevelopment: the proposal

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Author: Cyril Richert
Peabody Trust released their first newsletter which introduces the proposals, advertises the public exhibition and the consultation website for the redevelopment of Peabody Estate, in Clapham Junction.
The existing
The existing site comprises of 351 residential dwellings with some limited community facilities, workshops and storage facilities for residents. The Estate is characterized by mid rise deck access blocks, predominantly 5 storeys in height. All blocks share the same building materials, detailing and window sizes. There are 20 blocks within the estate.

The proposal
The Peabody Trust have been liaising with Wandsworth Council and the Greater London Authority (GLA) to establish the main principles of the redevelopment. According to their website, their latest discussions with the Council are based on the proposals listed below:

  • Approximately 550 mixed tenure dwellings, including  homes for the elderly;
  • New community centre at the heart of the site;
  • Small-scale shop/cafe/business uses fronting St John’s Hill;
  • Building heights ranging from 4-12 storeys;
  • High quality landscaping, new streets and public open space;
  • Car parking at surface level and underground; and
  • Environmental initiatives, including solar panels and combined  heat and power system to provide heating and hot water.

Images from Peabody development’s website. NO IMAGE AVAILABLE SHOWING THE IMPACT FROM DEBENHAMS LOCATION/St JOHN’S HILL

A wide range of accommodation will be provided from 1 bedroom flats to larger family housing.  A significant proportion will be for rent but there will be market sales housing as well.

A comparison with the previous proposal (September 2009)
The previous plan (a £100 million project regeneration) was also aiming to make the estate open to the surrounding community while nearly doubling the number of homes (650 flats), enlarge properties and give all residents private outdoor space (which means – in developer’s jargon – balcony).
It included several taller building along the western edge of the estate, with a 21-storey tower directly fronting St John’s Hill, along with  a 13-storey and a 10-storey building.

We met with Claire Bennie [Peabody Trust – Deputy Head of Development] on 22 January 2010 and she explained that, albeit being a non-profit organisation, they have to make the scheme pay for itself and therefore aim to maximise the density and potential of the site. Therefore the intention was to increase the density in order to be able to fund the redevelopment with the private sale of some of the properties.
However it was clear that her main concern was the planning documents produced by the Council stating that:

Applications for buildings of 5 or more storeys will be subject to the criteria of the tall buildings policy […] tall buildings in this location are likely to be inappropriate.

and she specified that they would seek to clarify the guidelines with the Council.
How the Council is making things easier
We demonstrated in a previous article how the Council changed the proposed planning rules in order to allow taller building for the Peabody redevelopment.
In a nutshell, the initial planning documents (Site Specification Allocation Document 27/11/09) said:

In accordance with Core Strategy policy IS3d, tall buildings in this location are likely to be inappropriate.

In a response to last year’s Wandsworth Borough Council consultation, The Peabody Trust (Peabody)  wanted the Council to remove the wording “inappropriate“, which they claim contradicted the main policy which states that tall buildings may be appropriate in locations that are well served by public transport. However this argument was rebuffed by the government Inspector’s conclusion in last year’s examination that only sites within town centres, focal points of activity and Nine Elms near Vauxhall may be appropriate for tall building and this did not extend to all ‘areas with good public transport accessibility’.
Therefore the Council tried to ease the case for Peabody and overturned the Inspector’s argument by changing the boundary of the town centre in order to include part of the estate (where most of the tall buildings are planed).
The final proposed SSAD says:

The part of the [Peabody] site within the town centre is identified as being sensitive to tall buildings, whilst on the southern part of the site adjacent to Wandsworth Common they are likely to be inappropriate.

I let you appreciate the difference between the words “sensitive” and “inappropriate“.
Shall we support the proposal?
Arguments in favour of the proposal are:

  1. Seven years ago, the government created a series of criteria defining a minimum standard for estates. Peabody identified 4 estates were they thought it could be better to redevelop rather than to repair, and Clapham Junction is one of them (the estate was constructed in 1936 and modernised in the 1970s. 13 years ago they replaced the windows).
  2. Instead of large wall (ranging from 2m – 4 m height) around its perimeter, the proposal aims at opening it up to make it easier to navigate. They also plan shop/cafe/business uses fronting St John’s Hill
  3. Instead of all blocks sharing the same building materials, detailing and window sizes the proposal design suggests different sizes, shapes and colours for the blocks.

Criticisms
The main criticism is obviously the size of some buildings. Located at the top of the hill a 12 storey tower will appear to be about 16 storeys when viewed from Arding and Hobbs/Debenhams opposite pavement (because of the seventy foot tall hill that it sits on).
Near the Arding and Hobbs/Debenhams road junction a building of 16 storeys was refused in June 25th 2009. The officer’s report said that “due to its sheer size [the development] would fail to preserve the appearance of the area“. After the Committee meeting,  the chair commented: “There is scope for a taller building [than 5 storey – note from CJAG] here but it must respect its immediate surroundings and the properties around it.
The area is inappropriate for tall buildings. The Council changed the description of the site last year as we demonstrated to the government inspector a few weeks ago and we argued that the original description of the Peabody site as lying entirely outside the town centre should be retained: a scheme has to be granted for its own merit, not by using tricks to overturn the current policies.
The Council has already allowed the development of a 8 storey building facing Peabody (Lumière apartments) 4 years ago, despite the area now being regarded as inappropriate to buildings of more than 5 storey and the opposition of local residents. The main merit of the scheme was to ensure the retention of the former Granada cinema (planning application 2007/5242). Years after the beginning of the construction, and while luxury flats of 1-2 bedrooms are currently advertised for £500k, the refurbishment of the auditorium is still await!
In an area inappropriate for buildings of more than 5 storeys, the Council allowed 8 on the basis that it was not much more, and would bring the benefit of the refurbishment of the auditorium (a nice trick, but the developers are not eager to achieve that now that they are selling their flats). Now we are asked to approve 12 and 10 storeys, because a 8 storey exists already and it will benefit the much needed redevelopment of the estate. What next ? A 18 storey because a 12 will be there, in order to compromise for example for the benefit of the much needed redevelopment of Clapham Junction station ?
We acknowledge that in the past the Peabody Trust has always been willing to engage with the local residents. They have already changed their plan, reducing the density of the proposal by 20% and the size of some buildings consequently. Their plan shows already a number of improvements.
Shall we support the current proposal on the basis that it could be worse, and that’s better than nothing? Or shall we say that this is better, but we are not there yet and it will need some adjustment in order to gain the support of the community?
A redevelopment of Peabody will happen because of the new series of criteria defining a minimum standard for estates set by the government. The quality of the scheme, the integration with the surrounding areas and its consequences on future developments will depend on our acceptance.

* * *

The public exhibition dates are as follows:

  1. Tuesday 15 November 4pm – 8pm
  2. Saturday 19 November 10am – 2pm

And will be held in St Mark’s Church Hall, Boutflower Road (next to the estate).

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CJAG News 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.

5 Comments

  1. Thanks Cyril. I’ll pop along on Saturday morning. Have you been to see the new proposals yet for the Ram Brewery site? It’s on tomorrow from 9.30am to 12.30pm at the Brewery, Ram Street.

    • Yes, but I have to try also to go back to the Peabody exhibition as I haven’t finished all discussions. I don’t know if I will have time to go to the Ram Brewery’s too.

  2. It is better than it was, but any thing over 5 storeys is too much. Also
    where would the children go to school? Honeywell won’t take any more intake. (They opted out of L.E.A. control & therefore control their own admissions policy.) Belleville is full to the rafters. I Know, my children went / go there. If Belleville were to expand they would need to compulsorily purchase properties down the hill. Possibly not a popular move.

  3. Cant see on the plans what will happen to the two lovely lodge cottages on the estate. Another part of the Junctions history will be lost I expect.
    .

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