Misleading images and the impact of a new construction

2 mins read

Author: Cyril Richert
The Council included explicit guidelines in its planning policy to prevent the use of eye-fish images on tall buidlings.
The Development Management Policies Document now states, para 2.49 page 23:
Detailed visual assessments submitted with applications in order to demonstrate compliance with this policy (I think this means DMS1 but it could mean the tall buildings section of S2UDS) will be required to accurately represent what would be seen by the human eye. The use of wide-angle lenses, for example, can distort perspective and distance, and thus the relationship between the foreground and background, and this will not be acceptable”.
All good, you might think?
In reality, as often with Wandsworth Council, those seems to be policies to please the amenity societies and the residents, but with no effect in actual issues.
As we have demonstrated in a previous articles, Peabody developers did not care much about the policy as they explicitly used “wide angle lens of 24mm or 35mm” to distort the pictures that were presented to the public. It did not bother the Council officers who approved the documents without any question.
Comparison with Woburn House/Flacon road hotel
It is interesting to compare the submitted plans with the final result for another project that was approved by the planning Committee in 2012: The demolition of Woburn house in Falcon road to build a 8 storey hotel.
Photo submitted by the developers for their planning application (you can click on the photos to see them bigger):

Current building (photo taken with a Blackberry phone 26 August 2012)  (you can click on the photos to see them bigger):

As you can see there is a box sticking out from the top of the building that was not planned originally… To the contrary, the developer assured us that they reduced the size of the building by 1 meter, while it seems rather the opposite, the building is now higher with that (ugly) box.
You will notice also that gentle colours were meant to match the surrounding while obviously it is now sticking out as an eye-sore, that you can’t avoid from St Johns Road view, nor Asda car park, nor of course Falcon road.
That is exactly why CJAG suggested to reduce the size of the building by one storey less. See HERE and the effect with our animated picture. No doubt that it would have been much more sympathetic to the whole area.
It is obvious that the developers have used a wide angle camera to reduce the impact of the development. In the animated image below we show the difference between 1- the submitted image and 2- the distortion we need to apply to match the real size of buildings:

As a little comfort, we could say: you see, we told you so! However it is unfortunate that same problems have been raised against the Peabody scheme, without anyone listening amongst the planning officers and the majority of the planning application committee when only 3 out of 11 Councillors voted to refuse the application.
Last but not least, you see below the impact of the view from Mossbury road:


To be honest, I haven’t come to anyone not saying that it was better before…
UPDATE 07/11/2012:
Remember what we wrote in May, 27th 2009: “In other words, this will be a cheap hotel for people looking for an affordable way of commuting to central London
Book rooms in Travelodge from £19
[this is not a criticism, but more “I told you so…” for those saying that no, it wouldn’t be the case]

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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. Speaking as an architect involved with the original planning consent, but not with the implementation I think that a few points need to be made:
    1 The process to achieve a building contributing to the economic vitality of Clapham Junction took absurdly long and the cost of the consent was far too much.
    2 By the time that consent was finally achieved the client was financially exhausted and the financial crisis had arrived. The project was not helped by the station project’s demise (councillors backtracking) and the continuing lack of investment in the area. The fact that large numbers of local residents and others torched the town centre last summer was no good advertisment for inwards investment either.
    3 Finding a tenant and getting the project financed was nothing short of a miracle.
    4 The client presumably decided to minimise the cost of construction and to use a design and build contract. In such contracts “value engineering” takes place and frequently many points of detail or materials are “smoothed out” and the building ends up being designed by accountants masquerading as quantity surveyors or “value engineers”.
    5 The current building appears to be the height and width approved by the planning permission. The lift overun appears to be a little taller than the original planning consent, but depends on the type and speed of lift specified.
    6 The roof parapet and its signage certainly seems much more clumsy than we originally envisgaged. We had in mind a transparent edge with a continuous handrail. What is there is a sort of black cap-nasty.
    7 The cladding system was presumably chosen on the basis of a balance of cost and performance. We certainly had in mind a palette of colours to include terracotta but also verdigris but the latter seems to have gone. One assumes that the colour samples were approved by Wandsworth officers. I would have preferred our ideas.
    8 The planning process was long and not helped by difficult planning officers, an ineffective Town Centre Partnership and by councillors who kept on changing their mind to follow the wind like rudderless ships.
    8 Your graphics are chosen to exagerate your personal view and show sun on the new building with adjacent existing buiklings in deep contrasting shadow. The respective heights of the buildings seem the same in all the versions.
    9 It’s good news that there will be a new hotel, new jobs and homes and economic activity on the site. The developer should be encouraged not slammed at every opportunity. The construction industry is at a very low ebb and if it got going again many jobs could be created and the economy could be revived. Britain would not have to rely on City spivs and the like; look where they got the country.
    Happily I am now retired and living in rural France rather far away. I do however occasionally visit and when I do I must say I think that at present Clapham Junction is still a rather squalid place. I do however intend to stay in the hotel (retired architects can’t afford glitzy 4 star riverside numbers) and maybe when I do Cyril and I can share a glass of wine. Believe me the saga of the regeneration of the Junction has thus far been very painful, and looks like being so for some time yet.
    I note that you have been “naming and shaming” councillors. Why don’t you stand next time? I have in France- but didn’t get elected! Would you be?

    • Dear David,
      Sorry for the late response to your initial comments. The truth is that I have difficulties now to find anytime to address more matters on CJAG.
      However I would like to make a few comments.
      1-3: I am sure you will understand that this cannot be our problem at all. Or do you suggest that if the private investor has difficulty to make a return for his own profit, then it should be supported by the public and we should share the cost?
      4-5: No it is not in height and exterior appearance as approved by the planning committee (second application). But of course you know that once it is build there is no much point of complaining. The only opportunity is to tell officers to be a bit careful “next time”.
      7: The cladding system is in fact really poor and some people told me it looks like plastic!
      8: Sorry about the photos. As you know we did not have much sun this year, so although this was not done on purpose I still think it reflects the reality (if I take a new photo today you would also complain it is cloudy). I have limited time and nobody pays me for professional photos, so I do what I can with what I have and I’m sure you understand that.
      I would definitely enjoy a drink with you next time you are in the area. We could then debate (with passion but also with reason). Please do tell me when.
      Regarding “naming and shaming” I thought that Councillors – as elected representative – were happy to take responsibility on their actions. With surprise I was told off by Cllr Peter Dawson (yes I name, because I am fed up of people acting behind close doors!) saying that what is done is done and we should move on and not point fingers at who voted what!!!!
      And yes I think some Cllrs might have stayed to long in their seats and consider the borough as their property. As you know the voting system is quite different in France and Britain for local elections (list vs FPTP). But you never know 😉
      PS: “I can’t understand the English of Geo’s second paragraph.”> I did not think that you would rely on such low attack to disagree with someone; definitely not up to your normal standard, David.

  2. Speaking as a Mossbury Road resident I think that a few points need to be made in response of David Rosemont, the architect.
    You definitely made a good point about “value engineering”, although at a first read it might appear an attempt to push the ball in someone else’s quarter for a resulting design that defining appalling is an understatement.
    Make no mistake here, no one pretends that low-end architects can compete with Norman Foster, Herzog & de Meuron or Renzo Piano in terms of good design, however it is my opinion that RIBA should seriously consider quality of jobs made as a key element for membership. Otherwise it is no surprise that who really cares about quality, good design and innovation in construction uses architects from outside the UK (see two of the three names above mentioned).
    Moreover, you repeatedly suggests your own personal opinion that the only way to increase jobs and economic activity is to pump up the construction industry by any means.
    If you are really interested in this matter – economics, competitiveness in a global market, etc.. – I happen to know one thing or two about that. I can point you in the direction of several studies and indicators that clearly explain in simple terms what REALLY counts – that is, research and development, high value manufacturing, intellectual property, etc..
    Obviously, all of the above only matters if one really cares about this country, which under normal circumstances does not include who retire abroad.
    To conclude, good for you you live in rural France. This is sparing you from the pain of watching what remain of this area after barbaric hordes of so-called professionals decided to “contribute to the economic vitality of Clapham Junction”.

  3. I can’t understand the english of Geo’s second paragraph.
    To qualify as a member of the RIBA you study at university for five years and do two years of professional experince. Your progress is constantly monitored. To set up in practice you need to consider if you can attract enough work. Happily in my own case I did and over my career we did over 2000 projects, including many repeat (10 plus) projects for several clients, royal families (ie fairly high end), household name companies etc across the UK and a little in Europe.
    We received several design awards and won two competitions.
    British architects undertake work all over the world and in fact few foreign architects undertake work in the UK. Not everybody would agree, for instance, that the Shard represents the best model for London. Nor does everybody agree that greedy people who work in the City of London offer the best model for society.
    It is not just my opinion that the construction industry represents a good way to activate economic growth and employment. Not everybody can be in IT, Media or Fiancial Services. Read Lord Hesletine’s report amongst others. British cities and towns are in need of constant regeneration. Without change there is stagnation.
    Geo insults me in that they ignorantly say I do not care for my country because I live in France. Utter twaddle! I was born in the UK and apart from undertaking my career there I also undertook military service and in addition paid a full contribution to society. I was the elected unpaid chairman for ten years of a successful urban regeneration quango, a school governor and on numerous committees over a long period. I was given a Civic Award for services to the Borough. (It should be noted also that my family served in the military including my step father who was imprisoned in Germany after being handed over by French collaborateurs). My family has investments in the Borough including one near Clapham Junction. My son lives in the Borough. Therefore I shall continue to take an interest and need and will accept no lessons from Geo on the love of my country.
    (Please no jibes about swimming pools, jacuzzis, chateaux etc as I live in quite modest circumstances in Brittany and one is not a tax exile as I currently pay taxes both sides of the Channel including one to pay off the debt run up by the French).
    Most damage to Clapham Junction was not done by professionals but by the Luftwaffe taking off from French airfields. Investors are those that decide where to invest and the financial constraints and then they approach the professionals. Unhappily the defective planning system, unhelpful planners and fence sitting councillors often give insufficient or worthwhile advice to applicants and much time and effort is often waited. Again read the papers or Hesletine if you doubt me. It remains to be seen what will happen with the station site but one hopes that the guidelines and the advice of the council will be better this time.
    Just off for lunch and yes there will be wine! I can see trees, big skies, hills and not traffic jams, parking attendants, dust bins, graffiti and scowling commuters from my windows! Nor can I roast my chestnuts before burning shops or hear the rattle of shopping trollies full of stolen goods or nightlong wailing sirens! Pip! Pip!

  4. By the way Cyril compalins about misleading photos. His lower one west facing one was taken from a different position than the upper one (Google Earth?)

    • Unfortunately this is the closest available view (yes, Google Earth) and I don’t think anyone living in the area and knowing the former building would say this is not accurate enough to spot the difference.

      • Yes but I did :<)
        You make a huge hoo hah about camera angles etc for developers and architects but when you do the same (or worse) then it's OK!

        • I am not saying there is not difference (a few mm here and there) but it represents an accurate view of the reality. While using large angle lenses for photos distorts the reality and must not be used for planning application. It’s not me only saying it, it is a government inspector as well as WBC rules (although not enforced as we saw for Peabody).

  5. So what’s wrong with a reasonably priced (?cheap) hotel of a known standard that will enable people on limited budgets (pensioners, French tax payers, visitors to families with small flats who can’t put up guests) to stay in Clapham Junction? I would think that offer an introductory one.I tried to book it for next week but there was no availability and I booked at the Brewers Inn Wandsworth. You are very lucky to get any room in trhe area under £100 per night. Maybe weekend is cheaper. I’m in London next week if you want to meet 00 33 2 98 78 23 47!

    • Dear David,
      WOW great news. We definitely have to meet (I’m available during weekdays as working from home, so flexible).
      Regarding the price, nothing wrong but when we said it was going to be a “cheap” hotel, the developer said it was going to be more ~£80-90/night… so just wanted to point out.
      When we said also that it was at least 1 storey too tall now I cannot count how many people say “you were right”… too late.
      When we said the Council officers moved the town centre boundaries to make things easier for Peabody to submit taller building, even Councillors at the PA committee acknowledge, saying “they wished they had spotted it earlier”… too late again.

  6. I used to live in Mossbury Road and I still visit the area very often as I did not move that far. I was really curious what might replace the old office building and hoped for a building of a quality which will contribute to the area. One would think that after an expensive and well planned landscaping and road layout council will be interested in attracting some interesting developments. However the plans went obviously pear shaped and after seeing the cheap carbuncle of a budget hotel one can only laugh at developer’s words : ‘The project will replace an indifferent and depressing 70s office block with an iconic new building that will make a major economic and architectural contribution to the regeneration of Clapham Junction Town Centre.’ I must agree with an author as the original block seems to be actually better considering the mass and height of the building. Shame about the atrocious façade cladding too. How can someone defend the developer planting such a poor building in the town centre is beyond me. Well and the economic usefulness for the area is also doubtful. It’s a chain hotel which do not care about employing locals and most of their employees are on modest wages. Did we really need ‘budget’ hotel and poor architechture at CJ? No.

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