Author: Cyril Richert
“Soaring skyscrapers are being given the green light in direct opposition of council policy, leading to accusations Wandsworth Council is putting developers needs ahead of residents“, says the Wandsworth Guardian in today’s edition.
The ton of the article is indeed reflecting the general mood within the residents in the borough who have been facing major planning applications across the recent years.
There are however a few errors that could be corrected for the sake of precision:
- There are many more than 10 breaches, as it happened for almost all major and noticeable schemes recently.
- The policy DMS4 on Tall building counts 15 criteria, not 14.
- Olive Haines is 7storeys not 5 and it abuts a Conservation area and is not in one.
- More importantly 5 storeys is not the maximum height of tall buildings. Over five storeys is the height(in most of Putney) at which the tall buildings policy comes into play. Buildings above 5 storeys are allowed by policy but then need to “integrate” into their surroundings. All the Upper Richmond Road was at least 8 storeys originally and they were never going to be reduced in height. The challenge for Putney was how an increase to 11, 12,13 or15 storeys could possibly integrate with a maximum of 4 storey existing buildings around them.
- And to be more precise, although it is right that increase density generates more Council tax, the main and immediate source of income that the Council is eager to grasp is the Community Infrastructure Levy, or former section 106, that is the money given by the developer following granted development permission. That’s what Ravi Govindia, Leader of Wandsworth Council, implied when he commented on the Ram Brewery site purchase by Chines developers: “It also delivers on the council’s top priority which is to redesign the Wandsworth Gyratory and remove through traffic from the high street”… thanks to the money given by the developers!
Overall, a good article… and probably more to come.
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At that Council meeting, which I attended, one of the Councillors simply stated smugly that there were so many people needing homes in Wandsworth that there was no way to go except up! The offensive implication being that there was nothing we (the opposition …and those in the gallery) could do about it.
It was pointed out by the opposition that much of the housing was not going to Wandsworth residents but being bought as investment, and that very little of it was designed for ordinary ‘hard working’ families…or anyone on an average income at all!
Given the Council’s attitude, the borough will end up looking like Croyden, and the Council doesn’t give a damn because it is raking in a percentage (section 106) of every skyscraper they allow and they will always stay having the upper hand because people will always vote for low taxes. It might as well be a dictatorship for all the good any opposition can do. One Councillor was casually reading a fully spread newspaper while all the argument went on.
Section 106, which gives Councils (all of them) effectively a juicy tax on all large developments, acts as an incentive to build high. It is like legalised bribery. The Council will say that they need the money to build/maintain our roads etc and without that our Council Tax would be very high …so you could say if we have low taxes then we have to have tall buildings. Could it be that there is something wrong with this system?