Tower refused by Council despite recommendation for approval by officers

4 mins read

Author: Cyril Richert

98 York Road - 17 storeys proposal
98 York Road – 17 storeys proposal

Sometime it looks like the Council is coming back to reason. A tower has been refused in front of York Gardens last week.

Application 2014/7103 was proposing:

Erection of a mixed-use development up to 17-storeys to provide car showroom and workshop on ground, first and second floors and 192 residential units (basement car park would provide residents with 87 vehicle and 200 cycle parking spaces + parking spaces for customers on ground floor).

computer model existing-proposed

There are 6 supports (most working for the businesses and dealership in the area)  and 70 objections including the Candlemakers Management Company Ltd, the local Conservatives Councillors, the Battersea Society and even the Design Panel.

Objections of the Battersea Society are (download HERE):

  1. Height and Design: pages 30-33 which show the impact on York Road and the overbearing nature of the design.
  2. Contrary to planning policy: The policy documentation (SSAD) approved in March 2014 and put forward for Examination in Public indicated that this would not be a suitable site for tall buildings (above 9 storeys).
  3. Negative Impact on the area: The outline masterplan included in the documentation is sketchy and does not appear to be endorsed by other developers or by councillors or to have had input from WBC officers.   The TVI shows how the new buildings would block off views through existing blocks, tower over neighbouring buildings and mitigate against a more sensitive approach being taken by other landowners in the area. This would be contrary to aspects of DMS4.
  4. Links across York Road: consider that the layout and proposals as presented fail to indicate where and what form such links [to Clapham Junction Station and York Gardens] might take.
  5. Transport and Traffic: York Road is heavily trafficked throughout much of the day and evening.  This will only increase as the impact of developments in Nine Elms and in Wandsworth Town is felt. The same is true of public transport capacity – already inadequate at peak periods and increasingly at other times.
  6. Affordable Housing: The development fails to provide anything like an acceptable level of affordable housing – just 16% of units to be offered as intermediate dwellings.

Candlemakers Management Company Ltd, which represents local residents from the Candlemakers apartments also found that the proposal is contrary to key policies in the National Planning Policy Framework; the London Plan; the Borough’s Local Plan including Core Strategy, Site Specific
Allocations Document (SSAD) and the Development Management Policies document (DMPD). They found that the scheme is unduly dense, the buildings are too high and dominant, they would be out of character fronting York Road and the development would be detrimental to residential

view York Park
View of the proposal from York Gardens

The local Conservatives councillors expressed also objections to the proposal, saying:

“The height will trigger assessment under policy DMS4b, and we believe the parameters of this application run contrary to many of the criteria set out therein, including the following (without limitation):-
– an unacceptable visual impact on surrounding areas (iv);
– land use which does not support or complement the surrounding land use pattern or the local community (vi);
– a form which is not well integrated into surrounding developments (vii);
– lack of high quality public space (xi); and
– fails to encourage public access [to the riverfront and surrounding properties] (xii).”

Even Wandsworth Design Review Panel expressed some concerns saying:

“we strongly feel that the architects be given more time to work up their proposals prior to making a planning submission […]  we were not convinced by the application of your scheme elsewhere across the area. […] The Panel feel that more attention could be given to the massing [and] suggest significantly reducing the height of or omitting the
tower to the north east.”

The applicants responded that “the content of the TVI was fully scoped with the Council prior to submission of the application“. Isn’t it what we say when we write that the Council is hand-in-glove with the developers? In fact, they actually explain very clearly why developers feel free to ignore Wandsworth Council policy documents, as they write:

“The site specific allocation for the site confirms that “tall buildings in this location are likely to be inappropriate” and that “the height at which a development in this location will be considered to be tall is 9 storeys.” It does not go as far as advising that the site would not be suitable for tall buildings, as the society suggest. Furthermore, as there is a number of emerging tall buildings proposed within the York Road/Lombard Road area, the Council through emerging policy in the Core Strategy acknowledges the possibility of this area becoming a ‘focal point’, where tall buildings would not be out of place.

For clarity, we do not consider that Policy DMS4 only requires justification of a technical nature. This is demonstrated in the detailed assessment of the proposal against the policy, set out within the Design and Access Statement. The applicant considers that the proposal complies with this policy.”

The planning officer recommended approval (as usual) and used (as usual) the following arguments:

“At up to 17-storeys the height poses a challenge to the tall buildings policy, however, there are considered to be material considerations that justify the proposed heights […] contribution to townscape improvements; the townscape context with the close proximity of substantial buildings of similar scale […]

It is clear that there would be a notable impact on neighbouring properties as a result of the development. This would relate to loss of privacy, outlook and overbearance and daylight and sunlight. Whilst borderline, in each of the assessments, it was considered that on balance acceptable.”

The planning committee decided to go against the recommendation from the planning officers. The decision was unanimous (following a successful motion to refuse planning permission):

“Planning permission refused on the ground that the proposed massing and design by reason of the density of the development would constitute an unneighbourly form of development that would result in an unacceptable level of harm to the amenities of the occupants of neighbouring properties through overlooking and loss of privacy.

As such, the proposal is contrary to Policy DMS1 of the Development Management Policies Document 2012 and the Second Proposed Submission Version 2014.”

Was it because they eventually decided that they couldn’t carry on ignoring their own planning documents (hmm the officers thought they could…)?

Was it because the opposition of the local Conservatives Councillors?

Was it because the developers were arrogant enough to pin-point the un-effectiveness of the current planning policies and to say that by approving so many developments in breach of their planning rules, the Council was actually changing the current guidelines?

We are looking forward to the future schemes in the area to see if any thing as actually changed!

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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.