Author: Cyril Richert
Toward the end of Summer, Asda submitted a planning application (2020/3073) labelled as “alterations”. The proposal consists mainly on:
- painting the existing white paint elements of the building with a dark grey colour, and refurbishing the clock tower (including fixing of the clocks),
- all vegetation to be removed and replaced by a smooth finished.
There is no surprise to see that this latest proposal has been highly controversial. In the picture below, it shows that all the areas in orange (actually all landscaping with vegetation and top soil) will be removed and replaced with porous resign finish such as picture beside.
The local website Lavender Hill For Me commented:
“It’s easy to see why they want to do this – looking after the greenery takes time and costs them money, it’d be much easier for them not to have to get someone out every few months to prune the bushes.”
Many reasons for a strong refusal
The vegetation surrounding Asda is important and this move is at odd with the trend toward sustainable and environmentally friendly planning. We can see several very strong areas for objection:
1- First of all, it is contrary to Wandsworth Council’s declared ambition of becoming the greenest borough in inner London. In a press release (that Asda might not be aware of!), the leader of the Council, Ravi Govindia, said:
“We need to do our bit to stop the huge impacts on our environment and begin the process of reversing the damage. This is something I feel passionate about. I will be personally driving this work and I know Wandsworth residents will want to help and play their part in achieving that goal. Together I am confident we can reach our target of being the cleanest and greenest inner London borough.”
2- It is in clear contradiction of Wandsworth Environment and Sustainability Strategy 2019 –2030 stating (vision, page 4):
“• We will make Wandsworth the greenest Inner London borough by committing ourselves to urban greening, planting trees, encouraging biodiversity, protecting and enhancing our existing parks and open and green spaces
• We will ensure that our planning and development approach is robust on our requirements around climate change and environmental issues so that development in the borough is low carbon, sustainable and does not negatively impact on the environment “
The paper list a series of actions and targets for the period, which includes:
- Continue to ensure that the urban greening factor is considered in all developments in the borough […]
- Continue to safeguard green infrastructure functions that support health and wellbeing.
3- It is in clear contradiction with statements from the Wandsworth Environmental and Sustainability Strategy WESS Action Plan Paper No. 20-27 (15th July 2019), especially p11 where it says:
“Examining approaches to discourage the destruction of biodiversity in gardens, such as the paving of front gardens and launching a garden competition and celebrating the borough’s gardens.”
4- It is in contradiction with the planning permission that was granted in 2009, subject to conditions including a contribution toward highways improvements to the Lavender Hill frontage. It is obvious here that total removal of the vegetation cannot be considered as an “improvement”.
5- The plan will have a direct detrimental impact on the views from Lavender Hill (and especially from the Battersea library, which is a Grade II listed building). The large car park (one of the largest in the borough, especially since the removal of Homebase and B&Q recently) is currently partly disguised by the vegetation which contributes to minimise the harm.
6- Greenery is in demand in the town centre and we have been pleased to see the recently-redeveloped and opened Hannah restaurant opposite the premises to make use of the outside area, decorated with plants. The Council has also been trying to accommodate the strip of grass on Falcon Lane opposite Asda with some flowers over the Summer (less successful with trees as a dead one has been waiting for its removal for already 2 years).
7- This area is also amongst the most polluted of the borough and if something is needed, it’s actually more greenery and trees to absorb the carbon generated by cars. There is a consensus to show that green open space can increase people’s overall health and well-being.
Excellent refurbishment of the small park near Asda
Has Asda thought that they could actually get rid of their vegetation and delegate that role to the Council?
This is indeed only last year that Wandsworth Council’s decided to dedicate some money to a major refurbishment of the small pocket park beside the premises. Lavender Garden went under an excellent revamp with:
- Steep steps from Asda car-park replaced with a smooth ramp which runs all the way from the entrance in Dorothy Gardens through to the nearby Asda store, and therefore makes this access disable friendly.
- Upgraded child-friendly safety surface installed underneath its play equipment, along new litter bins, benches plus new landscaping and planting.
- Additional planting to be carried out ahead of the winter to ensure this small neighbourhood green space stays green and leafy all year round.
This £120,000 project was founded by… the money raised from other controversial constructions in the area such as towers built along York Road. The Wandsworth Local Fund (WLF) is the neighbourhood portion of the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL), which represents the millions raised each year from developments approved in Wandsworth (if you want to know more how Wandsworth is getting more money than all the neighbouring borough altogether, read HERE) .
A lot of recent objection, showing people were unaware of the plan
Although the initial application was dated August 17th, we received a letter from the Council by post on August 28th (and must confess that we have been too busy to react immediately!) and this is only mid september that people started to submit objections.
As of today, we count 53 objections (plus two comments which look like objections) and there is no doubt that many more will come. Beside the local residents it includes the Green Party, the Battersea Society and Lavender Hill for Me. We quote some of their excellent arguments:
- The removal of shrubbery and green space no matter how small is in direct conflict with the Councils ambitions to be the Greenest Borough.
- Asda cannot be allowed to renege on what I believe was part of the original development plan.
- It will have a detrimental impact on the surrounding, including the listed library.
- The trees, other plants (and soil) improve air quality, reduce noise pollution, are aesthetically pleasing and reduce water run off .
- For the community there are no advantages to removing them, only disadvantages.
- If anything they should instead be expanding it onto part of the car park, and maybe also a roof garden extension to the first floor cafe.
- Asda should provide more plants and perhaps some trees. The idea of getting rid of what’s already there is outrageous, and an insult to the local community.
- They should therefore give something back by having a duty to maintain green areas on their property.
As you might notice from those extracts, a lot of comments suggest actually an increase of the greenery, instead of its reduction. That is something that Lidl, just down the road, understood well when they submitted their proposal in 2017 (which was unfortunately later put on stand).
In the past, Wandsworth Council claimed to have a “strong track record in both protecting the local environment and speaking up for its communities“. It is now time to prove it and refuse unanimously this application (to be honest we fail to see who would be cynical enough to improve such application within the Planning Application Committee!)
In the meantime, we recommend that you submit you opinion on Asda’s proposal using the comment form within the application on Wandsworth’s portal. Although the original date is 18/09/2020, the application is still in progress and comments can still be submitted until the application goes to the Committee for a decision.
Walmart to sell Asda
Not related to the proposal for Asda Clapham Junction, we’ve heard yesterday from Retail Gazette that Asda owner Walmart was selling the stores and is due to choose between private equity firms Apollo and TDR Capital, which have both submitted bids to take a majority stake in the Big 4 grocer, The Sunday Times reported. Any deal is expected to value Asda at about £6.5bn.
Following a failed merger with fellow grocer Sainsbury’s, Walmart was forced to put Asda back on the market. Walmart is expected to maintain a minority stake in Asda after the sale is completed.
NB: The store manager was contacted on Asda’s proposal but declined any comment and directed us to central office in Leeds. We also contacted Media Relations, which has not commented either but asked us to send the article prior publication for review or questions by email only and therefore couldn’t be included in this article.