First co-living application for York Road refused

3 mins read
Architect's view of proposed scheme for Access Self Storage 248-250 York Road

Planning Application 2020/4285 (Access Self Storage 248-250 York Road SW11) for blocks ranging from 8 to 13 storeys comprising 193 shared-living rooms and 131 residential units went to committee on 22 February 2022. It was refused by the Councillors, against the recommendation to approve from the officer.

In an unusual way, a lot of concerns were raised:

  • Conservatives Councillor Rhodri Morgan addressed the Committee as Ward Councillor on behalf of local residents ( 520 objections had been submitted).
  • Conservatives Councillor George Crivelli asked about the harm to amenity of neighbouring residences regarding the loss of light, which the officer said that it was “not at odds with this locale” (on balance blab bla bla…).
  • Labour Councillor Peter Carpenter spoke about the loss of employment space and the inclusion of co-living units with a high number of smaller flats.
  • This concern was also shared by Conservatives Councillor Sarah McDermott and she also asked about the possible crime implications of the proposal (on which apparently the police had no opinion).
  • Conservatives Councillor Piers McCausland followed the same concerns about the inclusion of co-living units and the experimental nature of the application.
  • Conservatives Councillor Guy Humphries, Chair, commented on the quantum of one bed units across the totality of the site and raised concerns that these were too high (Er, only 13 storeys, while next door they suggest 25 storeys and beside 24!?) and about the loss of employment space.
  • Conservatives Councillor Lucy Mowatt commented that the application lacked evidence to support the need for co-living accommodation.
  • Labour Councillor Graham Loveland raised similar concerns on the lack of light, the loss of employment floorspace and the disappointing level of affordable housing. More importantly, he also noted that the proposal went against emerging policy on co-living units.
  • Conservatives Councillor Hugh Byrne commented on the prevalence of tall buildings in the area, and the need for a mix of accommodation in the borough. However, while he strangely said they have let “the genie out of the bottle” (which seems to regret that they have allowed so many massive schemes in the area), he also prognosticated that if the proposal was being refused, it would come back and the Council would loose in appeal. He also added that there is a need for more buy to rent in Wandsworth.

Of course, there was not much of affordable (don’t even talk about social units) in the scheme: only 11% (actually 7% per habitable room). Alas, the developers could not afford more, it was apparently already in £21m deficit! We wonder when those ludicrous points are going to cease, it becomes all completely preposterous. Of course we are not talking about a loss of £21m, but a reduction in the big profit that they intended to make!

Access Self Storage view of proposed building

In total, 2 Labour Councillors (Peter Carpenter and Graham Loveland) and 4 out of 6 Conservatives Councillors  (Sarah McDermott, Piers McCausland, Guy Humphries,  Lucy Mowatt) raised concerns on the need of co-living units in the scheme.

The application was refused (motion proposed by Conservatives Sarah McDermott seconded by Labour Graham Loveland) on the reasons:

  1. Net loss of protected employment
  2. The proposed mix of self-contained residential units and non-self contained ‘shared living’ residential accommodation would result in the excessive provision of single occupancy and one bedroom residential units thus failing to achieve a mixed and balanced community.
  3. Absence of a completed S.106 planning obligation, to cover but not limited to affordable housing (note that we can be surprised to see this reason, as it was suggested by Jenifer Jackson, Assistant Director for Planning & Transport Strategy in Wandsworth, but rebuffed by another officer as based on the fact that because it was refused, they cannot be a section 106).

You can read the full report on the decision HERE.

Nick Calder, Head of Development Management, made an interesting comment:

“If developers are objecting against new policies, the Council will consider [those new policies] as little weight if no weight until ratified by a government inspector”.

In other words the Council considers that if developers disagree with emerging policies, those policies should (must?) be ignored. But it implies also that if residents disagree with some emerging policies, this time residents can (must?) be ignored.

What will happen for the 24-storey tower co-living proposal next door?

The reason -2 is interesting as in theory it should be applied similarly to the proposed scheme (p.a. 2021/4936) proposed in Lombard Road, just a few yards from the Access Self Storage site. It consists of a tower of up to 24-storeys [1] all dedicated to co-living and associated amenity space, co-working, cycle hub, café and retail floor-space (approximately 2,023 sqm Class E), landscaping and all associated works.

Proposal view from York Road

In theory all the arguments from Conservatives Councillor Hugh Byrne on the prevalence of tall buildings in the area and especially from the Labour and Conservatives Councillors concerned about the prevalence of co-living units should prevail for the 24-storey tower application.

There is no date of Committee to decide for this proposal. Time will tell if it was only a simple electoral move to get voters sympathy before the elections in May, or a genuine interest.

[1] For those we think that 24 is too much, you will be pleased to hear that pre-application meetings suggested 31-storeys, but officers seemed concern that it was too close to the 32-storeys they promote for Winstanley Estates, however leaving the door open for a taller than already approved tower.

UPDATE 09/04/2022: Comments added on Cllr Byrne position, and Nick Calder explanation on emerging policies.

You can watch the full stream of this decision on our YouTube channel.

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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.