Property developers are progressing with their planning application and have recently distributed a new leaflet with their vision for Glassmill, One Battersea Bridge.
This development will replace the current glass-clad building situated on the southern bank of the river, at the base of Battersea Bridge, situated at the junction of Battersea Bridge Road and the River Thames. Presently, the Glassmill building stands at approximately 10 storeys.
The proposed plan includes a tall building element, likely spanning between 25 to 35 storeys. However, the developers have chosen to keep the full size of the building concealed, revealing only the design for the initial 15 storeys (nevertheless we decided to imagine the possible size above!).
As announced last month, they aim to engage a renowned architect, Farrells, whom they revealed will be involved in gaining approval for the scheme. They state:
“With designs from award winning architects Farrells, One Battersea Bridge will aim to create a landmark building, deliver significant improvements to the public realm that will reflect local priorities, including along the Thames Path, and create community and commercial spaces to create a vibrant neighbourhood bringing together the Royal College of Art and Foster + Partners campuses.”
The website of this “starchitect” should give you an idea of what could be expected.
They are currently planning to construct between 140-160 new homes (which determines the size of the building). The leaflet indicates an inclusion of between 50-60 affordable homes.
Considering average numbers of units and affordable homes, this equates to 37%. This is lower than the expected 50% requirement in Wandsworth Council’s emerging policy and close to the minimum 35% required in the current local plan. While the split between intermediate and social housing remains undisclosed, Wandsworth’s emerging policy indicates a 70% preference for social housing.
A tower at Battersea Bridge represents a significant breach of planning regulations and sets a precarious precedent
The new Wandsworth Local Plan, adopted in July 2023, insists on tall buildings blending in with the local environment. It permits tall or mid-rise buildings only in specified zones along the riverside, with the site in question falling outside these zones.
Despite slight adjustments in policy wording offering flexibility, the fundamental rule remains: tall buildings are only appropriate within designated zones, with the height limit for the Glassmill site set at a maximum of 6 storeys or 18m, whichever is lower.
Foster’s development, standing at 8 storeys, currently holds the record as the tallest existing building near Battersea Bridge. Other buildings in the vicinity are of equal or lesser height on the east side, descending to just 3 storeys on the west side.
This poses a significant challenge for the developers since their proposed structure not only surpasses the height restrictions outlined in the revised local plan by several storeys but also blatantly disregards it by proposing a structure exceeding it by over 20 storeys!
- Read our article: A new gigantic tower could be proposed for Battersea Bridge
A long term vision must be considered, including what happens if it creates a precedent
One can easily anticipate the potential justification a planning officer might utilise. You can experiment with our automatic planning report generator, but the essence would likely involve a statement asserting that the “benefits outweigh harm” before recommending approval.
Some councillors in Wandsworth are dedicated to providing more social and genuinely affordable housing and might perceive this scheme as a means to support their initiative. However, presently, it does not significantly differ from any other private scheme, even disregarding the emerging policy requiring a 50% quota of affordable housing in all new developments.
Additionally, some councillors have voiced serious concerns that even with the maximum allocation of affordable housing, this proposal could set a drastic precedent. This could prove detrimental if other councillors or a future Conservatives council have to approve further schemes in the surrounding area.
A pertinent example is York Road, where Jenny Jackson, the assistant director for Planning Policy, reminded councillors in August 2022 of their approval of a 31-storey tower in Winstanley York Road, stating:
“I think we would find it very difficult to substantiate any harm that arises from the increase in the scale of [a] tower on the site” within the local context.
In any case, it’s difficult to envision how Councillors could approve it, considering it would undermine their commitment to honouring the local plan and their efforts to enforce developers’ compliance with Wandsworth planning regulations. Let’s hope that we won’t have to stretch our imagination too much.
Learn more about the developer’s vision for the Glassmill regeneration during their public exhibitions and online webinar:
- Wednesday 22nd November 3pm-7pm
Glassmill, 1 Battersea Bridge Road, London, SW11 3BZ
- Saturday 25th November 10am-1pm
Glassmill, 1 Battersea Bridge Road, London, SW11 3BZ
- Webinar: Monday 27th November 6pm-7pm
Online – Register to join at www.glassmill.co.uk