Wednesday, 17 December 2008

KA Planning Response to Vauxhall SPD


Response to The Vauxhall

Supplementary Planning Document

December 2008

Response To Lambeth Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) For The Vauxhall Opportunity Area. (See map)

The SPD is a guide to the future redevelopment of Vauxhall, acting as a framework within which the council will consider development proposals from landowners. It is a joint document with Wandsworth Council and they will soon be joined by the GLA. It has a 15 year time span. It should be read in conjunction with the London Plan (GLA) and the UDPS of the two councils.

A large number of sites are identified for redevelopment in an area stretching from Battersea Power Station to Lambeth Bridge. (See list)

The strategy allows for at least 8,000 new dwellings and 2 million plus sq/ft of retail and commercial.

It has as its core the concept of a significant proportion of this proposed development to be high-rise with the already established ceiling of 50 storeys (St Georges Tower).

It will be the largest urban project in inner London.

Significant transport infrastructure changes will be required as the existing Vauxhall Cross transport limits are already at capacity.

A new “heart” for Vauxhall will be built at Vauxhall Cross /Section 106 from these developments will be used to improve the public realm and local services / 50% of the housing will be affordable and the Council will not allow gated communities. There will be further public consultation.


The Councils proposals show no downsides to this strategy - only opportunities.


1. Although the council appears to want to keep high-rise in the 20/30-storey bracket, the St Georges development already sets the precedent. They also say that for “good” design even this ceiling could be broken. Whilst the Kennington Association recognises that high-rise can be of good and exciting design, the effect of high-rise along the riverside is to gradually exclude existing communities in Lambeth and Wandsworth from the open views of the river and access to the embankment. The railway line exacerbates this. Thus from Waterloo southwards the areas of leisure, culture and accessible amenities cease and a conurbation of buy to rent and commuter apartments interspaced with police and national intelligence centres begins, to the detriment of the existing residents

2. The strategy recommends the removal of all the low-density low-rise development in the area and its replacement by denser high-rise. At the moment most of the dense high-rise development has been bought by property speculators and let to single people and couples with significant income. This may no longer prove profitable to developers, as there is rapidly becoming a surfeit of such apartments in this part of London. The consequence of the Vauxhall SPD, unless it changes its vision may be planning blight for many years to come.

3. The 50% social housing target has been nowhere met and the mayor is minded to reduce it further. The current economic climate will put further pressure on this target. Furthermore the addition of social housing as an appendage to high-rise buildings is proving socially unacceptable, creating dingy ghettos of less desirable apartments with poorer amenities. There are some good examples in Kennington where developers have built houses with gardens as their contribution to the social housing target (Nightingale Mews being one). This should be the norm rather than the exception.

4. The current transport infrastructure is apparently at capacity (including the new bus station) and will need considerable work to upgrade. A new road layout for Vauxhall Cross is planned. We would urge that priority is given to the safety accessibility of pedestrians before traffic; Vauxhall Cross being possibly the most inaccessible and bewildering area to traverse in the whole of London.

5 There is no strategy for improvements to the social infrastructure except the statement that this will be funded by section 106 payments. The Kennington Association would wish to see 106 monies being used specifically to improve the social and economic life of existing residents as well as new ones and to this end we would like to encourage the formation of a Community Fund administered by the Capital Community Foundation to strengthen community cohesion in this area. This has proved successful in other areas of major development in London.

6 There does not, as yet, seem to be any input from Transport for London to indicate how it intends to contribute to the Strategy. Similarly there is no reassurance as to how, what is likely to be a major building site for over the next 15 years is to be staged to minimise the impact on the existing transport system and the health and safety of existing residents and businesses.

7. One of the consequences of the Strategy is the loss of jobs from the warehousing and low-skill employment along Nine Elms Lane. The Strategy does not seem to be linked to a robust economic development plan that sets out what new jobs are to be created, other than retail, and how the plan will benefit this area of Lambeth that suffers a particularly high level of unemployment

8. There is no impact assessment of the effect of a new ‘town centre’ retail development on that proposed for the Elephant and Castle or on Brixton Town Centre. Nor is it evidenced why such a development would be successful given the proximity of fashionable retail areas just across. the river, the increase in Internet food shopping.

9 Specifically we welcome and support MDO88 for Vauxhall Walk, particularly in respect to Vauxhall Gardens Community Centre and the commitment in the UDP. We would want nothing done in this development to weaken the commitment to replace the premises, ie. INSERT MDO 88. We also welcome proposals in the SPD to rebuild Coverley and Haymans Point in Vauxhall Walk. This is an opportunity to provide high quality social housing to better specifications. All existing tenants should be given the right to return to the new build in a way that least conveniences them and at the shortest possible amount of time.

10 We would want to ensure that Camelford House was protected as a charities hub and that proposals are drawn up that will open up this area to the river.

11 There has been no public debate on the incremental increase in security/police/intelligence buildings in the area. There is a danger that this makes Vauxhall a prime terrorist target (as it has been twice in the last thirty years). In this context the proposal that the American Embassy should relocate to the south west of the Flower Market is most unwelcome.

We call for greater openness and debate on this issue.

12 Lastly, we are disappointed that the SPD does not use this opportunity; perhaps the last there will be in this area, to present a more imaginative set of proposals:

We would like to see what the Coin Street Developers have to offer this process; we would expect to see some evidence that Lambeth and Wandsworth Primary Care Trusts and NHS providers have been encouraged into partnership; we would hope that the South Bank Employers and in particular the arts and amenities organisations from the South Bank consortium are involved; Kings College, the London School of Economics and the South Bank University could all contribute to this development and there is also a wonderful opportunity to encourage the talents and entrepreneurial skills of the very local Portuguese and Latin communities to give the retail development a particular focus.

In other words, we see no reason why this unique area of the riverside should be any less imaginatively developed than that to the north of Waterloo, nor the local residents less deserving Group.