Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Bondway Inquiry - Tall Building Reports

Dear Neighbours

Two tall building reports were winkled out of Lambeth by FoI requests, and it is surprising they have not been published. We have now put both studies into evidence at the Inquiry. 

Copies can be found on our website under 'Attachments':


On behalf of

It is a commonplace of the planning system that applications are to be determined in accordance with the development plan, unless material considerations indicate otherwise. Community institutions such as ours tend to place great emphasis on the plan, as in many cases they have helped shape it – developers such as the applicant often seem to emphasise the material considerations warranting departure, or with well funded eloquence subtly argue that the plan always meant something other than previously thought.

The Vauxhall community has not been well served by the planning system. The Vauxhall gyratory traffic system is universally detested by residents, and the competent authority, Transport for London, fails repeatedly to engage with the community about what if anything can be done about it. This creates what the applicants are pleased to call a “traffic dominated backwater”, which they seek to “repopulate” with their proposed residential tower, to transform the area into a vibrant Central London destination. As it happens the existing community feels itself to be quite vibrant at present, thank you very much, nor do they regard themselves as a backwater, in need of “repopulation” like some failed colony. But there is plenty of aspiration for regeneration, and a recognition that, lying as Vauxhall does so close to central London, in an Opportunity Area, that regeneration will inevitably involve more intensive development.

It now seems clear, following the Secretary of State’s decision to allow the 180m St George’s Tower back in 2005, that some form of cluster of tall buildings would emerge at Vauxhall. It is sobering to think, five years on, as the foundation works for that Tower are just beginning, that at the time, the Minister was prepared to trade some damage to heritage assets for more affordable housing and the hope of boosting regeneration. The crucial issue for the people of Vauxhall is “what sort of cluster?”, and here again the planning system has been lacking in providing useful guidance. Draft documents abound, including a draft Vauxhall Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) from Lambeth Council, and the draft Vauxhall Nine Elms Battersea (VNEB) Opportunity Area Planning Framework, but as Council witnesses have asserted in their proofs, little weight can be ascribed to them until formal examination or adoption. In other parts of the VNEB area, a limited number of developers have substantial parcels of land at their disposal, often of tens of hectares, and are coming forward with considered schemes for mixed development and a substantial public realm component. But land holdings in Vauxhall are fragmented, and individual developers may only have sites a fraction of a hectare in size. In those circumstances, it is all the more important that there are urban design studies to inform the shape and scale of any emerging cluster, as the CABE/EH guidance on Tall Buildings enjoins, to prevent a piecemeal free for all.

In our original proof, we lamented the lack of such a design study, and the applicant, in rebuttal, comforted us with the observation that the findings of an unpublished design study had informed the formulation of the draft Vauxhall SPD. Now we find we can in our turn comfort the applicant, through the miracle of the Freedom of Information Act, by placing before the Inquiry extracts from the actual Vauxhall Urban Design Study, rescued from Lambeth Council’s archive. And that study argues for a different cluster than the one sketched in the draft VNEB Framework, generally rather lower to prevent interference with heritage assets, centred on a tower on the Vauxhall Triangle (Vauxhall Cross) site, with any Bondway Tower subordinated to it. This would reduce the scale and massing of any Bondway Tower considerably, as advised by English Heritage in their evidence, and we shall be urging the merits of this approach in our evidence.
Other aspects of this application are equally problematic. On what is intended by the adopted Lambeth UDP to be a site with at least 30% of employment floor space, the applicant manages only 10%. On what is a Key Industrial and Business Area (KIBA), the supposed regeneration actually manages to reduce employment floor space by 40%. In an area the draft VNEB Framework designates for employment driven regeneration, the applicant offers 90% residential floor space. With a density of 1297 units per hectare, the application not only exceeds the upper limit of 405 units per hectare of the Mayor’s Plan Density Matrix, but even exceeds the 500 units per hectare upper limits of Design for London Report “Living at Superdensity”. It will be interesting to hear the applicant’s subtle arguments for such material departures.

As regards the design of the Tower itself, it is plain that for once, CABE and EH find themselves on opposite sides of the argument. As noted, EH is exercised by the impact on heritage assets, including the long distance views of the Westminster Heritage Site, and prefers a reduction in scale, height and massing. CABE, on the other hand, broadly favours the building design, while expressing reservations, where it comes down to earth, that the building and the public realm were imperfectly engaged. Furthermore, the applicant has missed the plan target of amenity space of 10 sqm per flat by 1 sqm, which he then seeks to make up by providing an amenity floor which residents have to pay to use, in a manner discriminatory between residents of market and affordable flats. For these and other reasons set out in our proofs, we do not think the design of the Tower passes muster.

On the issue of affordable housing, the Rule 6 parties have not had full disclosure of the original justification for departing from the 50/40% targets of plan policy, and we consider that the interests of justice require that such material is disclosed to this Inquiry and all the parties. We remain sceptical as to the accuracy of the estimates of market sale proceeds, and doubt that even the proposed review will cure matters, as it appears it will itself take place well before sales actually take place. We therefore favour a second review, to take place when say 90% of the market flats have been sold, to audit the assumptions made, and provide an additional commuted sum to the Council, if that proves warranted.

We share the concerns of EH and Westminster Council as to the impact of this massive tower on its heritage surroundings, and in particular Vauxhall Park. We doubt if Mr Coleman’s lush descriptions of its impact will find any resonance with residents, and towards the end of these proceedings, we will find out, when we ask them.

As we note in our proof, despite the excellent transport accessibility at Vauxhall, judged by PTAL rating, there is a significant problem in actually getting to and from the Underground because of gate line and escalator capacity. The applicant’s transport study was unable to include Vauxhall Sky Gardens in his cumulative traffic impact study, which concentrated on train capacity, which is not in issue, as opposed to gate line and escalator capacity, which is. Already, the congestion at Vauxhall Underground is giving rise to sporadic gate closures, and this will get worse, as development continues. This and subsequent developments should address these issues, else, as we note, at some stage, congestion will trump accessibility.

Finally, the issue of open space. You will know, Sir, that Lambeth as a whole is deficient in open space, and this proposed development lies in an Open Space Deficiency Area under the adopted UDP. A development of 376 flats exacerbates that deficiency by 1.4 hectares, a sizeable fraction of the area of Vauxhall Park itself. CABE thinks that the success of any cluster at Vauxhall is dependent on the implementation of a 40m by 100m public space immediately to the west of the application site. Such a space was to be found in the draft Vauxhall SPD, but significantly, no longer features in the draft VNEB Framework. The applicant favours such a space, cheerfully suggesting that the Council should designate his neighbours frontage to achieve it. We think the applicant should put his money where his mouth is, and offer an appropriate sum to the Council under S106 to help acquire such a site. This would also accord with the Lambeth adopted SPD for S106 payments, which expressly contemplates “additional higher financial contributions will be sought on a park or open space project basis from commercial and residential developments in [the Vauxhall and Waterloo opportunity areas”. Were this application otherwise to proceed, we consider that a much enhanced S106 payment would be warranted, to mitigate the open space deficiency it exacerbates, and help provide the new open space necessary to make the development succeed. A symbolic payment of £10m would be a good start!

We look forward to exploring these issues in the course of the Inquiry.

David Boardman
Kennington Association Planning Forum
20 July 2010

KA Rebuttal Proof of Evidence_Bondway 9 July10.










In connection with an application by

Vauxhall Bondway Ltd
(a company registered in Jersey)

for planning permission for the development of site at


Planning Application No & Planning Inspectorate Reference


1.          A2.2 – MR FILSKOW
1.1   Mr Filskow notes, at para 2.1.4 of his proof, (A2.2) that as regards Vauxhall, “the masterplan design is not sufficiently progressed at this time to precisely prescribe the future context”. This chimes with our concern (KAPF Proof, K1, para 5.2 to 5.3) that there were no urban design studies, of the sort enjoined by the CABE/EH guidance (CD6/1), to help inform the location, density and built form of any developing cluster. None the less, Mr Filskow considers that the design is “compatible with the draft masterplan” (para 2.1.7), that the site provides “a unique opportunity to kick start the regeneration of the area” (para 2.8.1) and urges the Council on to “kick-start the delivery of its masterplan intent” (para 5.5.1, 4) by in effect designating the site of its neighbour’s frontage as public open space.
1.2   Given our concern at the lack of such an urban design study, we made a Freedom of Information request to the GLA for any such unpublished study, with negative result. At GLA suggestion, however, we made a similar request of Lambeth Council, and on 5 July they identified to us their holding of a single colour A3 hard copy of such a study, prepared for them in December 2006 by Building Design Partnership. We have inspected the copy, which Lambeth have been unable to copy for us in full by today’s deadline. Accordingly, we have had black and white extracts made of the key elements, and we exhibit them to this proof as K2.1.
1.3   This 2006 study, which should be given due weight as the only urban design study available to the Inquiry, notes (p3) that
“[The St George’s Tower Appeal] highlighted the importance of providing a development framework for Vauxhall as the approval of the St Georges Tower has already resulted in pressure for further tall buildings in the area. It is vital that tall buildings do not develop in an ad hoc manner in Vauxhall.
1.4   Given the current press of unco-ordinated applications for tall towers, the words are prophetic.
1.5   This extended study of possible configurations of a cluster of tall towers concludes with a preferred option (p41) of a cluster centred on Vauxhall Cross, with a tower of 140m, with other towers, such as one at the Bondway site, subordinate and shorter than it, (heights of the subordinate elements varying between 65 and 110m). It recognises, rightly in our view, that the St Georges Tower, if built, cannot sensibly be the focal point of the cluster, but is rather, in our terms, an outlier, bookmarking the edge of the urban area.
1.6   This considered study reinforces the arguments of English Heritage, (CD2/19) that the scale and massing of the proposed tower are too large (contrary to the views of Mr Filskow and the applicant’s other witnesses).
1.7   Mr Filskow says repeatedly (para 2.8.6, 6.4.7, 7.3.1) that the amenity floor on the 36th floor of the building (in practice only a fraction of the normal floor plate, given the tapering of the building) will be accessible or available to all residents. Such a designation allows the applicant to add this floor space (671 sqm) to the tally of private amenity space (3271 sqm), bringing the apparent total to 3,942 sqm, above the target of 3,760sqm (10sqm per dwelling) (see para 7.1.1, 7.1.2 and 7.4.6). But none of the proofs appear to repeat the revealing statement of the Supporting Planning Statement (CD2/2 para 10.13)
Communal facilities within the block
10.13 Communal facilities will be provided on the 36th floor of the building (671m2). These uses will include a reading room, nursery/playroom, room for booking for community use and a gym. There will also be access to one of the terraces/winter gardens for the community. All of the residents of the tower will have access to these facilities and therefore these will also be tenure blind. As it is anticipated that an affordable housing provider will not be prepared to entertain a high service charge for the  residents of the affordable element, it is expect that these residents will subscribe to use the shared amenity floor.”
1.8   So all residents will be expected to pay extra for the private amenity space the policy says should be part of their ordinary entitlement, and to get it, tenants of affordable housing will need to exit their part of the building (because their lift does not go to the 36th floor), re-enter via the market flats entrance, and in effect subscribe to a private health club. As the law once noted of the doors of the Ritz Hotel, open to rich and poor alike. We do not regard this as first class design.
2    A5.2 - MR ABSOLON
2.1   Other colleagues may comment in detail on Mr Absolon’s evidence, but in relation to the Local Policy section of his proof (paras 5.6 to 5.12), I would note in particular that Policy 47(g) of the adopted UDP (CD5/1, Conservation Areas), states explicitly that

(g) Setting and Views - Development outside conservation areas should not
harm the setting of the area or harm views into or from the area.”

And I note that this is expressly supported by para 8 of  the Secretary of State’s letter of 31 March 2005 in relation to the St Georges Tower Appeal. (CD7/12/B)
2.2   Our position, and that of other objectors, is that the scale and massing of the proposed tower do harm both views and setting.
3      A6.2 – MR BILLINGTON
3.1   As Mr Billington notes at para 5.5 of his proof, the GLA Guidance for using the Toolkit says
 “the actual amount paid for the site should be considered contextual/comparative only, when negotiating schemes” [our punctuation]
but is otherwise silent on the issue.
3.2   However, the applicant paid £36m +VAT for the site, while willing to proceed with a development that generates a residual value, according to the assumptions fed into the Toolkit of  little more than the existing use value of £8m. This makes us think that the assumptions about the proceeds of market sales are highly conservative – and we note that the Council’s assessors raised just this issue. No satisfactory explanation has been tendered to bolster these estimates. A review mechanism is a helpful mitigation – but if it is instituted when any permission is “implemented” – which, by comparison with the St Georges Tower, could even be when groundwork commences in 5 years time, and in any event probably 1 or 2 years before actual sales of flats, the Council will be little wiser as to the actual prices likely to be realised.
3.3   So we think this concern can only be assuaged by the addition of a second review stage, triggered say when 90% of the market flats have been sold/marketed, when the assumptions proferred can be audited effectively, and a further sum made available to the Council, for off site provision, if it turns out that additional affordable housing would have been viable. We therefore propose that the S106 agreement as to affordable housing be amended accordingly
4      A7.2 – MR TAYLOR
4.1   The issues of urban design of the cluster, an alternative configuration of the application design with less scale and massing and design of amenity space arise on Mr Taylor’s proof as they do on Mr Filskow’s, and have been dealt with there.
4.2   As regards conformity to the development plan (section 6 of his proof), Mr Taylor’s best argument seems to be that other developers have got away with departing from the plan as regards employment floor space, so why not this application too. This is undermined by the fact that the development provides less employment floor space than it destroys (5,852 sqm proposed versus 6,317 initially declared). And it now appears that the existing floor space is more like 9,000 sqm (WCDG proof W1 para 5.12).
4.3   In para 7.16 the identified land use for Vauxhall under the draft VNEB OAPF (CD4/3) is said to be “high density mixed use development providing a focal point for offices, retail and housing”, putting these three uses on all fours. In the event, this is a truncation of the true definition, which (VNEB OAPF p26 ) is “High density mixed use centre focal point for office and retail including housing” [my emphasis], a designation covering about 50 hectares of the Opportunity Area, and which is contrasted with “High density mixed use housing-led intensification” . Housing led intensification on sites intended for employment led intensification prejudice the whole balance of the Framework.
4.4   Mr Taylor’s section 9 on Support for a Tall Building in Vauxhall can now be illuminated by a proper urban design study, which essentially concludes, as regards this site, yes, but not with this excessive scale and massing.
4.5   At Section 12 of his proof, Mr Taylor asserts that the S106 agreement offered is satisfactory. We disagree, first as regards Employment (Item G2 in the Lambeth SPD Annex, CD5/7) and secondly as regards Open Space (Item D1 in the SPD Annex)).
4.6   As regards employment, on the footing that the existing employment floor space is about 9,000 sqm, the loss of employment floorspace now exceeds 500 sqm (on a KIBA redevelopment no less!) and the applicant qualifies to make a “wooden spoon” payment under G2 to mitigate this.
4.7  As regards Open Space, I note that the applicant’s witnesses continue to avoid the issue that the site lies in an Open Space Deficiency Area. And the SPD provides for a two part tariff in Vauxhall, not merely the formula calculation based on past investment in existing parks, but a project based supplement designed to create new open space. We note that extra open space near its site appeals to the applicant (eg A2.2 para 5.5.1 and 4), as it does to CABE (CD2/17), and 0.3 or 0.4 hectares is contemplated. Given the open space deficiency the applicant’s development would exacerbate, we think more is called for, but 0.4 hectares would be a good start, and we think he should up his S106 offer by at least £10m (calculated at the existing use value of his site of about £27m per hectare), to help acquire it.

Kennington Association Planning Forum
9 July 2010

Monday, 5 July 2010

Northern Line Extension (NLE) Consultation

Subject: NLE Consultation
Date: Tuesday, 29 June, 2010, 16:25

You invited comments on these repeated proposals for the NLE.
This Association commented in some detail on this issue, as part of the consultation on the Draft Vauxhall Nine Elms Battersea Opportunity Area Planning Framework. One never knows whether such comments are passed on, or considered at all, so for the record, we make them again here.
  • It is not at all clear whether these proposals do anything for the residents of Vauxhall, with their increasing congestion problems in accessing the Vauxhall stations, and TfLs apparent unwillingness to engage with the actual community about what if anything can be done about the Gyratory.
  • They lack the costing information which was set out in the VNEB Transport Study, which may or may not still be valid. Now is not the time to invest in public works where benefits barely exceed costs - and if the developer builds it for free, he will want equivalent value in extra development over and above the dense development already planned.
  • They do not address the likely congestion problems that will set in at Kennington Underground station, (particularly for Kennington residents trying to access the Northern line there via the restricted lift and gate arrangements), both from separation of the Northern line services and the extra movement between platforms arising from the proposed NLE traffic.
  • In these more stringent times, there are smaller ticket items, such as gateline relief at Vauxhall (£50m) or escalator expansion at Vauxhall (£100m) or upgrade of Kennington access (£?m) which should be a first call on transport funds
David Boardman
Kennington Association Planning Forum
28 June 2010
Appendix KAPF Comments on Chapter 8 Draft VNEB OAPF
"Chapter 8 – Transport
We think the transport study underlying this Framework, although elaborate and complicated, is not fit for purpose, because based on flawed assumptions
·         The PTAL output measure of accessibility, used in the studies, high levels of which mandate denser developments under the Mayor’s Plan guidance is itself flawed. In areas where the issue is congestion and lack of capacity, it measures the time you take getting to the bus stop, plus the time you spend waiting at the stop until the first bus arrives, but if that bus is full, it omits the time you spend waiting until the one comes with room for you to get on it.. (As the VNEB transport study notes “PTALs are only able to represent the ability to reach public transport; they take no account of available capacity either on public transport services or at stations.”)
·         The “borough balancing” assumption (p 78, para 8.2) is that for transport planning purposes future growth from elsewhere in the two boroughs is reallocated to the VNEB area, to “ensure that this study remains consistent with the London Plan forecasts” , ie that growth and transport demand elsewhere will be correspondingly less, as jobs and housing in VNEB increase. This  seems wholly implausible, given the “Klondyke” nature of VNEB for developers, and the different time horizons of the borough plans and strategies and VNEB, and the overlap of VNEB into two boroughs. (This assumption eg makes the model predict, in the absence of a Northern line extension, a reduction of passengers at Kennington Tube station over time).
·         The transport modelling takes no account of the developments at Elephant and Castle
·         Para 8.3 says that the intensification of employment in VNEB scenarios leads to “significant increases in inbound as well as outbound morning peak public transport trips”. So what assumptions are being fed into the model about what proportion of VNEB jobs are going to VNEB or neighbouring residents, whose journeys to work would have much less impact? Are these standard assumptions or are they tailored to a combination growth of housing and employment in the same area?
·         In this regard, it is not reassuring that the bulk of benefit from the NLE appears to accrue out of area, both as regards origins and destinations (Transport Study p 161). Is the NLE, designed to raise PTAL ratings in the interior of the OA, thereby enabling denser housing development, actually just benefitting through traffic?
·         The transport modelling takes no account of the displacement of freight traffic caused by concentration at Stewarts Road
·         The Framework’s “Get out of Jail” card to bring the transport accessibility (measured in PTALs)  in the middle of the VNEB area up to high levels, is an extension of the Northern Line from Kennington (NLE). Such extensions are notoriously difficult to cost, and often overrun timetable and budget. Eg, while developers were initially to pay for a large part of the Jubilee line extension to Docklands, in the end they paid less than 5% of the total cost of £3.5bn.
·         Our cockshy estimate of 4.3 extra kilometres of tunnel, at between £180m to £260m a kilometre, based on 1994 London Underground costings for tunnelling in the Battersea area, uprated for increases in earnings, suggests a cost of between £770m and £1.1bn. We note that the transport study at p 97 estimates a cost of between £670m to £1060m, depending on route chosen.
·         Such an NLE is barely cost effective unless built for free by developers, and these costs dwarf other social infrastructure costs (above) and seem beyond the reach of “normal” S106 charges. Developers asked to stump up the best part of a billion pounds will in our view inevitably seek to recoup this sum in extra development density, on what is already expected to be one of the densest developments in the world.
We note, at p 171 and Table 39 of the Transport Study, that further studies are contemplated:
  • Further sensitivity tests assessing the value and effects of:
  • borough balancing of future OA development; and
  • addition of OA development without applying borough balancing.
  • Investigation into the effects of interaction of OA development with adjacent development areas such as the development nodes at Waterloo and Elephant & Castle.
  • Revised Scenario 5 Further modelling to assess the impact of the ‘Revised Scenario 5’ which, subsequent to this study was taken forward in the final OAPF document
  • A comprehensive review of the Vauxhall gyratory and other key TLRN routes within the OA, with particular consideration for proposals to improve the urban realm and cycling provision. This should be a joint review by TfL and the relevant planning and highway authorities.
  • Investigation of the effects of displacement of freight activities following reallocation of existing land use to new developments; this will be further addressed in the final OAPF document.
  • Investigation of station design and provision of capacity at Vauxhall, Battersea Park Road, Queenstown Road and Wandsworth Road NR stations.
To be frank, these should have been the starting points of any study that addressed the realities of the transport issues underlying the Framework, and we await the results of such a study with interest. It should also address the station design, accessibility and capacity of the Grade II listed Kennington Underground station, under a NLE option – the residents of Kennington do not relish the prospect of being held at the ground level gates in rush hours because their limited lift capacity and congested platforms are not equal to the extra transit traffic generated by a Northern Line Extension."