Thursday, 10 November 2011

St Anselms - KAPF Representation on Planning Applications 11/01826/FUL and 11/01822/FUL

KAPF Representations on The Pathways planning application in respect of St Anselm’s Church, Kennington Road (11/01826/FUL) and the related planning application in respect of Centenary Hall, Cottington Street (11/01822/FUL)


Who we are                                                                                                                          

1. The Kennington Association is a voluntary membership association of around 400 members drawn from the wider Kennington area, in the north of the Borough of Lambeth and neighbouring areas of the Borough of Southwark. Our aim is to promote and maintain the Kennington area as a good place to live and work, and the Kennington Association Planning Forum is a group of Association members, with interest in and experience of planning and development issues, that develops planning policies and makes planning representations on behalf of the wider Association. 

2. The Kennington area comprises an interspersed mixture of Georgian and Victorian conservation areas and social housing estates, some with significant deprivation. The Association’s concerns therefore include conservation, open space, affordable housing and employment and skills issues in relation to its area, and the extent to which developments in the Kennington and Vauxhall areas, such as the present St Anselm’s redevelopment, will benefit Lambeth residents and jobseekers and address issues of deprivation, or detract from public amenity.


The Developments

3. We have the following comments
  • The admirable aim of the development is to provide, through intensified use of the site, extra diverse opportunities at the heart of Kennington to meet the requirements of training centres, start-up workshops, education and housing, while maintaining existing nursery and church worship uses on site, to the overall benefit of this community.
  • The main issues for us are
    • the external design,
    • the change of use, on this site at the edge of the Kennington retail centre, to include A3 (restaurant) and B1 (starter workshop) uses, and
    • the impact on local amenity, including traffic, parking and noise

4. Dealing firstly with external design issues, our reporting architect comments as follows
“The essential elements of the existing listed church buildings are respected in the proposals, and the alterations and extensions along the Sancroft Street elevation and in the existing rear car park are in scale and appropriate to the Conservation Area. Indeed, they represent an improvement in the way they link the building elevation along Sancroft Street. . In particular, the architectural treatment of the new additions facing Sancroft Street are in harmony with the adjacent Sancroft and Cardigan Streets, with Georgian sash windows and doors, etc. Far from detracting from the scale of St Anselm’s Church, they will enhance the character of the area. It is worth noting that the existing draft Kennington Conservation Area Statement (2009) is critical of existing buildings at this end of Sancroft Street (paragraphs 2.70 and 2.71), and the application proposes more harmonious replacements”

5. As regards change of use issues, some objections have been made on the grounds that the church is outside the specified retail ‘local centre’ and should not be used for office/commercial purposes. Against that view, we argue as follows:
  • In the event, St Anselm’s is arguably at the heart of Kennington, at the junction of Kennington Road and Kennington Lane. Indeed, the Community Noticeboard for Kennington is situated on the front of St Anselm’s Church. It is an “edge of centre” location, and clearly more central than the old Regal Cinema site on the corner of Black Prince Road, another edge of centre location, where retail development was permitted in 2008, and yet another Tesco is set to open in 2012.
  • Dealing with proposed changes of use, the mix of uses is innovative, in the way that it brings together a range of employment and outreach initiatives, alongside the church and community uses. Several of these uses are already functioning in an embryonic way at St Anselm’s or at Centenary Hall, Cottington St (which is subject to a separate application 11/01822/FUL). In addition to the church related and nursery uses, the main new uses comprise:
    • the small business units
    • the Clink restaurant, where staff are ex-offenders, having received necessary training,
    • Into University (supporting young people aspiring to reach university), transferring from the Cottington St site
    • the residential units offering support for ex-offenders
·         The proposal to have these together on one site offers the potential of a creative and supportive environment, which has attracted widespread support from many leaders of the community in Kennington and beyond.
·         On the separate application on Centenary Hall, Cottington Street, the application is for conversion from D1 to C3 (application 11/01822/FUL). The intensification of the community use on the St Anselm’s site together with the provision of the supported living units on the St Anselm’s site makes it appropriate for the use of Centenary Hall to change to residential. The planning case for both applications is set out clearly in the Applicant’s Planning Statement (accompanying both applications). We have not been made aware of any objections from residents in the vicinity of Cottington Street to this proposal.
·         It should be noted from paragraph 8.29 of the Applicant’s Planning Statement,  that the applications propose a net increase of 420 sq metres of community space across the two sites. In addition, the applications propose a significant net addition in residential provision across the two sites (in accord with Policy S2 of the Lambeth Core Strategy), and it should be noted that 14 of the 17 residential units on the St Anselm’s site are proposed to be supported living units (see paragraphs 8.10-8.12 of the Planning Statement, and further detailed comment in paragraphs 8.16-8.24).
6. Issues of local amenity relate to traffic, parking and noise. We comment as follows:
  • With reference to the assertions of shading to Stables Way, this street actually runs north-south, and the existing four storey housing on the west side will have sunlight and daylight over the roofs of the two-storey proposed buildings on the east side of Stables Way.
  • The proposition that this development will generate unreasonable traffic and noise is questionable. The main entrances to the proposed development are in Kennington Road. Sancroft Street and adjoining streets are in the Congestion Zone, and most users of the development will arrive on foot or by public transport.
·         The Applicants’ Traffic Statement Report by Steer Davies Gleave dated May 2011, refers in Table 4.4 to the additional trips generated by the proposed development. Whilst the objectors are correct that the total number of daily people trips is calculated at 1,261, it should be noted that, in effect, 83% of them would be arriving or departing on foot (people using underground, train, bus, bicycle, or walking). The reference to 107 extra car trips reflects approximately half arriving in the vicinity of the site and half leaving the vicinity of the site. Given the likely spread through the day, the impact on traffic is likely to be slight.
  •  The Applicants’ Parking Survey Report by Steer Davies Gleave dated May 2011 indicates usage of between 40% and 46% of Resident Permit Holder bays at the night time peak (Tables 3.1 and 3.2). KAPF checks on these streets during mid-evening times (when the Clink Restaurant might be open) indicate less usage then, pointing to usage levels of between 36% and 42% around 8pm to 9pm. In paragraph 4.1, the Report states that 87 car spaces were still available in Sancroft Street and Cardigan Street at the night time peak. Even if half the total estimated cars visiting the site were to be present at the same point in time that would require about 25 spaces, being well below the spare capacity indicated. We conclude that the impact on parking is entirely manageable.
  • As far as noise is concerned, Kennington is increasingly a restaurant area, as one of the few retail uses able to stand up to the debilitating effect of what will soon be three edge of centre Tescos. The limited complaints that KAPF receives from time to time relate to late night opening of public houses, not to restaurants, and relate to times when the Clink restaurant will be closed. We therefore discount arguments about unreasonable noise.


7. Taking account of all these arguments, we conclude as follows:
  • We recognise that the intensification of uses on the St Anselm’s site may lead to some additional pedestrian and vehicle usage in Sancroft Street and vicinity, but KAPF does not consider that this is sufficient to outweigh the considerable merits of the proposed development in terms of the creative mix of uses and potential community benefit, and the physical enhancement of a significant site within the Kennington Conservation Area.
  • We recognise that there may be unarticulated concerns for some residents about ex-offenders being accommodated on site. However, it should be recognised that many ex-offenders live in all parts of London already, and often such people do not have access to a network of support, which the Pathways project will offer. KAPF concur with many in the local community who have already welcomed this proposal, which, hopefully, will provide a supportive environment, at least for those ex-offenders who will be catered for by this project. 
  • KAPF therefore support both these developments, and we invite the Planning Applications Committee to agree both the applications.

D J Boardman                                                                             
Chair                                                                                               KAPF                                                                                               

Rodney Ovenden
Elizabeth Scott
Reviewing Officers
12 November 2011

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

VNEB S106 Representation - VNEB Infrastructure Report by KAPF

VNEB OAPF Chapter 12 S106 and Infrastructure Chapter Consultation
Representation by the Kennington Association Planning Forum.

Who we are
1 The Kennington Association is a voluntary membership association of upwards of 430 members drawn from the wider Kennington area in the north of the Borough of Lambeth, an area that abuts the Albert Embankment and Vauxhall areas of the VNEB Opportunity Area. Our aim is to promote and maintain the Kennington area as a good place to live and work, and the Kennington Association Planning Forum is a group of Association members with interest in and experience of planning and development issues, that develops planning policies and makes planning representations on behalf of the wider Association. The Association was a Rule 6 party at the 2010 public inquiry into the Bondway/Octave Tower application at Vauxhall, successfully arguing for the centrality of well-planned public spaces to the success of large, dense mixed-use developments.
2 The Kennington area comprises an interspersed mixture of Georgian and Victorian conservation areas and social housing estates, some with significant deprivation. The Association’s concerns therefore include conservation, open space, affordable housing and employment and skills issues in relation to its area, and the extent to which developments in the wider VNEB area will benefit Lambeth residents and jobseekers, or detract from public amenity.


3 The rubric to Chapter 12 enjoins those making representations not to bother repeating earlier representations about the earlier VNEB Study, which lacked a view about necessary infrastructure and its cost. In the event, there has been no sign, since we made our representation in March 2010, of any attempt at dialogue or constructive engagement on the part of GLA planners with those such as ourselves who are critical of “The Project”, and so for the record we restate our summarised conclusions of 2010, trusting that we are not wasting our remarks on closed minds and empty air.

4 Under a heading  “Summary – Whose Opportunity?” we said the following

“If these proposals go ahead, a new town of 40,000 will be created on our doorsteps over the next 15 years. That is the equivalent of the population of Welwyn Garden City deposited on Thameside from the Albert Embankment to Battersea, but without the gardens, with no civic heart and on only one sixth of Welwyn’s land.  We welcome the preparation of a framework, particularly to govern an area straddling the border of two planning authorities. We also welcome the green initiatives of the river side path and the thoroughgoing attempts to overcome the barrier effect of the railway embankment, to stitch the interior back together with the riverside zone. But we think these particular development proposals try to cram several quarts into a pint pot; in particular in our view these proposals
·         Are much too dense – approaching the highest known urban densities in the world, and exceeding those of Mumbai, Delhi and Calcutta,
·         do not allow for nearly enough open space,
·         fail to provide a civic heart or framework to the community of 40,000 they create
·         do not measure up to the challenge and expectations of the Central Activities Zone, particularly as regards the lack of any cultural component
·         appear to expect most of the supporting services like schools and doctors to be provided  by and at the expense of the neighbouring communities ,  and
·         are “supported” by a transport study which is not fit for purpose, because based on flawed “zero sum” and other assumptions

5 Having considered Chapter 12, and the October 2010 Development Infrastructure Study (DIFS) on which it draws, we can now say the following
  • the densest options for VNEB development (16,000 dwellings and 25,000 jobs) create a harsh and demographically unsustainable environment,
  • the infrastructure they demand, on present plans, would be underprovided, and where not underprovided, underpriced  - there is a heavy thumb on the scales, directing professionals to underestimate, in some cases against their better judgement
  • therefore the funding gap is not a "managable" £58m out of £1059m, but north of £500m
  • So this densest option, as regards the 16,000 dwellings target, should be withdrawn.
  • there is no commonalty of interest between
    • Vauxhall and Albert Embankment, infrastructure rich, well connected and already developing strongly under the impetus of the cluster designation (indeed “ravaged by infrastructure” as one architect recently put it), desperately needing its dreaded Gyratory to be tamed, and
    • Nine Elms and Battersea, infrastructure poor and ill connected, and needing significantly improved infrastructure.
  • And lumping them together in one “opportunity area” does not create such commonalty
  • the Northern Line Extension which takes the bulk of the funding gives minimal benefit to Lambeth, even with a station at Nine Elms, where at the suggested location of the station, the public transport accessibility level (PTAL) is already at 6 – excellent. Since DIFS tells us that the Lambeth strip next to Wandsworth Road has been removed from the OAPF, then such a station, as regards the truncated OAPF area, almost entirely benefits the Wandsworth development at Battersea Power Station, its proposed "elite" shopping, and other Wandsworth sites
  • the levying of the Lambeth part of the OAPF in aid of such an NLE is unconscionable, and arguably outside the scope of a CIL, as not necessary to the development of the Vauxhall and Albert Embankment sites
  • the long term risk is that the development proceeds, Wandsworth cherry pick the infrastructure to suit themselves, the costs overrun and Lambeth is left to pick up the pieces at its own expense, eg a secondary school and a Nine Elms Station left over to a Phase 2 that runs out of money

The DIFS Study

6 We note that DIFS concentrates on trying to work out how much infrastructure would be needed, and how you would pay for it, if you were to choose the largest and densest possible development profile for the Opportunity Area  (16,000 hoped for new dwellings and 25,000 new jobs). One sympathises with the consultant authors, who have been told by their sponsors to believe a number of implausible things, to try and make proposed levels of planning levies (S106 payments, and successors in the form of community infrastructure levy and possible specific Northern Line extension levies) cover estimated infrastructure costs. Every now and then the implausibility surfaces in footnotes where professional integrity requires that the more plausible alternatives be surfaced. In our view, the evidence is being fixed around the policy, and not the other way round - in effect there is a big thumb on the scales.

7 Turning to detail we note that
·         The Department of Transport official guidance on estimating the costs of tunneling projects (Web TAG Unit 3.5.9) recognises that known risks of uncertain scale affecting costs can properly be subject to a quantified risk analysis, while the impact of unexpected contingencies of uncertain scale -  “unknown unknowns” -  which from experience occur in major civil engineering projects at early stages, need additionally to be reflected in cost estimates by the addition of what is termed “optimism bias”, which reduces as projects develop towards delivery
·         However, almost all the contingency element has been stripped out of NLE tunnelling costs, as presented by DIFS  - an £800m estimate in the December 2009 VNEB Transport Study (at page 97), containing a 57% "optimism bias", as recommended by Web TAG for a tunnelling project estimate at this stage of development has become £563m now, including only a 5% risk premium. This does not appear to be the fully worked up itemized Quantified Risk Assessment called for by Web TAG, but an off the cuff round number.
·         Even if we give the NLE the benefit of the doubt as being at the “Conditional Approval” stage, it would still merit a 23% optimism bias, according to Web TAG. And we do not credit the idea that by means of some suitable special private sector funding vehicle, overrun risk can be completely transferred to the private sector at this cut down price – when a large infrastructure project goes wrong, it is invariably impossible for the public sector to wash their hands of its completion, and compensation negotiations with a delinquent contractor are protracted and expensive. 23% optimism bias would add £130m to the NLE cost. We note that this is a “footnote” issue for the professionals advising!
·         And we note again, as we did in March 2010, that at realistic costing the cost benefit ratio for the NLE is low, and the benefits appear to be diffused around London, both by origin and destination, with rather little seemingly accruing in the Lambeth, or indeed the OA area itself
·         targets for affordable housing have been reduced from the normal 40% to only 15%, to boost levy yield from the extra, higher priced market housing, which this relaxation permits, and reduce child yield by 25% .It is not obvious that Lambeth’s aspiration to stick with the 40% target, as regards developments within the Lambeth part of the OA, has been factored into levy yield
·         there are lowered assumptions about the proportion of inhabitants who will be elderly or young (not their sort of housing – the “client group” [mostly the developers who paid for the DIFS Study] considers that VNEB developments will have a different age profile to that of the two adjacent boroughs (DIFS para 10.18)) so you can economise on
o       health care provision (the young and elderly cost more per head, while fit young professionals cost less, so you can have a third less GP’s than the normal rule of thumb). In a separate note attached, on health issues, we note that the consultation has been perfunctory, and takes no account of the demands of visitors and an extended construction phase
o       schools - the preponderance of flats,  the mix of small and large flats assumed, and the lower %age of affordable dwellings   means that the child yield from development is only around 10% of the expected population, cf 20% for a demographically balanced population in Lambeth itself. There are not even enough children predicted, for a community of 40,000, to warrant just one secondary school – like Hamlyn after the Pied Piper!  To reach this conclusion, Wandsworth have chosen to use the lower point of an estimation range, and then knocked off a further 25% for good measure (“private education”), while Lambeth have used the midpoint of their range. If both used the midpoint, the need for a secondary school, and land to accommodate it, is obvious. Assuming conservatively that a modest 2.5 ha would suffice, this would cost £62.5m, (valuing land at the existing use value (EUV) of £25m per ha, as per the values revealed at the recent Bondway Inquiry). The build and fit out costs of such a school would be about £25m, of which £13.5m has been written into education infrastructure estimates already, assuming provision would be made outside the OA. So the costs of the necessary secondary school in the OA adds £62.5m plus £11.5m , or £74m to the infrastructure tally.
o       As regards a junior school, the study includes provision for a two form entry school in relation to the Lambeth element of the OA. We attach notes analyzing the recent developments and planning approvals in North Lambeth, their child yield and likely demand on schools, and conclude that a four form entry school is required, at a minimum extra cost of at least £25m for land alone
·         The study assumes that existing library services will suffice in north Lambeth, and suggests, perhaps tongue in cheek, that the Lambeth Archive could be displaced to Battersea Power Station. This takes no account of the real risk of closure of both Waterloo and the Durning libraries under the current review. As regards the suggestion that Lambeth cares so little for its valuable archives that it is happy to see them carted off to Battersea, perhaps the best response is “Is you having a Laugh?”
·         The study proposes to “fund” extra infrastructure required for police and fire services by denying responsibility for most of it. As the attached note comments, with the new US Embassy, the existing central London Priority Area will undoubtedly extend further into the OA, and we note that the consultation has been inadequate, undertaken with eg the shortly to be superseded MPA, but not with the Lambeth Borough Commander. The study also declines responsibility for a share of the costs of transport improvements at Vauxhall, including works to tame the Gyratory, which is now positively inhibiting development at Vauxhall, while happily accepting all the costs of the NLE .
·         and forget about normal central London quotas of green space (“the amount of open space proposed for the OA falls far short of what is needed when applying national standards” Para 19.19) - you can't get your 16,000 dwellings in if you want it green as well - revel in our linear park instead. But the linear park, which from plan in the VNEB OAPF consultation document was to be 1500m long and varied between 100m and 50m wide, would have amounted to about 11.3 ha. Now, however, it is reduced to no more than 3.5 ha, so if it is still 1500m long, it becomes on average 23m wide, not so much a linear park as a drove road. As the study says (para 14.8) “Its linear nature will mean that it will not be possible to accommodate formal outdoor sports provision and only minimal play provision along with seating areas, etc” 
·         As Lambeth’s SPD on S106 Obligations notes,
“Lambeth Open Space Deficiencies. The National Playing Field Association have a general standard of 2.4 hectares of open space per 1,000 population, Lambeth as a whole is deficient in meeting that standard, in that it has 1.54 hectares per 1,000 of population, projected to fall to 1.44. Lambeth’s Open Space Strategy recommends that a target of 1.6 hectares per 1,000 population is set for 2016.”
·         And Lambeth’s open space deficiency areas encompass the centre of Vauxhall and extend down the borough/OAPF border with Wandsworth, as the attached map shows. In this context, the comment in para 14.10 “In LB Lambeth open space provision is within a range of existing parks” is laconic to the point of being positively misleading.
·         All the options for development set out in the VNEB OAPF consultation document provided for 14 ha of public open space, while recognizing that this was way below standard. Allowing for about 2 ha of public park at Battersea Power Station, to restore even the 14 ha level (which would bring the OA up to the level of Lambeth’s worst provided ward, eg Ferndale) would require an additional 8 ha, which we price, again at EUV, at £200m.

The funding gap

8 The DIFS study asks us to believe that there is no more than a £58m gap between the £1059m cost of necessary infrastructure and the likely amount of funding, of which the lion’s share is provided by a tariff on development in the OA. At this stage the reader may wish to consult the chart attached. As we show, £62m of this infrastructure is “funded” by denying responsibility for it, including 90% of police and fire costs, and £30m of public transport improvements, half at Vauxhall. A further £63m is “funded” by hoping someone will lend it to us, even though the NLE revenue stream is negative for 60 years (operating costs always exceed revenues), and Wandsworth has ruled out prudential borrowing as burdensome to its council tax payers. This means that the realistic funding available is no more than £876m, and the gap becomes £183m. On the infrastructure side, as we have noted above, there is significant underprovision, and the NLE costs are seriously underpriced. Adding in only the NLE element (£130m), the secondary school (£74m) and the open space (£200m), we have extra costs of  £404m , and the gap becomes £588m.


9 We conclude that the consultation options that try to accommodate 16,000 dwellings in the OA will produce a harsh and demographically unsustainable development, and are unaffordable in infrastructure terms. The NLE, while advantageous to the Battersea and other Wandsworth developments is of scant benefit to the Vauxhall and Albert Embankment areas. It is set to deflect and eat up funding that could deal with the congestion at Vauxhall, and tackle the Gyratory, which divides Vauxhall, now positively inhibits development and prevents the creation of a proper heart there. It is unconscionable that Vauxhall developments should be levied in aid of the NLE while leaving its own transport problems untackled, and we shall oppose any such levy.

10 We believe that the proper response to the consultation is to conclude that the preferred option is over dense, demographically unsustainable and unaffordable and should be withdrawn. More modest options, ranging up to 12,000 dwellings should be tried instead, and cheaper transport infrastructure should be explored. We would very much welcome the opportunity to discuss these concerns and conclusions with GLA planners: having to raise them collaterally in the forthcoming Transport and Works Order Inquiry and the S106/CIL Tariff Examination will make for messy and long drawn out proceedings.

David Boardman
Kennington Association Planning Forum
25 March 2011

Flat 1
39 Chester Way
SE11 4UR


Saturday, 12 February 2011

Planning Update February 2011

Planning Update February 2011

The Government published its Localism Bill on 13 December, which provides for neighbourhood plans, elected mayors and a whole host of community oriented changes. We have some more detailed analysis on the website, but in practice, a lot turns on what counts as a “neighbourhood”, or at least, what the local Council thinks is a neighbourhood. The Bill defines it as a parish council area, or the area of a “neighbourhood forum recognised by the Council for these purposes”. Since KA’s beef with Lambeth is the latter’s tendency to lump Kennington in with other areas, and not address its particular needs or character, the current arrangements may not be the ideal vehicle for our aspirations. But the forthcoming consultation on the planning future of individual sites (the Site Allocation Document, or SAD) will allow us to articulate a broader view about Kennington’s needs, and we are dusting off and reviewing the comments we made back in 2009.

With a view to identifying KA’s geographic spread, Cathy has analysed the postcodes of members from the membership list, with interesting results.
Of 432 postcodes given
  • 294 are SE11 - 68%
  • 114 are adjacent postcodes - 26%
    • 35 SW8 - 8% (South of Harleyford Rd/Oval and west of Clapham Rd)
    •  33 SE17 - 8% (in Southwark, west of Kennington Park Rd and Kennington Park)
    • 25 SW9 - 6% (South of Camberwell New Rd and east of Clapham Rd)
    • 12 SE1 - 3% (Albert Embankment west of railway line , area round Lambeth North tube and north of Lambeth Rd)
    • 9 SE5 - 2% (South east of John Ruskin Rd and north of Camberwell New Rd)
  • 24 Misc non adjacent - 6%
Back in September  2010, we spent four days arguing Kennington’s corner at the Examination in Public of the draft Lambeth Core Strategy, the successor to the 2007 Unitary Development Plan. The Planning Inspector has pronounced the draft “sound”, with a few small changes, and it was formally adopted by Lambeth Council on 19 January 2011. Again we have further analysis on our website – what will follow is a consultation, probably starting in April, on the planning future of individual sites (the SAD, as mentioned earlier).

Readers will know that the Mayor of London has been consulting on the future of the Vauxhall, Nine Elms and Battersea area (VNEB). The 2009 consultation was in form a consultation on 5 or so different densities of development, but without any costings for the necessary infrastructure. We thought that the top option was intolerably dense, with quite inadequate open space, and a risk that Lambeth would be asked to pick up the tab for Wandsworth’s development. Now we have an Infrastructure Study that confirms our worst fears. There is some detailed analysis on our website, but we consider that the evidence is being fixed to support the densest option, with implausible low assumptions about infrastructure needed, and gross underestimates of the cost of what is, in particular of the costs of any extension to the Northern Line.  As you can see, we are not impressed by the assumptions written in to this study, and the conclusion we draw is that the densest options canvassed (remember that the VNEB OAPF was an options consultation, not the definitive word?) are undesirable in themselves, and unaffordable in public realm and infrastructure terms. With publication of this study, the Mayor has added a revised costing chapter to the VNEB Consultation draft, and asks for further comments by 25 March 2011. We shall relish giving them to him…

As regards individual planning proposals, after the three week appeal hearing in July 2010,  Mr Pickles, the Local Government Secretary, announced his decision on the Bondway/ Octave Tower  on 9 February. We were strong opponents of the proposed development, and were delighted that Mr Pickles agreed with his Planning Inspector and rejected the proposed Tower.  The decision will make the provision of new and improved open space the touchstone for much future development at Vauxhall, and we have a more detailed analysis on the website. We think, by contrast, that the Vauxhall Triangle development is a deal less offensive, and on balance can support it, provided it comes with a seven figure Section 106 offer in aid of open space and local parks. But it is a balance judgement, and some other local groups have come down on the other side.

More recently, the developer has repackaged his proposals for 8 Albert Embankment (the Old Fire Station site), and they look a lot better than before in visual terms. But there is still an issue about how much affordable housing is on offer, and how the development sustains employment, in what has been retained as a Key Industrial and Business Area. CLS Holdings have just published imaginative proposals for their site at 86 Bondway, with a new public square (at last a developer who wants to add new open space at Vauxhall) and a suggest elevated walkway over the Vauxhall Gyratory. We also now hear that Lambeth want to sell off parts of the Old Lilian Baylis site, the Beaufoy site and the former Olive School site.

This is going to make for a busy time. The Planning Forum is a group of talented people who know their stuff, but they could really use a coordinator to make the Forum operate more smoothly.  If you can help, please email and volunteer your services.

David Boardman
Kennington Association Planning Forum
12 February 2011

The Bondway Appeal

Victory at Bondway

1 On 9 February, Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, handed down his decision in the Bondway/Octave Tower case, agreeing with his Planning Inspector, and dismissing the developer’s appeal against Lambeth Council’s rejection of his planning application. The community of Vauxhall, which expressed its opposition forthrightly throughout the process, can give itself a well deserved pat on the back, and we are pleased we were able to help articulate in planning parlance that community’s views through the many stages of paperwork and the three weeks of public inquiry back in July 2010. But decisions like this get scrutinised minutely by developers, to see which arguments might work for them in future cases, and which might not, so it is worth examining the decision in a bit more detail.

2 The main issues are conveniently set out in the Secretary of State’s conclusion, at para 26 of his decision letter:

·         The Secretary of State considers that provision of a substantial number of new homes, of which at least 20% would be affordable, and a likely increase in employment numbers at this highly sustainable location are significant benefits of the proposal. [So this is in principle a sensible place for residential development and on this site, 20% affordable housing is acceptable, despite the headline policy calling for 40%, because of a “viability” study that says that more would prejudice the economic viability of the overall development. And an estimated increase in “better quality” employment would trump the actual reduction in employment floor space that the proposed development would have made.]
·         He considers that the design of the proposed tower is of high quality in many respects and would not harm the wider historic environment. [Here the Secretary of State adopts the views of the Inspector that the proposed Bondway Tower would have been a high quality design, in itself, in many respects, with interesting textures. The Inspector also systematically reviews the impact of the proposed Tower on all the local conservation areas (particularly Vauxhall Conservation Area and Park), listed buildings and the Westminster World Heritage Site, and found it acceptable. If a Tower as tall and bulky as Bondway would have passed muster, at least on this ground, then any argument limited just to visual impact is unlikely to be successful in future.] 
·         He also considers that, in principle, the appeal site is an appropriate location for a tall building. [This accords with the now adopted Core Strategy, and is consistent with the unadopted Tall Building Design Study for Vauxhall of 2009. But as a tall building counts, on this site, as anything in excess of 30m tall (the proposed Bondway Tower would have been 149m tall), there is plenty of room for argument, and scope for sensible planning guidance, on just how tall and where, tall buildings will be acceptable in future.]
·         However, he considers that the absence of complementary public open space from the proposal is unacceptable, [This is the killer argument, and is going to set the terms of debate for all the other high density developments at Vauxhall for the foreseeable future – the Secretary of State and the Inspector both put great emphasis on a part of Planning Policy Statement Number One covering Design (PPS1 – Sustainable Development), a piece of overall planning guidance that otherwise might be regarded as a bland statement of motherhood and apple pie –High quality and inclusive design should create well-mixed and integrated developments which avoid segregation and have well-planned public spaces that bring people together and provide opportunities for physical activity and recreation.”].
·         that the tower would be overbearing in relation to its local surroundings despite some relief being provided by its form, [so arguments about local impact still have traction – per the Inspector at para 551: “Moreover, without associated public space, the visual mass of the building would be overbearing in relation to its local surroundings”, even though he regards the visual impact on the nearby Vauxhall Park as “acceptable”]
·         that there are insufficient opportunities for pedestrian movement linked to the wider public realm, [a criticism of the Bondway design was that it did nothing directly to encourage permeability of the railway embankment which divides the centre of Vauxhall]
·         that the absence of adequate dedicated play space within or very near the building is materially harmful, [even though the proposed development nominally met the target for overall private amenity space for its residents, the failure to earmark on-site chidrens’ play space within that total, and reliance instead on Vauxhall Park, counted against it. This is going to be an important argument in relation to other proposals, especially if they fail even to meet the total amenity space target.]
·         and that the intensity of use to which Vauxhall Park would be subject would erode its recreational function and character. [Given the categoric way in which this argument is formulated, this is going to make the provision of new public space a touchstone for much future development at Vauxhall – as the Inspector says (para 658 et seq): The Park is not large and is well used. Although the functions of a park and a public square differ, inevitably the Park would come under increasing pressure were public spaces not provided within the area of redevelopment to the west. The effect would be cumulative as further elements were added to the projected cluster of towers. This would be so irrespective of financial contributions to improve the Park and its play facilities. Under the proposals, no complementary public space would be provided, nor is any assured in the future. Without it, the pressure on Bondway, the surrounding areas and the Park would be unacceptable.” But the Inspector acquits the proposed Tower on grounds of overshadowing and overlooking, saying bluntly that you cannot expect privacy in a public park. So these sorts of argument are not likely to be persuasive in future.]
·         For these reasons the Secretary of State concludes that the proposal is in conflict with the development plan and with the aims of PPS1, PPS3, and PPG17. He has taken into account the benefits which would be offered by the proposal, but considers that these benefits do not outweigh the significant conflict with the development plan and the aims of national policies in other respects. [So, as is clear from comments above, no amount of S106 contribution could have sweetened the Bondway proposals enough to make them acceptable, in the absence of new open space]

3 We are pleased to see, as we have argued earlier, that this decision puts the provision of new public space at the heart of the argument about the future development of Vauxhall. It is notable however, despite the community concern about congestion in the access to Vauxhall underground station, that the good nominal public transport accessibility level of Vauxhall (measured in PTALs!) still gives carte blanche to further development. The accepted arguments here emphasise surplus capacity on trains (“only two extra passengers per underground train”), while supposing access issues (gateline closures, escalator capacity etc) can readily be dealt with by small TfL improvements. But the latest TfL estimate for gateline improvements is £18m, currently unfunded, and we are going to have to improve our analysis, if proper weight is to be given in future planning decisions to this issue.

David Boardman
Kennington Association Planning Forum
12 February 2011

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Lambeth Core Strategy

Lambeth’s New Core Strategy
Note by the Kennington Association Planning Forum
1 February 2011
1 The Lambeth Core Strategy was adopted on 19 January 2011 by Lambeth Council, following an Examination in Public before an independent Planning Inspector on four days in September 2010. The report of the Inspector found the strategy to be basically sound, and adoption now paves the way for further consultation on two daughter documents, which fill in more detail, within the framework set by the Strategy. These are the Development Management Document (DMD) and the Site Allocation Document (SAD). At present it is expected that these will be issued for consultation in parallel around April 2011, and be submitted later in the year for Examination in Public before a Planning Inspector at a combined hearing. As it took six months from submission to examination for the Core Strategy itself (March to September 2010) and a further four months from examination to adoption (September 2010 to January 2011), we shall be lucky if we see the completion of this process before the end of 2011.
2 The Inspector’s report reviewed the submitted Strategy under seven headings, which matched the key themes explored at the Examination. These were
·         Issue 1 –Does the overall strategy appropriately address the vision for the whole borough, across the entire plan period, in relation to other plans and strategies and is it consistent with national planning guidance? – essentially yes, says the Inspector; agreed that parts of the borough are not covered by specific policies, but “The fact that parts of the borough are not covered by PN policies or diagrams does not imply that they have been overlooked. On the contrary it reflects that they are more stable places where the scale of any development is such that it can be managed... through the CS strategic policies and through lower level DPDs and SPDs” (paras 10 to 17, especially para 11). This was one of Kennington’s key criticisms of the Strategy, and it remains to be seen how “stable” the environment will be as the Council prepares to sell off many of its key sites for development.
·         Issue 2 – Does the CS make appropriate provision for the supply of housing for the plan period and is its approach to house conversions and affordable housing justified? – supply OK, house conversion policy limitations (not allowed in stressed streets) not prejudicial to achieving targets, address issue of methodology for assessing viability of affordable housing at the DMD stage. (paras 18 to 30)  This was another of Kennington’s issues, and we want a post implementation review of methodology assumptions written into policy.
·         Issue 3 – Does the CS make sound provision for economic development, particularly in terms of the Key Industrial and Business Areas (KIBAs)? – Inspector finds strong demand and limited availability (para 33), but endorses Lambeth’s approach (de-designation of Bondway KIBA to facilitate VNEB OAPF, retention of Southbank House and Newport St KIBA). And note a subtlety: withdrawing KIBA designation reactivates, at least till adoption of site specific guidance in the SAD, an arguably more stringent residual provision (Policy 23 of the otherwise superseded 2007 UDP) protecting employment floor space everywhere outside KIBAs (paras 31 to 41)
·         Issue 4 –Is the CS approach to Metropolitan Open Land sound? – “bolder and more proactive” than the previous plans, says the Inspector of the Strategy’s willingness to de-designate part of the Hungerford Road car park before plans for a cultural facility on it are cut and dried, and she finds this sound.(paras 42 to 45) Our Waterloo colleagues thought this risky and the treatment a deal too summary.
·         Issue 5 – Does the CS provide a sound basis for the scale and location of tall buildings, having in mind the need to protect strategic views and heritage assets?- supporting work is fragmented, especially at Vauxhall, and there needs to be further urban design assessment, as the Strategy policy S9(d) contemplates. But the overall Strategy is sound, says the Inspector (paras 46 to 50). We beg to differ: in our view the failure to adopt the draft 2008 SPD for Vauxhall and finalise and endorse the BDP design study of 2009 gives the Planning Committee far too little to work with in opposing over dense “cluster” development at Vauxhall, in an area of open space deficiency.
·         Issue 6 –Does the CS provide a sound and effective strategy for meeting requirements for open space? – setting a target for the provision of new open space would be unrealistic in an inner London borough where land prices are high and land is subject to many competing demands.” says the Inspector. Lambeth’s approach has yielded some new provision, but addressing improvements to the quantity, quality and access to open space should be part of the DMD (one of the rare changes to the Core Strategy coming out of the Examination) (paras 51 to 53)
·         Issue 7 – Does the CS provide a sound framework for infrastructure,
delivery and monitoring? – broadly yes, says the Inspector, with some minor tidying up language changes and a few new targets to monitor (paras 54 to 57).
3 As we said at the wash up session with the Inspector, it was, in our view, an excessively legalistic process to get to the table (had you made an objection expressly impugning the “soundness” of the policy under discussion that day by the due date) and we had had to contemplate legal action at one stage before a broader view was taken of who could speak. You had to formulate any criticism or suggestions for improvement as an impeachment, as “unsound”, policies that had taken Lambeth planners years to bring to the table.  While it may have focused debate at the Examination, it introduced an unnecessarily adversarial tone into the debate between the Council planners and other parties. For whatever reason, there were only two community groups represented (ourselves and waterloo Community Development Group), but lots of developers. We think the process would have benefited by inviting other amenity groups to the table.
4 But once we were at the table, the formulation of questions by the Inspector, and the focused but reasonably informal style of discussion, made for a realistic probing of the issues, and although the whole process took barely four days, we left the proceedings with a sense that we had been given a fair crack of the whip, even if we differed over the conclusions reached. It is fair to note, however, that our Waterloo colleagues, who have a deal more experience at such affairs than we do, thought the discussion much more truncated than those they had taken part in at the equivalent Examination on the Southwark Core Strategy,  or on the draft replacement London Plan
Follow up
5 The Head of Planning at Lambeth, Les Brown, has offered us at KA a meeting to review any lessons we can learn from the process of consultation on, and examination and adoption of the Core Strategy. If other colleagues think it helpful, we might suggest a wider participation, to include interested amenity societies who might usefully have taken a larger part in the process.

David Boardman
Kennington Association Planning Forum
1 February 2011