Thursday, 14 May 2009

Question 7: Views on building development in Princes Ward and SE11

Nine days ago (before we even knew who all the candidates in the Princes Ward by-election would be), I sent out a series of questions, to be answered by all Princes Ward Council candidates. The questions and answers are intended to help SE11 voters choose who to vote for by ensuring the candidates speak about their policies, rather than focusing on name calling campaigns.

I now have nearly all responses (English Democrat has promised his are to come) and now intend to publish the results one question at a time. Anything in square brackets or in bold, I've added to standarise the format of responses across the parties or as summaries. I've not changed any of the text that I was sent by email, but I've had to move certain answers across to different questions in order to keep the answers similar (I've indicated in all cases where I've made any adjustments, so tell me if you object). I'll probably save my personal comments for a post at a later stage as I want these questions to represent the candidates as best possible. I've put responses in alphabetical order, depending on the name of the party, and I've colour coded them for your ease:

Conservative = Michael Poole-Wilson = Blue
English Democrats = Janus Polenceus = Purple
Green Party = Joseph Healy = Green
Labour = Mark Harrison = Red
Lib Dem = John Roberts = Orange

Question 7:
Please highlight your views on the ongoing property development in Prince's Ward and the SE11 area.

Michael Poole-Wilson:
I think we need to treat proposals for housing development on a case by case basis. In general, I share Mayor Johnson's concerns about tall buildings. In Prince’s ward, I am concerned about planning decisions that will mean increases in population density in an area already short of amenity space. Priority should be given to improving existing housing stock.

Janus Polenceus:
Building more houses/homes is good, providing that the priority goes to people who were on the housing waiting list for a long time before giving them to new comers.

Joseph Healy:
I would oppose any more largescale applications by large shops etc, and think that small businesses and local community based organisations should be supported.

I would also like to see more pedestrianised areas and the quality of the built environment is essential. As a historian by background I appreciate our architectural heritage and think it should not be swept away in the rush for profit.

I am opposed to the Lilian Baylis school site being used by an organisation which is homophobic, as I would be if it represented ideas hostile to any section of the community living in the ward. This is especially relevant in an area which has become London's second gay village and where many LGBT socialise at weekends etc, as well as having many LGBT residents.

Mark Harrison:
In general I'm supportive of any attempts to build more homes and space for businesses in the area, as demand for housing is at crisis point in our borough. Too many families are living in cramped flats, and too many people in need are stuck on housing waiting lists. Any responsible politician should be encouraging more housing, and in particular more social and affordable housing - it would be disgraceful and selfish not to do so.

That said, development should be of the highest quality, should be sustainable, and should not be detrimental to the area. I'm passionate about good-quality architecture and design, and think it is possible for us as local residents and as a Council to demand higher quality developments. The planning system is far from adequate, but I will do my best to work within it to advocate good quality developments and oppose poor ones.

I suspect this question has the Vauxhall riverside area in mind, as it is the focus of most intense development. The Vauxhall Supplementary Planning Document has some good ideas about how Vauxhall can accommodate more homes and businesses. I'm minded towards encouraging high density, medium-rise development, rather than tall towers. I support removing the gyratory system, opening up the riverside and the railway viaduct, and creating better-quality public and green spaces in Vauxhall. I'm excited that new development in Vauxhall can help fund improvements to Vauxhall Spring Gardens, and other improvements to the surrounding area.

John Roberts:
I think that at the moment there is still a general presumption among planners and developers that tall buildings are always beautiful, especially in the Vauxhall part of Princes ward, and that the views of the local community don’t matter. I say this is wrong and they must genuinely listen to local views. I don’t want a Berlin style wall built along the river front that we blook our beautiful skylines.

For instance, the plans at No.81 Black Prince Road, if the planning inspector allows it, risks putting another barrier between the local community and the river. Two other very important points are that :
- when developments do go ahead, they should be sympathetic to local needs and that the priority for any section 106 money (which developers can sometimes be asked to pay to mitigate the impact of their development) must go towards the local community in Princes Ward to improve our area
- affordable housing targets are stuck to, as too often developers try to get away with too low a quota.

While we must realise that new developments are sometimes inevitable in inner London, there is a balance to be struck and at the moment it is too firmly skewed towards the developers.

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