Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Boris' secret masterplan and Student accommodation in Vauxhall

Thanks to Markvauxhall on Twitter for the heads up re. yet another request for planning permission in Vauxhall (student accommodation). I'm surprised nobody raised it last night at the meeting, but it's only about four storeys high and the design probably won't be contentious (view the application here) and an external drawing here. We don't have much (any?) student accommodation in Vauxhall (not having a university on our doorstep), so in principle, there might seem to be no objection. (Students can hardly be more disturbing to residents than the late night revellers at Fire, can they?). What it would be useful to know is whether there will be any other requests for student accommodation. I mean, I can see that people would think that 92 student units are not a major problem, but how do we know whether there are more to come? Could there be 500 units or 1000 units, once the big buildings have gone up? Would that make Vauxhall a student hub, in the same way parts of Borough and Elephant will be?

As raised by several people at the KOV meeting yesterday, it seems that there is an ongoing issue pertaining to the requests for permission lining up with the Mayor's Plan for Nine Elms and the Vauxhall Supplementary Planning Document. Each time a developer submits a request for planning permission for a new building, the transport and infrastructure questions are only considered for the building in question by the local council (in this case, Lambeth). Does this mean that the developers will keep having planning permission granted because "just one more building" won't affect the underground tube congestion? As long as Lambeth Council are seen to be proceeding on a building by building basis, there is less need for anybody to consider the overall area, and the effects that new buildings will have on older buildings and the surrounding townscape. Indeed, it's rather impossible for residents to object, approve or comment on each new building because it's so time consuming to work in this manner. Please could we consider multiple buildings and their effects on one another, before we have to comment on the next in the series?

It seems to me that nobody holds a master plan... Or perhaps they do... The problem is that the masterplan is secret. My journey to work reading this morning revealed that the Mayor knows something that we don't. Look carefully at p30 of the Mayor's Plan, which states, "In relation to the broad land use strategy, the planning framework estimates in the region of 20,000 - 25,000 new jobs in the Opportunity Area... This estimate is based upon the development capacity study and a review of planned schemes in the OA (which cannot be shared for confidentiality reasons). Does this mean that Boris Johnson holds a masterplan for the area, but can't tell us about it, in case local residents are able to orchestrate an effective campaign that will call for sensible building and community development, rather than "increased density" and "intensification"? How do local residents discover what the "planned schemes" for the OA are until we're given a very short amount of time to comment on them? And if we don't know how all of the buildings will fit together, how is the consultation meaningful?

Thanks for the comments on the earlier post. I do agree with the commentators that there are large parts of the area that would benefit from development and regeneration. Improved transport infrastructure in the area would be great for all Londoners. It is important that we retain industrial space for small businesses, that unattractive frontages be removed and replaced, that commercial space is balanced with residential space, and that residential space is properly mixed, with affordable housing being provided for workers and their families. All of this is good, and public discussion must ensue. Unfortunately, the Mayor's plan is about "potential sites" and "predicted heights", but we need to see a master plan of proposed developments in order to make useful comments and ask probing questions. Without that, it's as though everybody else is being kept in the dark.

Consider this a public request for transparency... Please.

5 comments:

Mark L said...

Actually, Vauxhall is already becoming something of a hub for students / young professionals as it provides relatively cheap accommodation with good transport links.

As you say, I don't think it'll be a particularly controversial planning application as it is reasonably low-rise, of sympathetic design, and the accommodation is targeted at postgrad students (far from likely to be wheeling each other home down Langley Lane in trolleys singing "Land of Hope and Glory").

My personal objection to this however is more in principle around the nature of the accommodation. The developer has not given indicative pricing, but if you look at comparable developments in London, prices for ensuite studios such as those in Vauxhall are as follows:

. £205 (Emily Bowes Court, Tottenham Hale - Unite Housing)
. £210 (The Hive, Hoxton - CRM Students)
. £219 (Pacific Court, Whitechapel - Unite Housing)
. £230 (Liberty Fields, Camberwell - Liberty Living)
. £239 (Blithehale Court, Bethnal Green - Unite Housing)
. £279 (Piccadilly Court, Caledonian Road, Islington - Unite Housing)
. £359 (Somerset Court, Euston - Unite Housing)

These prices are well beyond the means of average students - the average income nationally of a student is £10,425 p.a. - approximately £200 a week.

There has been a massive increase in the number of 'premium' student accommodation buildings in London, and very few 'affordable' student buildings have been constructed in recent years. Councils don't seem to demand an affordable portion of student accommodation buildings, perhaps in the belief that they are, by definition, affordable.

The developer has the audacity to suggest in their plans that if they build student accommodation in Vauxhall, it will free up affordable housing for local residents as students move into the new building - at that price point, any students living in affordable local housing are unlikely to move.

I'm not saying this is a problem that needs to be solved in Vauxhall alone - but I am frustrated that there seems to be no strategy in the capital to actually address the fact that cheap student housing just isn't getting built.

By the way, WRT your comment on strategies for Vauxhall - Lambeth did publish a draft masterplan for Vauxhall in 2008 at http://www.lambeth.gov.uk/NR/rdonlyres/CD1E5B8C-EBCA-4AEA-B5B8-5B1EAE3BA9F2/0/VauxhallAreaDraftSupplementaryPlanningDocumentJune2008.pdf

No idea how this interfaces with the Mayor's document though.

Mark L said...

Maybe this link is easier... http://bit.ly/7HMXsW

Three wheeled one said...

Mark, thanks for your comments. I'm aware of the Vauxhall SPD (I reference it in the previous post). What we lack though is knowledge about who is planning to propose what type of building. The SPD just gives a rough idea of what they might expect to see in terms of development, but not who will actually be applying for for what type of build.

Mark L said...

Yep, I realised that after I re-read the post :)

I think that there are a lot of plans mooted - but many never get off the drawing board... and as the design can change so much during the inintial consultation phase, it's probably premature for the council to cement anything in official documentation until planning applications have formally been submitted.

Have you seen the NCGM proposals? http://www.newcoventgardenmarket.com/RedevelopmentProject/PublicExhibition/tabid/178/Default.aspx

Anonymous said...

isn't land of hope and glory more a proms in the park thing than a student thing?

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