Wednesday, 17 March 2010

36 storey Vauxhall Sky Gardens - permission granted despite failed consultation

Do you remember hearing about Vauxhall Sky Gardens, the 36 storey tower, planned for the heart of Vauxhall?  You might remember that the developer actually succeeded in gaining planning permission for it, but then went back to the drawing board to amend the design.  Viva Vauxhall blogged about the new plans in January 2010, but since then I've heard nothing further from any source on the matter...  Normally, I'd expect to hear about planning permission applications through a variety of local channels, and often an eagle-eyed person will spot it on the Lambeth Planning Database.  Not this time.

Today I received an email from the Chair of Kennington Association Planning Forum who only learned, by accident, last week, that Lambeth Council  were re-hearing the application last night!  In addition, both the Kennington Association and the Vauxhall Society were listed in the officers' report to councillors as having been formally consulted.   Both organisations claim not to have been formally consulted.  Are the officers lying to the councillors, or have two organisations made administrative errors?

Anyway.  Guess what?  The amended building proposal was approved.

It was approved despite the fact that representations were made at the meeting, as follows:

1.  The density of the development was wholly excessive (three and a half times higher than the Mayor's upper limit for areas of this sort).  [Do the Council have a duty to listen to the Mayor?  Boris... are you watching, or is it ok for them to do as they please because this is South London?]

2.  The Section 106 contribution for public open space, calculated by Lambeth's current formula, geared to historic levels of Lambeth (under) investment in open space and parks, was wholly inadequate to generate the extra 1.6 hectare per 1000 new residents aspired to by the Lambeth Supplementary Planning Document.  [Do the Council have a duty to listen to observe their own guidelines?  Clearly not.]

3. Neither Kennington Association nor Vauxhall Society had been consulted, contrary to what the Councillors were told in the officers' report.

The Chair of KA Planning Forum asked me to write that excellent representations were made against the Vauxhall Sky Gardens by Michael Ball of Waterloo Community Development Group, who focused on density, overall design and the failure of the employment generating floorspace, and Cllr Rob Banks of Oval ward (Lib Dem) who focused on a failure to provide local amenities.

So much for consultation and the democratic process.  I mean, really, why bother?  The Council is not going to listen to local residents views.  Why should they?  The councillors are powerless against their own planning committees.  And it seems the planning committees just do as they please.

Perhaps the Kennington Association Planning Forum and the Vauxhall Society will try to appeal the permission on the grounds that they were not formally consulted.  I don't know whether that's even possible.

Obviously, now that this building has been granted permission, Bondway is more likely to be given permission within the next week, on precedent.

According to Skyscaper News, on Vauxhall Sky Gardens, (hardly an unbiased source),

"One reason the council will have given planning permission to the original design was because it was a good quality building. It seems however that planning law allows the developer to use that permission to set a precedent for height in the area and then propose something else that keeps within the previous building envelope that would perhaps, have never originally been allowed.

This way they have defused the issue of height preventing it from being attacked on those grounds. It should be interesting to see if this approach is successful and, in time, if Lambeth Council approve the new application."
So, it appears that Lambeth Council have approved the new application.  I wonder whether the officers noted that Vauxhall Station is over crowded, and that approval of additional tall buildings in the area is going to place heavy strain on the Underground capacity in the area.  I wonder if anybody noted that there is no funding in place for any Northern line Extension.  Probably not.  Lambeth Council don't care about infrastucture, only housing targets.  And the Mayor doesn't care about finding money for South London transport infrastructure, because it's only South London, afterall.

The developers can do whatever they please in Vauxhall and Nine Elms because the Council will never listen to local residents pleas to be more reasonable.  Most people recognise that there is room in Vauxhall for regeneration and development, of course there is.  But surely local people should have some say about what that development might look like?  Obviously not.

We're screwed. 

And I'm meant to remain politically neutral...


Anonymous said...

I think people misunderstand consultation. It really isn't "tell us what you would do and we will make every change".

True consultation comes at the ballot box. Every member of the public surely cannot be consulted for every decision - why else would we have elected representatives? Consultation is more "this is what we are going to do as the elected Government in power (elected by the majority of residents) and if there is some HUGE something that we've overlooked, we're wiling to a) take another look or b) explain it better.

That's my take.

Anonymous said...

I would add, here is the link to the pre-report.$

According to it, both the Vauxhall Society and Kennington Association were officially notified, but sent no formal response. I note the Viva Vauxhall highly publicised petition against the development has garnered an abysmal 64 signatures. This is also interesing (from the report)

"The applicant stated that 6,500 invites were sent to local households (only attended by 16 people). The developers held a public exhibition in January 2010
(held at St Anne’s Church on South Lambeth Road) to set out the proposed changes to the original consented scheme. Members of the development team were available at the exhibition to answer any questions raised by visitors. The
exhibition comprised 13 A1 exhibition boards detailing the differences between the two exhibitions; architectural plans; and questionnaire and comments forms. Equally, letters were sent out to the occupiers of neighbouring properties providing advising that scheduled demolition of the existing building would
commence on the 15th of February and would take approximately 6 weeks."

Anonymous said...

where exactly is the building going to be?

looks as though it may be quite near st george wharf - going from the pictures on viva vauxhall

Lurking raises the question of whether the council has a duty to listen to the Mayor. But surely the important question is whether the mayor has the power to overrule the council (after all, it's easy to listen and then ignore). we probably need a lawyer to answer this one

Daniel said...

Looks like this is opposite Sainsburys Nine Elms.

Is there a Judicial Review procedure available for local planning decisions where due process has clearly not been followed?

Anonymous said...

Judicial review costs a fortune and is notoriously difficult to win.

Anonymous said...

Anything that brings that area a bit more to life is fine by me. The bridge underpass is horrible, theres a broken down petrol station, a persistent leak on the pavement - hopefully the developers will have some incentive to make the surrounding area more attractive.

Anonymous said...

Agreed. I fail to see a groundswell of opposition - perhaps it is out there, but I haven't seen evidence to justify such outrage. If it was that important, a group would have been closely tracking the application and protesting at every turn. Sure there are a few, but if the Council finds huge numbers in support, and a few dozen opposed, it is likely a job well done.

Anonymous said...

And Viva Vauxhall says this is being heard next week - not decided? Rants are fine, but accuracy is as important in citizen journalism ;-)

SE11 Lurker said...

To the Anonymous just above this comment. I think you'll find it's Octave Tower next week. Vauxhall Sky Gardens has definitely been decided this week. See:

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