Wednesday, 10 March 2010

8 Albert Embankment - planning application submitted - councillors already oppose

If you need some background, or were unable to attend the exhibition re. 8 Albert Embankment (and associated land), you can view the history and photos, courtesy of this blog, here.  This will be a huge riverfront development, and if you've taken no interest in local planning matters before now, this is the one to focus on, bearing in mind its impact on SE11 (it's on the SE1 boundary, but will affect residents further south too).

I nearly fell off my chair in shock last night as I received a forward from Cllr Steven Morgan[1] about 8 Albert Embankment.  The shock was caused by the fact that the Princes ward councillors have said that they plan to oppose the planning permission request already, even prior to hearing community feedback!  Why might this be?

"As your local councillors we shall be objecting to the plans as they currently stand. We find that we cannot support an application that will provide less than 10% affordable housing when our target in Lambeth is between 40-50%. Whether you agree with us or not, please do make your own comments to the planning department so that they know what the views of the local people are before making a decision on whether they think the scheme should go ahead or not."
It seems likely that the community would support the council on the matter.  Less than 10% community housing is unacceptable, but shows that in the current economic climate, the developers are really going to bid low.  What would normally happen would be that this application would be turned down, and the developers would resubmit, suggesting 20% community housing.  The council will fall at their feet, very grateful, and when the building is halfway through development, there will be some kind of setback that will eventually mean that 12% is agreed.  Call me a cynic.  I say that we should demand a 50% quota, and let the bidding war commence.  At least we'd get 30% that way :)

Take a look at the actual planning permission request from the Developers on Lambeth Council's Planning database here.

The proposal in outline is as follows:

"Refurbishment, reconstruction and extension to the grade II fire station to provide a new fire station and associated functions for the London Fire Brigade (sui generis) on part basement and ground floors, with residential (class C3) above, including demolition of the communication mobilising centre. Demolition of the brigade workshop/office buildings to the rear and construction of 7 new buildings ranging in height from 5 to 16 storeys for mixed use purposes, comprising residential (class C3); business (class B1) to include offices and studio workshops; shops, financial and professional services, restaurants and cafes, and drinking establishments (class A1, A2, A3, A4) and ancillary facilities. Refurbishment and internal alterations to the grade II listed drill tower associated with the new fire station. Construction of basements to provide servicing, parking, energy centre, plant and storage. creation of areas of open space, and alterations to existing vehicular and pedestrian access and highway arrangements within and around the site. To provide a total of 360 residential units, 7,214sqm of commercial floorspace and 181 parking spaces including a 6 storey building on the corner of Black Prince Road and Newport Street.

This application is a departure from the adopted Lambeth Unitary Development Plan (August 2007)."
Now, don't be too shocked, but actually (subject to seeing the drawings), I think that this is quite a good preliminary proposal summary.  I'm impressed that they've limited the tallest building to 16 storeys (bearing in mind that 81 Black Prince Road will have 23).  I like the idea of mixed height buildings and particularly mixed use development.  I think it will be great to have some offices, shops, restaurants etc. along that stretch of the river (that portion of the South Bank is quite impoverished in terms of facilities, and so people tend not to visit).  I think that good eating/drinking establishments could rejuvenate and complement the existing pubs and options currently on Black Prince Road and Albert Embankment.  Also, it seems to me that 360 residential units is ambitious, but not foolish.  So, if they get knocked back on this attempt for low provision of community housing, I don't see any reason not to permit the development once the council have obtained their allocation.  This is, of course, subject to viewing the building drawings...  If it is going to look hideous or they've neglected to provide sufficient green space, I might change my mind...

I'm struggling, at the moment, to view all six pages of plans on the Lambeth planning database.  Quite frankly, the database technology that Lambeth are using is not really sufficient to view significant numbers of documents.  During the day, it's so slow as to be useless.  As soon as I can get some pictures, I'll paste them here, so that we can an idea of how the thing might look.

My only query, and I wonder if one of the developers or readers of the blog might be able to answer is the line on the proposal which states, "This application is a departure from the adopted Lambeth Unitary Development Plan (August 2007)."  Does anybody know why?  I know Cllr Harrison reads the blog, so perhaps he might be able to fill us in with how the application is a departure from the UDP and in what way?  It might be a minor matter, but it seems an interesting statement.

One point that I will continue to keep making, until people are really sick of it, is that this is yet another building that is likely to raise the number of commuters using Vauxhall Station, and, as yet, we have no guarantee that anybody will fund the enlargement of the tube station or additional tube provision.  That is all.
[1](I ought to say in passing that Cllr Steve Morgan is quite good at sending timely emails to the community on planning matters...)


Cllr Stephen Morgan said...


Thanks for the positive footnote to the article.

Why did you nearly fall off your chair?

Cllr Stephen Morgan

Anonymous said...

er, if the local councillors oppose the planning application, this does not mean that it will automatically fail. or even that the council opposes the application.

I think the council's planning committee is supposed to be independent?

Anonymous said...

I imagine the 3 wheeler on some old rickety antique chair. Could have happened anyway!!

SE11 Lurker said...

Cllr Morgan, I was a little surprised:

a. That the Councillors opposed prior to consultation with local residents.

b. That the Councillors opposed at all. I remember a lot more hedging around re. 81 Black Prince Road. I didn't add that to the post because I couldn't find any email/evidence back up, but I don't remember that you opposed 81 BPR so vehemently or so quickly.

Anonymous (1), I believe that the Councillors can oppose a planning application that could still yet be approved by the officers. It certainly doesn't mean automatic failure, so I guess that independence is protected to some degree.

Anonymous (2), I love it! I won't spoil your image...

Mark L said...

I agree with you about the transport situation - I discussed this with the developers at the NCGMA consultation the weekend before last, and their firm viewpoint was that "with a little funding for some minor enhancements, Vauxhall station is sufficient for our development" - a view that I have seen cited by other developers in the past.

Each developer argues that when considered in isolation, their development can be accommodated by the existing transport infrastructure.

One of the few things I liked about the Mayor's planning framework was a clear statement that the Northern Line extension was a mandatory prerequisite to further development, as it would relieve capacity at Vauxhall station.

It will be interesting to see how hard this line is pushed in future...

(NB: I still can't quite see why people would want to live above a fire station. Imagine the noise!)

SE11 Lurker said...

Thanks for the comments guys! This is great :)

The transport situation and Vauxhall Station is something I think we'll find ourselves endlessly complaining about. It needs to be taken up by Lambeth Council, TFL and the Mayor. Until the national government (or the Mayor) agree to invest in transport infrastructure, Lambeth Council should really refuse planning permission for large buildings (anything above, say 50 units). However, Lambeth Council can't do that because their housing waiting lists are huge, and they rely on private developers to erect buildings that will contain a certain percentage of community housing.

This is a real catch 22, but I am amazed that Councils continue to permit large buildings (Southwark Council and Elephant & Castle is a case in point) before they agree who will pay for the transport infrastructure. TFL and Southwark Council are now engaged in an endless battle over modifications to Elephant and Castle. Do we really want the same problem in Vauxhall?

In my view (I could be wrong), most of the noise problem in SE11 stems from the police, and sometimes ambulances. We are bounded by three police stations (Walworth Rd, Brixton and Kennington Road). I'm not sure that I've ever once seen a fire engine being noisy without good cause.

Mark L said...

Not wanting to be a transport bore, but one of the interesting things in the Mayor's planning framework was the comment that TfL's position is that they do not want capacity to be enhanced significantly at Vauxhall station, because it would mean that the trains would be more full when they arrive at Victoria station, and therefore you would get more overcrowding there, which TfL considers to be less desirable than the current situation.

They also think that more bus routes, or even a new local tram, would actually make the congestion at Vauxhall worse, because people would likely not use new buses/trams to get to their final destination - instead using it as a short hop to get to Vauxhall station, for onward connections.

Hence the call for the NLX. The only problem is that nobody has figured out how to fund it, and Lambeth, Wandsworth, the Mayor, and DfT need to get round a table and agree something now, before more developments get approved without funding contributions for it.

I agree though, Lambeth are in a catch-22 at the moment, and making contributions for the NLX compulsory will probably impact the proportion of social housing built, as developers will argue "Well, we've already done our bit already by contributing to the NLX."

SE11 Lurker said...

Mark L, I love a bit of transport geekery, especially when it focuses on SE11 :)

The problem with NLX is that it isn't scheduled to have a stop particularly near to where some of the building is taking place. You could argue that the Albert Embankment developments are all small enough not to matter, but people who live on the AE/St George Wharf/the new Vauxhall towers are not going to start trekking to the Nine Elms station (if they even build one there), they'd more naturally walk/bus to Vauxhall.

On a separate note, I still tend to support the cross-river tram proposal, although would prefer it to take a route through Camberwell/Peckham than Brixton, which are badly served for public transport. Even using the cross-river tram routes that were generated in outline would not affect Vauxhall too badly because it's a good 10 minutes walk away from the stops, and in any case, would provide an alternative way to cross the river.

Of course, I'm very much in favour of the NLX too (although it's obviously years away), but if you ask me, it does not go far enough. If you're going to start tunneling, why not go further than Battersea or Clapham Junction?

One of Caroline Pidgeon's ambitions (as well as rezoning Kennington tube) was to extend river travel to Vauxhall and put a pier there, which would help east/west traffic somewhat, and would be rather fun (but I doubt of huge practical value). I wrote to her a few days ago to see what progress she has made, but have not yet received a response from her office on the issues.

Mark Harrison said...

We always do all we can to ensure residents are aware of planning applications in Prince's ward, and provide what support we can to people objecting or supporting applications.

Generally we don't firmly object to applications, as residents have different views, and it's rare that everybody is opposed to a development. Residents have wildly different opinions on issues like height and building style.

However, on this occasion we've objected on fundamental point of principle. As Labour councillors one of our top priorities is ensuring as much new social and affordable housing is built. Lambeth's target of 50% needs to be kept to, and we don't think it's right for developers to ignore it.

In the end, however, as ward councillors we don't really have any more sway over the decision than any other residents. That's why we always encourage as many residents as possible to submit their views to officers/ the committee, so they know all the facts and opinions before making their decision.

SE11 Lurker said...

Mark (Harrison), thanks for encouraging readers to submit their own views to officers. In some ways, I'm surprised that ward councilors don't have more sway on planning matters. In what way (if at all) are you able to influence officers differently from members of the public?

Also, it would be useful if you could say in what way this development departs from the UDP. Have you got further info?

Mark Harrison said...

In terms of the planning or licensing processes, our opinions don't really hold any more sway than anybody else who makes an objection or comment. The officers or committee making the decision will read/ listen to all the submissions, then make their decision on quite tight criteria.

I'll look into why the development departs from the UDP.

Mark L said...

If you'll permit me to go back to transport geekery for a second... :)

The theory behind NLX providing relief to Vauxhall station is that a new Nine Elms station would reduce the number of passengers using Vauxhall, particularly those arriving from the South West of the area, e.g. the Wandsworth Road corridor (my little corner of SW8) and the massive NCGMA and US Embassy developments. It also has the potential to attract passengers from other areas around Vauxhall by offering them a direct-ish link to the City (to change at Kennington isn't much effort...).

Of course, the the problem with Nine Elms station, which ties in neatly with your other post on Kennington, is that by virtue of its location, it would be a Zone 2 station. Anyone on PAYG with a bit of brains would realise that to spend a few more minutes walking to Vauxhall would get them into Zone 1, bagging a cheaper fare, therefore reducing the ability of Nine Elms to take passengers away from Vauxhall. Something I raised in my response to the consultation ;)

A pier at St George's Wharf would be great - though boats are expensive to commute on. In fact, I believe a pier was originally part of the planning agreement.

Mark L said...

Hmm. A quick google shows that a pier was designed in 1999,London_HQ.pdf

The River Plan refers to the application for this pier, which was withdrawn, and never resubmitted. And that TfL don't really think a pier in Vauxhall is viable: (p72)

Interestingly for SE11 folks, there's also a mention of a possible pier at the Park Plaza in the doc.

And a MQT from Caroline Pidgeon shows a Boris Johnston reluctance to push it forward.

patrick said...

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Mark Harrison said...

Planning Officer David Smith says:

The application is a ‘departure’ in that it is seeking to introduce residential dwellings into a designated KIBA (a Key Industrial and Business Area – the middle and rear sites); an area safeguarded under Policy 22 of the adopted UDP for B Class Uses (business, industrial, warehousing) and other uses falling outside of a use class and commonly found in industrial areas.

Charlie Holland said...

The missing element in the transport discussion is the bicycle. Why is there no plan to run a Cycling Superhighway up the vast width of Nine Elms Lane - especially given the plan for car-free developments? It's cheap infrastructure. Why does the Opportunity Area Planning Framework not mention the Cycle Hire Scheme? Why does the 8 Albert Embankment have such a high amount of car parking in the planning application?

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