Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Vauxhall Island Site - KOV Meeting Part 2 (and a meander on to Lambeth Council Housing)

I blogged about Chief Superintendent Ephgrave's appearance at the Kennington Oval and Vauxhall forum on the 9th of June, last week.  But the other segment of the meeting mostly comprised another presentation and chance for questions and answers from the developers of the Vauxhall Island site.  This is the second time the representatives from Kylun Ltd have consulted the community in a public forum, and, better still, encouraged a free-for-all Q&A session.  I'm not going to pretend I suddenly welcome tall buildings, but as their architect commented, "we've always seen this as a location for tall buildings" and the design is considerably more discreet than some of the others presented to the public.

Additional info on. Vauxhall Island Site plans:

The architect opened the discussion by noting that between the buildings, they hope to place an enclosed site and that the commercial spaces would act as provision for local  people and not just residents.   The developers have been meeting with representatives from local parks and other groups and have identified the arches under Vauxhall bridge as opportunities for investment.  Kylun Ltd have also been asked by TFL to look at the possibility of an under the road crossing.  It wasn't entirely clear, but the matter of some additional pedestrian crossings is also under consideration.  The developers say they are happy to fund these.  TFL, however, have to confirm the exact location of any crossings, and are naturally worried about slowing down the traffic (what a good idea!!).  TFL are looking at a range of options concerning the future (or non-future) of the Vauxhall gyratory.

If the building is granted planning permission, one of the ground floor units in the Vauxhall Island site towers (I believe the left hand tower, as you look at the diagram) will be an NHS dentist, and the other part of the floor will be a 70-100 seater digital cinema.  Considering that a swimming pool was unrealistic and out of the question, I'd have said that these are great options.  We don't have a cinema locally so this should make a great addition to Vauxhall.  Above that, there will be three floors of offices (see here for the earlier detailed account, but these could well be work-space type units.  There are questions as to whether these could be subsidised for start-up businesses.  The right hand tower contains a 180 bed hotel and there will be 291 private apartments (spread across both towers, I'm guessing), with a bar on the right hand tower at the13th floor.  There will be provision for 740(ish) bike parking spaces.

SE11_lurker's brief digression on public housing:

[And the affordable housing question?  That's a rather thorny issue, of course.  Lambeth Council have traditionally built huge amounts of public housing whenever they've had the chance, in the 1920s and 1930s, as well as after the war.  It's what keeps people voting Labour, after all.  I tend to be in favour, even though I'd never qualify to live in it, because I believe that the best communities are those where wealth is evenly spread.  I'm not a fan of the free market, left to its own devices, but I make my living from it, and so do many.  Consequently, I like the idea that private housing should fund public and affordable housing.  It seems fair according to a somewhat old-fashioned notion of justice.  But Lambeth has recently seen considerable gentrification in areas like Kennington and Clapham, which of course means that people start to raise the previously unheard of question about whether "we" want that housing, and as usual, the "we" who are asking should probably look around very carefully and ask "who is included?".  Kate Hoey made a very insightful remark at one of the hustings when she commented that single men are very rarely offered public housing.

As though on cue, the Streatham Guardian this week has published figures which suggest that 20,000 people are on the "mainstream housing waiting list", compared with 17,000 last year.  It does rather make one wonder quite where people are living in the meantime.  Does everybody on the list need to be on the list?  How on earth is the housing allocated?  Lambeth claim that their success in housing people just causes more people to apply!  But it should be noted that only eight councils nationally managed to build enough homes according to national requirements.   I doubt that central London, in the middle of a recession, is ever really going to manage to squeeze in all of those extra homes.  And "squeeze" is indeed the notion, because the buildings will have to grow taller to fit in the people.  Lambeth is only seven miles long, after all!  Probably the place to put the most pressure is on the empties.  I keep thinking that the Council ought to come up with a voluntary taskforce, capable of building, plumbing and wiring, who could fix up the houses for those in most desperate need (surely that would be a good co-operative citizen thing to do).  I'd give a Saturday to go and paint a rundown flat, and I can't be the only one.]

Kylun's statement on affordable housing:

It seems that 43% of the public housing would need to be family housing, that is 3 or 4 bed apartments.  Unfortunately, the "final proportion of affordable housing has still be agreed under Section 106".


Q.  What is the inspiration behind the design?
A.  The towers are simple and elegant shapes.  They're two sisters, so they spiral up.  The architect takes a different view to the designers of the Shard concerning design.

Q.  What is the timetable?
A.  The designs should be submitted to the Council's planning department within the next fortnight (that's the next week now, since I'm late writing this up).  They anticipate a decision before the end of the year, and will commence the search for a development partner.  If all goes to plan, work should begin on the site in 2015.

Q.  How many people will the building house? (and a second question about cycle safety which was indistinct)
A.  At a guess, the building will house about 600 people.  TFL can answer questions relating to cycle safety.  Apparently, they're coming up with a cycling vision, and running a cycle lane around the back was not seen as acceptable.  [I'm not at all clear on this question, and couldn't work out what "around the back" meant.  Would appreciate clarification from anybody that was there.]

Q.  What about piers, and river transport?
A.  We've struggled with other buildings (not this one, since the Vauxhall Island site is not considered a riverside venture), to get piers into other developments, due to the financial viability of river transport, perhaps due to the fact that it's not subsidised.  We're not in a position to make it happen on site.

[If you're really interested in piers, you might like to read about the work that Caroline Pidgeon did to try and get some on the Albert Embankment.  I wrote about it on my post "whatever happened to Vauxhall pier?"]

Q.  Are you able to favour independent local businesses, rather than give the commercial sites to chains?
A.  We are providing a range of different sized units to try to encourage variety, but it's not clear how we could send potential tenants away if they were over a certain size.


Anonymous said...

Affordable and Council housing. Some obervations:

1.) A waiting list of 20,000 represents the number of people, not the number of units. For example, a family of five will all be listed, though they seek only one unit.

2) A lot of people on the waiting list are just chancers. They don't NEED it, but would certainly TAKE it.

3) I, too, will volunteer to paint, but one rule: if the unit is out of service because the tenants destroyed it, then we should force them to restore it.

4) We should halt "housing for life" and means testing should be brought in on a regular basis.

5) There is a very thin line between us saying "no one should be homeless" and people hearing "great, i never have to worry about housing".

I appreciate that socialism is alive and well in Lambeth, despite such applaudable goals bankrupting the boruough and actually making life worse for the most vunerable. But we must have just a LITTLE more demand for some personal responsibility and programmes that give people ambition to do better and help themselves. Just a little.

Anonymous said...

I'm no expert in such matters but its hard to see how a 70-100 seat cinema could break even. Unless its planned to be a screening room for the penthouse residents this seems unlikely to survive to fruition...

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

I asked the question about cycling (sorry it was not well phrased).

In short, I am hoping that since TFL are being engaged in this project (even if perhaps they are on the periphery), they could be encouraged to improve the safety of cyclists coming over Vauxhall Bridge Road and across into Kennington Lane.

Anecdotally, I think there have been a fair few accidents(including fatalities)involving cyclists under the bridge leading into Kennington Lane over the years.

Coming from Vauxhall Bridge, there is a tunnel (for pedestrians and cyclists only) to the left of the bridge. The signage suggests to me that the tunnel is supposed to be used only by cyclists coming from Kennington Lane. In practice, it's used by cyclists in both directions.

Perhaps all that is needed is some minor adjustments and changes to signage.

M Poole-Wilson
Kennington Conservatives

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