Sunday, 21 November 2010

Nine Elms Sainsbury's Towers Exhibition Debrief - photos, diagrams and comments

Righty ho.  Here's what you've all been waiting for...  The Sainsbury's Towers exhibition was held quite prominently in the car park, and I've had a look at their plans, and am quite keen on the proposals (except for  the probably inevitable high rise towers).

The plan is to demolish the current (rather ugly) Sainsburys, so that instead of floating in the middle of nowhere, it will front on to the Wandsworth Road.  The new building will be glass fronted and the size of the floor plan will be increased so that it will be the largest Sainsbury's in London, at 80,000 square feet (from its current 45,000 square feet).  The store will presumably become an uber-large Sainsbury's Extra Extra and will thus be able to stock a wider range of goods.

This is part of a project that would see the creation of 800 new flats that would be developed on top of the new Sainsbury's building and across the entire site, with three tall towers (18 metres, 25 metres and 35 metres) on the triangular corners of the edges.

In the meantime, whilst the demolition is undertaken, a temporary store will be erected upon the site of the petrol station.  Oval News have quoted this as being 15,000 square feet, but I was told that the temporary store would be 20,000 feet.  Whilst it won't be tiny, it's only going to be about a third of the size of the existing store.  If you don't do your shopping online, now is the time to start!  (Unless, of course, you wish to subject yourself to the dire Kennington Tesco.)  It's alleged to have been improved, but, well, never mind.  I'm getting off topic.

The petrol station will no longer be on site, but Sainsbury's are hoping to house it in the now disused Esso station at 54 Wandsworth Road.

At present, there is a 300 space car park on site, but the new Sainsburys should have approx. 400 spaces (all subject to agreement with Lambeth etc.) because of the increased capacity of the store.  The car park will go underground (a great idea, since it's a waste of land), and there will be some bike parking too (numbers of bike stands unknown).  At least, that's what I was told.  The Sainsbury's website states that there are currently 450 car parking spaces on site and since the chaps definitely hoped to increase the size of the car park, I can only think a mistake has been made somewhere!

Sainsbury's hope to submit their planning application to Lambeth in March 2011, with the completed store (if application is accepted) to be opened by 2014.  The residential property (all to be built on top of the new store) will follow on in the five years after 2014.  The Sainsbury's redevelopment is /not/ dependent on the new Nine Elms tube eg. there's thought to still be capacity at Vauxhall, despite the size of this development.

The exhibition comprised the following 7 boards:

The "out of town" style Nine Elms Sainsbury's will be modified and other shops and businesses will share the site:

Additional retail space will create 150 new jobs.  On the top left of this board, you can see the proposed Nine Elms tube station.  Also, this site will open up Wandsworth Road as far back as the railway arch, and make it easier for pedestrians to access the river.  This would be a considerable improvement, since currently, the Sainsbury's just appears to float in the middle of a piece of wasteland.  It seems likely that the footpaths will be improved to access New Covent Garden market, although the boards don't quite go that far.

The proposal for an "explore learning" centre for the use of children, over and above school education, is imaginative, although I did hear one older person complaining that nothing is put in place for older people in the borough.

Sainsbury's say that they are "open" to having the "Nine Elms" tube station placed on their land (ambitious, considering the £280 million funding shortfall for the Northern line extension), but will only allow this if their redevelopment plans are approved by Lambeth.  Considering the redevelopment to take place in the rest of the area, I can't quite see why this aggressive stance needs to be taken.  The Sainsbury's plans would actually help link retail, small businesses and residential land, whilst considerably opening up the area for pedestrians:

This board might be a subtle way of hinting  that, despite the creation of a new public square, the new flats will not have any green space except for huge roof gardens above the store (about 6 storeys up).  I wondered whether these would be suitable for children, but I was told that the edges would be protected.  I'm not too sure what the large purple blobs on the upper right diagram here represent, so would be delighted to hear from anybody that asked:

The new Sainsbury's store itself will mostly be on the first floor, so that the ground floor is opened for new businesses.  There will also be a mezzanine level which will contain a cafe and non-food items.  I actually think that the proposed mockup of the store here is inoffensive, but rather bland and non-descript.  I'm told that these are the initial drawings, and that further detail will be available at the time of a second consultation in February 2011 (or thereabouts).  I hope that the next drawings might be a little more imaginative than to depict a large glass front with giant grey boxes on the top!  Still, nearly anything would be an improvement on the current design!:

750 - 800 new flats will be constructed, ranging from 1 bedroom to 3 bedroom properties.  The amount of affordable housing has still to be negotiated with Lambeth Council who will set targets.  I asked whether that info. would be available by the second consultation, but apparently, that bit comes much later.  The number of affordable flats are only specified once the Council have analysed the plans and calculated the square footage/value of the properties.  Once that has happened, a formula is followed which tells the developers the targets they have to meet and once the targets have been given, the negotiation takes place:  

On this diagram, I've zoomed in to one of the boards and drawn on the heights of the proposed buildings (which are still, in the eloquent words of the PR company, "up for grabs") and also shown Vauxhall Sky Gardens in the bottom right corner:

I like this board.  I think it might be my favourite planning board of all time.  Here we see that Sainsbury's really don't want to build very high, but are merely following the will of Lambeth council and the GLA, who have requested "intensification".  Lambeth, we're told, simply wouldn't support the development if Sainsbury's didn't propose building really really high!  Ha!  Consequently, the tallest Sainsbury's tower comes in at only 35 floors, whereas Vauxhall Sky Gardens (permission already granted by Lambeth) is a whopping one floor higher (36 floors).  I'm not sure that suggesting it will be shorter than Vauxhall Sky Gardens is any great boast!  By comparison, Strata (Elephant and Castle) is 43 storeys:

This board is a summary of the above:

You can submit your comments by email to or telephone 0870 066 8734 or just visit their website and submit the form on this page.  The Sainsbury's Nine Elms website is now live and displays some of the diagrams from the boards above.

Other than the 35 storey tower, which I'm not impressed by (you all know that I dislike tall buildings), I think the Sainsbury's plan is exciting.  I like the idea of developing the site so that there's space for additional retail units.  It would be great if these could be low-rent and accessible to small independent businesses, but that may be too much to hope for. Also, I favour using the site to open up the railway arches from Wandsworth Road to the river.  I'm hoping that the Sainsbury's might offer a gateway through to the New Covent Garden market as well.


Andrew Orange said...

I suggested the plans might most be improved by making it a Waitrose but it didn't go down too well.

Jon B said...

"The new Sainsbury's store itself will mostly be on the first floor, so that the ground floor is opened for new businesses."

Differs from I was told in that the ground floor would mostly be parking, albeit with "active frontages" to Wandsworth Rd - i guessed by that maybe this would be the location of the small ancilliary units they have in store - dispensing chemist etc.

Jon B said...

Just looked at the developers link - ground floor retail will be in seperate blocks to west and above Northern Line station site - see plan on the "More details" page ( Majority of ground floor will be parking.

Mark said...

I worry that this will completely dominate Wandsworth Road... I really would prefer it to be set back a bit.

Whilst the additional retail would be fantastic, the layout of the site suggests to me that it might not be so easy to get the footfall necessary to be viable. The store entrance will be in a completely different place from the other retail outlets, meaning that you might miss out on 'passing traffic', especially as you'll be able to get from car park to store without going outside.

I do, however, really like the increased permeability and cut-throughs to New Covent Garden Market, which will tie in nicely with the proposed consumer-oriented market there, but if Sainsbury's apply tight controls to their parking (as they do now), you risk more people parking in the residential streets nearby. This is already a nightmare on Sundays.

I also hate their ultimatum regarding the Northern Line extension. At the end of the day, their land could just be subject to compulsory purchase, so local residents shouldn't feel like they "have" to support the development in order to get a tube station.

Purple blobs are to symbolise public space. Note how two of them are on land that isn't owned by Sainsbury's, so are irrelevant to the application. (Same goes for the very laudable intention to open up the railways arches. It's a great idea, but Sainsbury's don't own them, so it's not really their decision to make).

matt mcConnell said...

The notion that Lambeth planning policy aims for more tall buildings in this area rings familiar, but can someone point me to the policy itself?

I dont' have strong feelings either way about more tall buildings, but I think there is a huge flaw in this policy that will have approved construction of several tall towers before the first one is even complete. There will be no chance to evaluate the impact of one or two tall towers before six are underway.

Mark said...

Matt - it's identified as a 'Major Development Opportunity' site (MDO 84) (page 185)

"MDO 84 - Nine Elms Sainsbury’s (Wandsworth Rd) - Area: 2.4 Ha
Potential for intensive development over supermarket and in car park; creation of
active frontage and new public space along Wandsworth Road."

Whilst the statement above uses the phrase "potential", if you skim through the document there are clear guidelines from Lambeth that they would encourage intensification of development in the area, e.g.:

"Lambeth has also examined on a street by street basis potential future sites for housing, including a number of potential sites for tall buildings around
transport interchanges. The major growth will be in the Vauxhall area"

Dolapo Bolinda said...

This is SW8 not SE11

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