Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Campaign to remove Vauxhall gyratory and Lambeth commits to 40% social housing in Vauxhall Nine Elms Area (Part 1)

The main part of the April KOV meeting concerned the future of the Vauxhall Nine Elms Battersea Opportunity Area and plans for a Community Forum to work with Lambeth Council and other VNEB partners.

Cllr Mark Harrison (Princes Ward) spoke first by announcing his appointment on the VNEB Strategy Board to represent Lambeth Councillors. Cllr Harrison remarked positively, “We don't have a choice in the matter [of VNEB]; it will happen whether we like it or not”. The Strategy Board consists Wandsworth Council, Lambeth Council, the Mayor, TFL and the various landowners in Vauxhall, Nine Elms and Battersea.

For ease of reading, I've divided Cllr Harrison's remarks into several sub-headings, so you can just read the parts you're interested in...

New Lambeth Officers for VNEB
Cllr Harrison reflected that, for the last few years, Lambeth Council had neglected VNEB and left it to Planning Officers. Lambeth have now appointed an executive director (Sue Foster) and a new officer (Sandra Roebuck) to focus on VNEB issues. The project, Cllr Harrison noted, should now gain strategic direction and focus upon Lambeth's regeneration.

Community Forum
Back in January 2011, local residents were invited to an initial meeting on establishing a VNEB Community Forum for Lambeth. Since then, Cllr Harrison noted that there had been a lull at Lambeth as the project was transferred from Planning to Regeneration. Lambeth Council hope that Kennington, Oval, Vauxhall (KOV) forum and Stockwell Partnership will work with Lambeth on community engagement. Indeed, the Community Forum will meet again in May [it was unclear whether this is high level members from KOV/Stockwell or all residents] to discuss a community engagement proposal from the Stockwell partnership, and be provided with an update from the Strategy Board.

VNEB Consultations Soon to Launch
Consultations are about to begin, one from TFL on the Northern Line Extension (9th May), and one by Lambeth Council on the finalisation of Vauxhall's Supplementary Planning document.

VNEB Strategy Board transparency
Cllr Harrison remarked that he had persuaded the Strategy Board to publish all of their papers online (very good news!) so that residents can access information and the discussions will not exclude them.

Northern Line Extension Funding Paper
Cllr Harrison observed that the Northern Line Extension is pushing forward... An audience member interjected that the NLE represented a disadvantageous “split” on account of having to change lines, rather than an “extension”. [Actually, most trains on the Charing Cross branch seem to effectively terminate at Kennington at present any way.] Cllr Mark Harrison argued valiantly that the NLE was an advantage on the basis of increased train frequency, and reiterated, “It will happen whether we like it or not”. According to Cllr Harrison, a NLE paper has been commissioned on alternative funding options to Section 106 contributions. One idea is for tax incremental funding so that future business rates in Wandsworth could be used to pay for the NLE.

VNEB rebranding
More controversially (KOV audience members were in uproar), a branding exercise for the area has been commissioned at the behest of Wandsworth landowners. The Vauxhall Nine Elms Opportunity Area is felt to be a terrible phrase, so they want a better way of describing the area. Lambeth Council have made it that they will not be tied into its recommendations. Cllr Harrison felt that any branding produced would need to be acceptable to existing communities, which already have strong identities and histories, and cannot just be rebranded.

Social housing
Since the last strategy board, the Homes and Communities agency (social/affordable housing) has become involved in the scheme. The HCA will work out what government policy will mean for VNEB and enable Lambeth to deliver social and affordable housing. Cllr Harrison stated forcefully, “Lambeth is fully committed to 40% affordable housing target in all developments.” [The DIFs study says Lambeth is committed to 15%, but more of that in a future post.]

Future of Vauxhall Gyratory and Public Realm
Finally, the public realm working group chaired by Lambeth is under way. It will focus on improving Vauxhall Cross and “hopefully” removing the gyratory system as well as ensuring the Linear Park is a decent width and size. Lambeth Councillors have met separately about options for Vauxhall Cross gyratory. Cllr Harrison stated 3 options; “do nothing”, “do something”, and “remove the gyratory all together”. TFL have apparently put together a “do something” proposal [not one that residents are privy to, so that's something to request]. The councillors found it “quite impressive”, with plans to narrow roads, widen pavements, add pedestrian crossings, and improve public realm with trees etc. Cllr Harrison slightly hedged his bets saying that he thought [the TFL plan] “would make a big difference,” but then noted, “we're still going to push hard for removing the gyratory altogether.” The local councillors think that there will need to be a fundamental shift from Vauxhall being a motor vehicle junction to being a public space that prioritises people, bikes and buses. Cllr Harrison then admitted, “The Northern Line Extension doesn't particularly benefit Lambeth so at the Strategy Board level, we need to say, “you're [Wandsworth] getting your Northern line, we need Vauxhall Cross transformed”.

I hope to get Part 2 of this post written this evening; an update from Maureen Johnson (KOV Chair) and questions from the floor.

Also, there's a lot more local news to publish, but I'm currently on a short break so it will happen a little more gradually than usual!


Michael said...

I really hope that the TFL have fully consulted the Kylun Towers and CLS design teams so that they can all develop concise and integrated proposals. The current skywalk suggestion from CLS, is stupid on so many levels I can't even start

thespysays said...

I may have missed the arguments, but while I fully support the improvement of the environs - wider pavements, narrower roads, trees, landscaping etc - i dont see what the necessity for scrapping the gyratory is? Why does it make any difference to anyone not in a vehicle which direction the vehicles are going?

If Vauxhall goes the way that it already seems apparent that Elephant and Castle is going having removed their gyratory/roundabout system for traffic lights alone then the resultant chaos will only make for slower traffic flows, more stationary polluting traffic and the semblance of a car park in amongst the proposed aesthetic improvements.

Cllr Mark Harrison said...

Removing the gyratory - creating 'two way working' - will slow the traffic down. At the moment traffic can race around the one-way system at 40 or 50 mph. Two way working will result in traffic moving at 20 or 30 mph - more appropriate for a residential area in central London.

There's a big debate to be had about whether slowing the traffic and reducing the junction's capacity will result in more congestion. Traffic engineering is an art rather than a science. It could be that some car journeys just disappear and there isn't resulting congestion - this has happened elsewhere.

Andrea said...

1)"The VNEB is here to stay" - but does it have to be at top density of 16.000 new dwellings and 25.000 new jobs (higher population density than Calcutta) and at the maximum height of 150 m for the cluster at Vauxhall Cross, putting huge pressure on infrastructure such as parks, schools, transport etc?

2) "40% affordable gousing". The proposed Kylun Towers development's social/affordable housing (still waiting to go before the planning committee) has been adjusted downwards from 25% to 19%.

3) "Removal of the "gyratory"; The gyratory was created at considerable expense about 10 years ago (when Glenda Jackson wwas transpoprt secretary) - who is going to pay for converting it back to a counterflow system, plus traffic calming measures; the TFL are facing massive cuts.

While it is true that at times driving speeds on Vauxhall Cross are high, there is regular grid lock at peak times, or during lane closures for road works etc.

According to the VNEB transport study Vauxhall Cross is a 'key strategic junction'. Basically all roads going into it are red routes! Does anyone really believe that traffic calming measures i.e. road narrowing will be enough to turn Vauxhall Cross into a pedestrian paradise?

michael WCDG said...

The gyratory was in by at least 1981 (when Glenda Jackson still worked in the theatre): there is a Lambeth planning guidance document for the Effra site (now St George's) from 1981 which shows pics of the gyratory and explains that what is now the Kylun site was then laid out as open space (a hostel and other Victorian buildings on the site were removed) which was to compensate for the proposed high density development on the Effra site (in fact the density proposed then was about 1/3rd of what it has turned out). The Wandsworth Rd stretch of the gyratory was widened to 8 lanes when the ski-slopes were put in around 2003, and a lane was added to South Lambeth Rd side of the gyratory. The island/ Kylun was transferred to the GLC but was sold off when the GLC was wound up in 1986, with the open space use lost amidst a welter of hoardings.

VNEB has a whole host of problems. It was initially (2002) to be focused on Vauxhall hub but Wandsworth weren't interested. By the time they got interested in 2007/08, especially after Boris Johnson was elected (fellow Tories) Lambeth had lost all interest - or, rather, members were unaware of the issues and wouldn't take a political lead. The Head of Regen at the time desperately tried to get senior members to take on Edward Lister (leader of Wandsworth Council since 1992 and chair of the VNEB board) on the transport issue and lobbied for priority for the gyratory plus a Victoria line spur from Vauxhall, but no one took any action (that officer went off to Newham to do the Olympics...). It was only in 2010 that Lambeth put a cabinet member on the board, and only in recent months that Steve Reed has finally taken up the cause. The result is that VNEB is extraordinarily weighted to Wandsworth and to providing a new central London enclave for City workers (which is why they want the northern line directly to the City) and pied a tierres. The fact that they are predicting such small numbers of children speaks volumes.

VNEB is pretty oblvious to the need to regenerate the arc of deprivation stretching from Lambeth Walk through Oval to the Patmore Estate. The most noticable thing about the location of these poor areas is that they are generally far away from a town centre or shops and services - and yet VNEB proposes the most piddling town centre at Vauxhall, which in fact will be mainly delivered on the Covent Garden market site. Instead the focus on town centre activities has been at Battersea Power Station, where the proposed 60,000m2 of retail is so huge it is estimated that it will cream off 7% of the trade in Streatham and Clapham for at least 10 years (which will cause these centres to decline).

The easist bit of VNEB to pick apart is the myriad assumptions loaded to support the absurd NLE. Assumption: e.g. no need for lots of money for secondary and primary schools to serve the 40,000 residents, since there will be few children, because (i) 15% affodable housing assumed (ii) a large proportion of families will use private schools (iii) the area will not be attractive to families. Result: £100m can be diverted from building schools and be spent on NLE. But of course the assumptions are silly and/or completely contrary to policy: it will simply not work out like that, but by then it will be too late and instead Lambeth will be tearing it's hair out trying to find sites and money to build new schools (no change there then).

VNEB is most certainly with us - indeed it will the biggest and most visible change to London since Canary Wharf 25 years ago; the scale of the development is similar to CW; and CW's insularity and complete failure to resolve the deprivation around it will be replicated at VNEB.


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