Put Lambeth’s questionable Jenga Tower approval to a public inquiry, Vauxhall community groups tell Communities Minister

new bondway

new bondwayEric Pickles, the Communities and Local Government Secretary, is being urged to turn down for a second time the unpopular ‘Jenga Tower’/New Bondway skyscraper scheme approved by Lambeth Council for Vauxhall Cross.

Lambeth allowed secret evidence on affordable housing and a discrepancy in the reporting of employment space to go unchecked, the Friends of Vauxhall Park charge in a letter to the Minister. This latest New Bondway scheme offers 20% affordable housing against the previous scheme’s 29% and Lambeth’s own requirement for 40%.

FOVP says that Lambeth Council’s Planning Committee approved a revised planning application for New Bondway on 5 August, with four members voting for, and three abstaining, presumably too feeble to speak their mind. Pressure is building locally for a departmental investigation into the quality of Lambeth planning consultation and decision-making in Vauxhall.

The Friends of Vauxhall Park (FOVP) urge Mr Pickles to put Lambeth’s odd vote to a public planning enquiry ‘to prevent out of control development in Lambeth’.

FOVP says that English Heritage objects to the New Bondway scheme as jeopardising the world heritage status of Westminster. UNESCO also says that London’s rage for tall buildings harms the World Heritage setting of Westminster.

The proposed height of New Bondway exceeds the Mayor of London’s guidance and two neighbouring boroughs, Westminster and Wandsworth, object to the scheme, FOVP says.

New Bondway will ‘overwhelm’ Vauxhall Park, one reason why Mr Pickles, on the advice of a Planning Inspector, rejected a previous application in 2008 on the same site.

The South London Press headlined the New Bondway scheme as a ‘monstrosity’, the word used by a Vauxhall Society spokesperson in response to the paper’s inquiry.

The TVS response in full read:
‘I’d leave my lights on at night if I had a flat in New Bondway/Jenga Tower – and if I had offices there I’d be looking at my insurance.
‘January is the second anniversary of central London’s first fatal air crash when a helicopter clipped The Tower St George Wharf skyscraper, narrowly missing the One Nine Elms double-skyscraper development site, to crash in flames on the Wandsworth Road in rush hour.
‘Despite local opposition, money-mad Lambeth Council means to cram yet another monstrosity into the skyscraper cluster at Vauxhall Cross, where air turbulence and air pollution are already at danger levels.
‘Views differ on the building’s design, but Lambeth Councillors should be ashamed to blot out the sun like this from ‘the poor people’s garden’, Vauxhall Park.’


The FOVP letter in full
Rt Hon Mr Eric Pickles MP
Secretary of State
Department for Communities and Local Government
Eland House
Bressenden Place
London SW1E 5DU

12 August 2014

Dear Mr Pickles

Re: Request for a planning inspector to review Lambeth Council’s decision to approve planning permission for 69-71 Bondway, London SW8 1SQ (14/00601/FUL)

We believe that it is essential you call this proposal in for a planning enquiry to prevent out of control development in Lambeth. On 5 August 2014 the above building was approved by Lambeth Council’s Planning Committee with 4 members supporting and 3 abstaining. Lambeth gave approval despite:

  • English Heritage’s objection that this scheme jeopardizes the world heritage status of Westminster. Only days before the decision, UNESCO raised concerns about London development of tall buildings affecting the World Heritage setting of Westminster.
  • The fact that the height of this building exceeds (by some 18m) the Mayor of London’s OAPF guidance requesting heights in Vauxhall of the order of 150m;
  • Two neighbouring London Boroughs, Westminster and Wandsworth, objecting to this scheme;
  • Our belief that this scheme will overwhelm Vauxhall Park (comments were submitted from the Friends of Vauxhall Park). This was one of the reasons you rejected, on the advice of the Planning Inspector, the previous application in 2008 on this same site. We believe the planning committee failed to consider the quality of public realm offered by this development and the lack of access to amenity space for the new residents in the affordable housing, therefore inadequately taking into account the impact on Vauxhall Park.
  • The fact that insufficient employment space and affordable housing is offered (comments received from local people and amenity groups including the Kennington, Oval and Vauxhall Forum and the Vauxhall Society). The current scheme provides for 20% affordable housing against a local plan which aims for 40%. In reaching its decision, Lambeth allowed secret evidence on affordable housing, and a discrepancy in the reporting of employment space to go unchecked. For comparison on affordable housing, the previous (rejected) scheme offered 29% affordable housing.

Yours sincerely

Helen Monger and Polly Freeman
Trustees, Friends of Vauxhall Park

cc. Kate Hoey MP and Timothy Jones, English Heritage

Block booking at Kennington hotel

12578_b6

The sun may be going in for people living on the Lambeth Council and City Corporation estates behind the Days Hotel at 54 Kennington Road. The hotel’s owners want to knock down the present building and replace it with three blocks of hotel and serviced apartments, 7, 9 and 22 storeys high.

There’s an exhibition on Friday 18 July from 2 to 8pm and Saturday 19 July from 10am to 2pm, in Teaching Room 1, 4th floor, Oasis College, 1 Kennington Road, SE1 7QP. There’ll be more details on www.54kenningtonroad.co.uk from 18 July, or if you can’t wait that long, you can speak to Issam Ismail, the hotel’s general manager (on behalf of the developer, Cranborne Enterprises) or his colleague, Jack Organ, on 020 7323 3544, email contact@54kenningtonroad.co.uk. You can also write to the ‘54 Kennington Road Consultation, c/o Camargue, 7 Bayley St, WC1B 3HB’. Camargue are the developer’s PR people. The addition of the word ‘Consultation’ signifies that in due course Camargue will recycle your comments or the fact of your visit to the exhibition to inform Lambeth Council that everybody loves the idea of three blocks of hotel and serviced apartments, 7, 9 and 22 storeys high. Lambeth is then likely to take the developer’s word for it, rubber-stamp the ensuing planning application and pocket the proceeds from a ‘Community Infrastructure Levy’.

Vauxhall Bus Station now in DOUBLE the danger?

i love vauxhall bus station badge

i love vauxhall bus station badgeUntil last weekend, there were two TfL/Lambeth proposals for rejigging the roundabout at Vauxhall Bridge, each involving the destruction of Vauxhall Bus Station roundabout. Now there are four, all saying the same thing: the Bus Station goes. Signatures on the Save Vauxhall Bus Station online petition are expected to surge. (If you haven’t signed please do so now.)

Such was the public outcry in Vauxhall when the first two proposals were made that TFL/Lambeth/Wandsworth Councils returned to the drawing board. The promise was to come back with alternative proposals, at least one of which would include the retention of Vauxhall Bus Station.

Well, TfL/Lambeth/Wandsworth came back with a public exhibition in Vauxhall on Thursday 26 June, at which the two old and two new plans were on show. Within hours, Vauxhall MP Kate Hoey and Save Vauxhall Bus Station Campaigners and members of the Kennington, Oval and Vauxhall Forum (KOVF) had steam coming out their ears and were exhibiting signs of road rage. The reason? Contrary to the assurances they thought they had been given, the Bus Station appears in none of TfL/Lambeth’s four ‘proposals’.

The only novelty, in Plan Three, is a proposed TfL Skyscraper plonked where the Bus Station will no longer be if Tfl/Lambeth get their way. Some gormless functionary, possibly from The Communications Agency PR firm, let slip that the skyscraper – unidentified on the architects’ impression – is ‘to generate the £40 million’ TfL needs to fund all the lovely improvements. All four plans, which go out to ‘consultation’ in the autumn involved bus passengers queuing at bus stops scattered around the roundabout.

The TfL/Lambeth/Wandsworth proposals for demolishing Vauxhall Bus Station will be posted on the Lambeth website shortly. KOVF’s website has had to be changed in light of what KOVF sees as a betrayal. KOVF, a consultative group of local community associations set up and funded by Lambeth, will discuss developments at a board meeting on Thursday 3 July Wednesday and at a public meeting at the Carmelita Centre on Thursday 10 July.

The Save Vauxhall Bus Station Campaign says:

How to demolish the bus station in four different ways
In spite of re-assurances from Lambeth and TfL that these new plans would contain an option to retain the bus station, we were presented with four options, all of which include demolition of the bus station and its replacement by bus stops scattered roadside around Vauxhall Cross in various combinations.

The ‘central integrated bus interchange facility’ which Lambeth and TfL are trying to pass off as a bus station is a collection of some, but probably not all, the bus stops crammed roadside along a narrowed Bondway at the southern end of what is now the bus platform, with no canopy and separated from the tube and trains.

And what is the desperate imperative that necessitates the loss of the bus station? It is that any plan must be made to fit around Lambeth’s determination to build a High Street in its place. This week Emerald Stores closes in Bondway, to be replaced by an estate agent. No doubt this will be the first of many to take up residence in Lambeth’s High Street, to service the luxury homes stretching from the bus station island site to Battersea.

Is this what we are to lose our bus station for?

Lambeth Council ‘consultation’ and Vauxhall Bus Station:

bus station drawing competition

Vauxhall Bus Stn Drawing Competition-18‘About as scientific as those adverts for face cream that tell you 87% of 124 women thought the cream made them look younger’

The majority party in Lambeth Council is at great pains to convince residents that its politicians and planners wish to deliver only what residents want. And so they do, provided the residents want what the politicians want. In spite of the politicos’ constantly-repeated mantra of ‘nothing has been decided yet,’ Lambeth decided before any consultation took place to demolish the bus station and get rid of the gyratory to make way for a ‘High Street.’

‘Consultation,’ Lambeth-style, has not been an attempt to establish what all the people who use Vauxhall Cross want but a marketing exercise designed to sell to the public the Council’s intentions as set out in the draft Vauxhall Special Planning Document (SPD). The ‘consultation’ reports in the SPD are dressed up to look like unbiased scientific research, with lots of numbers, graphs and percentages, but are about as scientific as those adverts for face cream that tell you 87% of 124 women thought the cream made them look younger.

Lambeth made commendable efforts to sell their vision within a very small geographical area, thus representing a tiny fraction of the people who use Vauxhall Cross. The council sent out questionnaires to 30,438 homes in Princes, Oval, Bishops, Larkhall and Stockwell wards. Roadshows and exhibitions were held and associations and community groups were visited, but only in the immediate Vauxhall area. The typical attendance was between 40 and 100 people. Another 2,000 questionnaires were distributed and 700 people were ‘engaged with’, whatever that means.

Of these 32,438 questionnaires, the Save Vauxhall Bus Station Campaign’s information is that 764 were returned and these were used as a basis for ‘confirmation’ of Lambeth’s previously-decided plans to demolish the bus station and get rid of the gyratory to make way for a ‘High Street.’

The response to Lambeth’s ‘consultation’ was 2.36% of those polled, a statistically insignificant number upon which to judge people’s views – had there been any intention to.

There is no guarantee that the group who replied were representative of the users as a whole. It’s likely that people with plenty of free time and/or strong views on a particular cause, such as removal of the gyratory, would be over-represented. Similarly, those under-represented are likely to be those who use the bus station most – for example, busy parents with three children and two jobs and no time to read leaflets stuffed through the front door. They’re the kind of people politicians are supposed to look out for.

As a proportion of all those to be affected by Lambeth’s plans, this 2.36% is even less representative. Nobody in Brixton, Clapham, Southwark, Wandsworth, Westminster, or any of the thousands of commuters to and from Vauxhall were even informed of the planned carve-up, let alone consulted.

And yet Lambeth are happy to justify their plans on the views of 764 people from one small section of those affected.

THAT QUESTIONABLE QUESTIONNAIRE

The questionnaire used as a basis for justifying the removal of the gyratory and the demolition of Vauxhall Bus Station is not unbiased. It is designed to get the required response.

There are no questions in the questionnaire. Nobody is asked:

‘Should we look at all available options to improve pedestrian experience of the traffic at Vauxhall?’

Or:

‘Do you think the bus station should be retained in its current form and location?’

Instead there are ten statements with which you are asked to agree or disagree, mostly couched in terms with which it would be difficult to disagree. Thus:

‘Making Vauxhall greener by connecting existing parks and planting new street trees is really important.’

This soft-soap is now being used to justify turning Bondway into a pedestrian precinct as part of a ‘Linear Park’ – with no mention of the resulting loss of Vauxhall Bus Station .

CONCLUSION

The fate of Vauxhall Bus Station and the redevelopment of Vauxhall Cross is not a little local question. It is a matter of importance to many thousands of people in London and the surrounding areas.

Lambeth Council and Transport for London have a responsibility to properly inform and consult all those concerned. So far, Lambeth and TfL’s performance is inadequate.

Dismayed by the Vauxhall community’s rejection of Lambeth’s ‘consultation’ and the TfL’s initial proposals based upon Lambeth’s assurances, TfL says it is about to present a wider set of options. And then consult properly.

We shall see.

Meanwhile, sign the online petition at change.org

Vauxhall resident Michael Leapman’s letter to The Standard

Save Vauxhall Bus Station campaign: bags you a badge?

save vauxhall bus station badge

save vauxhall bus station badgeThe apolitical Save Vauxhall Bus Station campaign will be trialling a first campaign badge at the Friends of Vauxhall Park Summer Fair in Vauxhall Park (junction of Fentiman and Lambeth Road), this Sunday, 22 June, 2-5pm.

The Save Vauxhall Bus Station Campaign is a cross-party grassroots community movement sponsored by The Vauxhall Society (TVS) with the support of other community groups including the Kennington, Oval and Vauxhall Forum and The Vauxhall Gardens Estate Residents and Tenants Association. If your group would like a bespoke Save Vauxhall Bus Station campaign badge, why not give your details to someone on the TVS stand on Sunday? We may be able to help. You could help save Vauxhall Bus Station.

TVS campaign coverage

Print your own badge

Print your own poster

Nine Elms Vauxhall Partnership Open Days 26/27 June: don’t just listen – speak up to Save Vauxhall Bus Station

Nine-Elms-Vauxhall-Partnership-Open-Days-1

Nine-Elms-Vauxhall-Partnership-Open-Days-1Roll up, roll up at a time that suits bureaucrats’ convenience, on two weekdays, for a vision of the Promised Land. Promised by Lambeth and Wandsworth Councils to Chinese, Gulf, Irish and Malaysian businessmen to build up their property portfolios, that is. On Thursday and Friday June 26 and 27 – musn’t eat into council officials’ weekends – there’s to be Open Days in Vauxhall for the Nine Elms Partnership. This is the Labour-run Lambeth and Tory-run Wandsworth quango you’re paying for to smooth the way for skyscrapers to hog the river from Lambeth Bridge to Battersea Bridge. Most of the skyscrapers are pricey flats, marketed to overseas investors as bank collateral rather for than living in. One June 26 and 27 at Bolney Meadow Community Centre you’re in for a lot of guff about ‘plans for new affordable homes’. Whatever you do, don’t lower the tone by asking the suits what an ‘affordable’ home is, or what percentage of such homes Lambeth and Wandsworth normally require in residential developments, skyscrapers included. Don’t, don’t ask how much lower is the ‘affordable’ percentage in the Vauxhall Nine Elms ‘Opportunity Area’ on show. Above all, don’t ask in how many cases Lambeth or Wandsworth councils have buckled and agreed to even fewer (or no) affordable homes than the VNE standard.

If you want to keep Vauxhall Bus Station, then do say so on June 26-27 for the ‘highlight’ of the exhibition is the plan for ‘new town centres’ at Vauxhall Battersea Power Station and a ‘Have Your Say’ on the Vauxhall Gyratory. The ‘plan’ was to raze Vauxhall Bus Station to make way for the Vauxhall ‘town centre’ and easier road access to Battersea’s skyscrapers. But that was before the community had its say through the Vauxhall Society-sponsored non-party Save Vauxhall Bus Station community campaign. This sent Transport for London back to the drawing board. Lambeth Council is now hoping TfL can come up soon with what could be dressed up as an alternative plan. Have Your Say all over again on June 26 and 27. The suits there are bad listeners.

Sign the Save Vauxhall Bus Station Campaign petition, now over 1500 signatures

Download the Save Vauxhall Bus Station leaflet: Side 1 and Side 2

Nine Elms Vauxhall Partnership Open Day:

Thursday 26 June, 3-8pm and Friday 27 June, 8am – 6pm

Bolney Meadow Community Centre

31 Bolney Street

London SW8 1EZ

Does London need more tall buildings?

New London Architecture debate

New London Architecture debateThere’s an opportunity to have your say about the rash of skyscrapers being thrown up around Vauxhall and the rest of London at a debate on Monday night 2 June kicking off the 2014 London Festival of Architecture.‘The Towers Debate: Does London need more tall buildings? is between 6.30pm and 8pm (doors open 5.40pm) at the Peacock Theatre, Portugal Street WC2A 2HT, and the motion is ‘London needs many more tall buildings’.

There are now proposals for over 230 new tall buildings to be built in London over the next decade, 80 per cent of them residential. There’s bound to be a lively cut-and-thrust, with speakers such as Sir Simon Jenkins, chairman of the National Trust, Tony Travers, director of LSE London, and Nicky Gavron, Chairwoman of the London Assembly Planning Committee. Whether it’ll make any difference as local authorities, Labour or Tory, unite with business in the residential property feeding frenzy is another matter.

Visit www.newlondonarchitecture.org for booking and other details

One Nine Elms: the Wandsworth deal that made Boris Johnson happy for the highest skyscrapers yet to ‘browbeat, shade, congest and wind-tunnel’ Vauxhall

Market Towers, Vauxhall

Market Towers, Vauxhall

The Mayor of London (Boris Johnson), Wandsworth Council and the Chinese developer Dalian Wanda have done a luxury hotel property deal at Vauxhall Nine Elms that delivers less than half the promised 900-plus jobs, the BBC reports. The loss of jobs led to Lambeth’s objecting to Dalian Wanda’s plans to redevelop Market Towers on the Wandsworth/Lambeth border as the district’s highest skyscraper cluster yet, One Nine Elms.

The Vauxhall Society described Vauxhall One, yards away from the Wandsworth-Vauxhall border as a’660-ft brute, taller than the London Eye, The Gherkin and the BT Tower, two towers of 43 and 58 storeys’ that will ‘browbeat, shade, congest and wind-tunnel’ Vauxhall Cross. Boris Johnson overrode objections when Dalian Wanda agreed to contribute towards some of his favourite schemes, both locally and elsewhere in London – £14 million on the cost of the Northern Line Tube Extension, £4 million towards Crossrail (in North London)and £6.8 million towards affordable homes (‘elsewhere’).

Totally and absolutely coincidentally, perhaps, BBC London News Political Editor Tim Donovan ran the story on Wednesday 21 May, the day Dalian Wanda held open house at Market Towers, to report progress at a ‘demolition and construction liaison meeting’ at the site whose hazards include a ‘hidden Victorian foul sewer’ and, who knows, perhaps another stray helicopter? Demolition is likely to be succeeded by construction in January 2015 and ‘is expected to be completed in 2018.’ Dalian is delivering fewer jobs, office space will be cut back in favour of luxury flats marketed to wealthy Asian buyers. Polly Freeman of TVS affiliate The Friend of Vauxhall Park told the BBC,‘The jobs will not be luxury will they? They will be cleaners, janitors and security staff, not the quality careers we were promised.’

Related stories

One Nine Elms

Save Vauxhall Bus Station – the politicos have had their say; on 22 May you can have yours

motion10-lib-peck

motion10-lib-peckAhead of the council elections on 22 May, candidates of Lambeth’s majority Labour Party still won’t say that Vauxhall Bus Station is safe from demolition if their party is re-elected. The Tories and Liberal Democrats are on record as saying the bus station is safe with them.

Spooked by what Labour calls ‘scaremongering ahead of the local elections in May’ the Labour party is now waffling. Transport for London, Labour’s partner in the proposed demolition of the bus station, is – Labour now says – ‘exploring’ an option that ‘preserves the central bus station function’ (whatever that means). ‘Preserves the central bus station function’ is a fudge, a playing-for-time mechanism. Like the latest ‘pledge’ on an EU referendum, it means anything that the fudger says it means. The ‘option’ will be unveiled in the Autumn, after the election.

Compare this ‘bus station function’ fudge with what Labour Leader Lib Peck set down in black and white in the Council minutes for 29 January 2014, on a motion that called for a consultation that, in advance of any ‘irrevocable decision,’ would include an option for the bus station to stay.

This is Motion 10, on p15 of the Minutes (see below) which in the Lambeth Labour leader’s hands, is stripped of any commitment to consult ‘Vauxhall commuters’ (who far outnumber Vauxhall residents), as well as any reference to an option to keep Vauxhall Bus Station. Labour, however, added a lot of guff to the motion about a ‘vibrant district centre’ which, like ‘central bus station function’ means whatever the guffer says it means. How politicians can lend their name to vapid PR/ estate-agentspeak like this tells you more about politicians than about ‘vibrant district centres’.

Do read the rest of the 29 January Minutes, and see what’s being said and done in your name and at your expense on matters that concern you and your neighbours.

Meanwhile, the ‘scaremongering ahead of the local elections in May [22]’ goes on regardless of the guff.

  • The cross-party, all-London online petition to Save Vauxhall Bus Station is heading for its 1500th signature.
  • Vauxhall Bus Station is now under consideration for an English Heritage Listing, supported by The Twentieth Century Society.
  • Vauxhall’s recently reselected Labour MP Kate Hoey is a vocal supporter of the bus station.

Lambeth Council candidates, especially Labour ones, will be plagued at the hustings. The Vauxhall Society is apolitical, and so is the Save Vauxhall Bus Station Campaign we sponsor. Labour alone, the majority party in Lambeth Council, voted to demolish the bus station. Even now – a month before the elections – the party won’t or can’t be straight with people.

Read the full minutes of Motion 10 (p15) of Lambeth Council for 29 January 2014

 

Still at risk: ‘Vauxhall Bus Station must go!’, says Council leader

Jonathan Cook

Jonathan Cook‘The [Vauxhall] bus station will be replaced.’

So says the Deputy Leader of Wandsworth Borough Council, Jonathan Cook, as The Vauxhall Society’s all-party, capital-wide Save Vauxhall Bus Station campaign online petition heads for its 2,000th signature.
Contacted by a constituent asking for Wandsworth Council to oppose Lambeth’s ‘extraordinary proposals to demolish Vauxhall Bus Station’, Cllr Cook replied on 7 April:

‘The proposed changes are part of the continual upgrading of local transport, as the Nine Elms regeneration gathers pace, and will improve Vauxhall Cross as an effective interchange, which is clearly essential as you note.

‘The [Vauxhall]bus station will be replaced with a series of relocated bus stops, facilitating efficient bus routes to and through the area. Improvements will result in a much more pedestrian-friendly environment and better access throughout the entire area.

‘I happened to walk through yesterday, on my way from Victoria to Nine Elms, and was struck by the bus station itself, which I’m afraid I’ve never much liked from an aesthetic point of view, but also how very pedestrian- unfriendly the Vauxhall Gyratory vicinity is.

‘In my experience it’s not much better from a driver’s perspective. In addition, the changes should improve traffic flow for those living in the borough, immediately to the east of the area.

‘I hope this helps clarify the plans, and reassures you that the changes will bring improvements, and certainly no loss of service to transport users.’

Cllr Cook’s constituent, Christopher Mitchell, says: ‘I fail to see how relocating the bus stops will improve Vauxhall Cross as an effective interchange. It seems to me once again that the convenience of ordinary London users of public transport is to be sacrificed to the interests of the developers of tower blocks.’

Conservative-controlled Wandsworth wants to be connected to the London Underground. Wandsworth needs the support of neighbouring Labour-controlled Lambeth if TfL is to extend the Northern Line Tube from Kennington (in Lambeth) into Wandsworth.

To reach Wandsworth, TfL will have to dig up a lot of Vauxhall, and is counting on Lambeth footing part of the uncosted bill for building the ‘Northern Line Extension’.

Alarmed by the widespread community and cross-party opposition to Lambeth Labour’s resolve to demolish the bus station, TfL has now called off public consultation until after council elections on 22 May in case the issue costs Lambeth Labour re-election.

TfL is also now offering a ‘save-the-bus station’ option, although Lambeth prevaricates. The Lib Dems and Tories (In Lambeth, but not, it seems, Wandsworth) say Vauxhall Bus Station must stay.

Does Cllr Cook know something about TfL and Lambeth’s intentions that the voters don’t, or is it just that he doesn’t get out much?

As well as his council’s Deputy Leader, Wandsworth’s Jonathan Cook is also ‘Cabinet’ member for ‘Environment, Culture & Safety’. A financial services lawyer, at the last election an interest of Cllr Cook’s was listed as Director and Practice Manager of his wife’s law firm,‘a boutique [....] specialising in funds and fund management’.


Who is Wandsworth’s Cllr Jonathan Cook?

Wandsworth Borough councillor profile

Wandsworth Borough register of interests