‘£1 billion’’ Northern Line Extension railroaded through, and new crop of homes for the rich to be sold at New Covent Garden Market


Two vast foregone conclusions have just been concluded. Wandsworth Council has given planning permission for the redevelopment of New Covent Garden Market on the Vauxhall-Wandsworth boundary, while to please the developers the Department of Transport has given London Underground permission to start digging up Vauxhall to drive a Northern Line Tube Extension (NLE) from Kennington into Wandsworth.

The uncosted, publicly-backed NLE project will, with the agreement and financial backing of Lambeth, bring two new Tube stations. One will be at the redevelopment of Sainsbury’s a few minutes’ walk from Vauxhall Tube Station and the other at Battersea Power Station, a few paces away from two existing overground stations.

The New Covent Garden redevelopment is a partnership between a public authority, New Covent Garden Market Authority, and two private developers, St Modwen Properties and Vinci PLC. Vinci St Modwen’s press release trumpets that the diggers go in during the first half of 2015 and ‘approximately 3,000 new homes’ will be built. Vinci St Modwen, it is clear, does not build old homes. Nor does Vinci St Modwen deign to say what percentage, if any, of these homes will be ‘affordable’. The fruit, flower and vegetable market remains at Nine Elms on one 37-acre site, 20 acres of other ‘surplus’ land being given over to redevelopment of one sort or another.

The NLE project is officially ‘costed’ at £1 billion, and if you believe that figure you will believe anything. Parliamentary approval was required and a Transport and Works Act Order was nodded through to give London Underground the powers it needs to build the 3.2km extension of the Tube. The full cost of the extension is ‘expected’ to be ‘up to £1 billion’, part-funded by developers held to benefit from the new Tube stations, although not all are keen. But relax, if things don’t turn out as ‘expected’, the Treasury – i.e. you – will be expected to make up the difference.

New Covent Garden Market tells The Vauxhall Society that the developers offered 15% affordable housing, the standard level for the Nine Elms Opportunity Area, but Wandsworth stuck out for and got 20%. Lambeth – please note.

New Covent Garden: www.newcoventgardenmarket.com

What ‘affordable homes’ does and does not mean

Royal Academy exhibition names Vauxhall Bus Station as ‘best of its year’ in a century of British architecture

kate hoey mp at vauxhall bus station

kate hoey mp at vauxhall bus stationVauxhall Bus Station been chosen as one of the hundred best buildings of the century of British Architecture between 1914 and 2014. The exhibition, 100 Buildings 100 Years, marks the centenary this year of the Twentieth Century Society’s efforts to safeguard the heritage of British architecture and design. Twentieth Century Society members chose Vauxhall Bus Station as the building of 2005. Having built the bus station, Lambeth Council and Transport for London would now like it to make way for a row of estate agents’ offices. With the bus station now at risk, English Heritage is considering listing it after an application by The Vauxhall Society with the support by the Twentieth Century Society. The 100 Buildings, 100 years exhibition at the Royal Academy lasts until 1 February. The Vauxhall Bus Station display is accompanied by a commentary from Vauxhall MP Kate Hoey, who writes:

When I became MP in 1989, Vauxhall Cross was an anonymous windswept wasteland between the railway and the river.

Magically, from between the cranes and the concrete mixers, this amazing, stylish construction, Arup’s Vauxhall Bus Station, arose. A gleaming elevated ribbon of stainless steel, the canopy undulates above the buses to soar away into two enormous cantilevers, quickly nicknamed ‘the Ski Jump’, and now a famous identifying landmark for Vauxhall.

The elegant form follows the hugely successful function, where at ground level the bus platform allows passengers to change safely and quickly under cover. This is civic space at its best, valued and used by everyone, whether office cleaners taking night buses to the city, revellers returning from the club scene, or local resident Lords taking a bus to Westminster.

Lambeth Council, so pleased to welcome [Vauxhall Bus Station’s] construction a decade ago, now wish, against howls of protest, to demolish it and replace it with a row of shops.

The ‘howls of protest’ include the ‘Save Vauxhall Bus Station’ community campaign hosted by the Vauxhall Society. The campaign’s online petition will exceed 2,000 signatures any day now.

Sign the petition here

Twentieth Century Society’s 100 Buildings

The Vauxhall Bus Station entry

Vauxhall school students portray the bus station

Where’s Vauxhall Bus Station gone?

kylun site vauxhall towers

Who runs Vauxhall, the politicians or the property industry? Or are both just parts of the same business? You have to ask yourself, when you see in the property press proposals for grassing over Vauxhall Bus Station to make a nice front garden for two new skyscrapers that, by the way, could become four and, it is confidently asserted, could be built higher and wider and with far less affordable housing than previously agreed behind closed doors with Lambeth Council.

Lambeth gave permission for two skyscrapers to be built on what was known as the Kylun site, that strip of land between the Bus Station and Lambeth Planning’s offices at St George Wharf. This site was then sold on, and the estate agents Knight Frank are now marketing it for the new owners, Wendover Investments as ‘Vauxhall Cross’ (the name of the whole area). Guide price? £65 million.

From the industry report on Skyscrapernews, Wendover indeed would seem to be bent on covering much of Vauxhall Cross itself with the two-to-four Vauxhall Cross skyscrapers that is suggested might be crammed in somehow.

‘Already approved,’ says Skyscrapernews ‘are the Squire-designed 140 metres and 115 metre tall towers with 291 apartments, a 180 bedroom hotel, plus some office and retail space. PLP Architecture, as part of the sale of the scheme, has drawn up alternative proposals for the site that feature the towers getting a substantial uplift to 140 metres and 170 metres with the taller building to the north. The logic of this is that although the maximum height that would be permitted on this site is 150 metres, the Statutory Development Plan that sets this limit out has been exceeded by four towers nearby. One advantage to stretching the project to the PLP design is that the amount of affordable housing falls to 13.3% of gross net floor space from 16.8%.’

Affordable housing here is supposed to be 20%, itself only half of Lambeth’s declared target, but under the pretext of ‘commercial confidentiality’, councils and developers can do secret trade-offs on affordable housing.

‘Taking the height boost even further,’ skyscrapernews continues, PLP also suggest that a tower as tall as 200 metres with a second much shorter tower to its south could also be feasible although this would radically change the view of the emerging Vauxhall cluster when viewed from Millbank Gardens.


Knight Frank sales brochure

‘Businesses that endanger the public and/or seek to profit at the expense of neighbours or a locality are not welcome’

This assurance is from Lambeth’s licensing policy document. Whether Vauxhall night clubs are as welcome as they were is to be put to the test at a licence variation meeting of interest to residents of and near Vauxhall Cross. The hearing at 7pm on Thursday 6 November 2014, is at Lambeth Town Hall and open to the public.

Parry Street area residents seek public support at the hearing for their objection to an application by the Fire/Lightbox nightclub of Arches 39–44 of Parry Street, near the Vauxhall Travelodge Hotel, to expand its activities. The club wants to open two more external bars and to use as an entrance the gates next door to the Hilden House and other flats whenever the clubs wish, rather than as now at weekends only.

The residents claim that whenever the club uses the gates at weekends people are already in for three to four sleepless nights as clubbers shout and argue into the small hours. Cars and minicabs sound their horns while picking up or dropping off passengers and stop on double red lines and, obstructing Parry Street, pose a danger to oncoming traffic.

Says one resident:

‘The situation in South Lambeth Place is even worse, simply unbearable, every weekend. It feels like that there is no law whatsoever in that street.’

The area is now dangerous for cars, cyclists, pedestrians and buses, it is claimed.

Clubs are charged with ‘taking over’ South Lambeth Place every weekend. Pavements are obstructed by barriers and queues and parked minicabs. There are complaints of noisy clubbers drinking and taking drugs in the streets, urinating, smashing bottles, and crossing the roads so as to endanger themselves and others.

Lambeth’s licensing policy is to protect ‘those who live, work or visit Lambeth and to support businesses that operate within the framework of the law’. The ‘night time economy’, however, is ‘recognized’ as an ‘important economic generator’ of 8,000 jobs, although ‘businesses that ‘endanger the public and/or seek to profit at the expense of neighbours or a locality are not welcome’.

The licence application:

Lambeth licensing policy:


Law and disorder in Vauxhall

Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens: the art of artworking

vauxhall pleasure gardens proposed statues

vauxhall pleasure gardens proposed statuesVauxhall is to get two more municipal ‘artworks’, to add to the outsize bath toy hippo now bobbing about at anchor in the Thames off Vauxhall Bridge.

The latest artworks are to perch atop the two 40-ft black concrete pillars commissioned by the Friends of Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens and erected at the Kennington Lane entrance to the Vauxhall Gardens site four years ago.

The artworks are of blackened steel ribbon folded to roughly life-size silhouettes. One silhouette is of an 18th-century belle and the other of the artist’s idea of a contemporary beau, a lounging youth wearing a baseball cap back to front. Being ‘contemporary’, the male artwork keeps his hat undoffed in the lady’s presence while, one hand on hip or in his pocket (it’s hard to tell), with the other hand he presents her with a flower. If you have any views on this artwork you have until 8 October to comment on the planning application.

The pillars beneath, according to the planning application, were commissioned by the Friends of Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, whose vice-chairman was then Paola Piglia, a professional artist. The Friends then embarked upon a ‘significant’ three-year ‘consultation’ to chose a design for the statues, which was then cut short, although a clear winner was to emerge: Paola Piglia who, according to the FOVPG website, is still the charity’s vice-chairman.

The image shown here is from the FOVPG website. The cost of constructing and erecting these artworks is not given, although the artist is believed not to be charging, the professional exposure on the historic Vauxhall Gardens site being reward enough.

The budget for the pillars, according to FOVPG’s designers, DSDHA, was £200,000. Mulberry trees had to be uprooted to make way for the black concrete, and to this day puzzled Vauxhall residents and visitors are heard to wonder whether the black concrete pillars are ventilation pipes or incinerator vents.

Until Vauxhall Gardens closed in 1859 another artwork stood nearby. This was Roubilliac’s statue of Handel (the Gardens’ first music director), now in the Victoria & Albert Museum. The installation of the new artworks requires a planning application, but the result seems in little doubt. The application is by Lambeth Council itself, made by DSDHA on behalf of the council and FOVPG. Lambeth will therefore rule on its own application, and is expected to say yes. Indeed, it’s such a formality that councillors are leaving the decision to say yes to council officials.

The application, 14/04943/RG3:

To have your say on Application 14/04943/RG3, do so by 8 October; any problems, contact the Case Officer: Lauren Shallcross, phone: 020 7926 8349, email: lambethplanning@lambeth.gov.uk

Paopla Piglia’s website: www.paolapiglia.com

DHSDA and those two black concrete pillars: www.dsdha.co.uk


Where the mulberry trees went

‘Who has said Vauxhall Bus Station cannot remain, and on what evidence?’

vauxhall at night by greg mccormick

vauxhall at night by greg mccormickThe letter The Vauxhall Society published from South London clergy saying that the present Vauxhall Bus Station must stay has really set the cat among the pigeons.

The letter has drawn replies which appear to show that a rift is opening between the bus station’s two enemies, Lambeth Council and Transport for London.

‘The exact configuration of the bus station as is does not look possible, however ensuring Vauxhall is still an effective transport interchange for all users remains a priority,’ writes Lib Peck, Leader of Lambeth Council.

Cllr Peck talks of her ‘political vision for a Vauxhall town centre’ on the bus station site. And tests to see if ‘there could remain a centralised bus station and (gyratory) two-way working’. Her ‘vision’ appears not have noticed that a ‘town centre’ is already being built by private developers next door to the bus station at ‘Vauxhall Square’. Cllr Peck must have forgotten Lambeth has already given planning permission for it.

David Rayner, TfL Customer Service Adviser, writes: ‘We realise the popularity of the existing bus station at Vauxhall, and I can assure you that no final decision has been reached on whether this bus station will be removed or not.’

Both Lambeth and TfL agree on kicking the Vauxhall Bus Station debate into the long grass, although it’ll have to be pretty long grass indeed to hide the central issue. This is that whatever the eventual plan for the changing the Vauxhall Gyratory from one to two-way traffic (itself a change of dubious value), the existing bus station must stay.

Meanwhile, endless ‘consultations’ will now be prolonged into next year, there’s to be ‘qualitative research’ , and a PR company paid to tell people what they think and to tell TfL/Lambeth what TfL/Lambeth wants to be told.

Best guess? All this expensive, time-wasting flummery will produce another Vauxhall Bus Station option, that the existing bus station site will be ‘kept’ – in the sense of being shrunk by between two-thirds and three-quarters. That’s despite the faster, heavier bus and other vehicle traffic a change to the gyratory is promised to offer.

Meanwhile, the Lambeth and TfL replies to the clergy’s letter have annoyed transport specialist Professor Sir Malcolm Green, Chairman of the Lansdowne Green Residents Association.

Professor Green comments:

‘Neither she [Lib Peck] nor TfL have given any reason or evidence for why the bus station as is cannot remain. If the plans for the gyratory are still so fluid, how can such a statement be valid? Who has said it cannot remain, and on what evidence?

The Lambeth language has changed. They are no longer talking about creating a “High Street” at Vauxhall Cross. It is now to be a “Town Centre”. Both seem pie in the sky. Whether we like it or not Vauxhall Cross is primarily a transport interchange. It has been for decades, and even centuries. There are some 2500 buses, 750 trains and 700 tube trains passing through each day. Getting rid of the gyratory may improve the impact of the traffic, but it will not go away as this is the gateway to major routes into and out of London, as well as local traffic. Nobody has articulated what is meant by a Town Centre here, it is hard to imagine a place of peace and quiet contemplation. Why not make a virtue of necessity: improve the traffic, enhance the interchange and keep the bus station?

This topic has a long way to run.

Thank you to all the signatories [of the clergy letter] for pushing forward this debate.’

South London clergy call for retention of ‘existing Vauxhall Bus Station’ to protect parishioners

Vauxhall Square

‘Depave’ offer to Vauxhall streets in flood risk area

archive image of flooding

archive image of floodingBy charging such high parking fees, Lambeth Council encourages residents to pave over their front gardens and park off-road. Now Lambeth Council is offering to help people who live in the Vauxhall flood risk area to ‘depave’, or remove hard paving such as concrete or tarmac, replacing it with permeable surfaces such as gravel or soil.

The Vauxhall streets Lambeth has in mind are Bonnington Square, South Lambeth Road, Meadow Road, South Island Place, Claylands Road, Fentiman Road and Rita Road, although others will be considered.

The help on offer seems to stop short of actual money, although Lambeth stands to gain from the increase in on-road parking. On offer: help with planning how to depave, deliver a skip, technical advice, like what to replace the paving with, providing compost, and loan of some basic tools to help with the work.

There’s no mention of where else to keep the car, though.

Further details:

Theresa Greene
Partnership and Development Officer
Environmental Services and Highways (ESH)
Communities, Housing and Environment
London Borough of Lambeth
Phone: 020 7926 9796
Fax: 020 7926 0530
Email: tgreene@lambeth.gov.uk
twitter: @envirolambeth
blog: www.lambethenvironment.wordpress.com


Vauxhall and the Thames tidal flood plain

‘We’ve now gone from being ruled by Barclays Bank to being controlled by Berkeley Homes’

St George Wharf Tower by Rafael Aleixo

St George Wharf Tower by Rafael AleixoIs Lambeth Council allowing property developers to fund the salaries of council planning officers who are put to work on fast-tracking a developer’s planning application?

If so, how many developers have bought their way into Lambeth planning? Who are they, what are the developments, and how often were the eventual applications successful?

If Lambeth does not allow developers to buy in, has the council allowed the practice in the past, and may it yet do so in the future?

It’s already happening in London, so these are good questions to put, not to Lambeth councillors but to the council’s Chief Executive, Derrick Anderson.

That’s because according to an unnamed planning officer from a London borough ‘suffering from a spate of towers’, council chief executives ‘will allow schemes to be pumped up as much as they can go before they get political push-back from councillors.’ The worst schemes happen where there is no political resistance at all.

‘Spate of towers’? ‘No political resistance at all’? Remind you of anywhere? Lambeth/Vauxhall Nine Elms and Battersea’s planning free-for-all figures widely in a spine-chilling Guardian article entitled The truth about property developers: how they are exploiting planning authorities and ruining our cities.

The author, Guardian design and architecture critic Oliver Wainwright, argues that property developers have taken over control of London from the banks. He quotes former chief planner of the City of London Peter Rees as saying, ‘Never trust a bank with property, or a property developer with money,’ and ‘We’ve [London] gone from being ruled by Barclays Bank to being controlled by Berkeley Homes.’

Developers, Wainwright argues, are like the banks before them, running riot. They’re botching not the financial system but London itself.

Developers find vast sums are available from the ‘dazzling wealth’ of Russian, and the Middle Eastern investors, and this foreign money is being spent on the ‘wilful destruction’ of the capital. Like the banks, developers too will come unstuck, but the mess they made of London will remain.

Developers get their way through a ‘Faustian pact’, a system ‘not far from legalised bribery’ by which councils get a rake-off under a negotiable levy on agreed developments under Section 106 of the Town & Country Planning Act. The bigger the scheme, the bigger the rake-off.

A whole new industry has now spring up advising developers on how to claw back councils’ S106 rake-off by subsequent negotiations, always secret, to add extra storeys and reduce ‘affordable housing’. That, we know, happens in Lambeth. Any planning officer who dares to argue is denounced as being ‘anti-growth’.

If they don’t get their way, the big developers sidestep the local authority and get the OK from a ‘growth’-mad minister or mayor. Which takes us back to Vauxhall where, argues Wainwright, the then deputy prime minister John Prescott personally approved a Berkeley Homes development, the Vauxhall Tower.

Prescott OK’d the Vauxhall Tower against his own planning inspector’s advice and warnings from ministerial advisers that ‘it could set a precedent for the indiscriminate scattering of very tall buildings across London’. And, it would seem, for the Lambeths of London to rubber-stamp this ‘scattering’ because if the council doesn’t, then the mayor or the minister of the day will, regardless of political affiliation.

Derrick Anderson to step down at end of year

Law and disorder in Vauxhall

Image credit: St George wharf tower © Rafael Aleixo

Vauxhall Nine Elms & Battersea, Helicopters and Air Turbulence: the high price of high-rise living already includes two deaths – could there be more to come?

helicopter crash vauxhall 2013

helicopter crash vauxhall 2013Well, there you have it. The Vauxhall Society has all along warned Lambeth councillor and planners that they have been asleep at the wheel in allowing so many skyscrapers to cluster at Vauxhall Cross end of Vauxhall Nine Elms & Battersea ‘Opportunity Area’. Now comes the report of the Air Accidents Investigation Branch into the 16 January 2013 helicopter crash at Vauxhall Cross when a helicopter clipped a crane at St George Tower, killing the pilot and a pedestrian in the rush-hour streets below but, this time, missing crowded trains and buses.

Guess what? The accident, it appears from the AAIB report, was built in from the moment John Prescott pushed through the construction of the St George Tower.

One lot of planners didn’t tell another lot of planners that there were skyscrapers going up at Vauxhall Nine Elms. These structures, together with high buildings on the other side of the Thames, whittled down the H4 two-lane ‘helicopter highway’ along the course of the river. Came a foggy morning like that in January last year and…
“Two-way traffic along helicopter route H4 is no longer possible in certain circumstances using current procedures following construction of the building at St George Wharf,’ AAIB concludes, adding ‘The building at St George Wharf was not included in the helicopter’s obstacle databases. There is no effective system in place to anticipate the potential effects of new obstacles on existing airspace arrangements when the obstacles are outside ‘safeguarded’ areas.”

Now of course even more and higher skyscrapers are sprouting yards away from the fatal tower. Nobody’s going to widen the Thames or do away with fog. But there is another accident hazard being built into Vauxhall Nine Elms and just waiting to happen: air turbulence. You get fog on rivers, as well in planners’ minds; on rivers, also you get wind, sudden gusts of. Air turbulence around a single building much lower than St George Tower has already killed in Leeds, as The Vauxhall Society has warned. That wind scooped up a lorry and then dropped it on the pavement, killing one pedestrian and gravely injuring another.

The helicopter crash report in full:.

BBC Reports:

Air turbulence; the case of the flying lorry:

Photo: ofnetsandthings used under a Creative Commons licence

Have your say on the new New Covent Garden Market

globe courgettes - photo by mermaid

globe courgettes - photo by mermaidWhether the proposals for the redevelopment of New Covent Garden Market make you want to hand bouquets to the developers or pelt them with rotten fruit, you have until 26 September to have your say. At least you’ll get a new retail market out of it.

2014/2810 – New Covent Garden Market, Nine Elms Lane, SW8

Planning application for part outline, part detailed planning permission for:

(a) Demolition of existing wholesale Fruit and Vegetable and Flower Market and ancillary buildings and structures, and residential building on Nine Elms Lane (apart from the existing multi storey car park);

(b) Construction of mixed-use redevelopment comprising: a new Fruit and Vegetable Market and Flower Market and ancillary uses, including temporary and permanent façade; refurbishment and extension of existing waste collection area (including rooftop sports pitches); residential dwellings; flexible commercial uses, including retail, financial and professional services, café/restaurant, bar uses and hot food takeaways and offices; non-residential institutions; assembly and leisure uses; temporary storage and distribution buildings and associated works; associated car, cycle and motorcycle parking and servicing and new vehicle accesses, energy centres; and landscaping public realm and open space including part of the Linear Park. All matters reserved apart from access, details of all new markets and supporting buildings, and details of Building N8 and associated landscaping);

(c) Site clearance and enabling works.

An Environmental Statement has been submitted with the application under The Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2011.

The application documents can be viewed and comments can be left on the Wandsworth Council website by clicking on the following link: https://planning.wandsworth.gov.uk/WAM/showCaseFile.do?appType=planning&appNumber=2014/2810

If you wish to comment on this application you can email planningapplications@wandsworth.gov.uk

Download the New Covent Garden Market consultation newsletter

Photo (cropped): Mermaid used under a Creative Commons licence