Eric 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
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.
Helen Monger and Polly Freeman
Trustees, Friends of Vauxhall Park
cc. Kate Hoey MP and Timothy Jones, English Heritage