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

Now Battersea opposes TfL/Lambeth ‘arrogance’ and ‘dereliction of duty’ on Vauxhall Bus Station plans

battersea society logo

battersea society logoEvidence mounts that Transport for London and its partner Lambeth Council are misleading the public in claiming widespread support for plans to break up the Vauxhall bus/train/Tube interchange by doing away with Vauxhall Bus Station and scattering the bus stops.

The Save Vauxhall Bus Station online petition The Vauxhall Society and its member groups set up to help community campaigners will soon record its 2,000th signature. The petition itself is backed by the Kennington, Oval and Vauxhall Forum (of community groups), as well as the Vauxhall Gardens Estate Residents & Tenants Association and, in neighbouring Wandsworth, the Battersea Society.

Now the Battersea Society has written to TfL, Lambeth Council Leader Lib Peck, Wandsworth’s Ravi Govindia and local MPs saying ‘There is massive public support for the current bus interchange [at Vauxhall]’ which is ‘intensively used by residents of South London and beyond’. TfL and Lambeth have pointedly not consulted beyond a small area of Vauxhall, with the result that few people of the many throughout the capital who use the interchange are even aware of plans to break the bus/train/Tube interchange by demolishing the bus station.

Lambeth/TfL have for a long time been teetering on the edge of a Department of Communities and Local Government inquiry into planning consultation standards. The Battersea Society intervention brings such an inquiry nearer, for the Society’s letter, signed by the Planning Committee’s Liz Walton, charges TfL with ‘dereliction of duty’ in confining consultation to ‘the narrow area around the [Vauxhall] gyratory itself’ and ‘arrogance’ in responding to public’s views. For years community groups have argued that Lambeth and TfL decide what they want to do and then rig the ‘consultation’ to fit. Vauxhall Bus Station should be retained as ‘the main focus for circulation at ground level’ in a well-designed interchange that would be just as good a symbol of ‘the new Vauxhall’ as the Lambeth/TfL’s plan for a new ‘high street’, the Battersea Society argues.

From Liz Walton, Chair, Planning Committee of The Battersea Society to Alex Williams, Director of Borough Planning at TfL

5 August 2014

Dear Mr Williams

Vauxhall Gyratory and bus station

We are writing to express concern over the proposals for the Vauxhall gyratory and the bus interchange and to support other local groups and petitions arguing to retain the bus station as a primary public transport interchange.

The Battersea Society attended the Nine Elms Open Days at the end of June and viewed the TfL proposals for the Vauxhall gyratory. We were very concerned with the underlying assumption that the bus station had to be replaced but were also irritated by the poor presentation, paucity of justification for each option and general vagueness of details of the schemes displayed.

The sketchy options presented at the Open Days and as set out in the Information leaflet Transforming Vauxhall June 2014 further confirm these concerns. We were surprised that  TfL and the Lambeth did not fully use the opportunity of the Open Days to explain and justify their thinking. On the first day no one from TfL could even explain what the various colours on the options diagrams represented. The size of the display and the level of staffing proved quite inadequate in view of the scale of public concern.

Retention of Current Bus Interchange

There is massive public support for the current bus interchange arrangements which are intensively used by residents of South London and beyond.  Battersea residents use it as their primary interchange with the Underground and other bus routes. We consider it incompetent that no option retaining the bus station has been presented. This would allow TfL and Lambeth to argue the pros and cons for the bus station remaining in situ alongside improving the gyratory. The failure to argue a case for demolishing the bus station reflects an arrogance in terms of response to public views. Even in their outline form it is clear that none of the options presents a reasonable public transport solution acceptable to bus users when compared with the current position. In particular we were astonished to see options suggesting stops under the railway viaduct, where noise and air pollution levels are extremely high and the dangers of large numbers having to cross roads obvious.

We are also concerned that buses stopping on the road rather than away from other traffic will run counter to the need to improve traffic flow around the gyratory.

Lack of Wider Consultation

Vauxhall Bus Station is second only to Hammersmith in the number of travellers using this as an interchange between underground, overground and bus travel. It is a dereliction of their duty to the travelling public that TfL have so far confined their consultation to residents in the narrow area around the gyratory itself.  While we represent Battersea residents, travellers from other boroughs also have the right to be consulted.

The Significant role of the bus station

Our view on the significant role of the bus station was expressed in our comments on the draft Lambeth SPD, to which we responded in November 2012. This view still stands. In our response we argued that:

‘The essential role for Vauxhall Cross is as a major public transport interchange which must be maintained and enhanced, following any rationalisation of the gyratory. The current bus station provides a vast improvement on the geographically scattered bus stops that existed prior to its construction. Its great advantage is the ability to interchange between buses, tube and rail without having to cross roads or use long subways as was required previously. The bus station is a relatively safe environment for those using it in the evenings, hence encouraging use of public transport.

Clearly any way in which the gyratory could be improved within the context of retaining the bus station in its current location would be welcomed. In particular it should be possible to allow buses travelling from the Waterloo direction to enter the station directly from the Embankment without having to go under the railway. Improved at-grade crossings for pedestrians should be provided from the bus station to link into Nine Elms and the riverside.

We are sceptical about the rationale for the ‘Removal of the bus station canopy and integration of the transport interchange into the new high street.’(Vauxhall Cross panel at Expo). The possibility that the area might resort to ‘disaggregated’ bus stops (para 4.10.16 of the SPD principles document) scattered across the area would be disastrous for bus users if implemented. We consider the bus station should be retained as the main focus of circulation at ground level and through sensitive environmental improvements continue to  provide a safe and pleasant covered area for public transport users. Its design and management should reflect the quality and nature of proposed new high rise development around Vauxhall. An effective well designed interchange could be as much a symbol of the new Vauxhall as an attempt to develop the high street along Bondway. It is a major gateway to the rest of the VNEB area and any action which would deter potential bus users, such as wandering round the area looking for the right connection, should be avoided.’

We strongly urge TfL to look again at how safer and more convenient provision for cyclists and improvements to traffic flow could be managed within the context of retaining the bus station. The travelling needs of those using Vauxhall must be paramount. In addition further attention must be paid to how the transport hub links to the developing linear park to the west and the green link through Spring Gardens to Lambeth Bridge. There is currently a giant gap in thinking on how these two exciting routes for pedestrians and leisure cyclists will ever link satisfactorily across Vauxhall Cross.

This letter is being copied to Lambeth and Wandsworth councils, local MPs and councillors, neighbouring civic societies and others to alert them to the Society’s view.

Yours sincerely

Liz Walton, Chair, Planning Committee

The Battersea Society

cc Michelle Dix, Managing Director, Planning

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-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

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

Tall tales: the Vauxhall skyscraper tally so far

Tall buildings in Vauxhall

map vauxhallMartin Stanley, gimlet-eyed local historian and newsletter editor of TVS member, Fentiman Road and Richbourne Terrace Residents Association, put the Vauxhall Cross documents online via his indispensable Vauxhall and Kennington website, where you follow the link highlighted in red.

You may find these documents are of great interest:

Map of eight tallest buildings to have received planning permission in Vauxhall

Presentation by Transport for London

Among other things this summarises Vauxhall Bridge traffic from 0800 to 0900hrs on weekdays as:

  • bus passengers 4551
  • pedestrians 3270
  • cars, taxis and lorries 859
  • cycles 352

You want more? There’s also a suite of documents to do with the development of Vauxhall Cross.

And while we’re on the subject of Vauxhall Cross, you can find even more about what’s going on if you attend the public meeting at out a lot more on Wednesday 19 March when there’s a public meeting at Wheatsheaf Hall, Wheatsheaf Lane, off South Lambeth Road, starts 7.50pm for refreshments, down to business 8.10pm. There’ll be an hour of presentations, the most interesting of which will be on the Vauxhall Gyratory, from the Kennington, Oval and Vauxhall Forum, of which The Vauxhall Society is a member.

KOV, is a forum supported by Lambeth Council, yet KOV’s members, individual and community-group, are vehemently critical of Lambeth/TfL’s plans for the Vauxhall Gyratory. KOV, like VGERTA, is backing the Save Vauxhall Bus Station campaign launched by The Vauxhall Society.

The other two presentations are from the poverty-pleading developers of the controversial Sky Gardens skyscraper, and from Sainsburys (no, you can’t have the petrol station back). This meet-your-Vauxhall-neighbours evening is a joint event, staged by KOV and TVS associate member Wyvil Estate Residents Association.

Sign online petition to Save Vauxhall Bus Station.

Matthew Wood, a man Vauxhall should not forget

Spare a thought for Matthew Wood on Wednesday 16 January, for it is unlikely that any of the bigwigs of Vauxhall, Nine Elms & Battersea business, officialdom or local politics will.

Matthew Wood lived in Sutton, Surrey. He was 39 when he died, on his way to work in Vauxhall at 7.59am, rush hour, on 16 January 2013. Mr Wood was outside Wendle Court, the Wandsworth Road premises of Rentokil, where he was an office manager. It was a foggy morning, and a helicopter crashed into the street. It had hit one riverside skyscraper, narrowly missed another, as well as a crowded bus and the viaduct carrying Southampton-Waterloo commuter train line. Wreckage fell in New Covent Garden Market.

The helicopter had hit a 719-ft crane on a Vauxhall Cross skyscraper, The (594 ft) Tower, One St George Wharf. The helicopter’s fuel tank exploded. The pilot, Peter Barnes, also died. Another passer-by was seriously injured, five others were taken to hospital and seven treated at the scene. Vauxhall Bus Station was closed for five days.

Lambeth Council later issued a self-congratulatory press release on how quickly it had cleaned up the mess. Other than that, radio silence has been maintained. The Air Accidents Investigation Branch has yet to issue its final report and won’t say when it will.

In 1991, Vauxhall MP Kate Hoey tried to write into a law a Bill tightening up control of helicopter flights over central London. The Mayor, Boris Johnson says he is reviewing the regulation of aircraft flights over central London and the safety of tall buildings. The Prime Minister says he is too.
Meanwhile, the London Boroughs of Lambeth and Wandsworth have since approved the building of half a dozen more skyscrapers at Vauxhall Cross, some higher than The Tower, One St George Wharf.

Vauxhall helicopter crash ‘preventable’, BBC says

Previous Vauxhall Society coverage
Inspection of skyscraper cluster promised

Tall building air turbulence a problem, says local resident

Northern Line Extension: even more commercial developers need to be crammed into Vauxhall, Nine Elms and Battersea if business is to repay that £1 billion Treasury loan

Vauxhall Cluster diagram.jpg

clsvx1Battersea and Nine Elms, the two new Tube stations on the projected Northern Line Extension, will have to be in Transport for London’s Zone One, the same as Vauxhall, and so will Kennington.

That’s the verdict from developer CLS’s Richard Tice, writing to the Secretary of State for Transport in support of the Northern Line Extension. Otherwise, says Mr Tice, commercial developers will find Vauxhall, Nine Elms & Battersea less attractive.

‘Crucially, the repayment of the NLE Treasury loan [....] depends on the ability to attract commercial occupiers,’ says Mr Tice. He writes and gave evidence to the current NLE Public Inquiry in his dual capacity as CEO of CLS Holdings plc chairman of Vauxhall One (VX1). VX1 is the local Business Improvement District company, which has 200 or so member-businesses.

TfL, Mr Tice writes, has got it wrong in assuming that there will be no ‘net increase’ in usage of the local transport, even though there are to be 16,000 new homes and ‘25,000 new jobs’. Over 1,000 people will also travel daily to the new US Embassy either to work or to apply for visas.

Unless Kennington, Battersea and Nine Elms stations are in TfL Zone One as well as Two, the CLS/VX1 leader says ‘to save money, many people will walk or cycle to Vauxhall to benefit from Zone One.’

Vauxhall Cluster diagram.jpg

That would ‘dilute one of the core objectives, which is to reduce overcrowding at Vauxhall.’

What Mr Tice does not say is that if even more commercial developers are not attracted, the burden of loan repayment will be heavier on the companies already there – unless, of course, the Mayor and Chancellor of the day shift that burden onto the public as they did with the Olympics.

The CLS/Vauxhall One letter in full

What the tunnellers say

NLE: is the fix still in?

Northen-Line-extension‘Is the fix in?’ The Vauxhall Society asked in November as the Public Inquiry into the Northern Line Extension opened in Wandsworth. The question inferred that the inquiry (like NLE itself) is a waste of borrowed public money, that NLE will happen whatever anyone thinks.

The public inquiry is still under way, but on 5 December came confirmation that NLE is a done deal. In the Autumn Statement of that day was an announcement that rather got lost in the day’s political posturing: the Chancellor of the Exchequer is guaranteeing borrowing by the Mayor of London of up to £1bn ‘at a new preferential rate’ to support NLE.

Look like Vauxhall’s Compulsory Purchase Orders weren’t drawn up in vain?

What we said: northern-line-extension-public-inquiry-is-the-fix-in

NLE: the objections mount

Transport for London is leafletting Vauxhall heavily ahead of the 8 October closure date of consultation and the Public Inquiry in November into TfL’s proposals on the Northern Line Extension under Vauxhall from Kennington to Battersea Park.

A key feature of the leaflet is the section ‘Why do we need the NLE’ that doesn’t say who ‘we’ are – TfL certainly ‘needs’ NLE as the Treasury will lend (i.e.borrow) £1billion to finance it. Repayments will come out of the hide of business ratepayers.

TVS associate VNEB DATA is one of the many community groups challenging the ‘need’ for NLE, saying:

  • There is no empirical evidence, based on realistic statistics, that supports TfL’s assertion that any form of mass transit transport solution is needed in Vauxhall, Nine Elms & Battersea (VNEB) development area
  • TfL uses highly inflated trip generation forecasts to justify its preferred outcome: an extension to the Northern Line that it doesn’t have to pay for but which runs into an area lucrative for its own fare generation;
  • NLE will not provide any transport solutions ACROSS VNEB OA as TfL claims because there linre runs from the far West of the VNEB area directly away from the VNEB area.
  • The proposed station in Wandsworth Road is called ‘Nine Elms’ but is not accessible at all right now by residents in most of the new VNEB area and will, in the future, only have limited access if all the VNEB OA plans come to fruition. But the rest of Wandsworth Road will suffer from increasing pedestrian congestion in narrow streets and bus routes will be further overloaded. TfL has done no transport impact study
  • TfL’s long PR campaign has misinformed, misled and skewed information to the public and politicians in order to try to justify a pet scheme. There are many examples in DATA’s ‘Statement of Case’ (see below).
  • Funding and financing are very nebulous. There is no rigorous business plan and no realistic cost or financing proposal. The limited information available shows a highly risky strategy that will whose impact on business and the community will be harsh indefinitely. All this mainly to provide an incentive for a private sector housing development in Wandsworth, and not for any real transport gain.
  • Environmental impact is unacceptably high (noise, vibration, destruction or spoiling of important social and community amenities). The impact must be improved substantially if any such scheme is to go ahead, and this will add further and substantially to costs. Examples:
  • Kennington Station would have to be upgraded for reasons of safety, security and passenger comfort. TfL is gradually having to admit this but has not factored these substantial costs into the NLE project . TfL should do so or explain where the money is to come from.
  • The alleged benefits of the proposed project should be calculated again to include the above costs, financing costs and a realistic allowance for the heavy frontloading of the project needed to pay construction costs for the long time before TfL will see any revenue from fares or Enterprise Zone/Business rates. From what DATA can see, the £1 billion government loan (which also has to be repaid) will go mainly on financing/ borrowing costs, leaving little for capital and works costs. See page 8 of the DATA SoC, point A6, which relates that in 2009 TfL’s own consultants stated that, even at the forecast cost of building an NLE at that time (half the admitted cost currently, but more likely a much lower fraction if real costs are considered currently) the NLE proposal is precarious.
  • There has been no independent transport needs analysis for the VNEB area that takes account of realistic trip-generation figures and existing transport options alongside a mixed-mode response.

Each group that has views on TfL’s proposal can make their arguments in a Statement of Case to the Public Inquiry. DATA’s SoC, which The Vauxhall Society endorses, is now with the Department for Transport . Get your copy here:

Other civic and community groups are making representations to the Public Inquiry, and we’ll bring you the information once they have submitted their SoCs.

NLE: is TfL just storing up trouble for itself by giving objectors the brush-off?

Northen-Line-extension‘Frankly, if counsel in my court answered questions from the Bench in the way in which TfL’s lawyers purport to answer these submissions on NLE, they would be in trouble!’ This is what a Judge says to The Vauxhall Society about the answers Transport for London’s lawyers are giving to protesters against the Northern Line Extension. He adds: ‘On this showing, the TfL consultation is, in my view, so flawed that it would make no difference what anybody said. Those in power will just push the scheme through – God help any Vauxhall, Nine Elms and Battersea businesses asked to pay for this mess. That there can be a commitment to NLE by Lambeth Council and others without the costing being known tells you how little consideration is given to issues of good governance by those in public office.’

Consultation, such as it is, ends on Tuesday 8 October, and a public inquiry is then to be held. What follows is a series of objections to TfL’s application under the Transport and Works Act 1992 for an Order giving TFL powers backed by Parliament to make pots of money buying land in Lambeth and Southwark and then building and running an extension of the Northern Line from Kennington station to Battersea in Wandsworth – and making Lambeth people and businesses pay much of the uncosted price.

The responses are those of TfL’s lawyers, followed by comments (in bold) from a lawyer The Vauxhall Society asked to translate the TfL-speak into plain English:

Objection: Once a decision has been made to exercise the discretionary power to undertake works (article 4), there should be a duty to complete and maintain them; under article 18 there should be a positive duty to undertake safeguarding works to buildings, rather than a discretionary power (p2, p3).

Response: The draft Order is fully consistent with both the model clauses and established practice in affording the promoter a power to undertake works, rather than a duty to do so. In our view it would not be practicable, nor in the public interest, to do otherwise.

Here we see a defence to the effect – ‘We have done this before and managed to get away with it and will continue to do it again.’ Why should there not be a positive duty to undertake and maintain works undertaken on a building where safeguarding is objectively required. There should be no discretion given to a developer. The developer will generally determine to take a commercial risk and base its decision on such. How much is a life worth? How much was the building worth? Objective standards and duties to be applied. What is the unspecified ‘public interest’? It is obviously not the interests of those impacted, but rather the interests of the developer that are being considered here. Further, in any event, it is not a question of the interests of the public, we have owners and occupiers of houses who are being directly impacted by this development. The ‘practicality’ of the issue is not important, it is the “safeguarding” which is paramount! The response is entirely specious and appears to entirely disregard the primary issue of the protection of the person from injury. If a building falls down and people die or are injured as a result, it appears that there may be no claim, if it occurs after five years, or it is simply considered as a matter of the payment of compensation, with no thought of human life? One can see that this is not a socially or morally responsible way to proceed. This is an example of development at any cost. One hopes that the developers and the Secretary of State for Transport and those advising the Secretary have really thought this through. One may suspect that they have not.

Objection: The powers to carry out ancillary works, and to vary works within the limits of deviation is unacceptable and an improper delegation of the Secretary of State’s powers; only works which have been defined, disclosed, consulted on and authorised should be permitted (p3, p4, p5)

Response: Ancillary works powers and limits of deviation provide an essential degree of flexibility to promoters of infrastructure schemes. At the authorisation stage, when the promoter has not carried out detailed design work, it is not possible to specify exactly what works will be required and exactly where they will be situated. Without this flexibility, it would be necessary to pursue a further consent to deliver a scheme, which would not be in the public interest. This aspect of the draft Order is fully consistent with both the model clauses and established practice. Further, it should be noted that the scheme will, if approved, receive deemed planning approval. That approval would be subject to certain conditions, and TfL has proposed a set of conditions as part of its application3. See in particular proposed condition 2, which requires detailed design approval from the local planning authority for certain works.

The response rather begs the question, as if there is a consultation process in respect of the plans to date, when why not have one in respect of deviations from the works. Rather than this not being in the “public interest” it may be equally said to be in “the public interest”. The fact is that it is not in the interest of the developer, who would be delayed if it had to undertake a separate and proper process for a deviation. In addition, to say that there is a “deemed planning approval” is to avoid the point. Many planning approvals require amendment if the specific works are deviated from. Is it being said that there is one law for most of the people, but a separate law for a developer of the Northern Line Extension? This would appear to be the case, but why? Where is the true “public interest” and the proper governance and rights of people in these considerations?

Objection: Article 18 should impose a positive duty to safeguard buildings, rather than a discretionary power, and should afford property owners the right to have an expert to inspect the works. Further, there should be a continuing obligation to undertake remedial works to properties and compensate for loss and damage for the duration of the length of use of the tunnels, rather than limited to up to 5 years from completion (p6, p15)

Response: This aspect of the draft Order is fully consistent with both the model clauses and established practice, and TfL does not consider it appropriate to depart from this. Five years is considered to be an acceptable period of time for determining whether protective works are required as a result of the scheme being constructed.

Again we have resort to ‘the model clause and established practice,’ (by now a phrase often used by those writing the response), which has worked in the past and no actual consideration of the objection raised. Why does TfL consider it not appropriate to take and maintain responsibility for the works undertaken? Five years is, in fact, shorter than the period of liability provided for under contract and tort law in England. Such period can run from 6 to 12 years under the Limitation Act, 1980 [See note below]. TfL is not even prepared to accept the minimum period provided for by law! This is truly extraordinary. The reason given is simply ‘the model clauses and established practice and TfL does not consider it appropriate.’ Well, what about the law of the realm that provides more than ‘an established practice.’ This seems appropriate as a minimum and was so considered by Parliament. Should the Secretary of State be putting TfL above Parliament ?The question begs the answer.

The ‘model clauses’ ignore the law and the ordinary rights given under it. Further, at the very least TfL should also recognise that the operations of the tunnels will continue for many years. We are not dealing with a static structure, as is in the usual contemplation of the law , rather we are dealing with a vibrating structure, which will continue in its vibrations every few minutes for many years to come. No explanation as to the attitude of TfL is provided, it should be able to explain why it has adopted such a consideration to not follow the law as determined by Parliament, yet alone recognise that there may be continuing damage through vibration over the years of operation of the tunnels. Is it concerned that it may indeed have a continuing level of obligation and is just interested in avoiding it? Why should it not be so liable for the life of the tunnels? Compensation at the commencement cannot compensate for future damage in respect of continuing vibration possibly eating away at a structure over many years. The degree of damage may be speculative at the commencement and not crystallise for many years to come. There needs to be a socially and morally responsible approach taken by TfL and all those who authorise and are proposing to pay for this development. The approach should be to favour and protect those impacted by it and not a clear approach favouring a developer, or its assignees, who will have a commercial gain from this. The application of modal clauses is no excuse for avoiding the legal obligations of a developer and being socially responsible! The modern approach is to take social responsibility and not to avoid it.

Objection: The obligations under the Order should not be assignable by LUL; the power to lease, sell etc. the authorised works should be authorised by the Secretary of State, not the Mayor; those entitled to compensation should not be exposed to financial loss due to the insolvency of the LUL or a transferee, and so unlimited guarantees for compensation payable should be given by the City of London and British Government (p1-2, p8-9)

Response: The powers under article 42 (powers of disposal etc) are commonplace in orders such as these, and are required in this case to provide TfL with the necessary commercial flexibility to deliver and operate the scheme effectively. Given the degree of governance afforded to the Mayor for matters concerning London and its transport system, we consider it acceptable in this case for the Mayor to authorise any disposal under article 42(1). The Department for Transport recently accepted this in the case of the London Cable Car Order 2012.

The fact that such powers are ‘commonplace’ is of no moment. In Soviet Russia it was commonplace for people to be sent to Siberia, did this make it justified and proper? One cannot justify something draconian and devoid of social and legal responsibility on the basis that it is ‘commonplace.’ The issue to be addressed was that there is a consultation process being undertaken. It involves, or at least should, in part, involve consideration of the continuing financial viability of the developer. Given that the former developer, Treasury Holdings, went into administration owing more than GBP300 million there is a clear indication there should be a full enquiry as to the financial viability of any transferee or licensee of any part of the operations and any party which may become liable to pay either compensation or damages for failures in the construction or operation of the tunnels. All liabilities of any developer from whom a transfer is made should be required to pass to any assignee. Indeed ‘commercial flexibility’ may include removing any liability accrued so as to avoid paying damages for breaches of statutory and other duties or creditors. This could be achieved by the Mayor of London simply agreeing to transfer the enterprise to a new company for a few pounds payment or consideration. Unsurprisingly such has happened in the commercial world before and the UK does not have a good record when it comes to the financial viability of railway companies or the developers of railways.

Further, to give an example of what has recently occurred by way of a disposal of a cable car does not answer the objection at all. Also, it is matters not ‘the degree of governance afforded to the Mayor.’ What is important is the position of the public and, in particular, those impacted directly by this development. Why not specify and direct the Mayor as to the obligatory public considerations to be taken into account as a minimum? There are then, at least, defined and transparent starting points against which the governance issues can be evaluate by all. We have all experienced the failure of disclosure due to matters being ‘commercial in confidence.’ As an example, this should be excluded as a reason for not having a defined, transparent and proper process in respect of any assignment or transfer by LfT of the same kind one hopes will be the case for the initial consideration of the matters which may, or may not, lead to the authorisation of the development of the Extension to the Northern Line.

Further, the expression ‘the degree of governance afforded to the Mayor,’ is not actually a reference to the Mayor being obliged to exercise good governance pursuant to defined criteria, or at all, as the author may want one to consider this statement, rather it appears to be a reference to the current discretions held by the Mayor, which may or may not be exercised properly pursuant to considerations of good governance. One cannot speculate as to what may happen in the future, but one should assume the worst and by the provision of defined, directed and public minimum criteria, attempt to ensure that no errors occur and no person or entity is able to escape a liability on the basis of the provision of  ‘commercial flexibility to deliver and operate the scheme effectively.’

Objection: There should be no defence provided by the Order to statutory nuisance (article 44); the Order should not be made if nuisance cannot be ruled out. Those affected by nuisance should be fully compensated (p9-10)

Response: This aspect of the draft Order is fully consistent with both the model clauses and established practice. While article 44 provides a defence to statutory nuisance, any affected parties are still eligible for compensation within the normal rules. TfL and its contractors will, of course, seek to minimise as far as possible the disturbance caused by construction and operation of the scheme.

Again we find a reference to the ‘model clauses and established practice.’  This is no justification and again begs the question that such are proper in the first place. Why should a developer be excused from that which everybody else is obliged to comply? Perhaps the starting point is the consideration of whether there should be a statutory nuisance provision at all. If the answer is ‘no,’ then remove it. If the answer is ‘yes’ then it is applicable to all! Is the United Kingdom really a country where there is one law for most, but not for developers? This seems to be the case. Where does this end? Can I have an exemption from paying tax please? I find it too onerous to comply with the tax laws? I would certainly be told this is not possible. The same logic applies in this instance. The fact that compensation may be payable begs the question when the conduct should not be authorised in the first place. There should be no need for a person to have to go to the time, expense and trouble of making an application for compensation in respect of something that should never have occurred in the first place and most certainly should not be the subject of specific authorisation of avoidance of the law of the land.

Observation made in respect of whistleblowing prevention. Article 45 requires very special consideration and may be inappropriate (p10)

Response: Where powers of entry into certain properties have been exercised under articles 18 and 20, article 45 provides that it is a criminal offence to disclose any confidential information obtained.

It therefore benefits those property owners affected by the scheme, and the provision is fully consistent with both the model clauses and established practice.

The point here was entirely missed, as if an engineer, for example, finds a problematic issue, which may involve negligence, breach of statutory duty or otherwise, the person so finding they may not disclose it-even when it may be to the detriment of the property owner concerned. To turn the answer around to pretend that the provision is protective of privacy is fallacious in the extreme. It protects the developer alone. The response is entirely inadequate, as it does not address any consideration of a duty, which should exist, to disclose issues to property owners and or occupiers which may have an immediate effect or may have an effect beyond the limitation period of five years. The degree of protection provided to the developer, as a government authority, is offensive to modern and proper good governance theory and practice and basic precepts of social responsibility. One does not protect a developer at the expense of a citizen or subject. This is being authorised by the Government of Her Majesty, I am sure She would not like to know that Her subjects are being exposed in such a manner.

[Note] See also Latent Damage Act 1986, 3 years from the date of knowledge of damage with a 15 year period; claims under the Defective Premises Act 1972, being 6 years from completion of the dwelling.

Queries, views: transportandworksact@dft.gsi.gov.uk