In response to the development proposals for Dorchester Courtsubmitted on behalf of the owners, Heinrich Feldman and family, through their company Manaquel, Lambeth’s planning committee now has to cope with two magisterial objections – on behalf of the residents themselves, and now by the Herne Hill Society on behalf of the whole community.
The Society’s deeply considered and detailed response to the planning application fundamentally dismantles the Manaquel proposal. It can be read on the Society’s website. Here are a few key excerpts:
There needs to be a legally binding agreement between Lambeth Council and Manaquel which sets out in detail the repairs Manaquel agree to carry out for the total restoration of Dorchester Court. Without it, there is no obligation on Manaquel to start, let alone complete the work. Given the historic failures of Manaquel over decades to address the repair of the building the need for this is all the greater. Neither is there any other form of legally binding undertaking that obliges Manaquel to complete the repairs before marketing the new residences.
There is no detailed schedule of repairs. … Given Manaquel’s historic record in terms of maintenance of Dorchester Court, our fear is that work will start, the foundations will be found to be inadequate, the buildings will be structurally compromised and an application will then be made to demolish the buildings as there will not be enough profit from the development to repair them.
No details are given as to how in future Dorchester Court will be managed in a way to avoid the problems of maintenance that have plagued it for several decades and seen it placed on the Heritage at Risk Register.
The applications conflict with several Policies spelt out in the Lambeth Plan. Permitting these applications will not secure the long term future of Dorchester Court and will not secure benefits that outweigh the negative effect of breaching established planning policies. … Failure to classify this application as an enabling development and disregard of the Historic England policy and guidance could expose the local authority to legal challenge in its decision-making process.
Lambeth officers are now presumably trying to digest all this before briefing the members of the planning committee. As far as we know, no date has been set yet for the planning committee to meet.
Fawnbrake residents will be familiar with Dorchester Court, the imposing 1930s apartment blocks sitting between Herne Hill itself and Dorchester Drive.
It is now threatened with wholly unsuitable development, as set out in a planning application submitted by the notorious and neglectful landlords. (Helen Hayes MP apparently described them as “one of the worst landlords I have ever come across”.) The landlords’ deliberate and cynical neglect over the years has made some parts of the estate almost uninhabitable, and indeed dangerous.
Yet Dorchester Court is a Grade 2 listed building, and is one of only two 20th Century listed buildings in Lambeth
it was designed by renowned architects Kemp and Tasker. Built in the 1930s in the British Moderne style, it is the only example of a residential block by the designers, who are known for their Art Deco cinemas.
The landlords are in fact the ultra-rich Heinrich Feldman and family, sheltering behind Manaquel Ltd, one of their many holding companies. Manaquel Ltd acts as the landlord for Dorchester Court
The long-suffering Residents Association are fighting back and have created an information-rich website which is well worth looking at.
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Coronavirus (Covid–19) regulations are constantly being issued, and earlier ones updated.
The government’s Regulations on closing certain businesses and venues, announced on 23 March and later updated, are now, from this afternoon, enforceable by law in England due to the threat to public health.
A business or venue operating in contravention of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) Regulations 2020 will be committing an offence. Environmental Health and Trading Standards officers will monitor compliance with these regulations, with police support provided if appropriate.
Businesses and venues that breach them will be subject to prohibition notices, and fixed penalties. With the support of the police, prohibition notices can be used to force a business or venue to close.
The media are mostly reporting the latest government guidance on which premises and businesses can still operate and which must close. But sometimes it’s good to see what the government are actually saying.
Plans for the twin tower development proposed for Loughborough Junction, featured in our last post, have been comprehensively rubbished in a formal objection now tabled on behalf of the Herne Hill Society.
The main thrust of the Society’s objection is that a decision to allow the proposed development would go against the Lambeth Plan for new developments, as well as the London Plan and indeed the 2019 National Planning Policy Framework.
This sound academic but demonstrating how the proposal is fundamentally inconsistent with the Council’s own planning guidelines makes it very difficult for the Lambeth planners to give it the green light – though of course there’s no guarantee that they won’t find a way to wriggle out of this.
The draft new Lambeth Plan lays down many requirements that new developments must respect, including the principle that the design of a new development must be a response to the good aspects of the local context and historic character in many detailed ways.
The proposal flouts Lambeth’s own standards
As the Society’s magisterial demolition of the proposal states, the architects have signally failed to meet these policy criteria. “Two towers rising to 29 and 20 stories are not a positive or contextual response to the character of the area. On the contrary, they are wilfully antagonistic to the character, creating densely congested structures with an overbearing presence out of any reasonable scale with neighbouring buildings.”
They go on to say: “The rationale of the designs stems solely from the maximisation of housing capacity on a small site, not from any response to local context.”
Rules for tall buildings
There is more. They note that the London Plan and the Lambeth Plan emphasise that tall buildings require excellent design and should be of “exemplary standard”. But as the Society points out, “the towers stand out for their gross incongruity in the local context not for any outstanding design quality or distinct architectural expression.”
They also flag up the proposed towers’ harmful effect on heritage assets, particularly views from Ruskin Park and Brockwell Park where what is proposed is a “markedly intrusive, permanent alteration to views from the park, one that makes no positive contribution to the park and its local context.”
The proposal’s airily dismissed references to potential bottlenecks in public transport (mentioned in our last post) are also painfully exposed and politely savaged in the Society’s response.
There is more: it’s well worth a read, and shows the importance of having a strong local Society, supported by experts who know their stuff. The upshot is that their demolition of the tower development proposal, while elegantly written, is comprehensive and enough to make its architects blush. (Don’t count on it.)
Read it all
The full text of the Objection can be read in a PDF found via a new page on the Herne Hill Society’s website, through this link.
Many neighbours (including Fawnbrake Avenue residents plugged into the Fawnbrake Street Party WhatsApp group) have already heard about the plans to erect a massive building sprouting two tower blocks of 20 and 29 storeys at Loughborough Junction, where Herne Hill Road approaches Coldharbour Lane. Yes it’s in Loughborough Junction, but this eyesore would dominate much of Herne Hill too, particularly on the Lambeth side.
The site is bounded by Hinton Road (the short extension of Milkwood Road), Wanless Street (right up against the back gardens of the houses), Herne Hill Road, and one of Loughborough Junction’s many railway viaducts, this one carrying trains to and from Denmark Hill Station.
The proposed new building (it is nominally one “podium building” with two towers superimposed) would offer some employment and retail floorspace, and 170 flats.
Time to send in our comments
Few of us would argue that these two sites are perfect as they are. Redevelopment is overdue, with the emphasis on more housing accommodation, but with some space for businesses too.
But why the looming towers? The crass unsuitability of such an intrusive development has provoked an unprecedented torrent of predominantly hostile comments on Lambeth Council’s planning site. There is still time for others to lodge their objections. It’s easily done and now is the time, before the website closes for comments. The site can be reached by clicking here.
A host of objections suggest themselves, including the grotesque disturbance of the traditional, mainly low-rise landscape and views around this part of south-east London including from Ruskin Park.
Herne Hill Society on the case
The Herne Hill Society’s highly expert planning group have already posted a report, available by clicking here. They are currently preparing a major, detailed objection to this plan. We will post a link to this when it becomes available.
Meanwhile, this post focuses mainly on the transport issues.
But first … another 16-storey tower looms
What makes things worse is that the proposed development would sit alongside another earlier one, in the pipeline already, featuring a 16-storey tower, on the neighbouring so-called Higgs Estate. This lies just the other side of the same railway viaduct and abuts on to Coldharbour Lane. Lambeth granted planning permission for this development in December 2019. Local societies including the Herne Hill Society and the Brixton Society strongly objected to this application too, but were overruled by Lambeth.
So if the current application were to be granted, Loughborough Junction would “benefit”, as the estate agents say, from three highly intrusive tower blocks – see the picture.
In our view, one’s enough.
Rail transport links? Wishful thinking
What is particularly nonsensical is the claim that the development is well served by public transport.
It is literally true, as the application blandly states, that “The application site is well served by public transport and Loughborough Junction Station, which is within a two-minute walk of the site, offers mainline train services to central London and elsewhere.”
But of course, this ignores, either deliberately and cynically, or unprofessionally, the fact that at critical times of the day (and particularly at morning rush hour between 7:30 and 9:00), the Thameslink trains stopping at Loughborough Junction are already full to bursting – so much so that passengers wanting to board at Herne Hill station, just 2 minutes up the line, often have to wait for several trains to go through before they can squeeze on. No way would the hundreds of additional commuters emerging from the proposed tower blocks be able to struggle on board at Loughborough Junction.
Lies, Damned Lies and Cynicism
A Transport Plan, one of the many supporting documents accompanying the application, concedes that a Lambeth Council study in 2014 already identified, even back then, that “Loughborough Junction … suffers from sharp peaks that contribute to relatively uncomfortable conditions for passengers both within the ticket hall and on the platform.”
Things have undoubtedly got worse in the last six years, and will get even worse when the residents of the 16 stories on the Higgs Estate start trying to get to work. But the authors of the Transport Plan, inevitably delivering what the developers want to hear and have paid for, suggest that people could quite easily walk to Denmark Hill station (already highly congested) via Ruskin Park or to Brixton Underground. We have seen no evidence that the developers or their transport planners have bothered to open a dialogue with the train operators to address these issues. Perhaps because there is no solution?
Raising the very same objections last March to the earlier Higgs Estate proposal, the Brixton Society pulled no punches:
“The present Public Transport Accessibility score is … deceptive, and new residents will experience difficulty if they wish to travel to work in Central London at normal hours. Yet that access to Central London will be the main appeal of this location for purchasers of the sale or shared ownership dwellings within this development. Claims by the applicant that only a few will wish to do so are entirely specious.”
It still went ahead.
Maybe our new neighbours in Loughborough Junction will all resort to cycling? In which case, the cycle shop on Coldharbour Lane might do quite nicely out of it. The rest of us won’t.
Yes, according to a report in last Friday’s Times property pages (paywall, probably) , spotted by a sharp-eyed neighbour (thank you, Fred!).
After 19 consecutive months of price falls — down 2.9 per cent in Greater London since a peak in July 2017, and 15.7 per cent in prime central London since a peak in 2014 — there are signs of life in the market again. It’s probably too early to talk of “recovery” but there are real signs of life in the not-so-quite central areas, because of their relative affordability. A London estate agent quoted in The Times says “Most banks are only willing to lend 4.5 times wages. Even if you’re a couple earning £100,000 combined, there are only a few pockets left in London where a normal person can afford to buy.”
Candidly, one might think that Herne Hill, at least, no longer offers many bargains for people seeking to trade up. It may be less expensive than, say, Dulwich but ‘affordability’ isn’t a word that springs to mind, most would say.
Meanwhile property experts say that even if the market is showing glimmers of recovery, it’s hard to believe it will return to the heady heights of 2017 any time soon, when affordability is still such a problem. “We have had a resetting of prices that was well overdue,” one says. “The idea that double-digit annual house-price inflation is somehow a good thing is peddled by knaves and fools. What we want is a stable housing market.”
The relative ‘hotness’ of housing markets is measured by a new seller’s advisory service, Prop Cast™., whose chart is shown above. Their basic service appears to be free. It measures buyer demand levels to help predict how quick and easy or slow and hard it will be to sell your home. It tells you whether your market is hot or cold, and puts you on the same page as reality ‘so you make smarter decisions about your sale’.
Should we call the architect?
There’s a word of warning in all this. Maybe “potential” isn’t what people are looking for. One estate agent says family houses are selling better and faster because of a lack of decent stock.
“Middle-class millennials want to buy a house that’s already done up, they don’t want to do the work. If you’re prepared to do work, there’s a lot more choice,” he says.
Time to raid the savings?
News about Fawnbrake Avenue & neighbouring streets in Herne Hill, London