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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 sounds 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.
Next weekend, the Friends of Ruskin Park are planning another extravaganza with old favourites and new surprises for all ages.
It’s Saturday afternoon, from 12pm to 6pm at and around the Ruskin Park Bandstand.
As they say … Bring the family, there’s so much to do including donkey rides, arts workshops, face painting, raffle, craft stalls and local groups.
They will have live music on the bandstand and in the new acoustic tent. Plus this year we’ll be joined by Matt Barnard juggler extraordinaire and a daring trapeze show.
Food and Refreshments
These will be provided by Canopy Beer Company, Tyjanick Galettes, Deli Jerk, Clarkshaws Brewery, Gourmet Sausages and Eden Organics. There’ll also be a Friends of Ruskin Park stalls selling tea and cake and Pimms and strawberries.
For this and all their events, they have an excellent website.
Over on Twitter, one or two people commented on our recent story about Southwark’s proposed parking charges in Dulwich Park. They said rather smugly that no-one should take their cars there anyway, and that walking is more environmentally correct. Conventional fair comment, but not everyone is fit enough to walk two or three miles to visit a park or a gallery. Oh, I suppose they can always summon a Uber …
A nicer and more balanced opinion has appeared from one of our neighbours here in Fawnbrake. To save scrolling down, I’ll reproduce it here too:
“Another reason to visit the park regularly is to attend the many Dulwich & District U3A groups that meet in Rosebery Lodge. Many Herne Hill residents are signed up for these. Personally, though by nature lazy, I get out the bike and cycle to my group, so am feeling rather smug about the planned charges. But this is not an option for everyone and the absence of a good bus service makes it more difficult. But I do commend cycling. And from where I am in Fawnbrake you can always avoid the climb up Kestrel (and Ruskin Walk on the return) by taking the slightly longer way round along Milkwood Road. And from Half Moon lane turn into quiet Winterbrook Road, where soon the Japanese cherries will be flowering – a real delight.”
It’s outside our area of course, but quite a few of us drive to Dulwich Park, to visit either the Park or the world-famous Picture Gallery.
Now, as just announced on Twitter by the Dulwich Society, it appears that the London Borough of Southwark plan to start charging £2/hr to park in Dulwich Park and Belair Park.
It all sounds a bit rushed. The decision is due to be determined this coming week, and will be followed by a 21-day statutory consultation. Read more here.
It’s probably not surprising that Councils take every opportunity these days to extract a bit more revenue like this (even if they then need to employ wardens to check that people have paid). It’s just a pity that alternative ways to get there, e.g. the P4, are so unreliable. And isn’t £2 per hour a bit steep?
The Dulwich Park Friends are urging the cabinet member not to make a decision until they’ve had a chance to canvass views and respond. No doubt the Gallery will have a point of view too.