My community group, Friends of Archbishops Park, has been informed of a large planning application to replace Becket and York Houses on Lambeth Palace Road. We are invited to comment - by 12 Feb. Ground floor plus 10-13 storeys of office building.
I am not an expert, but know that planning is one of the many areas that erudite posters seem to know about.
The development is not immediately adjacent to the park so I assume areas of concern are:
- any overshadowing that will detract from the current feel and atmosphere of the park (which is very pretty and in a conservation area).
- that despite the rapid and cumulative development and increased tourist, leisure, worker and residential densities in the area (post-London Eye everything has changed dramatically and is continuing to do so) there has been very little apparant investment in public facilities used by local people. If the area is to continue to be a good place to live in for both the old and new populations there needs to be investment in local facilities so that such facilities can cope with the increased demand.
- traffic etc.
I have not had a chance to look at the plans as I only got the letter this morning. (Why can't Lambeth post them on the web-site like Wandsworth - and arn't they supposed to give us 28 days to comment?) But the letter kindly tells me that an Environmental Statement has been prepared, but it costs £85 from a firm called Montagu Evans.
Our group has raised the money to get professionals to prepare a management plan for the park on behalf of Lambeth. (£35,000!) We did this in part to provide Lambeth with the basis for negotiating planning gain money to go into the park. At this stage what arguments should 'the community' be putting forward for this development to be contributing to the implementation of that plan.
Already there is insufficent seating on a sunny day to accommodate workers from the hospital, COI and other offices, so people sit on the small amount of play equipment, leaving local kids with nothing. There is virtually no grass because regular lunchtime footballers from Waterloo save themselves the cost of booking a pitch. And so on. It seems very unfair that wave after wave of developers come into the area, make large profits and, essentially, take away from those with least.
In contrast some real investment should deliver increased and assessible amenity to a number of different groups, including vulnerable ones.
So any ideas on what to say. Plus any idea on how an unfunded group of local mums get to see a copy of the environment statement without paying.
I don't know what Becket and York Houses are, or the area you are talking about as the bit of SE1 I lived in was off Grange Rd, however the following may help:
Briefly, your best approach to objecting to the development is to go through Lambeth's Unitary Development Plan and find any policies which you think the proposal contradicts, for example if it would generate a lot more traffic where the Plan may have a policy to reduce traffic. It's a tedious process, but in the end planning decisions are based primarily on what is in the UDP and your best chance of stopping a development, or at least getting it altered, is to show that it contravenes local policy. If the park is in a Conservation Area, look at the policies regarding CAs and see if there is anything saying that their character will be looked after - then show how the development would adversely affect it.
Check what the development site is allocated for in the UDP - if it's allocated for offices then it will be harder to object to office development there (even more so if the existing buildings are offices), but if it is not then you have a better chance. If it is, then you can still object on design matters etc. (e.g. a 13 storey block in an area where there are no other high buildings could be seen as over-intensive development).
You can only comment on the application itself i.e as shown on the plans. There won't be any point in commenting generally that investment is needed in local public facilities as that is not what is being considered by the Planning committee. Though, Lambeth may be able to get some form of contribution towards your park from the developer if the office development does go ahead, especially if you have a management plan in place. You could make some suggestions - being positive is always a good move and could lead to local benefits if the offices are eventually built.
You should be given 28 days from the date of the letter from the planning office to comment. It sounds like you only got about 16, that is not acceptable. If you need more, I suggest you contact the Case Officer, if no good then the Head of Planning and if still no joy, then the Chair of the Planning Committee. Councils have an 8 week target within which they are supposed to deal with planning applications and this can lead them to try it on a bit ( I have just gone through an application with Southwark Council where they actually turned it into 2 separate applications which together took 4 months to decide, I suspect so that they could actually say that they did each one within the 8 weeks !.)
I work for a planning consultancy (not Montagu Evans !) and have been involved with lots of Environmental Statements. As far as I can remember, they have always been submitted as part of the planning application and therefore become public documents. For many developments they are a legal requirement and so must be made publicly available. It sounds very strange that it is not available via the Planning Office. I'm not sure what you can do, I think I would ring the Case Officer to check on this.
You may well already have been involved with them, as your groups seems very organised and on the ball, but if not have you tried Planning Aid for London - a charity where professional planners give their advice free to community groups which can't afford to pay for it ? Their site is www.pafl.org.uk.
I hope this is of some use. Planning is horribly complicated and there are no hard and fast rules, each application is decided on its own merits and according to local circumstances which makes it impossible to give very definate answers to your questions. In Southwark, I have found it useful to get the support of particular councillors, which I'm sure you already have.
I have been on maternity leave since last April, so my grey matter has been more concerned with baby feeds, nappies and staying sane than the intricacies of the planning system, so please don't rely on everything I've said as being gospel !
By the way, I am not 'northernboy', I am his partner, I can never remember my SE1 password so use his name.
I don't know if you know about this, but you can access Lambeth's planning database at http://planning.lambeth.gov.uk/publicaccess/ but it is painfully slow, doesn't work with all browsers, and is very user-unfriendly. In fact it's a disgrace.
I suppose in part I was looking for a way, acceptable to the planning committee to argue for comensation to local people in the form of investment in 'my' park for the adverse effects that this latest piece of extra density brings. Sounds greedy, but the development seems never ending, and unlike Westminster where you can see a regular pattern of improvements to play areas etc, presumably funded by S106, alongside new flats, we seem to get the buildings and building works and nothing very obvious ever seems to come out of it.
(A couple of years back there were allegations that Lambeth had failed to collect in the region of £8 million S106 that they had managed to negotiate in Waterloo alone, including the whole of the County Hall development. One reason why an enterprising regeneration officer - no longer with Lambeth - encouraged us to get together a professional plan.)
The proposed development is near Westminster Bridge. Sort of behind the Florence Nightingale pub, and opposite St Thomas'. It looks as if the application is being split into two parts to cover two buildings. Hah. Two sets of letters for me to write.
I don't really care about the office buildings themselves and suspect it is true for many park users. One boring building replacing another. This time a nice naughties glass shiny one to replace the dull sixties thing. Its probably a bit higher than it should be, but presumably they expect the planning committee to shave off a couple of floors.
I am however concerned about the inequality of the developer versus community voice. They have people like Montague Evans - or Annette to argue their case. Even if people like me are prepared to sit down and try and articulate what we think are community concerns, we simply dont know the rules under which the game is played.
I have spoken to planning aid in the past - lets not forget the bright idea to turn the park into a private tennis centre that caused me to engage in the first place - and they were helpful. But I don't know if they can help on this one, where I suspect the main concern is to put pressure on Lambeth to consider asking the developer to provide some form of compensation to the community in the form of investment in facilities.
I am even unsure where the Lambeth UDP is. I went to some form of meeting in November where I pointed out that the previous (Labour administration) draft had got the parks boundaries wrong (inter alia leaving out an area which is replacement land for the loss of a protected London square). I was told that someone in Lambeth planning would contact me directly but they never did. So I don't even know which UDP is applicable.
Any bright ideas anyone?
And a kind and anonymous person has lent me their copy of the environmental statement - or at least Part II. Some pretty pictures, including of 'my' park. But not worth £85. And I'm not sure whether I really understand very much.
You are right about the 16 days. To add insult to injury Lambeth also suggest I phone the library first - presumably to check that the plans are there. My best guess is that they forgot about consulting my group and so have extended the period to allow us a say. Which probably means that we have made some sort of impact, at least as a scourge of Lambeth officers. Now to see what we can extract, not just for us but actually for the new office workers/owners as well.
If the usual suspects did not speak up, there would be no community voice at all. But it is really hard work and needs both time and knowledge. Inevitably there is mileage in the (developer?) bleat that the 'same old voices' are not representative. Wouldn't it be nice if our Council had a strong cohesive and inclusive vision, and could therefore protect the interests of those least able to articulate their needs.
A balanced community and good local amenities has to be the route to long-term sustainable development.
And what has happened to the Lambeth UDP? I wrote a load of objections 18 months ago, received an acknowledgement then, but nothing much since bar a cold evening meeting in St John's Church.
Looking at Lambeth's site, it appears that the application covers the entire site between the railway,Upper Marsh, and Lambeth Palace Road, except for the brick tower block of flats on the corner of Royal Street, whose name escapes me. It would be difficult to claim "overshadowing", as the site is due north of Archbishops Park.
This is outside the South Bank conservation area. However, the CA includes the St Thomas' Hospital campus and the Island block of the former County Hall - so any development will have an impact on it. The current buildings are visible from the Parliament Square conservation area, and could be argued to have an impact on the Palace of Westminster world heritage site.
I rather think that Becket House (Ernst & Young's HQ) was designed to be on an axis with the west-east open space between the Lambeth wing of the hospital and the lower blocks to the north. This may have been a planning agreement because of the controversy of the hospital design and the need to realign Lambeth Palace Road/extinguish Stansgate Triangle (name ??? -which I think was replaced by the extension to Archbishops Park), so the sites are linked in planning history.
Is there any hint of what happens to the current (underused) open space in front of Ernst and Young? This contains the large scale 1970s metal sculpture by Bernard Schottlander (1924-2001?) 'South Of The River', which IMO is better than the average "turd in the plaza" public sculpture of that period. Presumably it is too new to be listed as I think it was only cast in 1976. It may be owned by the Guys and St Thomas' special Trustees.
I also have a vague idea that the Trustees may also have some freehold interest in the site (subject to some very long leases?).
If this open space was to be encroached on, I would have thought that Archbishops Park should be the obvious beneficiary of any compensating planning obligation.
Many thanks, this gives me some ideas to start working on. There is I think a commitment by Lambeth politicians not to allow any net loss of green space so if there is some around E&Y I will bring that up. I will take a walk around the site this weekend.
It is likely that more land zoned as park will be lost with the Founders Place developemt. I hear anecdotally that those developer's opening offer of compensation was to donate a park bench!
The Stangate Triangle replacement land is the bit that was left out of the draft UDP. Some of it forms the wide pavement opposite St Thomas' and is clearly marked out by bollards. But Lambeth seems to have forgotten and despite three years of me telling them I keep seeing inaccurate maps. The staff turnover in Lambeth Parks is such that this fact keeps coming as a surprise to officers, whilst I sound like a mad old bat.
But there should be strong legal protection on this land so Lambeth need to be aware of the facts and get it right in their UDP. Otherwise they face the sort of fiasco they had recently over Lambeth Walk Open Space where a planning decision was overturned at tribunal, costing Lambeth a fortune. Plus this area can't afford the sort of nibbling away of open space, particularly if the profits go to developers rather than get ploughed back into the community. Did you hear ever the story of Albert Embankment Gardens? Not sure if it is something I can put in writing - but is worth the price of a drink to anyone interested in esoteric planning issues. It is very funny.