Southwark's planning committee has voted to approve proposals for a 22-storey tower on Newington Causeway despite vociferous objections from the nearby Ministry of Sound club.
The decision comes just weeks after the committee vetoed plans for a much larger 41-storey tower on the Eileen House site on the other side of Newington Causeway.
Neobrand's scheme for 89-93 Newington Causeway – designed by Panter Hudspith – had previously been considered by the planning committee in June when members resolved to grant planning permission.
Several of the key people associated with the larger Eileen House scheme – including Oakmayne chairman Christopher Allen and architect Graham Morrison – were present to hear councillors consider the other nearby proposal.
The Ministry of Sound had successfully argued for the Neobrand application to be referred back to councillors for reconsideration in the light of a new noise survey.
The club fears that if new flats are built in close proximity its business will be threatened should new neighbours complain about music noise and disturbance from clubgoers in the street.
Planning officer Bridin O'Connor told councillors that noise from club will be "barely perceptible" in the proposed flats if residents had the windows open.
Questioned by members about the high density of housing proposed on what is a very small site, the council's head of planning and transport Simon Bevan told the committee that the site is an appropriate place for a "quite significant landmark" as part of the Elephant & Castle regeneration area.
The committee was addressed by Lohan Presencer, chief executive of Ministry of Sound.
"Councillors: three weeks ago you rejected the Eileen House scheme which is within 20 yards of this application," said Mr Presencer. "Exactly the same issues apply, and yet here we are again.
"The scheme provides no social housing, it's excessively high and not right for its location, it's way over the recommended limits on density, it provides inadequate and unsuitable amenity space and all this before we even come to the issue of noise.
"What is wrong with planning officers? This scheme is only up before you again because officers got it wrong last time. What is the point of having rules if you don't stick to them?"
The nightclub boss said that his request that the planning committee make a late-night site visit to hear the noise from the club for themselves had been refused by planning officers.
"It's like saying you're an X Factor judge but you're not allowed to hear the music," he said.
"Nightclubs make noise. Not just from the music escaping across the rooftops, but from the people who queue directly outside the applicant's scheme, others who leave down Newington Causeway, and still others who laugh and chat in our front courtyard."
Cllr Eliza Mann asked Mr Presencer what sort of development he would consider to be acceptable on the site. "Anything that's not residential," he replied. He suggested offices, restaurants or leisure uses, and reminded members that the site is in the designated 'Enterprise Quarter' where businesses should be encouraged.
Responding to a question from Cllr Michael Situ, Mr Presencer described what he found when he visited his own club at 1am a few weeks ago. "The noise outside was unbelievable," he said.
"There are hundreds and hundreds of people outside shouting, screaming and being drunk. I make no apology for that. They are perfectly within their rights to be drunk at 3 o'clock in the morning shouting to their friends."
The committee also heard from Paul Gray from the Equus Partnership representing the developer, Neobrand, who said that the Ministry's assertions were not backed by evidence.
"It is critical to recognise that noise from the Ministry of Sound is not the only noise source affecting this development.
"The site is in an inner-city urban environment, dominated by noise from both road and rail traffic.
"As such, even without consideration of noise associated with Ministry of Sound, the proposed development will need to include an appropriate specification of glazing and alternative means of ventilation in order that residents have the option to keep windows closed.
"The Ministry of Sound assert that noise breakout from their establishment is significant and that this development will force their business to close. Where is their evidence to support these assertions?"
Mr Gray said his client had submitted extensive objective evidence to the council demonstrating that the proposed development and the nightclub could coexist.
He added: "We confidently conclude that music noise emanating from the Ministry of Sound, and associated activities, can be adequately controlled – and that such control can be effectively enforced by means of appropriate planning conditions – without any substantive risk to the Ministry of Sound's continuing existence."
Allan Ledden, solicitor to the applicant, reminded members that the existing building on the site had been lived in for many years and the occupants had never raised any complaint about the nightclub.
He added: "Planning policy statement number 1 makes it clear that the purpose of the planning system is not to protect the financial interests of a particular landowner."
The committee voted 4-3 to in favour of granting planning permission in accordance with officers' recommendations. The committee's Labour members (Cllr Nick Dolezal, Cllr Kevin Ahern, Cllr Mark Williams and Cllr Michael Situ) all voted in favour.
Cllr Situ said that he appreciated that noise is an issue but it "should be expected in an urban area like this".
Cllr Williams said he believed that the site wasn't ideal for residential use but the applicants had made reasonable efforts to deal with the noise issues.
Liberal Democrat Cllr Nick Stanton voted against because he objected to the lack of social rented housing in the scheme. His colleague Cllr Robin Crookshank Hilton said that she didn't believe that the site was appropriate for residential. Cllr Eliza Mann agreed with the concerns raised by her colleagues and was concerned about the lack of amenity space for future residents.
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