A public inquiry into plans to redevelop the former London Fire Brigade headquarters on Albert Embankment opened on Tuesday at the YMCA in Stockwell.
The inquiry has been called to consider an appeal by developers Native Land and the London Fire & Emergency Planning Authority against Lambeth Council's decision to refuse planning permission for the redevelopment of the site.
The Florian Place scheme, designed by Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands, includes 265 new homes as well as offices, shops and a modernised Lambeth Fire Station.
A final decision will now be made by planning inspector Terry Phillimore who has identified the main issues as the effect of the proposals on the character of the listed 1930s former London Fire Brigade HQ and its surroundings, the scheme's impact on nearby residents, the level of affordable housing proposed, local employment issues, infrastructure questions and the scheme's relation to planning policy.
Russell Harris QC, representing the developer and the fire authority, said councillors had behaved in a "remarkably inconsistent and irrational fashion" when they voted to reject the planning application back in 2011.
He argued that his clients' scheme would create "an exciting, vibrant new urban quarter" and represent an "exciting symbiosis of old and new elements".
Barrister Matthew Reed, for Lambeth Council, told the inquiry that the proposals would be "severely harmful to the special architectural and historic interest of the listed fire station" and highlighted objections raised by both English Heritage and the Twentieth Century Society.
Mr Reed also described the effect of the proposed development on the daylight and sunlight levels of nearby homes such as Whitgift House as "profound and permanent".
Michael Ball, speaking for Waterloo Community Development Group, the Whitgift Estate Tenants' & Residents' Association and other local groups, said the harm posed by the scheme would be "significant, measurable and – to some – potentially devastating".
He said: "The people of this area want development but they want sustainable development."
The inquiry – which is scheduled to run until mid-March – is due to hear evidence from witnesses including architect Alex Lifschutz, Vauxhall MP Kate Hoey and London fire commissioner Ron Dobson.
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