“I’ve not found one local person in favour of building this 14-storey tower block on Battersea Park Road”

culvert-road

The proposed development at Culvert Road

Comments to Wandsworth Plannning Applications Committee, December 14, 2016

This is the most one-sided major planning issue I’ve seen in my ward.

I’ve spoken to local people over many months. I’ve not found one person in favour of building this 14-storey tower block on Battersea Park Road.

The council has logged more than 200 objections received, including two petitions. I should say that I wasn’t involved in either petition or any of the comments – this is entirely grass-roots opposition.

The main objections to the development are clear:

  • It’s too tall
  • It blocks people’s light, and their views
  • The architecture is not in keeping with the low-rise Victorian character of Battersea Park Road
  • Loss of privacy – a building of this height would overlook surrounding properties
  • The application does not comply with the London Plan or with council policy on tall buildings

All of which is true.

The council report captures some of the more colourful language used by residents: “outrageously high, out of proportion, intrusive, overbearing, unattractive, a monstrosity, a skyscraper.”

I note there were three letters of support.

I’ve sympathy with the resident who says Harris Academy “is doing a wonderful job in turning the school around to being one of best in the Borough”. It’s an excellent school that has improved greatly. The gym would be a big benefit.

I’d like to focus on two more points of view and will then sum up.

First, Jane Ellison, the Battersea MP says: “The application does not comply with the London Plan and that Council policy (DMS4 of the 2016 Development Management Document) suggests the site is in an area where tall buildings (ie five stories or higher) are inappropriate.”

Second, the Battersea Society objects to this application. “Specifically: the design, height, bulk and massing of the proposal respond poorly to the surrounding context including nearby listed buildings, and to the two adjacent conservation areas – the Latchmere Estate and Battersea Park Conservation Areas.”

From my perspective this is an important point. Latchmere only has one conservation area – the Latchmere Estate. It’s lovely and it is literally a re-writing of history to say this area is incoherent or lacks character.

I’ll conclude with some points about the impact this building will have.

A new 14-story tower on Battersea Park Road is just too much. It will be a beacon of anxiety – residents will ask: what’s stopping the council approving a tower block next to their two-storey Victorian street properties in Latchmere, Queenstown or St Mary’s Park or Shaftesbury?

People need to know they have some control over the way their neighbourhood looks and feels. Our urban environment must be under democratic control.

We can’t continue with such a massive gap between what people want for their neighbourhoods and the over-development being pushed upon them.

We do need to deliver more homes.

There’s an important political point here: tower blocks such as 3 Culvert Road call into disrepute the council’s whole home building programme. Resistance to any new developments will harden if people believe the council is happy to allow 14-storey tower blocks in their neighbourhood.

There is a place for towers, in certain agreed areas. Where they can be clustered – or as part of larger schemes that are balanced between low-rise and high-rise.

This is something else. This is not a template to solve our housing crisis. This is just a developer trying too hard to make a profit out of tight corner plot. I urge you to reject this application and the damaging precedent it will set.

UPDATE: The application was approved by the committee by 5 votes to 2

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