On Friday local councillor Mark Harrison gave evidence to the Planning Inquiry which will decide whether the redevelopment of the Fire Brigade HQ will go ahead. The proposed development is over three sites - the riverside fire station building, the large warehouse site on Whitgift Street, and the small site at the corner of Black Prince Road and Newport Street.
Lambeth's Planning Committee turned down the development last year, but the developer is now appealling that decision.
The Whitgift Estate Residents' Association, the Friends of Lambeth High Street Recreation Ground, and the Kennington Association are putting their own case against the development at the Inquiry, as well as the Council.
Here is what Mark said to the Inquiry:
My name’s Mark Harrison, and I’ve been one of the local ward councillors for Prince’s ward since June 2009. I’ve lived in the immediate area for eight and half years, have been very closely involved in the Ethelred Estate’s Tenant Management Organisation for many years and know very well the problems of worklessness and deprivation which many residents suffer from. I’ve also worked very closely with the Whitgift Estate Residents Association, Vauxhall Gardens Estate Residents Association, and Friends of Lambeth High Street Recreation Ground over several years.
Over time as a councillor I’ve come to realise importance of the KIBA policy (Key Industrial and Business Area) and the need to defend it against incursions. Once the principle is conceded developers have opened a door allowing them to develop a residential scheme. The point of KIBAs is to preserve land for employment. In the Newport Street/ Southbank House KIBA there are many businesses employing local people which, because of the nature of their enterprise, could not share their site with housing – like Costa Coffee (70% employees local), and James Knight (50% local employees). We need to have businesses providing jobs for people living locally – residents of local estates who might have low skills and qualifications but who are willing and able to work in a food preparation facility, a mechanics, a dry cleaning facility, or a shop. Central London also needs sites for services like these which enable the West End and Westminster to function, and minimise unnecessarily long delivery journeys. KIBAs allow us to preserve a mix of employment generating uses and prevents Lambeth becoming an economically dead dormitory suburb.
For these reasons the sacrifice of the principle of a KIBA should only be for the most persuasive of reasons and the highest quality building. This is neither – it’s a development with a hugely negative impact on local communities and few benefits.
In particular the offer of 7% affordable housing is totally derisory. If Lambeth is to compromise on the principle of the KIBA policy, and allow a mixed use development, the development HAS to provide both more employment space AND the 40% affordable housing we expect and demand.
I’m not an expert on viability studies – all I know is that they seem to change with the wind and that I don’t trust them for a second – but to me they are irrelevant in this case. Why should we sacrifice this crucial point of principle because a developer claims the sums don’t stack up? Frankly, that is not the problem of residents of our area. If we are suffer the negative effects of this development, then the least we should expect are a decent number of affordable homes and a decent number of jobs. This does not provide this.
The developer has previously tried to persuade me that the development is great because it will enable the London Fire Authority to pay to upgrade its fire stations across the capital. Obviously LFEPA is keen to upgrade Lambeth Fire Station – but how it chooses to pay to do that is not really a concern of local residents. And upgrading fire stations in north London is certainly of no benefit to residents living around this site. It’s up to LFEPA how it finds the cash to upgrade fire stations across the capital, but residents of north Lambeth should not be singled out to foot the bill. We should not be pressurised into accepting an unacceptable development on these grounds.
This alone would be sufficient to reject this development, but then there is the issue of loss of daylight for the residents of Whitgift House, which residents have spoken eloquently about this afternoon, and which I believe the expert witness Mr Littlefair was very clear would be totally unacceptable. In addition to the residents of Whitgift House and 2 Whitgift Street, we need to consider the damaging effects that plunging Lambeth High Street Recreation Ground into darkness will have. We have worked hard as a community over the past few years developing a fantastic refurbishment plan for the park, which will help make it pleasant and safe, and build a new water feature. We have serious concerns that the dingy light left by the development will hinder plant growth and cause the water feature to moss up; as well as reducing the amenity for park users as it is left in the shade.
I would like to also briefly highlight some of the other objections the three councillors for Prince’s ward made to this application:
We’re particularly concerned by Building G, to the east of the viaduct. The plans were for this building to be entirely affordable housing. We strongly believe this would accentuate social segregation and work against the key planning principle of creating mixed communities. In our area we have a cleavage between the rich riverside strip, and the two large and deprived estates on the other side of the viaduct. This development relegates its affordable housing to the side of the viaduct which already suffers from severe deprivation. Building G should contain more private housing, and more affordable housing should be on the west side of the viaduct. We also feel there has been a missed opportunity to include a retail unit in the ground floor of Building G, which would join one of the few local small local parades of shops (Black Prince Road) which is flourishing and expanding. We also feel Building G has an inappropriate appearance – it is surrounded by handsome and well proportioned Victorian buildings which the current design has no relationship to. It appears the architect has designed Building G as an afterthought, unimaginatively using the same style as the unrelated buildings west of the viaduct, and not even bothering to square off the south side of the site to create a right angled building which would suit its prominent corner plot.
Finally there is the level of parking spaces. I’m not aware if the number has changed since we first objected, but we strongly believe this should be a car free development, with the exception of parking for the fire brigade, disabled drivers and car club spaces. This is Lambeth policy across the borough for all developments, and we particularly feel that this city centre location means residents do not need to add to congestion by owning a car.