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Secretary of State scraps plan to build twin towers on Wandsworth's Ram Brewery site

by Ian Mason
From Wandsworth Guardian (online)
2 July 2010

The developer behind a controversial plan to build two giant towers on the Ram Brewery site has said it will “review its options” after the Government scrapped the scheme.

The Government announced this morning it had rejected a proposal by developer Minerva to create twin towers, one 42 storeys high the other 32, on the historic site as part of a £300m redevelopment.

Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles’ decision follows a month-long public inquiry last November, which saw campaigners voice concerns about the impact the scheme would have on the neighbouring community and the threat posed to the brewery’s Grade II and Grade II* listed buildings.

Leader of the borough’s Labour Group, Councillor Tony Belton, said he was delighted the “overpowering and out of scale” scheme was being binned.

He said: “The Conservative majority on Wandsworth Council made ludicrous claims that having two 42 storey towers in the centre of Wandsworth was the only way of re-generating the town.

“Both they and the developers will have to re-think their plans and come up with a scheme that is much more in keeping with public opinion, as expressed by all the local amenity groups, and with the character and nature of Wandsworth.

“We look forward to a more positive and more ‘human scale’ plan.”

Battersea’s former MP, Martin Linton, who challenged the council’s decision to approve the development by writing to the Communities Secretary last year, said the decision was “fantastic news”.

Minerva’s chief executive, Salmaan Hasan, said: “We are naturally disappointed by the Secretary of State’s decision and remain committed to our Ram Brewery and Buckhold Road sites, which represent a rare opportunity to regenerate Wandsworth town centre.

“However, the Secretary of State has given a positive response to many aspects of the scheme and given guidance as to what is likely to be acceptable.

“We will now consider the information and guidance in the Secretary of State’s response and review our options as we look to move the scheme forward.”

A council spokesman said: “We are very disappointed that the minister has reached this decision.

“We are now studying the report in more detail but certainly endorse its recognition that in the midst of a recession ‘the redevelopment of these two sites is central to the regeneration and long term social and economic future of the town centre’.”

Councillor Ravi Govindia, executive member for strategic planning and transportation, stressed the report handed back by planning inspector Colin Ball supported aspects of the proposed scheme, including the possibility of funds being allocated to improve the traffic flow in the centre of Wandsworth.

Coun Govindia said Mr Ball was “not saying no to tall buildings full stop”.

Mr Pickles agreed to Mr Ball’s recommendation to refuse permission for a 42 storey and 32 storey high-rise, as well as other commercial and residential space.

However, Mr Ball advised the Secretary of State to grant permission for listed building consent for alterations to the brewery complex, Brewers house and stable block on the Ram Brewery site.

He also recommended permission be given for the demolition of all buildings on the Capital Studios/Duval Works site and the demolition of non-listed buildings on the Ram Brewery site.

Mr Pickles disagreed with both recommendations.

The only element of the scheme to be met with Mr Pickles’ approval was the demolition of all existing buildings and the erection of five 16 storey buildings facing King George’s Park along a new pedestrian route to Hardwick’s Square.

This included 207 flats, commercial space and the provision of underground parking for 78 vehicles and 206 bicycles.

Date posted: 2 July 2010