The Battersea Society: Planning Committee submission The Battersea Society website 

Planning Committee Submission

Submission to Wandsworth Borough Council
Added on: 23 August 2019 at 13:54:49

South London Mail Centre. Variation to Parameter Plans: 2019/2250

The Battersea Society objects to elements of this extensive application which, while nominally covering minor amendments to the parameter plans for the overall development of the South London Mail site, appears to represent a substantial increase of 12% overall when Plot A is included. We consider some of the amendments proposed in this application are also rather more significant than minor.

Our comments are made in the light of further discussions we have had with the developers and follow a walk through the entire site with their planning advisers. Given the scale and complexity of applications across the total site we found these useful and necessary to better understand the implications of the applications which are, as a package, complex for anyone other than professionals to navigate and comment upon.

Plot A: We are responding to the application for Plot A (2019/2293) separately. However in the context of this application we wish to reiterate our disappointment with the design and placement within the plot of the new office development, given its prominent position as one of the key gateways into the linear park. Its alignment with Battersea Park Road merely reinforces the verticality of the south side of the street, already evident from the existing blocks east through to Ponton Road. We would have preferred an asymmetrical alignment, as with Riverlight opposite, to add variety, let light through into the linear park and articulate the street line. We also have concerns about the linkage through the site into the main park walk. (See below and our objection to the main application for Plot A 2019/2293).

Blocks E and F: we have a number of concerns about the proposals for these blocks which principally relate to their bulk and density of units:

- the increase in floorspace across the site as a whole which, including plot A, amounts to over 12% which we consider a significant increase to the scale of the development and should be seen in the further context of the consented increases to blocks B and D. More units on the same size plot result in ever increasing density and a reduction in liveability, and also pressures on public infrastructure. We do not see what the overall justification for this increase is.

- the increase in the maximum height of Plot F at its north eastern corner from 13 to 15 storeys is a concern, as is the increase in the massing of Plot E from 27,607 sq. m to approximately 34,000 sq.m. The proposed footprint of the building is extended by approximately 11 m and 3.5 m with a 10 storey building standing centrally within the courtyard at the rear. While neither of these may be a problem for the individual plots, the cumulative effect across the whole site is significant.

- the final proposals do not altogether relieve our earlier concerns about the junction between blocks E and F and the Bellway blocks to the rear. While we appreciate that there will be a form of 'ha ha' between them, with a strip of open space area, this is limited in scale relative to the density and perspective of the blocks. The open space will receive little direct sunlight and will increase the canyon-like environment in this part of Nine Elms, reinforcing the gloom inevitable from the rail viaduct. Further consideration needs to be given to light penetration through the blocks and also pedestrian and vehicle access round the blocks.

- we are unsure that the drop off point for blocks E and F is of a sufficient size to meet demand at peak time. Given the scale and number of online order deliveries the access route could well become a very busy, and at times clogged, route (as is happening elsewhere locally where for example delivery vehicles are often double parked with engines running). This should be further reviewed. See overall comment below and our comments on Plot A, 2019/2293.

- we support the comment of the Design Review Panel (DRP) on treatment of the front facades and do not feel their comments have been fully reflected in any changes; the applicant should be urged to reconsider this aspect of the proposal.

Access throughout the site: In the application for Plot A there is mention that:

The current proposals for Nine Elms Park Plot A do not include any provision of standing parking bays. Parking will be available across the site for those with a blue badge. However, final arrangements will need to be agreed between all parties.

We have objected separately to the inadequacy of plans for access for taxis and deliveries in relation to application 2018/6057. We consider it essential that a co-ordinated access and parking plan be developed across the whole site and that no masterplan be approved until this is in place.

Linear Park: walking through the length of the Park from the Embassy to Plot A allowed us to gain a sense of the scale of the open areas. We were impressed by the eastern end planting and water features and accepted that the area between the Ballymore blocks and Plots E and F may be somewhat wider than the impression given from the plans. However given the scale of E and F blocks, we consider that the park will give the feeling of a narrow, landscaped area. The protective 'swale' areas in front of the blocks should be kept as narrow as is practical. The comments of the DRP do seem to have been recognised and we urge strongly that their suggestions for a less corporate style of landscaping and greater informality are pursued. Likewise the more open areas such as Mill Pond Lawn and Park Basin must remain as extensive as proposed with no further encroachment of their area.

There is less detail relating to the proposals for the public realm and linear park areas around Plots A, C1 and C2, giving an impression that this section of the park is less well integrated with new blocks than in the area further east. There is limited planting around Plot A. The plans suggest that this will be quite a bleak hard landscape for this significant entry point to the whole site (at least until the Flower Market site is cleared). The junction of Moat Road with the main park walk at Haines Cross needs to be carefully designed to ensure a safe crossing point for pedestrians and cyclists. For example will the latter in fact enter along Moat Road? From the presented papers it is unclear how the landscaping design will deal with this. Are there steps from the park through to Haines Lawn at the rear of the Plot A building? The Planning Applications Committee (PAC) should ask for further and fuller details for this element of the park to ensure there is safe pedestrian access through, and around, Plots A and C1 and along Moat Road. This should also give an indication of how, in the longer term, the linear park will extend on through to the CGMA site. On these plans it suddenly comes to a dead end between blocks C1 and A.

While we are pleased to hear that individual developers are working together to set up a code of conduct in relation to the final park, we are concerned that the PAC are being asked to consider individual applications. We consider that a reappraisal of the whole length of the linear park is needed rather than approving individual applications in this disjointed discrete basis. We therefore urge the PAC to seek a full presentation of information on the park to themselves, and possibly to the DRP, and for this to be posted on the Nine Elms website.

When we visited, the landscaping behind the Ballymore blocks was showing distinct evidence of 'legginess' and also some stunting of growth. This no doubt was a result of the warm summer, combined with relative poor light at the moment due to hoardings round the South London Mail site. We recommend that close monitoring and annual review of planting is built into the final management agreements for the public realm throughout the linear park. Plants suited to limited light and of a tough defensive type will be essential and may be preferable to some of the more gentle species listed in the landscaping documents. Weak and/or overgrown planting inevitably encourages anti-social attitudes to planted areas. Given the likely intensity of public use of the areas, carefully designed planting and sensitive horticultural maintenance will be vital if the area is to remain attractive and safe.

The Battersea Society urges the PAC to withhold full approval for this application until the points above are addressed.

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