The Battersea Society: Planning Committee submission The Battersea Society website 


Planning Committee Submission


Submission to Wandsworth Borough Council
Added on: 4 December 2017 at 16:35:52

Royal College of Art: 2017/6064

Referring to: 1-11 & 15-25 Howie Street 1-4 Elcho Street 7-9 & 15-25 Parkgate Road and Southern section of Radstock Street


The Battersea Society supports the expansion of the RCA in this area of Battersea and welcomes the longer term benefits such a world class institution may bring. We were grateful for the opportunities the RCA gave us to talk through the proposals as they developed. The extension of the college onto this former industrial /retail site, however, presents challenges and we have a number of comments on the redevelopment proposals submitted by the RCA. These issues need to be addressed before full approval for all aspects of the development is given. 


To set our comments in context, it is vital that the building and its operation is firmly bedded in the existing residential community around the Parkgate area. It must work both as a multi-functional building for the creative arts and also for the local community within this clearly defined residential district. We support the comments made by the Design Review panel in both their submissions.


a) Movement around and through the site:  


i. Pedestrians.  The proposed walkway through the buildings seems, as designed, to be intended largely for students and users of the buildings. The drawings are unclear as to how much of, and when, the public realm will be open to the public. This is important as the route offers a lightening of the density of the ground level and a useful foot route avoiding the pollution on Battersea Bridge Road.  As presented we have doubts about how extensively this will be a recognised public through route, particularly if locked for extensive periods overnight. 


 The area onto the former Radstock Street and round into the small patio outside the cafe is in reality a very small area relative to the scale of the buildings. This may have a lesser impact on providing local space than the proposals suggest. Indeed there seems a conflict between the café's outside seating and its being on a pedestrian through way. These details need to be further developed before full approval is given of this aspect of the development.


 


ii. Traffic Currently this site presents a barrier for pedestrians between Howie Street and Parkgate Road while at the same time providing a rat run for vehicles from Parkgate Road through to the bridge.  It contains a stand for the 19 bus and we support the retention of such space, not necessarily on the current site.    


We urge TfL to work with the RCA and to use this development as an opportunity to address the many problems along this stretch of Battersea Bridge Road, not all related to the RCA site.  The aim of such work should include:  the need to maintain traffic flow along Parkgate Road; the retention of a bus stand for the 19 before it starts northward; a better controlled journey from that stand to the Battersea Bridge northbound stop; an improvement in the speed at which traffic can turn east from Battersea Bridge Road; the provision of an effective deterrent for the cut through traffic currently taking place.  There is also a need to provide a safe pedestrian crossing from the eastern side of Battersea Bridge Road going north across Parkgate Road. 


TfL should also look at the possibility of making improvements to the Battersea Bridge Road junction with Battersea Church Road and to reviewing the timing of traffic lights at all junctions. 


b) Main reception area and frontage onto Parkgate Road: 


The main reception seems low key given the status of the building and its role as the main entrance to the complex. We would have preferred the ground floor arrangement to have been switched round such that the main entrance was onto Parkgate Road and more integrated with local residential related activities. The entrance to the research block is a weak element in the Parkgate Road frontage whereas a main entrance here would make a stronger statement of the complex relating to the locality. More could be made of the reception area as a semi-public area incorporating perhaps gallery space and a small coffee stall.  This could then be used for community events, exhibitions and other public activity. 


The vehicle drop off area seems limited for a complex of this scale and again is not directly outside the main entrance, unless the Radstock Street area is to be used for occasional drop-offs at certain times.


 


The cafe should be more than a mere local coffee shop but provide local residents with some basic corner shop facilities such as the current shop in the petrol station offers. This would also be of use to the users of the RCA. 


c) Frontage on to Battersea Bridge Road 


The inclusion of glazed openings into internal work areas provides an interesting streetscape. However it will be important that the public are looking into positive activity. The windows of the Dyson building too often show large empty spaces, piles of spare furniture and students using them for time out, eating take-aways or simple sleeping. Not conducive to winning the hearts of local residents and an apparent under-use of valuable space.


We are concerned that earlier suggestions that the bus stop would offer more generous facilities than at present appear to have been lost.  If anything, the pavement appears narrower than at present, with the ground floor of the building jutting forward.  Given the volume of passengers joining or changing buses at this stop there is scope for an imaginative use of the space to connect all those passing with RCA activity and to provide a positive benefit for bus travellers.  We reinforce what the design review panel said about the bus stop. 


d)​ Materials


The colour and texture of the materials used in the development will affect how the buildings sit in the locality. We urge that before a final decision is made there is further public consultation with actual examples available for the public to assess. Merely showing photos gives a poor impression as to the texture of materials.  This is particularly critical with respect to brickwork.  We hope this can better reflect local brick types than is suggested by some of the current visuals. Likewise material for the internal hard surfaces, street furniture and other finishes should be exhibited.


e. Cultural Strategy


This document reads as high on ambition but low on detail.  We suggest that members of the public be involved with the development of plans so that what is offered not only reflects the work of the RCA, but is genuinely of value to its neighbours.  Some ongoing programme such as a film society would provide a regular opportunity for neighbours to benefit from RCA facilities and facilitate their hearing more about other cultural events taking place.


In conclusion we are hopeful of a successful outcome and one which will become a valued part of the immediate neighbourhood and of the wider community in Battersea.  However we are concerned at the time pressure to complete given that, as set out above, there is further work to be done before building begins.


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