London Plan Matters 6a General policies re development

Written evidence from the Vauxhall Society
The civic society for the north of Lambeth (from and including Stockwell)and adjacent parts of Wandsworth and Southwark.
20 Albert Square London SW8 1BS

6.1 Does the draft Plan provide an acceptable approach to meeting London's development needs in relation to the sequential approach for site selection, and proposals guiding the density of commercial development?
6.2 Is the draft Plan's approach to mixed use development appropriate?

Section 2A Policy 2A.5 Section 3A paragraphs 3A.54-56 Section 3B Policy 3B.5

The Vauxhall Society supports the sequential approach for site selection, but in addition to this, selection of sites and of the density appropriate for them must respect the existing character of the local area of which they are part and their place in them. The local community and neighbouring ones which would be affected by the development should be major participants in decisions about whether this is so. Local authorities must be enabled to resist unsuitable developments and supported when they do. Many bad developments are permitted because planning committees are reluctant to risk the financial burden of an appeal against planning consent. There are too many buildings designed as 'Landmark' structures, to glorify the architect rather than to provide convenient accommodation or amenities, and often without sufficient respect for, or consideration of their effects on, their immediate surroundings and the places they can be seen from. High densities can be reached without excessively tall buildings. There are excellent high density developments of six or eight stories, and reconsideration and replacement of the 'shed and car-park' form of development adopted by many supermarkets and industrial estates could do much to increase overall densities. Tall buildings have a fortress feel: vertical ghettoes with little connection with the neighbourhood and streetscape they are in.

We support mixed use, the integration of open market and affordable housing. and the requirement in Policy 3B.5 for a considerable amount of residential space to be included where increased commercial floorspace is proposed in CAZ and strategically specified location. However, how much is 'considerable? A range or minimum percentage should be given.

Developments should be a fine grained mix both of public and private residential and of employment and residential and amenities, including open space, encouraging living streets, and should connect well with surrounding areas. Single use areas, which are therefore dead and uninviting at night (if business/industrial) or in the day (dormitory areas) have an inherent invitation to crime. There should be no ghettoes, whether private gated housing, public or private vertical ghettoes or public housing with no ways through them. The contribution mixed areas can make to reducing travel times, for work and other purposes is extremely valuable and should be encouraged.

Section 4B Policy 4B.1, Design for a compact city The Vauxhall Society strongly supports the aim and most of the principles. However, we do not understand how the eighth principle: 'be inspiring, exciting, delighting, practical and legible' , apart from 'practical' can be applied in practice. 'Inspiring, exciting, delighting' are inappropriate as criteria because they are subjective, and what 'legible' means in this context is anybody's guess. We propose that this principle is omitted and that the fifth principle includes 'practical'. The second principle 'create or enhance the public realm' covers the idea of going beyond function. Developments should not dwarf people: even if big they should be at human scale. So we propose that to the final principle 'connect with the natural environment' is added 'and be of human scale'