NEWSLETTER No. 157    February 2004

St George's Tower - Planning Consent refused.

At a Special Meeting of the Lambeth Planning Applications Committee, at St Peter's Heritage Centre in November, consent for changes to St George's existing approved proposals for the Effra site at Vauxhall was refused. The proposed changes included 386 additional residential units of which 200 would have been accommodated in a 50-storey tower, 180 metres high. The remaining units, 40% of them 'affordable', would have replaced office accommodation in two previously-approved blocks. A further 106 car parking spaces were also proposed Among the reasons for refusal were the dominance of the proposed tower, loss of employment accommodation the limited provision of amenity open space, and the additional demand for primary health care and nursery facilities. English Heritage had stated that they were not convinced that the site is suitable for a building of such height.

The Mayor of London Ken Livingstone, had already indicated that he was mi1lded to support the applicant at a public inquiry should Lambeth refuse consent.

Battersea Power Station

In November the Battersea Power Station Community Group celebrated 20 years of campaig11il1g at a party at the Ethelburga Community Centre. There has been little progress on the redevelopment of the Grade II listed building which is now in a worse state than when it was decommissioned in 1983. It is now a shell, with no roof on the central section and the west wall of Station A demolished. There is a surprising lack of criticism of the lack of progress from either Wandsworth Council or English Heritage.

The Power Station is assigned to Halcyon Estates, a company registered in the British Virgin Islands and the supposed owners, Parkview International, pleading poverty and a �5milli9n pound deficit, are refusing to pay Corporation Tax.

The Battersea Power Station Community Group are appealing a decision by the High Court on Variations of the Planning Permissions and are in the last stages of an objection to Parkview's attempt to trade mark the name "Battersea Power Station". This will be decided by the Trade Marks Registrar at a hearing in February, following written submissions over the past 18 months.

Further information on. the history of the Power station can be found at the Group's web site (See also our webpage on Battersea Power Station

Battle of the Shopfronts

Lambeth's planners, with support from local residents' associations and watchful individuals, are fighting a tough battle to save Kennington Cross's historic shop-fronts. Resistance from developers and some existing owners is now keeping the planning enforcement officers very busy.

As in other neighbourhood shopping areas, it is proving increasingly difficult to retain the small shops at Kennington Cross. The nearby Tesco in Kennington Lane, built in 1998, probably did the greatest single damage, but the conversion of shops to restaurants, food take-aways and estate agents has seriously upset the balance; and attempts to convert retail premises to residential use are adding to the problem.

The whole of the defined neighbourhood centre is in the Kennington Conservation Area, which is why Lambeth Council is keen to protect all its surviving historic shop fronts. That means a timber-framed frontage, with a standard timber stall riser and a fascia of traditional dimensions and, ideally, character. The lighting of the fascias and any protruding advertisements are also strictly controlled.

The main method used by developers to frustrate planning control has been simply to install a new (generally unacceptable) shop front without making a planning application. That is leading to more post hoc enforcement, costly both for the developer and the Council. But in one recent case - new arrival Pizza Hut - the shop front was actually demolished and refitted, totally inappropriately, with a full metal-framed glass frontage, during the six-week period between an application and its inevitable refusal. In several other cases, where applications have been properly made in good time, this sort of problem has been avoided.

Two other forms of change that are frustrating the planning objective of protecting and keeping in use these retail properties are (1) the boarding-up of empty shops and (2) the blanking-out of shop windows with opaque glass. In all these cases the non-shop parts of these properties are in residential use, and the shop space remains designated for retail purposes. But in most cases it seems no attempt is being made to find a retail tenant; and, as long as there is no evidence that the shop areas are being used for some other purpose, residential or business, it seems nothing can be done about it.

What all this reveals (in spite of all the complaints from developers about 'bureaucracy') is how inadequate our planning laws are to protect the public interest in such cases. A good example is pizza Hut again. Replacing a former fish-and-chip restaurant and take-away, it has not needed a change-of-use application. So the planning authority has had no way of requiring, in relation to what is mainly a pizza delivery service, provision for the parking of the several motor-bikes used for delivery. So they now stand on the pavement, an obstruction to pedestrians, or in the 20minute Red Route parking bay, limiting the use of that space by the public. The problem passes to Transport for London, not best known for its interest in amenity matters.

Freemans' Redevelopment

Yet another planning application bas been made for redevelopment of the Freemans' site at 131-143 Clapham Road. Whilst a few modifications have been made in response to concerns expressed by both planning officers and local residents, the changes appear to be insufficient to meet the standard necessary for such a major development in a Conservation Area.

Photographic Exhibition

The Camera Club, in Bowden Street, Kennington, are inviting Lambeth residents to submit photographs for an exhibition to be held in May. Up to five lO"x8" black & white or colour prints should be submitted to The Camera Club, 16 Bowden Street SE11, by 31st March together with your name, address and telephone number. The exhibition will be selected by a panel nominated by Lambeth Council and the Camera Club, and will be formally opened by the Mayor of Lambeth on Monday 3rd May.

Never give up

If you ever wonder whether it's all worth while, here is a story to encourage you. Over three years ago, in 2000, a Vauxhall Society member reported to Lambeth planning enforcement officers that a huge 48-sheet poster site had been attached to the 2nd-floor frontage of Liam Ogg's pub on the corner of Kennington Lane and Kennington Park Road (facing Newington Butts; original name, Manifold Place, with evidence still there for all to see).

This was unacceptable for numerous reasons. The advertisement site had been erected without any regard to the buildings around it. It was placed there by a major company specialising in this type of advertising. No planning application had been made, although it was clearly required.

The flat poster frame was completely inappropriate on the facade of a rounded corner building of character in an area of historic interest. It was on a very prominent site as seen from major roads going south and south-west from Elephant and Castle. It obliterated upper windows, thus affecting both the interior use and the exterior appearance of the building.

Lambeth Council acted by requiring a planning application (January 2001) which was refused. Over three years later the advertisement and the structure have just been removed. Manifold Place is again roughly as it was intended to be. So how was that achieved?

The answer is that Lambeth planning enforcement officers stuck to their guns; Faced with a failure or refusal of the advertisement-site owner or the building owner to remove the hoarding, the Council itself has removed it. That is no easy matter, considering that the Council effectively has no budget for such action. The enforcement team had to find the funding for all the legal process and to pay contractors to remove the advertisement site.

Such direct action by the Council is still all too rare, for self-evident reasons, Ideally it would happen more often, and more quickly. In the meantime, however, let us congratulate Lambeth Planning on a battle well won. And let us remember what our part should be in these matters ~to keep our planning officers informed of unauthorised developments, to keep chivvying them when further action is needed, and to congratulate and thank them when remedial action is taken.

Lambeth Picture Archives on the Internet

In December Lambeth Archives' launched their picture collection on the internet, and already 5,000 images (out of a total of around 30,000) can now be viewed and copies ordered on line. The images may be searched via various categories - person, place, subject, or local government ward - and once one has got used to the system it is very user-friendly. The pictures have been collected by Lambeth Archives over many years, and it has sometimes been difficult to identify exactly what they show. Lambeth Archives will welcome help from local Society members in correcting any that have been wrongly identified. You may see the collection on

Published by THE VAUXHALL SOCIETY: for further information, please apply to the Secretary, Mrs B.Nicolson, 20 Albert Square, LONDON SW8 1BS