Outgoing mayor Boris Johnson will leave a file of major undecided redevelopment schemes, as he leaves office. And the decisions required will leave plenty of people marking the early days of the new major, shortly after he moves into City Hall.
Key among those requiring early attention are the Bishopsgate Goodsyard redevelopment and Wimbledon stadium redevelopment, both now awaiting the new incumbent’s arrival.
The Bishopsgate project was all set for a hearing ahead of the departure of Boris Johnson, before the hearing was postponed, at the request of the site’s developers, Hammerson and Ballymore, just a week before it was due to open. At that point, they said they needed to consider the detail of objections to the scheme, raised by GLA officials.
It now appears that, even within the development team, disagreements have previously emerged over the style and design of the much-criticised proposals. Property Week magazine has reported that respected designer Sir Terry Farrell, who prepared a masterplan for the goods yard site, moved to distance himself from it after he felt uncomfortable with the way key elements of the masterplan were being executed in detail.
According to insiders, Farrell was asked by the developers to help defend the project, as it went through the planning process – but he declined to offer his support.
At Wimbledon, AFC Wimbledon, Galliard Homes and the Greyhound Racing Association worked together to come up with a redevelopment that will see the end of greyhound racing on the site. Architect Sheppard Robson has worked on the scheme for Galliard. The project to deliver a new, 20,000 seat football stadium along with 602 homes was unanimously approved by planning committee members at Merton, last December – before being called in by the mayor’s office.
The Wimbledon redevelopment is considered not to accord with the London plan, while there were concerns raised about the detailed design of the stadium frontages. The stage two report on the proposals notes: “The nature of the proposals raise important considerations as to the future of cultural and sporting venues in London.” And, while the site has been earmarked for “intensification of a sporting activity”, there does not appear to be an issue about football displacing greyhound and stock car racing, the current uses of the existing stadium on the site.
LPA Perspective: From the start, the new mayor will be making friends and enemies, whichever way he moves on these key planning decisions. At Bishopsgate, the developers have a clear set of reasons why the GLA was not happy with their scheme, though no prescriptive answers. And unless there are clear changes to the design – which probably needs the height of key buildings reducing – the protestors will keep up their fight.
The active and vociferous group protesting against the Bishopsgate redevelopment will take heart from the revelation that Sir Terry Farrell has sought to distance himself from the way the scheme has been drawn out. Farrell is not against dense development, but he favours the mansion block approach to achieving it, rather than wilful tall towers. He has proposed a similar alternative in Paddington, where he criticised Sellar’s landmark tall tower proposal, insisting that carefully designed lower level building can still achieve the required level of dense development.
At Wimbledon, once again viability has been used as an argument to chop down the borough’s desired 40% to just 9.6%. At least a review mechanism has been agreed, with the potential to claw back any overage, above an agreed level of profit for the developer. And, for soccer fans, the return of Wimbledon to its manor will probably be most welcome.