• Wandsworth calls time on towers

Planners in Wandsworth have called a halt to the further spread of residential towers in their borough.
The decision to refuse redevelopment of the Homebase site in the urban centre for a dense housing scheme was made with a 4 to 3 vote. Ultimately, councillors decided the proposal, which included blocks of nine to 17 storeys high, was too dense for the site and would be detrimental to the surrounding area.
The decision is a blow for site owners National Grid UK Pension Scheme and their consultants Allies & Morrison, who had withdrawn the scheme from a March committee meeting, in order to tweak the design and address objections. Local planning officers had, nonetheless, recommended the redevelopment for approval.
The scheme for a site in north Wandsworth was to transform a site between Swandon Way and the railway line leading into Wandsworth Town station. A series of three blocks, designed to interpret the London mansion block but considerably higher, would provide 324 apartments with accompanying retail, creche and business space. The project also promised a new entrance to the adjacent railway station. Of the apartments, 76 or just under 25% were proposed as affordable homes, via a shared ownership structure.
The 17 floor Station Building, a tower to the east end of the site, would rise to 62.1 metres. In response to comments, the original design had been modified with new cladding, including a lighter finish to the top storeys, with the removal of previously proposed balconies.
Development of the site also brought an unusual consideration in the form of the Seveso II Directive, relevant for developments close to gasholder installations. A nearby gasholder sits approx 155 metres from the nearest boundary of the site, putting it within the middle and outer consultation zones. While the gasholder has been decommissioned, it retains a permission for use to hold a highly flammable substance, and Seveso II seeks to control development close to sites “where the siting of developments would be such as to increase the risk or consequence of a major accident”.
The decision on the Swandon Way site comes as the borough reviews its local plan, and is in the middle of a “call for sites” to identify those plots with potential for development within the borough. In particular, the council says it is interested in “sites that are capable of achieving 10 or more residential units”. Despite this decision, the Homebase site remains precisely one of those.

LPA Perspective: With its pitched slate roofs and brick elevations, the Wandsworth Homebase looks rather as if it has been transported from the shires, not built in its urban south London setting. But style aside, it is of an era of early out of town retail, and as the skyline around it becomes peppered with ever higher residential blocks, it and its large ground level car park do stand out as a site ripe for densification.
The site has all the right elements for residential use. Adjacent to a rail station, and in walking distance from a town centre, it is the sort of site that Wandsworth should be using, to help improve its housing delivery. And the proposed scheme had not only received the approval of officers, it had also been amended in response to local concerns.
However, on this occasion, it appears the strength of local opposition swayed sufficient committee members to make a difference. In contrast with nearby riverside locations, this site has plenty of concerned neighbours, ready to make their feelings known. Will the site owners go to appeal? Or perhaps they need to reconsider with a fresh, less dense – and less tall – proposal.

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