Shell Centre podium & Jubilee Gardens s106

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Monday 19 January 2009 5.21pm
Been meaning to do something with this for a while, but haven't quite got enough material for a news item and it's a bit esoteric but I thought it was worth sharing as an example of the strange workings of our planning system.

In a nutshell, as I understand it:

- In 2004 John Prescott approved on appeal Shell's plans to build shops and offices on the podium site between York Road and Belvedere Road next to the Shell Centre tower:

- Shell and Lend Lease ended their joint venture in 2005:

- That planning permission is about to expire unless Shell 'implements' it soon.

- They can 'implement' the permission and extend its validity indefinitely by laying a slab of concrete.

- The snag is that many of Shell's section 106 obligations would become payable on implementation of the planning permission - which in the absence of a development partner is not desirable for Shell.


- Shell has applied to Lambeth Council to alter the section 106 agreement so that if they lay a concrete slab in the basement of the Shell Centre the permission will be deemed to be implemented but only 1 million section 106 (towards the much-delayed revamp of Jubilee Gardens) would be triggered with the rest deferred till work really starts.

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Monday 19 January 2009 11.49pm
I'm biased because I think the plans for Jubilee Gardens are an atrociously bad design, but I suggest that regarless of the design, before Lambeth's Planning Committee rolls over and agrees to Shell's proposals on this, they should get answers to the following:

(a) How much money would actually be needed to deliver the "White Cliffs of Dover" makeover of Jubilee Gardens or an equivalent redesign;

(b) how much has already been "banked" by the promoters from (i) grants; (ii) confirmed section 106 contributions (excluding the 1m suggested by Shell)?

(c) what strategy do the promoters have for managing the gap between (i) and (ii)?
Tuesday 20 January 2009 7.55am
Surely this would be a bad prescedent for S106 deals all over the north of the Borough.

Lambeth took ages getting their act together on S106. I recall a meeting years ago where a Lambeth Planning Officer admitted there had been as much as 8 million pounds of never collected S106 in Waterloo alone from developments such as County Hall. I also understand that some real lessons were learned in Vauxhall about the need to collect the money at the start not the end, when the developer had folded the shell company set up for the specific development.

There is also something quite dangerous about allowing a technical start on site simply to extend planning permissions. You only have to look at Battersea Power Station where the snazzy portacabin represents a technical start on site on a 10 year old planning permission (they got a 5 year extention) and Wandsworths frustration as they watch the chimneys fall down.

Some whoppingly high densities have been agreed in the area and it may well be that in time opinion and policy will change, yet development goes up will be based on ancient planning permissions with out of date eco standards, floor specs etc. The point of planning permission lapsing is to make sure that the development is the right development for the time. S106 payable at the start provides the useful incentive of ensuring that when a developer starts on site they build out. Not simply lay a concrete slab to ensure that they meet a technicality.

It may be years before the economic climate is right for the site to be developed. It is in no one's interest that the current permission is used. And no certainty that the S106 agreed then will still be the right one. Instead Shell should be expected to reapply. The current permission will provide a useful prescedent for them.

This might also benefit Jubilee Gardens. If there is a theoretical S106 funding in place no one else will fund.

Ages since I had a planning rant. Feel all the better for it. But does Lambeth ever learn?

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