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Founder’s Place: "simply greedy" or "right and proper" scheme?

The Founder's Place planning inquiry heard its final day of evidence on Thursday, with Kate Hoey MP describing the proposed development as "simply greedy".

Founder's Place
Canterbury House, Stangate and the Holy Trinity Centre seen from the London Eye

The planning inquiry into Guy's and St Thomas' Charity's proposed development of health-related facilities and private housing north and south of Royal Street opened at Lambeth Town Hall on 17 April.

The inquiry, conducted by planning inspector Philip Wilson, was adjourned on Thursday afternoon and will conclude with the parties' closing submissions on Wednesday 2 May.

Kate Hoey MP: "Grossly over-dense" development

The final evidence heard by the inquiry was given by Vauxhall MP Kate Hoey who spoke against the proposed development.

She stressed that "good development contributes to the renewal and vibrancy of the area" and that she had "no objection to the hospital developing the land it owns".

One of the MP's main objections to the proposed development is the loss of the Holy Trinity Centre, the former school building which dates from 1847.

Ms Hoey suggested that the proposed Ronald McDonald House for families of patients at the Evelina Children's Hospital could have been integrated with the existing buildings: "I cannot think of a nicer home for the families of sick children," she told the inquiry.

The inspector heard the Vauxhall MP urge the preservation of "one of the last bits of working-class history in the area". She pointed out that the Holy Trinity Centre, now home to Kagyu Samye Dzong Tibetan Buddhist centre, still houses The Bell that was rung to warn local people of an impending flood from the Thames.

Ms Hoey spoke of her concern about how the Guy's and St Thomas' Charity had handled relations with its long-term tenants in Canterbury House and Stangate whose current homes will be demolished if the scheme goes ahead.

"The consultation without doubt was a sham," she said.

She accused the Charity of trading on its association with the hospital to win backing for a "grossly over-dense" development: "If this had been a private developer, attitudes would have changed".

Calling on the planning inspector to uphold the decision of the planning applications committee, she said that "councillors very correctly voted against their own officers' recommendations" when they voted to withhold planning permission in April 2006.

Friends of Archbishop's Park: "The park will benefit considerably"

Also giving evidence to the inquiry on Thursday was Helen Lees, chair of the Friends of Archbishop's Park, which is backing the Founder's Place scheme.

"The park will benefit considerably from the financial contribution offered by the proposed development," Ms Lees wrote.

The chair explained that although she had not previously made clear her opinion of the scheme, she is personally in favour of the proposed development.

She explained that a consultation exercise carried out at the end of 2006 had shown that of a potential 185 members, 40 didn't want the group to object whilst 31 wanted the group to formally oppose the scheme at the planning inquiry.

Val Shawcross

Lambeth and Southwark London Assembly Member Val Shawcross spoke in favour of the development on Thursday morning.

Waterloo Community Development Group: "We do not believe there are good reasons to refuse"

On Thursday afternoon Michael Ball, director of the Waterloo Community Development Group, set out his organisation's view of the scheme.

He explained that WCDG backs the development which will bring many new residents to the Waterloo area and rejuvenate an area suffering from "blight" and "very poor public realm".

Mr Ball also set out a list of "disbenefits" the scheme will bring. "We do not see this by any means as an ideal set of proposals," he said.

He described the design of the proposed buildings facing Archbishop's Park as "dull, uninspiring, overly uniform and Lego-like".

He explained that although WCDG considers that the benefits outweigh the disadvantages of the scheme and that the appeal should be allowed, Lambeth Council "should not be expected to pay the appellants' costs" in view of the Guy's and St Thomas' Charity's "all too frequent failure to respond to issues raised" at all stages of the planning process.

"In planning policy terms, we do not believe there are good reasons to refuse this application."

Canterbury and Stangate Tenants' Association: in favour of "the right type of development"

On Thursday morning the inquiry heard from Dawn Assadar of the Canterbury and Stangate Tenants' Association which represents the long-term tenants of the two housing blocks north of Royal Street.

She explained that the CSTA does not oppose development of the Founders' Place site and considers that there is a need for "the right type of development".

Ms Assadar spoke about CSTA's concerns about the levels of daylight and sunlight in the new homes proposed by the Charity, and "unacceptable" level of privacy afforded.

Sarah O'Connell: Trees "need to be protected"

Local resident and former chair of the Friends of Archbishop's Park Sarah O'Connell spoke at the inquiry on Wednesday. Like others she emphasised that she welcomed development of the site and her concerns related to the current proposals alone.

Ms O'Connell has long campaigned for the protection of the row of London plane trees which mark the northern boundary of Archbishop's Park and the southern boundary of the proposed development.

"We all appear to agree that the trees have strong amenity value and make a real contribution to the setting of the park. And that they need to be protected."

She acknowledged that changes made to the design of the scheme mean that the trees will survive the construction phase, but argued that the appellant had "failed to demonstrate how the trees will be protected in the long term".

Sir Jonathan Michael: "Health-led development"

On Tuesday the soon-to-depart chief executive of Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, Sir Jonathan Michael, gave evidence to the inquiry outlining the "wide-ranging health, community and local regeneration benefits of the Founders' Place scheme".

He explained the benefits of the "health-led development", including the provision of accommodation for up to 400 members of the trust's 9,000 staff, a nursery for the children of hospital staff, the relocation of Ronald McDonald House (for the families of sick children) from Guy's Hospital to be close to the Evelina Children's Hospital and a patient hotel for patients needing ongoing treatment but not requiring accommodation on a hospital ward.

Sir Jonathan explained that earlier proposals for Founder's Place which retained the Holy Trinity Centre buildings were "fundamentally flawed and undeliverable" and that the benefits of the scheme could not be secured without redevelopment of the Holy Trinity site.

Under cross-examination Sir Jonathan conceded that if the Charity's appeal was unsuccessful, "one option may be to dispose of the site," though he stressed that this would be a matter for the charity and not the NHS foundation trust to decide.

In his written proof of evidence Sir Jonathan stressed the scheme's wider community benefits.

"It will enhance the local environment through high-quality architectural design, better lighting and security and improved access between the hospital and the communities in Lower Marsh and Waterloo – all of which will be welcomed by our staff, patients and visitors, as well as local people."

He concludes that the scheme's benefits are "so clear and significant that the trust and the charities, and all whom they represent, urge that planning permission for the Founder's Place development be granted".

Sir Terry Farrell: "A right and proper scheme"

On Thursday 19 April the architect of the Founder's Place scheme, Sir Terry Farrell, appeared at the inquiry.

Sir Terry traced the history of the site back to 1747: "I see our task as trying to make some urban sense out of this," he told the inquiry.

He rejected Lambeth Council's argument as to the importance of the Holy Trinity Centre to the Lambeth Palace Conservation Area. "I can't see how it makes any contribution," he said.

He described the former school as a "backland building" that had never been intended as a "frontage building" until it was "thrust into visibility" by the post-war realignment of Lambeth Palace Road.

He defended the consultation carried out on the scheme describing it as more extensive "than practically any other scheme we've ever done".

"I am absolutely convinced that this is a right and proper scheme," he said. He added that he was "astonished" that Lambeth Council's planning applications committee had rejected the scheme.

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