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Blackfriars Road: council approves vision for revitalised 'boulevard'

Southwark Council's cabinet has approved a new planning policy document for Blackfriars Road and the surrounding area - despite protests from local residents worried about some of the proposals.

The council launched a public consultation last June on its draft supplementary planning document (SPD) for the north-south road and its hinterland.

“Our emerging vision is that Blackfriars Road will be transformed into a vibrant place, a destination rather than a thoroughfare," said Cllr Fiona Colley, cabinet member for regeneration and corporate strategy.

"Running south from the riverfront at Bankside to historic St George’s Circus, Blackfriars Road is a gateway north into Central London, and south to the Elephant & Castle.

"The historic, wide boulevard will provide a range of different activities regenerating the area from the river along Blackfriars Road and stimulating change at the Elephant & Castle.”

Developers' responses to the draft document have revealed some of the future projects in the pipeline, including a possible 'landmark' development above the Bakerloo line's London Road depot and a large-scale office-led scheme on the site bounded by Blackfriars Road, Burrell Street, Chancel Street and Nicholson Street.

The final SPD was approved by the borough's cabinet on Tuesday afternoon.

The meeting heard a deputation from local residents who raised concerns about provision in the new policy document for tall buildings close to St George's Circus.

Deputation spokesman Tony Linforth-Hall, of the Albert Association, said that objectors to the council's policy did not want to block regeneration: "We welcome development that respects the needs and wishes of the community and the scale and balance of our neighbourhood," he said.

He warned that the new SPD is in conflict with existing Southwark and London planning policy which explicitly rules out tall buildings in the southern half of Blackfriars Road.

Mr Linforth-Hall said that high-rise buildings at the southern end of the road would have a "very detrimental effect" on the residents of the St George's Circus area and the historic buildings in the vicinity.

Simon Bevan, the council's director of planning, told the cabinet that the SPD was not intended to create new planning policy but to offer guidance on the implementation of existing policy.

"The addition of the SPD provides a coordinated approach setting out how an overall vision for Blackfriars Road, to have improvements ... that then actually serve the surrounding area and provide [for] the whole neighbourhood," said Mr Bevan.

Cathedrals ward councillors Adele Morris, David Noakes and Geoffrey Thornton had also written to the cabinet to urge them to defer the approval of the new document.

The three Lib Dem councillors set out a list of concerns about the document, including the proliferation of hotels, a lack of open spaces and the absence of any mention of affordable housing.

They wrote: "This silence will only increase residents concerns about the way the area is being developed and the fear that 'regeneration' will be at the expense of the existing communities in social housing."

However, Cllr Fiona Colley explained that the omission of guidance on affordable housing was a tactical decision as part of the council's dispute with the Mayor of London about the adoption of so-called 'affordable rent' which means that homes can be rented at up to 80 per cent of market rate and still be classed as 'affordable'.

Cllr Colley told colleagues that development around Blackfriars Road would help to address the city's housing crisis: "It is imperative that we take every opportunity to build new homes of all kinds," she said.

She welcomed Transport for London's radical proposals for new segregated cycle lanes and widened pavements on Blackfriars Road but made clear that these changes would not happen if significant new developments are not built in the area.

• The full SPD and supporting documents can be found at www.southwark.gov.uk/blackfriarsroadspd

• Simon Bevan, the council's director of planning, will be talking about Blackfriars Road at the next South Bank Forum meeting on Thursday 13 February.


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