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Destroying the character of Bermondsey Street

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Thursday 13 May 2010 3.08pm
aoibhneas wrote:
John_Coreys points seem sensible to me and in his last para he touches on something I've had in mind since seeing Shiva's posters etc. It may or may not be that the Council's planning dept. is failing to run a proper consultation process, but a process exists, is paid for by the taxpayer, has known deadlines and perameters, and is accessible to all on an equal basis. IMO Shiva's deciding to set up another process of discussion simply isn't helpful. Already it's required the council to generate letters clarifying some of his/her asserions and the misleading implications of his/her leafleting, which has also had to be done at the taxpayers' expense.
Gneral discussion in fora such as this seems a useful way of sharing opinions and information. But calling ad hoc meetings and circulating apparently authoritative, easily misread/understood, information doesn't.

Why I am suggesting that waiting makes more sense?

When you are doing an impact assessment you need to know what is being proposed to understand the impact. If an office building is proposed then the impact to schools will be to provide more local taxes but no real change in the number of students. If the building is all residential and it will all be low income, 3 bedroom or larger units, the impact to local schools is high. If the units are all residential, 1 bedroom units for elderly assisted care then there is zero impact on schools.

I get the idea that the designation for tall buildings means it will be hard to argue later against a tall building just because it is tall. Tall does not bother me as much as use.

The SPD does not tells us about the impact to the community in terms of local services other than density is better than taking more green space. Density close to a transport hub is a very green way to plan. I think density is good in terms of green issues. When there are jobs and housing within walking distance or a short Tube ride away that is good for reducing carbon usage.

We could speculate that a tall building will increase vehicle traffic (visitors in taxis, etc). There will be shadows over the train tracks independent of the specific use. Very few of the issues raised by anyone with a concern highlights a problem which is not tied to a specific use. With the Shard came an upgrade to the bus stations and an expansion of the train line (new line coming into LB station). Specific problems can be addressed when a specific building is built.

Many of the arguments against tall buildings focus issues that are not directly tied to the concept of a tall building vs. a short building. The best way to not create an impact is leave the land unused as much of it is now. Fighting a designation because of the impact to schools or foot traffic on a related street is weak until there is something more than a just a concept. If we move the boundary for tall buildings so they are slightly away from Bermondsey the same schools are impacted, the foot traffic on Bermondsey might be reduced or not. The law of unintended consequence does apply, more so when nothing specific is being planned.

It is easier to defeat a proposal than a theory. Moving the designation of the tall building area away from Bermondsey might feel like a victory. I am not sure it addresses any of the concerns other than view from the actual street. As we do not know what the view might be maybe we are losing an improved view vs. the present view. The two buildings in the mix at the end of Bermondsey are either a block style warehouse or a modern office building of moderate height. Nothing of any architectural merit would be lost on Bermondsey St.

Would people object so strongly if the buildings when proposed were dedicated to low income housing with a school built into the development? If the answer is 'no' then it really does come down to what is proposed vs. a line on a map for what is possible in theory.

Let's look at the use today. We have a car park, a disused warehouse and two other buildings that have marginal use in the community. There is also a row of shops with council housing above. If there were three towers built we would get some open space with hard landscaping between them. That would increase the amount of useable outdoor space available to people in the present community. We likely would see more retail so more choice for those living in the area. For some the quality of life would go up. If the council tenants that would be displaced ended up living in new homes that were energy efficient are they worse off? Note, they would suffer from having to move twice. If the number of council or low income housing was increased in the area is the community worse off or better? Maybe there is no way to know and the outcome is really neutral. It is all speculation given nothing has been proposed.

The SPD is not a well drafted document (inconsistencies) plus the review process was less than optimal. Some would say it was well circulated and others would say it was all a covert operation by friends of a developer. Most of the debate seems to centre around details that are not supported by anything other than speculation for what might happen. Nothing will be built until the economics make sense.

It is hard to fight the shadows rather than specific proposals for an actual development. Knowing where tall buildings are allowed frees up a lot of Southwark from needing to consider tall buildings. A cluster is actually better than spreading them around. A cluster with great transport should be a winner in terms of green use in an urban setting.
Thursday 13 May 2010 3.13pm
I think the problem here is we are talking about 2 different aspects of the whole process but those of us who are worried about the draft SPD feel that if it is agreed then when it comes to deciding on individual planning permission, and were that to be for a tall building, then de facto it would in principle be already agreed that that type of building could be built...the planning process would basically revolve round the aesthetics of the building rather than the relevenace of the building itself within the community...and that's why I (INMHO) think it is better to try to engage this subject at this juncture rather than later at an individual planning stage.

I agree that the current areas we are looking at when thinking about the 3 Towers/Sisters project (car parks etc) are unsightly and need to have something happen to them but until decisions are made about what can be built on them they will remain in suspension hoping for the highest possible bid for the land i.e that with the most (highest?) development.
Thursday 13 May 2010 3.27pm
urbanite wrote:
I think the problem here is we are talking about 2 different aspects of the whole process but those of us who are worried about the draft SPD feel that if it is agreed then when it comes to deciding on individual planning permission, and were that to be for a tall building, then de facto it would in principle be already agreed that that type of building could be built...the planning process would basically revolve round the aesthetics of the building rather than the relevance of the building itself within the community...and that's why I (INMHO) think it is better to try to engage this subject at this juncture rather than later at an individual planning stage.
I agree that the current areas we are looking at when thinking about the 3 Towers/Sisters project (car parks etc) are unsightly and need to have something happen to them but until decisions are made about what can be built on them they will remain in suspension hoping for the highest possible bid for the land i.e that with the most (highest?) development.

Taking your points in reverse order, highest and best use is the normal process for all development. What that means is a moving target as economics and other factors beyond planning kick in.

I do think you are raising a good point when you refer to what is allowed once the SPD is accepted. A narrow definition says objecting because something is tall would fail. I believe, maybe incorrectly, that all of the other issues that are normally required for planning approval would still kick in. Impact to the community in terms of traffic, school, fire, police and other community factors are still on the table. Even through a tall building could be consistent with the SPD the right to build it would not be automatic given the other issues.

Thinking out of the box...

Assume a tall building is proposed. Assume further than Bermondsey Street is turned into a taxi, delivery and pedestrian only street. Deliveries in the morning, no thru traffic, taxis can pick up, drop off and maybe even just pass thru. The towers include parking for public use so people can drive close to the street and park if they want. No more need to worry about walking on a narrow sidewalk. More of an open market sort of feel where merchants can set up on the pavement. Cafe's with outdoor seating. Similar to some other streets in London where traffic is diverted away from a specific street.

I know there would be problems with such a radical idea. There is at least two housing developments with no other access other than Bermondsey.

The feel of the street could be better for many if there were fewer cars passing thru (starting at Long Lane, divert traffic onto Tower Bridge Road). When there is a large development the money and the energy to do something more original can happen. I am not saying that all the ideas are good and my idea above is to just highlight how some of the 'issues' could be solved without any need to fight the SPD. At the same time the flaws represented by the SPD should be addressed so it does become a useful working document for future planning proposals.
Thursday 13 May 2010 3.41pm
John

I think that's fair. But the council have already gone to the trouble of producing a "Tall Building Research paper". In the not so un-likely event that the tall buildings are residential - I don't think it's unreasonable to expect that the council should have included at least an outline of what should be considered once any specific proposal comes forward in terms of impact on local services.

Maybe the so-called breadsticks proposal will go-ahead and may be it won't. http://www.thelondonpaper.com/thelondonpaper/news/london/mayor-boris-johnson-to-discuss-multibillion-breadsticks-project-which-will-see-thr

The point is the scheme is residiential. So the idea is not that left-field.

Having a consultion on the SPD and including the topic of tall building was something put forward by the council. Otherwise - yes - I'd be waiting for the concrete proposal and the appropriate planning process.
Thursday 13 May 2010 3.55pm
Wow J-C that would really give everyone something to think about if it was taken to fruition...but I take your point about a speculative suggestion.

The thing about the SPD is that it should encompass all these sorts of things and not just the thing we are mainly discussing (tall buildings) here, but traffic too (vehicles both private and commercial AND pedestrian) around developments should be addressed in it. Services for these proposed areas should also be addressed and not just be assumed to "arrive" once the development has happened. In all this is a major type of Town Planning document, or at least it should be if that is what Southwark are trying to do here, and therfore the process should be much more open and honest with consultation at the very heart of it.
Thursday 13 May 2010 4.22pm
Trevor,

I cannot tell if Rob Singh is working from independent information or repeating the discussions from the various websites discussing the topic.

A discussion with the mayor sounds like a material fact. Where, when and what was discussed is unknown. If I were thinking of a large building I would seek out views from important people in the end to end process. The idea that someone is talking about something is interesting. That said, there have been discussions for a number of years given earlier press reports. Maybe we are close to a real step forward (an actual proposal) or maybe we are just going to see the discussions end with nothing actually proposed.

Clearly the developer has bought some land and would like to do something with it. The Shard shows the developer does not have the money but the developer does have backers who have cash. They just bought Harrods.

I do want to thank you for the link. It is good for people to see the various reports and for us to collectively share what we find.

My views will be directly impacted by the construction of 3 towers. If they were better looking that the train station it would be an improvement in terms of view. The 'impact' to be could be positive and negative with there being no way for me to figure out what the net impact is until things are much further along. In some respects Bermondsey Street is a lot better now than when I bought a home here so that simple example implies the right development is a plus. If tall and ugly are an issue I would vote to have Guy's tower removed. I hear they are cladding it so maybe it will look a bit better. The worst aspect is the shape with the ugly bump at the top. A tapered top would be much better than a bump. The concrete is ugly compared to some other London towers made with concrete.
Friday 14 May 2010 10.43am
I'll probably be proved wrong but I think the idea of cladding Guys is fairly ghastly. It is what it is and if it's not to be knocked down then it should be left as it is. Having said that, it may be that the cladding has something to do with its current fairly low level of energy efficiency?
Friday 14 May 2010 10.55am
aoibhneas wrote:
I'll probably be proved wrong but I think the idea of cladding Guys is fairly ghastly. It is what it is and if it's not to be knocked down then it should be left as it is. Having said that, it may be that the cladding has something to do with its current fairly low level of energy efficiency?

The signage at the hospital makes the point that the energy efficiency will be improved. I read somewhere else that the design competition has produced a short list so I cannot tell where they are with the project.
Thursday 20 May 2010 10.03am
granted the whole thing is ugly as sin but... i quite like the bump on guy's... much more interesting that a plain old rectangle.
Wednesday 26 May 2010 4.53pm
New SPD consultation period announcement by Council Leader, Peter John, reported in Southwark News and also in a letter to us. The information can be found here with details to follow:

http://www.bstowers.com/?p=349 Letter from Peter John
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