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Boris Johnson in planning challenge to SOM/BDP Nine Elms project

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London mayor and Chinese developer Dalian Wanda have criticised the New Covent Garden scheme on design grounds and for its negative impact on a neighbouring project

The single largest redevelopment project in London’s massive Nine Elms regeneration scheme has come in for major criticism on design grounds from London mayor Boris Johnson and powerful Chinese developer Dalian Wanda.

The £2 billion redevelopment of the 23ha New Covent Garden Market site, drawn up by architects SOM and BDP for Vinci and St Modwen, is due to go before Wandsworth Council’s planning committee next Wednesday (12 November).

But planning correspondence has revealed that mayor Johnson argues the scheme – originally drawn up by Foster + Partners – does not comply with the overarching London Plan.

A report from the mayor’s office called for improvements to be made to housing design quality and urban design as well as other issues such as transport and affordable housing.

On housing design, the report says: ‘Single-aspect flats that are north-facing, fronting onto noise sources (such as railways or markets) and/or family-sized, should be avoided, to ensure compliance.’

Turning to urban design, it added that a number of buildings were too large or too tall, including building ‘N8’, the tallest proposed tower on the site at 54 storeys high.

The report said: ‘Consideration should be given to providing public access to at least one of the proposed communal roof terraces on the tall buildings’, adding that the height of buildings N8 and N10 should be reconsidered.

Wanda One, part of the larger Dalian Wanda Group and the developer of the neighbouring One Nine Elms project designed by KPF, which includes the group’s first luxury hotel outside China, lodged a formal letter of objection to the scheme through its planning consultant, Montagu Evans. It said that the scheme’s N6 building at the north-eastern corner of the New Covent Garden Site would be just 8m from the boundary with its site and would have a negative impact on its own ‘River Tower’, which will boast hotel and residential accommodation. Montagu Evans’ letter said this part of the original Fosters’ masterplan had been ‘fundamentally altered’, adding that ‘the adjacency of the buildings results in an awkward and wholly unsatisfactory arrangement’.

The New Covent Garden Market plan includes about 3,000 new homes, 12,500m² of new office space and 9,300m² of retail, leisure and community facilities, including shops, cafés and restaurants, plus market facilities.

Responding, a spokesman for SOM said the practice had met with the mayor’s office ‘many times to clarify misunderstandings and provide further detail’ since the report was issued over the summer and was confident ‘the concerns relating to the design of the scheme had been resolved’.

In response to Wanda One’s concerns, SOM said it had ‘revised the massing and height of part of our northern site scheme to improve views towards the river Thames from their hotel.’

BDP and St Modwen declined to comment. Wandsworth Council officers’ recommendations had not been finalised at the time of going to press.

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