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ZHA’s Vauxhall towers called in by housing secretary

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Housing secretary James Brokenshire has called-in Zaha Hadid Architects’ contentious Vauxhall Cross Island skyscrapers proposal

The decision to launch a local planning inquiry into the £600 million project comes six months after Lambeth Council approved it amid criticism from local campaigners.

In a letter to the local authority, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government demanded greater clarity over the number of new homes and the design quality of the mixed-use scheme.

Brokenshire has also asked Lambeth Council to demonstrate how the proposal conforms to NPPF rules ensuring the vitality of town centres; building a strong, competitive economy; and conserving and enhancing the historic environment.

The two-tower scheme comprises 257 new homes in the shorter tower, of which 19 per cent would be affordable; a 618-room hotel in the taller tower; and an 11-storey podium comprising 20,000m² of office space, plus shops at ground level.

Councillors voted in favour of the two blocks of 53 and 42 storeys and connecting podium site in December last year. Should it go ahead, it will be the practice’s first major mixed-use residential and commercial development in the UK.

The scheme includes 23 London Living Rent flats on-site and a contribution of £30 million towards affordable housing elsewhere in the borough.

The project transforms a grassed-over traffic island in the centre of a busy gyratory. A Lambeth Council spokesperson said it would reshape ‘Vauxhall as a safer, cleaner, more enjoyable place for people to live, work in and visit’.

They added: ‘The application, which passed through a rigorous planning process as well as extensive preapplication discussions, is crucial in delivering a new town centre for Vauxhall – including a much safer two-way road layout to replace the existing gyratory – [as well as] thousands of new jobs and homes.

‘The delay, and potential disruption to this project will have a hugely detrimental effect on the local economy, and puts at risk essential new affordable housing, not to mention jeopardising the delivery of a healthier, more accessible vision for Vauxhall, which has been a longstanding ambition of both local residents and ward councillors.’

In January 2018, ZHA defended itself against accusations that the two towers of 53 and 42 stories, for Channel Islands-based developer VCI Property Holding, were too big for the site.

The ZHA scheme relies on land currently occupied by Arup Associates’ landmark bus station at Vauxhall. In December 2017, planners approved a smaller replacement bus station for the site, which campaigners say will reduce safety and convenience for passengers.

Pauline Guant, a member of the Save Vauxhall Bus Station campaign group, said of the call-in: ‘When a planning application is called in by the minister there is the opportunity to visit the wider implications of the proposals.

’We have always maintained that the effect of the Island Site development should be examined in the context of the changes to the Bus Station and the Road System, the effects of servicing requirements for the Island Site on pedestrians, cyclists, public transport users and vehicles.

’In short, what happens within Vauxhall Cross should be looked at in the round. We welcome the opportunity for this to happen.’

Five years ago, Squire & Partners won permission on appeal for twin towers of 41 and 31 storeys on the same site, though this was later scrapped.

Development manager Great Marlborough Estates and ZHA declined to comment. TfL was also contacted for comment.

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Readers' comments (2)

  • No wonder we've got a housing shortage.

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  • There seems to have been gross over-development of highrise stuff (some of it ghastly) in this area over the years, so it's really sad if this development gets the nod due to the affordable housing 'carrots' being dangled.
    And for users of local bus services, is the future provision equal or better than the existing?
    Arup's bus station looks remarkably like something that Zaha might have designed, whereas the proposed towers look as if they might have been inspired by pointy-ended wooden fence stobs that haven't been fully rammed into the ground.
    And what does all this say about the local plan over the last few decades - rubbish? Best not to mention sustainability.

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