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New Covent Garden proposals scrape through planning

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Controversial proposals to redevelop south west London’s New Covent Garden market area with a scheme including a series of high-rise buildings have narrowly won planning permission.

Members of Wandsworth Council’s planning applications committee last night (November 12) voted 6:4 to approve SOM and BDP’s £2billion scheme for the 25ha site, which is part of the Greater London Authority’s Vauxhall Nine Elms Battersea opportunity area.

The plans were drawn up for St Modwen Properties and Vinci, who are developing the site in partnership with New Covent Garden Market Authority.

Councillors’ key concerns included the height of towers planned to house some of the scheme’s 3,019 new homes and loss of space for the replacement market structures.

The approval gives full planning permission for a 54-storey SOM-designed residential block in the northern part of the site, near Vauxhall.

Outline approval was granted for a five further towers, ranging in height from 20-46 storeys at the northern site, which currently houses New Covent Garden’s flower market. The flower market would be relocated to new premises connected to the new wholesale markets planned for the site.

The high-rise element of the scheme attracted criticism from the GLA, neighbouring Lambeth Council and Dalian Wanda, which is developing KPF’s adjacent One Nine Elms project.

Planning officers told councillors that height and siting amendments to the towers were expected to answer the GLA’s earlier concerns, but that Dalian Wanda had submitted a late letter saying they still opposed the plans for the northern site.

Lambeth’s objections included massing and scale of some aspects of the scheme, and the impact of the development on local traffic.

Scheme opponent Councillor Tony Belton said the proposals’ highest building was 20% taller than than tallest block in a 2012 development approved for the site, and suggested future proposals would be taller still.

He said: ‘This is too much. I don’t the public at large is clamouring for more high buildings. This is a totally market-driven consideration.’

Supporter Councillor Will Sweet voiced design concerns about the tallest structure, but suggested the scheme as a whole could deliver far more housing by introducing more taller buildings.

‘Some of the elements in these plans are extremely low rise and I think that’s a waste of what’s going on in Nine Elms,’ he said.

‘That’s not the right sort of density that we should be encouraging.’

Fifteen of the scheme’s residential buildings would be under 10 storeys in height, according to the outline proposals.

More generally, councillors questioned why the scheme was being recommended for approval by planning officers in a detailed report that flagged up significant concerns on the part of  the Greater London Authority and Mayor of London Boris Johnson.

They were told that officers could only provide formal consultation responses, which did not reflect subsequent design changes and informal responses to them.

In addition to the new housing, the scheme promises a new 46,450m2 market, 12,541m2 of offices and and 9,290m2 of new retail, leisure and community facilities over a projected 10-year delivery period.

After the meeting, St Modwen chief executive Bill Oliver said work could start on site in the first half of 2015.

‘Wandsworth Council’s decision allows us to contribute to the long-term transformation of London’s newest residential and commercial quarter whilst securing the future of New Covent Garden Market by delivering vitally important world-class market facilities,’ he said.

Last night’s approval will now be referred back to the Greater London Authority and the secretary of state for communities and local government for final ratification.


Previous story (AJ 06.11.2014)

New Covent Garden plans set for approval despite opposition

Contentious £2bn New Covent Garden Market scheme set for green light in face of criticism from London Mayor and Dalian Wanda

Planning officers have recommended the approval of the £2billion New Covent Garden Market scheme despite a scathing assessment of the plans by the London mayor and the Chinese developer of a neighbouring project.

As AJ revealed this week, mayor Johnson has argued that the 25ha scheme by SOM and BDP does not comply with the London Plan, citing concerns including housing design quality and the height and bulk of the development’s tallest towers.

The developer of KPF’s adjacent One Nine Elms project Dalian Wanda, which is run by China’s richest man Wang Jianlin, argued that New Covent Garden Market’s N6 tower was too close to its own boundary and would have a negative impact on its 43 storey ‘River Tower’, set to contain the group’s first Five Star hotel outside China.

Nevertheless, a report published today shows officers at Wandsworth Council are recommending the scheme is approved ahead of the planning committee meeting next Wednesday (12 November).

New Covent Garden Market is the single largest redevelopment scheme in the wider 195ha regeneration of Nine Elms.

On the scheme’s tall buildings, the report said the development had been subject to a detailed ‘townscape and visual impact’ assessment which showed ‘in many cases beneficial effects’.

‘In long range, regional and sub-regional views the three towers and tall buildings on the site would range from neutral to moderate beneficial with borough and local views ranging from negligible to moderate beneficial’, the report said.

The report argued that the scheme’s 180m high N8 tower – deemed too high by the mayor’s office - was acceptable, noting it was lower than the tallest 200m tower at One Nine Elms and arguing it would become part of a ‘varied skyline’.

Turning to housing design, the report acknowledged the scheme included a number of single aspect family sized homes but said the applicant had agreed to demonstrate the quality of dwellings and meet the requirements of the London Plan at detailed planning stage.

The report said that Thessaly Road site, which is due to offer family homes with private gardens at ground floor and a mix of 1, 2 and 3 bed flats on the floors above, would have a ‘very low proportion of dual aspect units’.

‘However, this is as a result of the constraints of the site and the need to mitigate noise from the market,’ the report stated. ‘Further to this…there is the ability to ensure that there are no north facing single aspect units. Taking this into account the lower proportion of dual aspect units could be accepted in this instance.’

Addressing Dalian Wanda’s complaint, the report said the scheme’s N6 building would be 15m from the River Tower but that N6 would ‘angle away’ from the boundary between the two sites, making the distance acceptable.

Previous story (AJ 05.11.2014)

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

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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