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PLP floats taller towers vision for Vauxhall island site

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PLP Architects has worked up new, taller designs for a key plot in Vauxhall, south London - replacing a Squire and Partners scheme with 200m-tall towers

A sales brochure for the traffic island site released by property agency Knight Frank outlines proposals which could see the consented designs stretched by 30 metres.

The document suggests a high likelihood of winning approval for a taller scheme on the plot – dubbed Vauxhall Cross and marketed with a price tag of £65 million - given that the revious planning threshold for tall buildings in the area has been breached on a number of occasions.

Proposals by Squire and Partners for a 46 and 23-storey scheme were initially submitted in 2005 but took seven years to gain approval after Lambeth Council was initially unable to reach a planning decision.

A revised scheme which reduced the height of the towers to 41 and 31-storeys was eventually approved in August 2012 by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles following a public enquiry.

According to the Knight Frank’s sales literature the new designs could be welcomed by planners: ‘PLP Architecture has produced alternate scheme options which respond to the emerging planning policy position for the site. Subject to detailed discussions with the London Borough of Lambeth, it is believed that these proposals could be welcomed by the Council…

‘A 200 metre tall residential tower is proposed in the north corner of the site with a lower tower to the south. The second tower could provide for office use over multiple storeys.’

Lambeth Council’s approach to tall buildings within Vauxhall cluster, which were approved as part of the supplementary planning document (SPD) in January 2013, identifies 150 metres as the maximum height for potential schemes and that ‘only in exceptional circumstances would buildings exceeding this height be supported’.

It also states that due to the approval of the 200 metres-high One Nine Elms scheme ‘other buildings within the cluster must remain at around the 150 metre threshold’.

However, despite the cap, a number of threshold-breaking schemes have been approved including the 181m-tall St Georges Wharf tower by Broadway Malyan as well as KPF’s 170m-tall New Bondway project and Allies & Morrison’s twin-tower Vauxhall Square at 164m.

Peter Stewart, architect, planning expert and principal of Peter Stewart Consultancy, said: ‘It may well be true that you could get consent for taller buildings than already consented, given the circumstances they describe.

‘Height limits in this country nearly always turn out to be guidelines rather than rules. But where guidelines encourage variety as they sometimes do, no developer wants to be the one who builds the short building rather than the tall one.

‘In terms of visual impact, the other schemes already consented may well be such that taller buildings on this site would work just as well in terms of height. But the actual design and the quality of the design are just as important as the height.’

A spokesperson for Lambeth Council said: ‘A proposal for tower of 200m would need a new planning application and would breach planning guidelines’.

Any revised scheme would also have to comply with the council’s contentious plans to create a new high street and town square on the site of Arup Associates’ Vauxhall bus station.

The vision - drawn up by Terry Farrell and commissioned by Lambeth Council - aims to transform the busy interchange into an ‘active and vibrant street environment’ featuring cafes and art galleries.

Some local residents are however campaigning to protect the distinctive ‘ski jump’ stainless steel shelter which opened ten years ago.






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