A community group battling controversial proposals for the Royal Mail’s Mount Pleasant site in central London has submitted plans for an alternative scheme, drawn up by Neoclassical architect Francis Terry
The plans, by the Mount Pleasant Association (MPA) and Terry, rival the already approved £12 million Royal Mail scheme drawn up by AHMM, Allies and Morrison, Feilden Clegg Bradley and WilkinsonEyre.
Terry, who split from the joint practice shared with his father Quinlan Terry in June, told the AJ that he had given the residents a choice of two schemes: a traditional circus of up to eight-storey mansion blocks; and another in a cruciform shape. The group, led by local resident and architect Edward Denison, preferred the former.
Working with social enterprise Create Streets, the association submitted the initial designs under the Community Right to Build rules. They feature 125 homes, up to half of which could be affordable, as well as 1,200m² of commercial space. If approved, more plans will be submitted for the rest of the 3.5ha site.
According to The Guardian, the group hopes to provide 40 more affordable homes than the Royal Mail’s favoured scheme. That proposal includes a number of 15-storey towers to accommodate 681 homes, many of which are expected to sell for well over £1 million.
Although the MPA’s rival plans were first revealed in September 2015, they had not been formally submitted.
Source: Francis Terry and Associates
Speaking to the AJ, Terry said: ’We sat with them [the MPA] and drew out a scheme with them. It was very useful because usually you don’t know the site as well as the local people.
‘They were actually very realistic about the level of density that was needed. It wasn’t an idea of “we want a park and a couple of cottages” – they were conscious that we had to get some density.’
He added: ‘People don’t like things thrown out at them … because planning laws have been relaxed, people have got no control over their environment.’
Create Streets campaigns against tower-block accomodation, in favour of terraced streets and public squares. The MPA claims its lower-rise scheme has more than 95 per cent support from locals.
Create Streets founding director Nicholas Boys Smith said: ‘Developing the Mount Pleasant Circus scheme with and for the local community shows, yet again, that most local communities are not anti-development. They are pro-development but, quite rightly, they want to help shape the proposal so that it fits into their wider community.
‘Politicians trying to solve the housing crisis have been asking the wrong question. They have been asking: “How do we build new homes?” They should have been asking: “How do we make new homes more popular?”’
The planning application states that the scheme ‘echoes but does not mirror’ the surrounding area. It adds that, while the scheme will be ‘necessarily dense and large due to land values and London’s acute housing shortage’, it will be of a ‘more appropriate scale and mass’ than the approved proposals.
Last year, the MPA won £150,000 from the mayor’s Community Right to Build fund to lodge its own planning application for the Royal Mail site.
Alexandra Steed, a member of the MPA, said: ‘Three years of extensive community consultation has led and generated the design, including two focused rounds of consultation, numerous public meetings, public debate, and workshops with the local school. This community-led process has produced a vision for Mount Pleasant as a more enjoyable, liveable and attractive place for current and future residents.’
Sadiq Khan, now London mayor, last year praised the scheme, saying: ‘This is a great example of how big developments should work – working with local communities to design real neighbourhoods that work for the existing community.’
Terry is not the only architect to have drawn up alternative proposals for the plot. Last year Peter Barber came up with a speculative, high-density, low-rise social housing scheme, the model for which won him the £10,000 Turkish Ceramics Grand Award for Architecture at the Royal Academy summer show.
The Royal Mail Group said in a statement: ’Royal Mail obtained planning permission in March 2015 for the redevelopment of parts of our Mount Pleasant site (pictured below) that are surplus to our operations, as previously announced. We are currently working to prepare the site for marketing.’
Royal Mail’s Mount Pleasant redevelopment proposal