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Sergison Bates hits back over minister's Wandsworth tower jibes


Sergison Bates has hit back at criticism of its proposed 20-storey tower in Wandsworth town centre, after education secretary Justine Greening called it an ‘uninspiring, ugly design’

Practice partner Stephen Bates said the ‘pencil tower’, which has a smaller floorplate than similarly high blocks, would be ‘unique’ in London and that its design had received positive feedback and endorsement from both Wandsworth and Greater London Authority design review panels.

The scheme for developer Baylight Properties, which has been submitted to Wandsworth Council for planning permission, would turn a vacant plot used for ancillary car parking on Garratt Lane redeveloped into a 68m-high mixed-use block comprising 27 residential units and a café. Nine of the planned homes would be affordable.

The application also proposes extending the Wandle Trail by the River Wandle with a 90m-long public realm walkway.

A number of local residents have objected to the scheme, with concerns including the height of the tower and that it might be out of context with the existing neighbouring Wandsworth Workshops buildings. Residents in neighbouring blocks have also submitted petitions against the development to the council.

Greening, the Conservative MP for Putney, Roehampton and Southfields until the dissolution of parliament, has also objected after being contacted by residents concerned over the tower’s impact on neighbouring properties. She has raised concerns about the construction process and vehicular access to the site, but her main objection is the tower’s ‘industrial design’.

In keeping with the Workshops buildings, the tumbled white brick and concrete tower will have metal windows to reinforce its industrial character. According to the design and access statement for the scheme, ‘its refinement comes through its carved, extruded form and vertical order’.



Greening told the council: ‘The area is becoming more and more residential and, as such, any design should be sympathetic of this. If you consider other residential blocks nearby such as Argento Tower, the designs are modern and use light materials and glass. This design is reflected in other nearby blocks and the proposed pencil tower should also reflect this style.’

Urging the council to reject the ‘ugly proposal’, she argued that the tower would look ‘completely out of place in the context of the surrounding area’.

She added: ‘It is an uninspiring, ugly design that seems to take its cue from the worst that the 1950-1970 concrete experiments has to offer.’ 

Bates said the scheme had undergone a ‘rigorous design and consultation process’, and added: ‘The pencil tower will be unique in London as nowhere in the city is there a delicate tower of these dimensions and sculptural form.’

He said a number of the representations made following the submission of the planning application were ‘non-material to a planning assessment … Others have been forensically assessed and we have provided, or are in the process of providing, further clarification to Wandsworth Borough Council.

‘We believe the new landscape and building will make a positive contribution to a piece of hidden city centre which is becoming more visible following the recent approval of the Pocket tower on the other side of the river bank.’


Readers' comments (4)

  • The former education secretary illustrates an extraordinary ignorance about architecture and planning. Her own party's views on new design are essentially that it should be supported unless there are compelling heritage or environmental reasons not to do so. Personal aesthetic opinions are absolutely not a reason for objection under the National Planning Policy Framework. Why doesn't she spare us her pitiful prejudices, and do some homework, literally and metaphorically?

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  • Argento Tower????? EH??


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  • Many developments in London are maxing out on density and size ( a good thing from my perspective), however it naturally draws negative responses from nearby residents.

    This negative response, fundamentally to mass and form is often bulwarked with subjective and aesthetic points that are rarely held as deeply as the 'monstrous, overshadowing, threat to my way of life' opinion holders.

    A fully glazed building of the same form and mass would likely draw the same criticism for being 'out of place' with the low rise masonry buildings in its immediate context.

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  • For what it's worth I find this design refreshing and exciting

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