There are strong grounds for calling in this planning application!

The KOV Forum is also requesting the Secretary of State to call in the planning application for New Bondway. David Boardman, KOV Forum planning expert wrote to Mr Pickles on similar lines as FoVP, but with a lot more detailed background information: “Dear Secretary of State

What is this?

1 On 5 August 2014 the Planning Applications Committee of the London Borough of Lambeth resolved that they were minded to grant planning permission to Application 14/00601/FUL, the 170m tall tower development commonly called New Bondway. The previous Bondway development, a tower of 150m, was rejected by you and your inspector in 2011 under Appeal ref N5660/A/212387 and 09/01520/FUL.

2 This is a request that you make a direction under S77 Town and Country Planning Act 1990 to call in the present application for your determination, and that while this request is being considered, you also make a temporary direction under Article 25(1) Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2010, SI 2010 No 2184, preventing Lambeth granting such permission pending your decision.

Who are we?

3 Kennington, Oval and Vauxhall Forum (KOVF) is a neighbourhood forum, recognised and funded by the London Borough of Lambeth as a non-political umbrella group, bringing together local community organisations, businesses and residents, in the North Lambeth area between Lambeth Road, Kennington Park Road, Camberwell New Road, Harleyford Road and the river Thames [essentially the two Lambeth Wards of Prince’s and Oval], which includes the bulk of the Vauxhall Cluster of tall buildings. KOVF holds public meetings for everyone in the community about proposals for its area and enables member organisations to act together for the benefit of the community. Expressing Forum views about the local environment, amenity, public safety and local services, it provides the Council, health services, police and other public bodies with an opportunity to engage, listen and involve the local community.

4 KOVF and its associate organisation, the Kennington Association, have been active in the planning field in the last five years, as Rule 6 parties in a number of planning appeals. Following a public meeting at which the developer made a presentation, KOVF made representations to Lambeth Council opposing this latest Bondway application. KOVF also took part in the Examination in Public (EIP) of the draft Lambeth Local Plan in July, and will be seated as a participant at sessions of the EIP into the Further Alterations to the London Plan (FALP) in September.

 What grounds for Call In?

5 We argue for call in on the following grounds.

6 A serious impact on the Westminster World Heritage Site (WWHS) – English Heritage objected and noted that UNESCO have very serious continuing concerns regarding consented tall building developments at Vauxhall and are now threatening to put the WWHS on their “in danger” list if Lambeth (by name!) approve more tall buildings at Waterloo. They now also ask for all “large scale projects” such as (we say) the New Bondway Tower to be submitted to the World Heritage Centre for review. The text of EH concerns, citing the Doha statement, was put in evidence in the Lambeth Local Plan EIP in July, and expressly noted in our representation to the Planning Applications Committee. But this was discounted by Lambeth officers, and the Committee pressed on regardless. The EH Doha statement, and the original EH letter of objection are attached.

7 The failure to publish the affordable housing viability study. The application justified its 20% affordable housing provision and departure from Lambeth headline policy of 40% affordable housing by means of a confidential viability study, of a kind that Lambeth declines to publish. It is validated to Lambeth’s satisfaction by an assessment by external experts, also unpublished, and only a report of that expert’s satisfaction is referred to in officers’ reports to Committee to justify the departure. We argue that to give credence in this way to “secret evidence”, not publicly available or testable, constitutes an unfair process, inconsistent with the “quasi-judicial” nature of the planning application adjudicative process. Indeed, what is considered may well be only hearsay about secret evidence, as it remains unclear whether individual members of the Planning Application Committee ever see the actual studies or assessments.

8 As we note in our evidence to the FALP, attached, this is inconsistent with the fair procedure for Ministerial and inspectorial adjudication, as mandated by the Planning Propriety Guidance, and with wider Ministerial urging in favour of open process. This issue was also put expressly to the Planning Applications Committee in our representation. It is a matter of national concern if the planning system endorses the idea that first class fairness is reserved for the higher tiers of planning adjudication, by Ministers and inspectors, but that second class fairness is good enough for the lowest tier of planning adjudication, which deals with the great bulk of cases.

9 There is a deepening mystery about the Lambeth/Wandsworth/Mayor of London’s policy for tall buildings at Vauxhall. According to English Heritage, there was an undocumented seminar in June 2011, which agreed a wholesale departure from the 150m ceiling for the Vauxhall Cluster. This ceiling had been set out in the Mayor of London’s then draft Vauxhall Nine Elms and Battersea Opportunity Area Planning Framework (VNEB OAPF), but was, it seems, rejected by the seminar in favour of a 200m pinnacle in Wandsworth. Even so, the 150m ceiling was restated when the OAPF was finally adopted in March 2012.

10 As we set out in detail in the attached Analysis of the Vauxhall Cluster, which has also been put to Lambeth planners, developers have an understanding, following the June 2011 seminar, that the three planning authorities are happy that they can put forward towers exceeding the 150m ceiling, and have been successful in such applications. As noted, this confers extra profit on such developers of tens of millions of pounds each, given the profitability of residential development at heights of 150m (50 storeys) and more. There is concern for the proper conduct of public office if decisions of such financial moment can be taken on the basis of undocumented understandings of this character, and we need a public inquiry to get to the bottom of matters.

Do these grounds justify Call In?

11 As regards the criteria for call in, we note in accordance with the Ministerial Statement of 26 October 2012 that the Secretary of State will in general only consider the use of his call in powers if planning issues of more than local importance are involved. We argue that this test is well met by the present case, which engages conflict with national policies (especially fairness in adjudication), significant effects beyond its immediate locality, and substantial cross-boundary and national controversy (especially reputational damage to UK ref WWHS “in danger”) and significant architectural and urban design issues (especially undocumented understandings on the part of planning authorities to depart from development frameworks to the financial benefit of developers).

12 We stand ready to provide further validating material, if that should be required.

Yours sincerely

David Boardman

Board Member for Planning

Kennington Oval and Vauxhall Forum

Carmelita Centre

41 Vauxhall Walk

London SE11 5JT

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