The Nine Elms on the Southbank New London Architecture Event 7 November

A report from Andrea (KOVF Deputy Chair)

A large array of speakers including from Wandsworth and Lambeth Councils, GLA, developers, New Covent Garden, Vauxhall One, all attempting to present the VNEB area (now rather more poetically re-named Nine Elms on the Southbank) in the best possible light in front of an audience of some 152 delegates from developers, Wandsworth and Lambeth Council, GLA,  CABE, architects, international consultants, the Nine Elms Delivery Team, businesses, and six delegates from local groups/campaigns from Lambeth and Wandsworth.

Some of the things that were said were revealing (and at times surprising).I arrived on time, but at the main gate a sign directed me back round the Oval to the Alec Steward Gate adding an extra half kilometre. By the time I eventually got there I had missed the welcome, and Govindia was already in full flow (see my record of what was said below, I absolutely make no claims of accuracy or completeness).

After four hours of this there followed a ‘networking lunch’, an hour later we were split into about six groups and taken for an extensive walking tour of Vauxhall Cross.

Our group (also including Helen and Pauline from ‘Save the bus station’) passed through Bonnington Sqare and Vauxhall Grove, debated the wisdom of locating a primary school within (rooftop play area) at our first development site Keybridge House,  stopped at the Sainsburys site where you can view a model of the development in an indoor exhibition space. Onward to the incredibly shrinking Market Towers and then across the road to the future Vauxhall Square and New Bondway. At each destination, we were greeted by a representative from the respective developer (except there was no-one at the Kylun Tower site) and listened to what they were planning to do. At the Bondway site the big news was that the old brewery building will be demolished as early as next year. The wind was howling and Vauxhall Cross showed itself from its gloomiest side, and with the added traffic noise, it was hard to sustain a conversation.

I decided to leave after the discussion about the gyratory re-design in Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, as the only attraction left was the new Damien Hirst Gallery in Newport Street – only from the outside.

As a closing anecdote; passing through Vauxhall Park, our guide Jago Griffith (Lambeth) came up with the perennial chestnut: “As you can see, this is an under used space” – our cries of protest were drowned out by the gathering storm.

Session one: Commercial Mix, Infrastructure and delivery 


Cllr Ravi Govindia, Leader of Wandsworth Council

Talked about a public event where new and old groups of the community came together to do arts and crafts on the Southbank and how the new developments are creating jobs. On transport he talked about a new pedestrian bridge to link Southbank to Pimlico and the about the “NLE – and what a cracking win that will be”. He closed by saying that we should take our cue from the attitude to skylines in Malaysia “where people live, work and play”.

Cllr Lib Peck, Leader of Lambeth Council

Said that she has attended the ‘London Conference’ (MIPIM) where the message was: the ‘importance of place shaping’, ‘pride’, ‘a shared plan rather than a clumsy alliance’, ‘proud partnership shaping a bit of London’. She reiterated her commitment to 40% affordable housing. She talked about job creation during construction and after, providing apprenticeships.

There were plans to transform structure of Vauxhall Gyratory which is currently defined by traffic, but there could be something else; it’s not just about infrastructure but about the “future of the place, working with different Vauxhall partners”.

Qs for Govindia and Peck

The only Q came from Andrea (KOVF ): How much affordable housing will be provided in Vauxhall? After all One Nine Elms only has 19%, not 40% (I got that wrong, in actual fact it’s only 15%)

Peck: There will be 35% spread all over the site.

Overview by Helen Fisher, Program Director Nine Elms on the Southbank

It’s the biggest project in Europe and changes the London skyline. There will be 22.000 new jobs in construction and 25.000 jobs afterwards. There are 26 sites, 13 schemes are currently on site. Instead of the 16.000 new homes originally planned there will now be 20.000, a 20% increase. Public realm improvements are provided by the linear park, activity spaces, art and cultural spaces.

Chris Hall Director GVA: Commercial occupiers and business districts

The increasing growth in rents encourages more business, as old businesses are priced out of the area, this opens up new opportunities mainly for big corporations, key retail HQ’s and the public sector.

Things are moving faster than anticipated – Vauxhall will become a destination, particularly before the arrival of the NLE!

Richard Garside, Development Director GL Hearn: Deliverability and viability

20.000 instead of 16.000 new homes, 25.000 new jobs. The OAPF is achievable, the market is currently strong. Sales are currently at 1000 units per annum. The VNEB area offers relative affordability as opposed to prime areas in London. Some towers may be slowed down in their delivery. The affordable criteria are due to be relaxed, in Wandsworth the base case being 15 % affordable, with the new criteria it will be 18%. Off-site provision will revise affordable to 27% and if moving outside the VNEB area, up to 35% will be possible. A potential risk to viability is a CIL increase to 19%. The build cost could increase significantly by 15%  to £600 per sq metre, if that happens, CILs go back to 15%.The towers may take slightly longer than expected due to market conditions.

Sandra Roebuck, Assistant Director for Neighbourhoods and Investment, Lambeth Council

There are two questions:

1: What kind of place would we have if the gyratory was left alone?

2: What kind of place would we have if the gyratory was to evolve?

The quick transition causes infrastructure issues.

There will be 620 affordable units in Vauxhall, in 26 Towers.

The jobs in construction on offer are in a modern industry, for the future.

There are constraints re the gyratory due to the road network,

The north of VNEB is increasingly important.

There are 183 buses/hr passing through the bus station at peak time, 15 bus routes.

A 25.000 Oyster card survey has been conducted; some, who are fondly defending the status quo, have yet to be convinced.

How to improve the District Centre; TfL propose improvements, the island site is available.

The first round of traffic modelling is now complete.

The District Centre in Bondway can expand.

CIL has been adopted, and 25% are available to the community as CLIPS.

Panel discussion

Q Frank Vickery: Will there be a review of affordable housing? – it’s high on the agenda.

Roebuck: The affordable will be off-site, adjacent to the developments.

Andrea: According to the policy it should be mixed developments to avoid gated communities and seggregation.

Q Cllr Amos: Why is building tall more risky?

Richard Garside, Hearn: You have to build the whole tower in one go, lower rises can be built in phases.

Q: Affordable spaces for business?

Q: I used to work as an architect on the VNEB – since then Linear Park has shrunk to just a space between buildings, and the widening around the US Embassy is only for security reasons.

Helen Fisher: The Linear Park is a core principle.

Henry Smith, GLA: PR X is a core element of Housing Strategy.

Session two

Colin Wilson, GLA Strategic Planning Manager:Tall buildings cluster and place making.

He said that the Vauxhall cluster was part of the Draft SPD in 2007. There were other clusters in Aldgate, Bishopsgate, City Road etc. He talked a lot about exiting views from Parliament Hill and London’s skyline lagging behind Shanghai and Singapore tall building-wise.

London 3-D model available online.

Panel discussion

John Bushell,KPF: New Bondway offices in the sky! New ball room and conference facility.

Session three

Pam Alexander, Covent Garden Market Authority: working together to create a sense of place.

She mused about what it will be like in 2024?  … There will be a Farmer’s Market, 2.500 jobs in small businesses in New Covent Garden, etc, in 2014 there were only invisible job opportunities, inaccessible to the local community.

Mark Davy, Futurecity: Cultural mix

Art work in public places, under railway arches etc.

Q Helen Irwin Friends of the bus station. The bus station could be designated as a public art work.

Mark Davy: It could be turned into a pop-up gallery.

Helen: It can’t be a pop-up gallery because it is a working bus station, but it can be an artwork at the same time.

Chris Law, Public Realm and Development Director, Vauxhall One, Public Realm

RIBA competition to re-design the public realm; The winners are: Cabinet Gallery in the Pleasure Gardens, Damian Hirst Gallery in Newport Street. Trampolines on pavement next to Teahouse Theatre. Ice skating park to open 21 November, first ever X-mas tree maze.

Panel discussion

Tim Cronin, Head of Planning & Development, Wandsworth Council.

All developers are working in partnership.

Oliver de Chalus, Development Director Citygrove

Chris Law: Building on top of the railway lines WILL happen.

Pam Alexander: As former chair of the Peabody, partner with Embassy Gardens – we will have failed if the new developments don’t result in a shorter housing list.

Q: Is densification off-site a part of the future?

Tim Cronin: It’s happening NOW!

Q Andrea: How do you define ‘affordable?’

Tim Cronin speaks, but does not answer Q.

Andrea: As I understand it, it is 80% of market value, so with a studio flat at £450.000, 80% is still quite a lot.

Tim Cronin: Yes.

Regarding the issue of public green and open spaces, the linear path is not going to make a substantial contribution. We are getting the population of Welwyn Garden City introduced into the VNEB area, but without the gardens; as far as I know there will not be any additional green spaces.

Tim Cronin: Yes.

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