Submission to Secretary of State Sajid Javid to call in Planning Applications for Vauxhall Cross.
16 January 2018 from Pauline Gaunt and Helen Irwin.
PLANNING APPLICATION LINKS
London Borough of Lambeth refs: 17/05807/EIAFUL and 17/04741/FUL
Dear Secretary of State,
The transport interchange and road system at Vauxhall Cross is at a key point for the whole of London Transport. Seven main roads meet at a major public transport interchange for buses, tubes and overground rail services serving a catchment area across the SE of England. Any failure within any of its component parts quickly reverberates out across Central London with disastrous consequences. The full impact of this scheme will be felt from Marble Arch to Camberwell, Wandsworth to the Elephant and Castle.
TfL are currently pushing through plans to make major alterations to the system, which will negatively affect traffic flow and the travelling population for decades. TfL estimate that the daily footfall at Vauxhall will shortly increase from 45,000 to 70,000. Road transport will also increase exponentially as new Nine Elms developments come on line.
TfL should not now be allowed to reduce travel facilities in order to prioritise the wishes of London Borough of Lambeth as defined in the Lambeth Plan, over their primary duty to the wider needs of the transport system and travelling public.
It should be noted that TfL and Lambeth have a close working relationship as TfL relies on the co-operation of Lambeth to facilitate infrastructure works on public land for the Northern Line Extension.
There are five parts of the scheme to consider:
- The conversion of the gyratory system from one-way to two-way.
- The demolition of the bus station .
- The development of the Island Site
- The wider effects on traffic and residential areas outside the narrowly drawn ‘development area’ within the gyratory.
- Whether the cost, currently estimated at upwards of £50million constitutes value for money.
These schemes are inextricably interdependent, but TfL have manipulated the planning rules to isolate the elements of the plans, so preventing any consideration of their overall effect on transport issues or the wider needs and health of the population. Consultation has been flawed, information has not been made available to those it affects, and fundamental changes, such as the massive land swap deal to hand over half the Bus Station to developers, have been completed behind closed doors and without public discussion. The decision on the bus station has been made without reference to the plans for a huge development on the adjacent island site also within the gyratory and without consideration of its implications for traffic flows across London.
We therefore ask you to call in Planning Applications 17/04741/FUL (Vauxhall Bus Station) and 17/05807/EIAFUL (Hotel, flats and commercial developments on the Vauxhall Island Site) and review the wider aspects of the Vauxhall Cross development as a vital part of London’s transport infrastructure.
These points raise public concerns as to the validity of the plans.
- This is not a TfL plan. It is a plan drawn up ten years ago by TfL at the request of London Borough of Lambeth to ‘get rid of’ the Gyratory and initially to facilitate the complete removal of the newly built Bus Station in favour of a row of shops.
Alex Williams, then Director of Borough Planning for TfL, confirmed in June 2013 that the main driver was not a transport need but Lambeth’s wish to replace the Bus Station with a ‘High Street’. This was further confirmed by Sir Peter Hendy in February 2014 in a BBC London interview.
The public outcry which ensued, forced Lambeth/TfL to rethink and eventually come up with the current £50 million plans for a much reduced and inferior bus station with reduced weather cover, still situated within a gyratory, but a two-way one, no significant reduction in pollution levels, increased crossing times for pedestrians at the most polluted points, and bus stops being moved from the safety of the current bus station to roadside positions adjacent to the proposed island site development, which do not comply with Government guidelines on anti-terrorism measures.
Consultation and Planning Committee flaws re Vauxhall Development
- Questionnaires to the public have been carefully phrased to prompt the required answers and access to information has been withheld from the majority of Vauxhall’s users. Only Oyster card holders and those living in the immediate vicinity were contacted. Freedom Pass Holders were excluded, child bus pass holders and anyone who didn’t travel through Vauxhall on a daily basis – including the hundreds of people who disembark at Vauxhall on route to St Thomas’ hospital.
- Only the councillors representing Oval Ward, in which Vauxhall lies, were allowed to comment on, or take up the issue although it is clearly relevant to the whole borough and a wide area beyond. The pretence has been maintained that this is a little local issue of no interest outside the immediate area.
- LBL are de facto judge and jury on their own scheme and we are informed there can be no appeal against the decision except by the applicant.
- The obvious way to engage the public – to advertise changes in an eyecatching way at Vauxhall – was resolutely refused by TFL, even to the point of refusing to allow us to pay for posters advertising their consultation meetings, and refusing us permission to hand out leaflets with details of how to get involved.
5 TfL has rejected, without modelling it, a well-researched scheme by traffic experts and local residents for a less-polluted and more efficient two way scheme, which would not require demolition.
6 The process by which Lambeth’s committee considered application 17/04741/FUL is open to question. The committee accepted without discussion an officer’s report which in describing objections to the plans, including a significant objection from Wandsworth Council, stated at several points that the proposed new “bus station” was an acceptable replacement for the existing one. This expression of opinion was not backed up by any examination of the objections received.
7 Even though the development of the Island site will have major implications for the proposed road system, LBL insist that the implementation of the latter must not in any way be delayed by tying it to the former.
8 A single vehicular access point off the gyratory (on Wandsworth Road) to the proposed 500 room hotel, 250 flats and commercial premises is insufficient for the high number of service and other vehicles which may be expected each day. It will result in major tail backs and will unacceptably reduce traffic speeds, and increase pollution.
9 TfL have further avoided the requirement to have an Environmental Impact Assessment by drawing in the boundaries of appraisal to exclude the wider affected area, residential roads and three primary schools. This is unforgiveable in one of London’s most notorious pollution blackspots.
We are all in agreement that there is a need for more commercial development at the heart of Vauxhall, and, thanks to the opportunities generated by the Nine Elms Lane area, the Covent Garden Market site, the Vauxhall Square site and opening up of the Embankment this need for a proper Vauxhall Centre will be met. What is also essential, and we know is a concern of Wandsworth Council, is that these many thousands of new homes and businesses are served by the very best transport facility. We do not need to sacrifice one in order to achieve the other as Lambeth plan. All the essentials of that facility are already in place including proximity to the newly blossoming social centre around Vauxhall. It is not necessary to waste £50million pounds of precious taxpayers’ money on this project.
We, and other local residents are anxious to meet the minister to explain the issues in more detail and to provide extensive documentary back-up for our assertions, which we know will be refuted by Lambeth and TfL with all the professional forces at their disposal. We know that the Government is keen to make improvements in the Planning System, and this is a prime example of how the process can be manipulated to fail the people it is set up to protect. Please call in all the relevant applications and begin a wider enquiry into the future of Vauxhall.
Pauline Gaunt and Helen Irwin
With the support of Kate Hoey MP, Local Residents and the Save Vauxhall Bus Station Campaign, set up by the Vauxhall Society.