Garden Museum: This week is our last chance to stop the skyscrapers

A Letter to Friends and Followers: Our Last Chance to Stop the Towers

This week is our last chance to stop the skyscrapers proposed for the site of Lambeth Village, which would over-shadow the Museum and its garden – and blight our neighbours’ lives.

Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government has put a ‘hold’ notice on Lambeth Council’s decision to award planning consent to a £500 million re-development of the historic HQ of The Fire Brigade with three skyscrapers of luxury flats. A ‘hold’ notice, or Article 31, is very rare. It allows him time to consider whether or not the application should be called in for an independent Public Inquiry.

Please write to [email protected]uk to ask for an Inquiry. The deadline is Wednesday 6 May.

Lambeth Council’s Planning Officers did not tell objectors, or Lambeth Councillors, that they had received a letter from the Secretary of State putting a temporary ‘hold’ on the scheme. Nor did they tell us that the Greater London Authority had written to give a green light to the scheme (That is less of a surprise: the GLA owns the site, and receives £42 million from developer U+I if the scheme goes ahead). That most recent news, in fact, came as a tip-off from a Friend of the Museum.

The consequence is that we have days, not weeks, to make our case to the Minister.

An Inquiry is just that: an independent investigation by a Planning Inspector. In 2013 an Inspector supported residents at Appeal, and rejected a scheme to build on the 1930s Art Deco landmark left derelict by the Fire Brigade. This scheme would be twice as high. If we get a fair hearing, we can win.

At the Planning Committee, local anger concentrated on the loss of daylight. As one resident submitted:

“I have been a Council tenant for 36 years and lived in Whitgift House for 12 years. I live on the ground floor and will be one of the most affected.

I’m a single father with three children. And there are 12 children on the ground floor, some very young

Three of the children on the ground floor are disabled.

I have a disabled son – he needs care and good quality council housing.

We live in our homes,
Not like all the empty new flats on Albert Embankment.

We council tenants don’t get to choose where we live
I have no money to move
I have no money to pay for more electricity.” 

Light, sadly, is a local issue; the Secretary of State can only intervene on national planning issues. What is of national significance is the impact on Lambeth’s oldest Conservation Area, on the Museum (listed Grade II*), on Lambeth Palace (Grade I), and on the Westminster UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The developer U+I presented a document with over one hundred computer-generated views of the impact, from as far afield as Primrose Hill. However, they refused, three times, to show a view of the impact on the view down Lambeth High Street from Museum and Palace. If you look at our own computer model you can guess why…

View from Garden Cafe

Please write. We have a last chance to save Lambeth Village and our oasis of green space, by writing to the Secretary of State by 6 May. The Lambeth Village community have written these very helpful guidelines on what to say:

Write to the Secretary of State

Thank you for your support so far.
Whatever happens, it feels better to have tried.

Christopher Woodward

P.S. Finally – and less importantly – for Friends who asked ‘what happened?’ I’ve written up the discussion at the Planning Committee.

Keep reading

Children from the local community playing in the meadow at Old Paradise Gardens

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