Last Tuesday, Lambeth Council’s planning committee voted – by a narrow margin of 4 to 3 – to ignore 3,000 petition signatures, hundreds of objections on the council planning website, Labour ward councillors and dozens of us gathered in the committee room, to approve the 8 Albert Embankment application.
This is a massive disappointment, to say the least. After hearing moving testimonies from the residents, the councillors were split 3 for/3 against, and committee chair Clare Wilcox chose to exercise her casting vote in favour of the development, seemingly for little reason other than that it had been several years since the last proposal to redevelop the site. Major issues of daylight loss, damage to local heritage, reduced levels of affordable housing and over-density, were cast aside, for a museum that could have been build through other means, a high-end hotel and hundreds of luxury investment flats that may well sit empty. Clearly this system isn’t working for local people.
The planning committee offers no appeal for the community, but the Mayor of London can ‘call in’ the decision to refuse it.
The Mayor needs to hear from all of us IMMEDIATELY as he only has 14 days to call it in! Information on writing to Sadiq Khan can be found here.
There is also the potential for a Judicial Review of the planning committee decision. A Judicial Review is a legal challenge to the decision making process and would mean a reassessment of the application. It would require a fighting fund of roughly £20-25,000. That’s a lot of money, but if we set up a funding group and many people chipped in, we could do this.
We need to take some time to assess our legal position, but if you know already that you are up for the next fight please get in touch. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
We also want to host another campaign meeting for those who want to build pressure outside the halls of power in Lambeth. We will send another update around shortly with a date in the New Year, but in the meantime, get in touch if you’d like to be involved.
Please write to the Mayor now and ask him to call in the decision and REFUSE the 8 Albert Embankment application.
Over the months we have met Dany Cotton, Richard Upton, Fiona Twycross and others …………but who is Ros Kerslake?
Ros Kerslake is the Chief Executive of The National Heritage Lottery Fund, the body that has given £200,000 to develop the plans for the potential new Fire Brigade Museum at 8 Albert Embankment and have made a conditional allocation of £1.7 million for internal fit out and delivery activities.
According to the public accounts for The National Heritage Lottery Fund in 2018-19 her salary and benefits were £195-£200,000.
Ros Kerslake is also a Non-Executive Director of U+I (the developer for 8 Albert Embankment which will contain the Fire Brigade Museum) and according to the accounts of U+I was paid £56,000 in salary and fees for 13 months prior to March 2019.
The Council’s sun & daylight assessment was finally made available for public scrutiny on 14th November, but we are still waiting to see all the consultee responses. Without access to seeing these, we can not understand the Council’s logic in being ‘minded to Grant Permission’.
It is shocking that the Council who will have had these for months is not making these public.
Requests have been made by our Local Councillor Jon Davies.
You can see the Council’s sun and daylight assesssment here: https://planning.lambeth.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=documents&keyVal=PPN0WTBO09600
This document argues that the residents around the 8 Albert Embankment site have unusual levels of light and that levels that are below the BRE standard are acceptable. This is not Lambeth’s planning policy position.
We have been asking to see the sun & daylight study assessment by the Council for months. Twice we have submitted FOIs to have this document, once in May and again in August 2019 – both times because we were getting no answers.
More recently we have been emailing Jack Hopkins the leader of the Council, starting on 4th November and still not even an acknowledgement!
Sun and daylight on neighbouring properties and in particular Whitgift House and 2 Whitgift Street were key in the planning appeal that ended the previous application for planning in May 2013.
Each time we ask for it – we are told the assessment is still in draft.
Is the assessment being written to suit a particular answer?
London Fire Brigade Museum appears to be used by LFB & U+I as a promotional tool for their £450m commercial redevelopment of 8 Albert Embankment. We question the ethics of directing museum visitors in this way.
People visiting the temporary museum have the option of reading the planning portal 638 documents (on a stall in reception) or a short 2 sides of A4 flyer that gives only positives, encouraging the reader to support the entire redevelopment, not just the museum – leading to comments like:
‘I would like to add my wholehearted support to this planning application. I have taken my grandson there several times and i feel that as he gets older and can understand History of the Fire Service he will enjoy it even more.’
The comment card comes ready ticked with the statement ‘I support this planning application’.
This is not open consultation of the public and consolidates the view of local community groups that the so called community consultation for this development was a sham – that there was never any intention to involve local people in the design, but instead to push through a massive capital generating over development of the site with scant regard to local impacts.
The inclusion of the Fire Brigade Museum is not the issue!
On Wednesday 16th October, Councillor Jon Davies handed in our petition to the Mayor of Lambeth, calling on the Leader of Lambeth Council and the Lambeth Council Planning Committee to reject the U+I/LFB planning application for 8 Albert Embankment (19/01304/FUL).
Our petition has over 2000+ signatures, demonstrating widespread support for the campaign.
Thanks to Florence Eshamoli, Assembly Member for Lambeth and Southwark we finally got to meet Commissioner Dany Cotton in a meeting on Monday 14th October. We were pleased that Fiona Twycross also made the meeting despite her very busy schedule as Deputy Mayor of London (Fire & Resilience).
We asked why a public body like the London Fire Brigade does not follow public policy. In particular why is it not following the Lambeth Local Plan 2015, which clearly states that this site is not suitable for tall buildings.
We asked why the quality of the community consultation conducted by U+I appeared to be so exceptionally poor, was it a deliberate strategy to ignore the local community or was it U+I not performing?
The question now is will the GLA examine the planning strategy and U+I consultation?
The migration museum, one of the temporary uses of the London Fire Brigade Workshop on Whitgift Street/Lambeth High Street, made a supporting statement on the Lambeth Planning Portal for the proposed re-development by U+I.
It appears they have allowed themselves to be used by U+I as a tool in the company’s strategy to obtain planning permission for a £450m redevelopment. A proposal which will result in tenants at Whitgift House, directly across the road, losing 40% of their light.
Is it ethically correct? …………………we ask the Museum Association ethics committee to investigate.
We had a great supporters meeting on Tuesday 10th September with neighbours coming together from all parts of our neighbourhood – from Newport St, Lambeth Walk, Black Prince Road, Vauxhall Walk, Albert Embankment and the Whitgift Estate.
It was a chance to run through the journey our campaign has been on and to work out what next, given we expect the application to head to Planning Committee in November. The dates to reserve are 5th November and 26th November.
We drew up a number of actions to raise awareness in the community and get our case across to Lambeth Council. This will include hand-in of the petition on Wednesday 16th October, 6.30pm at Brixton Town Hall. Make sure you have this in the diary to attend.
We are winning!
On London has given our campaign the right to reply to an article by Commissioner Dany Cotton earlier this month, in which she described 8 Albert Embankment as her personal legacy project. Making it all the more surprising that despite repeated requests, she has still not agreed to meet us face to face.
You can see this article here:
Or read below:
Dany Cotton’s praise for the London Fire Brigade’s plans for redeveloping its property at 8 Albert Embankment paints a very different picture from that envisaged by the Lambeth residents who would live in its shadows. The LFB’s proposals, which have been submitted to Lambeth Council, include a 24 and a 26-storey tower, which would deprive adjacent council homes and a public park of sun and daylight, entailing significant damage to heritage buildings in the process. Furthermore, the housing element does not meet Lambeth’s target of 50 per cent being affordable and, as the Greater London Authority’s Stage 1 report on the plans says, neither does it reach Sadiq Khan’s threshold of 50 per cent of new homes built on GLA land – which the LFB site is – being affordable at a time when such housing is desperately needed by Londoners. Is this the legacy the outgoing LFB commissioner wants to leave?
The Lambeth Village community organisation, of which I am a member, believes the Lambeth fire station building could already have been refurbished and be being put to multiple good uses if the LFB had not continued to be intent on pushing through plans that are at odds with Lambeth’s planning policies. A previous attempt, in 2011 failed, falling foul of both the council’s planning committee and then the planning inspectorate on grounds of major adverse reductions in daylight for the neighbouring council estate. Now the LFB is wasting thousands upon thousands of pounds of public money on a new scheme that we believe planning policy dictates should be turned down.
It feels necessary to state that Lambeth’s planning policies are not red tape. The council’s current Local Plan has been produced through an evidence-based process, publicly consulted on, and has been through a public inquiry. It contains changes from its predecessor following the rejection of the LFB’s previous application. These set out design principles, which clearly state that the 8 Albert Embankment site is not suitable for tall buildings. Consequently, the LFB’s submitted plans are already designated a “departure application”, meaning they would ordinarily be rejected. The fact that the LFB is persisting with them suggests they have come to believe planning policy doesn’t apply to them.
We believe Lambeth’s planning officers and councillors should uphold their planning policies and reject the plans, not least keeping in mind the planning inspector’s decision last time to reject the application on the single issue of sun and daylight. A report by the Building Research Establishment, the independent body that produces sun and daylight benchmarks, has already classified the anticipated light reduction impact on adjacent council homes in this proposal “major adverse”, just like their previous failure.
Dany Cotton should be worried that an absurd repeat of history is going to happen. Local residents are calling on her to show real leadership and take action to stop this from happening. Although U + I, the LFB’s co-developer on this project, held meetings with local groups in late January and early February 2019, the scheme has been in the making since 2016, so to us the history of engagement is far too little far too late.
The proposed scheme may well provide a permanent Fire Brigade Museum to replace the current temporary one, but that would be one of the smaller elements of the development. Indeed, if it goes ahead it will be dwarfed by the 200-bed hotel next door, which will wrap around the back of the Grade II listed Fire Brigade Headquarters and across the parade ground, removing both views of significance and causing great damage to the setting. Further negative impact will come from the proposed two-storey glass box roof extension on top of the fire station.
We believe the two towers would clearly breach the protected art deco outline of the listed building (plus protected views) and cause extensive shadowing across the neighbourhood, all the way to the Garden Museum on the doorstep of Lambeth Palace. Finally, on land principally protected for employment this is clearly a residential-led development.
We appreciate that Dany Cotton relies on the advice of others in these matters. But she is personally fronting the LFB’s campaign to have its plans accepted and has so far declined to meet in person with local people. It is time for that to change and for City Hall to get involved too, ensuring neither “daylight robbery” nor damage to London’s heritage happens here for so little gain.