A 70-metre tower is set to be built by the border of Wandsworth and Lambeth despite objections.
Lambeth College was given the go-ahead by a planning committee – three in favour and two against – after three hours of input from officers, councillors, members of the community, and the school’s representatives on Tuesday evening (November 26).
The proposals include “new build teaching and learning space to support skills development in construction, engineering, science and dental technology, IT, digital and creative” as well as English and maths space.
Up to 272 student ‘bed spaces’ are also planned for Block C, a 20-storey tower.
Together with Carillion and Arlington Real Estate, the college previously submitted a planning application for the site by Belmore Street in Nine Elms, which included plans for a 26-storey tower.
But they withdrew the application in 2017 after spending more than £3 million.
The college has since been taken on by South Bank Colleges (SBC), with whom it submitted the successful application.
Nearly 1,000 people signed a petition opposing the height of the tower, while three residents implored the committee to reject the plans.
One of the issues raised was that the plans were only ‘outline’ and the full extent of the scheme was unknown.
Residents speaking at the meeting argued their daylight would be severely diminished in the winter months, a 20-storey tower would be out of place, there was “lack of due process” and the road management plan was inadequate.
The plans as they are show that traffic into the site, construction and otherwise, will be coming through a small residential street.
Jimmy Dodd, the chair of the Patmore Cooperative, a community-led group from Patmore Estate, said: “It ain’t going to work because I don’t know if you understand, but outside of Belmore Street has got double yellow lines, the road is about 80 metres long, 60 metres of that is for resident permits only.
“So how are our tenants going to get out of their parking spaces? Be mindful of your own traffic management plan.”
It emerged there was no set time the development had to be finished by, which could leave residents affected for years.
One speaker, who has lived in the area for the past two years, said the submission was “not complete or conclusive”.
“As an example of this, the information on access through Thorparch shows three different plans in different sections.
“The overshadowing diagrams have been truncated and don’t show all of the overshadowing.
“The evaluation of impacts, for example the visual impact has been made subjectively and in short, as a planning committee, I don’t understand how you can be sure of what you’re approving,” he said.
He criticised the consultation process and said “very few people” in the area were aware of the nature of the development.
Tom Rippon, also a resident, said for councillors to accept the recommendation of the report they had to believe it was “factually accurate and based on sound judgement” but that “both … are manifestly not the case”.
He said: “The report asserts that the development will aid visual interest and have no impact on local views – this is frankly Trumpian.
“In terms of light, most chillingly, apparently it’s alright to reduce light by 50 per cent for areas because they already don’t have much light anyway.
“Light is not just nice to have, I was talking to one neighbour who suffers from depression, getting enough light is crucial to his mental health and wellbeing.”
Lambeth College’s principal Fiona Morey said the importance of further education is “absolutely vital” and a “lifeline for people who live and work in Lambeth”.
The Mayor of London has granted the college £20 million, covering 50 per cent of the costs of the skills centre.
Project manager on the development Peter Marsh said: “We aim to complete construction of [the STEAM centre] by 2021 to meet the Mayor of London’s funding condition.”
He said he “recognised and acknowledged” residents’ concerns about the height of the tower.
But added: “The inclusion of Block C is vital to both the funding and therefore the delivery of the wider public benefits associated with education buildings.”
Wandsworth Council, although not at the meeting, formally objected to the new application and described the 20-storey tower as an “incongruous and obstructive development […] without robust justification”.
The council also said the current proposals “would still be contrary to the London Plan” and the tall building strategy in the Vauxhall, Nine Elms, Battersea Opportunity Area.
But a Lambeth planning officer said the area is not inappropriate for tall buildings and policy does not prohibit their construction.
He said: “The conclusions [of the tall building study] were that in the southern part of the borough tall aren’t really characteristic of Lambeth but north of the borough since the post war period tall buildings have been characteristic.
“Q26 is the tall buildings policy in the local plan and it sets out very clear tests for tall buildings.”
He added that officers have assessed all the policy tests and “considered that in this case the scheme meets those”.
Another officer said the reduction in daylight would only affect 47 homes, and eight rooms in the “worst” way.
Chair of the committee, Cllr Clair Wilcox, recommended approving the plan subject to further information being provided exploring the “feasibility of the applicant’s access point” and that the public space is “provided in conjunction with the first phase of the scheme”.
Cllr Ben Kind said he didn’t feel the issue of the access point was addressed sufficiently and rejected the application, along with Cllr Nicole Griffiths, who said the height of the tower was inappropriate.
Cllr Tim Windle and Cllr Joanne Simpson both approved the application, saying their concerns about daylight and design had been allayed by officers.