March Editorial - The Font
No, it is not an early April fools joke. And yes, you are right, the font has not changed. Some where between setting out pages 20 and 21 in a new font, and going to press, I managed to save the document using the existing 'house' font of Myriad Pro Light (tm). So the font has not changed at all. If you picked that up, well done. We will try again next month to trial a new font, so save your emails for then.
King Kong for Kidbrooke
A giant 30 storey tower is being planned for the Kidbrooke ‘village’ development, SEnine understands.
It will be the largest building for several miles around, becoming a major landscape feature and will be flanked by other new blocks rising up to 20 storeys.
A planning application is due later this month from Berkeley Homes who hope to start construction before the end of the year.
The plans are sure to cause consternation among local amenity groups and neighbouring communities who will be aghast at the scale of the development. Buyers of the new homes on the estate might also rebel, having been sold a vision of ‘village’ life.
It marks a major escalation to the Kidbrooke development which will now resemble a small new town when completed, housing up to 12,500 people.
It is being put forward as a contribution to solving the housing crisis in the capital which will see at least 25,000 new homes provided in the borough over the next ten years. The Berkeley proposals could only have been put forward with the tacit approval of senior councillors and officers within the council.
If an application is submitted this month as scheduled, approval could be received before a new council is elected in May, probably under different leadership.
The giant tower will dwarf the area’s current largest buildings, the 17 storey Marlowe House in Sidcup and 25 storey new apartment blocks recently erected in Lewisham. One Canada Square, at Canary Wharf in Docklands weighs in at 50 storeys. It would dwarf the eight storey development which has just been approved for the Grove Market Place.
It amounts to considerable ‘mission creep’ for the Kidbrooke development, which was originally intended to have a maximum height of 12 storeys. This was upped to 15 storeys when Berkeley lost the fight for land to the north of Kidbrooke Station, which TfL was allowed to retain for potential public transport development, including the stalled proposals for an extension to the Docklands Light Railway to Eltham. The escalation might have always been part of Berkeley’s internal vision, although the 30 storey proposal might be considered an ‘opening bid’.
John Anderson, chairman of Berkeley Homes (Urban Development) told SEnine in 2009 that he hoped marketing of the estate would co-incide with an upsurge of the housing market.
This has come to pass, and has now been combined with a forecast increase in the population in the capital.
Ominously, Berkeley say that a ‘do nothing’ scenario would just mean there would be a need to identify another site to accommodate the number of residential properties identified by Greenwich as being required.
Upscaling Kidbrooke is seen by the council as a convenient option for meeting its housing targets. Berkeley has recently gained permission for a ‘Manhattan’-style development in Woolwich which will contain 6,000 apartments between the town centre and the river.
The tower would be in the Kidbrooke ‘Phase3’ to the south of the Station, which will also contain the ‘village centre’ with supermarkets, pubs and shops. Between this and Sutcliffe Park, ‘Phase 5’ will contain 1,100 units, in blocks of up to 11 storeys, proposed for a building start in 2015. In Phase 6, next to the politically sensitive Blackheath Cator Estate, towers of up to 20 storeys are being envisaged, starting in 2016.
In documents seen by SEnine, Berkeley’s admit that full consideration will have to be given to the landscape implications.
Key issues identified include ‘visual prominence of the proposals and their relationship and contribution to the existing townscape and visual horizon and ‘the setting of the proposed developments within the existing townscape character, particularly in terms of the height, scale and massing
It says: “The proposed developments of the scale envisaged may have a significant effect on surrounding townscape character areas.”
In a recent press release the Civic Voice organisation has made comment on the Government plans to relax planning restrictions to allow empty retail units to be turned into housing.
Paula Ridley, Chair of Civic Voice said: “We accept that the future of the high street has to be more than simply a retail experience. As a nation we sometimes get bogged down into thinking that our high streets are only about retail but they are much more than this. They need to be about place – not just profit. However, introducing this change will remove the right of the community to decide what is best for their area. We are not against the policy per se, but we are against the fact that the voice of the community will be removed”.
Ridley added “Civic Voice members reject the notion that good planning is a brake on the economy. On the contrary the best planned places are also the most economically successful. That is why allowing change in this manner is wrong”.
Ridley finished by saying “We agree with the Government that finding a solution to the housing crisis is essential, but this proposal is tinkering around the edge of the problem. The barrier to house building arises from borrowing restrictions and economic uncertainty, not planning. Investors need certainty and introducing uncertainty through sudden changes to planning has negative consequences. If the Government wants to solve the housing crisis, they should look at bringing back into use the 920,000 empty homes across the UK, 330,000 of which are long term empty.”
The SEnine magazine is interested in your opinion. We are considering running a series of articles this year focussed Civic pride and also on planning the future of Eltham. Encompassed in this will be an opportunity for local people to voice their opinions.
If you wish to suggest a topic or make an editorial submission please contact SEnine by using the ‘Have you say’ link with the word 'Civic' somewhere in the subject line.
The subjects we may tackle are;
- Should there be a compulsory ‘exceptional sign-off’ on every out-of-town development by the Secretary of State or Planning Minister
- Should out-of-town developments business rates be indexed to in town rates to reduce town centre rates?
- Should the council be permitted to control the mix of shops on the high street? For example should the council be able to decide when there are enough betting shops, pawn brokers and charity shops, thereby making way for butchers, bakers and other community friendly businesses?
- Should the council be able to offer business rate relief to encourage new businesses into the town centre?
- Should the council be able to cap business rents demanded on privately owned properties in the town centre?
- What steps can be taken to prevent landlords from leaving retail property empty? For example should business rates be charged to landlords for empty properties increased by 25% each 6 months it is empty capped at 200% of standard rates. (This could have a side effect of reducing the rent demanded by landlords)
The above are but examples.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
We look forward to your comments.
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