Mayor Khan to decide on Popes Road tower, asks for comments

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Computer generated image of the proposed tower seen from outside Lambeth town hall

London mayor Sadiq Khan has taken over the planning application for a 20-storey tower on Pope’s Road in central Brixton and is inviting people to comment on it.

Lambeth council’s planning committee approved the plans put forward by the Amsterdam-based AG Hondo Popes Road BV in November. The scheme would be run on a day-to-day basis by Hondo Enterprises, a joint operation between giant US-based finance company Angelo Gordon and UK-based Texan Taylor McWilliams.

The proposed scheme would include two towers and a large connecting section with a new public square between Brixton station and the tower on Pope’s Road with another side of the development fronting Brixton Station Road.

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The entire planned development is heavily glazed, increasing its use of fuel

It has attracted great criticism – from the Victorian Society to local MP Helen Hayes and the Brixton Society – because of the overbearing nature of the tower and the quality of its architecture. Architects and others have also pointed out that towers of the height proposed are less sustainable and generate more carbon than low-rise developments.

There are also fears that changes in planning legislation mean the proposed office space could be converted to residential use without a new planning application.

No date has yet been set by the mayor for a new hearing, but comments are open on the Mayor of London website. Comments made up until the hearing will be considered. 

The mayor told Lambeth council on Monday (1 March) that, having considered a report on the case, he would act as the local planning authority for the purposes of determining the planning applications under article 7 of the Mayor of London Order and the powers conferred by Section 2A of the 1990 Town and Country Planning Act).

In a letter to Lambeth council’s principal planner, Michael Cassidy, the mayor said that the competing issues of more office space and the effect of the development on the local area are “finely balanced”.

“In my view, the proposed office-led redevelopment of the site within a town centre and strategic area for regeneration … is of such a nature and scale that would have a significant impact on the implementation of the spatial development strategy,” the mayor said.

High quality office floorspace in the proposed location would “complement and expand the existing town centre offer” and would contribute to the strategic employment function of London as a whole, his letter said.

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Computer generated image of the development seen from the junction of Valentia Place and Brixton Station Road

However, he continued, the plans would introduce a tall building outside an area designated for them, which would have “some adverse effects” on heritage assets including St Matthews Church, Electric Avenue and Brockwell Park.

It would also have adverse effects on the character of the local area.

Sadiq Khan said that, despite the overall conclusion of Greater London Authority officers that the plans should go ahead, “I have concluded that further consideration should be given to these impacts, alongside the benefits of the scheme, to determine whether a conflict with the London Plan (current and new) arises and where the overall planning balance should be struck.”

He said losses of completed employment floorspace in Lambeth had to be balanced against “tall building issues”.

“The competing considerations to which the application gives rise are finely balanced,” the mayor’s letter said. “I have decided that the application warrants my closer scrutiny before it is determined.”

Greater London Authority documents on the scheme are available online.

The new doubt cast over the planned development comes at the same time as criticism of Lambeth council’s own plans for the development of adjoining sites now occupied by Pop Brixton and International House.

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