Go-ahead for 1,150-home Old Kent Road scheme despite industrial policy departure

Plans have been approved for a 1,150-home development up to 48 storeys high on London's Old Kent Road, despite officers recognising that the proposal would be contrary to local policy because part of the site is identified as a strategic industrial location (SIL).

A visualisation of the finished Old Kent Road development (pic: Farrells)
A visualisation of the finished Old Kent Road development (pic: Farrells)

Earlier this week, the London Borough of Southwark approved a full planning application for the scheme, which is proposed for a 1.4 hectare site bound by Sandgate Street, Ruby Street and the Old Kent Road.

The works approved would see the demolition of the majority of the existing properties on the site and construction of a mixed-use development comprising 1,152 homes, plus commercial, retail and community uses. The proposed buildings would rise up to 48 storeys. 

According to a planning report, the scheme would deliver a local planning policy compliant offer of 35 per cent affordable housing. In total there would be 451 new affordable homes.

But planners also advised that the council’s core strategy and local plan identifies part of the site as SIL, which according to local policy, should be "protected for industrial and warehousing uses".

"The proposals under consideration here are therefore contrary to [local planning policy] as they would result in the loss of [business] floor space and would introduce residential and other mixed uses into the SIL", the report said.

However, planners advised that "emerging policy is developing at the regional and local scale to realise the ambitions of the Old Kent Road Opportunity Area set by adopted policy".

The report added the the draft new London Plan "recognises much greater capacity for development within the Old Kent Road accompanied by a commitment to major new transport improvements with the extension of the Bakerloo Line".

The report advised members to consider whether the "wider regeneration benefits of the scheme would outweigh any harm caused by the loss of B class floor space and the introduction of residential, retail and community uses, and whether those benefits therefore justify a departure from the adopted planning policy".

Recommending approval, planners said that the scheme, designed by Farrells architects, "would be of exemplary architectural design, using materials and detailing of the highest quality".

Proposed building heights "would represent a step change in the existing scale of the area", the report said, but "as an opportunity area site, it is considered that the height proposed would be in accordance with the objectives of the London Plan (2016), in that it would optimise the development potential of the site without harming the character of the surrounding area".

"Where there would be some potential minor harm, this should be weighed against the wider regeneration benefits of the scheme", officers said.

The plans were approved, subject to conditions including that the application be referred to the mayor of London and secretary of state.

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