Town centre mix rejected on design reservations

Concerns over excessive height and poor design have led the secretary of state to refuse permission for a mixed development rising up to 17 storeys in a south London town centre, against an inspector's recommendation.

200-008-087 (Image Credit: Thornsett)
200-008-087 (Image Credit: Thornsett)

The called-in proposal included 220 new homes, community and church space and a retail unit. The main issue was the weight afforded to the scheme’s design in the context of the development plan overall. The secretary of state noted that a recently adopted local plan referred to the potential for a new landmark building of up to 16 storeys in the area but was not specific about the appeal site, where the surrounding urban grain was mainly of three storeys in height.

Post-inquiry correspondence referred to the introduction of the revised NPPF and particularly to the requirement in paragraph 131 for designs to "fit in with the overall form and layout of their surroundings". Objectors argued that the new tower, being six times higher than most surrounding buildings, would not meet this requirement.

The secretary of state agreed. In complete contrast to the inspector, he held that the overall standard of design of parts of the scheme was not of exceptional quality or sufficiently high to merit substantial weight. Alongside less than substantial harm to nearby heritage assets, including listed buildings and conservation areas, he felt that this tipped the balance towards refusal of the scheme.

While accepting his inspector’s view that the tower would stand out as a marker of a road junction and the start of the town centre, the secretary of state did not feel that this necessarily amounted to good urban design. The inspector’s recommendation for approval appeared to have stemmed from a design review panel's support for the scheme and the council’s own recommendation for approval, he remarked. He refused permission for the scheme as contrary to local and London Plan policies overall.

Inspector: David Nicholson; Inquiry


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