The RRA committee visited the site at 45-51 High Street to hear the plans of GM London, the developers for this important and sensitive river front location. The proposals include a small commercial offering at ground floor (probably because residential units at ground level that directly front the street are unpopular with buyers and because the planning department believe it is necessary)) and 41 flats above and in South Lane.
The designers Architect Initiative are the same team that designed the previously liked and assented scheme for a primary school, later dropped by the Dept of Education. The new proposals very much build on that solution with residential to South Lane and an interior courtyard.
GM London state their commitment to “the ever-increasing importance of sustainability and adopt a climate conscious approach when designing our developments. Features include cycle parking, photovoltaic panels, low-energy lighting, high efficiency Mechanical Ventilation and Heat Recovery systems (MVHR), and low emissivity glass.”
The committee, with some caveats, generally liked the scheme and we submitted our detailed observation below. You can see the Consultation exhibition boards here
1) We welcome the redevelopment of this sensitive river front location and in broad terms support your ideas, not withstanding as your architect made clear ‘we never get it right first time’.
2) We were surprised that you had chosen, despite planning guidelines, a notional mixed use offering given the nature of previous applications where there none. We feel there is no evidence to support commercial premises at this location given that within 50 metres stands a reasonably modern but partially empty office building and the evolving commercial offering elsewhere in town. However we recognise that a partially sunken residential apartments at ground level might be unsellable. We do wonder if there is some kind of opportunity for a community space (community here meaning the apartment complex) – everyone wants a gym! We would ask only that you consider other uses order to minimise the perhaps likely outcome of unused space.
3) We are pleased that you are using the architects who provided such a well considered proposal for the school, who grasped then as they do now the importance of the scheme’s interface with South Lane. We appreciated his honesty that his ideas were early on in the process and his respect the setting.
Height, scale and massing:
4) Of what we saw we are pleased there has been no attempt to build substantially higher than adjacent properties, and like your thought of the highest components being set back from both the river and South lane. The zinc or clad upper storey solution is becoming something of a cliche which is not to say it is inappropriate here, just be mindful of other possibilities.
6) We have some concerns about the impact on the light in South Lane but like your attempt to improve light to the domestic dwelling closest to your plot at the northern extreme.
7) We haven’t have time to fully understand the residential plans but hope they offer good quality space not merely reflecting the minimum GLA legal requirement, especially the affordable element, which we welcome and assume there will not be a ‘poor door’ entrance.
Design and materiality
8) Your relatively conservative thoughts on the riverside elevation would seem to interface successfully with adjacent buildings but we would welcome more creative and contemporary ideas also.
9) We support your initial thoughts on improving the legibility of South Lane, and the partial widening towards the Bittoms
10) Brick is a good solution, and pigmented concrete an interesting idea. The choice of red/pink brick could be revisited we feel and a colour more chromatically compatible or contrasted with adjacent buildings could be considered.
11) The prevalence of the so-called London Vernacular, as particularly presented in recent developments in Vauxhall demonstrates that it is easy to misunderstand as any other style and so would encourage vigorous examination of the detailing to provide maximum visual appeal.
12) The recent pandemic has demonstrated the value of outside space and we would like to understand better the interior courtyard and the balconies for the residential units. Your plans show interior balconies and whilst visually elegant might not best suit a resident.
13) We like your intention to contribute to the Queens Promenade, and perhaps to plant additional trees, and again would encourage you to liaise with Kingston First as they have plans in place for the Eagle Brewery wharf.
14) We like the blue roof scheme to conserve the rainwater and stop it flowing into the Thames.
15) We liked the inclusion of street entrances and a element of greening at pavement level in South Lane.
All in all we think this is a very encouraging start to the consultation and would reiterate our request that you continue talking and listening to the residents, your neighbours.