Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum received from Lambeth Council


  This submission is made in response to a request from the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee dated 23 January and received by the Council on 28 January. The Select Committee have asked for the following: information from Lambeth Council regarding its involvement with the current plans to redevelop the South Bank Centre (SBC) complex; Lambeth's response to the SBC's concerns over the process followed by the Council in considering their application; the responses to the proposals the Council has received from the local community and how they have been involved in the decision making process.

  It should be noted that this submission has been prepared at short notice for a deadline of Friday 1 February. The Council would welcome the opportunity to give oral evidence to the Select Committee as it believes that, on the basis of information received to date, the Select Committee may have been misinformed regarding the Council's handling of these matters. In addition, we may wish to submit further written evidence after 4 February on the return from annual leave of the Head of Planning who has been very closely involved in these matters.


  Lambeth Council is fully supportive of the South Bank Centre's aspirations to enhance its status as a world class centre for the arts. The Council recognises the benefits this will bring to London as a whole and Lambeth in particular. The successful redevelopment of the South Bank Centre will be a key component in the regeneration of the South Bank and Waterloo. However, it must be recognised that there are many other stakeholders in the area including other substantial landowners, businesses and community groups.

  A number of other businesses in the area are seeking to redevelop or consolidate their landholdings. In addition to considering planning applications from the SBC, the Council is currently considering applications to redevelop the Shell Centre and to permanently retain the London Eye. The Council is also having discussions with Frogmore Developments on their proposals for the County Hall Island site and anticipate that proposals to redevelop Elizabeth House on York Road and Waterloo Station may come forward in the near to medium future.

  The Council is keen to promote development in the area but is mindful of the need to ensure that each new development as it comes forward does not prejudice the proposals of others. The Council is seeking to encourage an integrated approach to the regeneration of the area, encouraging all the key stakeholders to work together to ensure that the maximum benefit is achieved from any new development.

  The Council takes the view that it is vitally important to look at the South Bank strategically. The implications of every new planning application in the area must therefore be carefully scrutinised to assess how it might affect the redevelopment of other sites. In particular, issues of access, servicing and pedestrian routes are of crucial importance. It is essential to ensure that all new development is successfully integrated with the public realm and the other development sites around it.

  The Council's policies and proposals for the South Bank and Waterloo are contained in the Lambeth Unitary Development Plan (UDP), adopted in August 1998. The Council is currently consulting on revised policies and proposals in its Draft Deposit UDP. The adopted UDP designates the Hungerford car park and service road to the south of the Hungerford railway viaduct as Metropolitan Open Land (MOL). The UDP seeks to retain MOL in predominantly open space use. Built development can only be considered where it is associated with the open space and recreational use of the land. Furthermore, the UDP designates the Hungerford car park for an extension to Jubilee Gardens. The Council's new Draft Deposit UDP largely maintains these designations with the exception that the area needed by the SBC for its service road south of the Hungerford car park is removed from both designations.

  Therefore, whilst remaining supportive of the SBC's aspirations, Lambeth Council, as planning authority for the area, has to assess the SBC's planning applications on their merits, taking account of Lambeth's own planning policies and proposals, the results of public consultation and any other material planning considerations.

  Officers of the Council's Planning Service have had discussions with the SBC regarding their masterplan proposals on several occasions. At these meetings they have taken the approach outlined above, being supportive of the general aims of the SBC but also providing advice on what aspects of the SBC's proposals were likely to prove problematic in planning terms. In particular, officers expressed concerns regarding development on Jubilee Gardens, pointing out its status as Metropolitan Open Land in Lambeth's UDP expressing doubts that development below a raised gardens could be successfully achieved without seriously compromising the Council's aims of creating a world class metropolitan park. Similar concerns were expressed about development on the Hungerford car park site.

  Officers also expressed the view that as the South Bank Centre is situated within the South Bank conservation area it would be difficult to deal with an outline planning application. In many ways the details of how the different component parts of the redevelopment proposals were designed would be key to judging their acceptability in planning terms.

  At all times officers of the Council have stressed the need to think strategically about the future of the wider South Bank area and have encouraged the SBC to work closely with other landowners in the area such as the Shell Centre and London Eye. Officers of the Council considered that if information could be shared amongst these landowners the Council would be in a better position to assess any planning applications made and would not have to refuse to deal with particular applications on the grounds of prematurity.


  The SBC submitted two sets of planning applications to Lambeth. Firstly on 31 May 2000 planning, conservation area and listed building applications were received for the "Liner Building" project (reference numbers 01/00717/FUL, 01/00718/CON and 01/00719/LB). Subsequently on 11 September 2000 planning and listed building applications were received for the Foyers Project (reference numbers 00/02263/FUL and 00/02595/LB). A timetable illustrating the key stages in dealing with the SBC's planning applications is set out as Annex 1 to this submission. Neither application was submitted two years ago as we understand has been stated by the SBC.

  The SBC have stated that the Foyers Project applications are simple, straightforward and non-controversial. In fact both the Liner Building and Foyers Projects are very complex involving external alterations and extensions to the Grade I Listed Royal Festival Hall (RFH) together with changes to the way the building is accessed and serviced. The applications have important implications for the setting of the RFH and the quality of the public realm around the building and both applications have raised important issues of planning policy together with issues of strategic importance for the future planning of the South Bank. Both projects have elicited a large number of objections from the local community (see section 3) and both projects have raised objections from the 20th Century Society. In addition, the Liner Building has raised concerns from the Greater London Authority (GLA). Neither application could have been recommended to Lambeth's Planning Applications Committee for approval in their original form and both have undergone several revisions by the applicants, each necessitating further rounds of public consultation.

  A large number of objections have been received to the Foyers Project. The proposals would alter the arrangements for coach access to the RFH, would necessitate the relocation of the disabled parking spaces and extend the retail areas of the RFH below the riverside terrace. All matters objected to by the local community. The local community have also objected that the Foyers Project is inextricably linked to the Liner Building and therefore raises all the policy and strategic planning issues raised by that application. As originally submitted, the plans for the Foyers Project application also showed the details of the Liner Building. It was very difficult for officers and the community to distinguish the applications from each other by simply looking at the plans. Officers of the Council are therefore sympathetic to arguments raised by the local community.

  The length of time the applications have been considered by Lambeth has been primarily due to the need to resolve the important issues of policy and strategic planning of the South Bank, together with a number of detailed issues, that required amendments to the plans and the need for further rounds of public consultation. For example the 5th floor of the Liner Building as originally submitted would have had an unacceptable impact on the Strategic View from Westminster Pier to St Paul's Cathedral. Rather than refuse the application Lambeth entered into negotiations with the SBC to resolve the issue.

  The Liner Building proposals would consolidate and extend the service road to the south of the Hungerford viaduct on land designated as Metropolitan Open Land and as an extension to Jubilee Gardens in Lambeth's UDP. This necessitated advertising the Liner Building application as a departure from the UDP. Objections raised by the local community rest primarily on this fundamental policy objection to the scheme arguing that determination of both applications would be premature in the absence of an agreed masterplan for the redevelopment of the SBC as a whole and would prejudice alternative masterplan proposals. The Waterloo Community Development Group (WCDG) have objected that both proposals would prejudice their alternative masterplan proposals that involve building underground between the RFH and the river. They also object that the proposals would prejudice the introduction of underground servicing to the South Bank Centre.

  It has been necessary for officers of the Council to work long and hard with the SBC and Transport for London in an attempt to resolve these strategic planning issues. The implications of the SBC's proposals have been carefully explored and many alternative arrangements for servicing have been tested. This has all taken time but has been absolutely necessary for officers to be confident in their recommendation that the SBC's proposals are acceptable

  When first submitted on 11 September 2000 the Foyers Project's application could not be accepted as valid by the Council as insufficient information had been submitted. This information was received from the SBC on 7 November 2000. Further clarification on the extent of the application and how it related to the Foyers Project was requested during November/December 2000.

  The SBC have stated that the Council's debt has led to a lack of investment in the Planning Service and poor performance in deciding planning applications. The implication is that the SBC's planning applications have been delayed by staff shortages at Lambeth. It is the case that there was a delay in considering the Foyers Project application when it was initially submitted. This was the result of staff turnover within the Planning Service. Two case officers left the Service shortly after the case was allocated to them. It was then decided to deal with the application in the Strategic Planning Group. However, the officer responsible was engaged in a lengthy public inquiry and there was a further period before detailed attention to the application could be given. Once the case officer looked in detail at the application it was realised that it involved additional development and had wider implications than at first realised. A further round of public consultation was therefore undertaken in July/August 2001 on a revised description of development. The main reason for the time it has taken Lambeth to consider the application however has not been staff shortages within the Planning Service but the complexity of the application, the number of detailed objections received from the local community and the need to resolve the proposal's implications for the future strategic planning of the South Bank.

  Since 2000 Lambeth Council has been gradually investing in its Planning Service in order to address previous under-investment and to improve performance. In the past two years an additional £400,000 has been invested in the service and it is planned that a further £340,000 will be invested in the service in 2002-03. This, together with improved procedures, has begun to reverse the poor performance of the past. The proportion of planning applications decided within eight weeks has risen from 34 per cent in the year ending September 2000, when Lambeth's performance was the lowest in London, to 54 per cent in the year ending September 2001, putting Lambeth 23rd in London (ie above the bottom quartile). The Council takes planning performance very seriously and we would draw the Select Committee's attention to Annex 2 The Performance Digest—this is considered monthly at Lambeth's Policy Committee and includes planning performance as a key performance indicator. The Select Committee will note the recent in year improvements with current monthly performance at 65 per cent. However, in common with many other planning authorities in London, Lambeth suffers from problems of recruitment and retention and is heavily dependent on the use of agency staff. This leads to problems associated with high levels of staff turnover.

  The Select Committee should also be aware that the Council has put in place a full Best Value Review of the Planning Service. This began in Autumn 2001 and is due to complete in Summer 2002. This provides a fundamental review of the whole service and will recommend improvements together with an implementation plan.

  Due to the obvious connection between the Foyers Project and Liner Building applications officers had originally intended to present both to Lambeth's Planning Applications Committee (PAC) on the same day in November 2001. Officers felt that this would give Members of the Council the benefit of understanding how both projects related to each other. However, negotiations with the SBC were taking place to establish whether the servicing arrangements submitted with the Liner Building could be amended to reduce their impact on the Metropolitan Open Land to the south of the Hungerford railway viaduct. Information was also needed on the implications of the Liner Building on the potential for achieving underground servicing of the SBC at some future date. The SBC stressed the need for an early determination of the Foyers Project for reasons of funding so it was agreed to present the Foyers Project on its own to Committee on 27 November 2001.

  Unfortunately, due to an administrative delay, the officer's report missed the 27 November agenda. The report was subsequently submitted to the Committee on 11 December resulting in a delay of two weeks. Any assertion by the SBC that the Council lost the papers and that a huge amount of time was lost as a result is not correct.

  On 11 December 2001 Members of Lambeth's Planning Applications Committee deferred consideration of the Royal Festival Hall Foyers Project applications for a site visit. The Members of the Committee also resolved that they be given a presentation on site of the Liner Building applications at the same time. Officers had hoped to present the Liner Building applications to Committee on 26 February 2002.

  The Foyers Project applications were subsequently placed on the committee agenda for 15 January 2002. The site visit took place on Saturday 12 January 2002 at 10.30am and was attended by Members of the Committee, council officers representatives of the South Bank Centre (SBC), the scheme architects (Allies and Morrison) and around 20-30 members of the public including representatives from local community groups.

  During the site visit the Members of the Committee decided that they wanted to consider both sets of applications together at a special meeting to be held in the Waterloo area as soon as possible after 26 February. The main reasons the Members made this decision were as follows:

    —  The two sets of applications are complex and there were many issues of detail to consider;

    —  The two sets of applications are closely linked (although officers advised that it would be possible to decide the Foyers Project applications independently of the Liner Building);

    —  Both sets of applications include alterations to the Grade I listed RFH, have important implications for its setting and the function of the public spaces around it and affect the way it would be accessed and serviced;

    —  The Liner Building proposals would consolidate and extend the service road on the south side of the Hungerford railway viaduct. This road is on land designated as Metropolitan Open Land (MOL) and proposed for an extension of Jubilee Gardens in Lambeth's UDP;

    —  Objections have been received that the proposals should not be considered in the absence of an agreed masterplan for the South Bank, that they would prejudice an alternative masterplan drawn up by the local community, that they would prevent the introduction of underground servicing to the South Bank and that they would inevitably lead to further development on MOL;

    —  The applications therefore raise a number of important planning policy issues and issues of strategic importance for the future of the South Bank;

    —  A special meeting in the Waterloo area would allow for the maximum participation by the local community in the decision making process.

  Officers are currently making arrangements to hold the special Planning Applications Committee meeting in Waterloo on 5 March 2002. The exact time of the meeting and the venue are yet to be decided.

  In conclusion Lambeth hopes that the Select Committee will recognise the positive attitude the Council has adopted to the SBC's aspirations but will recognise that, as local planning authority, it has a duty to assess the SBC's planning applications on their merits. The Council admits responsibility for some of the delay in processing the SBC's applications but it is quite wrong for the SBC to say that Lambeth has taken over two years to deal with a simple, straightforward, non-controversial application. Problems associated with the recruitment and retention of staff within Lambeth's Planning Service have had some effect on the progress of the SBC's planning applications but the nature and complexity of the applications and the need to resolve issues of strategic planning importance for the area have been the main causes of delay. As outlined above both the Foyers Project and Liner Building applications have proved to be complex and controversial and officers of Lambeth's Planning Service have worked hard in an attempt to resolve the planning issues the applications have raised. The Council hopes that a full and fair consideration of the proposals will be given at the special Planning Applications Committee on 5 March.


  As the local planning authority Lambeth has consulted the local community on the SBC's applications. Nearby residents in the Whitehouse apartments (the converted Shell downstream building), nearby commercial businesses and local residents and amenity groups have been consulted by letter. All those who made representations on the schemes were invited to attend the Planning Applications Committee meetings. The level of concern expressed by the local community was one of the main reasons that Members of the Committee decided to hold a special meeting in the Waterloo area on 5 March to consider the RFH applications.

  A summary of the representations received in response to both the Foyers Project and Liner Building applications is given in Annex 3.

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