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Mayor and Secretary of State asked to step in to halt plan for Brixton 20-storey office block

The Mayor of London and the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government are being asked to intervene to halt a plan to build a huge new office tower block alongside a conservation area in Brixton.

Posted on 17 December 2020

Community campaign group #FightTheTower is appealing to Sadiq Khan to use his statutory powers to prevent the 20-storey Hondo Tower from going ahead.

Represented by Leigh Day solicitors, they have written to Mr Khan and Robert Jenrick arguing that the decision by Lambeth borough council planning committee to give the go-ahead to the tower in Pope’s Road, Brixton, is not sound.

They have asked the Mayor to either call in the committee decision or to order the council to refuse permission when the committee decision reaches the full council for approval, using his powers under the Town and Country Planning (Mayor of London) Order 2008, Articles 6 and 7.

The Mayor appears to have decided not to intervene on 14 December. However, the local community were kept in the dark about this process until the decision was sprung. They are therefore asking the Mayor to exercise his power to withdraw that decision and look at the matter afresh. At the same time they are asking the Secretary of State to call the matter in under his own powers in order to remedy the situation.

As well as the severe impact that the ‘prominent and grossly insensitive’ tower will have on an adjacent conservation area, casting a severe shadow on nearby buildings, campaigners point out:

  • The tower entirely contradicts adopted and emerging Lambeth plans which confirms that only developments for low buildings will be supported in the area
  • The tower contradicts both the existing and emerging London Plan which state that new buildings and the spaces they create should help reinforce or enhance the character of the neighbourhood and be ‘human in scale’.

As such, the decision to allow the tower amounts to a repudiation of the principle of plan-led development and therefore the plan for this tower represents a test case as to whether the Greater London Authority is intent on insisting that tall buildings should only be introduced as part of a plan and not a windfall development.

Other London Boroughs will be heavily influenced by this decision and the approach the GLA will take to windfall tall buildings, says #FightTheTower, adding:

  • The site for the proposed tower is described by Lambeth Council’s own development plan as unsuitable for tall buildings.
  • The site has already been earmarked as an opportunity for a strategic interchange between the London Overground (between Denmark Hill and Clapham High Street), the Victoria Line as well as the existing Brixton railway station (Southeastern services). Campaigners believe the tower plan would severely hinder any future plans for the interchange.
  • The Emerging London Plan is predicated on the assumption that Brixton will not be a centre of office growth, but at 25,435 square metres of office space, the tower would eat up the majority of the 40,240 square metres of additional office space required in inner London outside of the Clean Air Zone every year (Ramidus London Office Policy Review of 2017).

A spokesperson for #FightTheTower said:

““From start to finish, this planning process has shut out the communities most impacted by this tower. A legal letter to the Mayor asking him to call it in was one of the only routes available to the community to stand up for ourselves, and even that has been met with obstruction by Lambeth Council and the Mayor.

“This tower is a heinous example of corporate interests taking precedence over local people. Lambeth Council ignored a 7000 strong petition to approve the tower and hundreds of objections from the local community.

“People fear gentrification and displacement from developments like Taylor McWilliams’ 20-storey block of overpriced offices. This is a London-wide issue, but Brixton’s heritage is of great significance and this tower is an unwanted imposition that would irreversibly change the character of the area. Lambeth council and the Mayor of London are handing Brixton over to billionaire hedge-funds; it should belong to the people who live here.”

Leigh Day Partner Jamie Beagent said:

“Our client believes that allowing the Hondo Tower to be built would be contrary to all of the development planning that has been put in place in Lambeth and the wider London landscape. The green light for this development would undermine every pledge that has been made about considered and careful planning across the city and would signal that instead of being plan-led, further development in London will be allowed to proceed in an on an opportunistic and ad hoc basis. They are urging both the Mayor of London and the Secretary of State to look again at this plan in light of those arguments.”

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Jamie Beagent

Jamie Beagent

Head of the human rights department specialising in judicial review and public law.

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