Current Issues, updated 16 September 2021
(scroll down for Hammersmith Bridge, Richmond Park, aerial masts, and all other topics)
The Mortlake Brewery
Latest news: The Mayor of London on 27 July 2021 chaired a public hearing into the latest scheme and ended the hearing by refusing planning permission for both Applications A and B. A month later we received the reasons for refusal in writing. Here is a brief summary:
Application A: The housing/mixed use development
- The proposal, by reason of its height, scale, bulk and massing, would result in an “unduly obtrusive and discordant form of development in this arcadian setting;”
- It would cause “less than substantial harm to the significance of several listed buildings and conservation areas in the vicinity” but this harm is “not clearly and convincingly outweighed by the public benefits, including affordable housing;”
- It would result in an “unacceptable overbearing and unneighbourly impact” to the rear of neighbouring residential properties in Parliament Mews and the rear gardens of properties on Thames Bank;
- In the absence of a S106 agreement, it would fail to deliver a range of environmental improvements, community benefits and infrastructure to adequately mitigate the other harmful impacts of the development.
Application B: The secondary school and all-weather pitch
“The proposal is intrinsically linked to the development proposed within Application A, particularly in terms of the re-provision of designated Other Open Land of Townscape Importance (OOLTI), transport mitigation, safe and convenient access, comprehensive development and overall place-making. Application B in isolation would not constitute sustainable development.”
If you would like more detail including the policies cited and our comments thereon please click here.
The story to date
The site was sold in 2015 and we have been involved in the plans for redevelopment of the site from the outset. We have collaborated with the locally based Mortlake Brewery Community Group (MBCG) and have attended meetings alongside them with the developer’s representatives and with the Council. To ease the pre-application process the Council had already adopted a Planning Brief for the site in 2011 which advocated housing and community use, a primary school and retention of the playing fields, also restoration of the maltings, hotel and bottling plant and creation of a green corridor from Mortlake Green to the river. The brief did not specify the number of housing units but a consultation document at the time indicated a figure of max. 560 units.
Alas, the Government’s Department for Education made life complicated by insisting that our area should accommodate a new secondary school for around 1,200 pupils and the Council decided that the Brewery site should be the best location for it. This became included in the update of the Council’s Local Plan in 2016 together with the “re-provision” of the playing fields. The upshot at the first public exhibition of the developer’s proposals was a massive redevelopment of the site including over 900 units, replacement of the grass playing fields with a single all-weather pitch and the reconfiguration of the Chalkers Corner junction, including land take from the front gardens of Chertsey Court, to allow an increase in traffic capacity to serve the development.
A key issue relating to the site is the lack of good access off Lower Richmond Road which is gridlocked in peak hours caused by severe constraints at both Chalkers Corner and the Sheen Lane level crossing, whose barriers are down for much of the peak hour period. We organised – and funded – a video survey of traffic conditions at this level crossing. The reconfiguration of Chalkers Corner and its damaging impact on Chertsey Court will not ease traffic conditions in Lower Richmond Road because the level crossing will forever remain a problem. We have indicated all along that these two pinch points dictate the extent of development allowable on the Brewery site.
The planning applications for (A) the Brewery redevelopment including 817 units, (B) the school and (C) Chalkers Corner followed in early 2018. We contributed extensively to the 125-page response of the Mortlake Brewery Community Group on applications A and C providing expertise in planning, traffic, and environmental impact to add to their expertise in architecture and landscape. We also contributed extensively to the 45-page response on application B maintaining that there is no proven need for it and that the current primary school population can be accommodated in further expansion of the existing secondary schools in the area. We also separately submitted one-page objections to all three planning applications highlighting contravention with a number of policies in the Council’s Local Plan.
The developer produced revised plans in the summer of 2019 which showed inter alia the reduction of housing units from 817 to 813. Our objections remained the same as before. The Council considered all three planning applications in January 2020 and decided first to refuse application C and then to approve applications A and B subject to direction from the Mayor of London. In May 2020 the Mayor called in all three applications for his own determination, primarily in order to engineer an increase in the affordable housing content. A month later the Council granted planning permission for temporary use of the Brewery site as a film studio, to which we did not object.
On 14 August 2020, news reached us that the Mayor of London had received the revised plans for the Brewery development, accessible here. For subsequent further plans and documentation, click here (please scroll down for the most recent). These showed an increase in the housing quantum from 813 to 1,250 units (including a higher percentage affordable) and an all-round increase of between one and two storeys to accommodate them. There was no change to the school and there were options for the Chalkers Corner junction including the scheme that the Council had refused.
We held a meeting about the latest Brewery scheme on 14 September and then contributed again significantly to the Mortlake Brewery Community Group’s representation which was submitted to the Mayor on the deadline of 27 Sept (click here). We also submitted our own representation highlighting contravention with a number of policies in the London Plan (click here). We contributed to the Brewery Community Group’s comments on a number of additional documents by the due date of 31 Oct (click here).
We then heard that the re-submitted scheme for the Chalkers Corner junction had been withdrawn, but we were asked to comment on the other options including the provision of a bus lane in Lower Richmond Road, which would entail displacement of 36 parking spaces. For this we produced a technical response on behalf of MBCG (click here) and a more general response on behalf of the Society (click here).
Finally we received an invitation to attend the Mayor’s public hearing on 27 July.
Homebase, Manor Road
Although outside our area we nevertheless made a representation on the planning application to redevelop this site for a high density housing development of 385 units including 35% affordable, our main concern being the knock-on effect on traffic in our area and the generation of yet more passengers at North Sheen Station onto the Waterloo-bound trains which are already full in the morning peak by the time they reach Mortlake Station. We also showed concern about passengers from our area taking the train to North Sheen where they have to climb two footbridges to reach the south side of the level crossing in Manor Road. There is an opportunity here for improvement to station access. The Mayor of London called in the application for his own determination in order to engineer an increase in the affordable housing content – now 453 units including 40% affordable – and he arranged a public hearing at City Hall on 1 Oct, following which he granted planning permission.
The Secretary of State, Robert Jenrick, issued a holding direction on the application, which meant Mayor Khan’s permission for it was suspended until the Secretary of State decided on whether to uphold Richmond Council’s original decision to refuse. He subsequently decided not to uphold the Council’s decision but instead to allow the Mayor’s decision to proceed. However, problems remain because planning permission was granted on the understanding that the site had good public transport links but since then one bus service has been discontinued and South Western Railway is planning to reduce the number of off-peak rail services.
We gave support in principle to the outline planning application for redevelopment of the hospital to provide a health centre, a Special Education Needs school and 83 housing units. We regretted the demolition of 5 of the 8 Buildings of Townscape Merit on the site, these being ward buildings that did not lend themselves to re-use, but we were pleased to see the three smaller BTMs by the entrance gate retained. We registered concern about the access in South Worple Way both via the narrow streets from the west and via White Hart Lane in the east where right turning traffic from the north causes blockage at the level crossing. These issues must be resolved at the detailed stage to follow.
We have now heard that a new planning application has been submitted showing an increase in the housing quantum from 83 to 112 units.
There have been two planning applications for aerial masts in our railway corridor which are for the benefit of train passengers, one on the roof of a block of flats in Rosemary Gardens and the other a free-standing 15m high mast at the bus turn-around in North Worple Way. MESS objected to both, to the former on grounds of its impact on the Conservation Area and to the latter on grounds of being highly exposed and very conspicuous (unlike other aerial masts recently installed in the borough which are neatly integrated with trees). The Council has refused both applications on the grounds of having an intrusive and incongruous form which would adversely affect Conservation Areas (Mortlake Green in the first application and nearby Queens Road in the second).
The applicant then submitted a revised scheme for the mast at the bus turnaround reducing its height to 12.5m and changing its colour from green to brown to resemble a telegraph pole. The applicant stated that the proposed development “is not considered to be overly noticeable” and “seeks to protect the setting and character of the Queens Road Conservation Area”. However, there were no photomontages to support these statements and we insisted on seeing some before making our final verdict. The Council has now refused the 12.5m mast.
Both applications – for the mast on the top of Rosemary Gardens and for the 12.5m mast at the bus turn-around – became the subject of appeals to the Secretary of State. News has now reached us that both appeals have been dismissed and that a further application has been made at the bus turn-around showing the height reduced to 10.0m.
There have also been applications for aerial masts alongside the Upper Richmond Road in front of The Willoughbys (now withdrawn) and on the roof of Park Sheen, Derby Road (refused).
Other Recent Applications
In addition to the above we have commented on the following recent planning applications of note in our area:
- Home Guard site: swimming pool. We supported this in principle but were concerned about access/parking, noise of plant and management of pool. Council approved, overturning officer’s recommendation for refusal, and the development is now complete.
- 190 Sheen Lane: demolition to allow expansion of Tower House School. We gave this our full support, not least because it enabled removal of existing unsightly high fence. Council approved.
- 21 Sunbury Avenue: replacement house with basement. We supported this but were concerned about overlooking. Council approved.
- 1A St Leonards Road: redevelopment of warehouse for 9 homes. We were concerned about parking and overdevelopment. Council refused, and the developer has appealed.
- 26-28 Priest’s Bridge: redevelopment for 7 homes and commercial floorspace. We were concerned about the displaced commercial tenants. Council approved.
- Lock-up garages, South Worple Way: redevelopment for 6 homes (subsequently reduced to 5). We gave support in principle but were concerned about building heights and no provision of footway. Council approved.
- Pure Gym, 172-176 Upper Richmond Road West: details of parking pursuant to planning approval. We were concerned about parking off-site. Council has asked for a Travel Plan, which is now awaited.
- All Saints Church: solar panels. Council confirmed that this was ‘permitted development’ and hence no application was made. However, an application still had to be made to the Diocese who supported the scheme in principle but not if the building is to be listed, which it could be. Accordingly the application to the Diocese was shelved.
- Richmond Park Academy: solar panels. The application has been withdrawn as the Council has agreed that the proposals constitute ‘permitted development’.
We do not usually get involved in proposals to further expand Heathrow because our Committee are split on this issue. It was interesting to note, however, that the Mayor’s and Council’s objections to the Government’s decision to further expand Heathrow were upheld by the Court of Appeal on 27 February 2020 but then overruled by the Supreme Court in December 2020. More recently there was a motion in Parliament to reconsider this final decision in the light of the pandemic and climate change considerations but this was overruled by the present Government.
The Local Plan
We are now involved in the update of the Council’s Local Plan which was adopted in July 2018 but needs to be further updated to reflect the Mayor’s New London Plan, especially in regard to increased housing targets and its new policies concerning Metropolitan Open Land; also to take on board new policies from the Mayor and from the Council itself regarding climate change.
Planning and Environment Sub-Group
To cope with this workload and also to enhance the MESS credibility, the Committee has approved the establishment of a Planning and Environment Sub-Group made up of architects, an engineer, landscape architect and transport planner, all drawn from the MESS membership, who meet occasionally on an ad hoc basis to help advise.
We have learnt that, following Nicky Gill’s study of the historic walls of East Sheen in 2015, the Council two years later designated several such walls as of ‘Townscape Merit’ thereby affording some degree of protection – and we were never informed! We would not have known about this had a member of MESS not contacted our Committee this year registering concern about the historic wall at the end of Larches Avenue. We asked Patience Trevor of our Sub-Group (formerly of English Heritage) to look into the matter and it was she who discovered that several walls had been designated as of ‘Townscape Merit’. Unfortunately the wall in Larches Avenue was not included and we are proposing to add this to the list – together with a number of walls in Mortlake.
The list of walls and mapping have now been updated and Patience Trevor has been leading walks around our historic walls.
East Sheen Parkside Low Traffic Neighbourhood Plan
The Council implemented temporary traffic measures in Palmerston Road in 2018 and in Temple Sheen Road and Coval Road in 2019 to deter rat-running traffic emerging from Richmond Park (some of it being traffic thwarted by the closure of Hammersmith Bridge in April 2019 and detouring to Chiswick Bridge). Our Society participated in the Council’s consultation on these measures – and also on its concept of implementing a Controlled Parking Zone covering the whole area of Parkside (from Richmond Park to the Upper Richmond Road) – but was very aware of a difference of opinion not only among residents generally but among its membership in particular. In January 2020 the Council cancelled its temporary traffic measures and shelved its consultation for a whole year in the knowledge of the forthcoming Richmond Park Traffic Management Plan. A year has since passed and the Council has indicated that further action on Parkside will remain shelved until there has been a decision on the Richmond Park Traffic Management Plan (see below).
Our Society is represented on a working group (the East Sheen Traffic Group) that has been set up to keep a watching brief while the consultation is in abeyance.
Richmond Park Traffic Management Plan
From mid-March to mid-August 2020 visitors to Richmond Park enjoyed the peace and quiet brought about by lockdown. This came to an end on 15 August 2020 when traffic was allowed to return to the road from Roehampton Gate to Richmond Gate, (but restricted from Monday to Friday) and on the road from Richmond Gate to Ham Gate and Kingston Gate on all days of the week. The rest of the circuit road was re-opened for access to car parks only and the link road from Sheen Gate into the Park remains closed.
The key element of this Plan for us is the closure of this link road which:
- will transfer the problem of commuter traffic penetration (guided by satnav) from the back streets of East Sheen Parkside to the area beyond Richmond Gate; but
- may frustrate residents of East Sheen who would be unable to drive through the Park to Pembroke Lodge, the Isabella Plantation, Kingston Hospital or Queen Mary’s Hospital, Roehampton.
The traffic measures were introduced on a six-month trial basis and a consultation exercise started on 16 November. Our newsletter of 15 August 2020 gave a background to the traffic management plan including the need to reduce commuter traffic through the Park but also explained the difficulty of removing it entirely. Our final comments were sent to the Royal Parks on the deadline date of 10 Jan 2021 – click here.
Royal Parks also publicised a proposal to charge for the use of its car parks and we had until 1 Nov to submit our comments, which we did, commenting that the Society is split on this proposal but that Royal Parks must be made aware that any introduction of charges will result in a greater number of visitors parking free in Fife Road, Sheen Lane and many other nearby streets.
The results of the consultation emerged on 9 March 2021 and showed that:
- Of the 10,765 responses to the consultation, 43% were from local postcodes (the rest largely from Greater London), and SW14 provided the largest number or responses at 12% (1,306).
- 69% agreed that the closure of the vehicle link between Sheen Gate and Sheen Cross should be made permanent (a lower figure of 51% for locals), agreed to by 67% of walkers and 85% of cyclists. Support decreased as age groups got older and one’s level of disability increased.
- There were also 6,389 “open text” comments and 260 written submissions. Their most common theme was support for further discouraging vehicles, followed by concerns raised about increased traffic in the surrounding area, dangerous interactions between (sport) cyclists and other park users, and reduced accessibility.
The Royal Parks’ decision following the consultation was to extend the trial period by another 12 months in order to review the impact post-COVID.
As mentioned above, the closure of Hammersmith Bridge to traffic in April 2019 has caused a diversion of traffic via East Sheen to Chiswick Bridge. The Richmond Park Traffic Management Plan has effectively extended the diversion from Sheen Gate to Richmond Gate. Our Society has been liaising with TfL to get Hammersmith Bridge restored as soon as possible but TfL funds have suffered under lockdown and it is now up to Central Government to help foot the bill. On 14 August 2019 the bridge was closed also to pedestrians, cycles and boat traffic beneath due to widening cracks in the pedestals. Central Government subsequently appointed a Taskforce to take over the management of the restoration which is now likely to last at least six years. ‘The Taskforce has indicated that the Government will provide the necessary funding but that LB Hammersmith will be expected to contribute and must produce a Business Plan. It is currently awaiting the Borough’s reply.
The report on the condition of the pedestals has now appeared. The condition is not as serious as was originally thought and pedestrians and cyclists are now allowed back on the bridge, boat traffic has resumed beneath and necessary stabilisation works can begin. At the same time there is a planning application for a temporary ferry service across the river which can operate during the construction process when the bridge is closed.
Hammersmith and Fulham Council has revealed a radical new solution to the on-going closure of Hammersmith Bridge, which would negate the need for a second temporary bridge structure. The plan would be to build a temporary double-decker crossing within the existing structure of Hammersmith Bridge. A new raised truss structure would be built above the existing road deck resting on the existing bridge piers, featuring a lower level for pedestrians and cyclists and an upper level for cars and buses. This would allow existing approach routes for traffic to be used. The proposed structure would also provide support for the bridge as well as a safe platform for restoration work to be carried out. There would be no load added to the existing bridge deck, which would be removed in stages for repair and restoration off-site. This would allow works to be done at greater speed and at a reduced cost. When completed, the temporary raised deck would be removed. The concept plan designed by Foster + Partners and further developed with specialist bridge engineers COWI, was presented to Department of Transport officials w/c 23 Nov, and is now being worked up in more detail.