Vauxhall Cross – As Are We

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The ongoing Gyratory abolition plans continue, although they are now at an advanced stage, with Tfl intending to start work on new road layouts in 2019 for completion in 2021. So far so good. However…….

To date anyone entering either the Lawn Lane or Langley Lane Academy car parks has had to put up with the nonsense situation that causes us to circumnavigate the world/Gyratory when travelling east on South Lambeth Road, rather than being able to turn right into either Lawn Lane, or Vauxhall Grove for access to Langley Lane. Similarly when leaving either of the two Academy car parks we have to turn left on South Lambeth Road and then find some way of doing a U turn back into the Gyratory if we are intending to travel east or north. Well, in their infinite wisdom, Tfl now want to compound the pain by blocking access to South Lambeth Road west from what was/is the Gyratory.  Instead they intend sending all westbound South Lambeth Road traffic via Kennington Lane and Durham Street and then back up Harleyford Road, onto South Lambeth Road. Which means that if you are travelling home from the west on South Lambeth Road you will be able to see your destination on the right as you pass it, but will then have to travel around the globe to get back to it, a journey that could take 15 minutes in rush hour traffic. You couldn’t make it up.

The full details are here on this link around P.27. Scroll down when you hit the page otherwise it looks like a blank link!

The key paragraph states, almost as if it is of no consequence, that for the provision of access for residents on Bonnington Square/Langley Lane (and equally Lawn Lane):

“Access to Bonnington Square will remain the same, via a left turn from South Lambeth Road to Vauxhall Grove then onto Bonnington Square. Egress arrangements will remain as per the existing highway arrangement.

There will be a change for traffic which will access Vauxhall Grove approaching from either South Lambeth Road south of Parry Street, Wandsworth Road south of Parry Street or Nine Elms Lane. Rather then travel round the gyratory to access Vauxhall Grove from South Lambeth Road they will need to travel around the Kennington Lane – Durham Street – Harleyford triangle to be able to travel south on South Lambeth Road to then turn left into Vauxhall Grove.

Seriously. None of that is made up. If you feel strongly about this, and you should unless you like sitting in traffic for no purpose other than the planners at Tfl don’t give a toss, then turn up at the consultations and say so, or at the very least make your objections known to Tfl.

There are public consultations on the following dates – please try to attend:
30 March 16.00 – 19.30 St Annes & All Saints Hall, Miles St, SW8 1RL;
1 April 12.00 – 16.00 Battersea Arts Centre SW11 5TN;
5 April 16.00 – 19.30 St Annes & All Saints Hall, Miles St, SW8 1RL;
8 April 12.00 – 16.00 Vauxhall City Farm SE11.

The Money Laundry

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I guess posts from this blog are like buses. Nothing for over a year, then two come along at once. Here is the second. I will try to get a grip and update with things happening locally that affect us, but with the rate of building work going on here in Cement Central it may prove to be a challenge.

Trawling through Twitter, the way you do when you’re bored, or even when you just don’t feel like doing anything constructive, I came across an article published in May last year from The Guardian, one of the few UK dailies that can actually see the inexorable rise of the London skyline for what it is, an abomination that is trashing our heritage, legacy and sense of community with some of the ugliest uncoordinated developments in London’s history, whilst handing over our city to overseas investors and often crooks. The greatest missed opportunity since the immediate post-war architectural train wreck. Anyway, enough of that, it’s bad enough living within the square mile of the permanent building site that is Vauxhall and Nine Elms, watching a handful of bandits get rich whilst the locals get nothing back in terms of amenities or even recognition that they exist. So here is the article, discussing and revealing a few of the sordid details of the St George’s Tower development, much of which we already knew, or at least suspected. I doubt you will see many of the usual suspects in Pret anytime soon.

 

The London skyscraper that is a stark symbol of the housing crisis

Tower underoccupied, astonishingly expensive, mostly foreign owned, and with dozens of apartments held through secretive offshore firms

Russian billionaire, Nigerian former bank chairman and Kyrgyz vodka tycoon among owners at St George Wharf tower
 Russian billionaire, Nigerian former bank chairman and Kyrgyz vodka tycoon among owners at St George Wharf tower 

A Russian billionaire whose business partner is a close ally of Vladimir Putin, the former chairman of a defunct Nigerian bank and a Kyrgyz vodka tycoon appear to be among more than 130 foreign buyers in Britain’s tallest residential skyscraper.

Almost two-thirds of homes in the Tower, a 50-storey apartment complex in London, are in foreign ownership, with a quarter held through secretive offshore companies based in tax havens, a Guardian investigation has revealed.

The first residents of the landmark development arrived in October 2013, but many of the homes are barely occupied, with some residents saying they only use them for a fraction of the year.

The revelations about the Tower are likely to be seized on by campaigners and politicians as the starkest example yet of the housing crisis gripping the capital, in which too many new homes are sold abroad as investments and left largely empty while fewer and fewer young people can afford to buy or even rent in the city.

The five-storey £51m penthouse with views across to the Thames to the Palace of Westminster is ultimately owned by the family of former Russian senator Andrei Guriev, a well-placed source has told the Guardian. His family already owns Witanhurst in Highgate, north London, the biggest mansion in London after Buckingham Palace.

St George Wharf in London
 St George Wharf in London. Photograph: Hemzah Ahmed

At 23,000sq ft, the Tower penthouse is 24 times larger than the average new three-bedroom home in the UK. It was bought in May 2014 but has yet to be lived in. As part of a lengthy refurbishment, Guriev is understood to be installing a Russian Orthodox chapel that has had to be carried piece by piece up the elevators.

Lower down is a £2.7m flat owned by Ebitimi Banigo, a former Nigerian government minister. In 2012, Banigo was crowned king of Okpoama, in the oil-rich Niger delta, at a ceremony attended by the then president, Goodluck Jonathan. In 2005, he was investigated by Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission following the collapse of the All States Trust Bank he chaired. He was later named in the Nigerian senate for owing the bank 15bn naira (£50m). He was not charged with any offence.

https://interactive.guim.co.uk/uploader/embed/2016/05/tower/giv-12515QixJkGSEKQ1X/

Other owners named in Land Registry records include a Kurdish oil magnate, an Egyptian snack-food mogul, an Indonesian banker, a Uruguayan football manager and a former Formula 1 racing driver. About 131 of the 210 apartments for which title deeds were available are in foreign ownership, analysis suggests. Owners from Singapore told the Guardian they spend as little as two months a year in the flats, which are empty the rest of the time. Meanwhile, town hall records show that nobody is registered to vote at 184 of the homes.

The Tower does not have any affordable housing, which has been placed mainly at the rear of the larger St George Wharf housing development at Vauxhall facing a dual carriageway rather than the river.

The extent of the international selloff emerged after the London mayor, Sadiq Khan, pledged to crack down on foreign ownership of new homes, saying he would consider a rule that they must be sold to UK residents only for the first six months of marketing.

“There is no point in building homes if they are bought by investors in the Middle East and Asia,” he said earlier this month. “I don’t want homes being left empty.”

The prime minister, David cameron, has also complained about the sale of high value properties in London to people overseas through anonymous shell companies and announced that such companies will in future be obliged to declare their true beneficial owners.

At least 31 of the apartments have been sold to buyers in the far east markets of Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and China; 15 were sold to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates; and others were sold to buyers in Russia, India, Iraq, Qatar and Switzerland. About 15 more appear to have been sold to foreign buyers from China, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Nigeria.

A spokesman for the developer St George said: “Although some homes in the Tower have overseas owners, it is wrong to suggest that foreign owners dominate the London market. Savills estimated that in 2013-14, non-resident overseas investors accounted for just 7% of the London residential market.”

https://interactive.guim.co.uk/uploader/embed/2016/05/ownership-all/giv-12515PQNoeG0tkNkY/

The developer said 30% of the overall St George Wharf development is affordable housing, with 389 units built in neighbouring blocks. He added: “The range of facilities in the Tower, from a concierge to a spa and gym, appeal to all buyers – UK as well as international.”

Forbes magazine estimates Guriev is worth more than $4bn (£2.7bn) and he shares ownership of PhosAgro, Europe’s largest producer of phosphate fertiliser, with Vladimir Litvinenko, a campaign manager for Russia’s president. Guriev appears to have bought the property through a British Virgin Islands company, Arabella Properties. His ownership of the penthouse has been kept such a closely guarded secret that even the building’s managers did not know who owned it. The BVI company that formally owns Guriev’s penthouse gives as its address the Jersey office of Opus Private, a firm of advisers promising a service that “exploits every legitimate opportunity to protect and preserve family wealth”.

https://interactive.guim.co.uk/uploader/embed/2016/05/sale-prices/giv-1251516HEJ793Lti6/

The Guardian approached Guriev’s London lawyer, his family spokesman and his company spokesman, but all declined to comment or to confirm or deny the family ownership.

Guriev was last year revealed as the owner of Witanhurst in Highgate, where he has built a 40,000sq ft basement with swimming pool, cinema, gym, staff quarters and parking for 25 cars.

The profile of the Tower’s owners is set to raise questions over how far UK residents, facing a housing crisis, will benefit from the neighbouring Nine Elms development where 20,000 mostly luxury high-rise apartments are being built in what has been dubbed “Dubai-on-Thames”.

Witanhurst House in Highgate, which has a swimming pool, cinema and underground car park
 Witanhurst House in Highgate, which has a swimming pool, cinema and underground car park. Photograph: Marcus Cooper Group

Title deeds for the Tower suggest that in 2014, Vitaly Orlov, a Russian fishing tycoon based in Hong Kong, bought the whole of the 39th floor for £13m. Orlov’s Ocean Trawlers company is the world’s largest supplier of cod and haddock but has this year been accused by Greenpeace of threatening pristine Arctic ecosystems by fishing further north in the Barents Sea as the ice retreats amid global warming.

Orlov declined to comment, saying through a spokesman that he was “not interested in sharing his private sphere with the general public”. The Barents Sea fishery “has been independently certified to the MSC standard … a well-established approach based on the best available science,” the spokesman said.

Another named owner is Sharshenbek Abdykerimov, a former MP and powerful businessman in the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan. Abdykerimov owns the bestselling Ayu vodka brand as well as a conglomerate of other businesses, and he was recently elected as chairman of the country’s national Olympic committee. In 2013, he co-founded the pro-government Kyrgyzstan party.

 

Bridge Over (Not So Troubled) Waters

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Looks like the plans to build the bridge between Pimlico and Nine Elms have moved forward. Details here.

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Oval – Another Land Grab

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Berkeley Homes have eyes on the Oval gasworks. No matter that they are listed. Plus the erection of yet more high rise monstrosities. All so that they can make as much money as possible, regardless of the visual impact or legacy. Sheer, naked greed. So what’s new?

Anyway, it’s all here. No issue with sensible development, the area around the Oval probably needs it. But twelve, fifteen, twenty five storey tower blocks? Haven’t we had enough already?

Anyway, their ‘Masterplan’, minus the bits that they don’t want us to see because even they realise it sucks, can be seen here, along with a well thought through critique by SaveOval.com, is here.

Any chance that Lambeth will finally grow a pair and maybe JUST SAY NO? Better late than never.

 

 

All Change

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Finally, after what seems like an eternity, it looks like we might finally see the back of the Gyratory. The plans to revert to single lane traffic, beginning in 2018 and targeted for a 2020 completion, together with proposed improvements to the surrounding area, look like a huge step forward for Vauxhall residents.

The Tfl proposals are here. The consultation period closes 17th January 2016

A big thank you to Councillor Jack Hopkins (his blog entry is below), and possibly even Tfl, who appear to have listened. Fingers crossed.

 

Goodbye gyratory. Hello a better Vauxhall

December 2, 2015

Vauxhall proposed sectionsFor the last half a decade, Vauxhall Labour has been campaigning for a better Vauxhall: a place where it is nice to live, where people will come work and boost our local economy, and where people will choose to eat out with their families or meet with their friends. For too long Vauxhall has been missing out as people travel to Vauxhall only to catch another bus, tube or train to another area. In the meantime, families living in Vauxhall have had to look out onto an ugly, noisy one-way gyratory – an antiquated system where cyclists continue to die and where pedestrians are forced to make several crossings across dangerous lanes of traffic in order to reach the public transport stations. Vauxhall can be better. Vauxhall will be better.

When I was first elected in 2010 existing Labour Councillors in Prince’s ward (Cllrs Mark Harrison and Stephen Morgan) had already been hammering TfL’s door down to make Vauxhall safer. When Jane Edbrooke and I were elected we joined the fight and made it clear that removal of the dangerous gyratory was the only option we wanted, not one of the 30-odd half-measure options put to us by TfL. It took us three years to get TfL to agree. And now we have an option which enables Vauxhall to be the better place it can be: removal of the gyratory to create a two-way system making it safer for cyclists and motorists alike, retention of a centralised bus stop station, shorter bus journeys, a safer and more pleasant environment for pedestrians, and a thriving town centre with shops and cafes at the heart of Vauxhall.

Removal of the gyratory is obvious. It’s unsafe for cyclists and pedestrians, it’s noisy, dirty and smelly – no one wants a six lane motorway with 1000s of cars and lorries speeding around all day long in their town centre. My parents-in-law think Vauxhall is great because it’s a great place to explore London from. If it wasn’t for my wife Jo and I, they would spend their visits to London eating out in Westminster: they would never have considered Vauxhall a place to spend their leisure time (and money), and Bonnington Square caféthe Riverside or Coriander would not have had a look-in.

The proposed scheme is a huge improvement for pedestrians. Taking out the gyratory and putting two-way lanes means that cars travel at much slower speeds and in a more managed way. Six extra crossings tames the traffic and makes crossing Vauxhall whether you are from Wyvil and want to enjoy Vauxhall City Farm or Ashmole Estate to go to the River.

Thanks to suggestions from KOV we have been able to push TfL to close an extra lane of traffic on South Lambeth Road and reclaim it for wider pavements. There will be a new ‘interchange square’ without traffic linking bus stops, the tube and the overground station. Albert Embankment will be widened and planted for a much nicer public space.

The bus stops will remain together which was something that local Councillors and communities were concerned about in the early days. This has been achieved by TfL and most of the bus routes will have shorter journeys. TfL have helpfully put all the new proposed bus journeys online here so you can check what your regular route will look like.

The proposed scheme is better for cyclists, putting in segregated cycling lanes on South Lambeth road and Wandsworth Road, where at the moment there is huge conflict with pedestrians. It also adds cycling routes from and to CS5 from South Lambeth Road down Miles Street, and added to the slowed traffic and introduction of two-way working, Vauxhall will no longer be a death-trap for cyclists.

Of course there are many for whom it doesn’t go far enough or compromises on their specific issue or for their specific geography. I know some who would love to see cars removed entirely, or for their side of the gyratory to be closed at the expense of more lanes on the other sides.

But as a local Councillor representing the whole of Oval and Vauxhall, the need to balance out and accommodate as many needs as possible has to be my goal. And ultimately it is TfL’s scheme and they are the ones who are going to have to implement it and ensure that such significant changes to the inner ring road do not adversely impact on the wider London road network. No one wants gridlock.

I would urge all residents, employees and those who visit Vauxhall to go to the consultation and give their comments. There are further details here https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/roads/vauxhall-cross

I believe that the proposal which TfL is currently consulting on is a good scheme and has many benefits. Of course change is incremental: it happens over time and at different paces. My Labour colleagues and I will certainly be fighting for more improvements going forward as well as making sure that the implementation of this scheme is done in the right way and provides what is promised.

For now, getting this scheme approved and seeing some very positive things happening in Vauxhall is one I will be proud to fight for.

See the plans here. And make sure that you get involved in the consultation process, that closes 17th January 2016.

Hobson’s Choice

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Gyratory options 1&2.jpg-large



Tfl would appear to be offering four options in respect of the Vauxhall Cross road/gyratory redevelopment. None of them retains the Bus Station. So much for ‘consult with the people’. That never works. Unless the people agree with the original proposals. In which case, democracy seems to work.

Gyratory options 3&4.jpg-large


 

Criticism of Vauxhall’s ‘Offensive’ Heaps – They Paved Paradise and Put Up a Parking Lot (sorry Joni)

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An article which criticised the rash of high rise blocks planned for erection near and along our part of the river appeared in Friday’s Evening Standard to add to others that are slowly rising to the surface. Hard to believe that it’s taken so long for the penny to drop. We’ve been highlighting ‘hideousplanned and actual Vauxhall developments on this blog for some time (and a few, rare, better thought-out ones) despite our short life, and despite comments appearing from defenders (aka employees) of these high-rise monstrosities. Anyway, it’s too late. Lambeth, Wandsworth, Boris, and Ken before him all thought it was a good way to fill their coffers. Shame on them for selling their our heritage and leaving the consequential mess for generations to come. There’s nothing wrong with regenerating our area, it’s to be welcomed, but a degree of central planning and co-ordination to ensure a cohesive overall result wouldn’t have been too much to expect, rather than the Klondike land-grab we’ve witnessed over the last five years. I pointed this out at a public meeting led by Labour Leader Lib Peck at the beginning of the year. I was treated as if I’d just farted passed wind in a lift. Chickens;home;roost.

 

vauxhall

“Offensive heaps”: a proposed series of residential towers in Vauxhall

WILL HURST AND RICHARD WAITE
Published: 11 April 2014 Updated: 15:02, 11 April 2014
London is being “trashed” by a series of eyesore high-rise towers which are disfiguring its skyline, a planning expert has claimed.

In the most significant intervention in the Skyline campaign to improve the design and planning of the capital’s tall buildings, former City of London planning officer Peter Rees warned of a “wave” of poorly designed residential towers built for maximum profit.

Mr Rees, who spent 29 years shaping the City’s skyline, left the post this month to become professor of places and city planning at University College London’s Bartlett faculty.

Adding his name to the list of eminent figures supporting the campaign by the Architects’ Journal, Rees said there was no comparison between the office skyscrapers created by architects under his watch, which include the Gherkin and the Cheesegrater, and the towers being drawn up today

He said: “The clusters of office towers in the City and at Canary Wharf represent the ‘best in class’ against global competition. On the other hand, the inferior designs of the wave of residential ‘investment’ towers which is disfiguring the London skyline should engender a deep sense of shame in those who created and approved them. From Vauxhall to Whitechapel, the cranes are raising the dumbed-down ‘product’ into offensive heaps.”

Rees claimed that planning authorities were “trapped” by ill-founded housing targets and a desperate need to secure payments to balance their budgets. He called on them to look instead to the best examples of high-density and mid-rise housing.

He said: “Residential towers do not achieve high densities and leave unusable space on the sites which they do not fill. Those of us who feel passionate about the form and future of our amazing city are sad to see it being trashed.”

Fashion designer Paul Smith, engineer Hanif Kara and architect Hugh Broughton are among those who have signed up to the Skyline campaign, which last week prompted a 950-word column in the Evening Standard by Mayor Boris Johnson, in which he acknowledged that 80 per cent of new tall buildings were residential, but defended the performance of the planning system.

Related stories
London’s new towers ‘creating a Gotham City skyline’

Peter Bill: London’s growth means losing green

Simon Jenkins: Taking action now over our skyline is too little too late

Dubai-on-Thames: the rise of London’s tall buildings

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