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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Graffiti? Or Nothing To Worry About?

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Sorry, time for a rant (I know, so what’s new?). Much of the paving along Nine Elms Lane running alongside the new developments has been relaid in the last two weeks. Some muppet has managed to lay a trail of white paint almost A MILE LONG from New Covent Garden to Brooks Court in Kirtling Street. It spans the south side pavement of Nine Elms Lane from New Covent Garden to 33 Nine Elms Road (Embassy Gardens) where it crosses the road at the lights and then runs along the north side pavement of Nine Elms Lane before turning right into Kirtling Street (the road running into Battersea Power Station) and then right into Brooks Court, a gated compound. The gate was closed and locked when I was there, else I would have pursued it further. It doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to work out that the culprit is in there somewhere. On contacting Wandsworth Council I was told, to paraphrase “It’s not our problem, it’s on the pavement, we only do walls”. When pressed, the clearly irritated recipient of my call said that it was probably an accident, so no big deal, and anyway, it would disappear over the passage of time! Well, accidents happen, but I remember the graffiti proclaiming George Davis to be innocent (he was as it happens, but he got nicked for armed robbery eighteen months later) still on the walls next to Broadway Market in Hackney  twenty years after it went up. After an accident the guilty party normally has to cough up, often via insurance. So an unsightly long-term mess with a probable known culprit is okay to ignore, but you try overfilling your bin and you’ll be up in front of the Beak at the Old Bailey before you can say ‘Guilty as charged your honour, I deserve a sound thrashing”. (And no, this isn’t meant to be an advertising punt for The Hoist on South Lambeth Road.)

Maybe the Nine Elms Partnership, who seem to have an inexhaustible PR machine, would like to divert a small part of their budget to clean up the mess? After all, it can’t do their sales any good.

 

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“Therein Lies The Mystery Watson”

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