Friday, 29 October 2010

Top architects object to Solum's planned Walthamstow tower blocks

The country's top architecture experts CABE have reviewed the plans and think they should be refused. You can read their scathing report online.

Alternatively, here's a quick summary of the best bits...

CABE says that the scheme is poor quality: “We wish to support Waltham Forest Council in demanding a high quality development on this prominent site. We regret to say, we do not think this will be achieved by the current application scheme.”

CABE says that it's too tall and that the only place that a tall building (above 7 storeys) can be countenanced is on the corner of Hoe Street: “We understand that an Interim Planning Policy Framework exists for this site, which recommends development of between 5 and 7 stories. We support this policy, as a well judged guide to the scale of development appropriate for this site. The location where a hotel is proposed, on Hoe Street, is the one area where we think a taller building could be considered. Elsewhere we think the height of the development should be significantly reduced, to achieve a scale more sympathetic to its context. The stepping form of the slab blocks currently proposed will have a damaging visual impact on Walthamstow town centre. The slab blocks either side of the attractive station building are overbearingly dominant. We also think it is unacceptable for ten floors of balconies to overlook private gardens to the south on Priory Avenue.”

CABE is highly critical of the architecture: “The architecture of this scheme attempts to interpret the terraced building forms traditional to Walthamstow, stretched vertically to fit the massive height of the proposed development. We think this is not successful, resulting in an incoherent, inelegant and badly proportioned design. As well as recommending that Waltham Forest demands a reduced scale of development, we also urge the design team to adopt a calmer and simpler architectural approach. We think the brash architecture proposed will cause blight, rather than promoting regeneration. The joint CABE / EH Guidance on Tall Buildings sets out criteria for evaluating tall building proposals. This states that “to be acceptable, any new tall building should …be of first-class design quality in its own right and should enhance the qualities of its immediate location”. We do not think the current planning application meets this test.”

CABE think the application should be refused: “CABE recommends that this planning application is refused, and that a revised scheme is brought forward with a reduced amount of development of higher architectural quality.”

Now, is the council going to take any notice...?

Read More......

Solum employs dirty tactics

Solum's latest attempt to trick residents is a glossy "newsletter" (produced by Lexington Communications, a company that specialises in political lobbying and public relations) promoting the development. It's relentlessly positive, it doesn't include any pictures that indicate the height of the tower blocks, in fact it doesn't even mention the height, and it has a form residents can post back to "register your support" - this has a single box you can tick to say you support the regeneration plans, no way of registering your objection and no room to leave a comment.

No doubt they are hoping to use the results to prove demand for their development - but the council needs to be smart enough to realise that a vote for regeneration doesn't have to mean a vote for these low-quality high-rise plans; regeneration could take a better shape. Our council could be more proactive in resisting the plans, as other councils have done. For example, Richmond Council has just approved a new planning document that limits height in response to a similar high-rise scheme by Solum for Twickenham Station, forcing them to go back to the drawing board.

If you'd like to object to Solum's smooth "newsletter" you can email (although if you only have time to do one thing, please make it an email or letter to the council objecting to the plans!)

Read More......

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Vote to SaveOurStow

The 'SaveOurStow' group are campaigning to prevent the Walthamstow Dog Track being turned into a high-rise housing development.

Please go to and vote in their online survey.

Read More......

Monday, 11 October 2010

How to object to Solum's plans

As promised, here's how to object to Solum's high-rise, low-quality plans for Walthamstow Central station car park (see the stories below for more details of the plans).

Please spare a few minutes ASAP to object to the plans - by emailing or writing to Ian Ansell ( FAO: Ian Ansell), Development Management, Sycamore House, Town Hall Complex, Forest Road, London E17 4JF. Please quote "Application number 2010/1047 (1-2, 3,4,5,6 and 10, Station Approach, Hoe Street and 1,2,3 Station Approach, Selborne Road Walthamstow London E17 9QF)"

If you're stuck for what to say about them, the rough text of the points we're planning to make is below (click on "Read More..."). Please use them as inspiration. By all means copy and paste the bits you agree with but please be sure to say a few unique things yourself, or use your own words, because your objection will carry much more weight if it is unique...

Re: Application number 2010/1047 (1-2, 3,4,5,6 and 10, Station Approach, Hoe Street and 1,2,3 Station Approach, Selborne Road Walthamstow London E17 9QF)

I am writing to object to these plans on the following grounds:

1. Massing
The scheme is out of scale. It will overshadow and dominate Victorian houses on Priory Avenue (4.1, Urban Design Supplementary Planning Document). The massing is also out of keeping with surrounding blocks (5.7.1, 5.7.2 and 5.9.2 Urban Design Supplementary Planning Document). The 13 storey hotel block sits too close to Hoe Street and is far taller than the existing tallest local building – Tower Mews, which is already unpopular with local residents.
The Prince's Foundation plan for Walthamstow Town Centre recommended no more than 5-7 storey buildings ( for the site. And Waltham Forest's IPPF, derived from The Prince's Foundation report, says new developments must: "demonstrate, if a tall building is included in the scheme, how the development creates an attractive landmark enhancing London’s character, helps to provide a coherent location for economic clusters of related activities and/ or acts as a catalyst for regeneration and takes into account design and impact on their surroundings. (LP 4B.8)" (
Allowing higher massing will also set a bar for other developers in the town centre to aspire to. Waltham Forest council should be sending a clear message that enough is enough.

2. New public square
The plan features retail units around a new public square. Yet this space will likely fail as it will be dominated by blocks that will tower over it, with one side of the square also used by loading lorries and other vehicles (including likely cabs from the proposed taxi office).

3. Design of buildings
There is little from the plans to indicate a high quality of design, or a design that is in keeping with its surrounds. And the current design also puts the tallest building at the entrance to the site – creating a visual barrier to the site. The current existing buildings at the entrance of the site are quality Victorian buildings and should be protected (5.7.4, Urban Design Supplementary Planning Document). Their retention would improve the site.

4. Links to town centre
The plan is still not effectively linked to central Walthamstow's main civic spaces – the town square/High Street. And therefore it risks further splitting Walthamstow residents as to how they come out of the station. The hotel also will add nothing to Walthamstow's economic vitality and viability – with unattractive links from the site to the High Street etc. – and most likely residents of the hotel will simply be commuters who will shop, eat, drink etc. (spending their money) at Liverpool Street or in central London.

5. Quality of design
The designs bear little relation to the surrounding area and feature large repetitive facades of low-quality design, made worse by their sheer scale/height. This is meant to be a key site for the future of Walthamstow town centre – but it clearly sets a very low bar in terms of future development in terms of quality of design.
CABE, the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, said of Solum's Epsom scheme: "We do not think this scheme should receive planning approval, and are disappointed by the low quality approach to the design of both the station, and the associated retail, hotel and residential development… We understand it is the first of a series of station redevelopment projects… This approach… should not be rolled out to the other stations... A fundamental rethink is required… to achieve greater improvements to the station, a great place to live, and an architectural character more responsive to Epsom." ( Fairly obviously, given the pictures on CABE's website, and the proposed mix of uses in the Epsom scheme, the opposite is happening – Solum are rolling out a low-quality one-size-fits-all scheme with hotel, residential, retail and tower blocks as bog standard as they can get away with.

6. Lack of overall plan
There is a parcel of land attached to the site that hasn't been included in the plans – and is set to be sold off at a later date. Given the strategic importance of the site in the town centre and its creation of new public space, but with only one point of access to the whole site, it's vital this land and plans for it are considered in concert with the rest of the site. That hasn't been done yet, and there's no guarantee it will be.

Read More......

Sunday, 3 October 2010

'Especially for you'

Especially for us? NO!??!

Turns out 'Solum' [S'lum, SoGlum, Golum, SoLumpy, Soul-less; please feel free to add you own], is 'an exciting joint venture' [lucrative co-op] between 'Kier and Network Rail'. But if you thought those kindly chaps at SoGlum had chosen Walthamstow because it offers them [and us, of course] unique opportunities; 'stop right there, thank you very much'. Far from it, S'lum are hoping to deposit there visions of low-quality-sub-shopping mall, 2-a-penny-motel, tower blocks all over the South East. In 8 different locations to be exact.

Its a bit like being given a cheap and pretty crap present by your boss, and then finding out he was giving them to quite a few people actually, and he got them free at the conference he just came back from. You're not worth much effort, and your not vey special.

Epsom is the first past the post with the Plans for the Solum treatment. [It is not clear how they won this prestigious award, super lucky I guess]. To give you a flavour of what's in store for all of the 'Fortun8'. This is what CABE [Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment]; indeed, 'the Government's advisor on architecture, design and public space', have to say about Golum's plans

"We do not think this scheme should receive planning approval, and are disappointed by the low quality approach to the design of both the station, and the associated retail, hotel and residential development. "
Not a great start.

"We are particularly concerned about the poor quality of this scheme, as we understand it is the first of a series of station redevelopment projects to be brought forward by a partnership between Kier and Network Rail"
Unfortun8 for the others

"In our view this approach is not acceptable, and should not be rolled out to the other stations where Kier and Network Rail are in partnership. In our view a fundamental rethink is required, starting with revisions to the client brief, to achieve greater improvements to the station, a great place to live, and an architectural character more responsive to Epsom"

Well if that's what CABE thinks, there's no way it'll get past those sterling fellows in the council. Standing tall [but not too tall] for high quality, design led development, as they do.

They do don't they?

Read More......