A building preservation campaign has slammed plans for a 20-storey skyscraper which would loom over Brixton.
The Victorian Society has urged London Mayor Sadiq Khan to stop the so-called “Hondo Tower” being built, saying it will spoil the area – and waste energy.
The society says the block’s towering height would set a precedent for further tall buildings in the area – risking completely eroding Brixton’s special character. But it also says new research shows any building wastes more and more energy on every extra floor over six storeys high.
The figures from University College London (UCL) show high rise buildings can have double the environmental impact.
The society said in a statement it is “urging the Mayor of London to reject a Texan billionaire’s plans for a 20-storey tower in the centre of low-rise Brixton on environmental as well as conservation grounds.
“The Society hopes that the environmental evidence could alter the balance in favour of the community campaign to stop the tower.”
Rates of energy use and CO2 emission is at an optimum with six floors and virtually double by the time buildings get to 20 storeys.
The statement added: “Lambeth Council proudly claim to be the first borough to have declared a climate emergency but it does not seem to have adequately considered the high-rise development’s environmental impact. Raising the question of whether they are serious about meeting their climate change targets.”
The society’s conservation adviser Olivia Stockdale said: “This area of Brixton retains its character as a predominantly Victorian town centre. Building a 20-storey tower next to this Conservation Area demonstrates a total failure to understand and respond to the context of the area.
“Buildings of this height may be appropriate elsewhere in London, but not here. The proposals would overshadow the surrounding buildings, including the historic Electric Avenue which, when built in the 1880s, was the first market street lit by electric lights.
“This new environmental evidence should be the final straw which results in the Mayor rejecting the plans. In any event, it is unclear if there will ever be sufficient office demand in Brixton post COVID-19 to fill this huge tower.”
Professor Philip Steadman, Emeritus Professor of Urban and Built Form Studies at UCL, said: “Gas use also increases with height, by around 40 per cent, going from low-rise to high-rise. As a result, total carbon emissions from the two fuels together are twice as great in the high-rise buildings. At 20-storeys, the Hondo tower rises well above surrounding buildings, and will be exposed to the strong winds and more sunshine that seem to cause these energy effects. It is also highly glazed, which will exacerbate the problems.”
Stephen Hill, Director of C2O futureplanners and a sustainable planning advocate, added: “Are we serious about the Climate Emergency and sustainable development, or not? What possible justification can there being for designing, let alone approving tall buildings, when Prof. Steadman’s evidence shows how environmentally damaging and wasteful they are?
“Going ahead means a high-rise may well be environmentally obsolete from Day 1, and will simply make it harder to reach the zero carbon goals of the future, without further expensive investment.
“And who will pay for that, and how? It’s no excuse to say that we have done this before, or others are still doing it. One more tall building is a step in the wrong direction.”
Save Nour, the local campaign group fighting against the tower under the hashtag #FightTheTower said: “This tower is not wanted by the people of Brixton.
“Economic development here should be about investing in people – our young people need access to high quality affordable social housing, safe and fully funded community and youth spaces, not a giant monument to their exclusion from the changes happening in Brixton.
“Sadiq Khan must use his powers to stand with us and say no to the Hondo Tower.”
Among the opponents is Brixton resident and Skunk Anansie singer Skin.
Lambeth’s planning application committee in November voted four to three to approve Hondo Enterprises’ 20-storey office block in Pope’s Road.
Hondo bought Market Row and Brixton Village in 2018, while the high-rise site is home to Sports Direct.
The decision was initially deferred after members described the scheme as “monstrous” and “mediocre” at a planning meeting in August.
Hondo owner Taylor McWilliams, a DJ from Texas, said the lack of office space in the area “is preventing growth, local jobs, and opportunities” and that businesses starting in Brixton “often have to move as they grow”.
But members raised concerns about demand for office space amid the Covid-19 pandemic and after it.
An online petition opposing the development that had more than 7,000 signatures in November, has more than 8,000 now.
But at the meeting in November, a planning officer dismissed the petition as the council “could not confirm the accuracy” of it.
Lambeth council invoiced Hondo £177,559 for ‘consultancy’ for the planned development.
Sadiq Khan in January agreed to reconsider his initial decision to approve the tower – after it emerged residents had not been properly consulted.
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