By Grainne Cuffe, Local Democracy Reporter, and James Twomey
A 20-storey office block to be built in the middle of Brixton got the green light for construction from a town hall last night, despite thousands of objections.
Lambeth’s planning committee voted four to three to approve Hondo Enterprises’ office block in Pope’s Road.
The tower will be connected to a nine-storey block, and includes a community space and public square.
It also emerged that residents were “distressed” after they were reported to have signed in favour of the scheme without being given the full details.
The majority of comments on the application oppose the plans – 1,868 against to 260 comments in support – and an online petition opposing the development has gained more than 7,000 signatures.
A statement from the No Hondo Tower campaign group, which created the petition, said: “The fact that the Lambeth planning committee has approved this application means that the Lambeth Local Plan counts for nothing, setting a precedent for all future planning applications to now be openly negotiable.”
Historic England, the Brixton Society, and the Brixton Recreation Centre were against the plans, which they say will harm the conservation area and overshadow listed buildings.
Brixton resident, Sandra Brown, said the Brixton Recreation Centre had changed her life, said it was “built to serve the community” and had a “sense of equality” within its walls.
She said the prospect of being overshadowed by a “huge, domineering tower” is “alarming”.
“Housing hundreds of affluent office workers – what will this building offer me and my community?” she said.
Another Brixton resident, Karl Lokko, said he had dedicated the last 10 years of his life to tackling youth violence in the area and was in favour of the new development.
“I know the best way to improve the fortunes of Brixton is economic investment – 2,000 jobs, a community space that we control, affordable work space for 500 young people to start their careers, and millions coming into Brixton every year is something that this area has never seen,” he said.
A big concern for some residents was that Hondo would have permitted development rights – which allow an office space to the converted into residential units without planning permission – if it could prove there was no demand for office space.
Helen Hayes, MP for Dulwich and West Norwood, said the applicant had “not provided a convincing response to the question of demand” for office space.
“I’ve been contacted by constituents who were distressed that they were persuaded to sign a model letter of support for the application in the street without details of the scheme, such as the height and appearance being explained to them,” she said.
Lambeth council planning officer, Robert O’Sullivan, said he was “confident” a condition to the application would stop the developer from changing the use from office to residential.
“We’ve had a very robust legal overview of the wording of the condition and we are confident that that would remove the ability at any stage in the future to use permitted development rights to change to residential,” he said.
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