Fears tower will block sunlight for cottage residents

By Robert Firth, Local Democracy Reporter

Residents living in cottages on the South Bank fear a planned 21-storey tower will block the sun from their homes and leave them in darkness.

People living in the 275-year-old houses – which are reserved for older Londoners with little cash – say they love living in the cottages, tucked behind the Tate Modern.

But residents of Hopton’s Almshouses, who are all 65 or over, are worried their community will be spoiled forever if a 21-storey apartment block in nearby Friars Close goes ahead.

Liam Hennessy, 68, said he was worried about the impact the loss of sunlight would have on neighbours who struggle on their feet and rely on the gardens around the cottages as their only outdoor space.

Mr Hennessy, an architect who has lived in Hotpon’s Almshouses for almost three years, said: “I did some modelling and estimated we could lose 400 hours of potential sunlight between September and March. That’s a shocking amount. It’s why I’m alarmed.

“This is one of those places where you can smell the roses by just going past them. This place is delicate and the people are delicate.

“There’s people with disabilities who can’t get out of this place and their only light is here. If you harm this place, you’re really harming the lives of people who live here. It’s not about the buildings, it’s quality of life.”

A CGI of the planned apartment block. Hopton’s Almshouses are behind the wall on the left (Picture: Southwark council planning documents)

The cottages, which are rented out as social housing by a charity, are already surrounded on three sides by tower blocks. The luxury NEO Bankside development, where flats sell for prices in excess of £2.5 million, looms over the almshouses to the east, while to the west giant glass towers are shooting up as part of the multi-million pound Bankside Yards development.

Residents say the impact of these buildings on the cottages is minimal because of good design and the fact that the south side of the cottages has so far avoided being overlooked by tall towers.

Mr Hennessy added: “NEO Bankside has close to zero impact on blocking sunlight to this place, which is really remarkable.

“Already there are tall buildings around here but they are not on the south, where the sunshine comes from. This one creates a terrible precedent because it’s on the south side. If other buildings got permission to go high on that side it would block out practically all the sunlight from this place.”

Under the plans, which go before a Southwark council planning committee later this month, 136 homes would be built in the 21-storey block.

An existing block of 28 social homes, which are overcrowded and of poor quality according to developers, would be bulldozed to make way for the tower block. Of the 136 new homes, 50 would be available at the cheapest social rents, 11 would be affordable [which can be up to 80 per cent of local market rates] and the rest would be sold at market prices.

Developers Riverside Housing Group and Mount Anvil Ltd were contacted for comment but hadn’t replied by the time of publication.

Architect Allies and Morrison declined to comment.

Pictured top: Hopton’s Almshouses, with the Bankside Yard towers behind (Picture: Robert Firth)

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