Brixton’s lead singer of hit rock band Skunk Anansie has slammed developers and town hall chiefs over a 20-storey tower block to loom over its town centre.
Gay black icon Skin, 53, is furious Lambeth council officers have suggested the project should be approved at a planning committee meeting tomorrow, Tuesday. A petition against it has almost 7.500 signatures.
The singer, who celebrated the 25th anniversary of the band with a gig at the O2 in 2019, has asked residents to sign a petition opposing the block.
Campaigners also staged distanced protest today at Lambeth Town Hall.
The multi-million selling first black woman to front a Glastonbury gig, said: “Lambeth council ‘have a mind’ to approve it. Well, we ‘have a mind’ to disapprove it.
“Not because we don’t want change; not because we don’t want new people in Brixton; not because we don’t want white people in Brixton – or any other rubbish that they’re gonna say.
“But because buildings like that do not benefit the area.
“They actually just benefit the Texan billionaire Taylor Williams, who is part of a DJ collective called Housekeeping – they are gonna make a lot of money.
“And they’re gonna bring in a whole lot of other people who are gonna make a lot of money cos they’ve got big pockets.
“But a lot of Brixton people don’t.
“We’re tired of this stuff. You can do stuff that helps the community in Brixton as well as making money. But why does it have to be for a certain group of people and none of the community benefits?
“Businesses that are struggling get closed down.
“Let’s put a voice up there that they have to listen to.”
Campaigners say the block in Pope’s Road would tower over the “iconic” sites of Electric Avenue and Brixton Market and Brixton Recreation Centre.
The Brixton Society, Right of Light Consulting chartered surveyors, local MP (and former town planner) Helen Hayes, and against huge community opposition. On Tuesday evening (3 November), Lambeth Council’s Planning Applications Committee (PAC), the formal body made up of seven Lambeth councillors, are set to vote on whether the tower should be approved or rejected.
Steadman Scott, co-founder of Brixton Rec-based Afewee sports club, said: “What do WE want? That’s important. We built this part of London when nobody would come here and live. Now it’s the hip thing and they don’t want us to be a part of it? They should be putting up something that will bring unity to the community.”
Local economist Susan Steed said if the block is approved, Hondo Enterprises would hold an unhealthy monopoly over Brixton and its communities: She said: “Hondo already runs two covered markets. I think that is too much power for one landlord. They are pricing out some businesses that have been here for generations.
“As we look at the statements being made in support of the Hondo tower, we need to question who they really represent, and if the right voices are being heard.”
She added two out of three statements supporting the development “were from a planning consultant who was paid and whose website says specialises in getting planning consent.”
Extinction Rebellion Lambeth has made as statement against the proposed tower, saying: “Although Lambeth Council declared a climate emergency in January 2019, the planning department has recommended the application be approved even though the design does not meet the required BREEAM energy and sustainability standards…We are also gravely concerned by the lack of meaningful consultation with the community.”
Other concerns voiced by locals are the huge carbon footprint of tall buildings and the lack of demonstrated demand for office space in the post-Covid world. Other community groups opposing the tower include the Brixton Recreation Centre Users Group, Black Activists Rising Against Cuts and Brixton BookJam.
Another opponent is the Save Nour campaign group, who battled to prevent Hondo Enterprises evicting much-loved, family-run business Nour Cash and Carry from Brixton Market during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Helen Hayes, MP for Dulwich and West Norwood, where the development is proposed, described the design as “mediocre and bland” and stated in an official objection: “The design of the building does not add to or enhance the character of the historic environment in central Brixton, or provide any expression of the uniqueness and diversity of the local community.”
A Hondo Enterprises spokesman said: “Hondo Enterprises and their award-winning architects Adjaye Associates have submitted revisions for their application for Pope’s Road.
“This development will provide a new landmark building that will deliver significant economic, cultural and social benefits for central Brixton.”
A Lambeth council spokesman said: “Planning applications in Lambeth are highlighted in a number of ways, including on street notices and in local newspaper adverts, as has been the case with this application.
“We also keep a GDPR compliant list of local groups who have asked to be notified when applications are submitted in the borough. The Brixton Rec Users Group have not asked to be on this list.
“Brixton Rec’s listed status is acknowledged in the council’s report and an impact assessment has been carried out by the council’s conservation officer.”
The petition against the block is here https://change.org/NoHondoTower
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