BY TOBY PORTER
Plans have been granted to demolish the second busiest bus station in London, 13 years after it was built, despite opposition from residents and their MP.
Lambeth council has approved plans by Transport for London to flatten the landmark Vauxhall hub, opened amid a blaze of publicity as recently as 2004.
The distinctive steel structure, topped by solar panels which supplied a third of its electricity, will make way for a new one-storey sheltered building and a public space and station square – and allow increased use of the junction by a rocketing number of residents.
Construction would start in two years’ time, and be completed by 2022, in an area where up to 20,000 homes are currently being built.
The new scheme, by 5th Studio, is designed to allow two-way traffic to flow through the heart of the area – the 50-year-old Vauxhall Cross gyratory has some of the highest numbers of collisions involving injury to pedestrians and cyclists in the capital, according to TfL.
Consultations over the past 18 months have found 61 per cent of the respondents want to change Vauxhall Cross as it is already regularly crowded in rush hour – and that is only likely to get worse.
But Vauxhall MP Kate Hoey, who raised the issue in a House of Commons debate last year, said: “The bus station was completed at a cost of £4.5 million and was opened by Ken Livingstone. It was immediately hailed by architects and public transport users as inspired. The whole scheme is so ridiculous.”
Community group Our Vauxhall says TfL’s estimated £50 million plan, drawn up with Lambeth council, is “a waste of public money”.
The group’s alternative scheme has more green areas and relocates exits at Vauxhall Tube station.
Architect Eleanor Alexander, whose firm DSDHA drew up Our Vauxhall’s plans, said that it supported the removal of the gyratory but accused TfL of wanting to demolish the bus station simply to enable developers to build a tower block.
She added: “The TfL consultation asks leading questions. Nobody has been asked: ‘Would you like to remove the gyratory and keep the bus station?’”
One resident said: “At a time when TfL are making massive cuts across the capital, replacing a 13-year-old, award-winning, high-quality bus station with another one is a massive waste of public money. The existing bus station could be modified or integrated into the new layout – thereby saving the taxpayer money, as well as keeping the architectural icon that is Vauxhall Cross bus station.
“The argument that the ‘proposed bus station .. will become a recognisable landmark’ is a mistake. No one recommends pulling down the London Eye and replacing it with a better Observation Wheel – the one we have is already an icon, and perfectly adequate at its job.”
Another resident said: “Why fix something that is not broken at very considerable expense to the fare payer and council tax payer?
“The main reason for proposing the scheme seems to have little to do with the needs of the many thousands of commuters who use the station every day. Rather, it is interlinked with the rationale for a wider scheme under which TFL and Lambeth will relinquish part of the land occupied by the present bus station to a private developer, in order that they may throw up more high-rise buildings that nobody except the developer wants and which will further disfigure the London skyline.”
Arup, engineers on the original bus station, still have details of their scheme on their website. It says: “Our compelling design was the unanimous winner – as voted by the public, creating a new landmark as a beacon for regeneration.”
Alan Bristow, director of road space management at TfL, said: “Londoners told us very clearly that they wanted to see an end to the intimidating one-way road system at Vauxhall… To bring in a two-way system, the current station has to be removed but that will also allow us to create new public spaces and speed up bus journeys as they will no longer need to navigate the gyratory.”
Cllr Matthew Bennett, Lambeth Cabinet Member for Planning, Regeneration & Jobs, said: “This is a really exciting transformation for Vauxhall. Removing the gyratory is a long-standing ambition of both local residents and ward councillors. The new design, with a clearer layout, a public square and landscaping won’t just make the centre of Vauxhall a destination in its own right, but will be better for pedestrians, cyclists and the thousands of people travelling through the area by train, bus and tube.”
Architect 5th Studio said on its website: “The current gyratory creates an environment heavily dominated by motor vehicles.
“The wide carriageway encourages high speeds, especially outside peak periods. It can be difficult to navigate, and the one-way arrangement means that vehicles often follow indirect routes.”
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