Two towers plan with fire brigade museum in Lambeth is called in for a public inquiry

Plans to build a 26-storey and a 24-storey block on a former fire brigade headquarters have been blocked by the country’s planning supremo.

Housing, Communities and Local Government Robert Jenrick has “called in” the scheme for 8 Albert Embankment, Lambeth – so it will now be the subject of a planning inquiry.

Developer U+I wants to build 443 flats and a 200-room hotel as part of a revamp of Lambeth Fire Station and – with a new London Fire Brigade (LFB) Museum.

The site houses LFB’s 83-year-old former headquarters – but objectors, representing residents in nearby flats, are furious the loss of daylight they would suffer.

An online petition had gained 3,000 signatures, 10 times that of the comments of support on the planning application.

A U+I spokesperson said: “We are disappointed. The decision means that the delivery of a new fire station for the London Fire Brigade, a new permanent home for the London Fire Brigade Museum, along with 443 much-needed homes, 40% of which will be affordable, as well as 100,000 sq ft of workspace and new public spaces could now be significantly delayed. 

“The plans, which received the backing of Lambeth council and followed extensive consultation with the local community, will positively transform a site that has lain vacant for almost 10 years. We remain committed to delivering great places in order to create positive social and economic change and will consider our position in light of our determination to deliver on both fronts.”

A London Fire Brigade spokesperson said: “We are disappointed. Lambeth Fire Station responds to fires and other major emergencies in Lambeth and across London and is an important strategic location for emergency response in the capital. 

“The station requires significant modernisation to maintain high operational standards. These plans deliver improved training facilities, new accommodation for a diverse workforce and a new community space. 

“A LFB Museum, sited next to the working fire station, will maintain a vital link between our historic collection and the modern service and will welcome tens of thousands of visitors a year. 

“This development will also release capital funds to invest in our stations, training and equipment across the capital. We remain committed to this scheme which is an important part of our future.”

But Michael Ball of Waterloo Community Development Group said:”The LFB does not need a £500m development and three tower blocks simply to get a modernised fire station and a new site for the LFB museum!

“It is criminal that these central London sites have been left mostly vacant for 20 years in public ownership, yet all successive Mayors can do is back schemes helicoptered in and completely out-of-scale or context, and of little use to London or Londoners, in order to try and make big bucks like the most rapacious of developers.

“Real people living in real social housing will lose up to 40 per cent of their daylight, because of safety-deposit boxes posing as housing, piled 90m high beside them. If LFB and U+I had engaged with the local community a solution could have been found. They digracefully chose not to do so.”

According to planning officers’ projections, existing homes on the ground floor would be “majorly” affected by loss of light.

The director of the Garden Museum said residents have been “lied to” about the impact of the development.

He said: “The education centre which you gave £300,000 towards is not on the lighting studies and technical studies presented by U + I. 

“Each tall tower will cast shadows in our gardens which were built to face the sun, sunlight we thought protected by the local plan.”

The two towers would also breach the borough’s planning policies.

Lambeth’s local plan states it would support development that “relates in height and bulk to the adjacent townscape, taking into account the height, massing and scale of neighbouring buildings, and the historic built form of the area”.

It adds: “The heritage sensitivity of the site makes it inappropriate for tall building development.”

But Lambeth’s planning committee in December said the benefits outweighed the potential negative impact – and the scheme was better than the one which is had replaced. It was approved on the casting vote of the chairman.




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