Protesters’ fury at award nomination to opposed luxury flats at Albert Embankment

BY KATE DENNETT
toby@slpmedia.co.uk

Residents are furious that plans to build luxury flats that they have opposed have been nominated for an award.

An online petition was launched opposing U+I’s development of luxury flats at 8 Albert Embankment.

It has already gained more than 1,000 signatures as residents feel the tower block will block sunlight for homes on the Whitgift Estate.

The residents’ main issue is the height of the two tower blocks, which will be 24 and 26 storeys high.

Lambeth council’s Local Plan from September 2015 states that “the heritage sensitivity of the site makes it inappropriate for tall building development”. U+I still plans to go ahead with the tall buildings despite this previous ruling.

The petition asks for the town hall to join residents in rejecting the planning application and stop the towers from being built in the proposed location.

The project is part of The London Fire Brigade’s plans to create a museum in one of its fire stations with the tower block set to be built next door.

Residents were furious that U+I was nominated for an award from a trade publication for its proposal for these plans.

Laura Hayes, of Save Lambeth Village, said: “Considering the total lack of meaningful engagement with the community, U+I even being considered for this award is an insult to those of us who have been completely ignored by their plans for 8 Albert Embankment.”

U+I did not win the award and the residents’ objection letters were given to the judges before the decision was made.

Ms Hayes said: “The organisers confirmed that they circulated the community’s objection emails to the judges before they made their decision and U+I did not win.

“That said, these types of industry awards come fairly regularly and there’s little doubt that U+I will be looking to bolster their reputation through such events in this period leading up to the planning committee decision, in spite of their lack of meaningful engagement with those of us affected by their plans.”

London Fire Brigade’s pop-up museum has been operating out of the workstation in Lambeth since
reopening in 2016.

It won runner-up in the Hoop Awards for Best Learning for going above and beyond to educate and inspire young children.

The London Fire Brigade hopes that the new plans will provide its museum with a more permanent home.

There are concerns that the towers will overshadow the community’s park, stop sunlight reaching the Whitgift Estate and damage the historic value of the old HQ of the London Fire Brigade.

Ms Hayes said: “U+I refused to negotiate on [the height of the buildings] or to allow the local community to work with them on a project that works for all.

“They’re also proposing to turn the fire station into yet another luxury hotel, with a huge glass viewing platform which will ruin the silhouette of the old fire station on Albert Embankment. Parking is already limited on the surrounding roads, and traffic can be terrible.

“The old workstation, which has served as a museum, will be completely demolished. The work will be noisy and intrusive for local residents and businesses, and it’s proposed to last around one to two years.

“The daylight will be obstructed in old paradise gardens which is used by the whole community, including schools, all three residential buildings on the Whitgift estate and many other surrounding buildings.”

The residents claim that they were not listened to by the developers and felt that the plans should have been altered upon their complaints.

Laura said: “U+I have barely spoken to the communities affected by their proposed development, not reaching out until opposition became public when the planning application was nearly complete in December 2018.

They then ignored all of the community concerns raised at several local meetings held by concerned residents groups and submitted the application at the end of March.”

Many residents feel that the area is not appropriate for tall buildings and were not able to voice their concerns about the plans before U+I and the LFB were ready to submit.

Residents hosted an event in opposition to U+I’s plans where residents held signs saying ‘Save our Sunlight’ to gain more support for their case from officials and other residents.

Karen McCormick, senior development manager at U+I, said: “We are enormously proud to be working with the London Fire Brigade (LFB) to transform the 8 Albert Embankment site – which has been derelict for over 10 years – and bring forward proposals which will genuinely benefit Lambeth residents and Londoners.

“Helping to keep us all safe, the proposals include a new modern fire station – delivered at no cost to the taxpayer – and a new permanent home for the London Fire Brigade Museum, which will play an essential role in educating people of all ages about fire safety.

“Since opening up The Workshop as a temporary community hub on site in 2016, this has hosted more than 300 events visited by 55,000 people and provided free workspace for 11 small businesses.

This worthwhile space has enabled us to meaningfully engage with people from across the local community on these proposals.

“We have worked hard to understand local issues and so the proposals have been specifically designed as two slender diamond form towers to minimise any daylight impacts on the surrounding area while delivering the maximum possible local benefit.

Therefore, in addition to funding the new LFB facilities, we are delighted to say that our proposals will deliver 417 new homes for Lambeth, of which 35 per cent will be affordable, and provide workspace to support 1,250 jobs in the local area.”

The application could be considered by Lambeth council at any point between July and November but a date has not yet been announced.

LFB Deputy Commissioner and Director of Operations Tom George said: “These proposals will ensure we can keep Lambeth residents safe long into the future, with a much-needed refurbishment of Lambeth Fire Station – one of the busiest and most strategically located in London.

“The plans will deliver improved accommodation and workspace for firefighters, as well as provide bigger and better training facilities.

It will restore the listed drill tower and enable us to open the fire station up more than ever before, with a new community room for local groups to use.

The plans also include a long awaited permanent home for our museum to deliver its fire safety education work and wealth of exciting, educational family activities to Lambeth and the capital and will preserve and enhance the heritage of our former headquarters by sensitively restoring the Grade II listed building.

Funded by the wider regeneration of the site and at no cost to the taxpayer, the plans for 8 Albert Embankment will not only help to keep residents safe but ensure London Fire Brigade remains at the heart of Lambeth’s community.”

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