282 Goldhawk Road update

October 18th, 2010

UPDATE: 10/3/14 Work on site at Ashchurch Villas


UPDATE: 3/12/12

The two plots 282/292 were subsequently sold to First Base who short listed four practices of which two are known to be PTEa and MAE, the project was given to PTEa after each practice gave a presentation of their intended plans.


Last year the housing association Places for People put forward a scheme at 282 Goldhawk Road designed by Peter Barber architects for housing on the site of a former old peoples home, which proved to be unpopular with local residents not only for its height and potential to overlook adjoining property but for its poor design.

I wrote two articles about the intended development, one here

http://www.singleaspect.org.uk/?p=207

and a shorter one here

http://www.singleaspect.org.uk/?p=286

Tonight saw the AGM of the Ashchurch Residents Association at the Sulgrave Club, more or less opposite the site in question which was notable for being attended for its duration by Nick Johnson, Head of H&F Homes in the borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, Councillor Lucy Ivimy and more briefly by the leader of Hammersmith and Fulham council, Stephen Greenhalgh.

The image below shows them both and I apologise for the poor quality being one frame of a low resolution video shot from some way away.

Nick Johnson spoke for fifteen minutes and then took questions which lasted another fifteen minutes by which time I’d run out of memory and so didn’t get Stephen Greenhalgh’s brief speech on film but he simply reiterated what Nick Johnson had been saying about their determination to fully consult the residents about the new scheme for 282 Goldhawk Road and their hopes that the site next door could also be brought into play in order to increase the land available and build wider not taller.

The general tone of the talk by Nick Johnson and later by Stephen Greenhalgh during his brief ten minute stay was conciliatory in my view and made a welcome change to their otherwise apparent determination to ride roughshod over residents in the borough. See end of this article for a revised opinion.

Transcript of Nick Johnson’s speech.

[00:00]

[Unclear]

Thank you for inviting me to talk to you – I was slightly amused when [unclear] Fiona said you had a committee meeting planned because I think most of them have been with me in the last few weeks [laughter]and  as you rightly recall just about March April time I started to get to know you and get to know the members of your committee and I remember well you coming to talk with Stephen Greenhalgh and with Councillor Lucy Ivimy [present, seated beside NJ] at the council offices.  I should say as well that Stephen is hoping very much to be here this evening he’s got three residents’ meetings he’s hoping to get to tonight, when I spoke to him first thing this morning he was optimistic he would be able to get along later on this evening so I’m in part talking on his behalf on [unclear] issues.

[00:56]

The first thing to say about me is that I’m really responsible for everything that goes wrong and costs money [laughter] and what happened was Stephen asked me to pick up this particular project, work with you and see whether we could get it right for you in the future and that’s what we’ve been doing over the last few weeks.  I wanted to tell you a little bit about what we’ve done and better than that what we are going to get right for the future.  Once you get to my age of course you tend to reflect on the fact that you can’t put right the past – all you can do is get right the future and learn from it so a lot of this is about recognising that we may not have got it right in the past [unclear].  And as you said Fiona the council isn’t going to complete the planning application which isn’t actually complete in respect of 282 Goldhawk Road the final tuning of that is as a statutory process as you will know, the representations that you made meant that we have, we’ve stopped and the developer of that site, you’ll have met them, Places for People, no longer intend to progress the development of the site in the way that it was discussed with you.

[02:19]

So we can stop and we can pause and we can think about how to get it right for the future. At about the time that we started looking at those issues and Stephen Greenhalgh recognised that it wasn’t a scheme he wanted to see through, and makes no secret of the fact that he was wanting a significant change. You will know I’m sure as well that the coalition Government indicated a change in the way that local authorities will be working with residents over planning matters and it’s this that I want to talk with you about this evening, how can we have a much more participative approach in the future.  Round about the time that we were debating these issues, with Fiona and [unclear] we recognised as well that another site next to 282 Goldhawk Road was likely to come forward for development, and that is called 292 Goldhawk Road. It’s the site which is presently owned by Metropolitan Housing Trust, and it is used at the moment for asylum seekers and we are rehousing those asylum seekers is actually taking place those people will be moving into more settled into more settled opportunities away from that hostel type of use.

[03:45]

So what is likely is that Metropolitan Housing Trust will wish to dispose of their interest in that building, it’ll no longer be used for that purpose –  and that gave me an opportunity to start to talk much more actively about how we could get advantage from that in the community and how we might look at both the sites together, not just the one site, 282, but the two sites, and if it were possible for us to do that, if it were possible for the council to enter into a joint venture with the owner of 292 we could move from a position where we were reacting to what a developer wanted to do into a position where we were much more able to describe what we want. That is the approach that we would like to take.  So we are working closely to see whether it’s possible for the site 292 to be purchased by the developer who will want to join in with us, the council owns 282, and that’s when you start to come into it again beause we’re not going to do anything at all until and unless we can get it right and the way of doing it is that we want to first of all start to work with you to create the right planning brief.

[05:25]

Now I’m sure those of you who went through all of those discussions on the planning brief know what it’s about.  It’s a complex process but it’s essentially about writing down clearly what you want to see developed.  It is fair to say that you will see development take place on these sites.  The council as you will appreciate has to realise its assets in order to maintain the services that we provide and keep to the taxation which is all part of that down to a level that residents will accept. [It] We do have, at the moment, to look at selling assets that we own which could be developed and this is a site that is like that.  It is going to be important for us to do that in the future.  It’s no secret that the comprehensive spending review is about to happen this week, we will read all about it and it’s very certain that local councils are going to have to reduce their expenditure and to use their assets to the best advantage.

[06:33]

So the site 282 will be put into the market and the question is will what gets built on it be acceptable to you as residents?  So the first thing we want to do in the event that we can work jointly with the owners of 292 and our site to create what we call a joint venture, that means that we’re in control of how the land is developed.  In most cases where land is sold a developer will bring forward a planning application and the councils planning powers do something about it.  In a case where we  are able to indicate what happens we can prescribe what happens, we can do it the other way round, we can say what we want, and that’s what we’re going to do here.

[07:27]

So the first thing we’d like to do is to work with you on planning brief.  What is acceptable in our neighbourhood here?  And in talking with your committee I’ve already got a feel for the things that you dislike strongly, and I’ve got a feel for the things that you prefer to see, and the things that you want to protect, and things that you want to get as additional advantage in your neighbourhood.  Conservation, the right design, the right density, the right occupation, the right use of the land, is all what we do when it comes to planning briefs.

[08:07]

So the first thing we’d like to do is to sit down here and talk about that, we have some excellent planning staff some of whom Fiona you will have met recently too, and I will be putting together a team of people, with the developer, to come and talk about the way which we will want to put together the things we want to see on the land and more important than that the things we want to protect.  Once that planning brief is written and adopted and consulted widely the next step is to say well what could be built within that planning brief framework?

[08:49]

And that’s when the developer would appoint an architect and I’ve suggested already that we would have what I call a beauty parade, you would have maybe three different architects, and they would come forward and they would show you the sort of work they’d done, the sort of neighbourhoods that they’ve worked on and you would indicate a preference you’d say “well I like the look of that” [unclear owing to cough] and you don’t like the way that works, you take a view.  And so an architect is then appointed and then along come some drawings, some images of what you could see on the site.  And at that stage which in itself is quite an intricate thing, it looks at the forms of housing, the sizes of housing, height, it also looks at the frontice, the elevations, and the building materials that are appropriate, with those that have thought it was appropriate.  The trees, the hedge, how it all fits in with the building line alongside the road.

[09:59]

At that stage we then go into much more detail. We then talk about the design in more detail, and that’s when you look in a more precise way about the type of materials that you’re using.  The way in which the buildings have views, the way in which other people look at those particular buildings, and I remember very well Fiona some of the things that you said to me about the elevations of some of the buildings that were in the previous planning application, the way in which some of the balconies in the neighbouring properties were very very close, some areas where the line of sight was … challenged, was not very well thought through. All of those things we would want to get right.

[10:52]

Actually I described this approach that I’m now going to talk with you about as a textbook approach, and one of your, Annabelle said to me “well I don’t like the word textbook because it sounds” [unclear owing to sneeze] I beg your pardon, [pause] yes you did, you didn’t like the word textbook because it sounded, “it didn’t sound quite right, what did it mean?”,  and what I believe is this is what we sometimes call best practice [partially lost owing to nearby throat clearing] what is the best way in which we can [unclear] creatively in the future?

[11:31]

And that’s what I would like to do.  You may say, “well, they would say that wouldn’t they?”  bearing in mind the challenges and difficulties that you’ve had in the past, and that’s why I said right at the start, and I’ve got to be honest with you, there have been occasions in the time I’ve worked here in Hammersmith and Fulham where I have had to address residents groups and I’ve said that “that didn’t go well”.  And I can’t bring back the past but I can blooming well get my future right, and that’s what we would like to do. I’ve also said to Fiona and the committee that I would be willing and am very interested in fact to meet with you as frequently as you would like, to keep you properly advised and up to date with all of this, we are very optimistic that we can pull this off.  To an extent we’re in the hands of the markets at the moment, the Metropolitan Housing Trust were wishing to get the best value for their land but I’m very  optimistic that we can do a deal which brings the council close to the development of the whole of that site and we will see very creative development on that land which fits in well with the neighbourhood, properly planned, properly designed,  and in accordance with what you would like to see in your neighbourhood and we’re going to set off down that road.

[12:58]

Having said that we’ve done an awful lot already, [addressing Fiona] “I think I’ve probably met you Fiona and the committee three times now”  and we’re getting to a position, I would be optimistic that by about Christmas by about the end of November we would know where we stand in respect of the land assembly.  When we pass that, when we’ve got to that bit, we can start sitting down and looking in more depth at the timetable for this.  So I suppose what I’m saying in summary is two things, first of all you are definitely not going to see what you didn’t like, we are not going ahead with that, and secondly I’m very  optimistic that we can work with you to plan for something that you will like, and I’m very very committed to doing that, but I’d be very willing to answer any questions that [unclear owing to cough] thank you very much.

[14:02]

Any questions? Chair

Any ideas on the time scale of this?  Male voice

Yes, I’m hopeful that we know about the land ownerships before Christmas. Then when we do that we will be able to start working with you much more energetically it would be worth doing the admin putting the effort in because we’d be looking at that larger land area.
I would say that probably in a further three to six months after that, taking us to next summer, we would be able to be clear on the planning brief and we would have gone beyond that selected an architect we’ll have started looking at the sort of things that an architect would do and then it would probably take another six months after that before we get to a planning application that you would find acceptable.  So I, about a years time.

[15:02]
Will you be using the same [purpose? – unclear] as before or have you [unclear]? Male voice

We are hopeful that we would be able to do some joint work with Places for People because I’ve had a number of meetings with them and they are very keen and willing to do this type of partnership with me. [door bell rings]  I have to say it isn’t always the case with developers that they’re keen on it.  There’s a reason for it, is that this sort of participative  process that we’re talking about is time consuming and a lot of developers would take time and money into account and they would want something done quicker.

[15:49]
This particular developer as you will know a great deal already is a housing association now they tend to be people who want to do something which is more acceptable if you like to local people than a developer who’s constantly worried about cashflow.  It’s a long answer to your question but I’m optimistic that this is the right developer, maybe not the right architect, so I’ve err, the actual organisation behind organising the work that has to have the right values and joint approach we would like to take.  But the architect is the key to giving you the product that you’re really seeking [coughing] I would anticipate a different choice of architect.

[16:35]

Does that mean you’re committed to Places for People? Male voice

No, we’re not.  We’re not committed.  In fact we haven’t got any preconception at the moment about what the [unclear] will be but there are two or three criteria that have to be right, a planning brief will have to be right, the way in which we work with you as residents will have to be right,  so we won’t want to work with people who don’t want to accept that.

[17:05]
and thirdly, actually at the end of the day the price has got to be right, because the council has got to get a reasonable return we have no choice but to get what is called best price, that’s a legal [unclear], so these criteria are all very relevant to bringing the deal together so to speak.

Will other devlopers be considered in their approach to [unclear]?

It depends significantly on who buys 292.  Because I’m keen to do what I call joint venture we will have to work with whoever that is.

Will the council be buying it? Male voice

The council will not be buying it. There is a reason for it and I’m sure you have seen in our local media, one of our great challenges, one of the local councils huge challenges, is to reduce the amount of outstanding debt, there is a lot of outstanding debt,  here in Hammersmith and Fulham £400 millions which has been built up in previous years, and the only [unclear] we all know, the only way we can reduce day to day running costs is by reducing that debt. One of the council’s paramount policies is to reduce debt not to increase it.

[18:35]
And providing we can work appropriately with the private sector there’s no reason why we would have to do that actually we’re better off levering in the private resources that would unencumber the council from that responsibility.  We do it all the time [unclear].

Question
I’m delighted that your thinking about [unclear] have you ever thought about asking these architects before they start, the three architects that you’re thinking of using to actually meet with us and give us give them some idea of what we like? In our world we are required by the council in a process of observation area to maintain certain things like [unclear] at the top and [unclear] at the bottom I think it would be quite nice if they would like something which was similar or could have the same effect and rather than doing something and then no that’s what we don’t want it would be quite nice to see something we might like.

NJ
Yes, and just to recap on that way forward we first of all write in words what we would like to see, what we would want to protect, what we would like the land to be used for, and of course the council does have planning policies that come into play there, would be residential, it’s not going to be commercial. So that’s what we call the planning brief and we hope to work with you on the writing of that – pause – but after that we would want to get in an architect to say what would they design within that group, and I’m saying that ideally you would have [unclear] so he might even come here We would have three presentations, from three different architects,

[interruption from questioner] [unclear]

NJ
You would be participating with the planning brief and you would be able to, before they start writing it they would come along and talk to you because they would want to listen carefully to what was said that’s a part of an architect’s brief, and then he’d seek some “this is how we do our work, this is where we’ve done it, here are some examples of what we’ve achieved in the past” they may say “let’s [unclear] and have a look at what they’ve created and then you would be able to say “we like that one, we don’t like that one, [unclear]” and that’s the best practice that one was describing.

[21:31]
Talking about works that are going to happen (woman asking question) Church Court across the road, [coughing] quite a lot of damage was done to the property, including the wall [unclear] seek reassurance that when these things happen you might respond and repair, put back.

NJ
Yes indeed, I mean there shouldn’t be any damage done to any neighbouring properties [several people speaking at once] was this part of the so called “Decent Homes” works? Well I did speak to Fiona on another matter tonight [unclear] Lucy and I [unclear] you haven’t got very far to come so what we will do [unclear] I’d like to see the other scheme
that you’re talking about [unclear] if we’ve made a mess of something [unclear].

[22:43]
Question: Is there any

Well it sort of was yes, but that one no, it’s not part of what we’re considering here at all, that’s the other side of Starch Green [unclear] that’s not part of what we’re doing.

[23:18]
Question from woman: I think generally we all love to hear the touchy feeliness of this, this is all making us feel good, but you must understand that when we see something like this we’re not prone to believe a lot of it.

NJ
Yup, I understand, and walking through the door is the leader of the Council Cllr Stephen Greenhalgh.

[23:34]
[unclear]
SG Don’t put words in my mouth

NJ
We were just saying that this is a best practice approach to planning, we’re genuine about wanting to consult and making sure we get the brief right and respond to what peoples’ concerns are.

[24:05]
Sometimes of course there are tensions in there.  If we all had a different point of veiw we are likely to have different preferences and points of view. If we thought a controversial thing or sought something that we would all have a contribution to make now.

What we’re trying to do here is to reach as far as we can an accommdation on that, so I’m expecting some people to prefer some things, and dislike others, and hopefully in the mix of discussion through consultation we’ll come up with something that is broadly acceptable.

That’s the world we need to try and reach if we can, but I tell you we’re determined to do this and we’re determined to use this as a best practice example of how to get it right in a neighbourhood like this where you have a fantastic representative body to engage with us on these issues.

Question from woman: You seem to be saying that the housing association and the architect actually ran away with the whole project and the council have no control. How can you guarantee now that we will not be brushed off or the brush off?

NJ
What I was explaining was something really quite different about this approach which we call the joint venture.

[interruption]

Well let me try and explain it.  It’s best described as an economy of scale issue, that if we are able to consider the development of the two sites together the economics of that mean that we can bring forward a scheme which is much more likely to be acceptable, and that the same pressure to build to a higher scale and density and height, will not be there, and that’s the difference, and that’s why this approach that I’m commending is so much better than [unclear] and it’s going to enable us to be much more prescriptive of the design and the overall nature of the development and still be able to do it within an affordable envelope which is one of the other criteria which is so important.

Question from male: You suggested at the beginning that this could be a joint venture, latterly you said they might go off and sell it themselves?

NJ
Well, what I’m optimistic about is that the land 292 the Metropolitan Housing Trust hostel which they now wish to sell will be acquired by someone with whom we can create a joint venture.  I’m very optimistic that might be the case. I’ve got to be cautious a little bit though because at the end of the day I can’t guarantee that to be the outcome I can only nurture it to be the case but I wouldn’t be saying this to you now if I wasn’t pretty optimistic that that would be the outcome.

Questioner interjects:- So they can go off and buy it, the smaller site, and you will be controlling the whole site?

NJ
That’s it!  That’s the idea and that’s what we have been working on, to create and I have quite a lot of confidence and optimism that that will be the outcome, otherwise we wouldn’t be having this discussion,  we’ve been working jolly hard behind the scenes to get this outcome for you because as the leader will undoubtedly say in a moment we were very aware of your concerns and quite moved by them.

Questioner interjects:- They won’t come alongside you and go to a developer [unclear]

NJ
They can’t because we are the predominant land owner so we will we have in fact the last say [unclear]

Questioner intejects:- I’m [unclear] sure that’s correct you’ve got 20,000 sqft of ground there

NJ
Responds

Density

NJ
Responds

[32:58] tape runs out

UPDATE:

There’s more about Nick Johnson in today’s Daily Mail:-

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1325261/Council-chief-quits-203k-job-50k-pension-lands-260k-job-keeps-pension.html


Opinion

I have changed my mind.  Despite the soft reassuring voice and the bedside manner, Nick Johnson is part of an adminstration [“paid through a private limited company, Davies Johnson Ltd, owned by himself and his partner”] whose actions have proved their lack of concern for the quality of life of the residents of H&F and the built environment.  Actions speak louder than words and with the exception of this one case in Goldhawk Road I have to conclude from their behaviour in the rest of the borough that they do not have the best interests of the residents at heart.  How can one trust an administration who would contemplate doing this to the heart of the borough? Out of scale, out of keeping and out of budget. A folly.

http://www.saveourskyline.co.uk/


UPDATE: 13/4/12 The whole project is on hold because MHT have sold 292 to a presently unknown party and 282 remains in the hands of the council who would prefer to see a single developer for the whole site.  Places for People who were to be the developer for the whole site have pulled out citing too high a cost for 292 as the reason.

 

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