Vauxhall Nine Elms

Tuesday 30 October 2012

The development of Vauxhall Nine Elms is to be taken forward as a model for other parts of London, GLA chief of staff and deputy mayor for planning Sir Edward Lister revealed last week.

Lister was delivering the keynote address at a special NLA conference to update development in the area, held fittingly on the upper floors of Market Towers, being redeveloped by KPF into two new towers. ‘It has been a long journey, but in the last few years things have accelerated fast’, said Lister. This has been helped first by the decision of the US Embassy to move to Nine Elms, which underpinned the plans and gave people confidence in the area, but also by the creation of an Enterprise Zone and raising money from a number of different sources. ‘It’s a model we’re taking elsewhere to other parts of London because it works. It is about cooperation and working together. There’s a lot we can do together to make something work.’

One of the key points Lister highlighted was VNEB’s relative inaccessibility, but even here things are moving, with the proposed extension of the Northern line to two extra stations – Nine Elms and Battersea. Councillor Ravi Govindia, leader of Wandsworth Borough Council, said he hoped this might even extend further in time to link up with Clapham Junction, and that plans for a pedestrian and cycle bridge to the Nine Elms area will ‘be a design icon identifying this area from afar’ and improve accessibility yet further.

This bridge, said Alex Williams, director of borough partnerships at Transport for London, is now the subject of feasibility studies and would be seen as an ‘iconic’ structure that will cost a ‘not insurmountable’ £30 million or so, following a design competition. This is despite the fact that stakeholders on the south side are slightly less sniffy than those where it might touch down in Westminster, he added. Indeed, said Nine Elms Vauxhall Partnership programme director Helen Fisher, some £1 billion of infrastructure is needed in order to bring £7.9bn to London’s economy and make the area ‘fly’. ‘We have a huge list of infrastructure that we think is necessary to make this development work’, she said.

Wandsworth’s assistant director of planning and environmental services Seema Manchanda said there were over 32 key development sites in the borough, with some of the more prominent among them Riverlight, with its 806 residential units under construction, and Ballymore’s Embassy Gardens scheme. Then there is Battersea Power Station, which its development director David Twohig described as a central London project which promised to be the ‘biggest growth centre for London’ and a destination founded upon the building’s unique identity. The project, backed by Malaysian developers, includes commercial space, leisure, and residential, and a new temporary park which opens next year.

The conference also head from many more with an interest in the area including Matthew Townend, development director of St James, about schemes including Hampton House – 242 units designed by Foster’s and being submitted for planning next month, KPF’s John Bushell on his firm’s proposals for two mixed use towers of 58 and 43 storeys tall – including viewing gallery – at the heart of a cluster and Helen Evans, director of business development and support for the Covent Garden Market Authority, who showed how her now consented project will improve facilities for traders and allow better access across the site. Simon Wigzell, head of UK property at CLS Holdings detailed his firm’s mixed use Vauxhall Square scheme but also pointed to the need to sort out the Vauxhall gyratory as a crucial public realm experience.

Lambeth’s programme manager for neighbourhood regeneration Sandra Roebuck echoed that last point, stressing the need to establish a ‘district centre’ near to Vauxhall Bridge connecting to a new linear park. ‘In a big growth plan it is very easy to lose the small things that make places special’, she said. 

David Taylor - Editor, New London Quarterly

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