Reading this report of goings on down Vauxhall/Nine Elms way, where Boris’s people are proposing a massive development including tall buildings.  Eh?  Not quite the usual image there:

Various questions were raised about family housing. How exactly are children meant to play, when they live on the 39th floor, you might wonder? The helpful man from the Mayor’s office thinks this could be sorted by providing large gardens at the bottom of the flats, designing a new park, and possibly through the use of roof terraces!

Tall buildings outside the City/Docklands…lack of family housing.  It really isn’t quite what we expected, and one wonders what Boris had to do with this.  Another question is where all these people are going to go for their public transport, given that the Waterloo main line is already sufficiently crowded to require an expensive programme of platform lengthening, while the Underground provision consists of Vauxhall station, which is already rammed at peak hours, which is one reason the existing Victoria Line upgrade programme was initiated:

This is not a problem, the Mayor’s office stated last night, because very little car parking is expected, so traffic shouldn’t increase too much (contrary to what the document itself seems to say). This lead to questions about transport (the document is rather scathing about the fact that there is no currently viable finance scheme for public transport), so the audience were concerned to note that buildings should not be erected prior to public transport being in place.

Well, quite.  What does the document [PDF] say about the viability of finance schemes for public transport, anyway?  Bear in mind that in order to have the high-density scheme considered necessary, the extension of the Northern Line is considered mandatory:

The consultation on the draft SPG indicates that the Mayor is giving further consideration to whether some places at the margins of the central London charging area should be exempted in whole or in part from the standard charge in circumstances where an overriding need to fund another piece of strategic transport infrastructure can be demonstrated.

We see a worrying mutation of Ken- and Boris-era thinking here: the inherited London Plan pretty much forces new developments not to include sufficient car parking as a deterrent to traffic (quite sensibly), with the corollary that big new developments go hand-in-hand with big new transport provision, for instance the Dalston development being above the new Dalston Junction station.  However, Boris-era thinking, not to mention TfL’s finances pretty much precludes lavish investment in infrastructure; if anything the overwhelming urge is to do things as cheaply as possible, preferably with someone else’s money, in this case either from the developer or bizarrely nicked from himself in the form of money the developer would otherwise have put into Crossrail.  It’s clear that something has to give here – either Boris has to tell the developers and their borough friends that London can’t afford to support large-scale residential developments (which hits his already troubled housing strategy) or he has to start winding up TfL’s big projects again to support these developments, including finding the cash himself.  He can’t do the former, since he has to get the Crossrail cash and affordable housing units from somewhere, so he’s going to be judged on whether he really delivers on associated new projects or hides behind his customary smokescreen.  In the end, he can’t rob Peter to pay Paul, or even rob Boris to pay Boris.  Such antics can only lead to ruin and scorn.

Nine Elms isn’t the only hot potato in the area, by the way.  Another local website, CJAG, reports on Wandsworth’s council’s approval of a scheme at Osiers Road, near Wandsworth Town station, again with large concerns about public transport accessibility in a notoriously congested area (600m from the already crowded Wandsworth Town station, and after that it’s buses only).  CJAG further report:

The GLA highlight that considering the lack of information regarding residential quality and amenity, the proposal cannot be considered acceptable at this stage. Although they do not criticize the design, they highlight that the ground floor proposal does not comply with London Plan Policy and ask the Council to consider the impact on the immediate local and wider context

Two big schemes, with clear flaws in them.  Will Boris overrule the boroughs?  Will he stick to his guns over family housing and tall buildings?  Or will he duck the issue under cover of leaving it to the boroughs, in this case including Tory flagship Wandsworth?

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