For the last few months, like many people, my commute to work has been affected severely by the road works at Elephant and Castle. The removal of the northern roundabout and the new north-south cycle superhighway have often created tailbacks all the way back to Camberwell Road. The option of traveling west up Camberwell New Road has also been affected by the road works for cycle superhighway 5 over Vauxhall Bridge. Personally I welcome these developments, but I will be very glad when their construction is finished.
The effect on traffic made me think about the extent to which Camberwell commuters rely on the bus to get to work. Census data from 2011 shows just how dependent we are – out of more than 8,500 wards in England and Wales, the six with the highest percentage of residents in employment who use the bus to get to work is:
In other words, our little area of London is unique in the whole of England and Wales in terms of its reliance on the bus. The reasons for this are interlinked. With the exception of South Bermondsey and Denmark Hill stations, there are no other rail or tube links across the six wards. As with much of inner London, car ownership is low – between 60% (Brunswick Park) and 69% (Camberwell Green) of households do not own a car. Only 7% of commuters across the six wards cycle to work, which compares to upwards of 20% in areas of Hackney (although hopefully this will change once the new cycling infrastructure is in place). By contrast, the bus network is very comprehensive. 15 different bus routes pass through Camberwell Green, which is one more than Piccadilly Circus. During rush hour on Camberwell Road, the interval between northbound buses is usually less than a minute.
Just another reason, if one were needed, why Camberwell is special.
Camberwell’s view of St Paul’s Cathedral Update
In 2014 and earlier this year I wrote about the proposal for residential towers on Park Street near Tate Modern that threatened the view of St Paul’s Cathedral from the northwest corner of Camberwell Green. In response to the concerns raised by local residents, the developer reduced the height of the tallest tower by two storeys, and in the summer Southwark Council gave the go-ahead for the project. The new building will still have an adverse effect on the view of the drum of the Cathedral, but the view of the dome should be preserved. It is probably the best outcome we could have expected, so thank you to all those who wrote to the Council to object to the original proposal.
Nevertheless, it will still stick in the craw when the towers are completed, and their top floor penthouses are marketed for their unparalleled views of the Cathedral!
Anyone travelling north or west from Camberwell cannot fail to miss the scale of development taking place in Elephant and Castle and Vauxhall at the moment. What is not so obvious is the number of projects currently underway or anticipated in Camberwell itself. A plethora of developers, housing associations, and even the Council itself are getting in on the act. Here’s a summary of the main ones just within the Camberwell Green ward.
Camberwell Fields: Notting Hill Housing Association are currently building 279 homes on Edmund Street and Southampton Way, overlooking the south west corner of Burgess Park. The development is a mix of private sale, shared ownership, and social rent, on a site formerly occupied by social housing, knocked down over 10 years ago and immortalised by two paintings on display in the Museum of London. The development recently received a rather snooty write-up from the Evening Standard, although personally I think it could have been a lot worse. Status: completion late 2015
Camberwell Road/Wyndham Road: On the corner of this junction, Parritt Leng are building 82 mixed tenure flats in five blocks, as well retail space, a gallery, and studios to replace those demolished by the development. The stretch of shops along this part of Camberwell Road appears to be really struggling at the moment. The Corrib Bar has been illegally turned into a church, while two other shops appear to have been quietly converted into studio flats by their owners. If the development creates a fillip for area it will be no bad thing, and would compensate for the Victorian buildings knocked down to clear the site. Status: under construction
Crown Street: A few metres away the same developer is also building 69 mixed tenure flats and commercial space on a slither of land between Crown Street and the railway line, formerly used mainly as a car park. Status: under construction
315–7 Camberwell New Road: On the site of the former Jono’s Snooker Hall, IDM Properties have now begun a development of 31 flats as well as a bar and a replacement snooker hall in the basement. This site has had a chequered history with planning permission having originally been granted for a smaller development with a larger proportion of social housing, but which the developer subsequently determined was not viable. Status: under construction
1–6 Camberwell Green/307–11 Camberwell New Road: On the opposite side of Camberwell Passage, Frasers Property have begun work on a development of 101 private and shared ownership apartments with eight commercial units on the ground floor on the site of the old Jobcentre and HSS hire centre. The advertising boards describe “the art of living”, though the current website suggests the development is firmly targeting the buy-to-let market. However, the ground floor commercial space from this and the above development could hopefully further increase the number of eating and drinking choices in Camberwell, currently constrained by Southwark’s planning policy that requires 50% of commercial premises in the town centre to be for retail use. Status: site cleared
272–4 and 286–304 Camberwell Road: Just next door to the previous site, Peabody housing association have had planning permission for 2 years to build 66 mixed tenure homes on land overlooking the north west corner of Camberwell Green. It is not clear when construction will begin on this site, though it appears Peabody are still seeking ancillary permissions to meet the requirements of their planning consent. Status: site cleared
240 and 252 Camberwell Road: A few steps further north, and another developer has recently been given permission for 164 homes on a site currently occupied by a theatre set company next to and behind the Nags Head pub. Ironically, the only objector was the House of Praise, which itself only recently received retrospective planning permission, having illegally converted the former bingo hall into a church (albeit one with nice lights at Christmas). Status: planning permission granted
Elmington estate: As part of the final phase of Southwark’s long-term and oft-delayed plan for the Elmington Estate, the housing association Family Mosaic is working with the developer Bellway to redevelop three sites in the area. One, on Lomond Grove, consists of 82 mixed tenure homes; another on Elmington Road consists of 89 units; and the third, on Benhill Road, includes 54 units. These are the only sites out of those listed which will see the demolition of homes to make way for the new buildings – around 180 council-owned and right-to-buy homes, many of which have fallen into a terrible state of repair in recent years. Hopefully, those people being rehoused will be moved to one of the above sites. Status: planning permission granted.
Lomond Grove: Finally, elsewhere on the Elmington estate, the Council itself has begun work on a site formerly occupied by garages to build 25 homes, the sales from 10 of which will be used to fund the provision of 15 for social rent. Status: under construction
Altogether, the various developments come to 1,042 new homes across the ward. Albeit, not all of these are additional. My estimate is that taking account of the homes that will be demolished, around 860 are additional. To place this in context, the 2011 census estimated that there were 6,179 dwellings in the ward. So if all of these come to fruition over the coming years, it will mean a 14% increase in the ward’s housing stock.
Last year I wrote about the threat to the view of St Paul’s Cathedral from Camberwell Road posed by the developer Delancey, which is proposing to build 3 towers at 185 Park Street, next to the Tate Modern.
Thanks to objections from Camberwell residents, Delancey was required to give specific consideration of the impact of its proposal on this view of St Paul’s when it came to its application for planning permission.
In late autumn the company submitted an application. Its proposal is still for 3 towers, the tallest of which will be 20 stories. It is a mixed office and residential scheme. Delancey do not propose to build any affordable housing on the site because the current design does not allow for the separate entrance the company believes this would require, and because residents would not be able to afford the service charges.
The Townscape, Heritage and Visual Impact Assessment shows the towers would have a highly detrimental effect on the quality of this view (p.35).
The current view includes the entire drum, dome and lantern of St Paul’s, which will be framed by the Elephant Park scheme once complete. Indeed, the masterplan for Elephant Park was shaped by a desire to preserve this view. The proposed development would obscure nearly all of the drum and part of the dome, and as such the view would be destroyed.
Bizarrely, the developer describes this as only “minor” harm to the view.
Although the deadline for objections closed just before Christmas, Southwark Council will still accept responses up to the point at which it reaches a decision. The SE5 Forum has also proposed protecting this view in its draft submission to the consultation on the New Southwark Plan. Please can I encourage you to comment on the application, or write to email@example.com to object to application 14-AP-3842.
Many people have heard about and experienced the views of St Paul’s Cathedral from locations such as Primrose Hill, Hampstead Heath and Richmond Park, which are protected by law. This prevents the construction of tall buildings across large swathes of central London. You can see a map of the areas affected here.
But did you know that Camberwell has its own splendid view of St Paul’s? Walking north on the west side of Camberwell Road from the Green, the dome of the cathedral is clearly visible for a 100m stretch of road. It is a particularly stunning and unexpected sight at night-time, and a pleasant reminder of how close our neighbourhood is to the centre of London. The view is highlighted in the Camberwell Green Conservation Area Appraisal, which states that it should be protected and enhanced. Indeed, even the masterplan for the redeveloped Heygate estate has been shaped by a desire to protect this view.
However, it is now under threat from a potential development further north in the borough. Delancey have submitted an application for a Scoping Opinion to build three residential towers of 10, 14 and 23 storeys on Park Street, near Tate Modern. The tallest of these, at 80 metres, sits directly on the line of sight between Camberwell Green and St Paul’s.
It would be such a shame if this view was lost because of the desire of a developer to cram yet another skyscraper onto the London skyline. There is still time, though, for Camberwell’s voice to be heard. Please consider emailing your views to Southwark at firstname.lastname@example.org (citing application number 14-AP-0528), and help save our view for future generations. The consultation period ends on 27 March. And if you have not yet seen it for yourself, have a look next time you are on Camberwell Road.