We like Kennington Oval's character and human-scale streetscape: We believe it's possible to develop the Gas-holder site without losing this character...
Berkeley Homes & Lambeth have created a Masterplan that has many elements we like. In particular, we like the co-working space; we like the fact that the large gas-holder is retained; and we welcome the public routes through the site (though we think there should be more) But it includes 15 storey towers, that we believe would permanently damage Oval's character - and there is much evidence that high-rise towers mean less involvement in the community. Also, their Masterplan deliberately disguises or hides the towers from their illustrations... And, frankly, we believe that Kennington / Oval deserves better.
We like the street lay-out, but please note the streets are pedestrian streets - it is vital that Berkeley commit to making these open access at all times, not a gated community
View from Kennington Lane
We like the open street form here, but why have Berkeley hidden the two 15-storey towers? One is behind a tree (with its 4 top floors cut off) and the other is not shown at all.
Also please note, the ramp shown does not look big enough for all the cars entering the new underground parking for the Tesco superstore.
View West from Montford Place
We like the streetscape here, but again, the pictures are failing to show clearly that there are two 15-storey towers on the left side of the road, and the near building is envisaged to be 6-8 storeys high. The shadowing is also very unrealistic - the street shown will see almost no sunlight.
View South towards the Gas holders
This is the only significant public green space proposed. It is small and, because of the tall buildings (9-10 storeys) on either side, it will receive very little sunlight - again the illustration is mis-leading.
View from Kennington Cross
The two 15-storey towers will be very visible from Kennington Cross, approximately as shown. These will cast long shadows over the area, particularly in the late-afternoon and early evening.
And if they start at 15 storeys...
In nearby Kidbrooke, once Berkeley had approval for 9 storeys in their Masterplan, they raised the building heights to 15 storeys (in 2012), then applied for 31 storeys in 2014. The local MP said: "I've been staggered by the sheer naked greed and opportunism of Berkeley Homes"
There is an alternative...
We are not NIMBYs. We want to see redevelopment of the Gas-holder site. But we want to see redevelopment that enhances the area, not spoiling the area with high-rise towers. Working with www.createstreets.com we have worked up the following alternative plan:
Streetscape with large, iconic green space
Our plan has more streets through the site than the Berkeley plan - in particular, we also open up a route into the site from the Kennington Park estate - the closest neighbours of the site.
Because our plan avoids any buildings over 7 storeys, the streets and gardens are not over-shadowed the way the Berkeley Masterplan streets would be. This plan creates high-density new, attractive and affordable homes to help solve the borough's chronic housing shortage, whilst building a vibrant neighbourly community.
More "green" routes through the site
We believe that the Berkeley plan ignores the most significant neighbours of the area - the residents of Kennington Park Estate, which surrounds the Gas-holder site to the North and South. After consultation with Kennington Park Estate residents, we believe it is vital that the development opens up more routes through the site from the Kennington Park estate - so in our scheme the gas-holder park would be open to both Montford Place and Kennington Park estate, ensuring more through routes and livelier streets
Responding to the gas-holder ironwork
Francis Terry, our pro-bono architect, has suggested that the houses that back on to the Gas holders might have iron-worked balconies similar to those found in New Orleans - an attractive fusion of the two local aesthetics
Traditional streetscape feel, yet high-density
The designs are not final, but we would look to continue the street designs of the local area - from Kennington Park estate, Kennington Lane, Kennington Cross and the Oval. This will create a human-scale streetscape that will become a vibrant community, encouraging more local businesses to the area and fostering local community interaction in a way that big residential towers rarely seem to do.
London needs more housing. Streetscapes make better housing
There are many examples of dense housing that works within a traditional human-scale streets and a good mixture of squares and gardens. Here are a few examples from London, Paris and New York.
There is substantial evidence that streetscapes have the following advantages over residential towers:- they are associated with better mental health, better physical health, more walking to see friends, knowing more of your neighbours- children tend to do better in them. And because they are cheaper to manage, normal streets tend to work much better for mixed communities of the wealthy and the less wealthy. Towers can be great for the rich, but their high costs and service charges aren’t so great for everyone else (e.g., Service charges in Shakespeare Tower in the Barbican are now £8,000 a year)
More background to our alternative masterplan
We do not have Berkeley's budgets, so this has all been created using volunteer resources - but it would be great to hear your feedback.
We conducted a survey in April 2015 that found that 91% of residents do not want buildings over 8 storeys in the area. Please send Berkeley the message that we don't want high towers in Kennington Oval. Click the button below to take part in their consultation and send this message.