Monday update: Strong responses and a lot of concerns raised on this one – a lot of you have got in touch, and we see a lot of comments have also gone to Wandsworth on the planning application in the last couple of days since we posted this (it had no comments at all but at the time of writing has 48 objections, and two general comments which look like objections). Fair comments also raised that the current area has issues (drunks and pigeons) – but they’re on the already-paved parts, which won’t be changing – if those areas became vegetation those issues may actually go away… Sometimes we just report on proposals, but when there’s an issue of importance or with a strong common view we feed in a collective view, and that’s what we have done in this case with this letter to Wandsworth planners commenting on Asda / WalMart’s proposals.
Controversial plans have been submitted by Asda to completely destroy the park that surrounds their Lavender Hill store. They want to remove all the vegetation, and pave over it with tarmac and a glued gravel finish. It’s easy to see why they want to do this – looking after the greenery takes time and costs them money, it’d be much easier for them not to have to get someone out every few months to prune the bushes.
But the greenery here matters – because it’s one of the very few patches of green left in a very dense urban area, and it shields surrounding restaurants and houses from a rather blank and busy car park. The recent (and expensive) streetscape and paving improvements to Lavender Hill were deliberately designed to enhance the square in front of the Asda entrance, and make the most of the greenery. There’s a reason why the greenery was included in the original planning permissions for the development all those years ago.
This seems very odd timing – given that the (excellent) Council-funded work to replace the stairs from Asda out to Dorothy Road with a carefully landscaped curving ramp, have only been completed very recently.
We welcome your thoughts on this proposal – and in the interest of fairness we always try to look at all sides of any new proposals – but frankly it’s hard to see this as anything other than a terrible idea! It flies in the fact of efforts to green our town centres and cut carbon emissions, it’s bad for biodiversity, it’s probably bad for rainwater absorption (even if the tarmac is described as ‘porous’), and it will be damaging to the attractiveness of Lavender Hill and the town centre as a whole.
It also suggests a lack of imagination – it’ll make an already dated and not-too-beautiful store look even less attractive to customers (many of whom arrive on foot), and there are plenty of people who could probably look after the gardens on a voluntary basis, if Asda really aren’t interested.
Other changes are also planned, which are uncontroversial – for example Asda plan to repaint the while parts of the building in dark grey, and to refurbish the clock (which has been broken for years), the entrance steps, and the rather worn-out travelator. The trees in the service area to the east of Asda are also proposed for destruction. But the standout part of the plan is definitely the destruction of the park – with all the areas shown in red in the map below planned to be torn up and permanently paved over.
It’s not too late to comment on the planning application – where you can object, make a general comment (or support, if you reckon we’ve got this one all wrong!) – go to the Wandsworth planning website, and search for application number 2020/3073. Local input and concerns can swing the balance on decisions like these – if more than three valid objections are received, for example, decisions get escalated – and if decisions go to appeal, the views of residents can also be important.
But be quick – your author has been too busy with work and has only just spotted this one, and while the Council planning officers are very sensible and do generally do their best to accept late comments (the deadline is tomorrow), they can’t go on forever.