An article in Building Design last week had Convoys Wharf developer Hutchison Whampoa claiming to have made 'significant' concessions in its masterplan following a recent meeting with the GLA.
The article, which noted that the determination of the application by the Mayor of London was now delayed according to the original schedule, said:
“We have made further revisions to our masterplan to address issues raised by local groups,” a spokesman for the developer said. “By moving the school, creating new space for a John Evelyn horticultural centre, lowering the height of a building on the boundary adjacent to the listed Shipwright’s House and offering the wharf site for the Lenox project, we have made significant concessions.”
Unfortunately the developer's definition of 'significant' is at odds with our own understanding of the word, and the changes that have been made are either minimal, or in the case of the Lenox project, non-existent. None of the amendments are sufficient to offer real hope or properly support the long-term viability of either of the community-led schemes.
In truth, the situation for the Lenox project, despite Hutchison Whampoa's claim, is unchanged from the first public viewing of Farrell's revised masterplan. At the first public consultation in July 2012, a large ground-level model of the proposed redevelopment incorporated a model of a wooden ship on the protected wharf area. The model was labelled 'The Lenox Project'.
A verbal offer that the Lenox could occupy the protected wharf for '5-7 years' and then depart to somewhere else is still the only indication from Hutchison Whampoa that they have made any attempt to even consider this fantastic project. But as its promoters have made clear numerous times, a temporary presence on the site is entirely contrary to the central ethos of The Lenox Project vision.
Using the Olympia building for the Lenox would not only offer a tangible link to the history of this listed structure, it would provide a long-term future for the building at the heart of the site.
Although Sayes Court Garden CIC has persuaded the developer to make some adaptations to its masterplan, the implications of these changes for the developer are minimal and have been accommodated with no loss of floor space.
But in order for the educational aims of the proposed John Evelyn Urban Horticulture Centre to be achievable, further changes are required, in particular relocating the centre to a stand-alone building located on the site of the former Sayes Court manor house.
This stance is strongly supported by the National Trust and The Garden History Society. But although Sayes Court Garden CIC has demonstrated how such a change could be accommodated without compromising the developer's return or making significant changes to the masterplan, so far such requests have fallen on deaf ears.
After a recent meeting between the developer and its professional advisers, the Greater London Authority planners, deputy mayor Sir Edward Lister and representatives of the local community groups, the Mayor of London's planners asked Hutchison Whampoa to make formal offers to both community groups as regards their options for a future presence on the site.
We will report back as and when such offers are received by the community groups.