The Ministry of Sound has successfully won a long-running battle to prevent a 41-storey tower block from being built next to it home of 20 years, amid fears that the development could have led to the south London’s nightclub’s closure.
Southwark Council’s committee voted strongly to reject a planning application by developer Oakmayne-which intended to build 255 flats directly opposite the club in the area where there has been no residential development formerly.
The London club has feared that if the construction of the building had gone ahead, it would have led to a number of complaints about noise and nuisance from residents living so close. Club bosses believed that this would have led to the club, which attracts 300,000 visitors a year, losing its licence after 20 years in the area and as a result being shut down. According to the nightclub, Christopher Allen, the head of Oakmayne is reported to have said of the matter, “Nightclubs come and go.”
Developer Oakmayne had offered to ‘triple glaze’ the first 20-30 storeys of the flats which faced the nightclub, and argued that the venue and residents could exist together in the same place.
Southwark council has yet to respond to the verdict made by the committee. However commercial property Ministry of Sound, which also runs one of Britain’s two largest independent record labels from the site, has offered to obtain the Oakmayne site and has already been in contact with the creator of the London eye; architect Marks Barfield to draw up different mixed-used proposals.
However with relations between the office block owner and the club so pugnacious it is not apparent this will lead to a solution.
Over 26,000 people had signed a Ministry of Sound petition against Oakmayne’s proposed redevelopment of an office building called Eileen House, which is located opposite the club’s Gaunt Street home.
The club’s chief executive, Lohan Presencer said: “We always maintained that this was the wrong kind of development in the wrong place, not just because of the catastrophic implications it would have had for our business, but because it was wrong in every way for the people of Southwark.”
The Authority has wanted councillors to give the go-ahead for the Oakmayne property scheme.
A spokeswoman commented: “The council’s planning officers recommended approval because they felt that the proposed building was of high quality and that by working with the developer, it could offer a great deal to the local area.”
“On viability it is relatively common place to recommend approval of schemes that are technically unviable. Members have done so at several other locations, but officers include provisions in planning agreements that ensure that if the development becomes more viable prior to implementation the development will provide additional affordable housing.”
Christopher Allen, Oakmayne chairman said the group was considering its options and whether to appeal against the decision. He made further comment: “We are both confused and bitterly disappointed by the planning committee’s decision, which was made against their own officer recommendations and the weight of the evidence in support of Eileen House.” He said the decision of the planning committee would “cost the people of Southwark” and that “what will remain in a 1960s obsolete eyesore and the area, which desperately needs regeneration, will continue to stagnate”.
In total five members of the planning committee turned down the planning application on the grounds that it breached planning policies, including a lack of affordable social housing. There was one no vote and no support on the committee.
Mr Presencer said the decision would protect the jobs of the club’s 200 employees-and of many commercial property businesses that depend on its customers, including taxi firms, pubs and takeaway shops.
He further added: “We do some great community work and it’s fantastic that we get the chance to continue to be the beating heart of Southwark.” Chart-topping Tottenham rapper Wretch 32, signed by the club’s record label, spoke of his delight about the rejected planning application, “I am so pleased, and the Ministry of Sound is a London landmark that has played a key role in music for 20 years”.
Radio 1 dance DJ Judge Jules, a regular at the club, also backed the campaign. He said “That is fantastic news for this iconic institution. London needs nightclubs. I and my peers are absolutely delighted by this news.”
A decision on a separate mixed-use proposal by Oakmayne on nearby Newington Causeway was deferred.
The Ministry of Sound said “This application fell short on so many grounds and the overwhelming nature of the rejection raises serious questions as to why Southwark’s planning committee saw fit to recommend approval in the first place”.
Presencer commented: “Members have arrived at the correct decision and now is the time for all concerned to come together to find a positive vision for the regeneration of the Elephant and Castle. Ministry of Sound wants to play a key part in this.”
He further added: “Ministry will write to the developer Christopher Allen to invite him to talks about the future of the Eileen House. The needs of the people of Southwark, the potential for an alternative vision for that site-these will be top of the agenda. Embryonic alternative plans, which have been drawn up with world leading architects Marks Barfield, will now be explored further.”
Leading architect, Marks Barfield is examining a mix of office space, restaurants and swimming pool either in a refurbishment of Eileen House or in low-rise scheme.
However Oakmayne’s Christopher Allen said: “It is a bitter irony that the committee citied provision of affordable homes as one of the key reasons for refusal, as their decision has now cost the people of Southwark £16m worth of 80 affordable homes, as well as an extra £4.25m worth of public realm improvements and wider benefits for their own designated Enterprise Quarter.”
Southwark Council said that it was eager to see the Elephant & Castle area redeveloped. Fiona Colley, Councillor and cabinet member for regeneration and corporate strategy, said, “The Eileen House site is a prime location in central London, and in the Elephant & Castle regeneration opportunity area. Any improvements to this area would be of a great benefit to local people. We’re very keen to see a development go ahead on this site and will be looking into the next steps forward.”
London nightclubs often have only short-term survival, with changing land use a continuing threat. Commercial property ‘The Cross’ in London’s King’s Cross closed in 2008 ahead of the redevelopment of the site behind the station. Turnmills in Clerkenwell, the first UK venue with a 24-hour licence, also closed in 2008 and is set to be turned into a six-storey office complex, complete with its own bar, restaurant and a café.
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