Former Vauxhall MP Kate Hoey suggests council was driven by motive to get ‘as much money as possible’ from £400m redevelopment of former ITV studios

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Make’s plans for a £400m office-led development on London’s South Bank

Former Vauxhall MP Kate Hoey has described Lambeth council’s approval of Make’s controversial redevelopment of ITV’s former London studios as an “abuse of its planning powers”.

Speaking on the third day of a public inquiry into the £400m South Bank scheme, which was called in by former communities secretary Greg Clark in September, Hoey sharply criticised the absence of any housing in the office-led development and suggested the council had allowed it to proceed for financial reasons.

She said: “How on earth in this day and age when there is so much shortage of housing could this scale of building be built without housing in it?

“This is a major brownfield site with the capacity to deliver a significant number of homes, and it disappoints me that once again Lambeth has not insisted in such provision which they know is so desperately needed.

Describing the plans as “very grossly overdeveloped on a very important site,” she said: “It is hard to avoid the conclusion that they have been driven by an overriding motive, which some people might say is quite acceptable, a motive to get as much money as possible from the development both in the community infrastructure levy and in rates, and I do think that is a slight abuse of its planning powers.”

Lambeth council have been contacted for comment.

> Also read: Campaigners tear into Make’s South Bank “hulk” on first day of public inquiry into £400m scheme

The scheme, which is being developed by CO-RE and Mitsubishi Estate, would see all existing buildings on the riverside site demolished and replaced by a 26-storey tower linked to a 13-storey block.

Kate Hoey

Kate Hoey was MP for Vauxhall from 1989 to 2019

It was approved by the local authority in March despite the planning application receiving hundreds of objections from locals, including current Vauxhall MP Florence Eshalomi, and protests from campaign groups.

Hoey, who was the Labour MP for Vauxhall for thirty years before stepping down in 2019, said the proposals were a “classic example of the local community not being involved early enough”.

She said: “By the time the local community were involved, the key decisions had been taken about the size, what was going into it and about the public space, and that is a mistake, because if we can get something that works for local people, it very often works for everyone.”

The Brexit-supporting MP said the planning inspector’s recommendation, expected in the new year, would have an “absolutely huge impact on the future of planning in this country”.

She argued the scheme was also flawed because of its design, adding: “I genuinely cannot see how anyone can say that this will be a beautiful building, and for too long in my view beauty has played very little part in our planning decisions.”

Calling for the proposals to be refused, she said planners needed to “really look at what could be built here to add not just some desperately needed housing and genuinely open public space but also something that will add beauty to this truly historic area.”

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The plans have been criticised for their scale compared to neighbouring listed buildings, including the grade II*-listed National Theatre

Rupert Warren KC, speaking on behalf of the developers, said on Monday in his opening statement that the proposals had been “informed by the strong horizontality” of the neighbouring grade II*-listed National Theatre and retain a “family resemblance, whilst being clearly different in use and appearance”.

He said that while there may be a “minor detriment” to views of the theatre from Blackfriars Bridge, the addition of the proposals’ “design quality would more than outweigh it”.

Lambeth council’s representative Matthew Reed agreed, saying that the building’s façade treatment was “functional but elegant and understated” and that the overall plans achieved “design excellence”.

He added that the public benefits of the proposals “outweigh the harm to heritage assets” and were in accordance with the development plan “when considered as a whole”.

The proposals are being opposed at the inquiry by the Waterloo Community Development Group (WCDG) and Coin Street Community Builders.

In his opening statement, WCDG director Michael Ball said the plans were “inappropriate, out of context and harmful”, adding: “It’s not the height that is damaging, it is the fatness, the girth that causes the damage […] this is a hulk.”

The inquiry is expected to run until the first week of January next year with a reserve day pencilled in later that month if required.