Participants recognised that the neighbourhood is to face two decades of development and had varying reactions to this prospect, both positive and negative. Many recognised the opportunity development brought, including the potential to unlock employment opportunities or new pedestrian routes through congested areas. Others anticipated a regenerated public realm, active frontage and animation. Many stressed the need to coordinate construction during this period.
A significant number felt that the area was becoming overdeveloped and/or with the wrong type of development – tenure, type (particularly hotels and student accommodation), and size of developments being the key issues.
The concept of mixed-use development was generally supported. Many were concerned that the housing tenure mix was inappropriately balanced. A significant number called for more social housing to be developed in the area. Affordable housing was not considered truly affordable for local people and where Waterloo was seen as an exemplar of other types of housing, particularly co-ops, debate was needed on alternative models of housing and alternative measures of affordability. Some felt that the lack of affordability contributed to transient communities: young people growing up in the area would not be able to stay and would therefore have no investment in their neighbourhood. Equally, older people are not well provided for with housing and must leave the neighbourhood to access appropriate care later in life.
Many felt that the practice of allowing an off-site affordable housing contribution to be spent on a greater volume of units in southern areas of Lambeth and Southwark, though contrary to policy, was becoming standard practice and threatened the sense of a mixed community which characterised the neighbourhood.
In addition, some were concerned that the affordable housing contribution was the priority for local authorities and seeking to fulfil the 40% target (in Lambeth, 35% in Southwark), could reduce the amount available for other mitigating measures such as better public realm, school places etc, where these were also under increasing pressure from new residents. Local people wanted to be more able to influence the formula for defrayal and a further debate is required on this issue.
Heritage is a key concern but there is a balance to be struck between listing assets and preventing their reuse. Preserving the area’s general character can be as important as listing individual buildings. Many disagreed over the need or otherwise to restrict the height of buildings in appropriate places in Waterloo but where buildings are high they should be more sensitively expressed at ground level. The impact on local views is important to local people and the impact of development on the setting of the Westminster World Heritage Site should not eclipse this issue.
Where open space is secured through development, there should be a mechanism to guarantee that the space will remain accessible. Some felt that such assurances had too often been rescinded post-construction. Major developments could compensate local people for their position/impact in perpetuity via a locally defrayed revenue s106 payment.
There was some recognition of the change in the local demographic – a move towards single occupancy dwellings (in contrast to the overcrowding of the Waterloo of 50 years ago), new foreign investment in London property market and a greater than ever before wealth gap in the local resident population.
i) Make it a condition of advertising consent that advertising hoardings provide revenue stream for local defrayal
ii) Developers’ transport plans must be seven-day rather than five-day
iii) Modelling of wind and shadow effects on development should be independently carried out (though still paid for by the developer)
iv) Revenue S106 payment on large developments used by local community to mitigate the impact in perpetuity
v) Community consultation on major developments to be carried out early and independently