It was standing room only at a packed hall off Lambeth Walk last Thursday, where residents expressed fury at Lambeth’s plans to wreck daylight in council homes and overshadow Lambeth Walk Green by building two towers of private housing.

The 11-storey towers are part of a planning application by Homes for Lambeth (“HfL”) to replace 42 sheltered homes at Denby Court on Lambeth Walk with 141 new homes – only 45 of which would be social housing.

At least 40 existing homes and a nursery next to the scheme will have their daylight reduced by up to 50%, leaving many in permanent gloom and with resulting multiple health issues. This is in breach of BRE standards which developers are in principle supposed to comply with.

The meeting heard from local architects who had worked up an alternative scheme which could provide the same number of homes but at half the height, which wouldn’t cause the daylight losses or overshadow Lambeth Walk Doorstep Green and council homes. A professional financial appraisal had confirmed that the alternative was viable and could generate a surplus to HfL and the Council. The alternative design would be developed and financed by HfL on the same principles as the design submitted to planning. Despite previous incorrect councillor statements that there was no financing for the alternative (for which an apology was issued), it has now been confirmed that Save Lambeth Walk is correct and the same financing approach could be adopted.

But the meeting reacted with frustration that applicant Homes for Lambeth (HfL) had refused to engage, and had sent their apologies only hours before the meeting. All three Labour ward councillors also sent their apologies, including Cllr Amos, who sits on the HfL board. Cllr Simpson, also Chair of Lambeth Planning Committee, had tweeted that the scheme should go ahead despite concerns about the height as new homes were required. The meeting questioned why a perfectly viable alternative without the downsides was being rejected by councillors unwilling to even engage in discussion.

Green and Liberal Democrat candidates for the forthcoming local elections in May spoke against the Homes for Lambeth scheme and said they would ensure the alternative scheme was worked up if they were elected. A message of support for the community from local MP Florence Eshalomi was also read out:

“I have always fought for the right of the community to be heard in planning decisions that impact them. There should be no exception here. I am clear that any new proposal for the site of Denby Court must contain a strong affordable housing contingent and be in keeping with the existing aesthetic of the area, while not negatively impacting residents of surrounding streets in a disproportionate manner.”

The meeting heard that a similar scheme by HfL for 36 homes at Wootton St in Waterloo – which would wreck the daylight in 99 social housing flats – had been put on hold last autumn as a result of campaigners illustrating alternatives, and that HfL were working with the Neighbourhood Forum to find a better scheme. So there is precedent for HfL to engage with concerned communities.

The alternative scheme proposes retrofitting the existing sheltered homes and adding new buildings up to 6 storeys, using sustainable materials, such as cross laminate timber (CLT), which would capture and sequester around 2,280 tonnes of carbon from the environment.

There was concern that the Council/ HfL scheme would produce 5,860 tonnes of CO2, the equivalent of heating the buildings for over 40 years. Lambeth Council’s declaration of a Climate Emergency was denounced as virtue signalling from Green councillor Pete Elliot.

There was shock and upset when technical graphics confirmed community fears that summer evenings when locals (many without their own outside space) come together for picnics, play and socialising would be ruined by shadow from the towers. It was noted that Lambeth appeared to be ignoring their own position on the mental health benefits of parks, especially following the pandemic.

Concerns were raised about many aspects of the planning application, which is recommended for approval at Lambeth Council’s planning committee on 15th March. The meeting heard that objections can still be made up to the date of the meeting.