Tooting Bec and Balham

Green roof at Tooting Bec Lido

I’ve got a thing about green roofs:

Climate change is the number one issue in the world today and it is going to take all of us working together to fix it. Some things will require an investment of money upfront, but this will save money in the long run, as the cost of dealing with climate fallout will be astronomical.

Tooting Bec Lido is having its pump room redeveloped. One of the conditions of the planning permission granted for the redevelopment was that the new pump room must have a green roof, in accordance with the GRO Green Roof Code 2014. Considering the pump room, and the rest of the lido, is situated within the boundaries of Tooting Common, it is particularly appropriate that this building should have a green roof.

It was therefore disappointing to find out that the council has applied to remove the green roof condition from the planning permission. You can see the application here:

The reason given is:

The extensive biodiverse roof in accordance with the GRO Green Roof Code 2014 would be expensive to build and be maintained – it would be more appropriate to match the roof typology of the adjacent North Room. Furthermore, its thickness could compromise the space for the mechanical equipment to be accommodated in the South Room.

I take issue with the reasoning:

  1. Expensive to build and maintain – as above, tackling climate change requires money upfront to save much more money in the long run.
  2. More appropriate to match the North Room – the North Room has a felt roof, and I cannot see how a felt roof is more appropriate than a green roof for a building situated in a natural area like Tooting Common.
  3. Thickness “could” compromise space – this sounds like conjecture, which is not helpful. If the calculations have been done and as it stands the equipment won’t fit then say so. If the calculations haven’t been done then don’t speculate. A green roof can be as thin as 10cm, will that really reduce the ceiling height to the point where the equipment will not fit? In any event, the south room is having a large area excavated to house the pump, so could this not be excavated just a little deeper to create the necessary depth?

We will be making comments on the application in the above terms.

Tooting Bec and Balham

O2 application to erect 17.5m mobile phone mast in the middle of Tooting Common

When someone opposes a planning application, they are often accused of “NIMBYism” – Not In My Back Yard-ism!

But sometimes, opposing a planning application is entirely reasonable. When it comes to choosing the location for a mobile phone mast, we would suggest that right bang smack in the middle of Tooting Common is about the least appropriate place you could pick.

Cornerstone and Telefónica UK Ltd (who own O2) have applied to Wandsworth Council to install a 17.5m monopole inside the fenced depot on Dr Johnson Avenue.

You can see the whole application here:

You can see all the documents for the application and make a comment on the application here:

Perhaps one of the more interesting documents is the developer’s photo mock-up of the mast here:

We are opposed to this application for the following reasons:

(1) Tooting Common is a special place where people go to get into nature and relax. As such, building things on the common should be resisted unless absolutely necessary. Allowing this or any other development on the common is a very slippery slope.

(2) There must be somewhere less offensive it could go. When the developers contacted us, we suggested a number of alternative locations, including on top of the Lidl, or FItness First, or Argos on Balham High Road. Their response was a bit confusing:

“This option has been discounted by our Network specialist due to the low nature of the building. In order to provide the required coverage to the target area the telecommunications equipment would need to be taller than the surrounding buildings which would result in clutter protruding the skyline. An installation of this nature would not be supported by the Local Planning Authority.”

If you discount putting the mast on top of Lidl because it would result in clutter protruding the skyline, why don’t you discount putting it in the middle of Tooting Common, where it will also result in clutter protruding the skyline? It didn’t seem to make much sense to us.

(3) We think it looks pretty terrible. It’s a massive metal stick in the middle of a natural area.

In general we are of course in favour of improving the telecommunications network for the benefit our whole community, but this has to be balanced with other considerations, one of which is the protection of spaces which also benefit the whole community, such as Tooting Common.

Tooting Bec and Balham

Update on Tooting Triangle redevelopment

You may have seen our campaign in November 2018 to save the “stay and play” provision at the Tooting Triangle. After winning several concessions from the council back then, we have been waiting to see the planning application from the developer. The application has now been submitted:

You can comment on the application up to 22 November 2019. Here are our thoughts:

  1. A soft play area has been included which means that there is the capacity to offer sessions for very young children similar to the existing stay and play. Wandsworth Tories have the power to make it a condition of the lease and/or planning permission that the developer must deliver a certain number of sessions and must deliver these for free. However, every time we asked Wandsworth Tories to keep the sessions free they refused. We will continue to make the case that these sessions should be free, but if you can email the chair of the Finance Committee, Cllr Aled Richards-Jones, and make a personal appeal, that would be very helpful. His email is
  2. The male changing room is significantly larger than the female changing room. The design and access statement states: “Based on known usage at TFC’s other sports centres, the male changing rooms are larger than the female ones.  In the event of a sporting activity taking place with a mainly female attendance, these changing rooms can be interchangeable.” However, we think that the changing rooms should be equal in size. Access to facilities should be equal. It also sends entirely the wrong message to women and girls – we want to encourage greater female participation in sport, and that is not the impression given by a changing room that is much smaller. Whilst it may be true that “known usage” at other centres is currently male-dominated, that is precisely the situation we should be working to equalise.
  3. The bat habitat assessment report looks fine (although we are not experts on the subject) – the impact on bats of the new LED floodlights will be equal to or less than the impact of the current metal halide floodlights.
  4. The arboricultural report also looks fine (again, we’re not experts) – whilst the loss of four trees is disappointing, the addition of trees around the football pitches should compensate for this. We hope that the council’s Planning Applications Committee will ensure that planting more trees is a mandatory condition attached to any planning permission they may be minded to grant.
  5. Overall, the rest of the development is welcome.

We will be making representations in the above terms to the council through the online planning portal, and you can do the same.