Plans by developer Meadow Partners to put two new residential towers alongside updated Richard Siefert office block turned down

Seifert Tolworth Tower_3DReid masterplan_2021_180318_N21 copyright_Glass Canvas

Source: Glass Canvas

Seifert’s Tolworth Tower (right) would have benconverted into flats, with two new blocks added to the site, under 3D Reid’s proposals

Developer Meadow Partners’ proposals to convert a monolithic Richard Seifert-designed office tower in south London into homes, and build two sister blocks nearby have been rejected at appeal.

The designs, by architect 3D Reid for the 22-storey Tolworth Tower, built in 1964, would have created 499 new homes in the structure and in the 19- and 15-storey blocks set to be built on the site of shops on Tolworth Broadway.

When it lodged the proposals at the beginning of 2021, Meadow Partners said it had become increasingly hard to attract office tenants because of low floor-to-ceiling heights in the tower, designed by the architect of London’s iconic Centrepoint building. This building was to have hosted 261 flats, ranging from studios to three-beds, under the 3D Reid scheme.

But following a 12-day planning inquiry last year, inspector Yvonne Wright has dismissed the development team’s appeal into the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames’ refusal of consent for the proposals.

In her 23-page decision, Wright said that while the authority could not demonstrate a five-year housing supply – which often gives developers an open goal to get consent for new residential development – other factors were more problematic.

The inspector said that the proposals would result in a “significant loss” of employment floorspace provision and that there was a “lack of robust evidence” on the feasibility of using the tower or parts of it for low-cost and affordable workspace.

“Overall, I have found that the proposal as a whole would materially harm the vitality and viability of the district centre,” she said. “These factors carry substantial weight in the planning balance.”

Wright added that the overall design of the proposals failed to comply with the National Planning Policy Framework. She also said that the developers had failed to demonstrate that a site-wide energy approach was unachievable, and were therefore unable to show that on-site carbon reductions had been maximised.

Seifert Tolworth Tower_3DReid masterplan_2021_closeup_180318_N20 copyright_Glass Canvas

Source: Glass Canvas

“Accordingly the policy requirement for on-site net zero-carbon has not been achieved and the proposed energy approach is not justified,” she said. “Within the context of the London Mayor declaring a climate emergency and the need to urgently minimise greenhouse-gas emissions and energy demand, this finding carries substantial weight.”

Wright said that while the provision of new homes and the opportunity to refurbish the vacant and “deteriorating” Seifert block were positives, they did not outweigh the “accumulation of harm” she had identified with the proposals.

She concluded that as a result the scheme could not be allowed to benefit from the “presumption in favour of sustainable development” that is enshrined in the NPPF.