Buyer of landmark Grand Designs project rails against new tower block plans

Proposals would ‘overbear local historical assets and unique homes’ in Kennington, say local residents including the new owner of a Grade II listed landmark once featured on Channel 4’s flagship design show

Residents in south London, including the new owner of a “showstopping” Grand Designs project, are battling plans to build a 14-storey block of flats next-door.

Jamie Hamer, who bought The Water Tower in Kennington earlier this year, has spoken out about the potential impact of Lifestory’s “Kennington Stage” proposals on local heritage assets – including his own unique home.

The Grade II listed property, which was originally built in 1867 as part of the Lambeth Workhouse, was sold in June via Foxtons, who were marketing it at £2.75m.

The Water Tower in Kennington (image from the original sales particulars)

Plans to redevelop the neighbouring former care home site have been knocking around for years, but Hamer says he believed the site was in the process of being sold after the previous application was turned down by Lambeth Council.

The reworked proposals involve a central residential block reaching 45 metres (147 feet) and some additional buildings, providing a total of 155 units. An action group set up by local residents describes the plans as “overbearing”, arguing that the massing, scale and design is “not appropriate for a small constrained site in an urban low-rise part of Kennington..and if approved it will set a precedent for more similar and taller buildings”. Key concerns raised in a briefing document include the potential impact on privacy and daylight.

Current view
As proposed

The “Stop The Blocks” website suggests a “lower density development that would protect the significance of the listed buildings, conservation areas and respect the prevailing building heights, density and massing of the surrounding residential properties”, offering up the neighbouring Bellway/Water Tower Estate Development as an example.

Hamer said: “The project’s proposed layout, height and massing relate poorly to the site and character of the local area, its context and heritage. It’s symptomatic of over-development and it overbears the local historical assets and unique homes, all in a conservation zone. The benefits of the scheme are not outweighed by the unacceptable harms.”

In a presentation to residents, Lifestory said its aim was to design “a residential development with a green setting, that can assimilate into the surrounding community”, adding: “Our vision is to create a place which fosters a sense of community around shared public space and communal amenity space to serve the mixed tenure community on the site…We will create beautiful new buildings which respond positively to the site’s heritage assets and enhance the Kennington neighbourhood.”

The Venetian-inspired former water tower was the star of a particularly tense episode of Channel 4’s Grand Designs, as a couple risked it all to convert the derelict 100-foot structure into a family home.

Against all the odds, the project was a resounding success, conjuring a 4,000 square foot residence spread over eight floors via the addition of a two-storey glass cube. Presenter Kevin McCloud described the end result as a “jaw-dropping showstopper”.

Image from the original sales particulars

The public consultation on the proposals is due to run until next week.

Check out all the planning documents here