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Thameslink - 2006 Transport and Works Act Decision Letter

Blackfriars Station and surrounding area (18.7 and 19.7-9)

35. The Inspector noted that the main changes to the proposals in this area since the first inquiry were a revised proposal for a new Station building on the north bank of the river, with alterations to the proposed footbridge across Queen Victoria Street; the widening of the railway bridge, with a new roof canopy; and a new station entrance on the South Bank. Another significant change was the proposed closure of Blackfriars Underground Station for up to 24 months. (18.7.1-18.7.3).

36. The Inspector was satisfied that closure of the Underground Station for up to 24 months was justified in order to carry out the works in the shortest possible time and in the safest environment (19.7.4). Whilst the closure might slightly inconvenience passengers, the effect would not be unacceptable (18.7.6). He was also satisfied that traffic flows in the area would not be significantly disrupted by the works (18.7.7). With regard to pedestrian flows, he noted Network Rail's intention to implement a series of at-grade signalised crossings; but as a financial contribution towards these works could not be required by a planning condition, he considered that planning consent for the works at Blackfriars Station should not be given until an agreement was in place to ensure this (18.7.8). The Inspector qualified this later in his report by saying that this agreement should be in place before any approvals or consents were given (19.8; 19.14).

37. The Inspector considered that the improved Blackfriars Station would comply with the objectives of PPG13 by providing quick, easy and safe interchange between modes of transport (18.7.9), and he was satisfied that the revised design for the concourse building would be appropriate to the area and would enhance the setting of the surrounding listed buildings and the adjacent Conservation Area (18.7.18 and 18.7.24). He considered that the revised design of the roof canopy for the station bridge would be an attractive addition to the River scene which would accord with the design requirements of PPS1 and would not conflict in any significant way with the aims of development plan policies (18.7.22). The Inspector saw no reason to object to the design of the new station building on the South Bank (18.7.23) nor to the proposed relocation of equipment under the railway viaduct at Apothecary Street (18.7.13). Furthermore, he was satisfied that proposed mitigation measures would limit, so far as reasonably possible, impacts on local residents and businesses from noise and vibration, both during construction of the works and afterwards (18.7.10-18.7.12).

38. The Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector's conclusions on the acceptability of the proposed works in and around Blackfriars Station, which he considers to be a significant improvement on those put before the first inquiry. Whilst he accepts that the works will cause significant disruption and inconvenience during the construction phase, he agrees with the Inspector that the adverse impacts, including the closure of Blackfriars Underground Station for up to 24 months, would be acceptable - particularly when balanced against the wider benefits of the scheme.

39. The Secretary of State notes the Inspector's view that an agreement regarding the provision of at-grade pedestrian crossings should be in place before any approvals are given. In this regard, he is aware that Network Rail confirmed in their letter of 7 September 2005 to Transport for London (TfL) that they would pay to TfL a contribution of £75,000 towards the costs of implementing a scheme of signalised pedestrian crossings. He nevertheless considers it appropriate to make the provision of such crossings a condition of the planning permission for development at and around Blackfriars Station which he and the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government are granting in the separate letter referred to in paragraph 2 above. The condition requires that the new station concourse/ticket office shall not be opened to the public until surface level pedestrian crossings have been provided across Queen Victoria Street and New Bridge Street in accordance with a scheme to be submitted to and approved in writing by the local planning authority. Since this condition will achieve the desired objective, the Secretary of State does not consider it necessary to require the conclusion of an agreement between Network Rail and TfL before making the Order.

Borough Market and surrounding area (18.8 and 19.10-11)

40. The Inspector noted that whilst the Thameslink 2000 scheme in the area had not changed significantly since the first inquiry, there were now proposals for replacement buildings on the sites that would be left after the demolitions arising from the construction of the Borough High Street bridge and viaduct. Significant changes in circumstances since the first inquiry included the introduction of the congestion charge, which had reduced traffic flows on Borough High Street by around 15%, and the continued growth of Borough Market, which was busier than at the time of the first inquiry (18.8.1-18.8.10; 19.10).

41. Taking account of the changes in circumstances, the Inspector considered that the proposed works would have no significant effect on traffic and pedestrian flows or on the operation of the Market (18.8.4). In his view, the re-location of traders closest to the works and the implementation of PEMS would ensure that the risk of contamination was not significantly greater than at present; and the increased popularity of the market would make it more capable of continuing to operate successfully during construction than at the time of the first inquiry (18.8.10; 19.11).

42. The individual applications for planning permission, listed building consent and conservation area consent in this area are considered more fully in the separate decision letter referred to at paragraph 2 above. Overall, though, the Inspector concluded that, with the exception of a retail/office proposal for 16-26 Borough High Street, the replacement building schemes would at least preserve, and in some instances enhance, the character and appearance of the Conservation Area and the settings of nearby listed buildings. Whilst he considered that the design of the proposed retail/office building at 16-26 Borough High Street was unacceptable, as it would fail to preserve the character and appearance of the Conservation Area, there was an alternative proposal for a glass and steel Market Hall on this site which he considered acceptable. Although the concentration of demolition and replacement in a small area would have a significant impact on the area, this would in his view be offset by local benefits as well as the wider benefits of the overall Thameslink 2000 project. He concluded that the benefits would outweigh any harm (18.8.13-18.8.49; 19.10-19.11).

43. The Inspector considered, though, that it was necessary to ensure that not only were there acceptable proposals for reinstatement but that the proposals would be implemented. He noted that Network Rail and LB Southwark were well advanced in concluding an agreement that would ensure implementation, and he recommended that no consents should be granted until the Secretaries of State had received a copy of the completed agreement (18.8.40-18.8.43; 19.11; 19.14).

44. The Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector's conclusions in section 18.8 of his report, as summarised above. For the reasons given by the Inspector, the Secretary of State is satisfied that the proposed works would not give rise to unacceptable impacts upon traffic or pedestrian flows or on the operation of Borough Market. He is also satisfied, having regard to the separate decision letter issuing today on the related planning and heritage applications, that there are now acceptable replacement proposals for all the sites where demolition would take place.

45. With regard to the Inspector's recommendation that no consents should be given until Network Rail and LB Southwark have concluded an agreement to ensure that the proposed replacement buildings are erected within an agreed time period following demolition, on 19 July 2006 the Secretary of State circulated to those parties who appeared at the inquiry a draft agreement that Network Rail sent to him after the inquiry, following their discussions with LB Southwark. No specific comments on the draft agreement were received in response to the 19 July letter, although Simon Hughes MP said that he retained his objection to the applications, and to the scheme as a whole.

46. The Secretary of State is aware that Network Rail and LB Southwark subsequently entered into an agreement on 11 October 2006. This provides, amongst other things, that the demolitions shall not take place until Network Rail has acquired all the relevant property interests, and binds them to entering into two subsequent agreements under section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. The first of those agreements is designed to ensure that replacement buildings will be substantially completed within 3 years following demolition, or such longer period as the Council may allow, in order to avoid unsightly gaps in the Conservation Area. The Secretary of State is satisfied that the agreement entered into by Network Rail and LB Southwark, and the section 106 agreement it provides for in relation to the Borough Market area, will ensure that the schemes for replacement buildings are implemented within a reasonable period of time. Furthermore, whilst he is aware that the executed agreement contained some changes from the draft that was circulated on 19 July 2006, he is satisfied that these were not changes of substance, and hence that there was no need for a further consultation to take place. For these reasons, and for the reasons given in paragraph 44 above, the Secretary of State is satisfied that the works in the Borough Market area which are provided for in the proposed TWA Order and request for deemed planning permission are acceptable.

London Bridge Station and surrounding area (18.9; 19.12)

47. The Inspector noted that, following the granting by LB Southwark of planning permission for the 'Masterplan' proposal for London Bridge Station and listed building consent for demolition of the listed train shed, the only outstanding applications relating to the Station and its surrounding area were those for the Order and deemed planning permission (18.9.1).

48. The Inspector considered that the incorporation of the Masterplan scheme into the Thameslink 2000 project would produce a station worthy of a World City and would overcome the third major concern raised by the first Inspector. It would reduce the overall land take around London Bridge Station, with a reduction in required demolitions, and would result in significantly improved arrangements for buses and taxis. He was further satisfied that construction traffic would not have a significant adverse effect and that, with proposed mitigation measures in place, there would be no unacceptable impacts on the occupiers of adjoining office buildings or on Guy's Hospital (18.9.2-18.9.21; 19.12).

49. The Secretary of State wishes to clarify that, whilst the proposed station redevelopment known as 'Masterplan' has already been granted planning permission, it is still necessary for him to consider whether he would be justified in granting the statutory powers sought by Network Rail in the Order in regard to London Bridge Station and its surroundings. These include, amongst other things, powers to carry out the required works to the railway and platforms, the station footbridge and the bus interchange, and to acquire land and to stop up streets in connection with the station works.

50. With the above in mind, the Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector's conclusions in section 18.9 of his report. Accordingly, he is satisfied that the works proposed in and around London Bridge Station, and the powers required to implement those works, are acceptable.

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