Hammersmith and Fulham
A new supermarket, 472 homes in buildings up to 17 storeys, together with public open space. Designed by Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands.
22 November 2010
Planning reference: 2010/02481/FUL
We welcome the ambition of the client to create a high quality supermarket-led mixed-use development on this site. We support the strategy to integrate retail with residential on this riverside site in an effort to embed the store within the surrounding neighbourhood. The use of recognisable building typologies in response to their surroundings has generated a generally successful urban form that relates well to its context. The local authority should assure itself that the quality of the homes that result is acceptable in terms of space standards, outlook, daylight and sunlight, and noise. We welcome the decision to reveal the activity of the foodstore onto Townmead Road, although its entrances could be more generous. The structural separation of the store box from the housing and the community use to the street are also positive aspects of the supermarket brief. The distribution and quality of public routes and spaces across the site is generally well considered. However, the strategy for vehicular access should be revised to create a more generous and coherent public realm to Townmead Road. We urge the client to work with its design team and the local authority to produce a more agreeable solution. We also encourage the team to commit to high environmental targets in the planning application.
This is a thoughtful scheme which addresses the challenge of bringing together a large format retail store, new homes, and community uses in a commendable way. The emerging residential-wrapped supermarket typology has not yet stood the test of time, but aspects of this project compare well to those we have seen so far. In particular, we support the range of recognisable building typologies (terraced townhouses, towers, apartment blocks, villas and pavilions) used in response to the different contexts that have clearly informed the design development of the scheme. Using the form and scale of the historic brewery warehouse to generate the architectural approach to the supermarket and the terrace of townhouses fronting the new central street is a strong starting point. The strong geometry of the saw-tooth roofline evokes the character of London terraces, a fitting gesture in this context.
We also support the proposal, based on a clear analysis of existing development, to maintain a well-defined built edge along the river with more visible taller elements providing legibility. In our view, the distinctive river context allows these familiar typologies to be used in an innovative way. The result is a development that should hold its own on the riverside without calling undue attention to itself.
We acknowledge the efforts to reconcile the relative building heights of the different typologies. The local authority should assure itself that these come together successfully to create a comfortable environment and sense of enclosure at podium level. Equally, the roof line needs careful consideration in views to ensure that the podium development does not compromise the skyline of the saw-tooth street terrace, for example. We welcome the openness of the foodstore frontage to Townmead Road, which celebrates the activity of the retail behind and enlivens this principal frontage. We think this glazed elevation could be enhanced by responding more carefully to the proportions of the adjacent building.
In broad terms, we think there is logic to the function and hierarchy of routes and spaces across the site. The central avenue, which connects William Morris Way to a new riverside square and river walk, is a convincing move. We support the introduction of a café and restaurant onto the riverside square to enliven this area and welcome the re-use of the jetty to enhance the biodiversity offer at the river’s edge. It is unfortunate that the river walk ends abruptly at the site’s western boundary but the decision to showcase the energy centre on this corner of the site is a welcome gesture.
Our overriding concern is the proposal to service the development from the traffic junction at the ‘front door’ of the scheme onto Townmead Road. We welcome the decision to bury the customer parking and delivery yard within the building. However, as currently proposed, several hundred vehicles a day will cut across pedestrian routes in front of the store to access the building, undermining efforts to secure a pedestrian-friendly public space in this location. Unless provision can be made for customer parking access to be moved at a later date, ideally to the western end of the site, we think the site’s public realm will never achieve its full potential. The support and co-operation of the borough’s highway engineers will be needed to rethink the traffic junction that currently disconnects the new residential community from the surrounding area, as a new public or shared space. The Department for Transport publications Manual for streets and LTN 03/08 Mixed priority routes: practitioners' guide may provide some useful guidance.
We think the design team could more clearly articulate how the transition between public and private realm will be managed both at ground and podium level. For example, the Central Avenue could quickly establish the feel of a London street with regular front doors onto this route. However, this will partly depend on how the landscape features along its length will create defensible space; careful thought on their detailed execution will be required. Similarly, whilst it appears that the delineation between private and shared space at podium level has been carefully considered, the local authority will need to be assured that the landscape design of this space will work to secure this. Whilst we acknowledge this space is for use by residents only, the local authority should also be satisfied that adequate management arrangements are in place to ensure supervision of the public.
This scheme has the potential to be an interesting exemplar of how the large structurally independent space required by the store box can be treated as part of the urban fabric that can change over time. How the supermarket engages with the street at its edges and takes on additional community roles will be critical in how successfully it functions as an extension of the public realm. We therefore support the proposal to include an Explore Learning centre within the retained building. We think that introducing this intermediate scale of uses at the edges could have been explored further as a means to further tie the development into the surrounding neighbourhood.
Quality of homes
The consequences of wrapping residential development around the store on the quality of homes needs further thought. We are most concerned about the small amount of amenity space and the limited daylight and lack of sunlight reaching the single aspect family duplexes, along the Central Avenue in particular. If there was scope to reduce the heights of the townhouses of Phase 2 opposite, this could alleviate the problem. The local authority should also assure itself that the residential podium development and staff quarters along the western edge will not be compromised by their proximity to the safeguarded wharf. The residential block typologies should all aim to meet the Mayor’s emerging standards for the quality of new homes, including internal and amenity space standards and the aspiration for dual aspect apartments.
Whilst we would welcome the intention for the housing to achieve Code for Sustainable Homes Level 4, we are concerned that the planning application makes no binding commitment to this. The applicant should specify targets for the foodstore and residential elements to the satisfaction of the local authority and set out how it intends to achieve these.
Our comments are made in the spirit of encouraging the client to maintain its high aspirations for this development. The ambition for this development is clearly evident and we hope that this can continue so that the scheme, when built, can be considered a model for supermarket-led mixed-use developments of this kind. We wish the project well.