Leamouth Peninsula (2)
Redevelopment of the Leamouth peninsula in east London, including 1,706 new homes. Designed by Skidmore Owings & Merrill.
7 October 2010
Planning reference: PA/10/01864
We support the layout and massing of the masterplan, the strong landscape strategy and the coherent family of buildings that is emerging within the detailed design of phase 1. However, although we could accept phase 1 without the bridge in place, because there is not a direct, 24-hour pedestrian connection from the peninsula to Canning Town across both Bow Creek and the DLR tracks within the proposal we are not able to support this application.
We are pleased that many of the fundamental design principles that we supported in the previous approved masterplan have been retained. We welcome the removal of the podium, which has allowed a richer landscape design solution to be generated. The balance between spaces and buildings and the routes through and around the perimeter of the site all work well. The massing feels intuitive and comfortable on the site. Successful collaborative working between the masterplanner, landscape architect and phase 1 architects is evident.
However, the loss of the direct, 24-hour connection across the DLR tracks to Canning Town that was provided in the previous approved scheme, is a fundamental concern. The riverbank route between the northern bank of Bow Creek, where the proposed river bridge will land, and Canning Town, via the upgraded Reubens Bridge, is not an acceptably direct, safe route; it is hard to imagine anyone wanting to use this route at night. We acknowledge the financial rationale for the change to the approved scheme and, on balance, feel that we could support phase 1 of the development being occupied without a connection to Canning Town in place, as an interim solution, provided that improvements to the pedestrian route to the East India DLR station are made. But without a direct, 24-hour connection across both Bow Creek and the DLR tracks safeguarded as part of the future development we are unable to support this application as a whole.
We do not object to the strategy of locating parking remotely from homes in separate multi-storey structures that could, in theory, be redeveloped should the demand for parking space reduce in the long term. However, we are less comfortable with the location of the two proposed car parks, which have been placed at key points in the site layout, particularly the one at the southern entrance to the site. The relationship of the parking structures to ground floor uses, open spaces, and the façade treatment of the car parks would also benefit from further design development.
We like the sculptural quality and proportions of the buildings within phase 1. The strategy of a coherent family of buildings with commonality of form and materials, and design nuances generated by the individual architectural practices working on each building, has great potential. The straight forward, robust buildings that have been generated seem an appropriate response to this site.
The obvious tension between the restricted geometry and palette of materials dictated by the masterplan, and the development of designs for each building by different architects, has produced an interesting group of responses. However, we think that there is, at the moment, perhaps too much dominance of the masterplan principles over the architectural expression of the individual buildings. The stepping and cutting of the forms works well, but could be exploited further to provide more outdoor space at upper levels and introduce more light into communal areas, and more opportunities for dual aspect apartments. With the restricted palette of materials proposed, each one must be of the highest quality. Given the quantity of brick in this proposal the quality of the brick and the coordination of brick and mortar colours is vital.
The energy centre and car park, block I, is the least successful piece of architecture. This is an important building at the entrance to the development and would benefit from further refinement.
We welcome the number of well-proportioned, dual-aspect apartments, and the concept of providing flexible living space with serviced pods. We have concerns though about the narrower floor-plate apartments, which have less inherent flexibility.
The developer and the planning authority should pay particular attention to arrangements for dealing with construction traffic for the second phase as the restricted access to the site clearly has the potential to impact adversely on the quality of life for residents of phase 1.
The landscape proposal is richly layered and responsive in its approach, and shows real potential. The quality of the landscape will pay a vital contribution to the overall sense of place and we urge the local authority to ensure that this high level of quality is safeguarded through conditions. The landscape proposal shows good understanding of playability and we hope that the local authority will allow dedicated play areas to be omitted so that the strategy of play across the site can be fully implemented.
We welcome the principle of connecting into the future Royal Docks energy network, use of ground source heat pumps, ecology and SUDS. However, more evidence is needed of comprehensive, robust energy, waste and water strategies.