Campaigners seek Mayor of London’s support to stop 20-storey tower above Brixton market

A petition urging the Mayor of London to overturn a planning approval decision of a 20-storey office tower was launched in Brixton last week.

Save Nour group hopes the construction of the office building above Brixton Market in Electric Avenue will be rejected by Sadiq Khan.

The appeal comes following the approval by Lambeth Council’s Planning Applications Committee by a 4-to-3 narrow margin in a second application meeting in November.

Save Nour campaigner Hiba Ahmad said: “This is not about skylines for us, this is about people having a say in what gets built in their own home.

“A hedge-fund backed office tower is not what is needed or wanted here. Sadiq Khan must intervene and respect the local opposition.”

Save Nour campaigners fear the tower which, they claim, contains less than 1% community space, would ‘supercharge’ gentrification increasing prices and pushing out Black and other ethnic minorities.

A spokesperson for Save Nour said: “It’s not money that benefits the people of Brixton. It only benefits the wealthy property developers and landlords who are not part of this community.

“Will the Mayor of London ignore us, too? Sadiq Khan – please don’t let billionaire hedge funds shape this city. Put people first, stand with the thousands in the community who oppose this office block and intervene to stop this now!”

The developer, known as AG Hondo Popes Road BV, is Texan multi-millionaire Taylor McWilliams, who is backed by $38bn New York-based hedge fund Angelo Gordon.

McWilliams, sole director of Hondo Enterprises and a friend of Prince Harry, already owns Brixton’s two covered markets, Granville Arcade and Market Row, and the former legendary Club 414 in Coldharbour Lane.

Club 414: Brixton’s most popular club for over 30 years was forced to close after Hondo-Enterprises bought it in 2019

Anees Mattooq, a 48-year-old journalist from Herne Hill, said: “We think councillors made a mistake ignoring a large number of objections.”

Mattooq claimed the developer hired negotiators to obtain support signatures, but those who signed were misled.

He said: “They told people who signed this project would create jobs, but they didn’t say those jobs would be only temporary construction jobs.”

Despite thousands of objections backed by MP Helen Hayes and Coldharbour councillors, the application was approved in an almost four-hour online meeting where committee chair councillor Clair Wilcox had the casting vote.

Brixton residents speak about their council’s decision to approve an office tower application

More luxurious offices instead of affordable housing

During the meeting Hondo Enterprises representatives promised the development, amended after a first meeting in August, would deliver an eco-system of jobs.

They added the development, led by world leading designer Sir David Adjaye, would create affordable desk space for 600 people including a public open space at ground floor.

Officers praised the amendments and indicated they did not believe the building would cause substantial heritage harm as warned by councillors against it.

CHANGES: Computer-generated pictures of Hondo Tower showing changes to structural cross bracing at ground level facing Pope’s Road. Credit: Lambeth Council Planning Applications Committee
WHERE: The Location Plan of Hondo Tower. Credit: Lambeth Council

For Green councillor Rebecca Thackray, the decision is a contradiction to Lambeth’s ambitious plans to be carbon neutral by 2030.

Thackray, who voted against the application, said: “The building’s height is massively unpopular, and goes against Lambeth’s own commitment to lead responsibly in the face of a climate crisis.

“People are worried that if it doesn’t work as office space it can easily become luxury apartments.

“When Lambeth needs affordable homes so badly, the tower would be a cruel sight in the heart of Brixton.”

Heritage watchdog Historic England (HE) did not find the applicant’s arguments convincing either.

HE inspector of historic buildings and areas Mike Dunn said: “The tower harms the significance of the conservation area through its scale and very different appearance to the predominantly late 19th and early 20th century character of the area.”

The appeal to the Mayor of London is part of a second campaign after the creation in November of a crowdfunding campaign for legal advice to challenge Lambeth Council.

Campaigners, who have collected £1,800 of £3,500 so far, said: “The tower would dwarf and undermine the neighbouring buildings, businesses and markets that make Brixton such a nice place.”

Hondo-Enterprises disagreed with the claim the building would go against the council’s carbon free plans by stating it will be off-gas grid, powered by 100% renewably sourced electricity.

A representative said: “We are very pleased that our Pope’s development, which will deliver 2,000 jobs for Brixton and £2.8m every year for the local economy, has been approved by the elected members of Lambeth’s planning committee.

“The new building would bring thousands of new, regular customers for the markets and help drive recovery from the impact of Coronavirus on local businesses.

“Adjaye Associates have considered local and London-wide views to ensure the design respects the location and does not adversely impact its surroundings.”

Page five of the Planning Applications Committee Minutes showing the planning committee’s approval. Councillor Clair Wilcox had the casting vote

Councillor Wilcox was also contacted, but did not respond to a request for comment.

Featured images credit: Lambeth Council Planning Applications Committee

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