CROYDON COMMENTARY: Amid the ludicrous claims that £800,000 yuppie apartments to be built on the site of former council offices at Taberner House are in any way “affordable”, LEWIS WHITE attended last week’s consultation session which also confirmed that developers have been assisted by the Labour council to make a land-grab on Queen’s Gardens
At last week’s consultation event, the landscape proposals gave me hope, with a children’s playground and their grown ups’ equivalent– a cafe pavilion–in the north-west corner, where they should get a good amount of sun all day.
The tower blocks are steel or concrete framed, and clad in an attractive brick, with high quality granite paving. Two have green roof gardens. The ground floor retail units will be substantially glazed, so that some daylight and views will come through the bottoms of each block. So far, so good.
My key concern is that there are four blocks in all, two of which trespass out well beyond the plot of Taberner House, so that they take land from the main body of the park.
They will undoubtedly cast a dark and cold shadow over a large area of the Gardens, particularly in the later lunchtime and afternoon.
Hub propose to create a gap between the blocks, so that sun will come down the gap at 1 pm for some time, so it should be better in this respect than the old Taberner House which was tall and wide.
I asked one of the Hub team where I would be able to see an accurate “sunlight shadowing drawing” so that I could see how much shadow would be cast over the gardens by the four blocks.
“Oh, sorry, we can’t display one, it’s not yet ready!” came the answer.
I went into full-on Victor Meldrew mode, and asked how on earth the public could be expected to understand the proposals if they are not shown key information?
I asked another person the same question. “Sorry, it’s not on display, but we can show you a drawing.”
The drawing I saw was small-scale, and only gave shadow views for March and June. But what about the remaining 10 months of the year? Were the shadows going to be so extensive and all-covering that they had not dared to show how it would look in September and December? I fear so.
Consultations like this are undoubtedly helpful, and the people I met were uniformly very open, very pleasant and genuinely helpful, but if Hub could not bear to display the very drawing that is needed to show the shadow cast by their proposed blocks, for what it might show will happen to the sunbathers’ sunshine, then that is very wrong.
It just keeps the public in the dark.
I was told by Hub that the plans all go online in a few days, so I hope that Inside Croydon readers will take a very good look and make up their own minds. I wonder if the plans will include that all-important, year-round shadow drawing?
There is much that is very good about the designs, both architectural and landscape, in my view, but Queen’s Gardens have a recreational value rendered much greater because of their location, the only park in central Croydon, and their green lawns, planting, and sunshine.
It will be a real shame if this is compromised. It is the sunlight that will make the gardens thrive, and lack of sunlight render the shadowed areas cold and unattractive for sitting.
There was no mention of the expected wind speeds and patterns round the blocks, but a model will be subjected to wind tunnel tests shortly, so I was told.
- Lewis White is an experienced landscape architect who lives in the south of the borough
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