Residents say the final plans for a student development in Bermondsey Spa are still too high, despite the proposals being revised.
CKC Properties and Student Urban Living Bermondsey Ltd have submitted plans to redevelop a site adjacent to the Buddhist Centre, in Spa Road, where they hope to build a residential student block.
The developer originally proposed an eight-storey building with 206 studio bedrooms but changed this to seven storeys, including the ground floor, and lost just one bedroom in the final plans.
Buddhists at the adjacent Kagyu Samye Dzong Tibetan Buddhist Centre and residents living nearby said they believed the building should be at least two storeys lower.
They voiced concerns over the density of the proposed development, which they consider to be excessive and out of keeping with the built density and character of surrounding developments.
They also raised issues over loss of light, lack of privacy, sense of enclosure, and a design “lacking merit” – specifically in relation to its context adjacent the Grade II-listed Buddhist centre – and said the “best outcome is that it gets refused”.
Gelong Trinley, who lives at the Buddhist Centre, said he would like to see a “sensitive design, at least two storeys less, and something in keeping with the surrounding area”.
“This is a really unique place; there are so few places like this where stressed city people can come and learn how to detoxify their minds and relax and how to be at ease,” said the 49-year-old.
“At the moment it’s a really inspiring place and a lot of that is to do with the way the light comes through those windows [in the meditation room] but there will be student rooms with glass fronts looking right through our windows as we are sat there trying to meditate.”
Lydia Polzer, 38, who also lives at the Buddhist centre, said she would like to see a gap between the building and the student development to improve privacy.
Spa Road resident Miles Frewin, 33, said he was not “student-bashing” but he did have grave concerns over the density and height of the proposed building, especially towards the back.
“If they redesigned the back portion of the building which would currently cause significant loss of light and removed two storeys so it was in keeping with the height and form of the existing street scene and surrounding development then I think you would probably have a development that was acceptable to the residents,” he said.
Catherine Harris, who has lived in nearby Ockham Building for almost three years, said her main concern was the loss of light.
“That’s a major feature of my flat and one of the reasons I bought it,” said the 39-year-old.
“I’ve got five windows and four are going to be significantly affected, it’s going to completely change the whole character of my home. The feeling of enclosure is going to be overwhelming.”
A spokesperson for CKC Properties and Student Urban Living Bermondsey Ltd, said the proposed development had been ‘carefully designed to mirror the height of existing buildings’.
They said: “From the outset, consultation and engagement has been at the heart of our approach.
“That’s why we listened to site neighbours and local residents by further reducing the proposed building height, conducting a daylight / sunlight report, reducing the building massing and creating a green buffer.
“The height, density and overall design of the proposals have also been guided by a number of design meetings with officers at Southwark Council to make sure that the scheme is in accordance with planning policies.”