New architects recruited to build Southwark Council’s Peckham office

Katherine Johnston (18 June, 2018) Environment

Residents claimed previous plans were not up to scratch

21374Mr O'Shea and Ms Mukhia, and family (c) George Okello

After a lengthy campaign by residents, Southwark Council has chosen new architects to design its Queen’s Road Peckham office.

As the News reported in April, Queen’s Road locals had lobbied the council, arguing against the proposed designs put forward by architects Wernick Group – who make ‘modular and portable buildings’ – like portakabins.

Architect couple John O’Shea and Richa Mukhia, who had designed their dream home from scratch, were aghast to discover that the new council office would leave their house with just thirty minutes of natural light a day throughout the winter – but with extra artificial light at night.

It was only when they created their own 3D design of the building that their neighbour Catrin Thomas realised the building would be as tall as her own flat with her view blocked on both sides.

But now the News can report that Southwark Council have announced a change in the architects working on the project, with Wernick Group replaced by Allies and Morrison, the design team behind the Elephant and Castle town centre regeneration.

John and Richa told the News they welcomed the change, saying: “We hope the new architects will be given the opportunity to interrogate the brief, carry out a full feasibility study and create a civic building which is an asset for our community.”

Their thoughts were echoed by a spokesperson for Peckham SOS action group, who said: “It is clearly good news that the council have started listening to the Queens Road community, the people affected by their plans for this new development and have brought in better architects to redesign the building, we wait to see what they come up with in the autumn.

“However there is still much work to do, it seems, in getting the council to agree to conduct an independent and transparent impact assessment to find out how this development will affect the everyday lives of the people who live in the area.”

Eileen Conn, from planning group Peckham Vision, also highlighted the need for an impact assessment: “This is very good news and I was glad to hear it,” she told the News on Tuesday.

“It meets the criticism of design. But it doesn’t respond to the need for a thorough impact assessment of the plan to bring together those services in one building in that place.

“The Council say it will be done in the usual consultation on the planning application. That will be much too late.”

Southwark Council says the new building is needed as other offices are no longer fit for purpose, and the development will mean that staff from six different departments will be joined under one roof.

Cllr Stephanie Cryan, cabinet member for housing management and modernisation, said: “I am pleased to confirm the appointment of Allies and Morrison to take a fresh look at the design of our new office building on Queens Road, to ensure we create something that is more in keeping with the local area.

“I have already written to residents to reassure them that the issues they want considered in an impact assessment will be covered through the statutory planning process.

“A planning application will be submitted later in the year and we will be sharing the new plans with local residents prior to submission.”

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