For over a year now, Brixton’s legendary Club 414 has been fighting for its right to exist. Despite the venue faithfully serving Brixton’s community through the bad times and the good for 30 years, greedy landlords want to close it down and build yet more luxury flats.
Customers and locals have already responded in considerable numbers, with over 570 objections already lodged on Lambeth’s planning website.
But here’s the important bit: if you are going to object, you HAVE to frame your objection in a way that will be taken into account by Lambeth’s planning department, so please read through this before lodging your objection.
Objecting to the Club 414 planning proposal: guidelines
A few bits of advice for those of you who wish to support Club414 by objecting to the planning application submitted to turn the club into a retail unit and market price housing.
Keep in mind that development control is a process which assesses proposed developments with regards to plans and policies only. The fact that people love 414, its owners, staff and clubbers is not a land-use consideration.
Last year, the council report clearly stated that many of the objections received were not planning-related but referred to the club, its owners etc.
Even if the council did care about the way people feel about 414, the planning process would not allow them to take this into account. The good news however is that a number of policies are here to help safeguard the club.
So here are some planning arguments / document / policies etc. you may want to refer to in your objections.
The LAMBETH LOCAL PLAN
For your information: the draft 2013 version of the plan was the one available at the time when the first application was submitted. Since then, a new version has been published (adopted September 2015).
So let’s work on the basis of the adopted 2015 plan.
You can quote:
POLICY ED7 (Evening economy and food and drink uses).
“The council wishes to support the evening economy in its town centres whilst making sure that any adverse impact on local amenity is minimised”
This policy also states that “Evening and food and drink uses should be primarily located in town centres”. The location of 414 is, of course, the Brixton town centre.
You can also refer to paragraph 6.34 which acknowledges that “The evening economy in areas such as Clapham High Street, Brixton and Vauxhall has brought investment and vitality into areas previously struggling to compete with surrounding town centres and changing the way they look and operate.”
You can also point to paragraph 11.32 which says that “Following the principles of economic, social and environmental sustainability, the key objectives for regeneration in Brixton” include “growth as a centre for creative and cultural industries and the evening economy”
Policy ED2 is also interesting. It deals with Business, industrial and storage uses outside KIBAs (Key industrial and business areas). Club 414 is NOT located in a KIBA, so this policy is relevant.
One of the things the policy says is that “(b) The loss of land or floorspace in business, industrial or storage (B class) use, or in employment-generating sui generis use, will not be supported unless clear and robust evidence is submitted which shows there is no demand for the floorspace. Such evidence must demonstrate that the floorspace has been vacant and continuously marketed for a period of at least one year.”
A nightclub is “sui generis” use (just means the “nightclub” use is specific enough not to fall into a wider use class such as industry, retail etc.).
Club 414 is obviously a sui generis use which generates employment. It will be difficult for anyone to demonstrate that there is no demand for this floorspace given the number of club closures in the past few months / years.
You can therefore point out in your objection that there is no evidence whatsoever of such a demonstration in the application submitted.
You can also mention policy ED11 (Visitor attractions, leisure, arts and culture uses)
“The council wishes to promote, safeguard and improve leisure, recreation, arts and cultural facilities in the borough where they meet local and wider needs, especially in the Central Activities Zone, Vauxhall and Waterloo London Plan Opportunity Areas and in town centres” (Brixton being a town centre).
More specifically, this policy states that “Change of use or loss of existing visitor attractions, leisure, arts and culture uses will not be supported. Redevelopment for mixed use will only be supported where the existing use is re-provided on site, or a replacement facility is provided elsewhere in the locality. In exceptional circumstances, commuted payments may be accepted for replacement leisure, arts or culture uses elsewhere in the borough”.
The local plan of course does not clearly say that a nightclub is a visitor attraction or a place for leisure.
This is where you need to quote a different document:
The LONDON PLAN “Town Centre Supplementary Guidance”, published in July 2014.
Endnote 20 of the this document provides clarification as to what should be considered as leisure uses: « Leisure covers a diverse range of activities including, but not exclusively, cinemas, cafes, restaurants, pubs and bars, takeaways, nightclubs, health and fitness centres, theatres, indoor bowling centres and bingo halls ».
The reason why this is interesting is that although this endnote is not a policy, it should be taken into account by a borough when assessing a planning application since this “supplementary guidance” is published by the London Authority, which is “higher” than the boroughs in the urban hierarchy.
Then, of course, refer to the London Plan itself.
A number of alterations to this important planning document were published in March 2015. One of the key points here is that “boroughs should encourage a diverse range of night-time activities, expanding culture and leisure venues other than eating and drinking” (paragraph 4.39, p.168).
One could argue that given the number of club closures in London in recent years, allowing a change of use at the 414 would in no way contribute to encouraging a diverse range of night time activities.
Also, you can mention the fact that the Mayor of London has launched a number of initiatives aimed at saving the city’s night time economy. And that a number of key reports and publications have been published along these lines by the London Assembly.
These, although they are not “policies”, should be taken into account as “material considerations” when assessing the planning application, i.e. as issues which could be relevant to the planning decision.
[Text by Stéphane, firstname.lastname@example.org]
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Club 414 is at 414-416 Coldharbour Ln, Brixton, London SW9 8LF.