When Lambeth Council granted permission for Network Rail to redevelop the Brixton Arches, they included some important conditions.
One of these conditions – Condition 4 – requires Network Rail to complete a Construction and Environment Management Plan, (CEMP). Furthermore, the Planning Officer has issued clear and categoric guidance over this condition, explaining that,“no development shall commence before this condition is discharged and this includes site preparation and clearance.”
Despite this, a Network Rail spokesman has issued a public statement indicating that “essential enabling and survey works will shortly be taking place. These tasks will be fully contained within the existing arch units.”
It would appear that as the shambles over the Brixton Viaduct development continues, there is now a reluctance on the part of Network Rail to accept the expertise and authority of Lambeth’s Planning Officer.
It will be extremely reckless and possibly illegal if Network Rail actually commence these unspecified works, that are likely to include demolitions and partition removal, hot works, the digging of trial pits, and possible asbestos and vermin removal, as well as the testing of services and drainage, whilst trying to retain a safe and healthy working environment for the staff and customers of the businesses that remain in the viaduct.
This is extremely concerning.
As a scenario, let’s consider a contractor working on the enabling works somewhere within the viaduct who mistakenly starts a fire by cutting an electrical cable.
Not only do the contractors need to escape, but all the remaining tenants and their customers will also need to flee.
Who will raise the alarm and how, where do the tenants assemble, who is in charge and how is the site secured, the list goes on.
The positions could also be reversed and an existing tenant starts a fire, but there are no procedures in place and no safety measures have been devised that accounts for the safety of contractors, tenants and the general public who may be in the viaduct.
Taking this further, on the assumption that everyone escapes safely from the viaduct, the emergency services will then need to have full access both sides of the viaduct.
But without a CEMP in place, which includes all such emergency plans, transport arrangements and responsibilities, and with Network Rail also claiming that all construction traffic will be using the loading bays on an already choked Atlantic Road, any kind of quick access for the emergency services will be impossible.
Network Rail seem to want to trust in Lady Luck rather than proper planning to avoid a serious incident.
This is the precise reason the Planning Officer insisted that Condition 4 had to be discharged prior to any enabling works. It’s not difficult to understand.
It is claimed by Network Rail that all the planning conditions will be discharged, but with William Hill and H&T Pawnbrokers occupying two key premises within the viaduct and having protected leases that expire in 2020, it will be impossible to discharge Condition 4 and allow full and safe working conditions to the staff and customers of these popular businesses, in the middle of a vastly extended and enclosed building site with the development occurring all around.
Quite bizarrely, Network Rail have also recently claimed they will simply build around any remaining tenants, but even if they were able to discharge the planning conditions and commence the works, the Planning Officer has stated that any material change to the development, like the omission of some of the premises, would require an entirely new planning consent, which would set this development back many months or even years.
In fact, Network Rail cannot legally or safely commence these works until both William Hill and H&T Pawnbrokers have left the viaduct, which may be in 2020, but by then the planning permission will have expired anyway. Network Rail seem to be caught in a trap of their own making, but it is Brixton’s community that is suffering
[This article by a local resident who has elected to remain anonymous]
Arches background & resources:
The vote to redevelop Brixton Arches: smear campaigns, doublethink and foregone decisions
Brixton’s A&C Deli: the inside story of a small business destroyed by gentrification, Network Rail & Lambeth Council.