Watchdog criticises proposals for Vauxhall Square and New Covent Garden Market

Design Council Cabe has called for improvements to be made to two of the largest projects proposed for London’s huge Nine Elms regeneration area.

The design watchdog’s national review panel was particularly critical of the £400m Vauxhall Square scheme by architect Allies & Morrison, but also questioned elements of the 57-acre. New Covent Garden Market plan by Foster + Partners and Neil Tomlinson Architects.

The two developments are in for planning and are to be considered shortly by Lambeth and Wandsworth councils respectively.

In its review of Vauxhall Square, which includes two 50-storey residential towers plus office, retail and hotel space and is being developed by CLS Holdings, Design Council Cabe (DCC) commended the two towers but questioned whether the overall “scale and density” were appropriate for the site.

“The new buildings, due to their size, footprint and relationship to each other, appear detrimental to the character and environmental quality of the public realm, to the provision of strong pedestrian connections between the site and its surroundings and, in some instances, to the quality of the interior spaces,” DCC said.

The watchdog added that it welcomed the new public spaces and routes included in the plan, but raised doubts over how “functional and comfortable” they would be, given the high density.

New Covent Garden Market, which is being developed by the Covent Garden Market Authority, will include 2,450 homes, shops, commercial space and a hotel. DCC described it as a “significant scheme for London”, but said more work needed to be done to make the designs worthy of the market and the site.

The scheme includes part of a proposed “linear park” running from Vauxhall to Battersea.

“While we find many things to admire, the resolution of the northern site and the linear park at this end, for example the buildings at the entrance, require further clarification to mark the beginning of the park. The residential units along Thessaly Road would benefit from further work to provide successful spaces for living,” DCC said.

“We find that the garden heart does not yet live up to the potential of the scheme and we would wish to see buildings that reflect and celebrate the importance of the market.”

DCC added it was concerned that the outline form of the planning application meant the “intentions and ambitions” for the scheme had not yet been fixed.

Jan Lloyd, chief executive of Covent Garden Market Authority said: “We welcome this response from Cabe and their recognition of our commitment and aspirations for this important part of Nine Elms.  

“They have found ‘much to admire’ and support our key principles in regenerating this site to secure a modern new market for future generations.  

“We agree with the need for a clear development strategy and are grateful for their other comments as we are close to confirming the appointment of a development partner who will enable us to see this project through to delivery.”

CLS Holdings declined to comment.


  • Bloomberg headquarters, City of London

Design Council Cabe praised Foster + Partners’ scheme as “a sensitive response to a challenging site” that was “soundly integrated with its context”

  • Imperial College White City campus

Aukett Fitzroy Robinson and PLP Architecture’s scheme was applauded for its ambition, but DCC said more work was needed on the masterplan and landscaping

  • Berkeley Group’s Goodman’s Fields, Whitechapel

Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands’ scheme left the panel “disappointed”. It said the design of the towers did not achieve the “character and grace one would expect”