Last night, however, saw it pass the first formal milestone with the council when it was granted outline planning permission.
The embassy, like any other major developer, is in regular contact with the council as their plans develop. But this is the first time the scheme has been considered – except in passing – at a public committee meeting.
I’ve already stated that I consider myself pre-determined on this issue because of public statements I have made and through my role as chairman of the Nine Elms Opportunity Board (of which we hope the Embassy will become a member) so I feel I can say I’m really pleased the planning committee granted permission – this is a major boost for Nine Elms and an integral part of the wider vision for the area.
I know that there are still concerns about the scheme, for example the visual impact of a modern embassy worries some, while others fear that the area will suffer the same problems as Grovsenor Square.
However, to my mind they are issues that can be dealt with as part of the planning process – ensuring a quality development which can be self-contained when it comes to security.
For me the real benefits come from the aspects of the embassy that aren’t self-contained. Jobs, for example, will be created. The embassy will employ approximately 800 people, and currently about half their staff are ‘locally employed’. They also estimate that their presence will create around 3,000 jobs when you factor in the boost from people moving to the area and businesses and services that will spring up to be close to them.
Even if those figures are generous, it still compares favourably when you consider that the largest employer currently on the site employs around 90 people.
This is only the first step. They still need to run their design competition and get detailed planning permission – but already their intention to move to Nine Elms has helped transform the area from a south of the river industrial site to a central London destination. There’s a huge buzz about Nine Elms now, and with the developments at the power station and Mew Covent Garden Market there’s a lot of good news there for Wandsworth residents.