BARD meeting critical of developer influence in SE1

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November 21, 2013 by Juha Repo

The Wednesday 20 November meeting of BARD discussed several local issues relating to local planning and development. A recurring theme with the participants was dissatisfaction to how easily Southwark Council seems to agree to developers’ demands in the area around Blackfriars Road.

Blackfriars Mile

First point of discussion was the Blackfriars Mile event planned by Southwark Council. The £15.000 sum reserved to be divided between all participants was felt to be very small and the application process was though to be prohibitively complicated too. Ideas brought forward included decorating key point in the street with replica banners of the historical windows inside Christchurch in Blackfriars Road, the BARD Award for the worst development in the street as well as getting BARD leaflets printed. Also suggested was a “We love Blackfriars Road” campaign to show local residents’ support for the road and the small businesses around it.

Blackfriars Road SPD

The second item was the Blackfriars Road SPD (supplementary planning document). The 34-page draft document was presented by local ward councillor David Noakes (libdem). The actual document will be decided by the council cabinet on 10 December, with the final document available on the council website on 3 December. The document is meant to be based on the consultation, that ended 12 September.

There is a meeting scheduled between Southwark officers and key local residents on 26 November at 3 pm to bring some local concerns to the council for the SPD to be amended before it is brought forward for approval.

The issues highlighted by cllr. Noakes were the following:

Boundaries: The SPD stretches unnecessarily far in the South, past St. George’s Circus, in the west to Waterloo Road and in the east to Southwark Bridge Road, without actually mentioning those areas at all.
Building height: The SPD seems to be setting 30m as the norm height of building south of Union Street/The Cut with landmark buildings up to 70m at junctions and thus clashing with other council policies and local opinion.
Heritage: The SPD mentions Heritage buildings without actually doing a lot to preserve any of the small amount of heritage building stock left after several recent losses
-Planning policies: There is concern whether the SPD is being used to change planning policies while that should not be within the scope of it
-Residents only mentioned as “pockets” while the area is clearly more residential than that
-Loss of small businesses like the Union Street arches and the cafe and shops in the approved Linden Homes development
-Affordable and social housing gets barely mentioned and no intention to preserve the traditional mixed communities of the area is expressed
Infrastructure like doctors, fire and rescue services are not covered
-Open spaces not included sufficiently
-The high number of new hotels is not covered in the SPD

In the comments, points were raised about how TfL is at the same time pursuing their own agenda for Blackfriars Road, even if some coordination with Southwark Council seems to be happening. Also it was said that the document is based very little on research or fact, or studies on the environmental impact on the neighbourhood. Southwark Council planning was accused of short terminism and arrogance in trying to force planning changes through the back door via the SPD.

Further comments were made on how the whole character of this part of London is in grave danger of being transformed beyond recognition based on profit on investment, mostly by foreign investors with no connection to London. The question was posed whether developers have actually taken over the control from the council and how this part of Southwark is in danger of turning into just an extension of the City of London.

Blackfriars Medical Practice

The next point on the agenda were the reports of possible loss of Blackfriars Medical Practice in Colombo Street as it has been earmarked as a site for council housing. While actually building council housing on land owned by the council was widely supported, and this is so far the only plot identified as such in the Cathedrals Ward, it was strongly felt that the GP services must be made available without interruption in this area. Especially as there is a great amount of new development planned for the area, this could and should be used as an opportunity to increase the size of the practice to be able to deal with the new arrivals.

Octavia House

A new development of the height of 44m or 14 storeys is planned for the Octavia House site in the junction of Union Street and Nelson Square. BARD has already submitted a preliminary paper commenting on some issues with the proposals and the document is available on the Southwark Council planning website.

Octavia House seen from Union Street

Octavia House seen from Union Street

Among the main issues was the question how 14 storeys could be acceptable within Southwark’s planning policy when no surrounding buildings are of that height. Also it was commented that the original plan rejected by Southwark Council, but liked by local residents was much better than the one proposed now. Also this new proposal includes the loss and replacement of 8 garages serving residents of Applegarth House and the loss of some green space.

The attendees were encouraged to make their views known via the planning process, even if recent examples are not exactly encouraging in the success of this route and where planning decisions are being politically motivated. Please refer to our earlier post on valid planning objections! Adjust the details of course to refer to this development 13/AP/3815

Here again a point was raised why Southwark Council seems give in to developer blackmailing too easily, when the recent example of Linden Homes shows that faced with the threat of total rejection developers can very quickly accept different terms for their plans even when they previously claimed they were unworkable.

The special case of Applegarth House, probably the worst affected by the new building, was discussed and how the residents could get involved in negotiations that could benefit them other than just replacing the eight lost garages.

The deadline for comments is 8 December and the planning application and documents are available here

Linden Homes

Some BARD members are trying to organise a meeting with representatives from Linden Homes to iron out some further points still unclear and to confirm how the developers are planning to cause the least possible disruption like road closures etc. during construction.

Styles House

An ongoing issue with Styles House and adjacent development was then discussed. The derelict office block next to Styles House has been bought by Development Securities. They have been is discussions with Southwark Council to buy some of the council owned land to be integrated to their development. After an outcry from Styles House residents Southwark Council has now admitted that no sell will be happening without a majority consent from Styles House residents, but the situation is still unclear. There is also an eventual possibility that the new development will be connected to the proposed new building on top of Southwark underground station, but this would be a separate discussion with Transport for London and the developers.

Once again it was questioned why council land should be sold off for office development rather than more council housing. This area does not seem to be getting more than a fraction of the proposed new 11.000 council homes anyway.

Bankside Residents’ Forum

Finally a call was made for people to get engaged as directors on the Bankside Residents’ Forum who also is involved in talking to developers for example. Contact and email list subscriptions should be sent to info (at) banksideresidentsforum (dot) org.

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One thought on “BARD meeting critical of developer influence in SE1

  1. Adele Morris says:

    Sorry that I couldn’t get to your meeting. Just to clarify, the doctors’ surgery issue was identified through the Bankside Neighbourhood Forum. We discovered that the doctor was about to submit a planning application to build private flats above the surgery to fund its expansion. I knew that there was unspent S106 money for health, and also that the council is short of space in Cathedrals ward to build affordable homes with the millions it is collecting “in lieu” for affordable housing from developments in the north. The council is the landowner, and we put this proposal to officers as a better solution than the one the doctor had proposed. We have always been clear that the practice must continue to operate during any works, and a suitable site must be found to do this. I must add that this is by no means a done deal yet, as there are other factors to take into consideration that have not yet been resolved. I hope this helps. Adele

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