July 1, 2014 by Juha Repo
Not surprisingly, Southwark Planning committee tonight approved the Octavia House development, and called it a “touchstone” for the area. Also the plan to redevelop the Valentine Place conservation area was approved, in reality removing any actual resemblance to a conservation area.
The meeting was well attended by local residents and very good presentations were made to show how both developments were not respectful to their surroundings and were actually not following many Southwark Planning policies, but it soon became obvious the decisions to approve both had been made long before this meeting.
It seems obvious that the applications are worked out before between the council’s development officers and planning consultants and lawyers representing the developers that there is little chance of the committee ever rejecting an officers proposal.
Even if the chair kept reminding the meeting that the members were not whipped by their party, it was very obvious all the Labour members would always vote as one.
A lot was said about the English Heritage damning report on de facto destroying the Valentine Place conservation area, which was only approved by Southwark Council in March 2012, but this was not seen as a hinder by the Planning committee to go ahead and approve the scheme.
As for the Octavia House building, we heard that the planners saw the 14-storey tower as a “touchstone” for visitors to the area, as tourists going to the Tate Modern could navigate by it as it was visible from both Southwark station and Great Suffolk Street.
A defeat for the BARD campaigns on both accounts, but also for a democratic decision process. Local objections have very little weight when they are held against developer money coming to the council coffers.
There are plans to have another general BARD meeting to see what we can do in future to help Southwark find a balance where both the needs of the people already living in the area and the needs of new development can be taken into consideration – at the moment local opinion seems to count for absolutely nothing, and a conservation area is just a guideline that the council planners can choose to ignore at will, as any other policy.
Read the report on the Octavia House decision on the LondonSE1 website.
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