At last night epic planning committee meeting, Cllr Nick Dolezal, Cllr Chris Brown, Cllr Darren Merrill and Cllr Kevin Aherne gave the go-ahead to the Outline Planning Application for the Heygate.
At quarter to six, as we were entering the council's Tooley Street offices, we were bemused by the sight of 3 police persons in hi-vis jackets go in just before us, then, as we went in, shocked to see some 20 security and/or police people in the foyer itself. We walked over to the reception desk of and were given the 'Visitor Pass' and a ticket. 'You have to have both to get into the meeting', the reception person said. We took our ticket, number 89, and went through the glass door into the smaller seating area outside the meeting rooms. One of the local residents who attended the 'pre-meeting' tells us, 'They've only allowed 100 seats for the meeting – there's no contingency for a spill-over!' We shake our head in disbelief then go into the meeting room, hope to get a front seat but find out that half of the 100 seats are actually 'RESERVED'. As we settle into an unreserved seat, we discover that the 50 reserved seats went to:
10-12 to local residents and members of Elephant Amenity Network who were to speak at the meeting
25 to fully suited people (including Rob Deck of Lend Lease)
a few more to Cllr Peter John, Cllr Fiona Colley, Cllr Martin Seaton, Cllr Rebecca Lury
The other 50 were for 'common' people.
Out of the 50 seats so generously allocated to the rest of the world, at least 3 went to 2 Soundings staff and 1 Make Architect staff, leaving a maximum of 47 for people who live in Southwark.
And, unsurprisingly, it later transpired that some 30 people could not get into the meeting and were left outside for 3 hours.
Inside, Cllr Nick Dolezal tells us how 'Recording and photography are not allowed in the meeting' (as this would do what exactly?!) He explains how the planning committee is 'not politically whipped but makes decisions based on the council's planning policies'. He made a point about extending the usual '3 minutes' for local objectors to '5 minutes' between 3 local objectors (no applause followed).
Bridin O'Connor, the council planning officer, did the presentation first, and at times, it was really difficult to suppress the disbelief at what we were being told. The really subtle twists are the most sickening, as for example, when Bridin O'Connor referred to 'policy aspirations' (otherwise known as council's planning policies, ie the car-free developments, the minimum 35% affordable housing etc). The officer rambled on about the housing, the trees, the car parking, but we did not take extensive notes as the full report is available online (warning: may cause nausea). The councillors' Q&A wasn't terribly interesting either, Cllr Morris tried over and over and over and over again to get a clear answer on just how many council/social-rented homes the development is offering, out of the existing 1,107 council homes on the Heygate. And she never got an answer until Jerry Flynn, one of the local objectors, later confirmed that the number was 71. Viability (the big, commercially-sensitive-so-we-can't-actually-say-anything-about-it-to-any-one-of-you' issue) was discussed at some length, again, not making any sense at all, as Bridin O'Connor could or would not explain the gap identified in the report, but added, at some point, how “if something wasn't viable, it didn't mean it wasn't going to deliver profit”.
Profit for who, Bridin? Southwark Council? Local residents? The developer?
We decided to pop out for some air, but, as we got to the glass door to the foyer, one of the half a dozen security at the door told us we may not be able to get back in, although we had both the visitor's pass AND the ticket. 'But why?' we asked. 'There is no guarantee you'll be able to come back in – see how many police and security there are.' 'But what if I needed to use the toilet?' 'There is one down the corridor.'
So we went back in to listen to more utterly nauseating rubbish.
Eventually, the three local objectors were given the 'stage', Jerry Flynn managed to squeeze the bullet points of the many major concerns into the 3 minutes, followed by a representative of Wansey Street residents and Adrian Glasspool, one of the last remaining leaseholders on the Heygate.
And they said that only 71 units will be social-rented. And that car parking was a breach of policy. And that the development was breaching the leaseholders' human rights. And that the planning policy stipulates 20% renewable energy while the development offers 0%.
And the few of us (less than 50) who managed to get into the meeting applauded Jerry Flynn and Cllr Dolezal said 'Please refrain from applauding so we can get on with the meeting.' And we applauded Adrian Glasspool and Cllr Dolezal said 'Please refrain from applauding so we can get on with the meeting.'
A bit later, a few other local residents were given the chance to speak against the proposal, and Richard Lee was even, unbelievably sensibly, suggesting a number of conditions to the application, pretty much in vain.
We left the meeting just after 8pm and joined some 20 people in the foyer, still under the close supervision of the security and police. Simon Hughes MP was talking to the local residents. One of them told us how, when they got in, the reception person told them 'It's not a public meeting. You can't speak at the meeting.' The resident then asked to see their line manager and Ian Millichap (a Constitutional Officer, we think) and Robin Rogers, Head of Corporate Programmes, turned up to clarify the situation.
Cllr Bukola had, apparently, at some point, stated how there were 'sufficient people in the meeting' already.
And then, around 10 pm, as Lend Lease representatives were 'presenting', this scary stuff happened (tweets by James Hatts):
Objectors now holding up posters. Chair asking them to put them down.
Chair is now asking for protestors with posters to be removed from the room
Donnachadh McCarthy is videoing the scene. He's now been thrown out.
Cllr @markgettleson says he doesn't see that protestors are actually disturbing the meeting
Gaggle of SIA security men in the room.
Councillors in the audience remonstrating with protestors asking them to put the signs down so meeting can continue.
Chair says meeting won't carry on till placard-waving protestors leave the room
Placards say "rip off" and "carbon crime of the decade" as well as other green slogans
One placard says "gated amenities are zoos" - another "Show us the viability figures"
Planning committee chair nonchalantly chewing gum at the top table waiting for protestors to leave.
Chair wants public gallery cleared
All except members of the public who've spoken at the meeting are being thrown out.
Security men trying to stop former councillor Donnachadh McCarthy from taking photos of the scene.
Chair asking public to take their seats again
Chair says if there are further disruptions, he will clear the public gallery
Scared much? We have evidence of just how terrifying the whole protest was:
And our wonderful councillors had this to say about it:
Cllr Neil Coyle tweets around 11 pm “Southwark has lost 130 police officers; v sad to see police time wasted at a Planning meeting disrupted by non representative group” We tweeted back to ask why the police were there and are still waiting for an answer.
Cllr Peter John “Unnecessary hiatus in meeting as protesters not from E&C cause disruption – protesters entry requested by Simon Hughes”.
Whatever their faults, it's kind of reassuring to know that some of our councillors appear to have super-powers to detect where people actually live - not the first, mind (see also Camberwell residents not being 'local' enough for Burgess Park discussions)
Then, a bit later, Cllr Martin Seaton 'congratulates Lend Lease and Soundings on the consultation process'
Just after midnight, James Hatts of London SE1, tweets:
Application approved by four votes to two with one abstention. Vote split along party lines with Labour in favour and Lib Dems against
And seconds later, Cllr Peter John, “Southwark Planning Cttee agree Elephant & Castle masterplan. Great news!” Indeed it is, Cllr John, for Lend Lease.
We have nothing but admiration for every single local resident who got to speak at this travesty and for every single one of the 'unrepresentative', 'not-from-E&C' person who managed to briefly show just what a rip-off this was.
Massive thanks to James Hatts of London SE1 for tweeting throughout the meeting.
More reports/comments (we'll try and keep this as updated as we can):
Elephant Amenity Network, Rubber stamped!
35% campaign, Objectors excluded from Heygate hearing
Inside Housing, Council approves Heygate estate plans
Southwark Council's Head of Corporate Programmes says, 'We didn't expect to sell out' (neither did we!)
Southwark Notes: How the Elephant was sold at Tooley Street one Tuesday night
Evening Standard: New Heygate: 'It looks nice, but where's the affordable housing?'
Southwark Notes: Leader of the council Peter John: probably making it up
Building Design: Heygate objectors complain they were excluded from planning hearing
Michael Edwards (UCL, Bartlett School of Planning): Sell-out to develoeprs at Heygate, Southwark
(to be continued)
Donnachadh McCarthy, one of the people who attended the meeting last night, just posted this on Facebook:
Last night I attended Southwark Council's planning meeting. I went as I had submitted an objection on there being no segregated cycle path included in a planning application for a massive regeneration project in the Elephant & Castle. This is what happened...
When the meeting in public started we were told:
There was no filming allowed
There was no photography allowed
There was no recording allowed
Likewise the press present were told the same.
I had not known it but local residents angry with the proposal about an hour into the meeting in a very dignified silent protest lifted sheets indicating their concerns about the project. The Labour councillor chairing the meeting immediately halted it and demanded that the silent people who had peacefully raised the sheets immediately remove them or they would be removed from the meeting. Angry at this I stood up and with my phone camera and started taking pictures. The chair immediately ordered and kept shouting at me to stop taking pictures. He ordered the security guards to evict me from the meeting. I refused to stop taking pictures of the silent protest. The silent protesters refused to lower their sheets of paper. The chair ordered the room cleared of the public. I argued the public had a right to hear the planning application. Chaos ensured for a while but eventually the protesters lowered their sheets and the meeting resumed.
I was told afterwards by a member of the public who could not get into the packed meeting that the leader of the Council, Peter John, called the police and they arrived as the meeting resumed. This is what the protesters were angry about:
The Planning Application was for what was the Heygate Estate an area of 1,100 council homes built in late seventies at the Elephant.
The council decided 12 years ago to "Regenerate" the area and so evicted the local families living in the area with the promised right of return.
But last night the 4 Labour councillors who were the majority approved an application to develop the site from an international development corporation Lend Lease that:
1. Instead of 1,100 new social housing units included only 71. So no right of return for over 1,000 families.
2. Instead of social housing, 2,400 private luxury apartments to be built instead.
3. Instead of building human scale housing, the supposed brutal ugly Heygate which had at maximum 12 storey blocks, is to be replaced with a plethora of massive tower-blocks up to 30 storeys tall.
4. The council has a policy of requiring 20% renewables in new buildings. The developer proposed ZERO and it was granted.
5. The council has a policy of zero car parking in developments at major transport hubs. The developers proposed 600 car parking spaces and it was granted.
6. The council has a policy of requiring space for cycling in new developments. The developers proposed zero meters of segregated cycle paths and it was granted.
7. The new roads and footpaths in the development are to be privatised.
8. Existing public park is to be replaced with a privatised park.
9.The council has a policy of protecting existing tree canopies. The developer proposed to fell 286 trees (70% of the existing mature tree canopy) and it was granted.
What is the point of having elected councillors or a planning department when they collude to destroy our communities and trash our environment?
On a plus side I was amazed at the depth of knowledge and concern about a whole range of environmental and community issues displayed in the written objections.
An amazing 107 individuals and three local community groups had written in demanding cycle paths.
Numerous people had objected to the lack of renewable energy and the massive waste of embedded carbon in the existing 40 year old council homes which surveyors had judged to be of sound construction.
I got to sleep very very late as I was hugely disturbed at what I had experienced unexpectedly.
This is not "regeneration" but community and environmental destruction....
Corpotocracy in action is very close to a very unpleasant form of free-market fascism...