- Created on 23 October 2016
Some 30 local residents gathered yesterday to discuss the proposals for the redevelopment of land and homes around Wyndham Road and Redcar Street.
A couple of local residents called the meeting yesterday, almost a year after the first round of council 'consultations'.
Majority was quite vocally unhappy about the proposals for a range of reasons, from tripling the density in fairly constricted space, to lack of information about impact such sudden density increase would have on infrastructure, to unacceptable loss of privacy, to unacceptable loss of trees and green spaces, to concerns about the polution and safety for the duration of development, to exact figures for different tenures proposed, to quering the viability of the development if the height of buildings was reduced, to apparent inevitability of the development, to again asking who decided the development should happen in the first place and who the development was in fact for and so on.
It turned out that the council was meant to be signing a contract with Affinity Sutton (1) in early November. Another resident noted how the council never did the 'Impact Assessment' ie never sat down to assess how three times more people living in an area would affect things like water and energy provision, GP surgeries, transport or schools. It also transpired that Hyde Housing, who own and manage a number of homes on the land to be 'redeveloped', had, in July this year, issued eight weeks' eviction notices to some 18 families (pretty much all of them key workers, a number of them with children etc).(2)
(email we sent to Cllr Mark Williams, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, back in October 2015. We never got a reply)
We were genuinely shocked to see not one but three councillors present at what we thought would be a local residents' meeting. And, to us at least, it soon became clear they were there primarily to buy time for themselves and the council officers.
Cllr Dora Dixon-Fyle stated it was good to be having the meeting, so 'we can keep track of what's happening from day one.' Yesterday was just over a year after the first 'consultation' which would not have happened unless more work prior to it had been done, so Cllr Dixon-Fyle's 'day one' is at least a year and a half too late? Is it possible that someone who's been a councillor in the ward for 16 long years lost a year and a half not having the faintest idea a development was happening in her ward? If they did not know, what exactly is it they do with their time?! If they did know, what are we to make of their presence at and contribution to the residents' meeting? Residents requested that the council puts a hold on the signing the agreement with Affinity Sutton before they had an opportunity to get more detail and have a discussion with the council's senior officers (Simon Bevan, Head of Planning, was identified as the person to bring to next meeting, as well as Cllr Mark Williams, Cabinet Member for Regeneration). We again raised the issue of 'consultation', and suggested that perhaps, had the people who live there now been asked what it was they wanted, they might have decided on a swimming pool right in the middle of the land. Cllr Dixon-Fyle made a note of the comment then made a reference to 'crazy ideas'.(3)
The other two councillors also did their bit – one of the residents complained the council was refusing to give information because of alleged commercial confidentiality; we told the meeting how it took us and our lawyers some two years of trying to find the information about who decided what about the Camberwell Green Orchard, only to be eventually told we were two years too late (ie would've needed to be seasoned time travellers to challenge council decisions). 'Majority of the people wanted the new Camberwell Library to be built on that site', Cllr Kieron Williams piped up. 'They didn't,' we replied, as the 'majority' and/or 'overwhelming majority' was not true then and most certainly isn't now.
Someone mentioned how a private company was proposing to redevelop the underground car parking, and turn it into spaces for start-ups, community activities etc. We reminded Cllr Dixon-Fyle how, some eight years ago, local residents suggested a very similar proposal which had some external business backing too, Cllr Dixon-Fyle and a council officer met up with residents, took them to the chained, locked up entrance to the carparking and declared nothing could be done because of the 'health and safety' problems. Residents asked for clarification of the problems and never got a reply. Cllr Tom Flynn, who, eight years ago, was not a local councillor and was never at this meeting, stated, 'The health and safety problems were too expensive for the council to sort out.' If this had been the case, could Cllr Dixon-Fyle not have told the residents eight years ago? Or was this another 'crazy' idea?
Count them chickens
A year ago, the council had already spent a significant amount of money and people's time developing a project someone up the hierarchy decided needed to happen. Who was this person who kept all of it a secret from the residents and their 'elected representatives'? How much did all that thinking and developing cost? Why is this still a secret a year later? How much of it is a done deal and who benefits from the deal? With head of Barratt's arrested, what reassurances are there regarding other development 'partners'? If the councillors and council officers could not give a damn about local residents on the redevelopment of the Heygate, the Aylesbury, Bermondsey Spa, Elmington, Canada Water, Old Kent Road, Peckham, or pretty much any other development, no matter how small, why would this be any different? No, seriously.
Updated 19:30 on Sunday 23rd October 2016
Thanks to those of you who reminded us that, ironically, Cllr Dixon-Fyle MBE used to be Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Social Care and that both Cllr Mark Williams and Cllr Dora Dixon-Fyle may well be in breach of the Members' Code of Conduct (Cllr Williams for not responding to residents' emails for over a year; Cllr Dixon-Fyle for referring to residents' ideas as 'crazy')
A local resident sent us examples of how people in the area were 'consulted' about the redevelopment of the local school in 2011. Images speak for themselves.
(1) We have not been able to find out much about Affinity Sutton apart from the fact that they were keen to demolish and redevelop a council estate in Kensington where council officers were concerned about the loss of council homes. The rents they're charging are, we hear, higher than what Southwark council tenants would be able to afford. If you know more, please give us a shout.
(2): It is worrying that nobody, apart from the families and Cllr Dixon-Fyle (whom they turned to for support) knew anything about this – the vicious circle of creating bubbles of silence around problems which are far from unique, isolating the problems and the people involved has got to be broken. Dealing with things in isolation may be good for some people's CVs, but does nothing for solidarity, nothing for allowing people involved to learn from each other and solve things together, collectively.
(3): We felt extremely uncomfortable about this particular response but only managed to articulate why after the meeting ended. Which ideas did the councillor think were crazy? The idea that council residents could have a swimmming pool on their estate? The ideas we were suggesting? The ideas suggested by people with mental health problems? The ones suggested by residents? The ones suggested by anyone who is not a councillor or a council officer? The ones suggested by anyone not paid to be suggesting ideas? The ones suggested by people who do not have the money to make their ideas (no matter how bizarre, selfish or dangerous) reality?
Updated 17th December 2016
We eventually got a response from Cllr Williams about the cost of the 'proposal' to date: the council had, between 2015 and today, spent £335,354 on architects fees, 'consultation' event in October 2015 and various surveys. This sum does not include the work of council officers themselves.
The council had not yet signed the contract with Affinity Sutton, but, according to Cllr Mark Williams, as soon as this is done (which will need to spell out details of development), they will set up a Residents' Steering Group so residents can have a say about... brick colour, we guess. Or similar 'not crazy' stuff?