Message from BVAG (Bermondsey Village Action Group · 14 Crucifix Lane · London Bridge · London, London SE1 3JW)“Neighbourhood Plan – Watershed Meeting Wednesday 12 November at 7.00 pmGlobe House
As most of our followers are very aware, Southwark Council have been doing whatever they can to prevent local people from having the power to influence local planning policy that is conferred upon us by the Localism Act. The reasons are also well known: They have plans for St Thomas St and its immediate surroundings that they don’t want local people having anything to do with. Those plans are exemplified by the history of the fantasy ‘Quill’ building in St Thomas St.
Plan A for stopping us was simply to delay for two or three years in processing our application. That works well for as long they can pull it off: Challenging the delay in court would simply increase the effectiveness of their tactic because of the delay in the courts themselves. And what court would reject their defence that they are simply incompetent and inefficient, rather than perverse?
As central government started to recognise how easily local authorities can undermine neighbourhood planning through delay, the Council has had to resort to Plan B. This was to refuse our application for recognition as a Neighbourhood Forum and instead designate an area for which there is no applicant group.
The planners have of course always known that eventually plan A would become unsustainable and hence they were well prepared with plan B. They have always pretended there were such entrenched divisions within the community that – being exemplars of harmony and collaboration – they could not with clear conscience approve any application. Of course, nobody believes this either but the beauty of being in power is that you can do what you want with any lame excuse until a court stops you.
Faced with the prospect of plan B buying them another couple of years of delay, the community needs to bury the charade it relies upon: divisions in the neighbourhood. To put this line to bed once and for all and to allow the community to have at least some local plan, the two ‘groups’ that the Council uses for its ‘divisions’ line have agreed to hold a combined meeting at which their own members and the community at large can select one group to go forward.
Next Wednesday’s meeting will therefore give the community the chance to unlock community planning in our area by selecting either the St Thomas St Plan (coordinated by BVAG) or the Bermondsey Neighbourhood Forum as their preferred applicant for designation. The other group will then be formally wound up by its members. Once they can no longer plead paralysing divisions in the community the Council will have no alternative but to approve a local planning group and it will finally be possible to produce a local plan for our area.
For complete independence the meeting will be chaired by Grange ward councillor, Damian O’Brien.
Come and have your say; finally it will be decisive”