BVAG Meeting Wednesday 15th March

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BVAG Meeting
Current Anti-Social Development Proposals
Wednesday 15 March 6.30pm
 |Globe House | Corner of Bermondsey Street & Crucifix Lane

Our area is again under threat from a variety of anti-social development proposals.  There are currently on the table several at different stages of gestation that threaten the local townscape and public amenity.

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The old Ticino Bakery at 176-178 Bermondsey Street
Planning Application ref: 16/AP/4727

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This application is aimed with some precision at the kinds of high street chains that we have always worried would soon be targeting Bermondsey St.  From its large 4 500 sq ft of floorspace to its Look-at-Me front elevation it is tailor-made for a chain operator.  It is scheduled to be considered by the Planning Committee on Tuesday 21 March.  We will be making a representations.  It is particularly worrying that the applicants have been able to claim the Council’s conservation officers have told them:  ‘The existing building is considered to be of no historic value. It appears to be of early to mid-20th century construction’  Even the most inexperienced conservation officer should have been able to recognise that this is wrong and the yellow stock bricks of the facade and the derrick date it to the 19th century.  The Head of Conservation has been asked to attend the meeting (but don’t bet on him putting his head above the parapet; he has not responded to several calls and emails).  Another concern is the large basement proposed which,  if allowed, will be hugely disruptive to traffic on Bermondsey St.  It is clear that Southwark’s planners have not taken note of the effects of the basement rush that has blighted Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea where, in generally much more compatible street scales and ground conditions, there are widespread problems with damage and disruption to neighbours.

Combined representations from objectors at planning committee meetings are limited to 3 minutes.  At next week’s meeting we will consider ours.

Tanner St Park / Bermondsey St/Hatchers Mews
Planning Application ref: 17/AP/0469

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This application is remarkable for its opacity.  The drawings shown on the A4 poster pinned on the park notice board by an anonymous concerned resident are all that can be found on the Southwark website.  And these could take a while to find themselves as the drawing titles are distinctly unhelpful.  What is clear is that the proposal would radically alter the experience of the park with an enormous change in the sees of enclosure, the overlooking and the loss of sunlight.  What made the planners think that the applicants should not be asked to produce a decent coloured elevation and perspective drawing before the application was put out to consultation is anyone’s guess.  We have invited the planning officer concerned to come and explain – but again, don’t be disappointed if he doesn’t show up; accountability is not a mantra of Southwark’s planners.

London City Mission
Tower Bridge Road
mission
This site is rumoured to be proposed for a 15-story tower.  It is not yet clear whether the planners have given a green light to this audacious ambition – but stranger things have happened.  Concerned next door neighbour and architect, Arthur Timothy, has agreed to come and tell us what he has found out about the proposal and hopefully bring a representative of the London City Mission who own the building.

Guiness Estate
Snowsfields
guinness

This estate has for some while been facing a proposed two-floor rooftop extension.  It is an obvious opportunity to restore the original roofline of the building whilst adding additional residential accommodation.  Ambitiously and heritage-sensitively approached the proposal could be beyond reproach.  In practice the proposal is likely to be for cheap construction with little regard for reinstatement of the original glory of this landmark estate.  Our researches are ongoing and we will be giving an update at the meeting.

The old Selected Rug Co. 74-84 Long Lane
Spaces Co Living project

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long lane plan
One of the few remaining buildings of character on Long Lane was the subject of a consultation last month in relation to a proposal for a ‘co-living’ tower.  The developers (or rather their PR team) were less than transparent about who they are and where they are in the invariable deal with the planners prior to the consultation charade that follows the agreed application.  It was equally far from clear what treatment they are proposing for the existing Rug Co. building (pictured).  Notes to be compared at the meeting.

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The Ticino and Tanner St Park applications can be found on the Southwark website under the application references quoted above.  Our followers are urged to see them for themselves and make their own representations but of course to come to the meting to find out more.

All welcome

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Email from BVAG: meeting, Wednesday 22nd April

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Important meeting
Wednesday 22nd April 6.30pm Globe House

It is now only five weeks until Southwark run out of time for determining our application for NF status. Of course, our application was made some three years ago but the Council traded on the fact that there was no statutory time limit for determining applications until introduced by the Government in January to stop local authorities using the simplest method of avoiding meddling locals sticking their nose into the furtive and lucrative business of planning.

The Council have been reduced to contriving some basis for refusal. Rather clutching at straws they have come up with:
1.We are not representative enough
2. Our constitution is not good enough
3. We must think the Council’s own planning policy is incapable of improvement

After numerous invitations the Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Planning and Transport, Mark Williams has agreed to attend our meeting, on Wednesday 22nd April, accompanied by Head of Planning, Simon Bevan, to explain what we will need to do to meet the Council’s high standards of community engagement and responsiveness.

Of course, if the meeting is unimpressed by the reasoning of Messrs Williams and Bevan – not an unknown reaction – it may come to them explaining how they are legally empowered to refuse our application.

Unless they can find the excuse they are looking for our application will have to be approved by 25th May 2015. Thereafter we will finally be able to get on with what we started three years ago and introduce some local wishes and initiatives to shape our immediate environment.

This meeting not to be missed. All welcome.

Email from BVAG re Neighbourhood Plan.

Neighbourhood Plan – Council start to wriggle

Confronted with new statutory obligations to process neighbourhood planning applications the Council can no longer rely on delay to stop us. Our new application, amended to take account of their ever growing and evolving demands, was submitted on 20th February.

We have now received the letter below in which they are clearly trying to carve themselves enough room to refuse the application. Also see our response below, inviting the Councillor concerned, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Planning and Transport, Mark Williams, to come and address an open meeting to make out his ‘concerns’ and hear our responses face to face.

The claim that we are not representative of the local community is pretty rich:
Whenever we have consulted locally on planning issues we have invariably attracted many times as many responses with negligible resources as the Council have with all theirs.

Equally unlikely to provide them with an excuse is the claim that we have insufficient support from the Estates: It was them who dictated the very substantial enlargement of our application area to include the large number of Estate blocks. We can hardly be expected to have invested heavily in publicity in an area introduced on their obstructive whim – especially as they have shown every intention of refusing our application if they can possibly find an excuse. As it happens, we have far more followers and members from the estates than they were able to interest in the paltry meeting they organised in February.

Their most desperate line is that neighbourhood planning groups must be adoration societies for their respective local authority planning departments:
What’s the point of the provision for a referendum in the Localism Act if differences between local plans and those of the local authority are not permitted?

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Email from BVAG – meeting 18th February at 6.30pm

Southwark Council run out of excuses –

Neighbourhood plan finally on the starting blocks
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Meeting
Wednesday 18 February Globe House 6.30pm

Last wednesday evening’s Council-hosted meeting was as unfocused and inconclusive as we expected. For all the Council’s lecturing on the necessity for broad community engagement in the Community Planning process they demonstrated a dismal failure to engage with local people themselves: Aside from BVAG supporters, they managed to attract scarcely a handful of representatives from the area that they defiantly designated. Council community planning PR woman and double-agent, Juliet Seymour, failed to see the irony in preaching to the meagre meeting the necessity of broad community awareness and participation.

We have been forced to attend countless meetings knowing that, pointless or not, the Council would exploit any failure to show up. Needless to say, one more was water off a duck’s back. On the positive side, the Council really have now run out of excuses for refusing to process our application for Neighbourhood Forum status. With new Localism Act amenments forcing reluctant councils to comply with time limits to determine neighbourhood forum applications and a letter from our lawyers threatening Judicial Review the delay game is almost over.

In a final gesture of defiance Southwark have stalled us further by claiming that our application is defective as to the terms of our Constitution, a requirement for a new name to reflect their imposed neighbourhood area and some other minor technicalities. Since they could have raised such issues two-and-a-half years ago but in fact accepted our application as valid, nobody is under any illusion about their true purpose. Nonetheless, as with acceptance of their dictated area, our simplest course is just to give them what they want by way of technicalities. For this purpose we are holding a meeting next Wednesday 18 February to finalise the new or varied information that has been demanded (see letter from Mark Williams 26 Jan here).

Also for discussion is a BVAG response to any matters in the new Southwark Plan, presently in its ‘consultation’ phase. In particular we will want to express a position on high-rise buildings, conservation and housing policies. Whilst we know Southwark’s long-established attitude to consultation and the opinions of local people, if we are looking for a real change through localism we need to at least set out our stall for the record in this ‘consultation’.