Neighbourhood Plan – Mediation meeting
Monday 15th June Council Offices 160 Tooley street
A mediation meeting has been arranged to discuss the report which proposes refusal to designate us as a Neighbourhood Forum. Attendees will include Southwark’s Head of Planning, Simon Bevan, Planning Policy Manager Juliet Seymour, DCLG representative and an independent mediator. Following the meeting, the report could potentially be amended for Cllr Williams to make his final decision. This is a final chance to obtain our approval in cooperation with the council, as opposed to pursuing it in the courts.
Old Bermondsey Village Neighbourhood Forum
Wednesday 22nd April 6.30pm Globe House
Following our invitation to Mark Williams, Council Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Planning and Transport to address an open community meeting we now have a response accepting the invitation for Wednesday 22nd April. The background to the invitation can be read on our website (link).
Following our application for the Neighbourhood Area designated by Southwark Council themselves the Council find their options for refusing us dwindling. In an attempt to create some germ of a justification we received a letter essentially telling us that we fail to meet the high standards of democracy, openness, inclusivity and consultation with local people set by the Council themselves! Councillor Williams has been invited to explain how we can raise our game to the standards he expects. At the same time he has been invited to draw on his own fan-base to invite all those excluded constituencies that we cannot reach.
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?
Neighbourhood Plan update – Lawyers instructed & Council Meeting
(11 February 6.00pm, Council Offices, Tooley St)
The Council’s resistance to our Neighbourhood planning initiative has entered another desperate phase.
In August they finally recognised that avoidance and delay was becoming unsustainable and designated a neighbourhood area (‘NA’) that does not correspond with our application area – or with anyone else’s.
A challenge to that decision by way of a ‘call-in’ by the (very) minority Lib-Dems then triggered a referral to the so-called Oversight and Scrutiny Committee, occasioning a further convenient two months of delay. The OSC is a kangaroo court whipped by the majority Labour Party members into an obedient ratification of Council decisions and its members dutifully did what they were told on 20 October.
In response we called a joint meeting of the BVAG-coordinated St Thomas St Plan and the phantom rival applicant ‘group’ that the Council has sought to promote: ‘Bermondsey Neighbourhood Forum’ (‘BNF’). In reality BNF had stopped holding meetings well over a year ago and its membership had all but evaporated. The few remaining members who turned up duly resolved to formally wind up what was by now nothing more than a straw man for the Council to use as a pretext for refusing to process the only valid application for Neighbourhood Forum Status, namely ours.
Council designated Area ‘A’
In order to remove any further opportunity for delay by the Council the meeting also, with reservations over its size and suitability reluctantly agreed to amend the STP to adopt the Council’s own designated area (‘Area A’, see below). The amended plan was given the working title of STP(D) and the Council was invited to finally approve our application. Given that they themselves had designated the NA selected and they had only one application from what in their own August report was acknowledged to be a qualifying group they were running out of wriggle-room. Without any plausible excuses remaining to them they have resorted to exactly what we anticipated at the meeting – further delay and a few half-hearted implausible excuses (See correspondence here). At the November meeting we had anticipated exactly what we got and we had also resolved to instruct lawyers to prepare for a Judicial Review of the Council’s refusal to process our application. Consequently leading Counsel’s advice was obtained in December. Together with his Junior, the barristers are now preparing the protocol letter before action required to commence a JR claim.
PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS MEETING WILL BE AT 160 TOOLEY STREET WITH A 6.00PM START.
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”