Formal Consultation on extension of our neighbourhood area closed on 01 February 2018.

The Council received over one hundred letters of support for our application to extend our neighbourhood area.  This is far more than they have ever received in response to their own ‘consultations’ on policy for St Thomas St.

Nevertheless it came as no surprise to learn on Tuesday that the council has recommended our application for refusal. The Officers Report can be viewed in full here.

In anticipation of this continued resistance from the Council however we took prior legal opinion from counsel on our position in law which can be viewed in full here.

Our immediate response to this decision can be viewed here.

Even by their own standards Southwark Council have delivered a masterclass in make-it-up-as-you-go-along planning, no doubt in furtherance of their overriding objective – soliciting developer cash.

For example, the following maps taken from their own 2013 ‘characterisation study’ clearly demarcate areas to the north of Snowsfields as forming part of a cohesive area that they designate ‘Bermondsey’.  Very obviously the Vinegar Yard warehouse, the shops and residential premises in Snowsfields and Melior St and the small offices and heritage buildings in Weston St are entirely in conformity with the Bermondsey St area.  But, as we know, facts and logic are never allowed to interfere with the Council’s anti-local plans where there is cash to be harvested from big developers.


Although calculatedly ambiguous, as usual, the Council rely heavily on their 2014 decision designating a neighbourhood area exclusively of their own making and for their own purpose – keeping us out of St Thomas St. The argument they advanced then was obvious nonsense [see paragraph 24, 2014 Officers Report here ] and it is even more obviously so now. They happily shut the door on effective Neighbourhood Planning in Bermondsey by cutting St Thomas Street out of our initial proposal – ‘The St Thomas St Plan’ – by adopting the manifestly artificial and inappropriate northern border of Snowfields.  The report declares the ‘predominantly residential, interspersed with commercial and industrial uses’ to be wholly incongruous to the sites north of Snowfields: The Horseshoe Pub? Vinegar Warehouse? Snowfields ‘Pocket Plaza’, Weston St?

Our position remains that the proposed areas of extension clearly make a for coherent neighbourhood because they fit better in character, urban grain and scale with the northern part of the area designated by the Council; they mainly consist of small independent businesses and residences with a high concentration of buildings of some historic or architectural interest. [Excerpt from our current application to extend the Neighbourhood Area]

This includes the area above Snowsfields which even by their own study clearly constitutes a more coherent neighbourhood area than the ‘Area A’ designation of 2014.

To underline the conclusion of our legal advice:

Should the Council decide to uphold this complete refusal they will be at risk of legal challenge by Judicial Review.  Such proceedings would highlight the contrived inconsistency, perverse reasoning and brazen denial of facts.  Just as importantly, it would spotlight the real reason for their decision, namely to cream off big bucks from developers in complete disregard for the character of the area, its heritage, and of course overwhelming local opinion.

Whether or not you responded last time please take a few minutes to email planningpolicy@southwark.gov.uk and let them know your opinion about this decision before 5pm this Friday 23 February 2107.

Revised neighbourhood area boundary for Bermondsey

Good morning all,

For your information:

The council is currently consulting on a revised neighbourhood area boundary for Bermondsey. The consultation is underway on behalf of the Old Bermondsey Village Neighbourhood Forum who submitted an application for a revised boundary to the council in late 2017. Consultation is open until Thursday 1 February 2018. More information, including the application, maps of the proposed boundary, and general information about neighbourhood planning can be found on our website here. Hard copies of the application are available to view in John Harvard, Blue Anchor and Newington temporary libraries. Comments can be submitted online via our consultation hub page, by email to planningpolicy@southwark.gov.uk or by free post to the address on our website.


Tom Weaver

Graduate Planner

Major Applications

Development Management | Planning | Chief Executive’s Department | Southwark Council

Postal Address: 5th Floor, Hub 2 | PO Box 64529 | London SE1P 5LX

Visitor Address: 160 Tooley Street | London SE1 2QH

0207 525 3841

07718 961 836

Reminder: Forum Meeting 6.30pm Wednesday 24th January

Globe House | Corner of Bermondsey Street & Crucifix Lane
 High-rise -v- Heritage in Bermondsey St/St Thomas St


New Quill++ proposal: shown to locals on Thursday last week

As we have long expected, Southwark Council’s ambitions for money-spinning tower blocks the length of St Thomas St were only half met by the absurd ‘Quill’ that everyone knew would never be built.  Having bestowed a £40m+ windfall on its anonymous, off-shore, tax-sheltered promoters they are now partnering second-round speculators, Greystar, with a bigger and better version of the proposal.  Only 500 student bedrooms was a bit restrained for Southwark so Greystar are offering them double that number, with the added attraction of 45 floors instead of the Quill’s modest 31.

But just so that locals don’t feel like everything around them is changing the ownership of the building stays in anonymous Jersey companies owned through nominee shareholders.  As their predecessors didn’t, It obviously wouldn’t be fair that poor Greystar should have to pay tax on the further £20m or so windfall the Council are straining at the leash to bestow upon them in exchange for the high-rise precedent they so crave.


‘Quill Mk1:  A bit discreet for the council and so only worth a tax-free £40m windfall

Following the 2010 planning consent for the fanciful nonsense that was ‘Quill’ Mk1 the site owners walked away with a massive lottery jackpot when they handed the baton to new chancers, Greystar. Greystar’s website boasts how they ‘leverage relationships into investment opportunities’.  They’re not wrong about how good an investment opportunity getting in bed with Southwark Council can be.

land-e081-4b22-9cee-36383d8e5e9bLand Registry title register entry as of April 2017 (when former anonymous Jersey-based owners passed the golden goose to new anonymous Jersey-based owners (Greystar?)

OBF meetings are open to all  – All welcome
follow OBVNF on Twitterforward to a friend 


The council is now consulting on an application for a revised neighbourhood area on behalf of the ‘Old Bermondsey Village Neighbourhood Forum. Consultation will run for 7 weeks from 14 December 2017 to 1 February 2018.

The Old Bermondsey Village Neighbourhood Forum was designated by the council in June 2015 to undertake and represent the local community in neighbourhood planning. For more information about Neighbourhood Planning and the revised neighbourhood area boundary, please refer to our website on this link:http://www.southwark.gov.uk/planning-and-building-control/planning-policy-and-transport-policy/development-plan/neighbourhood-planning

 How to respond

Please visit our consultation hub and fill out our online questionnaire.

Comments can also be made in writing or via email and sent to the following addresses.

Email: planningpolicy@southwark.gov.uk

Post: FREEPOST SE1919/14 Planning Policy Chief Executive’s Department London SE1P 5EX

 We look forward to hearing from you.

 Southwark Council


0207 525 5471

OBVNF Meeting 19 July: NSP53

 Forum Meeting

6.30pm Wednesday 19 July

 Globe House | Corner of Bermondsey Street & Crucifix Lane  

High-rise -v- Heritage
in Bermondsey St/St Thomas St



For the past few weeks at our information point in Globe House we have informed and consulted widely on the Council’s plans for St Thomas St/Bermondsey St.  Unsurprisingly, their high-rise plans are no more popular now than they were when Sellar came up with his original version – the three Shard satellites – in 2010.

Following the consultation the Forum now needs to consider our next steps towards protecting this area from insensitive development.  We have invited the Council to send a representative to the meeting who can explain with some greater accuracy than the hopelessly vague NSP 53 wording, what they are seeking to promote.  Presently they can’t even explain how they worked out the ‘site’ area,  particularly whether it includes demolition of the Vinegar Yard warehouse to make way for high-rise and whether it includes wiping Vinegar Yard itself and the eastern end of Snowsfields off the map as public roads. Network Rail, who own the former St Thomas St car park, and James Sellar, who owns the vinegar warehouse and 40-44 Bermondsey St, have also been invited to attend.

Important on the agenda will be the launch of our planned local list of buildings to be protected and the broader concept of places that go beyond individual buildings and which should be extended a more generalised form of protection.  The ‘placemarks’ initiative, led by BSAP, is currently underway and our subscribers are invited to go to the website and nominate any places of their own for inclusion: www.bermondseyplaces.uk.
A provisional list of local buildings of significance to the area’s character will be presented at the meeting, specifically in the St Thomas St/ Snowsfields/north Bermondsey St area.  Further nominations will be welcome and we will be aiming to extend the area of coverage in the coming weeks to the whole of the OBF area – and the original area from which the Council excluded the Forum.

At the meeting we will be considering the preservation of the Vinegar Yard warehouse in the context both of local listing and potentially its designation as an Asset of Community Value [‘ACV’] (a designation established under the Localism Act).  We have written to Simon Bevan, Head of Planning, asking him if he knows of any reason why it cannot be designated as an ACV.  One of the implications of such a designation is that there would arise a community right to buy the building in the event that it is sold by the present owner. If Sellar’s high-rise ambitions do not come to fruition such a sale is likely.

All welcome.

OBVNF Meeting 6.30pm Wednesday 26 April

Globe House | Corner of Bermondsey Street & Crucifix Lane

On the agenda:

(1)  Our Neighbourhood Plan – next steps to adoption

(2)  New Council high-rise vision for St Thomas St and Bermondsey St in ‘consultation’

(3)  Beormund School sell-off

(4)  Anti-social developments – update


(1)  Neighbourhood Plan

We have now received a proposal from Liz Wrigley, supported by Honore van Rijswijk (both of who were at recent meetings) to help develop and finalise our plan.  This follows the Council feedback on our first draft which, in the case of some of our policies, requires a significant amount of time input to produce supporting ‘evidence’.  How far this is reasonable and how far it is not can only be established when some of the work is done.  In order to proceed Liz’s proposal needs to be considered by the meeting.  Liz is engaged in neighbourhood planning on a professional basis and if we are to proceed with her proposal we will need to consider how her fees are to be funded.

(2)  Area Vision

BVAG was born out of necessity in 2010 when Southwark Council was in the process of slipping past people in our area a high-rise enabling policy.  Freedom of information inquiries revealed that it had been hatched at Friday night meetings with planners ‘convened’ (in the Council’s own word) by Shard developer, Irvine Sellar.  Coincidentally, it aimed to facilitate the three 60-floor towers he was proposing at the time for Bermondsey St (opposite Globe House, at the Corner with Snowfields).  The facilitating plan was to be sneaked in to a ‘Supplementary Planning Document’ supposedly in ‘consultation’ but which virtually nobody knew about.  The map below shows how a new high-rise zone was proposed along St Thomas St and the corner of Bermondsey St and Snowsfields.
Council high-rise zone proposal, February 2010

This planning-policy-on-the-sly incensed local residents and businesses and a few individuals mobilised to raise awareness of what was going on.  A rendering was produced to show what 60 floors at the end of Bermondsey St would look like (below). This was done using Centre Point as a model as Sellar was keeping the details of his proposal a matter for himself and the Council alone.  When the ‘consultation’ was about to close with responses from only 12 people the raised local awareness and the audacity of the proposal triggered hundreds more.  The Council responded with a characteristic rearguard denial, saying the new responses were all going in the bin as they were out of time!
60 floors in Bermondsey St – as proposed by Sellar with Council facilitation

This plan was eventually abandoned at an angry public meeting at which planners had their backs to the wall.  But now the Council are back for a second bite of the cherry with their long-expected high-rise revival for St Thomas St.  This dormant, but certainly not deceased, ambition is what led them to resist, and then refuse outright, our proposed neighbourhood planning area some time ago.  The ‘Planning Notice’ below that has appeared in Bermondsey St in the last couple of weeks is another classic of disingenuousness.  It denotes very much the same area as that in the 2010 SPD and proposes very much the same treatment, namely, drive high-rise down St Thomas St and into Bermondsey St and the conservation area.  Now they know they are being watched the planners take more care with their presentation and the high-rise sub-text is kept well out of the frame – only to be found buried in the draft ‘New Southwark Plan’ on the Council’s website only to be uncovered by determined investigation by anyone who reads the notice.  The forum needs to consider a response to this new affront for submission prior to the deadline of 28n April.

(3)  Beormund School

The planners represent a shining example of how far local governments can get away with secrecy and deception when they have no meaningful opposition, but even they could learn a lesson in arrogance and complacency from the ‘regeneration’ department.

The sell-off of the Beormund School site is naked asset-stripping dishonestly justified by facile statistical misrepresentation of the requirement for schools in our area.  So arrogant is this department that they can brazenly claim that we don’t need schools because, for the most part, we do them so badly that parents all send their children elsewhere.  So whoopee, we can close the schools and sell off the sites!

The first locals knew about this plan was when in a comic extravaganza for developers hosted by the Council’s private sector marketing rejects they hailed their ‘Oven-Ready’, ‘Quick-Win’ council sites for sale.  Since then, they have just brazened it out, refusing to justify the decision to sell off the site, or even say where the initiative came from.  Bizarre denials and evasion tactics in correspondence with the Cabinet member for Children and Schools, Victoria Mills, and the Director of Regeneration, Stephen Platts, will be reviewed at the meeting.  The latter is under pressure to attend a meeting with locals but is currently refusing to attend on the basis that we are too nasty. i.e. We have exposed his methods – spoiling his plan to pull it all off behind our backs.

(4)  Anti-social developments – update

Since our last meeting there have been notable events in respect of two of the developments under scrutiny:

The Ticino proposal was approved at the planning committee meeting of 21 March.  Representations from BVAG however put the committee members in an embarrassing position.  They are instructed to vote in line with the party whip (Hence the standard formal announcement at meetings that they are all in fact independent, free thinkers.)  The planners had concocted a completely untenable theory about the age of the building which, championed by principal poodle, Nick Dolzeal, the labour members had to pretend to believe, against all logic and evidence.  Similarly, they had to pretend to believe that the developers/planning officer hadn’t misrepresented the proposed basement of the building as not requiring ‘special foundations’.  As this is an undeniable technical fact, of which the planners were fully aware, there is some egg on faces and there is some anxiety that there may be a legal challenge based on the planners’ misrepresentations.  This is graphically demonstrated by the evasiveness of Simon Bevan, Head of Planning, in correspondence with BVAG – which will be reviewed at the meeting.  Meanwhile, as of the time of writing the Council website refers to the consent as ‘pending’.  As the approval was given almost a month ago presumably something is afoot.
Ticino’s new High-Street-chain look – ‘pending’

The ‘Hatchers Mews’ proposal that massively increased the overshadowing and overlooking of Tanner St Park has been withdrawn.  We hope to find out why and whether it has been given the green light for a reincarnation – and share the information at the meeting

Tanner St Park – now
Tanner St Park – proposed

All welcome