The full text of a letter sent by Bermondsey organisations to Southwark Council leader accompanying the petition of over 600 signatures against the Urban Catalyst development plans for Bermondsey Square.
From left to right: Derek Zackon (Bermondsey Market Traders Assoc); Rev Charles Moore (St Mary Magdalen Church, Bermondsey Street); David Ford (Vice Chair Bermondsey Street Area Partnership); Dean Addams (Director, Leathermarket JMB); Sheila Stupple (Chair, Magdalen Tenants & Residents Assoc.); Ellen Brown (Chair, Albert Salter Neighbourhood Forum); Susan Hunter (BSAP)
OBJECTION BY THE LOCAL COMMUNITY & MARKET TRADERS
TO THE OVER DEVELOPMENT OF BERMONDSEY SQUARE
19 July 2002
The Town Hall
London SE5 8UB
Dear Nick Stanton,
Please find enclosed a petition including over 600 signatures objecting to the massive scale of development proposed by Urban Catalyst at Bermondsey Square and for which the developer is currently seeking planning consent. The signatures of both the petition and this letter have been collected from the community around Bermondsey Square and from the Bermondsey Market Stall Holders.
We are aware that Urban Catalyst are amending their proposed scheme but based on information supplied by them, we believe that any changes will be minor and the revised scheme will still constitute a gross over development of the Bermondsey Square site.
As you will be aware Bermondsey Square is not only home to a famous antiques market, which has been on the site since 1948, it is also located in a Conservation Area with Grade 2 listed houses along one boundary and St Mary Magdalen Church (Grade 2• and Watch House on the adjoining corner. The Square is also the site of a Scheduled Ancient Monument, Bermondsey Abbey.
In view of this it is not only the local community and market traders who are objecting to this proposal. English Heritage are also unhappy with what is proposed. In their letter to your planning officer in response to the developer's current proposals they wrote:
A development of this scale and massing seems to pay little or no regard to the scale and grain of the historic development that makes such a significant contribution to the appearance of the Conservation Area and from which it derives much of its character.
Before the elections in May your party issued a Focus newsletter seeking local community support to secure the Chaucer Ward for the Liberal Democrats. This newsletter set out your party's position in relation to the future development of Bermondsey Square:
1. A proper community facility that will benefit everyone.
2. A sensitive low-key development that guarantees the future of the antiques market
3. Any money gained from the development to be ploughed back into the local area so that those people whose lives will be disrupted by the development will also see some positive gains.
4. Any housing built to include affordable homes for local people
5. The plan should kick-start the regeneration of the shops and businesses along Tower Bridge Road.
6. The development should not generate extra traffic.
Clearly the Urban Catalyst scheme fails on every count.
One reason is that the Council appears to be seeking to extract a high financial receipt for the site. The developers not only have to satisfy your Property Department's demands to squeeze as much money out of this sale as possible, they also have to work within the constraints of foundation design on a site which is a Scheduled Ancient Monument. To justify the capital investment and the returns sought by investors, Urban Catalyst have been driven to propose a scheme which deliberately over develops the site. The developers themselves have informally acknowledged that their proposals are "rather high" for the location.
The Liberal Democrats are now in power in Southwark under your leadership. You have the opportunity to address a development situation at Bermondsey Square which neither reflects your party's own position, as clearly set out in the recent Focus newsletter, nor the local community's wishes for the site.
As your officers will advise you, development proposals for Bermondsey Square were the subject of a couple of public exhibitions some years ago. As a result, based on an agreed development brief, a preferred scheme was selected. This scheme was predominantly 5 storey and included a 3-screen cinema, which was the key reasonthat the scheme was selected as a preferred choice by the local community.
Another factor, which was particularly important to the Bermondsey Market antiques traders, was the involvement of Atlantic Estates because of their role as landlord to antiques traders in Bermondsey Street and the reputation of their gallery in the King's Road.
The selected scheme was reported to Committee on 17 March 1999 and your attention is drawn to the minutes of that meeting:
1. That the Urban Catalyst/ Atlantic Estates/ ARUP Associates Consortium be selected as preferred developer…
2. That the historic character of the site be highlighted and enhanced by the scheme.
Since that decision was taken by the Council, Atlantic Estates are no longer involved and Urban Catalyst significantly revised the scheme without consulting the local community prior to submitting their current planning application in October 2001. The 3-screen cinema has been removed; the height of the development has increased from 5 to over 8 storeys and the Bermondsey Market traders have lost their right to have all their stalls located on the present site. In the scheme currently with planning, a high proportion of market traders will now be required to locate their stalls on the highway and not on the site.
It is interesting to note that no drawings within the Planning Application documentation submitted by Urban Catalyst commit the developer to show exactly how each of the 300 stalls (as stated in their planning application) will be accommodated both on the site and on the highway. Its omission is significant and if not addressed by your officers will allow the developers to relocate even more stall holders onto the highway at some future date if it suits them.
In summary, we believe that the market, which is the unique feature of this site, is being squeezed out and in part being "shunted off" on to the adjoining road to make way on the ground floor for restaurants, shops and hotel servicing requirements. London is full of these A3/ leisure facilities, All Bar One , J D Wetherspoon, Starbucks etc. – but there is only one Bermondsey Antiques Market. It is known by people with an interest in antiques across the world and is the reason why both traders and tourists visit this part of Bermondsey.
The local community accepts that there has to be development in Bermondsey Square and accepts that the Council needs to consider the level of financial receipt when they dispose of a site.
However not only is the market unique, the Square itself is one of the few remaining open spaces at the centre of an area which under significant development and social pressures. Although wealthy residents are moving into the area e.g. the Hartleys Jam Factory, the Square is surrounded by social housing. As you will be aware both the old Abbey Ward (now included in Grange) and Chaucer Ward feature in the Government's Top 2000 wards in terms of Index of Deprivation.
It is therefore even more important that, in a community which ranges from wealthy newcomers to those coping on benefits, key sites at the centre of neighbourhoods are developed in a way which reduces possible future polarisation of the community. They should provide at least one community element such as a cinema or a learning resource centre and information cafe, which would appeal to and be used by all sectors of the community.
To quote the Mayor of London's recently published Draft London Plan:
"Sensitive areas, including conservation areas, and areas of specialist activity, will be protected. Change in the City fringe areas must be particularly sensitive to the needs of deprived communities."
Extract from Summary Document for the Central London Area, which includes Bermondsey Square
In conclusion, if Urban Catalyst's scheme is allowed to go ahead it will reflect badly on us all – from Councillors and Council officers to those living and working in the area. We all have a duty, Council and citizens working `together, to produce something better for the Square.
Once upon a time Bermondsey was a wealthy borough. You only have to look at the old Bermondsey Town Hall and Bermondsey Library, to see how Council members representing the local community demanded and got high quality, well designed buildings which were both useful and also enhanced civic pride.
We therefore request that the Council
David Ford – Vice Chair, Bermondsey Street Area Partnership
Ellen Brown – Chair, Albert Salter Neighbourhood Forum
Derek Zackon – Bermondsey Market Traders Association
Reverend Charles Moore – St Mary Magdalen Church, Bermondsey Street
Dean Addams – Director, Leathermarket Street JMB
Sheila Stupple – Chair, Magdalen Tenants & Residents Association
Tenants & Residents Association, St Saviour's Estate
This letter is being copied to:
Valerie Shawcross – GLA Member for Lambeth & Southwark
Simon Hughes MP
Councillor Richard Thomas
Chaucer Ward Councillor
Southwark Council – Executive Member for Environment and Transport
Councillor Cathy Bowman,
Southwark Council – Executive Member for Regeneration and Economic Development