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Don’t sign Berkeley Homes deal on Potters Fields says Hill backer

The man behind The Hill proposal for a grass-covered cultural centre at Potters Fields has called on Southwark Council to delay its plan to sign a deal with Berkeley Homes.

Early concept for The Hill proposal
An early concept for The Hill proposal

Last week Southwark Council's ruling executive agreed in principle to sign a cooperation agreement with Berkeley Homes to draw up new proposals for a development on the prime riverside site next to Tower Bridge.

The deal would end years of wrangling about the controversial Ian Ritchie proposals for eight cylindrical towers on the land which is part owned by Southwark Council and part owned by Berkeley Homes.

The agreement is due to be signed on Monday afternoon – but now the man behind an alternative cultural proposal for the site has made an eleventh-hour plea for the council to allow his proposal to begin the planning process before any binding deals are signed.

"Please hold off signing a deal to allow The Hill to go through the first stages of outline planning permission," says Simon Elliott.

He says that outline planning permission "will encourage our investors that Southwark are willing to host the arts and cultural centre for the Olympics".

Elliott says that his proposal would not require any ongoing Arts Council funding, and like Shakespeare's Globe would be self-sustaining.

Although The Hill has attracted national press attention in recent weeks its backers have struggled to gain political support for their proposal from Southwark's ruling Lib Dem/Tory administration.

Elliott has secured a raft of celebrity endorsements for The Hill concept including singer-songwriter Billy Bragg. The Tooley Street Tenants' and Residents' Association has also backed the scheme.

Although Southwark's Liberal Democrats stood on a manifesto in 2006 to lead "the development of the vacant site between Potters Fields Park and Tower Bridge to include a nationally and internationally-recognised centre for arts and culture", last week's announcement of the planned Berkeley Homes deal referred only to housing on the site and omitted culture entirely.

However a Southwark Council spokesman refused to rule out a cultural component to any scheme that emerges from the collaboration between the two parties: "There is no scheme yet. A new scheme will be developed under the terms of the cooperation agreement."

Speaking in 2006 Southwark Council leader Nick Stanton told this website: "If the world had any sense Potters Fields would be to arts and culture in 2012 what the East End is to sport."

The council spokesman also confirmed that the planning appeal lodged by Berkeley Homes against Southwark Council relating to its proposal for a boutique hotel in the adjacent former St Olave's School building is outside the scope of the cooperation agreement.

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