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Bermondsey Street tall building policy: Southwark Council U-turn

Southwark Council has agreed to remove Bermondsey Street from a proposed London Bridge tall buildings zone.

The surprise announcement was made by Cllr Fiona Colley – Southwark's cabinet member for regeneration – on Wednesday evening during a packed and a very lively public meeting at Bermondsey Village Hall.

The meeting was part of the consultation on Southwark Council's draft supplementary planning document for Bankside, Borough and London Bridge.

The draft was published in February and consultation meetings were held across the area.

Cllr Colley said that this was a second round of consultation ordered by the new Labour administration to make sure everyone could have their say.

A particular area of controversy has been the document's demarcation of a zone around London Bridge Station and Guy's Hospital where tall buildings could be built.

The February draft shows a tall building zone that stretches from Borough High Street in the west to Shunt's old tobacco warehouse on Bermondsey Street in the east.

Simon Bevan, the borough's head of planning policy, said that it was "an anomaly" to include this small section of Bermondsey Street in the area designated as suitable for high-rise development.

"It's not where the tall buildings boundary should be," he added. "We will move back the boundary."

The concession, which had the overwhelming support of the 90-strong audience, came in response to a question from long-time resident Mark Bacon. Others in the room spoke of the unique nature of the ancient street.

In answer to allegations that that the boundary on the consultation map had originally been drawn to suit the future plans of developer Sellar, Simon Bevan said: "It is not up to Sellar where that line is drawn."

Campaigner and Bermondsey Street property developer Russell Gray said: "You have decided only now that you will withdraw it. You will be retreating a lot further."

Mr Gray and many others in the hall voiced concern that the redrawn tall building zone could still leave the historic Vinegar Yard warehouse in danger of being replaced by a 50-storey building.

"Have local people been begging the Council for more tall buildings in Southwark?" asked writer and journalist Richard Heller.

"Not in great numbers," said Simon Bevan.

At the end of the two-hour meeting, Cllr Mark Gettleson of Grange Ward said: "I agree with just about everything that has been said at this meeting. I have a huge emotional connection to this area where I live." But he also reminded the audience that there were people on local estates who liked the possibility of development providing affordable housing.

Russell Gray has opened a temporary 'consultation cafe' on the ground floor of Globe House at the corner of Bermondsey Street and Crucifix Lane to encourage local residents and workers to respond to the council's draft policy proposals.

• The current round of consultation on the draft Bankside, Borough and London Bridge Planning Framework runs until 29 October; details at

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