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Brian Coleman: Lambeth "irresponsible" to block Albert Embankment development

The chairman of London's fire authority has accused councillors who refused planning permission for a redevelopment of the former London Fire Brigade headquarters at Albert Embankment of "irresponsible" and "highly irregular" behaviour.

8 Albert Embankment
8 Albert Embankment. Whitgift House can be seen behind the flagpole of the frontmost building.

A mixed-use scheme for the redevelopment of the riverside site close to Lambeth Bridge was turned down by Lambeth's planning applications committee in mid-December.

The London Fire & Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA) agreed to sell the site to Native Land in 2007 but will only receive the multi-million pound cash proceeds once planning permission is granted for a new development on the site.

Objections to the Florian Place development proposals have been led by residents of nearby Whitgift House who fear that their homes will lose daylight and sunlight if the scheme goes ahead.

Councillors were also unconvinced by the design of the scheme and the low level of affordable housing to be included in the development of 256 homes.

George Turner from the Whitgift House Tenants' & Residents' Association became the first member of the public to exercise his right to ask an official question at a fire authority meeting when he quizzed LFEPA chairman Brian Coleman on Thursday afternoon about what will happen next.

"Lambeth Council's planning committee decision to refuse Native Land's planning application for 8 Albert Embankment was, in my opinion, irresponsible and rejected the professional advice of their own officers," said Mr Coleman in his written response.

"I was concerned to hear that Kate Hoey MP was allowed to speak against the application on two occasions at that committee meeting a highly irregular occurrence.

"Officers are currently discussing the next steps under the terms of the sale agreement with the developer, Native Land, and [LFEPA's] finance and personnel committee considered this matter at its meeting on 16 January 2012.

"The authority is confident that an appropriate scheme will be achieved on the site that not
only brings currently redundant buildings into use, but which will also realise funds to provide
much-needed investment by this authority for the benefit of all Londoners."

In his supplementary question Mr Turner asked: "Wouldn't the irresponsible thing to do be to throw good money after bad and pursue an appeal? Why won't the fire authority now drop this proposal, engage with the local community and bring forward a development which will benefit all?"

In response Mr Coleman reiterated LFEPA's responsibility to get the best possible deal for the London taxpayer.

"Clearly with his response to George's question Brian Coleman has shown that he is not used to answering questions in public about the activities of the fire authority," Kate Hoey MP told the London SE1 website.

"To call a planning committee 'irresponsible' when they don't vote the way he would like – and when all political parties opposed the scheme – shows his lack of sensitivity to the views of the community."

The Vauxhall MP also rejected Mr Coleman's suggestion that she had behaved improperly at the planning applications committee meeting and explained that her second intervention was to raise a procedural point with the chair.

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