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Heygate Community Betrayal

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Wednesday 16 January 2013 11.30am
Ugly Corpotocracy Southwark style...

Last night I attended Southwark Council's Planning Meeting. I went as I had submitted an objection to there being no segregated cycle path included in a planning application for a new massive regeneration project in the Elephant & Castle to replace the Heygate Estate.

This is what happened.....

When the meeting in public started we were told:

There was no filming allowed.
There was no photography allowed.
There was no recording allowed.
Likewise the press present were told the same.
Project supporters/developers were given 53 minutes for formal presentations.
3 speakers for objectors were given 5 minutes to make formal presentation.
I had not known it but local residents angry with the proposals about an hour into the meeting in a very dignified silent protest lifted sheets of paper indicating their concerns about the project.
The Labour Councillor chairing the meeting immediately halted it and demanded that the silent people who had peacefully raised the sheets immediately remove them or they would be removed from the meeting.
Angry at this I stood up and with my phone camera and started taking pictures.
The chair immediately ordered and kept shouting at me to stop taking pictures.
He ordered the security guards to evict me from the meeting.
I refused to stop taking pictures of the silent protest.
The silent protesters refused to lower their sheets of paper.
The chair ordered the room cleared of the public.
I argued that the public had a right to hear the planning application.
Chaos ensued for a while but eventually the protesters lowered their sheets of paper and meeting resumed.
I was told afterwards by a member of the public who could not get into the packed meeting that the leader of the Council Peter John had called the police and they arrived as the meeting resumed.

This is what the protesters were angry about:
The Planning Application was for what was the Heygate Estate an area of 1,100 council homes built in late seventies at the Elephant.

The then Lib Dem council decided 12 years ago to "Regenerate" the area and so evicted the local families living in the area with the promised right of return.

But last night the 4 Labour councillors who were the majority approved an application to develop the site from an international development corporation Lend Lease that:

1. Instead of 1,100 new social housing units included only 71. So no right of return for over 1,000 families.
2. Instead of social housing, 2,400 private luxury apartments to be built instead.
3. Instead of building human scale housing, the supposed brutal ugly Heygate which had at maximum 12 storey blocks, is to be replaced with a plethora of massive tower-blocks up to 30 storeys tall.
4. The council has a policy of requiring 20% renewables in new buildings. The developer proposed ZERO and it was granted.
5. The council has a policy of zero car parking in developments at major transport hubs. The developers proposed 600 car parking spaces and it was granted.
6. The council has a policy of requiring space for cycling in new developments. The developers proposed zero meters of segregated cycle paths and it was granted.
7. The new roads and footpaths in the development are to be privatised.
8. Existing public park is to be replaced with a privatised park.
9.The council has a policy of protecting existing tree canopies. The developer proposed to fell 286 trees (70% of the existing mature tree canopy) and it was granted.
10. The council is to pay the developers demolition costs of 15 million ( would build 60 council homes).

What is the point of having elected councillors or a planning department when they collude to destroy our communities and trash our environment?

On a plus side I was amazed at the depth of knowledge and concern about a whole range of environmental and community issues displayed in the written objections.

An amazing 107 individuals and three local community groups had written in demanding cycle paths.

Numerous people had objected to the lack of renewable energy and the massive waste of embedded carbon in the existing 40 year old council homes which surveyors had judged to be of sound construction.

I got to sleep very very late as I was hugely disturbed at what I had experienced unexpectedly.

This is not "regeneration" but community and environmental destruction....

Corpotocracy in action is very close to a very unpleasant form of free-market fascism...

Donnachadh McCarthy FRSA
Wednesday 16 January 2013 11.49am
I've said it many a time now...when it comes to Planning Department affairs SC behave quite simply like the Nazi party....there is virtually no interaction with the local community who seem to be almost always completely ignored in the rush to redevelop SE1. Its quite simply farcical to believe we have any sort of democracy in the borough.
Wednesday 16 January 2013 12.02pm
here's a few local comments so far (don't forget James' own report)
Elephant Amenity Network:
Peoples Republic of Southwark (with pictures)
(more to come soon
Wednesday 16 January 2013 12.23pm
This is something you'd expect to hear happening in a despot state & very surprising hear that supposed left leaning councilors seem to have had someone whispering in their ears.
Social engineering at play on a massive scale.
Wednesday 16 January 2013 12.52pm
Sidney wrote:
This is something you'd expect to hear happening in a despot state & very surprising hear that supposed left leaning councilors seem to have had someone whispering in their ears.
Social engineering at play on a massive scale.

Exactly what it is.
Wednesday 16 January 2013 2.02pm
The following may be fairly trivial by comparison but thought it worth mentioning anyway: I went along to the recent planning meeting for the new development on Morocco Street and Lamb Walk ... waited all evening until 11.30pm, only to find that when it came to "objections from the public" they picked someone (apparently at random) who lives next door to the new development and will be much less affected by it than myself: I live *opposite* it (in Leathermarket Court) and, as the Council woman admitted herself, we will be deprived of light to a degree that is above accepted norms ! But when i asked if I could have my say I was simply told, "Sorry, too late, we already heard from one member of the public". I knew the development would be waved through anyway - as people have noted, this borough is in a mad rush to welcome rich new council tax payers at almost any price ! I won't be returning to a Council meeting anytime soon after that farce.
Wednesday 16 January 2013 2.22pm
I live in Leathermarket court too and wasn't even aware the development was on the planning agaenda for last night...tell as few people as possible to limit the objections...not the first time SC have done that either. Is there some sort of legal way to force SC to adress its obligations to its residents or not?
Wednesday 16 January 2013 2.28pm
vicd is talking about a meeting held before Christmas, not last night. Still haven't finished my writeup of that meeting.

Southwark already sends more letters to neighbours about planning applications than it is obliged to. The onus is on you to keep your eyes open for public notices.

Editor of the London SE1 website.
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Wednesday 16 January 2013 4.14pm
Indeed it is but if you are on their mailing list and live right next door then I think its also incumbent on them to let on if there is a planning meeting too James!
Wednesday 16 January 2013 4.16pm
it is not trivial - the problem is the chair of the planning committee expects residents who have never been to a planning committee to know how the system works.
3 minutes are allocated to objectors but they have to somehow psychically know who any other objectors are, have contacted them, agreed who is to speak and what to say ....
For vast majority of Southwark residents this of course is impossible and so we end up with the sort of awful treatment you received.
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