Plans for a new depot in Mandela Way for part of Westminster City Council's dustcart and street cleaning fleet have been given the go-ahead by Southwark Council's planning committee.
Westminster City Council wants to park 50 dustcarts and 20 other street cleaning vehicles at a new covered depot in Mandela Way. The site is currently an open-air bus garage run by the Go-Ahead Group's London General subsidiary.
At present the Westminster vehicles are based at Veolia's depot at New Baltic Wharf in Lewisham, but the council claims that European Union procurement rules mean that it needs to find a suitable site under its own control before putting the waste contract out to tender.
On Tuesday night the planning committee heard that Westminster's dustcarts already use the Old Kent Road to reach the SELCHP power plant in Lewisham so the Mandela Way site is located very close to their existing route.
The council was also presented with a petition against the proposal carrying 1180 signatures.
Fort Road resident Suzanne Palmer told the committee that the planning application conflicted with the Southwark Plan and other council policies and would exacerbate local traffic congestion and parking problems.
Councillors heard that the busiest times for vehicle movements at the new depot would be between 5am and 6pm and between 11am and 12 noon.
The Go-Ahead Group has also objected to the planning application as it wishes to continue to operate buses from the garage.
John Richards of Knight Frank, representing Westminster City Council, insisted that the proposed depot would have "no discernible impact on residential amenity" and that it had been designed to accommodate the noisiest activities on the Mandela Way side of the site, as far away from people's homes as possible.
Mr Richards also told the committee that a depot on Mandela Way would mean that Westminster's vehicles would clock up fewer road miles overall when compared to the current Lewisham depot site.
"There are very good reasons why we consider this site to be appropriate," said Mr Richards.
The committee heard that Westminster's dustcarts are tracked by GPS and disciplinary action is taken against staff who fail to follow agreed driving routes or who bring vehicles to the depot before waste has been unloaded at SELCHP.
South Bermondsey's Cllr Paul Kyriacou and Grange ward's Cllr Linda Manchester spoke against the application at the committee meeting. Cllr Kyriacou criticised the consultation exercise carried out by council officers and voiced fears about increased noise, congestion and pollution.
Cllr Manchester highlighted the potential parking problems in nearby Willow Walk and surrounding streets that could result from dozens of staff turning up to work at unsocial hours.
Planning committee chair Cllr James Gurling moved the resolution to grant planning permission. "This site is appropriate within the bounds of policy," he said, adding that there was "no reason to vote against it".
Labour's Cllr Gordon Nardell disasgreed. "This proposal has the potential to do harm – and serious harm – to local amenity," he said.
Cllr Nardell considered that Westminster had provided insufficient information about the process that had led them to select the Mandela Way site.
Tory Cllr Toby Eckersley was clear that the depot would cause "no significant harm".
He said: "This committee would be acting irresponsibly if permission was refused given all the hard work that has been put into it."
Three members of the committee voted in favour of the resolution to grant permission and three voted against. The proposal was carried on the chair's casting vote.
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