Big developers who sidle up with the planners and agree a package of inducements with them usually get their way. Normal planning obstacles are removed by the Council in exchange for a share of the booty flowing from consent to wipe out local heritage. But there are legal limits to this collaboration. Some excessively cosy deals can be undone in the Courts.
When nobody was watching the Council tested those limits in collaboration with Aviva on this scheme. The ‘consultation’ was a sham, even by the standards of secrecy and misrepresentation the Council allowed the St Thomas St developers: no publicity for their ‘exhibitions’ – which showed nothing of their actual schemes anyway; no presentation to the community of the submitted scheme; not even letters to the neighbours whose windows they plan to shut off from the sky; a new scheme submitted as an ‘amendment’ to the Sellar scheme to minimise local awareness of its impact on the historic environment.
When OBNF challenged the Council on the legality of this manoeuvre they promptly agreed to a new consultation period to run until 15 December. In an effort to remedy this attempted bypass of local opinion OBNF has called on Aviva to give a genuine presentation of their scheme, and to answer for it at a public meeting. So far they have failed to respond. (See correspondence here). The Council undertook to ‘re-send notification letters’ to those who stand to be most affected if the scheme is approved. But immediate neighbours never received any notification letters in the first place, nor have they now. We have asked the Council to provide a list of the addresses to which they claim to have sent notification letters. They have not yet replied.
Aviva’s application proposes a 12 storey (48m) reconstruction of 40-44 Bermondsey St, at the corner with Snowsfields and St Thomas St, and part demolition of the Victorian vinegar warehouse to make way for a highly intrusive extension to a height of 23m.
The forum will be holding a small, focused exhibition on the application in Globe House to try and properly inform the community of the scheme’s effects on the conservation area, the neighbouring historic environment and the micro-climate. Aviva have of course been invited to participate as a way of remedying their hopelessly inadequate consultation. The exhibition will also highlight some choice examples of how developers’ applications misrepresent their proposals in computer generated images.
Opening times for the exhibition, and an open meeting, will be publicised as soon as we can assemble and display the material in Globe House. (Any volunteers to assist will be much appreciated. Give us a call on 020 7378 0707 if you could be one.)
The forum’s objection is available here
You can let the council know what you think of the development by emailing email@example.com or following this link.