Southwark Council postpone new SPD Consultation

The new SPD consultation period previously scheduled for six weeks commencing 3 September has now been put back by a fortnight to start on 17 September.

Southwark Council have announced this postponement on their Web site: http://www.southwark.gov.uk/info/200151/supplementary_planning_documents_and_guidance… but not directly to the people to whom they wrote letters announcing the consultation dates.  On the plus side, the web site does now record the many objections received once we undertook Southwark’s consultation task for want of effort on their part.

The BVAG consultation office/cafe in Globe House was scheduled to hold an opening on Monday 6 September to help the consultation process along.  In view of the postponement we will use the delay to get the place a bit more complete for a delayed opening now to be held on Wednesday 15 September.

More details to follow.

Does anyone have any information on why Southwark decided to delay the start of the re-consultation?

Two purely speculative theories:

(1)        Just bureaucratic inefficiency and tardiness.  (Entirely plausible but a bit dull.)

(2)        Council Leader Peter John was recently quoted in the press as saying he expected to receive Sellar’s application for the Shard Satellites in Bermondsey St imminently.  Even by Southwark’s standards it would look a bit off if the Sellar application came in just when the consultation closed.  Have Sellar asked for an extension?  (Perhaps a bit too much logic in this one.) ?


The long awaited reply to our FOI request of Southwark Council to explain Sellar’s role in the production of the SPD is now with us.  No surprises, they weren’t happy to disclose it all but there is quite enough to show what a starring role Sellar played in the drafting of the SPD.  Given how much Sellar stands to gain from the planners doing what he tells them this is obviously a scandal.

In a stark change of policy from their previous extreme reticence and minimal responses Southwark this time decided to bury the detail in a forest-worth of paper.  We are still ploughing our way through this material – and looking for volunteers to help with investigation of a variety of newly revealed dimensions to the plot.  The essence is however emerging.

What seems to have happened is that no later than the beginning of 2009, Sellar decided that assuming control of the SPD would be a potentially profitable investment.  This was around the time that they revealed their model of the ‘Three Spires’ proposal (see How it would look)  for which they had already (very expensively) acquired some of the required sites at the Bermondsey St/St Thomas Street junction (see Site plan and ownership).

The process by which Sellar proceeded to seek to exert influence over the terms of the SPD was to ‘convene’ (in Southwark’s words) routine meetings attended by Southwark’s planners, Sellar, Guy’s Hospital and, occasionally, miscellaneous others including Network Rail and the GLA.  The meetings took place at Fielden House in London Bridge St on Friday lunch time or late afternoon.  ‘Lunch will be provided’ Sellar’s emails informed the select invitees.  ‘No such thing as a free lunch’ is the celebrated phrase attributed to Mrs Thatcher’s 1980’s monetarist guru, Milton Friedman.

To thinly disguise their commercial interest in having the SPD pave the way for their ‘Three Spires’ project, Sellar used two devices.  One was to link up with Guys Hospital to promote a joint ‘vision’ for the London Bridge area and thereby gain a good-cause decoy.  The other was to attempt to distance themselves from the guidance to the planners on what the SPD should say by putting it in the mouths of ‘experts’.  Among those ready to promote Sellar’s vision by trotting out facile pseudo-scientific ‘conclusions’ on tall buildings –  provided they were paid enough – were planning consultants, DP9 and locals, Tibbalds.

They provided some profound advice in planner-friendly form such as the helpful illustration below to facilitate informed planning decisions on sky-scraper applications.

(to be continued)



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