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)


More than two weeks after it was first announced to Southwark News, the Council have now given details of the new consultation on the SPD.

A letter from the new Leader, Peter John, was received on Saturday 5 June by many of our subscribers who have written to him independently. It gives the date of the new consultation as six weeks from 3 September and says it will relate to the same SPD document as the earlier – rather discreet – consultation.

The letter was accompanied by a puzzling FAQs and answers document.

The formal announcement of details of the new consultation brings to a successful conclusion the first stage of our campaign to stop local planners riding roughshod over local opinion. It follows two weeks of pressure on Peter John and the Planning Department to say what their vague announcement of a new consultation was to amount to in practice.

In another encouraging climb-down, the planners now appear to have conceded that all comments and objections on the SPD – whether received before or after the original deadline – will be treated equally. Writing to another of our subscribers, Michael Carnuccio – the poor unfortunate with the job of collating objections – announced that more than 250 comments had been received and it would take most of the rest of this month to get them into a ‘database’ and subsequently reported on the Southwark Website.

By far the most extraordinary of the answers provided by Peter John is the admission that Sellar paid Southwark Council for ‘technical work that was done by the Council on the SPD’. This of course may explain a lot. It may also be no coincidence that the announcement came just when Head of Planning, Simon Bevan, had undertaken to answer our Freedom of Information inquiry regarding collaboration with Sellar over the SPD (see link to Southwark Exposed – 6 April letters onwards).

We are of course pressing both the Planning Department and the Leader’s Office for clarification (and still waiting for the promised FOI responses) and will publish the result as soon as we have one.


24 May 2010 Letter from Peter John to Russell Gray


2 June 2010 Letter from Russell Gray to Peter John

Letter to Peter John asking for the details of the consultation extension.
Please download this letter adding your own address to send on.

02.06.10-Peter-John-Download



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