On Tuesday of last week Southwark’s planners announced a retreat from their most extreme high-rise plans for Bermondsey village.

The announcement came in the one and only public meeting scheduled for the re-consultation on the key SPD that seeks to facilitate the Sellar high-rise plans for Bermondsey village, held at the Village Hall.

Taken aback by the large attendance of local residents incensed at the secret deals with Sellar to pave the way for a high-rise wall of buildings the length of St Thomas St and into Bermondsey St, Head of Planning Policy, Simon Bevan quickly played his best card in an attempt to defuse the situation. Before the meeting got properly underway he announced that any high-rise plans would not now include the two Sellar owned sites at the top of Bermondsey Street.

Where this leaves Sellar and his proposed three Shard satellites is a matter of speculation. As is the impact the decision will have on his financial position: He paid way over market value for the two sites at £11.25m. It would seem to leave the company in which they were bought, Sellar Properties (London 1), confronting huge losses and clearly insolvent. What will his Irish Banker’s have to say, we wonder.

Although encouraging, this development still leaves much to be done to drive back the planners high-rise ambitions and our subscribers are urged to write letters to Southwark Council in response to the SPD and also the ‘Quill’ proposal that is currently in consultation. Time is short and we are posting up some form letters for the purpose. However, as always, personal letter are preferable.

There is a lot to report and more news will follow soon. The BVAG site should also be progressively more central to the campaign as it has now broadened beyond the Sellar plans to a wider platform. BSTOWERS subscribers will be automatically added to the BVAG.NET mailing list.

Please download the letters to Peter John here and add your own comments if you wish to:

(1) SPD-Quill Letter to Peter John

(2) SPD-Quill Letter to Peter John

(3) SPD-Quill Letter to Peter John

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  1. Peter says:

    I don’t like the vindictive tone of comments about Mr Sellar. He is a businessman, not a personal enemy (not mine anyway – I haven’t met him) and as far as I know, well motivated. No call to celebrate others’ potential financial difficulties.

  2. Gavin says:

    I’ve lived in bermondsey my entire life and can not understand why you are all so anti-highrise. This is a highrise area, always has been. Guy’s, Weston St, Southwark Towers etc…

    It strikes me that there have been a number of Johnny come-latelys to the area who seek to reimagine Bermondsey in their own image. I would object to a massive tower in the middle of Bermondsey Street, but on the junction with St Thomas’? Come on. These are going to accelerating the development of the north of Bemrondsey which will no doubt feed into the centre and south of the area.

  3. Les Ferris says:

    The Quill is opposite Guys and the Shard and not as tall as either.

    It seems you are on a personal vendetta against Southwark and other, more ambitious developers in the borough. We’ve already seen that you use hyperbole and scare mongering to rile people up and rally them to your cause. A good example of this being the horrendously inaccurate images you plastered around featuring Centre Point, something I’m surprised the council didn’t action against you for.

    I read in a recent article a quote from you following the council’s statement that Sellar does not decide where the line is drawn, or what goes where.

    “Campaigner and Bermondsey Street property developer Russell Gray said: “You have decided only now that you will withdraw it. You will be retreating a lot further.”"

    Sellar doesn’t decide where the line is drawn Mr Gray. You might want to keep in mind while you’re on your quest to stop any development not to your personal tastes, that neither do you.

  4. S Desai says:

    Well done Les Ferris on your perfect analysis of Mr. Gray and his little quest for a personal fame of glory. I absolutely agree with you and Gavin. The fight is more on personal front rather than improving the community as a whole.

  5. Patrick says:

    It seems somewhat contradictory to criticise Russell Gray personally for expressing his personal opinions…..

    Mr. Ferris seems to want to fight hyperbole (his word) with more hyperbole. On what basis is the use of Centre Point as a visual source “horrendously inaccurate” –because it is only 52 floors? Less hyperbole and more facts are really needed. If these images are inaccurate there is nothing stopping the developer releasing their own “take” on it (as if developer architectural renderings are anywhere near the truth..)

    There are serious questions both regarding the suitability of high rise within and adjacent to a conservation area and also the manner in which the land owner has gone about securing political backing. These are the issues. And if someone has to “make a bit of a noise” to raise community awareness as to the issues then so be it.

    If you look at the Shard development as of today (28/10/10) it is just around 55 floors. This is the height of the middle tower proposed by the developers on the St. Thomas Street / Bermondsey Street site. The other two proposed towers are at 66 and 35 floors. Can anybody seriously think this will not have a huge negative effect on the Conservation Area?

  6. Robin says:

    I really have no idea what you could have against the Quill. It really is a very nice looking building, and far smaller than the shard or even Guys. Aesthetically it really compliments the shard, and by the look of the massing models, which whoever had mocked up the totally bogus image on this webpage and the leaflets, the Three Houses project looks like they too will turn out to be very complimentary to the new look to the area.

    Stop trying to hold back the regeneration of the area which dearly needs it! If anywhere is suitable for high-rise construction it is here, on a major transport node and opposite the city. London architecturally is fantastic because of its contrast in design. Modern glass developments fit in harmoniously with Victorian, Georgian, regency, classical, neoclassical, gothic and any other kind of architectural style you can dare to think.

    I look forward to high-rise development in the area as it is the perfect place for it.

  7. Nat says:

    I’ve just returned from a screening of the documentary film ‘Inside Job’ about the lead-up to the economic crisis. It highlights how the initial lone voices of dissent, people who warned that we could not depend on market forces and self-regulation, that an economic crisis was imminent, were regarded and managed. They were marginalised, labelled anti-progressive and subject to vitriolic and personal attack. It’s a stimulating watch and will be released in March.

    With regard to the nature of some of the comments above about Russell, if you truly believe in the merits of your considered opinion, why do you have to resort to personal attack and low blows? Attempts at defensive ‘black and white’ arguments such as pro-development vs. anti-development, progressive vs. anti-progressive, old vs. new, etc. etc. IS reductionist “propaganda”. This is not Russell’s cause, this is my daily environment, the community I have invested in. I will be impacted.

    Peter, you haven’t met Mr Sellar, but your convinced he’s “well motivated” to the best of your knowledge. I appreciate you allaying any unfounded concerns I might have that his company may not be acting in either my or others best interests. I can rest easy now and we can all go home.

    I will make-up my own mind from the content and images available. I will decide what’s “scare mongering” and who might be using this ripe opportunity as a launch pad for celebrity. I’m not alone in having this capacity and don’t need to be protected or patronised by you thank you very much.

  8. Russell says:

    Robin, there is obviously a lot you don’t know about the ‘Quill’ proposal. We have a mountain of documents in the BVAG cafe/office that will change any open-minded person’s view on the desirability of such proposals. I suggest you take a look at the contrivance to avoid provision of social housing, the false claims in relation to who is behind the scheme and who would profit. (The passing off of the application as being on behalf of Kings College when it is in fact a secretive company registered in the tax shelter of Jersey.) CABE and English Heritage’s objections to the scheme and views on its unviability. Hurry along as we are only open today and tomorrow for full librarian service.

  9. Russell says:

    Thanks Nat

    We have uncovered some quite damning material about the Quill so do come and see what’s on the information menu at the cafe before it closes.

    In my defence – and to add to your comments – I would like to point out that I have been actively regenerating Bermondsey for the last 25 years, quietly going about the regeneration and job creation that those who trumpet their support for high-rise as progress seem oblivious to. It is vacuous to equate high-rise with jobs and economic development. We have been laboriously restoring the historic buildings of the area that are the reason the local regeneration has occurred. Creative industries are here precisely because they don’t want to be in characterless steel and glass towers fortified by security men against alien invasion by local people. Introduction of such buildings the length of St Thomas St would stifle and not promote the regeneration of the area by driving out the very people that the area should be courting.


    Sellar has a history of leaving the creditors of his enterprises gazing when he walks away with his pockets bulging. I have a certain awe for people who can persuade one lender after another to pump astronomic amounts of money into their projects. But when you operate with piles of other people’s money there is little to loose from failure and a lot to gain from big gambles. I would prefer that he didn’t apply his casino culture where a local community is his pile of chips. Look at his past.

  10. John Corey says:

    As I have said before it would be better if the focus was on the proposals and not the personalities behind the proposals.

    If people feel a building has a negative impact, does the impact change if we swap the name of the developer? If the height is really the issue, would the issue be forgotten if the building was low income housing or some other socially accepted use?

    If we are not clear about what is important and what is just noise, we will find that we end up with a solution that is not to our liking. Granted the ‘our’ as represented on this forum is a tiny group compared to the community of people in Southwark and in London. When someone arrived in the area does not confer special status. Most of the present layout comes from people who are no longer living or working in the area. We have to think broader than our present personal use.

    Stimulating the economy can be done many ways. The construction industry is clearly one. Having more quality office space centered next to a transport hub generally makes (green) good sense. Better than building in parks or in conservation area.

    Most of the proposals are outside the conversation area. If defending the conversation area is the critical issue it sounds a bit weak if the development would be outside. It should be noted that the conversation area designation is pretty old so the original feel of the place clearly has evolved and it should continue to evolve.

    Clarify of message is important. Defend issues that are worth defending and make sure they somehow actually relate to the planning process.

    As to Seller’s business practices. What difference does it make? If the developer was not Seller would the proposal’s have broad support? Should we just switch names and then approve the proposals? We can demonize an individual and still not influence the outcome of the planning process.

    All developers tend to use money supplied by others (banks and co-investors). If some developers can raise money for a project and the investors/lenders are happy to do business who are we to pass judgment?

    The focus has to be on the long term plan for growth in the area and on specific planning applications when they are actually submitted. Focus on the real issues and not the distracting personalities of those behind specific plans or suggestions for alternative plans.

  11. jimmy says:

    I am a Southwark resident and think this campaign is bizarre scaremongering and even stranger coming as it does from a supposed property developer. We should be welcoming the new wealth and commercial life ocming into this part of the borough and spreading down towards elephant. I am pleased at the way London is spreading south. We live in a crowded city of 8 million people, not a village and the tallest tower in Europe, one of the busiest transport interchanges, is on the doorsetep. In addition, the mock up renders are undoubtedly very misleading.

  12. Robin says:

    The Quill is a student accomodation building and as such has no obligation to provide social houseing. I can guarentee you no student accomodation in the country also provides social houseing as part of its mandate.

    Whether Investream is located in Jersey, London or Cylon it makes no difference. Universities hire contractors to build their accomodation, and there are companies such as Investream or Opal who specificly develope student accomodation and run them.

    I had more points but I missed the CAPTCHA thing at the bottem before i send the comment and lost everything I ment to say..

  13. I Sellar says:

    Actually the Quill is only backed by Kings College. Nobody said it was submitted on their behalf.

    English Heritage object to it on a few issues but not by a great deal. Similarly CABE have reservations about the scheme BUT not against the height or suitability of the location. It seems the organisers of this campaign , experts at misleading the public are picking and choosing what they want to report. Have you actually bothered to read the London Plan.You have been able to see Guys and the previous tall buildings around London Bridge long before the area was gentrified and now the massive shard is rising higher and higher yet Bermondsey St hasn’t collapsed into dusk.

    The Mayors office however fully support it and have no problems with it effecting Bermondsey St and make clear the site is not in a conversation area.

  14. Wiggles says:

    Think you meant Conservation Area.

    Bermondsey Street / Village needs to be protected now, not when taller buildings have been developed and the community no longer has a say and the heritage is gone.

    I am not opposed to tall buildings. In their right place they can look amazing. With so much heritage in this area, I believe the tall building zone is in the wrong place entirely.

  15. I Sellar says:

    Lol yes conservation area.Really must double check before clicking submit.

    Anyhow back to the conversation then. How has Bermondsey Street / Village survived all these years with Guys and the 1970 towers that have been around London looming other the area.

    Its not particularly clear how the “village” will be effected if another tall building is in view.

    With regard heritage value what has the run down eyesore that is the snowfield car park and what heritage is there on the actual modern apartment blocks that have sprung up along and around Bermondey St the last decade or so? Surely being actually in the conservation area these modern additions will have ruined the area?

    Seems the arguments are pretty baseless and sound more like a dose of Nimbyism with a good sprinkling of height aversion.

  16. Its a very interesting debate and shows just how far Bermondsey St has changed in the last 20 years. I walked down the street last Saturday and was struck by just how piss-poor most of the new buildings are that now occupy space on what was the original Bermondsey St Conservation Area.

    Where is Bermondsey Village? Probably stuck in the imagination of an estate agent because it is steadily being eroded by the wave of crap that has engulfed the street.

    The last vestiges of the ‘village’ hang on at the junction of Bermondsey St, Tanner St and Leathermarket St. As for the rest, its a collection of anodyne rabbit hutches.

    In the same way that Bellway put Bermondsey St on the map in the early 1990s (Leathermarket Court), Sellars has made a statement for 2010 and could probably do more for Bermondsey St if encouraged. But it looks like the Nimby’s are in the ascendency. Lets hope they approve of the White Cube. It won’t obstruct the view as much!

  17. B Marsden says:

    Lets take this back to the beginning. I welcome new housing in London. The current housing crisis in the UK is a national scandal as well as the continued oppression of a large section of the population in sub-standard multi-let ‘town houses’. People should be encouraged to live in dense cities as this is key to a sustainable future where natural habitats for other life-forms can coexist with us on this planet. More importantly we need to develop housing that will attract mobile people back into cities. Anyone who expects a city to stand still or indeed anyone who expects not to be able to see other buildings in a city is clearly mad or the horrible combination of stubbornly impractical. Issues such as light access are scientifically calculated and managed and we even have a legal framework to stop historic or interesting buildings from being demolished or altered. There is no place in the 21st century for a witch hunt. Unless there is real evidence that a development will harm a person then people should instead positively criticise to ensure that London and her people get good quality; aesthetic on the other hand is horribly subjective. Not wanting to see other buildings around you is definitely horribly selfish. With regards to the conversation area; yes it is a conversation area and it is protected by law. What more do people want? To subjugate an entire population to the frivolous niche interest of a minority? I’m not saying that conservation areas are bad, I think a connection with the past is important. However there must be some humility as to our purpose in a city. We are not living in the medieval age any more than we are Victorian. We now have our own issues and problems and we need to deal with them, not lock ourselves away in disney land.

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