BVAG Christmas Party
Wednesday 15 December 7.30pm Globe House

to follow
Community Plan meeting
Bermondsey Village Hall 6.30pm

We are having a Christmas Party at Globe House next Wednesday from 7.30.
This will follow a Community Plan meeting to be held at the Village Hall at 6.30.

Come and join us for Christmas fare and seasonal festivity.

Snacks, drink, music and good cheer (and anything else that any supporters can think of to add to the occasion).

All welcome.


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Although they’ve not been very specific on the details, or very categorical about the content, the people behind the Quill proposal (not Kings College) have offered a briefing for local residents for our next Wednesday meeting.

Sorry that details are a bit sketchy but the plan is to meet at the BVAG café at 6.30pm and either have a briefing there or adjourn to Capital House, the building that the Quill would replace.

To be followed by any news on the community plan preparations.

All welcome


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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The Quill is a proposed high-rise student residence on Weston Street/St Thomas St. The planning application was re-submitted last month following the applicants withdrawal allegedly due to the height and scale (which hasn’t changed much).

Southwark’s SPD and its high rise building zone in Bermondsey Street and St Thomas Street is at the heart of Sellar’s proposal for their three Shard satellites at the top of Bermondsey Street overlaying the conservation area. If the Quill is approved it will be a stepping-stone for further high-rise in and around the conservation area opening the gateway for other developers to follow suit. The Quill’s own PR agent, Four Communications, state “the Quill will act as a catalyst for further local regeneration, delivering a strategic foothill to sensitively relate to its taller neighbours and emerging clusters”. This is a clear statement of intent and it is obvious that the Quill goes hand in hand with the high-rise zone proposed in the SPD in paving the way for Southwarks high-rise ambitions for the area. If approved it will also make a mockery of the consultation process surrounding the SPD by pre-empting the high-rise issue.

The planning application was released with conflicting information and BVAG have challenged the Council on the dates of the consultation period, which range from 20 days to 38 days. Conflicting consultation notices have also been coincided with the notice of the withdrawal of the previous Quill application (09-AP-2657), even though this occurred many months ago, resulting in an (accidental?) misleading of the statutory consultees.

Our Consultation Café has pictures of the Quill and copies of the elevation drawings. Come along and read up on what you can do to fight the application and what it seeks to bring in its wake.

There are various matters that BVAG is presently investigating in relation to the Quill, its proposers and what role Southwark Council have played in its gestation.

Currently we know the present occupants of the building on Weston Street that the new development would replace, Kings College, have a remaining five years on their lease and say they have neither been invited to negotiate a surrender not to enter any agreement to occupy the fantasy new building.

The owner of the site is a company hidden in Jersey but the promoters of the development, Investream Ltd, say it is an ‘associated’ company. They have agreed to come and talk to BVAG but are not coming up with a date as they said they would. We will be posting a standard objection letter for subscribers to send shortly; meanwhile we recommend subscribers write their own.


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Southwark Council’s public meeting on the Bankside, Borough & London Bridge Planning Framework will be at 6.30pm on Tuesday 12 October in the Bermondsey Village Hall, Kirby Grove.

The meeting will be chaired by the Cabinet Minister for Planning Policy, Cllr Fiona Colley and the Head of Planning & Transport at Southwark Council, Simon Bevan. There will be a presentation on the draft Borough, Bankside and London Bridge Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) followed by a question and answer session.

The BVAG/BStowers will be asking for clarification on the following issues:

• The extension on the tall building zone that overlaps the Bermondsey Street Conservation Area
• Sellar’s proposals for 3 tall towers at the top of Bermondsey Street
• The Quill – the proposed tall tower on Weston Street

Once adopted the planning framework will be used to decide if planning applications in Bankside, Borough and London Bridge should be approved, so it is crucial that the local residents who are interested in the future of this area attend the meeting and share their views.

For more information on the SPD see www.southwark.gov.uk/bblbspd

The closing date for objections is 5pm Friday 29 October


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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)


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


Tuesday 25 May – Letter from Peter John, Leader of Southwark Council

Thursday 20 May – New consultation announced

New SPD consultation period announcement by Council Leader, Peter John, reported in Southwark News

Bermondsey Street residents will get a second chance to give their views on a controversial planning document associated with proposals to build three new sky-scrapers behind the Shard.

Full article here:

http://www.southwarkweekender.co.uk/00,news,19547,185,00.htm



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