Loampit Vale application approved

Members of Planning Committees are independent, unbiased and impartial.
Last night the three Labour members of the Strategic Planning committee (Smith, Paschoud and Wise) voted all in favour of the application for the Loampit Vale development, the others (Libdems Bentley and Edgerton and Green Party Walton) voted against.
The proposal was decided on the casting vote of the Chair, Labour Cllr Smith.

And yet the developers left with stony faces.
What does it take to make a developer happy if not approving a massive application?

The fact is that this application as is makes them little or no money, it’s an enormous development but it has to pay for a swimming pool that although insufficient for the area still costs a packet, then there is the affordable housing and that costs money too, and all of this must be paid by the sale of one bedroom flats and those are not currently making a lot of money.
Lewisham Council in exchange gets a pool built at no cost, then once that’s built they can sell the land of Ladywell Pool.

The financial case for the developments at Lewisham centre was always reliant on the expansion of Canary Wharf, connected to Lewisham via DLR, and the expectation that there the financial services would have created tens of thousands of new jobs in the next few years, and so Lewisham would build towers of one bedroom apartments as the 24 storey block approved yesterday, and these blocks would generate planning gains that would pay for new infrastructure, saving lots of money to the Council. But does this economic model still stand?

I’m going to now make a daring prediction, here’s my fear, the developer starts works, then submits a new planning application asking for more floors to be added or for less social housing or both and doesn’t finish the job until it’s approved. This would be textbook behaviour in the economics of deals like these.
Developers have now limited capacity and with multiple planning application approved they will always decide to go with the most profitable option and so if this one site doesn’t make enough money it stays on the back burner until it becomes profitable, and that could be some years down the line.

And the best thing is that now they own the land, the Mayor approved the transfer out of Council’s ownership over to the developer that can now very easily keep it bare as is for as long as it takes to see it become a profitable development. Lewisham Council cannot now just ask another developer.

At yesterday committee it was accepted even by the members supporters of the development that this plan stands on the limit of acceptability, even the Head of Planning called it a “challenging” development!
Cllr Andrew Milton picked on that in his speech against the development, it is in fact an unheard event that Lewisham’s Head of Planning uses a word that could imply in any way a negative judgement.
Cllr Sue Luxton also spoke against it and so did I, for the reason expressed in my objection.
There were also other objectors speaking at the meeting, Geoffrey Thurley of the Ladywell Society, and representatives of the Rivermill residents as well as the Gateway group.
One objection that was read aloud was from Transition Lewisham.

Then a pin-striped developer helped a blind man to walk down the isle and sit at the committee table, there with a raspy voice he spoke in support of the application. Houses for the people! He cried. And we need a new swimming pool! He added.

Anyway, I have to say that what I instead said was not contradicted either by developers, officers or Labour Councillors, the argument stood unchallenged, only Cllr John Paschoud declaring his vote in favour said something for the new pool and what he said was “I don’t have time for the argument that we shouldn’t build a new pool because it would be too popular”.
Nice twist John, only keeping by the shallow end and pretending of not understanding what arithmetic is allows you to dodge the issue, I shouldn’t explain it again because it’s dead easy but the problem is that it’s too small, not too popular.

The Labour-led Council negotiated a bad deal for both the developers and the residents, only that the Council makes a profit out of this. But the mutated economic situation opens us to a great risk of the thing getting completely stuck halfway for who knows how long.
The Labour members of the planning committee didn’t have the guts to stop it here, they approved an application for a development that reduces swimming provision for Lewisham residents and opens us to a great risk of having to live with an empty wasteland in front of Lewisham Station for years to come.
A bad decision taken behind closed doors and pushed through again and again thanks to a combination of peer pressure and lack of judgement.

The Lewisham Gateway development was also negotiated during the housing bubble, it received planning consent in April 2006 and so far nothing has been built. They should have learned something by now.

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10 Responses to “Loampit Vale application approved”

  1. Brockley Nick Says:

    Thanks for the report. Just on the subject of Canary Wharf, I wouldn’t overstate its decline. It’s still growing. JP Morgan are relocating there, enabling the construction of Riverside South, a huge new office development, to go ahead. Plans for several other developments are making good progress and Crossrail should secure its long-term growth potential.

    As for your prediction about social housing – I bet you’re right.

  2. Max Says:

    Hi Nick, I still have to thank you appropriately for the top write up.

    I’m not saying that Canary Wharf is necessarily in decline, but that the projections for growth made when this and the other developments at the town centre were first planned are now from another planet.
    This is the financial model used for Swiss Cottage Pool, it was even mentioned at committee yesterday, implying that if it worked then there it must work here now too.

  3. Mark Lavender Says:

    Like an idiot I only submitted my objections to this planning application to an email address on http://www.loampitvale.co.uk/ . Doh!

  4. Max Says:

    Gosh, probably the worst of all possible wrong addresses.

    Anyway, the chair of the committee Labour Councillor Alan Hall said:

    “There are a quarter of a million people in Lewisham and 92 people aren’t a democratic voice.”

    Not sure about what he means completely but one sure meaning though is that even if there were 93 objections instead of 92 it wouldn’t have made much of a difference.
    http://bit.ly/3PuX9

  5. rp Says:

    “There are a quarter of a million people in Lewisham and 92 people aren’t a democratic voice.”

    When Alan Smith said this he was conveniently ignoring the fact that he had ‘changed hats’ and had a second vote.

    I hope he can now explain how having two votes fits into democratic thinking.

  6. Max Says:

    Good point, it is tradition that the chair casts the deciding vote in the decision is hang, but not all traditions are worth keeping.

  7. rp Says:

    yes, of course, but it was only the vote of the chair as a committee member that made it necessary to have a casting vote (by the chair)

    and the lib dems and green put up a vigorous fight for the role of chair didn’t they?

    did they?

    of course they did, who in their right mind would sit by and see such a travesty of democracy take place?

    oh, they didn’t!

    😉

  8. Max Says:

    It looked like who had to be Chair was already agreed, so I don’t know how that was negotiated. Labours were the largest group though so they could have anyway decided by relative majority their preferred chair if they wanted the point to be decided by a vote.

  9. New Pool to miss Olympics « . Says:

    […] voted in favour of planning consent to this scheme (Labour members for, all others against), I made here an analysis and a prediction. The analysis was that the developers are not in any hurry to start […]

  10. Loampit Vale rescued by £20.5m of Goverment’s cash « . Says:

    […] By the way, when Loampit Vale was approved I made the prediction that Barratt would have come back with new requests in order to proceed, on that count I was right. […]

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