Tuesday, 18 October 2011
Where are our councillors?
At the Drop-In at St Nicholas' Church last Tuesday 11th October, members of the public mingled with Lewisham's planning team headed by Emma Talbot, along with architects from Aedas, senior project managers from Hutchison Whampoa and other partners in the Convoys Wharf development team (BPTW, HardHat and Buro Happold), plus Duncan Hawkins, supervisor of the archaeological work being undertaken by the Museum of London. Drawings and plans were laid out on tables but no model of the site was available.
One attendee wrote to Deptford Is...
"It was hard for the locals to know who anyone was since no one was wearing a label to identify themselves. I found myself talking to Hutchison Whampoa Senior Project Manager Phil Haden (I had to ask) who was very keen to stress how wonderful the river park would be, and who dismissed the recent three-day, three-mile radius traffic gridlock after a small fire on Deptford Broadway as the fault of the emergency services (and therefore not of major consideration in the scheme's transport provision). He was also amused that Lewisham wanted a new school when Greenwich had just closed one down nearby. Much of the time I had to stand behind a huddle of people who were arguing about the lack of provision for young people, the paltriness of the public open space, and the details of the archaeological dig. Questions asked tended not to get straight answers, whilst answers were given to questions not even asked. The architects themselves seemed not to know their own drawings and Hawkins, the archaeologist, defended his position fiercely despite gaping holes (pun intended) in his arguments."
Most obviously missing from those in attendance were our local councillors – in particular, those from Evelyn Ward, who although not in a position to vote on the proposals, would be given time to speak on their constituents' behalf. Before the meeting we wrote to Cllrs Joseph Folorunso, Crada Onuegbu and Sam Owolabi-Oluyole asking them to come to the Drop-In. Not one replied – Cllr Folorunso's email box was so full, our request bounced back.
From New Cross Ward, we got replies from Cllr Madeliene Long who apologised that she already had another meeting. Cllr Maslin (who is on the Strategic Planning Committee gifted with the powers to pass the proposals) responded that he did not know about the Drop-in and had domestic commitments but would talk to Head of Planning to take up the points we had made. He later wrote to assure us that local concerns were being taken very seriously by the Head of Planning. Cllr Padmore did not reply.
According to the New Cross councillors, only Evelyn Ward were notified of the Drop-In, yet none saw fit to attend. This ill serves the democratic process that is meant to be part of an application of this magnitude. Our elected representatives are supposed to be our first line of defence. It is particularly worrying that one of these councillors attends their mailbox so infrequently that it will not accept any more emails.
We also wrote to Joan Ruddock who responded promptly to say she was going into hospital. She did not send any representatives however, but her assistant has since written to say Joan has asked to meet with Lewisham planning officers about our concerns. Cllr Onuegbu also got in touch after the Drop-In to apologise and agree to a meeting with objectors (yet to be arranged).
On the Convoys Wharf website, under Next Steps, it is stated that statutory public consultation has begun and will run until mid-December. A Drop-In of the kind organised last week where no one wore a name badge and conversations took place in small clusters cannot be considered 'public consultation'. We will therefore be requesting a Public Meeting, where the questions asked and the answers given can be heard by all.