Archive for October 14th, 2010

Amid all the madness of the political scene, normal life of course goes on. No matter who is elected mayor on October 21, he will not have power over planning decisions. That will still be left to the quasi-judicial development committees, which never (let’s repeat that: never ever, oh no, never) vote on political lines. Ahem.

Around the corner from me in Bow is a large empty building site. It is a sad symbol of council failure. Four years ago, a Safeway supermarket and a large car park stood there. It was the heart of the community around the famous Roman Road. Then Morrisons bought out Safeway and deemed the store surplus to requirements. It closed and except for a few weeks when squatters moved in, it remained empty until the bulldozers arrived last year.

The council owns the freehold on the site, but the leasehold belongs to a development company called Goldquest. Goldquest wants to build three tower blocks there, with the tallest 10 storeys high. It would add 500 new residents to an area whose medical, transport and educational services are already creaking under the pressure of recent over-development. The blocks would also tower over a street of Victorian terraced houses and decrease the daylight into council flats across the road.

Although there will also be a small, shoppers’ car park, other parking bays will be removed.

As a sop, the developers have promised a Tesco Metro on the ground floor, but this would be a smaller store than the Safeway and there is no guarantee that Tesco will actually move in.

A petition a couple of years ago suggested overwhelming local opposition to the proposals. But Labour councillors, led by current deputy council leader Josh Peck, ignored all that and voted by a majority of one to grant planning permission. (The Tories had refused to attend the committee because they were boycotting council meetings at that time).  Josh, who lives about half a mile away in a Victorian terrace unhindered by 10-storey blocks, argued that Goldquest’s section 106 commitment to plough millions of pounds into the area would help to regenerate the Roman Road.

That planning permission was then quashed after procedural errors emerged. When it went back to committee pretty much unaltered, Cllr Shahed Ali, who had voted against the plans while sitting as a Respect member in the original hearing, inexplicably changed his mind now he was there for Labour. When I asked him why and whether it was because he was angling for a seat on the cabinet, he told me he would get back to me. That was a couple of months ago. He hasn’t.

The next chapter involved a High Court judge and when he ruled that there was a case to answer in a judicial review over Josh’s neutrality on the planning committee, the developers withdrew their application and started the process all over again.

Their new application can be viewed on the council website here. A campaign group called the Bow Safeway Site Action Group has been set up and they are urging residents to write to the council by October 25 to object to the plans. They can be reached on savetheroman@googlemail.com. Their letter to residents is below:

Safeway site redevelopment – Object Now!
Your support is needed urgently in the latest stage of the campaign to stop excessive and inappropriate development of the former Safeway site at 2 Gladstone Place, Bow E3.
A third planning application has been lodged by the developers. It is effectively the same as before and if passed would result in the construction of 3 huge tower blocks up to ten-storeys high containing 208 flats. There would be a Tesco Metro on the ground floor but this would be smaller than the previous Safeway supermarket. The development would cram in the region of 500 more residents into this small area.  The old 140 space shoppers’ car park would be replaced by only 30 shoppers’ spaces.
Detrimental development
If it were to go ahead on this scale the development would have a serious and detrimental impact on the area. It will put intense pressure on health care, transport and the environment in the Roman. Your access to a doctor could suffer, your chances of getting on a bus will be even worse than at present and local schools will be increasingly oversubscribed. It is in breach of planning guidelines and puts the developer’s profits before community interests.
Write to win
Successful action by local residents forced the first planning permission to be quashed. The second is still the subject of a judicial review action. The developers are now trying to bypass the legal process with yet another planning application. We all as local residents now need to show our continuing opposition by sending letters of objection. The letters must be sent before October 25th when the Council’s consultation period ends.  A draft letter is attached for you to adapt to your own views.
We support regeneration of the area but this development proposal is not right for this site. The supermarket and the main shoppers’ car park should have priority to preserve the Roman’s future.  Lower-density residential housing is more appropriate and in line with both local and London-wide planning guidelines.
If you would like an electronic copy of the draft objection letter, need more information or wish to offer other help to the campaign please get in touch by e-mailing savetheroman@googlemail.com.
Make your view count
Remember your letter matters. It does have an effect and it is vital if you wish to protect and change the Roman for the better. Please send it to the planning department by October 25th quoting reference PA/10/01970 and including your name and address.

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Labour double standards

When Lutfur Rahman decided to stand against the official Labour candidate for mayor, he was very swiftly expelled from the party.

When eight of his fellow Labour councillors then declared their support for the renegade, party rules were again swiftly executed.

Harry’s Place reports that the rules are these:

The Labour Party Rules, Chapter 2, Rule A (4) (b).

“A member of the party who joins and/or supports a political organisation other than an official Labour group or other unit of the party, or supports any candidate who stands against an official Labour candidate, or publicly declares their intent to stand against a Labour candidate, shall automatically be ineligible to be or remain a party member….”

So given that the Labour party is aware of this post of mine yesterday in which Labour peer Lord Nazir Ahmed openly declares his support for Lutfur, surely they’d take similar action.

Er, no.

Here’s the statement I’ve just been sent from Labour HQ:

A Labour Party spokesperson, said: “Our focus is getting Labour’s excellent candidate Helal Abbas elected as Tower Hamlets’ Mayor. We will look into the allegations made in due course after the election.”

Talking about ducking the issue. What is there to investigate? The video only takes a couple of minutes to watch. I’ve just asked the Labour press office why it is applying one rule to the town hall and another to the House of Lords.

Watch this space…




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