The Biscuit Factory and old Southwark College sites in Bermondsey

by Anood Al-Samerai on 9 October, 2017

A few residents have been asking Riverside Ward Councillors for their views so please see below and please do not hesitate to contact us if you require any further information.

Summary

Generally Grosvenor has worked closely with Councillors, residents and businesses and we are all keen to see a number of very positive benefits from the development. However, Liberal Democrat Councillors are particularly concerned about the recent proposals relating to very tall buildings, including one of 28 storeys. The neighbouring properties are no higher than 6 storeys and we believe that anything higher is out of keeping with the local character, as well as the impact of such high density on local infrastructure.

Furthermore, we are fighting hard to make sure that the rents are a real mix from council rents to intermediate to market rents, especially so that people on low incomes can afford to live here. And finally we want to see priority for the new homes given to existing Bermondsey residents as they are the ones who will put up with the disruption. We will continue to fight for local residents to ensure that this major development in Bermondsey brings real benefits to all the community.

Heights

We have been very clear that we think the proposals on heights are completely out of character for Bermondsey and tall buildings create shadowing and wind tunnels which would affect the environment as well. At our meeting, we expressed frustration that, while Grosvenor has been engaging with the community for the past 4 years, this scale of height has only become apparent in recent months. We don’t believe that any of the buildings on the perimeter of the site should be above 6 storeys, which is the maximum nearby.

In the centre of the site, we also want to see something lower. The only tall towers nearby are the two on Jamaica Road and these are 20 storey. They claim that this height is needed to secure all the other benefits in the development, but we are not convinced given the high profits which we know they will be making. The current proposal of 1,350 new flats is very high and, while we need housing in the area, the impact on character, environment and infrastructure must be carefully balanced.

We will be following up the discussion about heights with planning officers at the council to try to secure changes before Grosvenor submit their formal planning application. If they go ahead and apply with the heights as they currently stand, then we will formally object during the planning process and at the planning committee.

Rents

The idea of providing homes for rent is a good thing, but we have been pushing to make sure that these rents would actually be affordable for local people. Grosvenor say they are still working out the details of the rents as it is related to the viability of the whole development. They said that we should know this detail by Christmas as it would be worked out at the same time as the planning application is being processed.

They confirmed that a proportion will be at ‘market rent’ (very high in our area), and a proportion will be at ‘discounted market rent’, with the levels of discount to be worked out still. We argued (and will continue to argue) for the discounted proportion to be as high as possible. We also want to see a proper mix of discounted rents so that people on incomes from minimum wage to £50k will be able to afford these homes. This would be rents starting from the equivalent of social rents as we were very clear that there needs to be a mixed community on this site.

We also pushed for a ‘local lettings policy’ so that existing Bermondsey residents could be given priority for the homes. They said they would need to look into this. We also pushed on the need for longer, more secure tenancies and they said that 3 years was an option at which they were looking. We believe that even longer would be desirable to deal with the points about demographics which you and others have raised and we will keep pushing on this. We will be following the issue of the rents and tenancies very closely and said we would meet with them again once the further work had been done at their end.

Infrastructure

We share the concerns of local residents about impact on GPs, transport etc and this is one reason why the heights and density needs to be reduced. Grosvenor will have to make financial contributions towards infrastructure and we will keep up the pressure on these points.

Businesses

There are positives in the development and we have pushed Grosvenor since day one for benefits for local residents such as affordable workspaces and education and training (including the school). We are taking part in a working group with businesses at the Blue to make sure that they really benefit from the opportunities.

 

Liberal Democrat Councillors will do all that we can to secure the very real positives from this development, while fighting for a better deal for local residents on the heights and rents.

 

 

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