Sunday, 13 November 2011

Have you been consulted?

On major redevelopments such as Convoys Wharf, Lewisham Council recommends that the applicant consult with the local community, although there is no statutory requirement for them to do so. However Hutchison Whampoa clearly believe they have done so, having employed Hard Hat Communications to undertake a 'community engagement programme'. They have produced a 58 page document entitled Statement of Community Involvement which was submitted along with the other planning documents.

The document states: "The engagement and consultation programme was undertaken prior to the submission of the outline planning application, with feedback from residents and community organisations helping to inform the final masterplan." 

We wondered what feedback they had received, and how this had been used to inform the final masterplan. The document lists the "Consultation Activity" that took place before the latest application, including meetings and feedback. 

Between 14th November 2009 and 29th January 2010, Stakeholder Meetings were held with: 

• Ray Hall (local architect) and Helen McIntosh (local PR consultant) focussing on an alternative scheme developed by Ray.
• Bill Ellson (Creekside Forum and Convoys Opportunity), with focus on the permeation of the site by public transport and the levels of S106
• Carol Hynes (CEO Cannon Wharf Business Centre) and Mike Forster (MD Translloyd Developments) discussing potential impact on congestion and ensuring that the site was easily accessible.
• Matthew Couper (Deptford X), discussing what opportunities there might be in utilising the site for community arts before any construction or development work began.
• Malcolm Cadman and David Fleming (Pepys Tenants Action Group), focussing on the size of the towers, the protected wharf, the lack of marine based industry around a cruise liner terminal, potential for flooding, the type of employment onsite, the types of apartments, and the quality of the affordable accommodation.
• Lewis Herlitz, Malcom Cadman and Angelo E Silva (Pepys Community Forum), identifying a number of concerns: the towers’ impact on other buildings in the area, the lack of a cruise liner terminal, transport related issues, affordable housing, open space, wharf uses and Deptford as a visitor destination alongside Greenwich.
• Andrew Carmichael (Creative Process), discussing transport and how the Olympia Warehouse might be used.
• Alan Bailey, John Franklin and Ursula Bowyer (Greenwich Society) and Philip Bins (Greenwich Conservation Society), raising issues around the route of the Thames Path to ensure it continued without break along the frontage of the site, the levels of affordable housing, the amount of family-sized apartments, the impact on local views, the amount of open space, archaeological evaluations, and the design of the towers.
• William Richards and Chris Mazeika (Master Shipwrights House), regarding the location of the safeguarded wharf, layout of the masterplan, transport arrangements and the history and heritage of the site.
• James Aldous and Chris Coode (Thames 21 – an environmental charity working with local communities on riverside programmes)
• Christine and Alison Carey (Chris Carey’s Collections), discussing employment space in the designated working wharf
• Joan Ruddock MP, discussing the revised proposals, the response to the public consultation and future timelines.

There were also two 2-day Public Exhibitions in December 2009 and July 2010 (both attended by less than 150 people). This is the distribution area of leaflets and letters informing local residents of the first exhibition:

And of the second exhibition:


The report states: “In addition to the feedback received from the stakeholder meetings, other members of the local community contributed their views via email through the website or by filling out one of the feedback forms, either at the exhibition or by returning via Freepost when received through their letterboxes…The feedback was mixed, with those who opposed the original News International scheme remaining against the revised proposals. However, there were positive comments and a desire from some to see the development move forward. Overall, as many positive comments were received as negative." 

It's interesting to read the detail and find out what the researchers counted as 'positive' comments; in fact many of them were accompanied by a 'but...'. For instance: 

“Broadly welcome it, but want more social housing, less car parking spaces..." 
"Mostly good…Disappointed that there will be a massive tower block." 
"Sounds great for the area but I'm concerned regarding transport...bus routes, car parking..."
"...look forward to seeing how the traffic will be improving in Creek Road because at the moment this road is not wide enough..." 
"Would be nice to see something finally made of this area but slightly too built up for my liking. Deptford is already over-populated and dense. Would like to see more communal park land/areas. Transport wise, an extra tube stop would be useful..." 
"Looks great. Major concerns about the flow of traffic though...An extra tube stop might be useful."
"Hopefully this will bring better transportation links to the area...and how about a tube line."
"...have you considered re-opening the closed school at Charlotte Turner rather than building a whole new facility?..." 
"Glad the site is being redeveloped but...would not want to see a 2-tier Deptford of haves and have nots emerge..."
"I had thought that Lewisham's policy was 50% and not 25% of the scheme is likely to be affordable." 

We strongly disagree with the decision of the researchers to count these as 'positive' comments, with many of them raising the same concerns as the 'negative' comments. Many simply preface their negative comments with a statement that they broadly welcome redevelopment of the site. 'Negative' statements included:

“How much housing is for the locals? Has any thought been given to schools or transport?" 
"No need for tower blocks. Not enough sense and understanding of the history of the area." 
"Towers in the granted outline permission are a serious concern...two or three times the height of any tower blocks in the vicinity (which are in themselves atypical)..."
"Too high"
"Transport is an issue...particularly in terms of increased amount of parking spaces/car traffic." 

There were also complaints that consultation hadn't been well enough publicised and demands for more green space. 

One comment noted that other Hutchison Whampoa developments "are hugely exclusive schemes that have been dropped in on local communities oblivous to the local culture and zeitgeist rather than evolved with them organically."  

Others said: 

"...a private development will not benefit the local area...There will be a massive increase in population and not enough infrastructure to deal with the influx."
"... The heights of the tower blocks will overshadow local residents..."
"Still concerns regarding local infrastructure, local transport under stress already, traffic congestion will become worse, very little benefit to local community."
"The proposed will bring a huge increase in road traffic which will further harm our air quality which is already responsible for over 150 deaths each year in this ward. A 75% proportion of private housing is unconscionable in a housing crisis in a borough with thousands of homeless families. The extremely high density proposed will alter the whole character of the area. This proposal will enrich developers and housing speculators at the expense of local people. The lack of any environmentally sustainable aspects – solar power, wind turbines, local water treatment etc should not be permitted in the 21st century. This shows a complete lack of strategic planning if approved by the council." 

Overall there is very little in this document that commends the present masterplan and none of the points made were taken on board by the developers or incorporated into the amended plans.

Whilst it is clear the level of consultation has been minimal, it's also clear that there is no point at all to any public consultation if the views gathered are disregarded. The answer is simple: this is not consultation, it is a PR exercise designed to ease locals into changes that may not benefit them by giving them the illusion that their views count.

“Public participation in the planning process was and continues to be a subtle form of social control, which proliferates the notion that participants have power over decision-making processes.” Daniel Lobo, Report for Planners on the Urban Politics of Deptford Regeneration, 2011, Bartlett School of Planning, University College London

1 comment:

  1. Wow - This is a form of social control and mis use of information.....
    Are we powerless to stop what looks like an exercise in finding ANY space ANYwhere and squeezing as much profit as possible with no regrd for the future or the past. Infuriatingly selfish. How much money do the rich want?