Southwark’s planning committee unanimously turned down the massive Biscuit Factory planning application on Wednesday night.

As we reported last week, Southwark planning officers recommended that elected members should refuse planning permission for Grosvenor’s massive scheme spanning the former Peek Freans biscuit factory and the old Scott Lidgett School site.

The Duke of Westminster’s Grosvenor property firm wants to build around 1,300 homes which would stay in the company’s ownership and be rented directly to tenants.

The meeting heard that the key issue is a difference in opinion between the council and the developer on three key points:

  • the cost of building the scheme
  • the expected level of rental income from the flats
  • the ongoing costs of managing the completed development

Grosvenor insists that its proposed affordable housing offer – with around 27 per cent of the homes to be let at less than market rent – is the maximum that can viably be provided.

The council’s independent viability consultants consider that the scheme could offer a larger number of affordable homes at a deeper level of discount from market prices.

Under Grosvenor’s proposals, a couple wanting to rent one of the discounted Biscuit Factory homes would need to earn around £30,000 each to qualify.

Following the council’s decision, the Mayor of London will have the opportunity to ‘take over’ the application. If this happens, then a public hearing would be held at City Hall.

“After many years of working collaboratively with the council and community to develop proposals for a highly accessible and exemplary scheme we are obviously disappointed by the committee’s decision,” said Craig McWilliam, CEO, Grosvenor Britain & Ireland.

“Our proposals are for a neighbourhood accessible to the growing majority of Londoners who simply cannot afford to buy, do not qualify for social housing and want the many advantages of a secure, professionally managed home to rent.

“This includes Southwark’s many health, education, public order and fire service workers who can through, our proposals, afford to live close to where they work.”

A side-effect of this week’s decision is likely to be a delay to the construction of a permanent building for the Compass secondary school. Councillors urged Grosvenor to submit a separate planning application for the school, which would occupy land owned by Grosvenor but is otherwise funded independently from the rest of the development.

Southwark’s planning committee will meet next Wednesday to consider Grosvenor’s plans to redevelop the Biscuit Factory and former Southwark College sites in Bermondsey.

The Duke of Westminster’s Grosvenor property firm wants to build more than 1,300 homes in a series of building up to 28 storeys high.

Rather than a conventional development of homes for sale, Grosvenor is proposing a build-to-rent scheme which will see it retain ownership of the site.

However, the firm has not been able to reach agreement with the council over the maximum viable provision of affordable housing.

Planning officers are recommending that planning permission be refused due to insufficient affordable housing, as well as concerns over density, highway safety and pedestrian routes through the railway arches.

Grosvenor has offered 27.37% affordable housing, based on habitable rooms, with an average discount of 25% below market rents (ie rents payable of up to 75% of market rents). This would equate to 976 habitable rooms, or 322 of the 1342 homes.

The council points out that to be able to live in Grosvenor’s proposed ‘affordable’ homes, couples or sharers would need to be earning around £30,000 each.

Southwark planners contend that not only would the the proposed affordable homes fail to help those in the most serious housing need, but that Grosvenor could afford to provide a greater number of homes below market rental prices at a deeper discount.

A Grosvenor spokesperson said: “Our proposals are for a neighbourhood that is accessible to the growing majority of Londoners who simply cannot afford to buy, do not qualify for social housing  and want the advantages of a secure professionally managed home to rent.

“This includes Southwark’s many health, education, public order and fire service workers who want to, and can through our proposals, live close to where they work.”

The meeting is scheduled to take place at the council’s Tooley Street offices on Wednesday 6 February at 6.30pm. It is likely to be webcast at www.youtube.com/southwarkcouncil

You can see the papers for the meeting here.

The Metropolitan Police’s deputy assistant commissioner Matt Twist delivered a statement outside New Scotland Yard on Monday, responding to the violent scenes in Bermondsey and Rotherhithe on Saturday.

He said: “The disorder which occurred before, during and after the Millwall v Everton Cup match on Saturday, 26 January was some of the most shocking football violence we have seen for some time. 

“The abhorrent behaviour lasted a number of hours, involved dozens of people, and resulted in at least one serious injury. 

“One man was taken to hospital with a horrific, life-changing injury to his face. One of our officers was also injured, and has now been discharged from hospital. 

“At the start of the operation, around 200 officers were deployed, but as the situation developed more specially trained public order officers, including the Met’s Territorial Support Group, were sent in support from Central London.

“Having watched widespread footage of this violence circulating on social media, I am reminded of the courage, professionalism and restraint of our public order officers and I am grateful for their efforts on Saturday afternoon. 

“Their determination in restoring order was outstanding despite, furniture, bottles and glass being launched at them as they attempted to disperse the crowd. A number of coaches carrying away fans were also damaged. 

“The team work shown by officers from units across the Met, together with colleagues from British Transport Police, prevented the violence escalating further, and led to swift resolution where violence did erupt. 

“Dedicated evidence gatherers put themselves in the way of danger, and obtained a substantial amount of footage of the violent disorder. 

“We have a highly-skilled team closely reviewing this evidence as we speak, and I am confident we will soon know the identities of those involved. 

“We will use this evidence and all tools within our power to locate the individuals involved in this ridiculous behaviour, whether they come from London, Liverpool or elsewhere. We will bring them to justice.

“Once identified we will also proactively explore ways of restricting those intent on engaging in violence and disorder from attending these events in future.

“I would urge anyone with information to call police on 101 quoting CAD 5117/26 January, or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”

Police are investigating a large-scale fight in Hawkstone Road on Saturday afternoon apparently involving Millwall and Everton fans ahead of a match at the New Den.

The Met says that at around 4.42pm officers became aware of a large group of males fighting in the Hawkstone Road area.

One male aged in his twenties was discovered suffering from a slash wound to the face. He was taken by ambulance to a south London hospital. His injuries are not life-threatening.

Officers worked to separate the groups with support from the Mounted Branch.

At this early stage, there have been no arrests.

Detective Inspector Darren Young, of the South Central Command Unit, said: “The behaviour of those involved in this incident is nothing short of disgraceful and those involved can be certain we will be working to identify them.

“We are aware of the video circulating online, which has quite rightly elicited shock and disgust. We are looking at it and urge anyone with information that could assist police to call 101 referring CAD 5117/26 Jan.”

Transport for London has asked the Government to help fund a second entrance for Surrey Quays Station and extra facilities at Canada Water Bus Station to meet rising demand for public transport as the area is developed.

News of the funding bid came in London transport commissioner Mike Brown’s regular report to the TfL board.

“We submitted a bid to the Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) on 3 December for various enhancements to the transport network to support the provision of around 14,000 new homes by 2031,” wrote Mr Brown.

“The enhancements included in the bid were as follows:

  • An increase in service frequencies on the East London line to 20 trains per hour
  • A second entrance at Surrey Quays station
  • A new station at Surrey Canal Road, between Queens Road Peckham and Surrey Quays
  • Additional facilities at Canada Water bus station, to enable the provision of a new bus route serving the Convoys Wharf development

“These enhancements will support the major developments proposed at Canada Water, New Bermondsey and Convoys Wharf, delivering mixed-use development that supports key Mayoral objectives.

“A decision on funding for the bid is expected from central government during 2019. “

Last summer TfL set out its initial view on the transport implications of the Canada Water masterplan.

New cameras are being introduced in the Rotherhithe Tunnel to increase safety and deter vehicles that don’t meet the safety restrictions from using the route.

Vehicles that are more than two metres (six foot six inches) wide or two metres high, or goods vehicles weighing more than 2 tonnes, are not safe to travel through the tunnel.

From early February, enforcement will be carried out by the new cameras and people driving vehicles through the tunnel that do not comply with the restrictions could be fined up to £130.

The tunnel, which was built in 1908, was not designed to cope with modern levels of traffic. In September 2018 TfL carried out detailed analysis of the tunnel’s ventilation system, which would be used to extract smoke and other dangerous fumes in the event of a fire. This showed that new restrictions were vital to ensure road users could continue to use the tunnel safely, whilst TfL works on plans for the tunnel’s future.

By not complying with restrictions at the tunnel, drivers are putting themselves and others at risk.Enforcement officers have been present at both approaches to the tunnel since the new restrictions were introduced to assist drivers and prevent vehicles entering the tunnel that do not comply.

Officers have turned away an average of 600 vehicles a day since September. Drivers whose vehicles do not meet the restrictions are advised to use nearby Tower Bridge or the Blackwall Tunnel to cross the Thames. The congestion charge does not apply to either crossing.

Glynn Barton, TfL’s Director of Network Management, said: “Safety is our top priority and these restrictions are absolutely essential to ensure that people can continue to use the tunnel safely. People driving vehicles through the tunnel that do not meet the restrictions are putting both themselves and others at risk. I would encourage all users of the tunnel to check that their vehicle is below two metres in height and width, and that goods vehicles are less than two tonnes in weight, so that they are compliant when the new cameras are switched on.”