The London Assembly transport committee has written to Transport for London in the wake of the cancellation of the Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf bridge to urge them to review and improve their business planning process, so that under-funded and undeliverable projects are not progressed as a result of unrealistic engineering proposals and low cost estimates.

The committee has also sought further detail and clarification on the proposed ferry service.

Budget projections for the bridge project soared from £120-£180 million in November 2017, to £463 million in March 2019 and now latest estimates stand at exceeding £600 million.

Navin Shah AM, chair of the Transport Committee, said:“How did TfL get its sums so wrong? This major infrastructure project is key to unlocking this part of east London in terms of active transport links, jobs and homes. 

“A ferry service between Rotherhithe and Canary Wharf is a much cheaper alternative, but we have questions over its cost, frequency, commencement of the service and whether it will be free to use.”

“TfL must improve how it costs major infrastructure projects and ensure that projects of this kind have realistic costings and plans, so that Londoners are not continually disappointed time and again.” 

Plans for a new cultural venue at The Blue – including a three-screen cinema – have been announced by Southwark Council and Really Local Group.

Councillors went public on the plans at the South Bermondsey Ward Forum on Monday night.

The new venue in the former Thorowgoods store will be an all-day community space with a three-screen cinema, coffee shop, bar, informal co-working spaces and a food and craft hall.

Ticket prices are intended to be affordable: £6.50 to watch a film and £13 for live events.

Preston Benson, founder of Really Local Group, said: “We are very excited to enhance the cultural infrastructure offer in a borough with an established craft and music heritage.

“Working with Southwark Council, we hope to be able to curate a new ‘cultural quarter’ for the town and secure collaboration opportunities with local independent businesses, artisans and traders.”

South Bermondsey councillor Leo Pollak, who is Southwark’s cabinet member for new homes, great estates and social regeneration, said: “After years of working to improving the mix of shops and stalls at the Blue, and intervening on the sale of Thorowgoods, we are hugely proud to have secured a three screen cinema, community events and exhibition space and an affordable food market showing the best of local producers.

“We were greatly impressed by Really Local Group’s approach, and I’m confident this will become a major new arts centre for the north of the borough, and a game-changer for the Blue.

“This not only underscores our commitment to healthy thriving high streets across the borough, but the importance of municipal interventions high streets that need a ‘curatorial’ steer while getting the tone balance and affordability right. Bring on the Summer of 2021!”

The Thorowgoods scheme is subject to approval by Southwark’s cabinet and the grant of planning permission.

The new cultural hub will bring life to the marketplace which is being refurbished using funds from the Mayor of London’s Good Growth Fund. Plans for the marketplace revamp will be on show on Saturday 7 March.

Bermondsey’s Compass secondary school could finally move in to its own purpose-built building in 2023 – eight years later than planned – after a development agreement was signed with developer Grosvenor.

The Compass free school currently occupies part of the old Scott Lidgett / Southwark College building in Keetons Road.

Doug Lewis, chair of the Compass School Trust, gave an update at Friday’s City Hall hearing regarding the wider Biscuit Factory planning application.

He said: “We signed the development agreement yesterday [Thursday] so we believe we have a cast iron guarantee that the school will be built.

“As I hope you’re aware, the decision was very recently taken that the school will be built with funds provided by the Department for Education.

“They are responsible for sourcing the tenders using the expertise acquired elsewhere.

“We are as confident as we can be – having signed my life away for an 800-page document that I confess to not having read comprehensively …

“When we were given approval to open it was on the basis that the Department for Education owned the site and were buying it from Lewisham College, and that we would move into a new school in 2015.

“So it won’t surprise you to know that the target date is now eight years later and we have paid considerable attention to securing confidence that this thing will actually happen on the date that is forecast in this new arrangement, and which is in the development agreement that I signed on behalf of the school yesterday.”

Plans to build more than 1,500 new homes on the site of the former Peek Freans biscuit factory in Bermondsey – in buildings of up to 35 storeys – have been given the green light after London’s deputy mayor overturned Southwark Council’s decision to block the scheme.

Grosvenor, the property firm owned by the Duke of Westminster, bought the Biscuit Factory and the former Southwark College site in 2013.

Its planning application for a build-to-rent development on the 5.4 hectare site was rejected by Southwark planning committee in February 2019, before the case was ‘taken over‘ by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan.

A public hearing was convened at City Hall on Friday morning, with the final decision placed in the hands of deputy mayor Jules Pipe.

Jules Pipe said: “The site has the potential to deliver more than 1,500 new homes in an area of London with a high demand for affordable housing, close to transport links and central London.

“It will also provide new facilities for a secondary school which is currently housed in dated buildings.

“Overall, it would make a significant contribution towards the regeneration of this part of Bermondsey. Having considered all the evidence available to me, I have decided to approve this application.”

The hearing was told by GLA planning officer Justine Mahanga that revisions to the scheme in the past year had overcome all of Southwark’s reasons for turning it down.

A key change is the revision of the affordable housing offer from 27.5 to 35 per cent – representing an additional 160 affordable homes.

Grosvenor has also increased the height of the proposed buildings, with the tallest now 35 storeys compared to 28 storeys in the proposal rejected by Southwark.

Senior Southwark planning officer Yvonne Lewis addressed the deputy mayor to argue that while the changes were welcome, they didn’t go far enough to meet the council’s concerns on design or on the affordability of the housing.

South Bermondsey Labour councillor Leo Pollak spoke to “recognise and applaud” the most recent changes, but warning that the scheme still had the potential to exacerbate economic divides either side of the railway line.

In his remarks North Bermondsey Lib Dem councillor Hamish McCallum criticised the tall buildings proposed by Grosvenor which he described as “wildly out of step with the local context” and warned that even the affordable homes would be out of reach to many of his constituents.

Jerry Flynn of the 35 Per Cent Campaign questioned the lack of detail in the public domain about how the tenancies for the affordable housing would be managed and renewed, whilst Harpreet Aujla of Southwark Law Centre suggested that given the scale of Grosvenor’s expected profits from the scheme, it was reasonable to expect them to comply with policy on affordable housing in every detail.

Speakers in favour of the development included local fishmonger Russell Dryden of the Blue Bermondsey BID, who –  after sharing childhood memories of scrounging broken biscuits from Peek Freans – said that “the proposed development will complement and align with our aspirations” for The Blue.

Douglas Lewis, chair of the Compass School – which will gain a new building as part of the scheme – said: “We fully support this application and encourage you to approve it”. 

Shannon Donovan of Bermondsey Community Kitchen added: “”These homes will provide an influx of residents who can use The Blue for their local spending.”

Sheila Taylor, chair of Cherry Garden Tenants’ and Residents’ Association, said she had been “deeply disappointed” by Southwark’s refusal of Grosvenor’s planning application and welcomed Mayor’s intervention and the tweaks to the scheme that have happened since.

She said that the Biscuit Factory in its current state represented an “empty hole” in the middle of Bermondsey.

The final speaker to address the hearing was Simon Harding-Roots of Grosvenor who stressed his company’s long-term commitment to Bermondsey and that his scheme would “breathe new life into this brownfield site” 

He said that Grosvenor had taken care to ensure its plans would integrate well with Bermondsey’s existing communities, with “no fenced-off areas, no gated communities” and “five acres of space open to the public” including a rooftop terrace.

The bridge across Albion Channel near Brass Talley Alley was replaced a few weeks ago as part of works to upgrade the cycle route for Cycleway / Quietway 14.

But the new bridge – installed at a cost of £115,000 – isn’t to everyone’s taste, with the ‘offensive’ blue handrail drawing particular disapproval.

So far 11 people have signed a petition to Southwark Council calling for the handrail to be repainted:

The consensus among the residents in the area is that the new bridge does not suit the style of the canal and the surrounding buildings at all. The most offensive feature — and easiest to remedy — is the blue railing. The blue is at odds with the colours of all surrounding buildings and should be changed.

Plans to knock down the Albion pub at the corner of Albion Street and Neptune Street and replace it with a block of eight flats have been approved by Southwark Council.

In their submission to the council, Michael Trentham Architects say that: “The building which currently occupies the site is struggling with its fitness for purpose and although recognised locally as a landmark, it does not help or contribute to the shopping parade.

“The Neo Tudor style was common during the interwar years and as noted in the heritage statement, the current building is not a particularly good example of this.

“The proposed building has been carefully crafted and designed with carefully considered materials to enhance its context whilst providing much needed housing and a flexible commercial space that will be attractive to a wide range of occupants.

“This is in accordance with strategic Policy 10 of the Core Strategy 2011 and will help regenerate, preserve and enhance the historic shopping parade on Albion Street.

“The proposed building preserves and enhances the setting of the historic Grade II listed Finnish and Norwegian Churches, complementing both with a new urban vernacular that uses traditional materials but has a modern, bold composition and form.

“The building sits within its boundary and frames, not obstructing the views of the buildings, thus preserving their historical value and character of the area.”

Further details on the Southwark planning register.

Image by Loz Flowers used under a Creative Commons licence

Southwark Council’s cabinet this week agreed to launch a consultation on the future of South Dock Marina and Boatyard.

Tuesday’s cabinet meeting heard a public question and a deputation from members of the bertholders’ association who aired concerns about future residential development which could generate complaints from residents about noisy activity at the boatyard.

In his foreword to the cabinet report, Cllr Richard Livingstone wrote: “The ideas set out in the report include how the marina could be expanded to better meet the demand for people to live on the marina; how the infrastructure of the area could be improved to meet the needs of berth holders and the broader community; how the space at the boatyard could be developed to both enhance its operation and provide new council homes; and how to give berth holders greater certainty on future fee increases.”

You can watch the cabinet meeting here:

Southwark Council is to buy the former Red Lion Boys’ Club in Hawkstone Road with the aim of developing new council homes on the site.

The now defunct boys’ club occupied a building that was previously a church on a prominent site near Surrey Quays Station.

The council believes that around 150 new homes could be created in two-tower development if adajcent land already in council ownership is included in the scheme.

The purchase was approved at Southwark’s cabinet last week, with Cllr Leo Pollak telling colleagues that the site has “really significant potential” for new council housing.

Cllr Pollak wrote: The former Red Lion Boys Club site not only creates an opportunity for significant numbers of new council homes but also creates the opportunity for the re-provision and expansion of the community hall for the benefit of the estate TRA as well as the wider community, which we will required as part of any brief for the site.”

The council made a previous attempt to purchase the site in 2015 but its £2.5 million bid was not accepted.

According to the council’s report on the proposed purchase, the site’s registration as an asset of community value under Localism Act has lapsed.

Proposals to extend the historic China Hall pub in Lower Road to incorporate four flats have been vetoed by Southwark planning officers.

Owners Hamna Wakaf Ltd applied to Southwark Council to add side extensions and a mansard roof to the existing pub building.

In their decision notice, Southwark planners said: “The proposed development by virtue of its poor design, layout, scale and inappropriate materials would fail to respond positively to its surroundings.

“The inappropriate scale and design of the building would be an incongruous feature within the street scene which would adversely affect the character and appearance the surrounding area.”

The case officer’s report also noted that “the scheme does not provide sufficient mitigation measures to allow for the successful continued use of the pub”.

The China Hall has a 300-year history; learn more in this article by Andie Byrnes.

The pub is registered as an asset of community value (ACV) under the Localism Act.

Details of the planning application can be seen at 19/AP/0136

Transport for London has delayed the next round of public consultation on the Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf Bridge as it tries to trim the cost of the scheme, a City Hall committee has been told.

TfL has allocated £330 million to the walking and cycling scheme in its business plan.

Public consultation was due to open last month but has been delayed whilst TfL tries to tweak the scheme to try to keep the cost of the bridge within £330 million.

David Hughes, TfL’s investment delivery planning director, told the London Assembly budget & performance committee: “We’ve deferred the start of the consultation to allow further work on value engineering aspects of the scheme, going back looking at certain of the requirements around alignment [and] the navigation requirements of the Port of London to see if we can take out part of the cost before going to consultation.”

Alex Williams, TfL’s director of city planning, added: “We will seek contributions from the private sector to help deliver it” – but he warned that the amounts to be extracted from Canada Water developers British Land and Canary Wharf Group “are not going to be huge”.

Mr Hughes was unable to give Assembly members a new timetable for the next public consultation on the bridge.