Undemocratic and Underhand

I guess at least some of you will have received your ‘Dear Resident’ letter by now whereby Greenwich Hospital Trust are somehow managing to circumvent due process of democracy and shove their horrible appeal for the redevelopment of Greenwich Market directly to the Secretary of State.

How have they done it? By, apparently, making a couple of huge changes to their plans and instead of then re-presenting them to a democratically elected council (where, inconveniently for GHT, not one member, of any political persuasion, was in favour of the original plans) getting the planning inspectorate to pass it on to someone who has no direct interest in the quality of the town at all but who will see they’ve been changed and think ‘oh, it must be okay now.’

It is so NOT okay.  

GHT  have conceded a small reduction in height to the hotel, agreed to keep the roof and to re-lay the cobbles (albeit interspersed with the dreaded granite setts), – but this is not the same proposal that was turned down by the council.

In other words, GHT have moved the goalposts.

The Planning Inspectorate come out very badly from this. They are allowing GHT to appeal a decision on a totally different proposal, instead of forcing them to re-submit to the council first. They call these ‘minor amendments.’ I argue they are nothing of the kind.

Admittedly, they’re not changng anything that might make the proposal considerably better. What of those Durnford Street buildings, which are part of the vibrant-but-rare ’real’ history of Greenwich, rather than just the picture postcard kings ‘n’ queens image, and which are looking just brilliant just now, as you can see from Paul’s pics? Perhaps this signals a sea-change in approach to heritage on the part of GHT?

Nope. Still to be bulldozed and replaced with a trash compactor, just so GHT can build more stuff. It’s an utter disgrace. GHT’s argument was that the buildings were unsafe. So unsafe that they needed to be pulled down, in fact – no inspector dared to even set foot inside them for fear of their very lives –  but not so dangerous, apparently, that they wouldn’t rent them out to a florist for a year or so while they’re waiting for the final go-ahead…

Under these proposals we will still face the prospect of a 106-room hotel in the middle of the market, still face two years of the traders being turfed out and losing their business, and yet the underhand way in which the trust have changed things, makes it look  to anyone coming to this from afresh as though they’ve made the concessions that would make this development acceptable

If the council loses the appeal, it cannot afford to go to a Judicial Review in the High Courts, and GHT knows that. These bullies (who, I have heard, anecdotally, are busy intimidating the market traders to keep them quiet) are going to win – unless we can stop them.  

So – what’s to be done? Well, for starters, there is a ‘consultation’ at Unit 5b in the market place – largely unmanned, but there will be a brave soul or two present at the following times (presumably wearing full body armour) Blink and you’ll miss them.

Tuesday 6th July 12.00pm – 2.00pm

Tuesday 13th July  – 5.00pm – 7.00pm

Tuesday 20th July – 12.00pm – 2.00pm

Tuesday 27th July – 5.00pm – 7.00pm

You can make ‘comments’ to Alan Ridley at the Planning Inspectorate, Room 4/02, Temple Quay, Bristol, BS1 6PN by 30th July 2010

There will also be a meeting on the 7th September at Woolwich Town Hall. We can turn up and shout loudly that this process is completely undemocratic. I know I keep banging on about this but it was a UNANIMOUS vote by councillors against this. EVERY SINGLE COUNCILLOR thought it was a bad idea, and yet these bullies who care not a jot for Greenwich, except as a cash cow for their various ventures, have chosen to sidestep us all and go screaming to teacher, changing their story along the way.

If this goes through, then we might as well kiss goodbye to all council planning applications and just send every development idea to the Secretary of State for a pretty little rubber stamp in future.

I am hoping that there will be enough people who give a damn about this to do something – I suspect cc-ing your comments to the Secretary of State wouldn’t be a bad thing.

the attachments to this post:

durnford 2 low
durnford 2 low

durnford 1 low
durnford 1 low

19 Comments to “Undemocratic and Underhand”

  1. Darryl says:

    That’ll be a consultation desk only open when most people are at work, then.

  2. OldChina says:

    I was in the Durnford St florist last week and the building is lovely. Looks even better surrounded by flowers.

    Regarding the meeting on 7th September GP, can you keep us updated with times? And make sure they don’t change the date at the last moment either. I want to be at that one as frankly, this is outrageous. I’ll do my best to vent my spleen at the consultation unit too although they’ve picked the most awkward times for me to try to be there, what with having a job.

    Clearly someone very nasty stands to make a lot of money from this and is willing to play dirty for the destruction of Greenwich’s heart and soul to get it.

  3. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by darryl1974. darryl1974 said: Greenwich Market's owners trying to bypass council in pushing forward controversial redevelopment: http://bit.ly/bFI9cV (via @TGPhantom) [...]

  4. Paul T says:

    Bravo, Phantom.

    These people are mendacious, and dodgy.

    Bear in mind that at their first consultation, none of the boards mentioned Durnford Street; that they claimed traders wanted the cobbles ripped up; and that later, when questioned, their own PR insisted the buildings were a death trap. Then, later, they claimed the public, whom they tried to keep in the dark, were in favour of this scheme.

    Now, having lost that cheap plastic roof they can claim that the only element people objected to is gone. Not so.

    THey still have the arrogance to submit a huge hotel building – nearly as many rooms as the massive, rarely-full Novotel, but here described as ’boutique’ – which towers over an original Regency block of buildings. They still claim that knocking down those Edwardian buildings and replacing them with a trash compactor will ‘enhance’ the area. And they still want to move the market traders out for two years – during which their customers will probably vanish, so Greenwich Hospital can rent more space out to chainstores.

    And now, they want to usher their proposals through the back door, with the aid of vast amounts of money spent on barristers and lobbyists.

    If you care about Greenwich, you need to get angry. And you need to turn up on 7 September.

  5. LGM says:

    Very sneaky with the timings most folk will be at work. But hopefully enough of us will get there and ask some very uncomfortable and necessary questions. I’m still speechless, got my ‘letter’ yesterday.

  6. [...] Greenwich Market? Don’t like going to work? Read The Greenwich Phantom’s views on the revised plans to revamp screw up Greenwich Market – and how the Greenwich Hospital Trust wants to circumvent scrutiny by local councillors, who [...]

  7. This demonstrates nothing but contempt for the planning process by both the GHT and the Planning Inspectorate. Surely there is a process by which the council/local MPs can object to this?

  8. Paul T says:

    Deptford Dame, it’s our local MP who’s encouraged this. The council are indeed fighting this but the Hospital Trust are spending a lot of money on barristers, lobbyists etc, to try and get the scheme through with no democratic oversight. So we have a fight on our hands.

  9. Ruth says:

    Truly horrendous behaviour. Do you know if there is a residents campaign that we can join?

  10. Otter says:

    Can we please have a little regard for accuracy? The proposed hotel does not tower over the surroundings. It is, as anyone capable of reading a sectional drawing can clearly see, only a very little taller than the existing buildings it adjoins. There are faults with this proposal but none that justify the level of hysteria it has attracted.

  11. Paul says:

    I’m glad you can say that so unequivocally Otter – because the Hospital Trust have been very stingy in terms of supplying sightlines.

    They’ve only provided just the one, from Creek Road, which shows the main hotel building, on the far side of the block, as clearly visible over the top of the buildings on Creek Road.

    The original market is formed of a coherent set of buildings, in the very centre of Greenwich, which are designed to dominate the view, along with St Alfege. They should be the dominant feature, not the top floor of a ’boutique’ hotel plonked in the middle.

    Check out drawing 4302, Elevation B and Elevation C – the hotel is 2 storeys taller, roughly 40% higher, than the bulk of the 3-storey buildings around the outside. It dominates them, it dwarfs them and yes, it towers over them.

    Yes, since then the hotel has been lowered by 1m or so. This does not, however you play it, make it ‘very little’ taller than a set of buildings which we all care about, and whose setting the Hospital Trust are planning to impair, without any democratic oversight.

  12. Otter says:

    Paul, you have fallen into a common error; you have judged by the elevations, not by the sections. Elevations may look like pictures but they aren’t; they’re projections so the high bits will show even if they’re 50 yards away.

    The section drawings, 4100 and following, are more informative. Try printing them off and then drawing a single line through both the high part of the proposal nearest the perimeter of the site and the highest part of the existing building on the perimeter. Then see how far away from the foot of the building that line intersects with eye-height. Anyone standing closer than that will not see the new building.

    It quickly becomes clear that the new building will not be visible from anywhere in Nelson Road or College Approach even in its unreduced state. To Church Street the building will be invisible unless you are looking straight down Durnsford Street. (Where the fussy cladding of the building evident in the perspective drawing is one of its faults.)

    To Creek Road the roof and service housings will be visible above the perimeter buildings from some distance past the development over the DLR (and if you want to know what I think really is awful, that building will do nicely).
    The walls of the new may appear above the perimeter from the far end of Creek Road. They will not ‘tower’, they will appear – if treated with recessively coloured materials I would doubt they would dominate the clean bright stucco buildings in front of them.

    On King William Walk the new will not appear to anyone within the street but will be evident further back in the ORNC site, seen around the ends of the Dreadnought Library. Again suitably treated this will certainly not tower and should recede quite nicely. The integrity and dominance of the perimeter buildings will not be diminished by this and St Alphege will remain utterly unaffected.

    None of this should be interpreted as a claim that the proposal is just fine as it is. It isn’t, but exaggerating its faults doesn’t help and can sometimes be simply misleading; after all, more people will read this exchange than will bother (or have time) to go on the council website and consider the original drawings to form their judgement. For those who do want to look (again?) the reference number in the Planning section of the Greenwich website is 09/0829/F.

  13. Paul T says:

    Uh? That’s a bit like saying Nicolas Sarcozy is as tall as Barack Obama, as long as he stands in front of him!

    In your earlier post you said the new hotel “is… only a very little taller.” It is not. It is much taller. Over 20% taller, at a minimum. THat is a physical fact. Now you are saying, essentially, from many places it won’t appear at all/much taller. Well, that is true, from some angles, but so what?

    If you’re standing on Church Road, the smaller buildings will mostly hide the larger buildings behind them. But what if you live or work in one of those buildings, or any adjacent buildings? What if you’re looking from a vantage point such as the park? What if you’re in Turpin Lane? What if you care about the rooflines of those buildings, their shape, their chimneys?

    And, of course, the one sight line we have been given still shows the new buildings higher than the old ones, as seen from Creek Road.

    I agree, of course, that the height is one detail among many. But I find your post disingenuous. If we HAD sightlines from the park, from surrounding buildings, we could talk about the effect of these buildings. But the Hospital Trust have been “economical” with supplying information in this respect, as they have in almost every respect.

  14. Paul G says:

    Total and complete contempt for an entire community.

  15. Paul G says:

    Why has our local MP supported this anyway? Especially when ALL his councillors and a huge majority of residents have said they think the idea stinks?
    Is there nothing we can do to protect our town from the continuous onslaught of ‘modernisation’ and ‘development’
    Can’t we have a Greenwich Society or some similar group of people who think the town is worth saving?

  16. Fogey says:

    Whatever the elevations, Otter, many local people remain horrified at the idea of inserting a huge hotel into this historically and architecturally important site. Many people are also opposed to sweeping awaying some rather charming and (now) productive vernacular buildings to create room for a rubbish compactor. The council, for once, had the courage to align itself with local opinion and reject the proposals out of hand. To try and overturn this decision is monstrous. When will Greenwich Hospital Trust start working with, rather than against local people?

  17. The Last Stand of the 150 says:

    Otter am I right in deducing that you are an architect or town planner?
    What layman uses or even understands “recessively coloured materials?”
    I think your post sums up the debate. On the one side we have technocrats who view the protesters as Luddites, Nick Raynsford with his construction industry paymasters and the Hospital with their posh school and its insatiable cash draining appetite for a new music wing or science block.
    Versus these powerful and influential heavyweights are the great unwashed – the market traders who draw large numbers of visitors into the area and the people of Greenwich themselves.
    We love the centre as it is with all its colourful and chaotic character,the current plans would take away that soul.
    Why can’t Greenwich Hospital Trust just redevelop within the existing footprint of the substantial real estate it owns already?

  18. Fogey says:

    The Last Stand puts it eloquently. For Greenwich Hospital, this town is nothing more than a source of cash for its main activities, which lie elsewhere. Hence its lack of empathy with the locals and its incomprehending blindness to the social, architectural and historical value of a site which it owns purely by historical accident. And hence its long track-record of wildly unsympathetic schemes for the covered market.
    They could do things differently. They could really engage with local people rather than just hiring PR firms. They could call in oustide expertise (English Heritage?) to help them with the heritage aspects of the site, where they are clearly way out of their depth. But I am not holding my breath. Raynsford, the MP for the Construction Industry, is equally out of touch with the community on this, alas.

  19. BJFO says:

    I’m not sure all of these conspiracy theories are deserved. The appeal process is a statutory right, enshrined outside of entrenched local interest. Sometimes local sovereignty is eschewed in favour of pushing things on, that’s what happened with the Docklands, that’s what needs to happen with major infrastructure development.

    On one or two details, the quality of buildings within the market outside of the Joseph Kay terraces is very poor. I’m upset to see the Victorian stabling go, and I’m happy to see the steel roof retained, that tent was frankly ridiculous. The cobbles are charming but cover a small area and are a nonsense for wheelchair users like my brother.

    On the market traders, their business is predicated on paying £10 a day for a pitch and that may be unsustainable in London without subsidy, and I’m not sure they merit that.

    Finally the benefactor of the development is a charity who, with no central grant are obliged to find income from their assets. Their costs rise rise the same way that any landlord’s do and in order to remain “profitable” they may need to change certain assets to better meet space requirements. The hotel will create more jobs than tat-stalls.

    You may see that on balance I support the redevelopment. My biggest regret is that as a landowner with such important custodial priorities in a delicate site has appointed such an arrogant architect. I’m glad their hand was forced on the acres of Canadian timber for something more fitting, likewise the roof. I hope the scheme can be further amended to incorporate the stabling.

    With that – I don’t care about junk stalls, poor quality buildings or car parking – that can all go.