Publication from Caroline Russell: Unanswered questions over Vittoria Wharf demolition plans
Copies emailed to:
Jules Pipe, Deputy Mayor for Planning, Regeneration and Skills
Peter Hendy, Chair LLDC
Lyn Garner, Chief Executive LLDC
Gerry Murphy, Acting Chief Executive LLDC
Vittoria Wharf and Fish Island bridges H14 and H16
Dear Mayor Khan
We support your aims for Good Growth in London, with the involvement of communities in the future of their neighbourhoods. But this principle is lacking in the case of Vittoria Wharf and the Fish Island bridges. We are very concerned that the decision to build the bridges does not have transparency and democracy at its core, and that the actions of the LLDC harm the integrity of the Mayor’s office.
Before it is too late, the demolition of Vittoria Wharf should be halted and the decision on its demolition scrutinised, to ensure that the outcome is based on sound reasoning.
The LLDC’s public statement that “demolition was always the intention” are wrong: it was not always the plan to demolish Vittoria Wharf. You may not realise that the LLDC considered purchasing the whole of Vittoria Wharf in 2014, which it had supported strongly as an Asset of Community Value. The LLDC’s feasibility study found a more successful, cost-effective design for a footbridge, which “retains Vittoria Wharf in its entirety” and avoids “expensive demolition”. i ii iii
Vittoria Wharf and Stour Space were described as a “pioneering” example of the Creative Land Trust scheme by GLA partners Outset & Studiomakers, who said: “What you have is a live pilot with a proven model." iv
It is clear that instead of purchasing Vittoria Wharf, the LLDC decided to build out bridges H14 and H16 when the LLDC chose Balfour Beatty and Places for People (EWS Projects) as their development partners at East Wick and Sweetwater in late 2014.
Even EWS Projects and their masterplan architects, who want a successful, saleable development, questioned the Vittoria Wharf’s demolition. But the LLDC told them they were “required to proceed with the scheme” in 2016 v before public consultation began.
We are concerned to see a video of the EWS director telling residents to take their objections to Tower Hamlets, who had a “mandate for the plans”, not revealing to them that EWS already had orders from the LLDC to deliver the bridges. vi
Clearly these prior agreements have prevented genuine consultation, meaning that a wealth of evidence has been ignored: contemporary evidence that shows the failure of the bridges to conform with your own policies. The key concerns – which are the same as your own - are the loss of creative workspace and a community asset, with increased traffic emissions brought by the road bridge.
The Assembly Regeneration Committee’s report recommended a re-think of the H16 footbridge but was sidelined by the LLDC largely on the basis that the decision had already been made. vii Yet at the same time many other projects in the Park are being altered as circumstances change.
Whether or not the planning process was procedurally correct, it did not allow all voices to be heard because the basic argument about the need for the bridges was barred. viii When objectors were advised to take their concerns to the LLDC Board, they were simply referred back to the same planning process. This served to eliminate valid discussions.
The LLDC must now reveal the terms of the binding contracts to build the bridges. The cost of terminating these contracts must also be revealed so that the decision can be weighed by the public in a transparent and fair way.
We also require more information about the 2012 Option Agreement between the LLDC and neighbours H Forman and Son in which a land release resulting from construction of the H16 footbridge enables Forman to carry out a private development. The public needs to know what part the agreement has played in the LLDC’s decision-making process and why it has not been made public. ix
We ask for the demolition of Vittoria Wharf to be halted while the information is gathered.
Given the considerable public concern about this Olympic Legacy project and the objective of making the most beneficial plans for Fish Island, for the creative sector and for London’s quality of life, we are hopeful of your help in this matter.
Caroline Russell AM
Green Party Member
Navin Shah AM
Labour Party Member
Nicky Gavron AM
Labour Party Member
Andrew Boff AM
Conservative Party Member
Caroline Pidgeon AM
Liberal Democrat Party Member