Saturday, April 20, 2019

No1 Creekside – Lewisham passes another bad scheme without any scrutiny

Chair of Lewisham’s Strategic Planning Committee, Cllr John Paschoud, recently posted on his Facebook page about the new scheme that he and three other members of the committee passed with very little scrutiny on 26th March for No1 Creekside.

A visual of  the scheme – we've incorporated the proposed Tidemill development on the left
(where 74 trees were demolished) to show the local impact – No1 Creekside on the right.
He begins: "Following the decision by Lewisham Council’s Strategic Planning Committee (of which I’m Chair) on 26th March to approve the development of 1 Creekside, Deptford, two rather poorly informed stories have circulated..."

Cllr John Paschoud's Facebook post

We wrote about the scheme when it first appeared as a detailed planning application in June last year (here and here). There were so many things wrong with the proposals, but two notable things stood out.

Firstly, the applicant’s own Air Quality Assessment stated that occupants on the lower floors would not be able to open their windows during peak traffic periods because the pollution was so high. Secondly, it was quite obviously a ‘poor door’ scheme.

The “two rather poorly informed stories” which Cllr Paschoud refers to are exactly these: the pollution on the site and the ‘poor doors’ aspect of the scheme.

The first apparently 'poorly informed' story is a Guardian report – 'Housing approved despite pollution warning to keep windows shut'.

The same story was then taken up by The Times (see below), The Independent, the Daily Mail and Sky News, who we can presume were also all poorly informed.

The Times story nicked their headline from local blogger The Deptford Dame
The story seems to have originated from a press release by Green candidate for the London Assembly Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, who previously stood for the Greens in the Lewisham East by-election. Rosamund has been campaigning against pollution ever since her young asthmatic daughter died in 2013. The press release was well timed to coincide with Sadiq Khan’s Ultra Low Emission Zone which started on 8 April. And this week, we have Extinction Rebellion, just to rub it in.

The Guardian published the story on 12 April (though Cllr Paschoud claims it was 13 April), soon followed by the others who did a little googling and stole some headlines from local blogs, whilst Sky News popped down to film the site on the 13th for broadcast on rolling news all Saturday evening. Embarrassingly for Lewisham Council, the Sky News story also managed to capture potent images of the current protest on Tidemill Green on the other side of Deptford Church Street.

In his Facebook post, Cllr Paschoud takes issue with the Guardian report, saying, “If the Guardian journalist had read the written evidence in the public reports considered by the Planning Committee, or listened to the discussion at the meeting, she would have realised that the Council had required the developer to provide a ventilation system that will take clean air from the roof and deliver it to the first two floors of the flats…”

Cllr Paschoud's second apparently ‘poorly informed’ story was about ‘poor doors’ and stemmed from a petition begun by one Ray Woolford which was then covered by the NewShopper. Woolford doesn't have many fans in Deptford, let alone Catford, and the petition is badly worded, but Cllr Paschoud claims it was an unsubstantiated “allegation” and insisted that “The development will be made up of two blocks and will not include any ‘poor door’ entrances”.

We were at the planning meeting on March 26, so we'd like to take Cllr Paschoud’s denials one by one in the context of that meeting, and his part in it. But first, a little background…


The owner of the site is Bluecroft Property Development who bought the site in May 2014. They then began pre-planning talks with Lewisham, and in July 2016, Sir Steve Bullock’s cabinet approved the sale of public land adjacent to the site in return for commercial space in the scheme which it would lease back. No local consultation took place over the disposal of this land which had remained undeveloped since the 70s when housing was demolished to make way for road widening which didn't happen. The land grew into a wildlife space full of biodiversity and was presumed by locals to be part of the Crossfields Estate and was used by residents. It also contains several mature trees which have been mitigating the pollution at this part of Deptford Church Street where traffic slows down for the roundabout.

No1 Creekside became a co-development between Bluecroft and Lewisham Council, but at the planning meeting, only Bluecroft was identified as "the applicant" even though Lewisham Council is fully invested in it. It is intended to provide revenue for the Council through them letting so-called ‘creative space’ at ‘affordable’ rent levels. There is no contribution from the developer to subsidise the commercial space as they have already condescended to provide 11 ‘affordable’ and 9 shared ownership out of a total of 56 housing units.

Cllr Paschoud boasts this is 36% affordable housing, when the target set by Mayor Egan is 50%. Because it's not 50%, it doesn’t qualify for the GLA’s fast track subsidy. Anyway, back to those ‘poorly informed’ stories…

Poorly informed story #1 : Housing approved despite pollution warning to keep windows shut

While Cllr Paschoud criticises the Guardian journalist for not having been at the meeting, read the documents or listened to the discussions, it was as if he hadn’t been at the meeting himself.

He certainly doesn’t seem to have listened to anything said in the 20 minutes allotted to local objectors, some of whom will be directly affected by the development.

One objector spoke specifically about pollution, and handed the committee copies of a report produced by Citizen Sense, the Goldsmiths University academics now based at Cambridge University who had scientifically measured the air quality in various parts of Deptford between 2016-17. Their focus was on particulate matter PM2.5 and their research was then gathered into a set of ‘data stories’ with their overall findings for Deptford reported in the press in late 2017.

The report circulated to the committee specifically addressed their findings in Creekside (and can be found here) where the air was monitored for several months from a 4th floor flat on Crossfields. There was, perhaps, no need for the committee to read any further than the opening paragraph of this particular 'data story' which says:
“The Creekside area is adjacent to Deptford Creek, and is surrounded by busy roads, including Deptford Church Street. There are numerous construction sites in the area, as well as cultural spaces and low-rise and high-rise housing. Key findings indicate that automobile and HGV traffic  are primary sources of PM2.5 emissions, especially on Deptford Church Street. These emission levels are most likely made worse by extensive construction activity and construction-related traffic in that area.”  
The objector noted that although the planning officer acknowledged there is evidence of PM10 and NO2 in the area, he had made no mention whatsoever of PM2.5 which is the more dangerous form of pollution.

She explained to the committee that PM2.5 has a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers, about 3% the diameter of a human hair. Since it is so small and light, it stays in the air longer than heavier particles, and can bypass the human nose and throat and penetrate deep into the lungs and blood, causing premature death from heart and lung disease, whilst worsening chronic respiratory conditions.

As we have pointed out before, the GLA includes Deptford Church Street in its Air Quality Focus Area (AQFA) monitoring, but Lewisham Council’s own monitoring concentrates on Evelyn Street only. The officer admitted in his report that there is currently no official monitoring location on Deptford Church St.

The Citizen Sense data showed that on multiple occasions, levels of PM2.5 in the area was up to SIX to EIGHT times higher than World Health Organisation guidelines. The high levels measured on the 4th floor at Crossfields were only second to the meter-breaking readings taken at Deptford Bridge at 3rd floor level above the busy A2.

The high readings at Crossfields were due to traffic on Church St to the west (including increased construction traffic and now also the Tideway site), and to the east the construction sites at Faircharm and Kent Wharf (now completed), with attendant HGVS, idling cement lorries, as well as the Tideway site at Greenwich Pumping station (on-going).

However readings taken adjacent to Tidemill Garden were within guidelines. This is where the Council has just demolished 74 trees on the same day as they passed a motion on Climate Change Emergency at Mayor & Cabinet (27th March).

Citizen Sense say the loss of vegetation in the area could influence PM2.5 levels and decrease the ability of vegetation to trap particulates. They also say that mature trees can provide effective means of trapping particulates as well as gasses such as NO2 and CO2, thereby mitigating climate change.

But the objector’s main point was that the highest readings of PM2.5 had been taken at height, and therefore drawing air via a ventilation system from the roof of No.1 Creekside would not help mitigate the air quality on the lower floors. 

Professor Jennifer Gabrys who runs the Citizen Sense project had been unable to attend the planning meeting, so we asked her to comment. She said “the idea that clean air could be taken from the roof of this development to ventilate the building does not hold up to experience – and actually sounds quite hazardous.”

A pollution map showing the accumulated effect of so many construction sites and attendant vehicles in the area was also distributed to the committee.

Click to enlarge
None of this seemed to bother them, as the planning officer proposed conditions for the scheme to mitigate the problem: the homes (and commercial spaces) on the affected lower floors would be ventilated by air drawn from higher up the building (as Cllr Paschoud said) and occupants would be informed of the health dangers of opening their windows. As the Deptford Dame wrote recently, most of those affected would be lower income families, and if the owners of private units were letting out their properties, how would the warnings be passed to the potential tenants?

Another condition proposed was that pollution monitoring would take place over a six month period before construction started – but again PM2.5 was not mentioned. Surely monitoring after an application is passed is plainly a case of locking the stable door after the horse has bolted?

Lastly, the officer’s report noted that the GLA’s Air Quality Focus Area Policy states that developers must not introduce occupiers into areas of known exceedences. Yet this is exactly what the planning officer is recommending and what the planning committee – and even the GLA itself – have approved.

Poorly informed story #2: Poor Doors

In his Facebook post, Cllr Paschoud kindly provided his understanding of 'poor doors' which he described as “separate entrances or lower quality shared amenities for tenants of social housing compared to the communal facilities enjoyed by those who have purchased flats in the building”.

Er, yeah, John, the first bit about separate entrances?

At the planning meeting, the 'poor door' element of the scheme completely escaped the attention of the committee at first. The applicant’s representative was very keen to point out a new proposal in the scheme – that residents of the two separate towers will share a third floor terrace amenity.

He said he felt this was a timely concession, considering the report in the Guardian the day before. The Guardian’s controversial story of 25 March was about a development in Lambeth where children in affordable housing were blocked from using a communal playground. The committee was so keen to pass the scheme they didn’t notice the implications of this announcement.

It was only some way later into the meeting after one of the audience shouted out “Poor Doors!” that Cabinet Member for Housing Cllr Paul Bell finally picked up on the issue. He asked for clarification. Cllr James Walsh then asked why the affordable flats were not ‘peppered’ throughout the development, as Lewisham policy demanded. The answer from the planning officer was that they would be easier to manage if they were all in one block.

Cllr Walsh then voted for the scheme along with the other three idiots, while Cllr Bell abstained.

In his Facebook post, Paschoud goes on to say “Lewisham Council already has strong planning policies to prevent such discrimination in any new development and 1 Creekside is no exception to this". He said the committee had received “comprehensive assurances that the standards of build and finish was truly ‘tenure blind’. The development will be made up of two blocks and will not include any ‘poor door’ entrances.”

He went on to persist with the red herring about shared amenity space: “Members did raise concerns about any possibility of discriminatory access centred on the communal outdoor play area (at third floor level partly to expose children to lower levels of traffic-generated pollution), and therefore members proposed the following extra condition to be attached to any Planning permission granted:
 "Communal amenity space accessibility: The entirety of the communal outdoor amenity space located at third floor level in the development shall be made fully accessible and available to all residents of the scheme hereby permitted irrespective of residential tenure and the means of access from both the north and south cores (as per approved Drawing 100/006/Rev 0) shall remain serviceable at all times and in perpetuity."

This completely fudges the fact is that there are two separate towers. The north tower will house the ‘affordable’, the south tower the ‘private’. That the towers are joined on the third floors doesn’t excuse the reality that they will have separate lifts, and the entrances to those lifts are, well, ‘entrances’. Different entrances.

The only bit of ‘peppering’ occurs in the north block where the roof will contain a private penthouse. Other than this, it’s a pretty open and shut case, and hardly ‘poorly informed’.

2+2=5…(more disgraceful double-think)

Cllr Paschoud ends his Facebook post with an image of the planned 'third' floor to illustrate how all occupants will have access to the polluted 3rd floor terrace – as evidence that this is not a 'poor door' scheme.

Click to enlarge
Changing the subject slightly, this illustration is notable in that the Planning Report states with authority that the majority of flats will be dual aspect. 'Dual aspect' refers to windows on two or more walls that allow for views in more than one direction. But the plan clearly shows that only 3 out of 7 of the flats are dual aspect on the 'third' floor.

The so-called 'second' floor plan shows that only 4 of 10 units are dual aspect. On the 'first' floor there are only 5 out of 10. Things improve on the 4th and 5th floors ((5 out of 8), but this is still a clear example of the sort of sales talk that appears in the planning report – and which the committee did not think to question.

Click to enlarge
Perhaps the most glaring fudge (or lie) is the stated heights of the buildings, which are described as 6 and 8 storeys. Objectors claim it is really 8 and 10+, but the officer insisted his numbers were perfectly accurate.

This is because he counts the double height ground floor (which has a mezzanine floor) as one storey, and does not count the roof which will house double height penthouses in both towers. To describe the scheme as “up to 8 storeys’ is duplicitous, but the committee were happy to accept the officer's explanation without question.

If the committee had bothered to look at the plans in any detail (as Cllr Paschoud claims they did) they would have been able to count for themselves. Have a look yourselves (click to enlarge).

Why lie about the true heights? Is it that so many of Lewisham's core policies are being flaunted by this scheme (including their Tall Buildings guidelines in Conservation Areas) that admitting the real heights would stop the scheme?

This is important though. Mainly because no one knows what floor is really the 'second' floor when referring to the occupants’ requirement to keep their windows shut. Nor whether the shared third floor terrace is actually safe for children to play, when it is actually the fourth floor  (the level at which Citizen Sense measured extremely high levels of PM2.5 on Crossfields – or the third floor where readings were off the scale).

More fudging: 'planning harm' not considered reason for refusal!

More ‘fudging’ comes in the form of the attention paid to BRE Guidelines and space considerations play in planning applications, hitherto an important tool for local authorities to measure 'planning harm' (eg detrimental impact to new residents and on the existing community etc). According to the officer’s report, it would seem the BRE guidelines are irrelevant – especially when you’re keen to drive a scheme through.

In the scheme itself, some windows are not BRE compliant, but apparently they are “compliant with the aspirations of the BRE guide”. Since when have ‘aspirations’ been an acceptable measure of ‘planning harm’? 

As the Deptford Dame pointed out, some of the new units will be small, poky and enjoy very little light. But of this, the officer says in his report “this is a planning harm, which when balanced against the proposal’s other planning merits and context of the site, is not considered a reason for refusal.”  

The Dame politely concluded that the report contained an awful lot of steering and not a lot of objectivity. Being less diplomatic ourselves, we'd suggest there was a deliberate attempt to mislead the committee – if indeed, the committee had any role to play in what had already been decided.

Further examples of fudging can be found in the loss of light for existing residents of Cremer, and Wilshaw blocks on Crossfields. The development is only 15m away from them, when the rules usually dictate a minimum of 21m. There is loss of light too for Frankham House and to the existing allotment and amenity areas. Transient Shadow Studies for March showed Cremer residents would lose 4 hours daylight, but none were provided for June and December, as is usually demanded of planning applications.

BRE studies were prepared by the applicant's consultants without access to floorplans, even though the affected buildings are owned by the Council and could have easily been obtained. 28 windows are identified in Frankham House as being affected, Cremer House windows were 5% below the BRE guidelines, there were shortfalls of up to 20% at Wilshaw. The impact on the Birds Nest pub was not considered because it is a pub and therefore not 'residential' even though the top floor is the landlord's residence and there’s a hostel above the pub.

853 blog reports that Cllr Paschoud engaged at the meeting after hearing the evidence from residents of Cremer House, claiming to be concerned about the 'planning harm' to them, but this was all smoothed over by the planning officer and accepted. None of the objectors could argue further as they had had their 20 minutes and were not allowed to speak during the Councillor's question time, which was comparatively short since they hardly had any questions.

According to the planning officer, the breaches in BRE guidelines was justifiable because it’s an urban location and these guidelines only apply to the suburbs. In his report the officer claimed that “BRE levels are guidance only, this is an urban site…the degree of harm is considered to be supportable”.

The attitude appears to be that if existing residents don’t like it they can move, and that they had been lucky to have lived next to a site that had remained undeveloped for nearly 50 years. In other words, their time was up.

Protecting nature and biodiversity

Getting rid of the existing trees and wildlife to make way for this roadside scheme contradicts quite a few of the Council’s policies and objectives. As we have stated before, there is a great deal of biodiversity here, but just to remind you, the applicant’s Ecological Appraisal – which found nothing of ecological value (except the trees as pollution mitigation) – was conducted in January 2017 when everything was dormant.

Not to worry though, because although 10+ pollution mitigating trees will be demolished and there is no room for trees on the site, the applicant is going to contribute a bit of cash (loads more than it is committed to pay for pollution monitoring) to replace them ‘in the surrounding area’, where they will take years to reach the same efficacy as their predecessors in carbon capture and trapping PM2.5.

Where are the new trees going to go? There was no updated Landscaping Plan to back this up and show where the new trees will go, and none of the committee thought to question it.

None of them have even been here (perhaps with the exception of Cllr Paul Bell). Back in the 70s, Cllr Nick Taylor organised a coach for the ignorant councillors at Catford, to come down and actually see Deptford, as they had no idea what they were voting to demolish. Nothing much has changed.

Back to construction pollution (and things that didn't come up at the planning meeting)

Cllr Paschoud was defiant in his Facebook post:  “There are already many older flats on Church Street, and the Council and people living there are well aware of the unacceptably high level of Nitrogen Dioxide and other pollution generated by road traffic. In the present housing crisis, nobody would propose evacuating all the residents of all those homes; what we must do instead is to tackle the causes of the pollution affecting all residents, now and in the future.”

We heard the same hollow ring from local councillor Paul Maslin who spoke in favour of the scheme at the planning meeting.

Never mind the fact that Lewisham Council demolished 74 trees at Tidemill Garden on the same day they passed a Climate Emergency motion at Mayor and Cabinet (24th March). 

Lewisham’s policy of insisting on car-free developments is all very well, but this just gives developers carte blanche to build even more densely and build more private housing than is required by the housing crisis – so dense that an air ambulance can’t find a place to land. Perhaps it would be better to provide facilities for electric vehicles on new developments rather than ban cars completely – even if it takes a while for car owners to catch up.

There is not even enough space at No1 Creekside for six disabled car parking spaces (a request from the GLA). Instead disabled folk must park on surrounding roads and somehow get to their homes or workplace despite their disability. What roads are these? No plan for that was provided.

Meanwhile, it wasn’t made clear how polluting construction vehicles will access the site and whether a build here is sustainable, let alone possible. No Construction Logistics Plan was provided.

TfL had already said no to a loading bay (for the commercial spaces) on Deptford Church Street because of bus and cycle lanes, so the only entrance for the build is on Creekside, where construction vehicles will be taking up space at the entrance to Creekside and where the road is at its narrowest.

When Faircharm was built, cement trucks queued opposite our homes and businesses with their engines idling all the way up Creekside – up to the entrance of Creekside where it meets Deptford Church Street.

But according to the officer, there’ll only be 8 vehicle movements a day, and a Logistics Plan will be secured by Condition. Surely this is something everyone would want to know in advance, before Planning was agreed. "8 vehicle movements a day" sounds rather vague when a Strategic Planning Committee is trying to make decisions about the impact of the development.

Early days on Creekside when redevelopment of Faircharm started.
Queues of cement mixers along Creekside

Nightmare of exiting and entering vehicles at Faircharm, holding up all traffic

According to the officer, the plan “will be considered by Lewisham in collaboration with the Deptford Construction Forum (or Deptford Evelyn Zonal Construction Logistics Forum), which aims to provide an overview to all construction activity and optimise operations to ensure impacts on neighbouring areas are minimised”.

First of all, one suspects that no such forum exists because the Planning Officer can't decide what it's called.

He said it was co-ordinated by the Environmental Team, which is a small team of three people who also have to deal with all sorts of other stuff as well as monitor all the developments in Lewisham.

It's likely there is NO Deptford Construction Logistics Forum. If there is one, local stakeholders have not been invited to take part. Without local representation, it cannot be called a ‘forum’. In planning terms, any mention of this should have been 'immaterial'.

Also 'immaterial' to this application was the reference to a Deptford Creekside Masterplan. This was apparently "currently being prepared" according to the officer's report. None of this was questioned by the committee.

There are apparently proposals being developed by Highways & Transport to ‘upgrade the public realm and roads of Church Street and Creekside’ but the only thing mentioned by the officer was a proposal to remove the ‘mini roundabout’ at the top of Creekside.

This is actually a triangle of pavement – not a mini roundabout. It's a traffic calming pedestrian island, not something people drive round and round. One begins to wonder if the officer has ever visited the site...

He claims that removal of the 'mini-roundabout' would "improve the environment for cyclists and pedestrians", but it’s quite obviously intended to make it easier for construction vehicles to navigate the entrance to No1 Creekside (and actually make it worse for pedestrians and cyclists). If the island wasn’t removed, the construction vehicles themselves would probably demolish it all on their own anyway.

Years ago there was talk of upgrading the main 'Birds Nest' roundabout (now referred to by some locals as the 'Democratic Republic of Roundabout'), reducing Church St to single lanes and widening the middle area into a boulevard of trees. Demolishing a small island of pavement seems to be as far as they’ve got in their Masterplan.

A note on ‘affordable housing’...

Cllr Paschoud began his Facebook post by referring to the 36% affordable housing being achieved at No.1 Creekside, explaining that this included “9 shared ownership and 11 social homes”.

This is yet another example of his disregard for what was said at the planning meeting. Moments before the meeting started, papers were hurriedly passed around as amendments to the Planning Officer’s report. Much of these amendments were corrections to typos in the poorly crafted report, but one of the corrections was revelatory:

Lewisham Planning announced that any reference to ‘social’ homes in the report should be replaced by ‘London Affordable Rents’. 

As Tidemill campaigners have been saying for the past year, LAR is 63% more than Lewisham Council Rents, so any reference to London Affordable Rent being a ‘social’ rent is wrong. Yet this is what Lewisham Council have been claiming for Tidemill (where ‘affordable rents’ will be London Affordable Rent, not ‘social rent’).

The Council (and in particular our local Councillor Joe Dromey) has been saying all this time that they are building ‘social’ homes for ‘social’ rent.

Finally Planning (from whom councillors take their cue) has admitted that these are not to be called ‘social’ – because they are not 'social'. In other words, anyone off the housing waiting list who takes up a place at Tidemill or No1 Creekside will not be able to afford the rent (£3k a year more) and is doomed to remain on housing benefit instead of being able to afford a lower rent in real ‘social’ housing.

Cllr Paschoud has not acknowledged this important amendment and continues to call London Affordable Rent ‘social’ rent. Read all the papers, eh, John?

Who is running the show?

To top it all, at No1 Creekside, there is no Social Housing Partner in place to manage the ‘affordable’ housing. This is usually something that should be sorted out before an application goes to planning, but this lot are leaving it to chance.

No one asked and no clue was given, and this important information certainly couldn't be gleaned from the financial figures published in the applicant's Viability Report which only referenced Bluecroft and not the Council's own resources. Any new deals will all go on behind closed doors as usual.

Likewise, there is no proper body to deal with managing the commercial space. The report claimed this would be a job for Shape Lewisham as if this were a credible funded body. Shape Lewisham is not a buildings manager, it is just a quango set up to explore the feasibility of creating Creative Enterprise Zones. It has £50k in funding from the GLA – not enough to manage a whelk store.

No one asked and no clue was given as to how Lewisham Council will be able to afford to let the commercial space at 'affordable' rates. Perhaps such subsidy will come from the GLA in the future, but none of this was established as solid, so is therefore 'immaterial' in planning terms, and should have led to a review, rather than an approval.

Any more shame for Lewishame?

Finally, this application was rushed through with only one public consultation in September 2017 (the bare minimum required). It was attended by 37 people, over 80% of whom did not support the scheme. The applicant claims in the report to have consulted many times with the Crossfields Tenants Association but have not been in contact with them even once.

As a result of the large number of objections to this application, a local meeting was held at Deptford Lounge in November 2018. The minutes of that meeting were never distributed to the attendees for any kind of approval in order to confirm they were an accurate record, even though email addresses were taken. Instead the shabby and, in parts unintelligible minutes were submitted as an Appendix to the Planning Committee for consideration on March 26th 2019.

What did get taken notice of however, was a 2000+ signature petition from Birds Nest pub regulars and supporters, who claimed that new private residents would get the live music venue shut down because of noise. The Planning officer had therefore sat up and organised some sound monitoring and there were lots of lame jokes at the meeting about the loud Norwegian band they’d had to listen to.

His solution was to introduce more Conditions: the Agent of Change principle would be drafted into the private leases – residents would not be allowed to complain about the noise from the pub. Another Condition was extra soundproofing for the walls but not the windows of the new building, so occupants would still be advised to keep their windows closed.

That’ll really work in summer when people are chatting loudly outside the pub and occupants want to open their windows and balcony doors. Or perhaps they won't want to open their windows because of the pollution. But it's not as though the pub itself is the cause of noise, as the Big Red (which is mostly outdoors) is already causing noise problems for local residents in April, with a different landlord who doesn't give a shit.

New to the committee, Cllr Janie Reid expressed a lot of concern for the future of the pub when it was being discussed, but none for the more worrying issues of pollution and poor doors. She voted for the development regardless.

Oddly, Cllr Abdeslam Amrani was on the committee (he asked no questions and voted in favour), although he is not listed on the official list of Strategic Planning Committee members. WTF was he doing there voting?

Turns out any Chair of the other committees A, B & C can stand in at SPC meetings to make it quorate (more than 3 people). At the time, Cllr Amrani was Chair of Planning Committee A (who deal with tiny redevelopments). Cllr Amrani is no longer Chair of anything since the reshuffle on 3 April (that was quite a reshuffle). Without Cllr Amrani and with Cllr Reid arriving late there was a point where there could have been no meeting.

Such is the state of Strategic Planning at Lewisham. In other words it's already been decided anyway.

Telling the truth

At the end of the planning meeting on 26 March, we went to the committee tables to collect all the unread material that had earlier been distributed to Councillors by the objectors. Not one Councillor had taken with them the chunky but beautifully designed and clearly laid out Citizen Sense document.

Cllr Paschoud was collecting his belongings and we asked him incredulously if he had actually read the planning application. He said “no”.

According to those who know him better, he likes to wind people up. But it would be easy to believe in this case that he was actually telling the truth for once.