Fantastic news from Woolwich Town Hall last night, as Greenwich Council’s planning board unanimously rejected developer London & Regional Properties’ proposals to pack an extra 246 homes onto the Lovell’s Wharf development, increasing the height of the buildings from 10 to 13 stories.
Council leader Chris Roberts was the first on the panel to reject the scheme, and the others followed suit, with residents heading to the Pelton Arms (playing host to a surprise Glenn Tilbrook show) to celebrate afterwards. Huge credit must go to local residents for a tenacious campaign – see the video above – and it’s notable that Labour parliamentary nominees Matt Pennycook, Len Duvall and David Prescott all swung their weight behind the campaign. A few council candidates will have slept more soundly last night, but questions must be asked about why council planners recommended approval in the first place.
A more telling decision, however, took place a few hours earlier, when an overview and scrutiny call-in committee decided to take no action on Roberts’ personal decision to spend at least £2.5m of money the council had suddenly discovered on various pre-election schemes. This is without having to go through the council’s cabinet, where awkward questions could have been asked of the proposals.
So Greenwich Council complains of being skint when it suits it to not spend a five-figure sum, but when Roberts wants to spend a seven-figure sum without scrutiny, it’s all okay? Something’s very odd there.
And that’s the rub of the bullying culture at Greenwich Council. It’s not just about Roberts swearing and threatening his fellow councillors – it’s also the institutional refusal to engage or explain what is going on. Will the Labour nominees be as frank on this obvious issue as they were on Lovell’s Wharf? We wait and see.