Old Kent Road - Still the dud of the Monopoly Board?
By Stephen Goodall
Over recent years, the Old Kent Road has done much to shed its reputation as Monopoly's bargain buy, with skyrocketing land prices, as a number of landmark mixed-use schemes have received the greenlight.
Last Friday, I attended a New London Architecture briefing on the Old Kent Road, with updates from key stakeholders on this major regeneration project in London. The Council has ambitious and bold plans for this area, targeting the delivery of 20,000 new homes, 10,000 new jobs and three new tube stations as part of the much-anticipated Bakerloo Line extension.
Introducing the event was Southwark's Cabinet Lead for Planning, Councillor Johnson Situ, who delivered a polished and robust defence of the Council's approach to community involvement in the Opportunity Area, stating "we tasked ourselves to go above and beyond to involve the local community." Councillor Situ was keen to stress that it is often those smaller applications that escape public and media scrutiny that do much to erode trust in the planning process. Councillor Situ is widely seen as the leader in waiting, on this performance it’s easy to see why.
Councillor Situ talked through Southwark Council's Development Consultation Charter, which aims to set a gold standard for public consultation. The Charter, which will be presented to Cabinet this evening, requires developers to complete an engagement plan prior to submitting an application, by formally presenting to officers what consultation methods have been implemented, how feedback has been responded to, and the consultation to be undertaken during the post-submission and construction stages.
This mirrors Cascades experience of working in the borough; as part of the St Thomas Street collective we have worked with the Council to deliver a wide range of engagement on health, jobs, culture and wellbeing, as well as the conventional engagement around height and mass. It’s a refreshing attitude to community engagement.
Also attending was Southwark's Head of Old Kent Road Regeneration, Colin Wilson, who echoed much of Councillor Situ’s views on the importance of extensive and robust engagement, stating that “there is no requirement in the NPPF for planning to be boring.”
Colin Wilson was keen to explain how relaxed and open Councillor Situ was in explaining the rationale behind controversial elements of the Opportunity Area, including building heights and densities. In contrast, Colin Wilson referenced the attitudes of previous authorities he worked in, where councillors were not so forthcoming, which led to a breeding ground for conspiracy and resentment from some quarters of the community. Southwark has a reputation for close working relationships between officers and councillors, and this was evident in the informal nature of conversations between Councillor Situ and Colin Wilson during the panel discussion.
There is no doubt that the Old Kent Road has a pivotal role to play in delivering the homes, jobs and transport infrastructure Londoners need. However, as local authorities deal with ever shrinking budgets, the question is, can developers adequately explain why this regeneration needs to take place and also reassure existing residents they won't be left behind.
Stephen has been a member of the Cascade team since February 2017. A member of the Labour Party and a resident of Southwark, he works across London including recently in Lambeth, Richmond-upon-Thames and Wandsworth.
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