Dear Sir Edward Lister, (Chief of Staff and Deputy Mayor, Policy and Planning)
I’ve been helping the SOS team with their campaign to preserve Walthamstow Greyhound Stadium in Leisure and Employment use. Recent comments from you and those made by Colin Wilson to Rick Holloway earlier today suggest to me that the GLA is unlikely to call in the application following the resolution to grant permission made by Waltham Forest Council in May of this year. I sincerely hope I might be wrong about this, but doubt that’s the case.
The Mayor has stated that he supports the Greyhound Racing use at this site in two separate mayoral campaigns. No doubt winning votes with this position. In the latest campaign he specifically stated that viability and proper consultation were of significant concern to him with respect to this site.
You, Colin Wilson and anyone with an understanding of politics and planning know full-well there are enough planning reasons, which have been identified to you, that could allow the Mayor to overturn the decision made by Waltham Forest, if there were a political will to do so. For reasons unfathomable to SOS the ‘political will’ seems to be against us here.The Mayor and the GLA can hide behind ‘we can only decide in accordance with planning procedure and rules’ line, that is true. In reality though you could also use the same rules and procedures to over turn this decision. Planning and policy is never black and white is it?
What the SOS team find so astounding is the way almost every public and regulatory body seems to have fallen over to help L&Q with respect to this site (the ICO and local MP’s notably excluded from that list). SOS are aware that L&Q are an organisation with laudable aims to provide much needed affordable housing. However, in the original purchase of this particular site they made a significant mistake. That should not just be swept under the carpet. This is publicly funded money they are using and their actions should be accountable. This issue should not simply be lost in the vast millions of turn-over that L&Q preside over.
It maybe wouldn’t be so bad if L&Q had simply paid too much for some land and had to run a loss making development…BUT…in this case the piece of land is a viable, listed, leisure and employment site of dear and iconic value to the local community and London as a whole. In their insistence to carry on regardless, L&Q are squandering millions and rejecting the private sector offer to give the community what it wants.
This is a matter for the Mayor. The GLA should not hide behind ‘we have to stick to planning rules’ although it is the easy way out to do so. This matter is of wider significance to London and cannot be left to Waltham Forest and L&Q who, for different, but self interested reasons, have pushed the approval through.
The private sector proposal would actually deliver more truly affordable housing than the L&Q scheme. If the Mayor calls this in L&Q will have to seriously consider the Frank Taylor / Bob Morton offer. It is open for the Mayor to do this, and this is clearly what should be done.
The viability position (from August 2011) will shortly be made public information. The GLA were in receipt of that information. On the back of that document L&Q claimed they could not afford any section 106 contributions and minimal levels of affordable housing provision, because the scheme made no money.
The listed building use has a viable past and a viable future. As specifically identified by Stella Creasy MP, a listed building should be maintained in its originally designed use if this is viable.
There are significant flaws in the administration of the application around the time of the planning committee. Particularly insofar as a multitude of revised documents were substituted into the committee, after the committee report and with no public consultation.
I have sympathy for the position that the Mayor and the GLA have been put in with respect to this development. It should never have come to this. Many other regulatory bodies should have had the courage to stop this before it ever came to Boris Johnson’s desk. Nevertheless, there it is. The Mayor has these powers for exactly this situation.
For the sake of the listed history of the site, the local jobs, inward private investment to the borough, the leisure and entertainment value for London as a whole and to stop L&Q wasting more money on this we need a strong Mayor now.
Property Advisor To SOS