Moves by the Council to market nineteen different sites across the borough to developers have come under fire.
At a Council-sponsored ‘bidding day’ at its Tooley Street offices three weeks ago, leading Labour councillors met with potential developer partners to promote the sites for new “housing and other regeneration opportunities”. The Council has stated that it will announce its two preferred developer partners next summer.
Some of the sites are controversial and do not have the support of local residents yet. Decisions about the future use of some of the sites have still not been taken. One of the sites on the Council list, the Seven Islands leisure centre in Rotherhithe, is still in use. A residents consultation about whether a new leisure centre should open as part of the Canada Water regeneration on a different site is only due to start in the new year.
At a recent meeting of the council, Southwark Liberal Democrat councillors pressed the Leader of the Council about the purpose and timing of the event and why sites were included that were not supported by residents or whose future role was not yet decided. The Leader of the Council gave a commitment to talk to residents and said that sites could be added or dropped as time went on.
None of the residents affected by the proposed schemes or the local councillors knew about the bidding event. Only leading Labour councillors were invited to ‘sell’ the borough and its regeneration opportunities to developers. The Council offices at Tooley Street were closed to the public while the all-day bidding event was taking place.
Southwark Liberal Democrat Opposition Leader, Councillor Anood Al-Samerai, said:
“This Labour council has long had a reputation for secret talks and deals with its favoured developers.
“Events like this do nothing to change residents’ impression that the Council is more on the side of developers than local people. Once again we have seen another closed event that only its developer friends and senior Labour councillors knew about. Even worse, they are flogging off sites that have not even been agreed yet.
“It sometimes seems that Labour’s obsession with ‘regeneration’ is something that is done to residents, rather than with them. It’s time for residents to be at the heart of regeneration in Southwark, not developers.
“Southwark Liberal Democrats will continue to fight residents’ corner and ensure that the Council talks to residents every step of the way before any big decisions are made about regeneration projects in our borough."