Boris Johnson has taken over control of the planning process governing Terry Farrells’ £1bn Convoys Wharf scheme in Deptford, south east London
Farrells’ huge masterplan, which was submitted for outline planning back in May (see AJ 02.05.13) includes up to 3,500 homes, a new wharf, a hotel and three new towers and was being overseen by Lewisham Council’s planning department.
But now, after a plea from the scheme’s developer, Hutchison Whampoa, the London Mayor has ‘called-in’ the scheme and become the defacto planning authority.
On the 17 October Hutchison Whampoa general manager, Edmond Ho, wrote to Johnson complaining of ‘unrealistic demands’ and urged him to intervene under article 7 of the Town and Country Planning (Mayor of London) Order 2008.
Ho wrote: ‘We have serious concerns that the Council, well beyond the expiry of the statutory determination period, and bearing in mind lengthy pre-application discussions, is still making further unrealistic demands and seeking changes to the masterplan, all at odds with the GLA’s views expressed in the July Stage 1 report, and all of which will seriously jeopardise the viability and deliverability of the development.
‘We believe that the approach taken by the Council now risks many further months of unnecessary delay and uncertainty (with the distinct possibility of decision making being delayed further by May 2014 local elections) and the resultant substantial delay in the creation of jobs, growth, the delivery of much needed housing in London and the wider regeneration benefits for the area.’
In response Johnson yesterday confirmed that he was taking responsibility for the scheme’s progress.
In a letter to the council’s planning department Johnson praised the borough’s record on housing, but wrote: ‘…the breakdown in relationship between the Council and the applicant is such that I am not satisfied that you will be able to reach a timely planning determination in respect of the current planning application for this important site.’
Johnson’s bold decision has caused uproar in Lewisham Council, with council chief executive Barry Quirk blaming the developer for delays: “We believe that the outstanding issues are fully capable of being resolved and could be done so at a local level and it is unfortunate Hutchison Whampoa have consistently declined to engage with the council to resolve them,’ wrote Quirk in an earlier letter to Johnson.