Petition: Tell Boris Johnson Not to Approve the Monstrously Inappropriate Development Plans for Convoys Wharf in Deptford


Please sign the petition on, asking London’s Mayor, Boris Johnson, not to approve a £1bn plan to turn Henry VIII’s former Royal Dockyard at Convoys Wharf in Deptford into a luxury, high-rise housing development that would be more at home in Dubai.

All over London, housing developments that are unaffordable for the majority of Londoners continue to rise up, and equally unaffordable new projects continue to be approved. Councils are either cash-strapped and desperate, or they are seduced by developers’ promises that their developments will be of benefit to the community at large, even though the entry level for luxury developments is a household income of £72,000, way above the £53,000 that even a couple on the average UK income (£26,500) can afford. When you consider that the median income in the UK is £14,000 (the one that 50 percent of people earn more than, and 50 percent earn less than), it’s easy to see how the entire situation is out of control and is doing nothing for local people, or the majority of hard-working Londoners.

Down the road from where I live in south east London is Deptford, a vibrant but not affluent part of the London Borough of Lewisham, with a huge maritime history. Where Deptford meets the River Thames is the largest potential development site in the borough, Convoys Wharf, a 16.6 hectare (40-acre) site, which most recently was News International’s paper importing plant for printing Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers. Murdoch’s operation closed in 2000, and, since 2002, developers have been trying to gain approval for a massive luxury housing development on the site, featuring 3,500 homes — 3,000 of which will be sold “off-plan” to foreign investors — and including three towers rising to 40 storeys in height. Moreover, just 15 percent of the homes will be what is laughingly described these days as “affordable” (at 80 percent of market rents, these rents are actually unaffordable for most people), and just 4 percent will be for social rent (i.e. genuinely affordable) — that’s just 140 properties out of the total of 3,500.

The development would not only ruin the skyline in the whole of south east London and introduce a dangerous juxtaposition of immense wealth and poverty into Deptford, but would also largely destroy the hugely important heritage of the site, because Convoys Wharf, far from being just a recently abandoned industrial location, is in fact the site of King Henry VIII’s Royal Dockyard, founded exactly 500 years ago, in 1513.

For eleven years, with plans first by Richard Rodgers (who has an interesting architectural history), then by Aedas (whose scheme was criticised as being “monstrous”), and most recently by Terry Farrell (who doesn’t have an interesting architectural history), complaints about the unsuitable scale of the developers’ proposals, the relative absence of genuinely affordable housing, and their neglect of the site’s historical importance (which also includes the nearby site of Sayes Court, the former home of the diarist and botanist John Evelyn), have prevented it from going ahead, with English Heritage adding the considerable weight of their opposition to the plans to the complaints and proposals of local campaigners, and, most recently, the World Monuments Fund also adding Convoys What and Sayes Court to their internationally important watch list.

English Heritage’s criticism

In July, as Building Design explained, English Heritage “criticised Farrells’ £1 billion Convoys Wharf masterplan for failing to put the site’s history at the centre of the scheme.” The site added, “Responding to the planning application, English Heritage acknowledged that the new scheme was a significant improvement and praised the developer for carrying out the largest archaeological investigation of an historic dockyard in the world.”

Mark Stevenson, English Heritage’s archaeology advisor, said, “The scale of work undertaken is a reflection of the importance of the site, the anticipated quality and quantity of archaeology and that the applicant recognised that a detailed understanding was essential in developing a planning application to redevelop this nationally important site.”

However, as Building Design described it, “the eight ‘overarching design principles’ listed in the planning application do not include a consideration of the history of the site as an objective.” Stevenson explained that this “would appear to be at odds with the expectation of heritage being a core element of the design approach alluded to in the heritage statement,” adding a complain that “recent archaeological discoveries were not incorporated.”

He “urged Lewisham council to ‘seek further opportunities’ to reflect the historic character in the design,” but those opportunities, of course, have now been taken away by Hutchison Whampoa in its appeal directly to the Mayor.

The World Monuments Fund includes Convoys Wharf on its watch list

Most recently, Building Design reported on the inclusion of Convoys Wharf and Sayes Court on the World Monuments Fund’s watch list, stating that “Henry VIII’s naval dockyard at Deptford has been added to the list for the first time because of fears that a planned £1 billion housing development will damage the 500-year-old site.”

Describing Convoys Wharf as a “much-contested site, which retains some of its Tudor and Victorian structures,” and noting that historians “complain that none of the schemes does justice to the significance of the area,” Building Design spoke to Jonathan Foyle, the chief executive of World Monuments Fund Britain, who said, “Deptford’s most imminent threat comes from the failure of existing proposals to fully acknowledge and respect the heritage assets that the site has to offer.”

He added, “Incorporating the extensive archaeology and combining this with unique public spaces has the potential to strengthen Deptford’s local identity while securing this lost piece of the Thames jigsaw. It would also improve awareness of the little-known existence and overlooked history of the dockyard and gardens on a national stage.”

Building Design noted that Convoys Wharf and John Evelyn’s gardens join “67 sites from 41 countries on the 2014 list, including three others from the UK”: Battersea Power Station, which “remains on the list 10 years after it was first added despite the imminent start of restoration work to be overseen by Wilkinson Eyre,” the 16th-century Sulgrave Manor in Northamptonshire, built by the ancestors of George Washington, and Grimsby’s Victorian ice factory — “the earliest and largest-known surviving ice factory in the world, and the only one to retain its machinery” — and surrounding “Kasbah” docks.

The petition

Lewisham Council have been careful not to approve a plan that is fraught with serious problems, regardless of how much money the Hong Kong-based developers, Hutchison Whampoa, have been thrusting at them, but now the developers have tired of what they perceive as obstruction, and have appealed directly to Boris Johnson, London’s Mayor, and there are very real fears that Johnson will do the wrong thing and approve the plans as they currently stand.

In response, the petition states the following:

We, the undersigned, are gravely alarmed at the proposed scale and impact of the current plans by Hong Kong developer Hutchison Whampoa, that will irrevocably destroy the site of Britain’s historic Royal Dockyard and Sayes Court Garden at Deptford by the River Thames in London.

We welcome the recognition of this fact by the inclusion of Deptford Dockyard (now known as Convoys Wharf) and Sayes Court Garden on the World Monuments Fund Watch List for 2014 and the serious concern expressed by English Heritage and many other heritage bodies, Lewisham Council and local community groups represented by Deptford Is. We note that this year is the 500th anniversary of the founding of the Royal Docks by Henry VIII in 1513.

We also applaud the extensive work carried out by the Sayes Court Garden and Build The Lenox projects to create two visionary regeneration schemes. These will reinterpret and celebrate the heritage of the area while at the same time creating major new tourist attractions, safeguarding Deptford’s maritime and horticultural links, and creating skilled jobs for local people around the birthplace of the National Trust and Deptford Royal Dockyard.

We regret the lack of meaningful engagement with the community by Hutchison Whampoa so far; note that, at the developer’s request, the Mayor of London has used his powers to take over as the planning authority and further note that Sir Terry Farrell, who is the Mayor’s Design Adviser, is also the architect employed by Hutchison Whampoa.

We reject any claims that this scheme will address London’s housing needs. With a maximum of 15% affordable housing, just 4% of this for social rent, we believe it will make no significant difference to the capital’s housing crisis.

We therefore call on the Mayor of London as the planning authority, Sir Li Ka Shing, chairman of Hutchison Whampoa as the ultimate applicant and the Secretary of State to revise the proposals with greater sensitivity for their location. We ask them to respect 500 years of British maritime history and 360 years of horticultural history on this internationally significant site; one which is inextricably associated with Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, Sir Francis Drake, Sir Walter Raleigh, Samuel Pepys, John Evelyn, Octavia Hill, Christopher Marlowe, Tsar Peter the Great, and Captain James Cook.

Hutchison Whampoa “threw its toys out of the pram”

The most detailed analysis of the latest developments can be found on the “Deptford Is” website, where campaigners agains the current plan explain the circumstances whereby, despite the very real need for ongoing discussions about “important issues relating to transport, design and heritage, Sayes Court Garden and the Lenox Project, and sustainability,” Hutchison Whampoa “threw its toys out of the pram, as if its masterplan was incontrovertable and not subject to planning processes whereby different stakeholders could give their views on it.”

Edmond Ho, Hutchison Whampoa’s director of European operations, told Lewisham’s planners, “we believe the approach you are taking, in not only requesting further changes to the masterplan but even introducing new constraints and unrealistic demands … is both unreasonable and unwarranted, given the already tough viability constraints.”

As “Deptford Is” described it, “Shortly afterwards, Hutchison Whampoa wrote to the Mayor of London requesting he ‘call in’ the application. Bypassing local processes, and citing ‘delays’ and erosion of profits as a basis for his actions, Ho made a pre-emptive request for a premature decision. The Mayor duly called in the planning application on the grounds that the relationship between the developer and Lewisham had irrevocably broken down.”

“Deptford Is” described the move as “almost unprecedented,” and noted that, although Boris Johnson has said he will make a decision by February, “the decision-making process the GLA [Greater London Authority] must now go through is likely to take longer than Lewisham have been taking,” and, moreover, “By involving the Mayor of London, the process will now take place on a much larger stage. The developer’s refusal to engage with stakeholders and accommodate the worldwide importance of the site’s heritage will become ever more visible (it is this non-negotiable stance which has held back the development, not the planners). Meanwhile, by approaching London’s Mayor directly, Ho has terminated the democratic planning process and made a mockery of the Localism Act.”

“Deptford Is” added, “He is also perhaps hoping to bypass the final Archaeology report that is yet to be submitted. The report is expected to acknowledge that some 75% of the infrastructure representing 500 years of dynamic development of the Royal Dockyard at Deptford is essentially intact and ready to reinstate for maritime purposes. Or perhaps the final straw for the developer was the World Monuments Fund putting the site on its Watch List?”

“Deptford Is” also noted how Hutchison Whampoa has claimed, in a letter to Lewisham Council (which will also have been seen by the Mayor and the GLA) that “the GLA and Lewisham’s Design Panel have endorsed the masterplan and overall development,” even though Lewisham’s CEO, Barry Quirk, told Building Design that the developer “had submitted its plans at too early a stage, cutting short pre-application discussions, and had recently cancelled meetings at which outstanding issues could have been resolved.”

Edmund Ho also claimed that Hutchison Whampoa had “fully considered points raised by English Heritage,” although “Deptford Is” noted that what that meant was that, with “a familiar arrogance,” the developers’ response to English Heritage’s comments was merely “to explain how the masterplan decisions were reached”. “Deptford Is” added, “those decisions were made before [English Heritage]’s report was submitted, and [Hutchison Whampoa] has subsequently refused to alter its plans in order to acknowledge [English Heritage]’s unambiguous request to reduce the density of the development.”

Ho’s letter also claimed that Terry Farrell “took the time to meet with English Heritage to satisfy the concerns being raised,” adding that “we understand English Heritage have largely accepted the overall approach being taken,” even though English Heritage “have denied such a meeting took place.”

As also needs pointing out, and as was mentioned briefly in the petition, Terry Farrell “is part of the Mayor’s Design Advisory Group, which plays ‘a significant role in shaping future developments which fall under the Mayor’s responsibility through his regeneration, planning, housing and land powers.'” As “Deptford Is” noted, “Sir Terry advises the Mayor on ‘how to secure the best results on new developments through procurement.’ Could this not be viewed as a conflict of interests?” to which the answer, of course, must be a resounding yes.

“Deptford Is” also criticised Edmund Ho for claiming that further changes to the masterplan would push “the viability of the project to its limits,” pointing out that Hutchison Whampoa’s boss, Li Ka Shing, is “the eighth richest billionaire in the world.” They also worry about Boris Johnson’s cosiness with Chinese investors, following his recent trade visits to China and they also note that Johnson is “very pally with Rupert Murdoch, as is Li Ka Shing,” adding that, although News International sold the site to Hutchison Whampoa, Murdoch’s company retains “a profit share in the sale of the residential units.”

What will happen now?

It is to be hoped that English Heritage will again weigh in heavily on behalf of the heritage of the site, especially with the World Monuments Fund having taken up the cause of Convoys Wharf, and also because of Hutchison Whampoa’s blatant disregard for critics of its plans (including English Heritage) and the parameters of the existing planning processes. It is also to be hoped that local campaigners can make sure that the Mayor understands that they — we — are no push-over.

In addition, Deptford’s MP, Joan Ruddock, has written to Boris Johnson to request a meeting, calling the site “an archaeological and heritage jewel in London’s crown.” She said, “I will be trying to persuade the Mayor to recognise the immense heritage value of this site both to local people and the people of London. The development needs to reflect Deptford’s extraordinary past while meeting local needs and fitting into the local environment.”

Boris Johnson already faces one additional problem, as “Deptford Is” described it, because, in June this year, he “pledged his support for the Lenox project in answer to a written question from London Assembly member Darren Johnson.” Not only did he agree to the project, but he also “agreed that the ship be built at the Double Dry Dock” on the site, a decision that the developers evidently disliked, as their representatives refused to agree to a discussion about it. Johnson will need to be reminded of this fact, as well as being reminded that some heritage issues are too important to be swept aside for an envelope full of cash.

“Deptford Is” concluded their recent article by stating that Boris Johnson has two options. They claim that he “can use his power and influence to assist the owners to appreciate that they own a very valuable piece of England’s story” and adapt their plans appropriately, or, as they put it, he “can choose to demand that the owners, together with architects and specialists, including English Heritage, the World Monuments Fund and the London Borough of Lewisham, start with a clean slate and remove all the assumptions about this being just any old brownfield site.”

I believe that only the latter option is appropriate, but actually I’d like to see Hutchison Whampoa abandon their plans completely, so that big money and its greed can be booted out of Convoys Wharf completely, and we can have a new scheme led by those concerned with the site’s heritage, and with local people’s need for jobs and genuinely affordable housing. This, moreover, will need to be low-rise to respect the scale of buildings on the Thames shoreline in south east London.

At present, of course, it’s nothing more than a fantasy, as developers and speculators are still succeeding in turning every scrap of spare land in London into massive returns — for themselves, and themselves alone. This does nothing for London as a whole, and before the bubble bursts, when foreign investors are exhausted, or it becomes apparent that prices cannot rise vertiginously forever, or someone notices that speculative purchases continue to sit empty in vast numbers as hard-working Londoners struggle to get by, or are even forced to leave London entirely, I hope that somewhere a stand will be made — and I want, very much, for that stand to be taken in Deptford, at Convoys Wharf.

Note: See my article from last October, “Beautiful Dereliction: Photos of the Thames Shoreline by Convoys Wharf, Deptford,” for more about what Convoys Wharf, the shoreline and its desolation mean to me.

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer and film-maker. He is the co-founder of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US).

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the four-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, and “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

Please also consider joining the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

49 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    This is what I wrote when I signed the petition:

    Bringing a development that would be more at home in Dubai than Deptford to the site of Henry VIII’s Royal Dockyard is a disgraceful idea. This site needs to have its heritage and the needs of local people at its heart, and Hutchison Whampoa’s plans do nothing for either.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted the petition on Facebook two days ago, I wrote:

    This is very dear to my heart, my friends. Please sign this petition if you would like to try to save one important site by the Thames from the omnivorous predatory developers who plague London at this difficult time in its history.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    David Knopfler wrote:

    Andy … sounds like you have another battle on your hands over there in SE8

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    This one’s been rumbling on for 10 years, David. The Dubai-isation of Convoys Wharf has only been delayed this long because of the historical importance of the site as Henry VIII’s Royal Dockyard, marking its largely unnoticed 500th anniversary this year. English Heritage have persistently opposed the development because it fails to respect the heritage of the site, and because its towers are too tall, and will ruin the skyline. Perhaps even more significantly, the site and the adjacent Sayes Court Garden, which were once the important gardens of the diarist John Evelyn, have now been placed by the World Monuments Fund on its watch list, as a site of global importance that is under threat:

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    David Knopfler wrote:

    Andy .., makes sense. Any developer will tell you that they ask for more than they expect to get to settle for what they hoped to really get. Hopefully English heritage have their legal eagles on the case

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, I’m very much hoping that English Heritage won’t back down, David, as they’re part of the establishment they’re criticising, and have some real clout.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this article on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my detailed analysis of why the Hong Kong developer Hutchison Whampoa’s plans for developing the 40-acre Convoys Wharf site by the Thames in Deptford is so monstrous and inappropriate – inc. the failure to respect the site’s heritage as Henry VIII’s Royal Dockyard. Campaigners have launched a petition calling on London’s Mayor, Boris Johnson, not to approve the plans, which he has taken over from Lewisham Council. It’s time to take a stand against ugly and unnecessary developments that only enrich the already rich!

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    David Knopfler wrote:

    You make a well argued case Andy. It sounds like a HUGE issue to get one’s head around. What is the position of regional media about it?

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    I haven’t seen it discussed much outside of the London media, David – and the specialist building and planning media – although the heritage angle and the Build the Lenox project have attracted some national interest as well, I think. Mainly it’s an issue for Londoners, and I only wish that we could get mobilised across London to resist the countless “luxury” housing projects that do nothing for ordinary Londoners and that are still rising up everywhere.

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    David Knopfler wrote:

    Andy funny how everything seems to come back to the same question nobody wants to deal with: Is money trumping democracy really our only option?

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    I would say, optimistically, that little by little people are waking up to what’s going on, David, but there are two worlds now, especially in London – the one that is making money out of a hyper-inflated property market (which includes the foreign investors who are such a big part of the new “luxury” housing market), and the one that is being exploited (Londoners who have the misfortune not to be rich – loads of young people, and, increasingly, more and more families who can’t get on the housing ladder). There’s some fairly priced social housing in between the two, but most of those doing well out of a permanent housing bubble don’t want it to end, even though it’s not actually very helpful for London’s economy, with so many people so squeezed that they have very little disposable income.

  12. Sylvia Wicks says...

    This site is important to people around the world as well as to Londoners. Might you circulate your item more widely, perhaps via the Sunday papers?

    The site’s world-wide importance derives from the development of accurate navigation charts. needed by mariners leaving The Royal Dock at Deptford. For instance, Captain Cook was able find Australia, chart the region accurately, and pass on to the world’s mariners many technological developments initiated in Deptford.

    Starting with a clean slate would be worthwhile for Thames users well as for Deptford people.

    Our tidal Thames desperately needs technologically modern boat building and repair facilities. The Royal Dock at Deptford is still a site best suited for maritime use. A modern maritime facility would make sense alongside Deptford’s wealth of maritime heritage. This heritage links directly with the Naval heritage and history in Greenwich. It could be argued that, although Greenwich is known as Maritime Greenwich, it is The Royal Dock at Deptford that provides the maritime evidence.

    Reinstatement of the maritime heritage alongside contemporary maritime facilities would provide a coveted heritage income for Lewisham and sustainable, local jobs for local people. Many people in Deptford today bring back to Deptford the maritime experience that spread around the world from Deptford over the last 500 years.

    The freehold might belong to a foreign speculator. The Royal Dock at Deptford is our heritage, on our Thames and it is our future that should be given priority.

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    Hi Sylvia,
    Thank you very much for your extremely powerful contributions to the arguments against the Convoys Wharf development, and for a revival of Deptford’s maritime history.
    I think you should be writing something about it for the Sunday papers!

  14. Andy Worthington says...

    Gioia Coppola wrote:

    hi Andy, I’m up to work on this campaign, I think it’s very important

  15. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Gioia. I’ve just emailed the “Deptford Is” website to see if there is any enthusiasm for a publicity event in Deptford. I think it would be a good way to attract local opposition to the plans, and to attract wider media attention.

  16. Andy Worthington says...

    Anna Giddings wrote:

    Boris Island. Says it all doesn’t it? Signed Andy

  17. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for signing, Anna. And yes, Boris Island – the Mayor’s obsession with shutting Heathrow and build a new airport for a gazillion pounds in the Thames estuary. Pollution-wise, it would be better for London not to have planes flying over the city 24/7, but what would be the impact on the eco-systems in the estuary, and where’s the money supposed to come from?

  18. Andy Worthington says...

    Anna Giddings wrote:

    You’re welcome. Seems to me he has too much power. The mayors obsession with himself is also a problem! Thank you

  19. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, the Mayor’s obsession with himself is more than a little troubling, Anna. The Guardian link above leads to a lot of other critical articles from 2012. Meanwhile, the Daily Mail has space-age images of the latest proposals for Boris Island. No one really wants to point out that we really ought to have hit the maximum amount of air traffic that is healthy some years ago. I remember Gavin Esler making as strong point about that on Newsnight years ago when Heathrow’s third runway was being discussed. Here’s the Mail article – with, it should be noted, criticism from Friends Of The Earth, the World Wildlife Fund, Greenpeace and the Royal Society For The Protection Of Birds. See:

  20. Damo says...

    Luxury that word makes me wanna do turd….it’s just so fetishised .luxury property’s it’s just repulsive they want the whole of the world for there luxury apartments even destroying historical sites..Will nothing stop them come on English heritage do your stuff tell them no get prince Charles have to have eyes in the back of our heads around that cunt Boris now there’s a real snake in the grass

  21. Andy Worthington says...

    Great to hear from you, Damo. Yes, the incessant use of the word “luxury” by developers never ceases to be annoying – and I endlessly see it applied to properties that don’t involve any kind of “luxury” at all – little overpriced boxes, generally.
    As for Boris, yes, one of the biggest failures of our fellow Londoners is the way that so many of them thought Boris ought to be mayor because he’s funny, when the truth is that (a) he isn’t, it’s a front to disguise what a nasty piece of work he really is; and (b) even if he was funny, that’s a qualification for being a comedian, not for being a politician.

  22. Damo says...

    I watched him on the news ,someone asked about London’s chronic houseing crisis …..he mussed up his hair spouted gibberish just gobbledygook not related to the question in anyway and walked off basically he did his buffoon act how he thinks were all taken in by that he thinks most people are stupid and that’s shows his contempt for people he said not on my watch but he has done the opposite he,s helping social clensing he wants it..there all turning up in hastings ,margate the poor are being dumped’s happening for real ..wot all of central london is gonna be for luxury people and there luxury flats,lol,lol I,d like to do a luxury dump on there damm flats,lol,lol

  23. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, Boris sounded plausible a few years ago when he spoke about not wanting social cleansing in London, Damo, but even though it looked like he meant it at the time it was presumably only because he had an election coming up.
    I was looking for some info about Boris’s property-developing chums, because I was sure there was something involving west London and the destruction of whole swaths of social housing, but I haven’t located it yet. I’ll keep trying.
    In the meantime, of course, Boris is pushing through requirements on councils in London to set social rents on new homes at 80 percent of market rents, even though market rents are stratospherically out of control. These are the so-called “affordable” social rents, and the disgraceful misuse of that word in this context is something that I think ought to be able to be challenged in court.
    Here’s a group of Inside Housing articles about Boris’s position and opposition in the GLA:
    “Vote on affordable rent model branded ‘historic opportunity'” (Sep 3):

    In a comment, a Mr. Webb wrote, perceptively:

    Boris will make a great PM – just so long as every one follows his orders and nobody fails to exercise their local democratic freedoms in a manner he disagrees with. Then, the more violent character lurking in the background would be deployed.

    “Tory councils slam mayor’s rent policy” (Sep 6):
    This featured the following surprising criticism from Tory boroughs:

    Planning officers at Kensington and Chelsea said the policy ‘went against the whole localism agenda’.

    ‘There is little point in maximising the delivery of affordable housing if it is not affordable, and such housing would not be affordable in Kensington and Chelsea if affordable rents could not be set locally,’ a spokesperson added.

    The Conservative boroughs of Bexley, Croydon, Hillingdon, Richmond, Wandsworth and Westminster also opposed the plan.

    That article also included this alarming statistic:

    Figures from Lambeth Council showed a three-bedroom home in Vauxhall built under the London Plan would cost £143 per week at its ‘target’ social rent, but £484 per week at 65 per cent of market rents – three times more.

    “Motion urging Boris to reconsider rent model passed” (Oct 11):
    There was a good comment on this article by someone called Paul Jones who wrote:

    Tenants in London desperately need social rent homes. Desperately. “Affordable rent” is causing widespread fear. It is simply a lie. It is not affordable. Stop converting social housing to unaffordable “affordable” housing. It is morally wrong.

    I also found an interesting article from the Economist (in February this year) about developments in Battersea:

  24. Damo says...

    I have friends who still live in shorditch gentrification out of control ..that shorditch and we were looking in the windows of some vile shyster lettings agents and there they were ex council flats on dodgy estates for £400 pounds a week and that was cheep rents it’s out of control the greed and a race 80percent of the market rents would make a council place about £1400 a mounth who tell me who on a low wage can afford that my landlord is a shyster he’s changeing £1000 a mounth for a damp mould rat infested studio and so are the other slum end landlords in my building 9 property’s haha in one run down house all owned by different shitheads that slum generates about £10.000 grand a mounth for shit you know I was born and bread in london but the only way I can see myself haveing any quality of liveing is to leave london it’s just to expensive and I’ll never own anywhere that’s never gonna happen but were do you go andy in the uk everything has been stolen by the rich …everything…

  25. Andy Worthington says...

    I suppose if I was young and could generate a bit of cash, Damo, I’d try and find like-minded people and buy a street somewhere up north, one of those towns where you can buy a whole street for the price of a dog kennel in London.
    London, though, has been stolen, and it’s an ever-escalating problem that no one else wants to talk about, because everyone who could talk about it is part of the problem – all those senior journalists and editors, they’re all basking in that complacent glow of knowing that their houses are “worth” a fortune, and that they’ll be OK in their old age. In the meantime, most of them also have property portfolios (even just one buy-to-let property will do, or one property from when they were single), and let out properties at exorbitant rents to someone else’s kids, or to families unable to buy for the first time since before WWII.
    I too checked out what the bottom end of the market was in north London, and discovered a similar thing. Actually, I discovered former council properties – 1960s/70s flats – selling for £400,000. No wonder the Yuppies have all come down south, and are busily driving up prices in my neighbourhood.

  26. Damo says...

    We may as well invite Robert Mugabe to run the country he,d do a better job and be more trust worthy,lol the uk is now the money laundering capital of the world, despots, crooks, bankers, corrupt oligarchs, vile Saudi princes, human rights abusers …your all welcome here,lol

  27. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, you can see what it’s like in Mayfair, Damo. Very thin women getting in and out of cars, looking like they’re being bought and sold, well-dressed Etonians all acting as pimps for whichever foreign billionaires or multi-millionaires have the money, no questions asked. Houses costing £32 million, antiques shops selling 18th century statues of “negro” slaves. Who’s buying those then, and what’s going on just below the surface – slavery, drugs, prostitution – that we don’t see? It’s all pretty disgusting …

  28. Damo says...

    Sorry to go on dear but,lol there was a real toady arse licking program on last week about Boris interviews with his dreary Sloaney sister ooh she squeezed he,s allways been a winner, he,s allways needed to win at any cost no matter how he does it he must win she then went on and on about the size of his cock which frankly was to much information and very vulgar ..he,s allways got to win …that says it all doesnt it that shows us the monster that were really dealing with

  29. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, the thing is, Damo, that the public school system is designed to destroy these people’s humanity, and to encourage them solely to win, no matter what the cost. They are all psychologically ill, sociopaths and psychopaths, unable to empathise, determined only to win. I find it extraordinary that anyone is still taken in by the sick people running the country.

  30. damo says...

    win,win,win its just so vile,lol were will it end this toxic greed people have become consumed by greed now my landlord is a fine example he,s made his property empire and his millions of the backs of the poor and desperate ie buying unrentable slums and houseing the poor in these slums and chargeing the maximum hb he can get away with he,s been doing this since 88 now with the vile tory cuts he will no longer accept hb as [his words ] i can get much more rent from private tenants ..god give something back allready…but this is the new reality andy .and its a scary one

  31. Andy Worthington says...

    Agreed, Damo. It’s very scary. I find it depressing that there is no check on these people’s behaviour, that society in general has no moral compass. Many of the people screwing their tenants for as much as they can get out of them would claim to be religious people, if asked, like most if not all members of the Tory-led Cabinet, and yet their actions reveal no consciousness whatsoever of the messages of care for others, and particularly for those less fortunate than oneself, that are supposed to be central to those with faith.
    I would dearly love there to be a major campaign to expose the hypocrisy of all of these people, but as I am repeatedly obliged to note, most of those who should be in a position to expose the out-of-control greed and the exploitation of others through property that is one of the defining characteristics of life in London and the south east right now – the journalists and editors who are supposed to publicise issues of importance – are complicit in it, through their own property portfolios and investments.
    What we need – a massive building programme, of genuinely affordable social housing – is something that no one with power wants, because it would mean puncturing the wretched bubble that is guaranteeing them a secure old age, and enabling them to live in the manner to which they believe they are entitled. As for the large-scale landlords, like the ones you mention, I think they should be very publicly shamed. I am fed up of anyone who makes a load of money being treated as though they somehow have some merit, when what ought to be investigated is whether these people are worthwhile human beings, or psychopaths or sociopathic monsters, as so many people are who believe that life is about personal profit and nothing else.

  32. damo says...

    your right we need a massive house building program but is it ever going to happen ….thease people are monsters and they lauded as saints just look at …ids…did you read that people in this country [one of the richest in the world] are going to hospital thru malnutrition…malnutrition andy ..and that ricketts is makeing a comeback..ricketts for gods sake a disiese that was eradicated in the 1930s..some thing has or is realy going wrong with our society ..i wish we ccould report some good news for a change

  33. Andy Worthington says...

    I hadn’t seen that malnutrition story until you mentioned it, Damo. I just looked it up, and found this in the Independent from the weekend just gone:
    Quote: “Primary and secondary diagnoses of malnutrition – caused by lack of food or very poor diet – rose from 3,161 in 2008/09 to 5,499 last year.”
    I had also missed the rickets story. The Independent, again, had an article entitled, “Chief Medical Officer ‘ashamed’ as rickets makes a comeback,” on October 24:
    From the article:

    The Victorian-era disease rickets has returned to England, the country’s Chief Medical Officer has said, and should be fought off through a universal handout of vitamin supplements to all children under five.

    In a damning report on the state of children’s health, Dame Sally Davies said that the country should be “profoundly ashamed” that child mortality rates in some of the poorest parts of England were three times higher than rich regions.

    What we need, Damo, is a national campaign for decency – decent treatment for everyone – and a day of action. I’m sorry to see that the unions, who are best placed to organise something like this, have only done so on a handful of occasions since the Tory-led government usurped power back in May 2010. The first was the “March for the Alternative” in March 2011, attended by at least 500,000 people, which I wrote about here:
    The second was “A Future That Works” last October, which I photographed here:
    And here:
    There should be days of action every three months (at least), and the focus should be on everyone who is suffering – the poor, the ill, the young, the old, the unemployed and the disabled.
    Unfortunately, as we know, far too many people who should know better have gone to the dark side, obsessively blaming immigrants, the umemployed and the disabled for the ills of society, urged on endlessly by the crappy right-wing media and by the Tories’ almost unspeakably vile spin machine, under the direction of the turd-like Lynton Crosby.

  34. damo says...

    its unbelievable isnt it in one of the richest countrys in the world people are starving..the gloves are off feel free to phycically attack all tories man woman child .drive them into the sea start with those inbreeds the windsors and work down,lol

  35. Andy Worthington says...

    May I start with the Cabinet instead, Damo? Boris must be near the top of the list for his lament on behalf of the super-rich. I hope he gets screwed for this.

  36. damo says...

    boris is so fucking sinnister isnt he a real chinless weasel..a weasel doing the buffoon act ..i read the comments – people, the ones with anything between the ears …are on to him the rest dont count…he will slit your throat as soon as look at you to get what he wants and needs and as for the other minoritys he,s harming them .

  37. Andy Worthington says...

    Boris told me to f*ck off once, Damo, before he became Mayor. I was on my bike and I noticed him beside me. He went through a red light by Leicester Square, so I caught him up and made a perfectly pleasant jokey comment about him going through a red light. He turned to me and thundered “f*ck off” in my face and then cycled off quite fast. No cuddly Boris at work there. I never trusted anyone calling him funny after that.
    Apart from the fact that being funny is a qualification required for comedians and not for politicians, Boris isn’t funny. Full stop. It’s a front.

  38. damo says...

    WHO WOULD FIND BORIS what way funny peculiar or funny sinnister i think its the latter..haha…there was a great comment about him saying watchout for the violent man just below the surface..and you saw it..

  39. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, that was a powerful comment about Boris, Damo. Such a pity we’re stuck with him.
    Quite funny that the Evening Standard is having a go at him today for the severely under-used cable car, under the heading, “Boris Johnson’s ‘pitiful’ £60m cable car used by just four regular commuters.”
    Here’s the opening: “Boris Johnson’s £60m cable car was branded ‘pitiful’ today as it was revealed that it is being used by just four regular commuters. Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act showed the ‘Emirates Air Line’ service between Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Docks attracted just four Oyster card holders using it more than five times a week, triggering the regular users’ discount. The figures, obtained by, also show that the number of weekly users in the second week in October were 23,000 compared to 42,500 for the same week last year. On Sundays – the cable car’s busiest day – users dropped to 6,300 from 16,200, suggesting the cable car’s novelty as a tourist attraction is fading.”
    Well, yes, no surprise really. I do happen to love the Greenwich peninsula, and I also have a soft spot for the Royal Docks, but now that the Olympics aren’t on, it’s pretty clear that neither place is the sort of location that tourists end up at on a regular basis.

  40. damo says...

    LOL,LOL but on a more serious note yesterday i took my dog out walking along the thames by hammersmith bridge and got talking to a lovely old woman outside the council flats were she lives now alonge that stretch of the thames there building vile yuppie flats she was saying that oppersite her flat is an old factory building now its gonna be pulled down to make way for yuppie flats but andy and get this there gonna pull down her estate to give extra space for the yuppie flats and a waiterose [vile] these flats are solid 1950s brick flats and she was one of the first tennants they have offered her a studio in margate or a flat in hull…so social clensing is going on and heres the proof ..she said over my dead body ive lived round here all my life..i loved her shes great

  41. Andy Worthington says...

    Disturbing news, Damo. The thing is, in general developers or councils have to get the tenants to vote themselves out of their properties. In the summer I met a woman in Deptford who told me that developers wanted to empty two blocks of flats in the centre of Deptford, where she lived, and move them into social housing they’re planning to build on the site of an old school (behind the private housing they’re also planing to build, obviously). However, she said that she’d worked out that the new housing they were offering wouldn;t house everybody, and she was unsure if it was a good deal. I told her the tenants need to refuse to accept a deal unless it involves rehousing all of them, otherwise they’ll get shafted, basically. I hope they didn’t give in. Developers tend to wear people down – or smother them with lies.
    As for this lovely woman in Hammersmith, I’d be interested in knowing what estate she’s on, so I could look into it. Do you happen to know?

  42. Nicholas hughes says...

    I read the whole post but after the first few sentences I could see what it was all about: the same old anything tall is evil nonsense that I have come to expect from the fanatical NIMBY’S that poison this great city. You say it is to tall, if English heritage had existed in the 10th century the Tower of London would not have been built, they would of said it was too tall. If English heritage has existed in the 17th century St. Paul’s cathedral would not exist, they would have said it was to monstrous and tall. The skyscrapers in London are some of the best in the world, you say this doesn’t fit London and would be more suited in dubai, nonsense, this is way too short for them to bother building in dubai, they like REAL skyscrapers, not 40fl midrises like this. There are many towers in London and this fits it perfectly, we live in a city not a museum, this is London not Rome. If people don’t like urbanity or tall buildings then you shouldn’t be living in a giant global city like London, if you want quaint little row houses, then go and live in a village, and stop trying to sabotage my great city

  43. Andy Worthington says...

    Well, you are of course entitled to your opinion, Nicholas, but it’s my great city as well. We just happen to profoundly disagree on what makes it great.

  44. Andy Worthington says...


    Boris is expected to make a ruling in February.
    Lewisham Council is still calling for major changes:£1bn-convoys-wharf-scheme/5065932.article
    Architecture minister Ed Vaizey “has warned London’s mayor not to overlook the historic importance of Convoys Wharf when he decides on whether to give it planning next month,” in response to a question in the Commons by Joan Ruddock:
    According to the above, Vaizey “told Ruddock that an English Heritage archaeological report into the site was due on his desk next month.”
    And here’s Oliver Wainwright in the Guardian yesterday looking at Boris’s abuse of planning powers. Very interesting:

  45. Nicholas hughes says...

    To be honest with you I wouldn’t be to concerned with this, when it comes to tall buildings in London only about 10% of approved towers ever actually get built, unfortunately most of the towers approved wont be built anyway. By far the biggest part of applying for planning permission for towers is just to increase the value of the land, very few of them actually get built. Canary wharf, Brookfield etc are land bankers more than developers. At canary wharf the currently have planning permission for over 20 skyscrapers, but none have actually been built. London has progressed well lately, we are no longer mocked by Frankfurt and paris for being a medieval basket case, Frankfurt and paris still have more towers than London and their skylines are a hundred times better than ours, but we have caught up now and by the end if this year we will have passed them by to cement are place as the alpha Capitol of Europe and are actually starting to look like an important financial Capitol, but strange people known as nimbys who seem to believe that everything should be flat, that there should be no drama, or peaks or scale to our cities, that we should forever remain an underwhelming, forgettable grey concrete jungle, I, and most people profoundly disagree. English heritage have been conclusively defeated, they opposed the city towers and lost, they opposed the nine elms towers and lost, they opposed the southbank towers and lost, they opposed the southward towers and lost, now they have been diminished to the point of having no credibility or influence at all, simply, no one listens to what they say anymore, why…… Because by opposing every single building over 50 meters they have shown themselves to be fanatics who oppose something purely because if its hight, obviously no council or politicians can work with insane ideology like that, so English heritage are now defunct. What really gets me is that they have no problem at all with a beautifull old building being destroyed, as long as its replacement is short, but will complain endlessly when someone wants to demolish a 60s concrete box to replace it with a beautiful skyline defining tower, that is fanaticism.
    Just one more thing to add. People like skyscrapers now, the old concrete tower blocks that we all hated are now demolished, and since the gherkin took its place as a London icon, the British people’s previous dislike of tall buildings has now been replaced with nationwide appreciation of tall buildings, the shard and 122 leadenhall are among the best in the world, with lots more under construction as I speak, things will only get better and this great city will continue innovate and inprove

  46. Nicholas hughes says...

    Forgive my typos, grammar, I’m texting it from my phone

  47. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks again, Nick, for providing further information about your perspective on tall buildings, and your valid points about planning permission. Personally, I have issues with the scale of the skyscrapers raised by or on behalf of the financial sector wherever they occur, in part because I have an issue with the amount of money the financial sector is making. Elsewhere, I am generally unimpressed by tall buildings raised for domestic purposes, because I think they involve profiteering, and because they will fail to provide young professionals with adequate housing when they end up having kids. When you say “people like tall buildings now,” I think part of that is a concerted effort by the media and developers to persuade people that tower blocks are cool. I fear that many will not end up being regarded well even ten years from now …

  48. J Tyne says...

    London is being destroyed by high rise. It seems most of them are for the rich or investors which will not help the housing crisis. Absent landlords create serious problems which has happened locally to me in north Surrey. When there are major works to be carried out to the communal areas of the building internal or external the landlords suddenly cannot be contacted and/or refuse to pay any communal charges which can run into thousands of pounds. The properties then fall into a state of disrepair. Not only are they ugly they are then shabby and unpleasant to live in. Why ruin one of the most beautiful historic cities in the world..?

  49. Andy Worthington says...

    Good to hear from you, J Tyne, albeit under such difficult circumstances, as our city is stolen from us by people with bottomless greed. You are correct to highlight the evasion of developers once they’ve made their financial killing, and yes, I fully expect most of what’s being built not to last. Often, after just a few years, these modern blocks start to look very tatty …

Leave a Reply

Back to the top

Back to home page

Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
Email Andy Worthington

CD: Love and War

The Four Fathers on Bandcamp

The Guantánamo Files book cover

The Guantánamo Files

The Battle of the Beanfield book cover

The Battle of the Beanfield

Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion book cover

Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion

Outside The Law DVD cover

Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo


Posts & Comments

World Wide Web Consortium



Powered by WordPress

Designed by Josh King-Farlow

Please support Andy Worthington, independent journalist:


In Touch

Follow me on Facebook

Become a fan on Facebook

Subscribe to me on YouTubeSubscribe to me on YouTube

The State of London

The State of London. 16 photos of London

Andy's Flickr photos



Tag Cloud

Abu Zubaydah Al-Qaeda Andy Worthington British prisoners Center for Constitutional Rights CIA torture prisons Close Guantanamo Donald Trump Four Fathers Guantanamo Housing crisis Hunger strikes London Military Commission NHS NHS privatisation Periodic Review Boards Photos President Obama Reprieve Shaker Aamer The Four Fathers Torture UK austerity UK protest US courts Video We Stand With Shaker WikiLeaks Yemenis in Guantanamo