Last month, London’s occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson used the bully pulpit given him by the Maily Telegraph to rail at all those who are less than tolerant with foreign investment in the capital’s property developments. At the time, it was not clear what point he was making – no surprise there – but thanks to a decision he has just made, we now know.
Bozza said this at the time: “The answer to house-price inflation is to build more homes – as we can, on London’s 33 brownfield opportunity areas. We can build hundreds of thousands of homes for rent, for affordable rent, for market sale and for part-buy-part-rent ... But we won’t get any of these schemes going if we are so demented as to tell foreign investors to bog off”.
It now seems his comments were directed towards Lewisham Council, who have been in discussions with Hutchison Whampoa, a company based in Hong Kong, where Bozza made a well-publicised recent visit, about the redevelopment of Convoys Wharf, on the Thames at Deptford. Hutchison have written directly to the Mayor asking him to intervene in the planning process, which he has now done.
The impression given, by freesheet City AM, and the Standard, is that this is the result of a falling-out between developer and council over Terry Farrell’s masterplan for the site – so that the referral is for the gallant Bozza to bang heads together and drive the project forward – and that this is some kind of inevitable done deal (“when Convoys Wharf has been redeveloped ...”).
But that’s not how the locals see it: as Deptford Is ... pointed out, “the quantum of units at 3,500 apartments, the typology of high rise towers of up to 48 storeys rising out of 12 storey blocks with their enclosed private green spaces resting on the top of four storeys of car parking ... were all features of the previous Aedas masterplan [from the previous year]”. And how was the latter received?
It “was unanimously rejected by the local community, English Heritage, Council for British Archaeology, Naval Dockyard Society and Lewisham Planning and a number of London amenity societies”. So what Hutchison appear to be doing is “the same number of Lego bricks in the same size tin”. Moreover, on top of the lack of respect for the site’s history are minor points like relatively poor transport links.
And what about those homes for “affordable rent”? We don’t get to find that one out. Like the West Kensington and Gibbs Green saga, this gives the impression of Bozza green-lighting a scheme for developers without giving a fig about mere locals and those pesky heritage movements. They appear to be what the Mayor meant by “tell[ing] foreign investors to bog off”.
Money talks loudest, more glass stumps, sod the proles. What a man of the people.