Local election candidates put to test at community hustings in Peckham

Katherine Johnston (19 April, 2018) Regeneration

Audience grilled candidates on planning and regeneration policies

21469Community hustings on planning and regeneration

Estate demolition and the Old Kent Road area action plan were the hot topics at Saturday’s community hustings on planning and regeneration, held at Christ Church, Peckham.

Candidates from the major parties held a question time-style debate, chaired by David Fell, and organised by the Southwark Planning Network.

Conservative candidate Toby Eckersley and Liberal Democrat Damien O’Brien are vying for election in in London Bridge and West Bermondsey ward.

Representing Labour was the incumbent Rebecca Lury, candidate for North Walworth, with Eleanor Margolies, Green candidate for St Giles, representing the Greens.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was to hear that Tory and Green candidates have given cross-party support to back the campaign for residents to have a ballot on the future of their estates.

Toby Eckersley drew a round of applause when he said: “I entirely agree with Eleanor Margolies about the Aylesbury Estate ballot issue”, after she claimed refurbishment for the estate “makes so much more sense” in financial and environmental terms.

The council’s new Southwark plan – and Old Kent Road action plan – were also heavily debated.

The panel was asked if they would commit to returning the regeneration plans to the “option stage”, and specifically challenged on why industrial space would be lost if the proposals go ahead – despite being against the London Mayor’s policy.

Mr Eckersley said he believed the 20,000 new homes planned for the Old Kent Road’s regeneration was “excessive”, but warned that although the council might be able to revoke the plan, legally it might be unable to be reversed.

Ms Margolies committed to putting a break on the plan, saying: “We would not like to see any net loss of industrial space.

“It is in the mayor’s plan and it ought to be part of Southwark’s plan.”

Mr O’Brien took aim at the consultation, commenting: “There is absolutely something that has gone horribly wrong in the consultation.

“It seems that the plans are going to be steam rolled through”, arguing that “development and regeneration does not mean that we have to lose industry”, but fell short of making a commitment to taking the regeneration plans back to the table, later confirming to the News that he was “quite sure it was not going to be possible”.

Labour candidate Ms Lury, whose party has ran Southwark Council since their local election win in 2014, defended the council’s approach to consultation, saying: “What we need to be really clear about it is that we want to work with the community”, but did concede that “We need to be doing more”.

On the issue of housing, Mr O’Brien said the Lib Dems were pushing for rent to be tied to one third of income and a triple tax on empty homes.

And whilst Ms Margolies and Mr Eckersley found common ground on the ballot, Mr Eckersley’s claim that “massive borrowing for subsidised housing destroyed the fiscal integrity of the country” was met with widespread disapproval.

Ms Lury confirmed a commitment to “mixed” developments including homes at social rent and affordable housing – saying Labour had rejected Lendlease’s initial plan for Elephant and Castle, pushing for a better deal, telling the audience: “We have 11,000 people on our waiting list.

“I do not think that anyone who earns £95,000 should qualify for an affordable house.

“The scheme did not go through because the community and councillors came together. Let’s keep pushing.”

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