After nearly four hours discussing highly technical “models” of the likely impact of a large scrapyard in West Norwood, Lambeth council’s planning committee tonight (13 July) simply ran out of time before it could make a decision on it.
As councillors began to outline their verdicts – seemingly against the recommendation of their officers to approve plans for the yard – legal officer Susan Boucher told committee chair Joanne Simpson that the meeting could not continue.
Minutes earlier, Robert O’Sullivan, the council’s head of development management, had told the seven councillors who made up the committee that their serious concerns about traffic generated by the yard would be “hard to defend” as a reason to refuse the application.
He said “five different sets of technical experts” backed up by “robust” modelling thought that fears about road safety and congestion voiced by campaigners and councillors were unfounded.
Shortly before proceedings ground to a halt, Cllr Malcom Clark had challenged this approach, saying that the real world could be very different from technical models – as the committee had discovered when visiting the site for themselves.
Earlier, it was pointed out that Windsor Grove, the narrow cul de sac leading to the proposed site, was already so noisy during the Saturday morning site visit that a council planning officer had had to stop speaking.
Officers at the planning committee repeatedly told the councillors that the effect of the yard would be “negligible”.
This view had been strongly challenged by local grass roots campaigners, and by local MP Helen Hayes as well as local councillors including Matthew Bennet – deputy leader of Lambeth council for planning.
Royal Mail also made a strong attack on the plans. It warned the committee that its delivery depot next to the proposed site could be prevented from meeting its legal requirements to make deliveries on time.
Rob Andrew, speaking for five local community groups, said council officers’ claims of benefits for Lambeth from the sites were “delusions”.
Before the meeting began, local residents had demonstrated outside the town hall, confirming what local councillors told the committee: that this was the most unpopular planning application they had ever come across.
Among the protesters was Humphrey Ocean, a member of the Royal Academy, whose studio in West Norwood is next to the proposed site for the scrapyard.
He contributed a giant – and artistic – placard to the protest, held aloft with help from friends at the doors of the town hall.