‘Momentous win for clean air and common sense’

woman with placard
Protester outside Lambeth Town Hall in Brixton last night

Local MP Helen Hayes (Labour, Dulwich and West Norwood) today (28 July) joined celebrations for the victorious #ScrapTheYard campaign.

In a highly unusual, if not unprecedented, decision, Lambeth council’s planning committee last night voted unanimously to reject its officers’ views on a major application.

Plans for a metal recycling yard at the end of a narrow cul de sac next to homes, schools and a Royal Mail distribution depot were described at the meeting as the most unpopular the council had ever received.

The rejection was all the more unusual as the application was backed not only by the council’s own officers, but also by a barrage of highly technical “evidence” from multiple layers of consultants who, at last night’s meeting, became increasingly dismissive of objections.

One icily pointed out that unpopularity was not a consideration that the planning committee could take into account.

Committee member Mohammed Seedat also pointed out that it was not necessarily averse to making extremely unpopular decisions – citing the fury that greeted its approval of plans for a 20-storey tower in central Brixton.

Commenting on the decision today, Helen Hayes, who strongly opposed the scheme at two planning committee meetings, repeated her view that they would have been “wholly wrong” for the proposed site at Windsor Grove in West Norwood.

“A large metal recycling facility would have brought hundreds of trucks every week into a narrow cul-de-sac, increasing noise and air pollution and making our local roads less safe,” she said.

“I have been contacted by hundreds of my constituents who were concerned about the applications.

“This is the right decision for Windsor Grove.”

protesters on steps of official building
MP Helen Hayes (centre) with protesters last night

Campaigner Rob Andrew from Norwood Action Group (NAG) said: “At a strategic level, Lambeth were happy to dump on West Norwood. The planning committee said ‘No!’”

He said first rumours in January 2019 suggested a well-designed operation, and NAG was comfortable with the concept.

“Later in the year, the scale of the operation and the traffic generation became clear.

“It was clearly excessive for West Norwood.”

NAG researched and responded at each stage of the planning process with the help of the community. 

It was joined by three other local organisations – the Norwood Forum, the Norwood Planning Assembly and the local business improvement district (BID), Station to Station

Andrew said that in May 2021, the community coalesced into #ScrapTheYard “to tremendous effect”. 

#ScrapTheYard said today that the rejection is “a momentous win for Lambeth residents, clean air and common sense”.

The campaign saw more than 2,500 Lambeth citizens submitting written objections to the proposal and 5,500 local people signing a petition opposing it.

Local resident and parent Carmen Sandilands created the campaign’s petition.

She said: “The West Norwood community would like to extend a massive thank you to the planning application committee for listening to the people they represent.

She said the whole community could breathe a huge sigh of relief, safe in the knowledge that children who attend schools surrounding the site, and pedestrians and cyclists can go about their daily business without the threat of huge HGVs.

protesters

“Families can live safely in their homes knowing that they are no longer under threat from the frightening volume of traffic and the air pollution Southwark Metals would have brought to our community.”

She especially thanked Helen Hayes and local councillors Pete Elliot (Green) and Jane Pickard (Labour) for their support from the start of the campaign, as well as to the core team behind the campaign including Rob Andrew and Kim Hart of Norwood Forum.

“Everyone’s efforts have most certainly paid off and this is a fantastic result for all of us living in West Norwood. Power to the People,” she said.

Before the meeting, Southwark Metals, the firm that would have operated the new metal recycling facility, had sent councillors on the committee a long open letter.

It declared that their decision would “determine whether the borough is serious about providing the leadership required to deal with its waste needs.”

It claimed that, in the “rhetoric” about the site, key facts had gone unnoticed – largely that Southwark Metals had been a family run business for 40 years.

What it did not mention – and what council officers and consultants advocating for the project also remained silent about – is that the planning application was not from Southwark Metals.

It was from Urban and Provincial, a property developer that shares a director with Southwark Metals.

yard
A yard used as a playground by local residents is separated from the site only by a chain-link fence

And the fact that the Windsor Grove application, when submitted, was linked directly to another Urban and Provincial application for a development in Herne Hill, was mentioned only by opponents of the Windsor Grove plans.

The Herne Hill development on the site of an existing – and unpopular – waste yard on Shakespeare Road would see more than 200 flats built there.

For it to go ahead, the council needs to replace the waste processing capacity that would be lost there.

Urban and Provincial has six months to appeal to the Planning Inspectorate to overturn the rejection – something that consultants for Urban and Provincial warned at yesterday’s committee meeting would happen.

They also warned that the cost of the appeal – likely to involve substantial fees for lawyers and consultants – could all be laid at the door of Lambeth council.

You can view Lambeth council’s recording of the whole of yesterday’s two-hour meeting.

#ScrapTheYard campaign material on the Norwood Forum website

Brixton Blog reports on the campaign around the planning application

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