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Ramblings, thoughts, facts and opinions about political things - starting point council tenant participation with my land-lord Camden council and council tenant reps plus other housing issues, and whatever.


Saturday, 23 March 2013

Council Meeting - the Sabotage of Gospel Oak Community Partnership

Webcast of the Development Control committee meeting held on Thursday 21 March 2013 HERE

Agenda Item 7(4) Housing and Adult Social Care: Planning application for the site 121-211 Bacton Low Rise estate, 113a, 115 and 117 Wellesley Road and 2-16 Vicars Road Gospel Oak NW5. HERE

113a Wellesey Road is the council owned community hall run by Bacton Low Rise TRA and Wendling TRA. 
115-117 Wellesy Road is the councils Gospel Oak District Housing Office site. 
2-16 Vicars Rd are council owned workshops.

Approximately £68m is cited as the development cost. 

To the east of the site is the junction of Grafton Road and Vicar’s Road, with Grafton Road at this point extending over the rail line. 

To the south are further residential properties along both sides of Vicar’s Road (a combination of Victorian properties, blocks of residential flats and the vicarage building on the junction of Vicar’ s Road and Wellesley Road), the Grade II former St Martin’s Church Hall (now a French School) and the Grade I listed St Martin’s Church. 

To the west of the site is the 22 storey Bacton High Rise Tower
residential block of flats (No’s 1-120 Bacton).  
 
Dorian Cortesi chair of Barrington Crt TRA gave a deputation to the committee on behalf of the 9 local organisations neighbouring the development site. 

He isn’t against the application, the deputation is specifically about section 106. He is referring to section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 HERE  
 
Section 106 Obligations and the Community Infrastructure Levy HERE 
The Neighbourhood Planning (General) Regulations 2012 HERE

Place Plans HERE

The CIL is money that " developers of larger sites pay to the council to reduce the impact of the development. Developers sign a S106 agreement as part of their planning permission. This is a legal document that specifies what the money is spent on and where. For example, S106 money is used to make improvements to highways, parks, public transport, schools." 
 

The gist of the deputation as I understand it is that during the consultation period when the council were engaging well with the wider community on the proposed redevelopment the section 106 money was not mentioned. 

Meanwhile the council has been working with one group (the Real Deal Community Partnership (RDCP)) on how to spend a significant amount of the money – all other local groups where excluded. They didn't know until recently that the RDCP  had been selected by the council to play an active role in the allocation of places spaces provisions. The existing council forum (I'm guessing he means the gospel oak community partnership the council agreed to in March 2012 HERE ) was in place and overlooked in favour of the rdcp.  

Cllr Valerie Leach cabinet member for Regeneration and Growth and ward cllr for Highgate has been involved in project meetings about the development. She says “we asked the real deal community partnership to take a lead because they are the one’s being most affected by the redevelopment” 

The rdcp 'real dealers' seem to be: (I say seem to be because the rdcp website HERE doesn't identify who the directors of the rdcp are so I am working with a deputation the below group gave to cllr Sarah Hayward  on 30 March 2012 HERE to try and persuade her,  that they are the group that should be recognised as the gospel oak community partnership, hence the name)

Bacton Low Rise TRA – Dave and Simone Lewis and Sarah Robbins (the housing estate that is being demolished)

Kiln Place TRA –Rita Thorpe and Jackie Kanaris 

Maitland Park TRA – Lynne Bateman

Wendling TRA 

Chair of Gospel Oak DMC, - Terry Wigget 

CASP  

Bobby Armstrong  - Grafton



Onto the meeting where after the presentation had been given, members of the development committee asked questions

Cllr Paul Braithwaite says “my main area of concern … There is no doubt here that (makes ref to a deputation) the community does not feel that this process is being transparent….. I got the impression from Cllr Leach that fortunately this is redeemable". 



Cllr Braithwaite goes onto to say " I think it is a concern of this committee of the engagement of community (I think he means the "other" wider community) in the allocation of the section 106 money and indeed engagement with the cllrs..." he goes on to make reference to Maiden Lane Estate - the council had many problems (from the councils side of things) in getting tenants to agree to the councils plans for the estate and it took many years to get to the planning application stage.  

... this real deal community partnership, and it is apparent that quite a few of the resident bodies felt that that it came out of left field, the real deal community partnership has been in a steady dialogue and are quite heavily engaged in making recommendations, so I would really like Stuart Dilley to come back to us on on going transparency and engagement on the 106 money and why it is that real deal community partnership have been elevated and given special treatment to date.” 

Council legal officer states “ there is no legal requirement to consult on the section 106 …. As a matter of law the council can’t delegate expenditure, section 106 money to other parties”(my emphasis) 

Stuart Dilley (senior housing officer) says “the council has asked the real deal community partnership to look at opportunities for committing the 106"  


Cllr Braithwaite “can I come back again on the real deal community partnership and can it be explained to us why they have enjoyed, lets say, this exclusive relationship …”
 
Stuart Dilley “ the real deal community partnership was set up by the community"  … 

NB the development committee chair said “ members have the capacity to direct officers on how to spend the section 106 money…." 

What is clear, is that there are two different "communities" at loggerheads here: the rdcp ( a handful of council tenants who are chums of old and any 'chancers' who may come along - it seems) who the council for whatever reason other than the official "we asked the real deal community partnership to take a lead because they are the one’s being most affected by the redevelopment" favours and the wider community ie other affected council tenants, private tenants, businesses, community groups etc. 

It wasn't the council who approached the RDCP, it was the rdcp who approached the council and that is plain to see. Regardless of what any council person says the council does have an "agreement" with the rdcp - whether its in writing or verbal (a wink and a nod) I don't know.   

There is a danger I think, that the rdcp "agreement" with the council will turn out to be like the one the council has with the other council tenant group of 5 - the district management committee's (dmc's) who have an "agreement" with the council to allocate money to themselves - but the council "holds" the money and allows tenant reps direct access to it either by way of a council procurement card or a cheque sent to the tra to be deposited in the tra bank account. No annual accounts produced at their agms, no receipts.

Has the ultimate aim been to get their hands on the section 106 money? which as far as I am aware won't be released until the development is well underway - a few years at least, but who knows with Camden council what may happen.

Update
The councils lib dem members  don't seem happy about the shenanigans going on in Gospel Oak ward regarding the rdcp and the section 106 money and have, according to official documents for the upcoming full council meeting to be held on Monday 15 April 2013 HERE, put the following question to the Cabinet member for Regeneration and Growth cllr Valerie Leach:

" There is growing concern over the democratic deficit over the use of Section 106 funds. Residents, community groups and councillors often have no idea where - or even if - the money was spent.  

How much money has the Council administered under Section 106 agreements over the last three years?

How many of these distributions been raised with the Cabinet Member? How many have been raised with ward councillors?

At what level are officer decisions actually being made? 

Does she acknowledge that in light of the great frustrations around the huge Gospel Oak regeneration schemes – amongst many others – much greater clarity should be given and much greater input from local people should be routinely sought?"

And a motion

This Council notes that the decision making process for the spending of Section 106 funds allocated for public benefit in a particular ward is still shrouded in mystery for coun cillors and constituents alike.

This Council agrees that once Section 106 funds are deposited with the Council, the decision to spend them is best taken by the appropriate ward councillors while respecting the s106 allocation agreed by Development Control Committee. Ward councillors will be required to consult their constituents about their proposed decision through consulting their Area Action Group." 

Wonders whose idea it was to set the 'real dealers' up as a private company, and just how did they manage to persuade the responsible people in the council that it was a good idea to work with them - initially on job/fair days and entering into what could be termed as a shady "shadow" section 106 allocation "agreement" with the RDCP - at the exclusion of all others?


Surely by setting themselves up as a private company (with no liability to speak of), the 'real dealers' where expecting (had been promised?) significant sums of public money to come their way?  

Popcorn anyone?  

PS some council tenant reps (the shadow cllrs) have been known to turn up at the town hall and other venues where council business is being conducted - in order to tell council members what they should or shouldn't be doing.

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