Friday, January 28, 2022
spot_img
HomeNewsHousingCamberwell councillor ‘not involved’ with controversial Burgess Park scheme, insists employer

Camberwell councillor ‘not involved’ with controversial Burgess Park scheme, insists employer

A Camberwell councillor has come under fire by campaigners opposed to a controversial development on the edge of Burgess Park.

Tom Flynn, Labour councillor for the Camberwell Green ward, is a director for digital at SEC Newgate, who are acting as “community engagement consultants” for Burlington Developments’ plans to build 32 flats at 13 Southampton Way, on the southern edge of Burgess Park. The company has further Southwark Labour links, as its Executive Chairman is Mark Glover – a former Labour councillor and former chair of Southwark Labour Group.

The development would build on an area that is currently occupied by informal businesses. All the flats would be designated “affordable”. Six would be for social rent and the remaining 26 would be for shared ownership. Nearly a third of the site – some 424 square metres – would be decontaminated and added to the park for public use, at no expense to the taxpayer. Plans also include a new community space and “cycle friendly café”, as well as bike pumps, a bottle fill station and bike repair stand.

Campaigners point out that the site has been designated Metropolitan Open Land – one of the highest levels of protection – and the council has long earmarked the entire area for compulsory purchase, to add it to the park.

The site is a few metres outside the boundaries of Cllr Flynn’s Camberwell Green ward, which ends in the middle of Southampton Way. SEC Newgate said Cllr Flynn had no involvement in the project, in line with company policy. But some residents of the ward have questioned why one of their councillors is a senior staff member at a company that is working on a development that has so strongly divided opinion in the local area.

Cllr Tom Flynn

One of the pieces of work that SEC Newgate has done for the 13 Southampton Way project is a website that encourages and helps people to provide supportive comments on the planning application.

A previous version of the website asked people to provide their names and email addresses and invited them to click any number of preset reasons that they support the development. Once the person clicked to submit these, they were posted on the planning application as a supportive comment.

An email from a Southwark Council planning officer last week to a concerned local resident said that Global Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) could have been broken. The email said that “the breach seems to be from the developer”.

Developers Burlington are adamant there has been no breach.

Boss Philip Patrick said: “’The website which enables people to submit their support is, and has been GDPR compliant, and there has been no breach while it has been in operation. I understand that some changes were made to the website, at the suggestion of planning officers, to make their processing of comments easier. Supporters are now diverted to the webform on the council website rather than them sending an email which then had to be loaded onto the form.”

https://dev.southwarknews.co.uk/news/battle-lines-are-drawn-over-burgess-park-development/

SEC Newgate also said in the small print of this version of the website – accessed by the News through an internet archive – that it believed it complied with GDPR. The company also said the website in question was outsourced.

SEC Newgate’s website for developers Burlington no longer collects email addresses or names. Instead it provides the same list of reasons to support the plans as a block of text that you can copy and paste into the planning site.

Southwark planning officers said they had told the developers that the earlier comments that could have been created with methods that broke GDPR rules would be scrubbed from the planning website. It is unclear if they have been removed yet.

The application website has 587 comments at the time of writing. Some 465 comments are objecting, while 122 are in favour.

Many of the comments in favour seem to be the result of SEC Newgate’s planning website. A typical comment reads: “Dear Southwark Council, I am writing in support of the planning application [REF: 21/AP/0451] for 13 Southampton Way, Camberwell, for the following reasons (please choose any or all of the following reasons below)”, before including the same reasons that are on the website SEC Newgate was tasked with creating.

Some other supportive comments appear more organic.

A spokesperson for SEC Newgate said: “SEC Newgate UK has a very clear policy that any staff members who hold elected positions have absolutely no involvement in clients or projects that relate to the areas they represent.

“For local councillors, this means they would be restricted from working on any projects pertaining to the area of the local authority they represent and we control this internally by restricting access to the files on such projects.

“As a company, we have always been at the forefront of transparency and ethics in the public affairs industry, we are members of the PRCA Public Affairs Board, and publish a full list of our clients and consultants on a quarterly basis….

“The website which enabled supporters to submit their comments directly through to the council has been updated, at the suggestion of planning officers, to make their processing of comments easier. We now divert people to the webform on the council website rather than them sending an email which then had to be loaded onto the form anyway.”

We reported in March on local objections to the proposed development, including the point that the council had previously proposed buying up the entire site.

A report in January 2014 said that “this work will dramatically improve the environment at the north end of Southampton Way and for the regenerated Elmington Estate. This proposed sizable increase in green space will also yield benefits for Camberwell as a whole.”

Friends of Burgess Park and Burgess Park Action Group want the council to buy up the land and add it to the park to protect the area’s biodiversity, which includes a nearby wildlife site. The News understands that the council’s planning advice suggested that a compulsory purchase order would be unsuccessful.

The groups are running a petition protesting the development which has gained nearly 3,700 signatures. Friends of Burgess Park and its supporters have also drawn up alternative plans for landscaping the entire site.

Patrick said in March that he had spent two years in consultation with local people, the council and the Greater London Authority and added that the development, which is technically all “affordable”, would help meet the borough’s “pressing housing need”.

He noted that the council had not bought up the site despite the 2014 recommendations. In response to questions about the impact on the park’s wildlife, Patrick said that the development will include new areas of native scrub and shrubs, while also keeping mature trees, among other plans.

“Concerns have been raised by some objectors about the potential overshadowing of the proposals upon the park, and the impact this may have upon its biodiversity,” he added.

“It should be noted that where the highest levels of shading will occur, close to the building, species have been chosen that thrive in shaded conditions. All areas of native planting will receive sunlight for significant periods of the day and as many of the species are shade tolerant, will continue to establish.”

RELATED ARTICLES

1 COMMENT

  1. So SEC Newgate’s defence is that local councillors in their employ are “restricted from working on any projects pertaining to the area of the local authority they represent” but “The site is a few metres outside the boundaries of Cllr Flynn’s Camberwell Green ward, which ends in the middle of Southampton Way.”

    Hmmmmm.

Comments are closed.

Most Popular

Recent Comments