Lewisham’s independent inquiry into New Bermondsey and Surrey Canal Sports Foundation has released its opening statement.
The council pledged to set up the inquiry after performing a dramatic U-turn on plans to compulsory purchase Millwall FC land as part of Renewal’s controversial New Bermondsey development.
The U-turn followed a number of allegations, including one that alleged SCSF had falsely claimed to have secured £2million of Sport England funding.
The inquiry, headed up by former Supreme Court judge the Right Honourable Lord John Dyson, will take place in three phases.
An opening statement has been published on the ‘New Bermondsey/ Surrey Canal Independent Inquiry’ website detailing the scope of the inquiry as part of the first phase.
“The inquiry will examine the circumstances surrounding the regeneration of land at New Bermondsey/Surrey Canal with a view to determining whether the council, its members and officers have acted properly and with due diligence when taking decisions in relation to the regeneration of this land,” it states.
“The inquiry’s investigation will include, but not necessarily be limited to, consideration of the following decisions and actions of the council during this period:
“(1) The resolution of the mayor and cabinet dated 7 March 2012 that, in principle, the council use its compulsory purchase powers to acquire or appropriate land falling within the New Bermondsey site for the purpose of enabling development of the land by Renewal Group Limited (“Renewal”).
“(2) The grant of outline planning permission on 30 March 2012 (ref: DC/11/76357) for the comprehensive phased mixed-use development of the New Bermondsey/Surrey Canal site.
“(3) The council’s decision to enter into the conditional land sale agreement with Renewal dated 20 December 2013 for the disposal of the council’s freehold interest in land leased to Millwall Football Club and Millwall Community Trust.
“(4) The decision of the cabinet (in the absence of the Mayor) dated 25 June 2014 to pledge £500,000 to Surrey Canal Sports Foundation Limited.
“(5) The council’s support for Renewal’s Housing Zone bid in relation to New Bermondsey/Surrey Canal land.
“(6) The resolution of the cabinet (in the absence of the mayor) dated 7 September 2016 to make a compulsory purchase order to acquire or appropriate land falling within the New Bermondsey site.
“(7) The adequacy of the council’s inquiry into issues surrounding the production of a marketing brochure in relation to land falling within the New Bermondsey site.
“(8) The adequacy of the council’s appraisal of the financial viability of Renewal’s proposed scheme for regeneration of land at New Bermondsey/Surrey Canal and the ability of Renewal to deliver the scheme.
“The focus of the inquiry will be to establish: whether members and officers acted with propriety, due diligence and in compliance with the applicable codes of conduct in relation to these actions and decisions; and whether there is any evidence that decision-makers within the council were misled by misrepresentations, misinformation or the withholding of information in relation to any of these actions and decisions.”
As part of phase two of the inquiry, the chairman will call for representations and witness statements from Lewisham Council, Renewal Group Limited, Millwall Football Club, Millwall Community Trust, and Surrey Canal Sports Foundation Limited.
Some or all of the witnesses may have to attend oral hearings to answer further questions between June 26 and July 28.
These hearings would be held in private with only Lord Dyson, the assistant to the inquiry Catherine Dobson (a barrister at 39 Essex Chambers), the witness giving evidence, and their legal representative attending.
As part of the third and final phase, the outcome of the inquiry will be reported to Lewisham’s full council and the report will be made public.
The inquiry is expected to cost up to £500,000, and to take six months to complete.
Further individuals and organisations who wish to make representations or submit material must do so before June 16.
Material can be submitted to the inquiry team by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information, visit: https://newbermondseysurreycanalindependentinquiry.com/