Co_5799_2012 Russell Gray's Witness Statement

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Co_5799_2012 Russell Gray's Witness Statement

Text of Co_5799_2012 Russell Gray's Witness Statement


CLAIM NO CO/5799/2012


BETWEEN: THE QUEENon the application of

RUSSELL GRAY as representative Claimant on behalf of BERMONDSEY VILLAGE ACTION GROUP (BVAG)Claimant






Format (1) This statement is presented in two sections. First it comprises a broadly chronological narrative of the events from pre-application discussions to the issue of the planning consents we challenge. In the second section I draw on documents obtained under freedom of information laws that were not available to us until more recently (and which are still somewhat lacking) to corroborate and substantiate our perception of events that was initially a product of reasoned analysis rather than documentary evidence. The consideration of disclosed documents is divided into sections dealing with the roles of the different authorities and potentially (by way of supplement) the collective approaches taken to each of the different heritage assets we believe have been improperly authorised for demolition. By this division of the statement into different threads I have aimed to make it easier to illuminate the specific roles of the various parties. This approach necessitates some repetition where certain events fall within different narrative threads. BVAG background (2) I have worked in the area south of London Bridge and Tower Bridge, now designated Bermondsey Village by Southwark Council, for the past 20 years. I have also lived mostly in the same area since 1987. My Company, Shiva Ltd, owns and operates a substantial site in Bermondsey St that comprises a collection of restored Victorian industrial buildings now occupied by companies engaged in the creative industries. The buildings were derelict when we acquired them and in the process of their restoration I have become familiar with traditional building methods and craftsmanship and experienced in preservation of the fabric of historic buildings in refurbishment projects. (3) BVAG was born out of an initial public meeting that I called to raise awareness among local people of how planning policy for the area was being formulated with scant regard to them. It has since focused on trying to influence policy towards preservation of the character of the area immediately around London Bridge Station and to the South of it. 2

London Bridge Station (4) BVAGs first involvement specifically with London Bridge Station heritage came in October 2010, following a meeting we hosted with Malcolm Woods, Area Adviser of English Heritage. Following that meeting one of our members did some historical research and produced information to support an application to English Heritage for listing of the arcade fronting the railway viaduct in St Thomas St and Crucifix Lane. This ornate brick arcade merges into the double-height arched wall of the train shed, where the incoming London Bridge railway lines terminate. Our request for listing followed a suggestion from Mr Woods that we ask English Heritage to remove the ambiguity as to where the already listed train shed met the then unlisted but integral incoming viaduct arches. He had put that suggestion in writing the day after our meeting (exhibit E.1). The ambiguity of the demarcation of the trainshed wall from the arcade is significant because English Heritage later resolve to overlook it. (5) The arches were eventually listed in July 2011 pursuant to the recommendation of English Heritage (exhibit E.2). However, some while before this we received a copy of a report that Network Rail had commissioned CgMs consultants to prepare making a case against listing of the arches (exhibit E.3). This report caused some consternation in our group as it adopted a condescending tone of independence and objectivity. Furthermore, in commissioning it Network Rail had bypassed their own in-house sponsored but semi-independent heritage adviser, Andy Savage, (aka The Railway Heritage Trust) who was highly embarrassed at being short circuited. The author of the CgMs report was Edward Kitchen. Although we did not know it at the time, Mr Kitchen was already in discussions with Southwark planners on behalf of Network Rail about extensive demolition of heritage at London Bridge to include part of the St Thomas St. arcade itself. (6) There was a lengthy delay between our application to English Heritage to list the arches and their recommendation to DCMS to do so. At the time of writing this statement English Heritage are refusing our EIR request for disclosure of internal documents relating to all elements of the London Bridge heritage under threat on the grounds that the request is manifestly unreasonable. Documents that might 3

explain the delay therefore may be forthcoming in due course. What is obvious that whilst English Heritage were considering our application for listing of the arcade they were simultaneously agreeing demolition of part of it, and its continuation, the trainshed wall, with Network Rail. (7) BVAG became the focus of local opposition to the heritage destruction entailed in Network Rails present proposals for redevelopment of London Bridge station. The heritage under threat Grade II listed train Shed (1864-7) and associated arches (1864-6) by Charles Henry Driver (exhibit I.1) (8) Charles Driver is best known for his work on the great London Victorian sewer project under Joseph Bazalgette particularly the pumping stations at Abbey Mills and Crossness. He also worked extensively on the other great infrastructural project of his era, the railways. He was a champion and an early master of the use of cast iron in architecture. (9) The train shed and arches at London Bridge have to be viewed to some extent in terms of their different components. The southern flank wall of the shed in St Thomas St is part of a continuous, elaborately arcaded, brick structure that embraces the arches fronting the viaduct carrying the terminating lines originally built by the London Brighton and South Coast, and latterly Southern, Railway. In the double height section carrying the shed roof the arches at the upper level are all blind and at ground floor level they are open. The single tier arches extend out to the east along St Thomas St and Crucifix Lane and are all open, providing ornate entrances to a labyrinthine series of abutting viaducts that are the result of successive widenings of the original 1836 London & Greenwich line. (10) The shed roof is comprised of a central crescent component of wrought iron trusses supported on 24 distinctive (Driver-style) cast iron columns and spandrels. There are two flat roof flanks carried on riveted lattice beams, extending the roofed area out to the southern and northern flank walls. The question of the legitimacy of 4

the conceptual and practical separation of the various components of the shed and arches and the ironwork of the roof is central to BVAGs challenge to the justification advanced by Network Rail for its extensive proposed demolitions and the planning authorities attempts to bring it within the scope of policy on demolition of heritage assets. The South Eastern Railway Offices (1897-1900) by Charles Barry Junior (exhibit I.2, I.3) (11) The South Eastern Railway Offices (SERO) on Tooley St is believed to be the last building by Charles Barry junior, who is best known for his work in Dulwich, particularly Dulwich College School. (12) The SERO is in a conservation area and recognized as making an important contribution to the area. This designation accords it similar protection to listed buildings but gives developers slightly more leeway in how it may be treated. Once it became known that Network Rail were seeking permission to demolish the building, the Victorian Society made an application to English Heritage to list it. Their listing application was submitted to EH on 13 June 2011. English Heritage recommended to DCMS that the building should not be listed and on 25 July wrote to the Vic Soc. Reporting the DCMSs acceptance of their recommendation. The Victorian Society, with some new information on the building, then sought a review of the EH advice on 19 August 2011. On 15 December DCMS notified us that EH had reaffirmed their position. Curiously, the EH review (exhibit E.4) was signed off by the senior designation adviser concerned, Delcia Keate, on 11 October. Early this year BVAG presented further new evidence on matters not considered by EH in reaching their (non-) listing recommendation and requested a further review. Again, we were notified by DCMS that EH would not revise their recommendation. (13) The obvious quality of the SERO building as compared with other buildings by Barry junior (almost all of which are listed) together with EHs refusal to recommend listing has angered and frustrated heritage organisations and interested individuals. The general perception is that English Heritage did not act impartially in evaluating


the SERO and were under pressure not to frustrate Network Rails plans for demolition of the building. London Bridge proposals (14) I do not remember precisely when the present redevelopment proposals came to my attention, probably because of the long history of abortive plans going back some 15 years and because early notice came only in the form of disparate sketchy local rumours. These included the suggestions that the project was in stop-go limbo because there was an issue over availability of Government funding for the project and that the train shed