Council assembly meeting

The theme of last nights Council Assembly was 'Culture and Wellbeing', the meeting was attended by all ward Councillors from across the borough and sparked some interesting responses during Councillors questions. Mark Williams (Councillor for Regeneration) was keen the emphasise that the council have taken our demands on board and many of our concerns have been addressed in the revised Draft Old Kent Road Area Action Plan which is due for public release in early December. He has also publicly encouraged another meeting between Vital OKR and his office, we will continue to pursue this. 

Mark's 5 minute speech is outlined below:


"Mark Brearley from Old Kent Road business Kaymet. Here with me tonight John Hinds, Sandra Persaud, Lewis Chaplin, 4 of us from amongst 300 members of the Vital OKR association that’s giving voice to the economy of our locality. An economy that provides livelihoods to around 10,000 people, a high proportion local. 

Please be aware that the Council’s emerging plans are a threat to the jobs and wellbeing of many people in the Old Kent Road area, a challenge to its entrepreneurial culture. You are invited to reach out to us and learn more. We hope you will strengthen demands for further evolution of the plans away from its savage starting point.

Our area’s industrial economy, employing some four and a half thousand people, is most threatened. The base assumption was that most could be swept aside. There have been signs of a change of approach of late. We strongly encourage more of that.

Courier and delivery depots, hirers, repairers, ice cream vans. 57 construction related businesses. 24 builders merchants. Culture related logistics and production. 16 volume printers. Art and artisan production. Hat makers, painters, sculptors, printmakers, carvers, leatherworkers, jewellers, cabinet makers, upholsterers. A dairy, butchers, fishmongers, commercial caterers and bakeries, breweries. 80 manufacturing businesses, including tin can makers, bespoke fabricators, joiners and metal workers, polishers, platers and coaters, tray makers (that’s my business).

Most want to stay and intend to grow. Similar businesses would come to the area if there was room.

This is not a residual or shrinking economy, the reverse. It should not be brushed aside and forced to constrict. But it is threatened by your plans.

Throughout the process towards the Old Kent Road AAP there has been inadequate dialogue, scarce information. 2 years since the most recent open meeting for businesses. The only options explored at the options stage were ones that would decimate the economy. 

Detailed plans are being formed for parts of our area. In the OKR 14 area, including Berkeley’s Malt Street site, dozens of meetings between developers, consultants and Southwark. We hear of meetings with all designers involved with schemes, a model of all emerging schemes prepared. 3 consultant teams employed by Southwark. Yet businesses and smaller land owners have been told little, shown nothing, not much sign of Southwark Council people talking to us. 

Similar lack of dialogue applies across the Old Kent Road area. 

Please, we want the conversation to commence. Most businesses support change in the area, understand that much must be achieved. But we need new developments to incorporate extensive suitable space for the area’s growing economy. Development that delivers that, as well as housing, is possible. You, the local authority, need to take that task seriously, be bold, innovative and progressive, battle hard for the objective of a fully mixed piece of city, seize the remarkable opportunity. 

We sketched out a set of 20 requests to the Council. 

Just half a dozen to try on you now: 

1. A fuller consultation on the future of the Old Kent Road area, and of the key parts of the area, commencing urgently, with a published timetable for detailed and structured dialogue. 

2. A public commitment from officers and Cabinet Members to a series of area visits and on-site meetings, that include a full range of businesses and others who are potentially affected by plans. 

3. Activate the business network that was promised 8 months ago, as a way to open up more systematic communication.

4. Agree to push hard for creation of extensive new space for job generating industrial and high street enterprises, weaving that in with new developments, including the Council’s own developments.

5. Enable public discussion of options for each of the key chunks of the area, with special emphasis on the viability challenges of achieving business accommodation in mixed developments.

6. Confirm that the Council will commit to the Mayor of London’s new nil nett loss of industrial accommodation policy, and that plans will be reviewed accordingly.

Please give these, and the fuller set of asks we will send to you, your full and careful consideration. 

Have in mind that a vibrant economy is currently under threat. You now have the chance to turn threat into welcome, enable a vibrant future for hundreds of businesses, to not just protect jobs, but allow many new ones to burgeon. 

With a more careful process great things can be achieved. Businesses and others are ready to work with you, but you do need to extend your process and adjust your approach.

Thank you for listening".

Vital Old Kent Road