Greenwich Council’s £30,000 planning deal over gasholder branded ‘astonishing’

Demolition work on the gasholder began last year

Greenwich Council’s decision to accept almost £30,000 from the owner of east Greenwich’s demolished gas holder to develop a planning brief has been criticised as “astonishing” by the leader of the borough’s Conservatives.

The Guardian revealed on Sunday that Greenwich had accepted the money from Scotia Gas Networks for a study into the site of the East Greenwich No 1 gasholder next to the Blackwall Tunnel, which finally disappeared from the skyline in April after 132 years.

A planning brief published in November 2017 states that the area – which will have the entrance to the Silvertown Tunnel run through it – could take between 600 and 1,200 homes in tall buildings as well as retail and commercial uses.

Respondents to a consultation held as part of the brief “viewed the gasholder as a significant visual asset, which is a reminder of the peninsula’s industrial heritage, and should not be lost”.

The last sections of the gasholder came down in April

Nevertheless, within two months of the brief being published, SGN said it needed to demolish the structure “for safety and security”.

Despite its age and position as a local landmark, there were no legal protections in place to protect the East Greenwich gasholder on historic grounds. English Heritage did not list it as it was too similar to another gasometer on the Old Kent Road.

Councillors on Greenwich’s planning board – where they do not have to follow their party’s instructions – fought a last-ditch battle to save the structure, but at a full council meeting the ruling Labour group voted down a motion opposing the demolition of the structure.

Nigel Fletcher, the leader of the council’s Conservative opposition, said: “This is an astonishing disclosure. We already know Greenwich Council dismally failed to prevent the destruction of the iconic gasholder, despite their election promises. Now it seems they were paid thousands of pounds from the company that stood to gain most from the demolition. The whole thing is highly questionable, to say the least. Local people need assurances that our planning policies are not for sale.”

Greenwich Council told The Guardian that “a decade of government cuts” was a reason for needing to accept the funds, but said the landowner had no unfair influence over the planning brief. SGN told the paper that it “had no role in producing the planning brief and the brief does not necessarily reflect the most favourable possible outcome for us”.

The revelation came as part of an investigation into councils’ dealing with developers. The paper also found that Conservative-run Barnet had accepted £223,000 to produce a planning brief for the redevelopment of the Grahame Park estate in Hendon, while Labour Hounslow had taken £20,000 from the Ministry of Defence to come up with a brief for Hounslow barracks.

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