Didn’t your mother ever tell you not to eat where you shit?

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As a health professional that specializes in water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH), I know full well that no one can get away with their health intact if they eat where they shit. Apparently Greenwich Council planning officers missed that memo.

Yesterday was a beautiful sunny day in London. As such, I inevitably went to my local pub for a relaxing drink on the patio. While there, some people were setting up for a party. Seeing their pictures and posters, I quickly realized it was a leaving party for Andrew Parker. Andrew was the Greenwich Council planning officer in charge of the controversial planning application recently approved in my community.

As you will have gathered from my past blogs on this (see “Sticking it to the man” and “Nevertheless She Persisted”), the community has perceived the planning officers on this case to have been shockingly biased in their position of support for the application. Needless to say, many members of the community are not too impressed with Andrew Parker. This begs the question of why the heck he and his colleagues would elect to host his leaving party at the community crowd funded pub located in the very center of this controversial planning application. Let me tell you, the audacity of him having his leaving party at the Tap Room, grated my nerves.

While some of Andrew’s colleagues were setting up for his party, my friend and I got to chatting with them. I mentioned the pub we were currently at was in the center of a planning application Andrew recently worked on, so I knew who he was. During our discussion the young lad mentioned that Berkeley Homes, the developer behind the planning application, would soon be joining the party to see Andrew off. I almost laughed out loud! Oh really? Andrew has that good of a relationship with Berkeley Homes? Maybe the level of bias he demonstrated throughout the planning application process could be explained after all?

At this, I decided to stick around for the night to see what happened and to make my presence known. All parties would surely squirm and feel slightly uncomfortable by me being there – I had after all, played a prominent role in mobilizing an impressive community response to the application, was very vocal at planning board meetings, and was on London-live News / quoted in various news articles speaking out on the issue.

Andrew was one of the first people to arrive to the party. He noticed me sitting outside and quickly ducked into the bar until more of his people arrived. Sure enough, not too much later John Anderson, the Regional Chairman for Berkeley Homes rocked up. Then something I wasn’t expecting happened…Colin Wilson, the planning officer with the Greater London Authority (GLA) in charge of reviewing the council’s decision to approve the application, walked in.

A few weeks ago myself and other members of the community had a meeting with Colin and one of his colleagues at the Mayor of London’s office. At first, we were only meeting with his colleague, but about ten minutes into our discussion Colin showed up. At the time, I was pleased that such a senior member of staff was taking an interest in hearing the community perspective. However, looking back, I now think his interest in being there was to control the discussion and be able to report back to other stakeholders interested in keeping our opposition under wraps. Upon further reflection of something Colin had shared with us during the meeting, this 3-way conflict of interest now slapping me in the face makes total sense. About ten years ago, paraphrasing what Colin shared, “East and West Carriage House were his claim to fame”. He contributed to their design and approval. So…the person charged with reviewing the council’s decision to approve Berkeley Home’s application has a long standing relationship with both the local council and developer in question…how disturbingly interesting.

As I am sure you could have guessed by now, I was pretty upset last night. Keeping my cool however, I solicited help from other members of the community, and together we documented the night by compiling photographic evidence of all parties schmoozing. Sadly, the controversy doesn’t end here. While in the middle of writing this blog, we got tipped off that Colin and his team recently approved the council’s decision to allow the planning application to go forward. Alongside this distressing news we were sent the report authored by Colin and his GLA team.

Now this flags up soooo many more alarm bells. Does that mean that in addition to seeing Andrew Parker off, all parties were celebrating the approval of this planning application? Why was the community not directly informed of this development, and why is the report dated March 20th when it’s the 16th today? Also note that when we met with Colin and his colleague on February 13th, we were specifically told it would take them months (not weeks) to review all information and come to an informed position on the case. This clearly demonstrates the lack of respect given to our legitimate concerns as a community and begs the question of whether or not the GLA conducted a thorough review of the case at all. Upon reading the report, it would appear not (you can read the report and make up your own mind here). Throughout the report, they fail to justify why they take the positions they do, and simply state “GLA officers share the view of Borough officers”. Well, given last night, and seeing that you are all buddy buddy with one another, it’s really not surprising that you hold the same “views”. However, if you cannot provide justification for why you take the position of the Borough officers, one might be led to believe that something other than rationale, facts, and expertise is guiding your decision making.

I’m no Sherlock, but something sure smells fishy. To bad you guys decided to eat where you shit…now I have all the fuel I need to call in the dogs.

~Robyn Waite (March. 16, 2017)