Mortlake and the surrounding communities can look forward to a better future now that the damaging and insensitive plan for the redevelopment of the Stag Brewery has been rejected by the Mayor.
Richmond Park CLP was represented at the planning hearing at City Hall, alongside the eight other objectors, a group of experts gathered together by the brilliantly organised Mortlake Brewery Community Group. The MBCG has been campaigning for a community friendly development for several years, and Labour has been supporting their work throughout the successive proposals for the regeneration of the huge site. It’s an absolute prize, which with sensitive handling would bring so much to this riverside area, a unique part of suburban London, with a history behind it.
The site, where at one time Watneys beers were brewed, stretches along the Thames at Mortlake towards Chiswick Bridge, was reputedly sold for £158 million and has been the subject of three planning applications from a developer based on Singapore. All were for a mixed development which would bring many desirable new features to the Mortlake riverside, as well as badly needed housing. Locally, Labour has been concerned from the start that there should be plenty of provision for low cost rental as well as affordable shared ownership homes, but our LibDem Council did not appear to share those concerns when they gave approval to a scheme in 2020. where lower cost housing, astonishingly, only formed 12-17% of the total new dwellings. Mayor Sadiq Khan called in that plan and asked the developer to work with GLA planning officers. But the scheme which followed was too dense, with much taller buildings. This would change the character of the area forever, and many residents objected.
Speaking at the hearing, CLP Vice Chair, Deborah Genders, reminded Sadiq that the plans for affordable and low cost housing were still below the minimum requirements (35%) laid out in his London Plan, and that the very high density of the scheme meant that it was also low on green space, and would affect levels of traffic, light and air quality.
Richmond Council’s approval of a smaller scheme in 2020, led Sadiq to rebuke Richmond planning officers at the hearing, though now the Council is adamant that affordable housing has always been a top priority. The Council welcomes the Mayor’s decision, but the response from our MP, Sarah Olney in her extremely regular newsletter was somewhat lukewarm. It seemed clear that she hadn’t done much homework on the issues at stake. One aspect of the plan, a proposal for a new secondary school on the site was also scrapped by the Mayor. Like the Council, the MP still talks about the plans for a much-needed secondary school, when rolls are actually falling in two nearby secondary schools. That proposal never appeared to be much more than a Council vanity project, originally dreamed up by the Tories.
The scrapping of the school will help relieve potential future traffic growth, but there are many people who share Ms Olney’s disappointment that Sadiq did not have strong concerns over the likelihood of increased traffic, which many people fear. But overall, the locals knew that the scheme was wrong for the community’s needs.
Said the CLP Vice Chair, Deborah Genders: “Sadiq made the right decision because he made the popular decision. He decided that the harms of the redevelopment scheme outweighed the public benefits because he listened to the people of Mortlake, to the campaigners and to his colleagues in the local Labour Party. The campaign to get the right scheme for Mortlake is not over yet.”