Conservative candidate for Mayor of Lewisham, Ross Archer, has criticised the Council over the restrictions imposed on Lord Dyson in his inquiry into the botched Millwall Compulsory Purchase Order.
The Inquiry found that no-one involved had broken the code of conduct, however Ross claims that the most serious allegations against Lewisham Council remain unanswered.
Labour-controlled Lewisham Council set the terms of reference for the inquiry and stated that evidence must be heard in private, furthermore the inquiry was unable to call for more evidence. Moves which Ross has previously criticised as Labour "marking their own homework".
Due to these council imposed restrictions the most serious allegations relating to political links between development company Renewal and Lewisham Council remain unanswered.
Dave Sullivan, the founder of Renewal was the Labour Leader of Lewisham Council in the 1990's and was interim Mayor until Sir Steve Bullock was elected in 2002. Further to this Renewal employs Mushtaq Malik as a Director, who is a former Lewisham council contractor. Given these connections and Renewal’s lack of experience of delivering such large scale housing projects questions were asked. These questions remain unanswered.
Reacting to the publication of the report Ross said "While I welcome the clarification that no-one broke the code of conduct, that wasn't the burning question. The serious allegations against the council were over the connections between Renewal and the Labour Leadership of Lewisham Council. This inquiry has been a waste of time and money because Lewisham Council appear too afraid to let Lord Dyson answer the real questions. The council imposed restrictions have made this inquiry a pointless".
Ross continued "The most serious question is, why was a novice developer like Renewal pushed so hard for by the Labour-run council. Residents need to be reassured that this was not because of political connections between management of Renewal and the local Labour leadership. This is a very serious allegation and one that needs answering urgently. Until this is answered I am calling on the Government to appoint commissioners to run the Housing and regeneration departments at the Council. Public land is entrusted to the council. They appear to have abused the trust".
Ross has also demanded more transparency on future development proposals in the borough, saying “The fact these issues and concerns around the Millwall CPO and proposed New Bermondsey Development were raised and came to prominence is in part due to the fact the Council decided to take on a much loved local football club. Yet this whole affair raises questions about what other ongoing developments at Lewisham have similar issues. Local residents need to be reassured there is a transparent planning process that welcomes and listens to their views and concerns is in place.”
Ross is calling for the Council to make these immediate actions:
• Release all evidence and inquiry sessions minutes and transcripts from the Dyson Inquiry.
• Reveal all correspondence with Renewal and the Council’s officer and political leadership.
• Reveal all recent developments in Lewisham or ongoing ones that have an offshore-registered developer involved?
• Allow DCLG officials in to review the Council’s planning practices and review this scheme.
• Scrap the Millwall CPO and ensure the Club, fans and local community are at the heart of any future scheme.