Getting back on track

Posted - Jan 02, 2016

Planning committee to discuss Jericho Wharf

On Tuesday 5 January, from 6.30 pm at the Town Hall, the West Area Planning Committee will discuss the Jericho Wharf development. In recent months the process has stalled. Council officers are proposing how to get it moving again – and in the right direction. At this meeting members will need to hold SIAHAF to its commitments – particularly for the boatyard and the community centre.

In February 2015, the City granted conditional planning permission for the site – setting out a series of conditions most of which were to be addressed in a legal document – a ‘Section 106’ Agreement. The City Solicitor followed up in March with a draft showing what the agreement should include and the form it should take. In May 2015, however, SIAHAF backtracked. It countered with a proposal which not only recast the agreement in completely different terms, but also ignored many commitments it had made in February and on which the City Councillors had based their planning decision.

Meanwhile there were ongoing discussions on the location of the bridge. The Canal and River Trust would not permit a moving bridge next to the square, so this had to be located at the southern end of the development. St Barnabas Parochial Church Council in particular had objected that this would reduce the liveliness of the square. This issue has now been resolved by a generally accepted proposal for two bridges. One will be an ‘at grade’ lifting or swing bridge into the southern part of the development at Great Clarendon Street. The other will be a smaller fixed bridge into the square. At the meeting on Tuesday, the officers are asking the Committee to approve the ‘two-bridge’ solution.

A second bridge would allow room for cyclists, pedestrians (and horses).

At this meeting the City will also need to make it clear that SIAHAF should deliver on its previous commitments. At the February 2015 planning meeting Johnny Sandelson for SIAHAF promised to build the boatyard and deliver it, together with additional land for the community centre, ‘unencumbered’ to the community. The boatyard and community centre would thus be a single unit that could be run by the Jericho Wharf Trust. This was a sensible arrangement.

SIAHAF’s subsequent proposal reneged on that commitment. Instead SIAHAF would itself keep the boatyard – which would not be community run. Moreover, it would even try to retain the freehold ownership of part of the land on which the community centre would be built. This is a strange proposition since, as a result of a restrictive covenant established in 2006, that land will pass automatically to the Jericho Community Association once planning permission has been granted. Indeed, part of ‘their’ boatyard would also be built on land to which the JCA would have legal title. Click here for further information on land issues.

SIAHAF also proposed a lease on terms so impractical and onerous that no responsible community organization could accept. Overall, SIAHAF’s proposal would make it very unlikely that the community facilities could be ever be successfully developed or operated.

SIAHAF has claimed that it has had ‘extensive’ discussions with the JWT. This too is odd. Over a nine-month period, the JWT managed to secure a single, one-hour meeting with a SIAHAF representative and exchanged a few emails. Despite numerous requests from the JWT lawyer for further information and clarification the result has been silence.

At Tuesday’s meeting the Councillors have the opportunity to get the process moving again. They should support the officers’ insistence that SIAHAF follow the standard format for a Section 106 agreement, and demand that SIAHAF fulfil its original commitments for the community facilities. They should also ask for future progress to be based on regular meetings between the City officers, SIAHAF and the Jericho Wharf Trust.

The full papers for the meeting at available from the City Council website by clicking HERE. Warning, these run to 250 pages!