Nick Raynsford MP has said that councillors were “absolutely wrong” to reject the redevelopment of Greenwich Market and says that he has “no doubt” that the hotel will be built. The comments came in an extensive interview for Greenwich.co.uk which we are publishing in three parts all this week.
The highly controversial market proposals were unanimously rejected by councillors earlier this year, but Raynsford believes that they will now go through on appeal:
“Having read rather carefully the officer report and I speak as a former minister for planning so I did have to take decisions on issues like this, I think the Hospital have got good grounds for an appeal”
“In that situation when a scheme has been strongly supported by the officers and it is rejected by the politicians then very often inspectors tend to agree with the professionals and grant the appeal.
“I think this thing will be built. I have no doubt.”
Asked whether he had spoken to Council leader Chris Roberts since he rejected the proposals, he replied:
“Yes I have and I told him I think he was wrong. He was absolutely wrong on this issue. I don’t always agree with him.”
Raynsford believes that “vested interests” misled the public about the scheme:
“The proposals didn’t get explained as they should have been to the public who were apprehensive, but you also had some people who had a vested interest in trying to present this as a Bluewater type scheme rather than what it was."
Greenwich.co.uk: What do you mean by "vested interests”?
“Well Andrew Gilligan had turned his mind against the thing right from the outset. He was totally hostile to it, and he literally would not listen. His view was this was a totally awful scheme, and the article he wrote for the Evening Standard showed an illustration or Turnpin lane, and the argument was, this is all going to get knocked down. Nonsense. The only thing that was going to be knocked down were those steel girders that hold up the roof at the moment which actually protrude into Turnpin lane and make it a less easy area to negotiate. And the only change would have been rather more elegant supports holding the roof up. And that to my mind is not the product of somebody who has looked at it seriously."
Raynsford still believes that the hotel will bring much needed economic benefits to the town:
“Greenwich has a huge international reputation but it doesn’t get the full benefit of that. It is known to be a beautiful place, but on the whole the tourism revenue we get is the revenue of a day trip destination. People come to London, and they say that one of the things they must do is go to Greenwich. They’ll probably take a boat down the river, they’ll spend five or six hours in Greenwich, go to the Maritime Museum, perhaps go into the park, to the Painted Hall and the chapel and perhaps the Observatory and then they’ll go back. So they come back to central London and they’ve probably spent £10-15 in Greenwich and they’ve spent hundreds of pounds [in the centre]”
Asked whether Greenwich Hospital will appeal the council's decision he replied:
“Of course it is up to them, but I think they are considering whether they are going to make a fresh application or whether to appeal. Frankly I think that if they appeal they have a very good chance of success, because the officer report which is the serious professional appraisal, gave it very strong support… So a good scheme and I think that there is every chance that it will be built in due course.”
In part two of this interview, to be published tomorrow, read what Nick Raynsford has to say about the “bogus claims” of Olympic protestors and the “cult of personality” at Greenwich Time.