Opening Statement

Background to the Inquiry

The New Bermondsey/Surrey Canal Independent Inquiry (“the Inquiry”) was established by the London Borough of Lewisham (“the Council”) to examine the circumstances surrounding the regeneration of land at New Bermondsey/Surrey Canal The purpose of the Inquiry is set out in a report presented to the Council dated 22 February 2017 ‘New Bermondsey – Establishment of an independent inquiry’. Section 5 of that report sets out the proposed scope of the Inquiry but makes clear that the final scope of the Inquiry will be determined by the person appointed to conduct it.

Chairman to the Inquiry

The Rt. Hon. Lord Dyson Lord Dyson was appointed as Chair of the Inquiry in March 2017 by the Chair of the Bar Council. Lord Dyson was called to the Bar by Middle Temple in 1968. His appointments during his judicial career from 1993 to 2016 included being Master of the Rolls (President of the Court of Appeal of England and Wales and Head of Civil Justice) and a Justice of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. Lord Dyson is currently Treasurer of the Middle Temple.

Assistant to the Inquiry

Lord Dyson has appointed Catherine Dobson, a barrister at 39 Essex Chambers, to assist him with the Inquiry.

Scope of Inquiry

The Inquiry will examine the circumstances surrounding the regeneration of land at New Bermondsey/Surrey Canal with a view to determining whether the Council, its Members and officers have acted properly and with due diligence when taking decisions in relation to the regeneration of this land. The Inquiry’s investigation will include, but not necessarily be limited to, consideration of the following decisions and actions of the Council during this period:

(1) The resolution of the Mayor and Cabinet dated 7 March 2012 that, in principle, the Council use its compulsory purchase powers to acquire or appropriate land falling within the New Bermondsey site for the purpose of enabling development of the land by Renewal Group Limited (“Renewal”).

(2) The grant of outline planning permission on 30 March 2012 (ref: DC/11/76357) for the comprehensive phased mixed-use development of the New Bermondsey/Surrey Canal site.

(3) The Council’s decision to enter into the conditional land sale agreement with Renewal dated 20 December 2013 for the disposal of the Council’s freehold interest in land leased to Millwall Football Club and Millwall Community Trust.

(4) The decision of the Cabinet (in the absence of the Mayor) dated 25 June 2014 to pledge £500,000 to Surrey Canal Sports Foundation Limited.

(5) The Council’s support for Renewal’s Housing Zone bid in relation to New Bermondsey/Surrey Canal land.

(6) The resolution of the Cabinet (in the absence of the Mayor) dated 7 September 2016 to make a compulsory purchase order to acquire or appropriate land falling within the New Bermondsey site.

(7) The adequacy of the Council’s inquiry into issues surrounding the production of a marketing brochure in relation to land falling within the New Bermondsey site

(8) The adequacy of the Council’s appraisal of the financial viability of Renewal’s proposed scheme for regeneration of land at New Bermondsey/Surrey Canal and the ability of Renewal to deliver the scheme. The focus of the Inquiry will be to establish:  (i) whether Members and officers acted with propriety, due diligence and in compliance with the applicable codes of conduct in relation to these actions and decisions; and, (ii) whether there is any evidence that decision-makers within the Council were misled by misrepresentations, misinformation or the withholding of information in relation to any of these actions and decisions.

The Inquiry process

The process will be inquisitorial in nature. It will take place in three phases. Phase 1: Preliminary investigations The Chairman of the Inquiry will carry out a preliminary investigation in order to determine the scope of the Inquiry. This phase will have been completed by the publication of this statement defining the scope of the Inquiry. Phase 2: Evidence gathering The Chairman has identified the following individuals and organisations as key participants on the basis that all have had a significant role in relation to the matters to which the Inquiry relates: (i) Lewisham Council; (ii) Renewal Group Limited; (iii) Millwall Football Club; (iv) Millwall Community Trust; and (v) Surrey Canal Sports Foundation Limited. The Chairman will call for representations and witness statements from the key participants. The Chairman may request that some or all of the witnesses attend oral hearings to answer further questions. In view of the sensitive and confidential nature of some of the matters raised by this Inquiry, all such hearings will be held in private and attended only by the Chairman, the assistant to the Inquiry, the witness who is giving evidence and his or her legal representative(s). It is envisaged that such hearings will take place in the period between 26 June and 28 July 2017. Individuals and organisations other than the key participants identified by the Chairman who wish to make representations may do so in accordance with the guidance and procedure set out below. Phase 3: Report The outcome of this Inquiry will be reported to Lewisham’s full Council and the report will be made public.

Procedure and guidance for making submissions to the Inquiry

The Chairman will write to the key participants to request representations and witness statements on the issues falling within the scope of the Inquiry.  Further individuals and organisations who wish to make representations or submit material in relation to this Inquiry must do so before 16 June 2017.  Material may be submitted to the Inquiry team by email to contact@newbermondseysurreycanalindependentinquiry.com. These further individuals and organisations are urged to confine representations and material to that which is strictly relevant to the scope of the Inquiry as defined above. Representations should be accompanied by a brief statement explaining why the individual or organisation considers that they have an interest in the outcome of the Inquiry and should be entitled to make representations. The Inquiry will not consider representations from individuals and organisations who the Chairman considers do not have a real interest in the outcome of the Inquiry.

Media and general enquiries

No documents or further information will be published until the end of the Inquiry and publication of the report.   All available information on the Inquiry is provided on this website.   The Inquiry will therefore not respond to enquiries for further information and updates on the Inquiry.