Several years on and as we’ve said before we’re still waiting for the potential conflicts of interest involving planning permission being granted to Taylor Wimpey’s The Denizen development in Golden Lane – on the site that was formerly home to the Bernard Morgan House police accommodation – to be properly addressed by the City of London council. The issue has been reported in The Guardian, Daily Mail and elsewhere; it involved Chris Hayward, ‘Sir’ Michael Bear and James Thomson. Meanwhile the matter has just popped up yet again in the form of the blown City of London police budget. It doesn’t seem unreasonable to conclude that aside from their links to Taylor Wimpey, Hayward and Thomson should have perhaps also declared their role on the police committee as another potential conflict of interest before they voted in favour of giving planning permission to this constructor to build The Denizen on the site of Bernard Morgan House. The price paid for the site would have been untenable had Taylor Wimpey’s contentious planning application not scraped through. We first reported on the matter of Hayward and Thomson and the blown police budget in February 2018 and raised it again in October 2018. Today My London ran a story on the matter and explicitly mentioned the sale of Bernard Morgan House:
Plans for state-of-the-art new police cells in the City of London failed to take account of strict government rules and the estimated costs spiralled out of control.
Million of pounds was also wasted employing contractors to draw up the plans which never came to fruition.
A hugely critical audit found that an appraisal of a suitable site for a new specialist police custody suite and accommodation costing £30m to £45m saw projected costs soar to £139m.
The hunt by the City of London Corporation and the police force it funds for possible new sites in the City started back in 2012.
They looked at using space at Guildhall Yard East, where the police force has a base, Walbrook Wharf and the police HQ at Wood Street.
It was estimated to cost £30m to £45m and would have been partly funded by selling off the former police hostel at Bernard Morgan House, Bishopsgate and Snow Hill.
Other options included investing in the existing custody suites.
Eventually by 2015 estimated costs soared to £139m before a decision was made to build a combined court and custody suite at Fleet Street.
The City of London’s performance and management committee of the Police Authority Board considered the saga at their meeting on Friday (Nov 15).
Lay member Kenneth Ludlam said: “It’s been a major failure in project management so far and the corporation and police and could have wasted money all along the line. It seems to me that we need to keep the pressure on it.”
Acting commander Dave Evans said the issue “is probably occupying most airtime to the force.”
But he said the current custody accommodation was “not fit for purpose”
External consultants were paid £43,000 to look at the options in 2012. Two years later a £2.4m contract was given to create a specialist design team to draw up designs for the options.
However an internal audit for the City of London Police and the Police Authority published this month, said “the City Police failed to provide robust challenge to the options pursued” in the police accommodation programme.
It said a tender document drawn up in 2014 “failed to set of (sic) the City’s detailed requirements in relation to producing detailed designs for the police accommodation programme.”
And the internal audit report highlighted a failure to take into account “the security requirements required for the accommodation.”
It pointed out that the proposed sites “are on main thoroughfares which make them vulnerable to terrorist attacks and impossible to secure the perimeter.”
The report said there was “no evidence that consideration was given to obvious security issues prior to committing resources to this option.”
However it said the City of London Police force had looked at the security issue “and did not consider that they posed a major obstacle”.
But the report said that the proposed site at Walbrook Wharf in Upper Thames Street did not meet Home Office criteria which bans custody suites close to rivers or bridges “due to suicide”.
The internal audit concluded that if more money was spent on “more robust feasibility studies” Walbrook Wharf would have been ruled out sooner.
By 2015 the City Surveyor’s department drew up options for refurbishing Guildhall Yard East and building a new tower and filling in the courtyard at police HQ at Wood Street – a scheme which got the green light from councillors.
It was estimated it was likely to cost £95m but would be partly funded by £65m from disposing of buildings.
However the report said there was a problem at the Grade II listed Wood Street site, which did not have “the requisite bomb blast resistance in the event of a terror attack” which should have ruled it out.
By October 2017 costs had increased to £139m – less £71m expected from selling assets.
Finally a feasibility study was done for the new build at Fleet Street. This £278m project – less £97m for selling off police assets – sees the City and Police join forces with the Courts and Tribunals Service for a purpose built court and custody suites.
Plans to build new London police cells failed to recognise suicide risks and terror threats. The plans have also seen costs escalating from a projected £30m to £278m by Julia Gregory, My London News, 21 November 2019: https://web.archive.org/web/20191121204415/https://www.mylondon.news/news/zone-1-news/plans-build-new-london-police-17294100
And since this raises the issue again, let’s repeat once more, we believe that in the interests of efficiency and transparency, the City of London Police should be merged with the Metropolitan Police. Likewise the undemocratic City of London council should be abolished with the small geographical area it covers and its tiny residential population absorbed by one or more neighbouring boroughs. We would also like James Thomson and Chris Hayward to publicly address City of London residents’ concerns over potential conflicts of interest as regards them and retired councillor and former lord mayor ‘Sir’ Michael Bear. It isn’t enough for City of London councillors to act with probity, as we’ve said before, they also need to be seen to do so!