This exhbition ought to prove contentious. About a month ago, I received an email from RCDT/LMHS, suggesting that Royal Mail might sell their Nine Elms sorting office site. This particular site is home to 1150 workers. Londonist also noted that an East London sorting station is under threat too. Greg Charles, the Branch Secretary for the London South West Postal Branch of the Communication Workers Union commented;
"Closing Mail Centres in London will lead to a poorer service and will hit Business and homes alike at a time when it can ill afford it. We will fight these ridiculous plans of closure to ensure not only jobs are protected for our members but business & people across London are protected with essential services they require."The Wandsworth Guardian quote Mr Charles accusing Royal Mail of attempting to make "a fast buck" through selling the site. Obviously, a sale would make sound commercial sense, but Mr Charles is concerned that service and jobs will be affected by the closure and relocation of the sorting office. Before everybody jumps in with the likely comments that the internet has resulted in a decline of post etc and that sorting office closures are inevitable, do read the complaints of SE1 residents, who are served by alternative sorting stations. (Comments are here, here and here). Also, remember that the VNEB opportunity area will contain the same number of residents as Welwyn Garden City, and imagine how this would stretch the Royal Mail capabilities in the local area.
If the Royal Mail sorting office will be sold as a result of the Nine Elms area being a new Opportunity Zone, one is obligated to keep asking "for whom is this an opportunity?". I do not deny that the area requires regeneration (indeed, I favour a sensible re-development of VNEB), or that Royal Mail might need to make job cuts in the current climate, but talks between Royal Mail and the Unions are still ongoing. Consequently, it seems rather churlish to consult over a new development on the Sorting Office site prior to the end of those talks...
Nonetheless, news of a consultation re. Nine Elms Parkside appeared in my inbox yesterday and they have a lovely shiny new Nine Elms Parkside website, proudly sporting the Royal Mail logo. Without needing to look too carefully, you'll see that the development area shown on the photo in the literature below /is/ the Sorting Office (look at all of the red Royal Mail vehicles at the top left of the photo). Of course, the unions may be prematurely concerned. Perhaps the site will be redeveloped to allow for a Royal Mail facility on the land, alongside new residential property. Who knows?
Consultation will take place on Thursday 11th November 13:00 - 20:00, Friday 12th November 13:00 - 18:00 and Saturday 13th November 13:00 - 18:00 at Batterssea Studios, 80 Silverthorne Road, SW8 3HE.