Answers from Lewisham Council

THE BROCKLEY CENTRAL INTERVIEW
JOHN MILLER, HEAD OF PLANNING, LEWISHAM COUNCIL

PART TWO - THE LEWISHAM GATEWAY

This is the second part of the Brockley Central interview with John Miller about the future for our Borough. Part one can be found here.

Today is the day when the Strategic Planning Committee will meet to consider the Lewisham Gateway developer's application, so we thought it was timely to publish this background interview. As it's a live planning application, John was unable to make any comment about the merits of the developers' proposal, but he was happy to explain what the Council is trying to achieve with the Lewisham Gateway project:

"Lewisham Council wants to create a very high quality environment, reconnecting Lewisham Station with the community it serves by getting rid of the traffic system [the massive roundabout] that divides one of South East London's most important interchanges from a high street that has suffered a relative decline over a long period."

"Specifically, this means that we want to create new facilities, including retail, cafes, restaurants, a cinema, new parkland, a square and better pedestrian routes. It will also include a dense residential development, which will bring new people and new life to the area, and help Lewisham meet the targets for new housing that it has been set [see part one of the interview for details]."

So what will go forward for the Conucil's consideration on October 4th?

"An outline application from the developers [Muse Developments and Taylor Wimpey]. While the specifics of the masterplan, such as the style of architecture, won't be determined at this stage, the application will include details such as the maximum number of residential and retail units that the developers propose."

And what guidance has the Council provided to the developers?

"This project has been many years in development. We have invested £15 million [money secured from government funds] and worked with the London Development Authority, the Greater London Authority and Transport for London to bring it to this point. It's strategically important for the development of London and the Borough."

"We favour the "low-h" scheme [so called because the road layout will resemble an 'h'] because it frees up a lot of land and allows us to do something really radical, which is what we believe the area needs."

One or two residents have been highly critical of the scheme in the belief that the "low-h" will add to the time it takes to drive from one side of Lewisham to the other. What's your response to that?

"Contrary to those claims, the revised road layout has the support of TfL, which has endorsed the scheme."

37 comments:

max said...

You nailed him Paxman!

Am I wrong or the last answer is not a reply to the question?

By the way, when you asked for suggestions for questions to put to him I gave you one about this specific subject that I think would have been rather appropriate now:

"Why haven't they made a study of the cumulative impact on the traffic of all the various developments to be built at the Town Centre?"

Have you asked it? I think it's quite relevant since there's a few other gigantic developments that are supposed to go up next to the Gateway and they go to planning approval one at a time as if all the others didn't exist.

Cllr Dean Walton said...

The Lewisham Gateway got the go ahead this evening.

Answer to Max - we were reassured that the traffic modelling did reflect new developments planned and approved and was robust. I think that the 'low-H' will work - and so do the officers, TfL etc etc...whether it's a good deal for cyclists & pedestrians etc is another matter...

BTW the answer to the question about the time to get through the Gateway...the report actually said it is estimated that it will take an additional 40 seconds for cars...the time for buses will remain unchanged. A study to see if this causes rat running will be undertaken in the future.

max said...

Hi Dean,

I'm not at all surprised that they reassured about the robustness (or that the the planning consent was granted), only that I don't know of a study about the effect of all those developments as a whole, because the Gateway is only one portion, significative but not even the largest in terms of amount of new housing.
I had heard that they didn't do one and they were not going to. Have they changed their minds?
Have they made a study that includes also the other developments?

I am also puzzled by the fact that the study about rat-running will be taken after planning consent.

Is this order - approval first, study afterwards - a popular planning procedure or is Lewisham a pathfinder again?

Bea said...

Nick - on a totally different topic - just wanted to congratulate you on the new look Brockley Central. I think the new "photos" and "suggest a topic" pages make a great addition.

I have to say Brockley Central is a morning must for me now whilst I sit in my “warm office” sipping Costa Coffee and eating my subsidised staff canteen porridge in at 8:15. I used to click on the BBC to see the latest news – but truth be told - their stories aren’t a patch on what’s on offer here.

Pete said...

With regards to rat runs, I'm sure we will see Algernon road get busier. It is already a rat run for some drivers as you get to miss out the roundabout completely. Something I find very useful on my bike.

Cllr Dean Walton said...

Max - They (officers etc) are convinced that the 'low-H' will work but are also concerned that given the extra 40 seconds it'll take to get through at some periods could open the possibility for rat-running. This study will demonstrate whether further work is needed or not. To be fair it is not possible to predict everything with a degree of certainty and this is a relatively acceptable solution. Don't forget that the 'low-H' also brings additional bus capacity & improvements to the transport interchange (but not much for cyclists!)

Nick - I agree with Bea that the new look blog is great (it puts my clunking old effort to shame !- but no time for a major makeover for me just yet)

Bea - have you got your bin yet?

Dean

Bea said...

Dean - yes - thanks - I posted this under the litter section a couple of minutes ago but I'll paste it again here "just wanted to say a big thanks for your assistance. I was delighted to find a green bin outside the house when I got home last night".

max said...

Hi Dean,

you say that "we were reassured that the traffic modelling did reflect new developments planned and approved and was robust".

If this means what it literally means then it excludes all developments yet be approved by planning, the Loampit Vale development for example.

Am I understanding correctly or did officer mean "either planned or approved" instead?

I know for a fact that in June the developers admitted of not having included other developments in the traffic model, so what I would like to understand is whether they have updated it to include the other developments even if they have not reached planning stage yet but are quite likely to happen anyway.

There's a couple of thousand of flats, one secondary school and a leisure centre to account for, that makes quite a difference. If they haven't accounted them in, then it'll be quite busier than presented. Is it true that at the meeting officers made a hint at possible congestion easing measures in Lewisham to manage the low h traffic system(congestion charge?)?.

Cllr Dean Walton said...

Max,

Just grabbed the committee papers from the recycling bin...paras 8.4.2 & 8.4.3 address the points you raise. The key phrases are:

From 8.4.2 "The models have been developed for...peak hours...to cover...existing traffic + traffic from the consented developments[Thurston Road, Venson Site, 72-78 Conington Road] + traffic from the Gateway development"

From 8.4.3 "The scope of the highway modelling...does not model as-yet uncommitted developments such as the Loampit Vale residential/leisure development or other development aspirations emerging from the Area Action Plan. A preliminary assessment by the Council of the impact of the Loampit Vale leisure indicates that given the likely demand for leisure facilities outside the am and pm peak hour for traffic there is unlikely to be a significant addition to the Low H highway network during peak hours."

Lewisham's transport expert gave an upbeat assessment of how transport might change over the next few years as more developments to the rail network, improvements to buses and encouragement for cycling (but not on the Low H of course!) could help bring about a modal shift from cars to other forms of transport which is to be welcomed. I also seem to recall there was mention of 'constraint by congestion'...which is clearly not the same as congestion charging.

Of course, now when looking at the 'unconsented' developments & the aspirations of the Area Action Plan, these should be judged in the context of the Gateway.

I know that the piecemeal approach that appears to have been taken can have unfortunate consequences. The alternative however is to wait until we have complete details of every single scheme in the area. This could mean that the time taken to implement new schemes etc will be delayed even further - without necessarily improving the overall design.

Don't forget that even though I voted against the Gateway, there are some aspects of it that are to be welcomed - these include the better transport interchange and bus network...it's the lack of affordable housing (15% but could rise to 20% or frightenly could fall to none whatsoever, the 'significant adverse impact on air quality', that despite all the money, inconvenience during construction the Gateway development itself will create 7 jobs/ward in Lewisham Deptford & East, the unfunded immediate impact on health services in Lewisham, oh and the lack of a good cycle route through the Gateway.

I was not opposed to the principle of the 'Low H'. My opposition to the roundabout has been around for quite a while - and in the public domain since 2000 when I was behind a newsletter article condemning it.

max said...

Thanks Dean, that clarifies it(unfortunately).

Lots to be said, quite difficult to know where to start really.
I don't think that the benefits are achievable only by building the Gateway development as it has been envisaged until now but maybe now it is too late to make changes, the reason being that too many powerful people would loose face and they wouldn't allow this to happen.

Anyway, I think that the core problem is that the Gateway Development is made to bear the whole of the cost of the infrastructural works even if its benefits(?) will be enjoyed also by all the other developments around there.
In other words, to make it profitable you have to make great use of that small footprint and therefore squeeze the road on the side and build that high. If the cost was divided among all the developments of the area then one could plan a proper road layout and enjoyable pedestrian areas, cycle route as well as keep the building a bit smaller than the overwhelming 20 storeys that are quite out of place around here.

Unfortunately it didn't go like that so here we are with this plan that not only is not pretty but risks to make the traffic jam centered now on all sides of the roundabout a near constant feature with substantial repercussions on quality of life.
We won't know that until it's all in place because the traffic model is incomplete and really it is so because of an arbitrary choice. I cannot believe that there's anybody at Lewisham Council that really thinks that the Loampit Vale development is in any doubt.
I don't know the details of the other developments but I assume that in a not distant futurre it will all end up high density residential as the Council's area plan determined - the wheels are in motion and there's money to be made, nobody can stop that.
So I think that it is disingenuous to say that the other developments are not in the model because they haven't gone to planning yet.

treelegs said...

Only time will tell if the Lewisham Gateway is successful, I wonder how many of those four people who chose to vote 'yes' will be around on its completion, and, dependent on its success or failure, be prepared to be held accountable at that time.

You did miss out on exciting opportunities to ask John Miller searching questions such as what his favourite colour is or wheter he has any pets.

Stick to the day job Nick, assuming that job keeps you out of contact with other people...

Monkeyboy said...

Angry random attack by greenlegs there. Expect he's sitting there in his Y-fronts sending out abuse, shall I get him whacked Soprano's style?

max said...

Well Monkeyboy, I think that Treelegs has a point there.
The interview to Comrade Head of Planning of the Glorious People's Republic of Lewisham is plain ridiculous.
I would expect a piece like that in a glossy Estate Agents' fake magazine and I would expect that somebody interested in the development would have paid good money for it.

Brockley Nick said...

Max, I'm happy to ignore Treelegs' insults as being consistent with his general conduct towards other people on this site. However, your insinuation that I was paid for the article is pretty outrageous.

As I stated right at the beginning of the piece, he was unable to comment about the merits of the project prior to the meeting - any comment about its pros and cons would have been prejudicial. So I stuck to asking him about the general principles behind the schemes - what are the Council's objectives? Of course those objectives are positive - the debate, as framed well by Dean Walton, is whether or not this proposal would succeed in those objectives. John Miller wasn't able to comment on that. I wasn't interested in trying to be Paxman, I simply wanted to establish a few basic facts about the scheme, which had got lost in the hyperbole.

As my other articles on the subject make pretty clear, I believe that the project is, on-balance, a good thing. Whilst I thought that many of the criticisms from the campaign against it were inaccurate or misguided (eg: claims that there would be no expansion of public transport, there would be problems with bus services, that it would create serious flood risk, etc) I did think that the allegation about TfL refusing to support the scheme was important to challenge him on. It turned out that TfL did endorse the scheme, contrary to what the campaigners claimed.

I would suggest that the abusive, mendacious manner in which some of the campaigners have conducted themselves has done nothing to help their cause.

Lewisham Gateway was not the main focus of my interview - there are two more sections of the interview still to come, which no-doubt you're looking forward to.

max said...

So Nick, you now say:

"I did think that the allegation about TfL refusing to support the scheme was important to challenge him on. It turned out that TfL did endorse the scheme, contrary to what the campaigners claimed"

Maybe you should go back and read again what you wrote because although the answer does mention TfL supporting the scheme your question was about whether the scheme adds time to the travel across the development, here's your words:

"One or two residents have been highly critical of the scheme in the belief that the "low-h" will add to the time it takes to drive from one side of Lewisham to the other. What's your response to that?"

No TfL mention there, and by the way TfL is involved in this project in more ways than one, for example as Lewisham Council is, they are not only overseeing the project and having a say in the planning consent, they are also involved financially through the land assembly part of the scheme and this makes their position very difficult and with this consideration in mind the answer that the Head of Planning gave you can mean all sorts of things.
It is of course your prerogative to present that as the evidence that criticisms are unfounded but then you have to accept the eventual comments that may appear here.

The answer to your question is another and is that yes, the scheme adds 40 seconds of traveling time and this if you believe that no other developments will go up around the Gateway.
This is of course incosistent with the Area Plan for the Town Centre as everybody knows.

If you have read the thread of comments above this you'll have discovered that there are foundation to the controversy, in fact this planning consent could then turn out as putting limitations on further developments in the area that would not have been necessary if a better planning of the road layout was done in the first place.

I quote Cllr Dean Walton from a comment above:

"Of course, now when looking at the 'unconsented' developments & the aspirations of the Area Action Plan, these should be judged in the context of the Gateway."

This means that as the road has been planned to bear a load of traffic that does not consider thousands of new flats to be built next to the Gateway then objections can be made against those developments going up.

The fact that officers mentioned "costraint by congestion" doesn't sound good either, doesn't it?

You find my comment outrageous?
Well you'll have to live with it because that's my opinion and it stays like that until I have reason to change it.
Of course you may not have been paid, I didn't say that, there's people that do all sorts of things for free for one reason or another but I won't put your name up for the Pulitzer Price this year for sure.

Monkeyboy said...

Max.... relax. This site is for all sorts of info, from the best chippi to Hugh's choice of curry. As far as I'm aware Nick has no part to play in approving schemes. Why not direct your green inked rants to those who actually make the decisions.

In short stop being such a complete 'James Blunt'.

treelegs said...

sorry that you took that advice as an insult Nick, it was more of a comment on your interviewing style, which, given the circumstances and the opportunity should have been a lot more incisive. I do know, however, that John Miller is very generous with his time regardless of the people asking him for it.

but at least I stopped short of calling you a 'james blunt' which in anybodies book is clearly an insult!

Were you at the SPC meeting by the way?

max said...

Monkeyboy, what do you mean with "green inked rants"?

Because I expect that when Lewisham Council plans to build thousands of flats and change the road layout of one of the busiest junctions on the South Circular it does so without making an appalling mess?

Nick put himself on the line by putting up the official line of the Ministry for Truth of the Glorious People's Republic of Lewisham.

As I am informed about some of the facts misrepresented by Nick I feel it's my duty to point that out for the benefit of whoever may read that, you and Nick included.

This is perfectly consistent with my personal track record of directing "green inked rants" towards those that make decisions.

Nick is there by association and he must have been aware that when you get in the thick of it it may bet rough.
In other words, he asked for it.

Monkeyboy said...

Jesus, I didn't realise that Nick was part of a plot only equalled by the cover up surrounding the Kennedy assassination. I thought he mearly asked a few questions and opened the blog for some alternative views, which you have made use off. Not quiet sure why Nick should be pilloried for that but whatever, consider myself admonished.

Does that mean I'm in your tattered book of targets to hang from the lamposts when the Tesco/Starbucks axis running the country is over thrown?

max said...

Monkeyboy, where do you get the impression that I have a problem with Tesco and Starbucks I don't know, in fact I am comfortably part of the system as I am on the payroll of a large American multinational and have been so for over 15 years.

As an answer to the other question please read the thread above.

Monkeyboy said...

I'd rather not old boy. Your posts bring on my migraine.

Anonymous said...

To add my own 'puny' weight to this debate I would say this. Nick provides this forum to discuss many issues in the area that range from very 'lite' local news to more important issues, and I find it a bit rich for anyone to criticise to manner in which he delivers it. If you have a genuine request about the style in which he interviews people then perhaps you can email some questions you would like answered, but to resort or sarcasm and plain offensiveness discredits your validaity as a contributor, and will you nowhere.
Mr X

max said...

Dear Mr X,

As you suggest here, I had suggested relevant questions and evidently they were not asked, what was asked, answered and how that was presented I find to be highly misleading.

I didn't criticise the style but the substance.

To the casual reader it looks like a straightforward answer to a straightforward question when in reality either the Head of Planning has answered "craftily" and Nick naively didn't realized it or Nick has edited craftily.

To clarify, the Head of Planning was fully aware of an adverse effect of the new road layout on the traffic at the Town Centre when he gave this interview (the negative effects are stated in the papers for planning committee) but read this and judge by yourself:

Question by Nick

"One or two residents have been highly critical of the scheme in the belief that the "low-h" will add to the time it takes to drive from one side of Lewisham to the other. What's your response to that?

Answer by Head of Planning:

"Contrary to those claims, the revised road layout has the support of TfL, which has endorsed the scheme."

Anonymous said...

Sure. I understand what you're saying - the guy doesn't answer the question. We get a stock answer but that's hardly Nick's fault - this isn't Newsnight. If the Head Of Planning doesn't want to give a straight answer he won't. Would you like to see an entire transcript of the conversation to make sure Nick asked him again and again? Or do you seriously think they're in cahoots. I think you might be looking in the wrong place if you want hold this kind of open discourse. As someone fairly new to the area I didn't know much about this Town Centre proposal so the Blog has given me my starting point to investigate it further if I wish to. I know who to make my enquiries to now so in that respect I think this forum has done a good job. The very fact that you now think that the Head Of Planning's is being evasive is thanks to this forum, and that should give you better reason to take up your queries with him - not the facilitator of a community website.

Mr X

Anonymous said...

So who thinks lewisham should stay the way it is and thinks its' a great place to be?

Who thinks current access from the station to the high street is good for those on foot?

max said...

I for one don't think that the place should stay like that and don't know anybody else either, but that doesn't mean that I rather have anything else just because it's a change.

Once you change it it's permanent, so you must get it right, the Council is supposed to look at what's wrong with the plan and press for improvements instead all that the Council's leadership has been up to has been to promote heavily the developers' vision that unsurprisingly maximizes the profits.

Consider that what changes is not just the roundabout, it's the whole area, including the Loampit Vale site and the Thurston Road industrial estate, all to become high density residential.

This could be the chance for a great new centre of Lewisham, what instead comes out is a massive traffic jam through dense built high rise blocks.

You would expect a good plan for the centre, not a cluster of high density development massing up by accumulation.
You find that this looks awful, wait until that is up and has lost the shine after a couple of years.

Brockley Nick said...

On the subject of traffic, there seem to be three distinct issues:

1. That the time it will take to cross Lewisham will be longer as a result (approx 40 seconds, at some times of day). To my knowledge, this is not in dispute and (as someone who has to cross Lewisham by car on a regular basis) this seems a perfectly reasonable price to pay for a vastly improved area. All developments require compromise - this is one that had to be made in order to make a real difference to the area. It's a slightly less direct route for cars in order to make it better for people. Good.

My question was not aimed at that issue, it was aimed at point number 2.

2. One of the main criticisms levelled at the scheme by the protest group (and repeated on this site) was that TfL refused to give their approval to this scheme because it would cause severe problems in terms of traffic circulation. It was this point that I wanted clarity on. TfL are the experts and if they weren't happy, then, in my view, that was a serious problem.

Turns out, after careful analysis, TfL decided that they were happy with the scheme - something never acknowledged by the protestors. If I paraphrased this answer, it's because I was not aware that there was any dispute about the 40 second issue, but I am happy that Dean and others have clarified. That's what a blog is for.

3. The final issue, which has not been part of this planning process, is how will the road system cope with further development around Lewisham town centre. This was not part of the planning discussion and nor should it have been. You can't block the Gateway because Loampit Vale may or may not get built in future, otherwise there would be total planning paralysis. If Loampit Vale will create problems, then that will be an issue for that planning process.

There is nothing sinister about the principle of "constraint by congestion" - it's the principle which stops ever more roads being built and motorways being widened continually - if you build more capacity, it will get filled. So you restrict capacity and encourage people to consider other options, like public transport, cycling or driving at off-peak times. You do that, because most people agree that pedestrian friendly cities and green and pleasant landscapes are preferable to massive ribbons of traffic through our cities and countryside. People who want to get from a to b in the quickest possible time, whenever they like, may not be happy, but those are the compromises necessary to create pleasant communal environment.

As the anonymous poster suggests, Lewisham needs something radical. Saying no to things is very easy, coming up with better ideas is much harder.

max said...

Nick, again it's disingenuous to pretend that other developments like those of Loampit Vale "may or may not" go up.
A plan should include them, that's why planning is called planning.

I find it unacceptable that Lewisham Council is in denial about the massing up of the various developments at the town centre and wants to approve one bit at a time pretending that all the rest is not going up.

There's also the unavoidable nature of that spot that is a very congested traffic spot because it's also a gateway for cars coming into London from South East, when you're on the motorway in Kent the signs show an arrow and say "Lewisham", there's cars coming from 4 directions, you can improve public transport as much as you want but exactly there you won't achieve much.

If you want to have a pleasant Town Centre without traffic you'll find that that may be an impossible location for it.

I put my hands up for not knowing what a "constraint by capacity" was (I wonder how many knew that) but it's not the capacity of the roads leading there that is in dispute, it's the capacity of the junction, that place is a bottleneck.

If I take the 47 bus from Catford in the morning sometimes it can take an awful long time to get to Lewisham, I really don't think that to think of making it even worse is a good idea.

One of the condition for the new road layout was that it had to have an effect at least neutral on the traffic, now instead we are told that a certified worsening needs to be accepted and to close scrutiny it appears that the forecast is also a considerable understatement.

Not to mention the aspiration of making a feature out of the confluence of the Raversbourne and Quaggy, another one to give way to yet more concrete.

"Saying no to things is very easy, coming up with better ideas is much harder"

Thanks Nick for the usual line but as I said my opinion is that if the whole of the Town Centre had been planned together then probably a better solution could have been found because the Gateway development funds all the heavy infrastructural works that include changing the road layout, moving the river, the bus station and the utilities that run under the roundabout, a massive investment that to be recouped needs a great mass of built, hence the limits to what can be done.

Meanwhile the other developments (that may or may not be built) will benefit from this investment and translate that into profits. One of the beneficiaries of this windfall? Lewisham Council that is selling the land on Loampit Vale to build 754 flats, a fortune that gets into the Council's coffers instead of being invested on better town Centre.

Hugh said...

Max, following your remarks above, which I for one find interesting, it may help those of us who aren't experts in local politics and planning if you could:

1. spell out how a proposed development makes profit, and where this goes;

2. say what is wrong with LBC making a profit, assuming it isn't completely currupt;

3. explain why it's fair to assume that certain developments are bound to go ahead although not yet consented to;

4. comment on whether you think traffic congestion in central Lewisham should be addressed other than by letting people who choose to drive sit in jams until they choose alternative means of transport;

5. outline in broad terms what you think the 'new' central Lewisham should look like, or at least indicate where current consideration falls short.

You've clearly thought about the issues and I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.

max said...

Hi Hugh,

I'm glad you found the remarks interesting, here's my attempt to satisfy your request.

1. As far as I know developments make profits for the shareholders of the companies that builds them but some development are obviously more profitable than others depending on a series of variables. The cost of the land, the cost of the infrastructures that needs to be funded to build the development, any possible planning gain imposed by the local authority as well as the amount and the type of affordable housing that's imposed on them, these are all variables.
I think that it is very important that in this case all those parcels of land are very valuable because they are in front or very near to the transport interchange with very easy going to the City and Canary Wharf so they probably can sell those flats for quite a lot of money and the profits can be quite high.

2. There isn't anything scandalous in profits going into the Council's coffers apart from an issue of transparency and also an issue of opportunity as well as political mandate. In this case the Council is making a fortune and the issue is really not discussed, I think that such a vast amount of money (that we cannot know the entity of) that is a one off windfall should have a destination that's uncontroversially accepted by the local community, who technically owns those money.
In absence of a plan, I believe that it's fair to assume that it should be used within the same provenance, as it is from the disposal of real estate in an area that is being redeveloped then maybe to use the sum to make the development better would not be a peregrine idea.
It could even be used for other expenditures, why not, but it must be through a transparent process, not in secret as it's happening now.
Since it was in the question I want to specify that I don't think that anybody at Lewisham Council is in anyway corrupt, only that they are a bit of a law unto themselves really.

3. The Area Action Plan (used to be called UDP) , that's the masterplan for the use of the land in the Borough has changed the destination of use of many plots of land around the station and declared all of them residential area to be used for high density developments, many developers have been active for a while to bring this forward in accord with the Council. To be more precise the plan is also produced in consultation with the developers, more reason to expect that it to becomes reality.
One of them, that's the Loampit Vale development is so much in the interest of the Council that I cannot really think of any way that could impede its happening.

4. As I said in previous posts, I think that it was wise to state that the development should not have an adverse effect on the traffic and I expected the planning committee to stick to this condition.
It is my opinion that unfortunately there's a lot of cars that pass by there and there's little that can be done about it so at the very least Lewisham Council should try not to aggravate the situation there. What kind of Town Centre will that be, with cars stuck most of the time, constrained between tall building, effectively pumping gas on the passers by almost non-stop.

I think that everybody is familiar with having to wait for the bus outside Lewisham Station, seeing the bus so near that you can see the white of the eyes of the bus driver and then having to follow its painful crawl through the awful traffic jam at the roundabout until its doors open in front of you 10 or 15 minutes later. Well, with the new Town Centre it will be even worse, 40 seconds later guaranteed but only if you believe that all those other developments "may not happen".
I don't think that a roundabout is in principle such a monstruosity that it has to be removed to make space for a cluster of blocks of flats.
There are plenty of lively areas all over the world that also have a roundabout. But I don't think that it's necessary, it could be changed for another solution, but it should be respected that it should not aggravate the traffic.

There were at least three options for road layout to choose from that were presented to Urban Renaissance Lewisham in 2002, I have those plans somewhere and will try to find them in the next days. I have a mountain of paper to go through before finding them though so, if anybody reading this is in possession of those papers and can locate them easily it would be nice if they could post them. I have the plans here but they are lost in the middle of my collection of old papers that takes a whole room.
Anyway, the important thing to know is that there were more than one option and since the chosen one could not develop into a satisfactory proposal maybe the other two should be reconsidered.
What I can post here is a photo of the model that Lewisham Council has made of the centre of Lewisham with the Gateway and those development that "may or may not" happen.

http://tinyurl.com/2d85hk

If you take the railway as a reference you can understand the model quite easily, the Gateway is bottom right, Loampit Vale cuts through vertically from just right to the centre in the upper part of the photo, to the left is the Loampit Vale development, to the right the now Thurston Road industrial area that as depicted by the model will become all high density housing and as you may appreciate, that's a lot of stuff, we can only speculate about how much will be built there but as you can see the area is really big, about double the size of the Loampit Vale site and that's supposed to have 754 flats.
There are then more developments in the area, like the 500 new flats to be built just above Thurston Road in Conington Road, plus as you can see from the model, where there is now Tesco there could be another big tower once Tesco moves into the Gateway.
That's a lot of built and as I already wrote I just wonder why these developments don't contribute to the infrastructure and the road layout or why there isn't a public input to build a public road that may come out better than it can if its funding can only come from the development of the Gateway, putting financial pressure on that one spot.

I really cannot get any excited about the current proposal, furthermore I just wonder how much is this a Town Centre and how much it is instead a speculation on the buy to let market.
Much of the built there is supposed to be let to junior clerks, Canary Wharf will provide tens of thousands of new jobs in the newt few years and Lewisham is competitive and well connected, buying those flats is a safe investment for whoever wants to do it. I think that those kind of developments must be balanced against proper aspirations for a proper Town Centre, not just blocks of small flats for buy to let. This is all just driven by house prices.


5. Let's go to your last point and let me say that your request here is a bit of blue sky thinking and that's quite nice.
If I had been in charge of the plan for a new Lewisham from scratch, and I'm grinning thinking about it, I probably would have done everything upside down compared to the current plan.
I would have started by planning a new shopping centre in front of the station, I would have designed the road to pass through it and then I would have demolished the Riverdale Centre (including the Citibank Tower) and built a residential area there instead.

With the current plan the Shopping centre will die a slow death, what will follow there we can't know but surely there isn't any effort to plan for retail apart from including some retail space in the new developments, enough to bankrupt the current retailers, not enough to replace them or be competitive with other centres.
I don't see spaces for human beings in the current plans, unless your life revolves around waiting for the bus that is.
It has been recognized that the pokey pedestrian route through the Gateway (leading to a dying shopping centre) will be probably often hit by winds swirling through the cluster of tall blocks that will make stopping there unpleasant (think about the brochures of the Gateway with artist impression of the young couple kissing and people just enjoying themselves on the loan like hippies) and that the pollution around them will be murderous, so again I don't call that a vision.

Andy Pandy Pudding & Pie said...

Forget neighbours - I'm waiting for the next treelegs vs monkeyboy cliff hanger :o)

[pass the popcorn please]

Bea said...

Max

Thanks for you comprehensive response to Hugh’s questions which made interesting reading.

I don’t know all the ins and outs of this planning debate but I do agree that moving the town centre away from it current location will be detrimental to the current shops there.

I can understand the need to link the station to the centre of Lewisham for the sake of pedestrians but it strikes me as odd that the council want to create another “shopping” part of Lewisham without think through how this will link into the existing retail areas. Are there any more plans on this available? I’ve look on the Lewisham Council website but can find nothing. What will happen to the Citi Tower? Will it remain because it costs too much to remove? Maybe some of the money from the sale of the land can be used to purchase it and remove it? Can it be converted into housing?

However, in terms of what has already been done in the Loampit Vale area, I think that the developments next to the river and the green open park space opposite the primary school and the removing of the concrete chancel have definitely improved the feel of the river. OK it may have not gone far enough for some and be a missed opportunity to make the actual convergence site more attractive (rather than hidden). Yet, I am happy to see that some progress is being made towards making Lewisham centre a more pleasant environment.

Brockley Nick said...

Bea, I have been told that Citi tower is still technically occupied by Citigroup - maintained as a contingency office, should anything happen to their Canary Wharf HQ. I haven't had that confirmed by Citigroup themselves though.

max said...

Citibank is responsible for two horrors of Lewisham Centre, the Citibank Towes is one, the other is the Citibank data centre, the dark featureless cube on the right hand side of Molesworth Street.
That's the most horrid building in Lewisham and those responsible for its planning consent should be named, shamed, covered in tar and feathers and driven out of the Borough by a angry mob.

Hugh said...

Max, thanks for your detailed reply. Taking your points in turn:

1. Nothing contentious there, I think.

2. I'm not sure what you mean about a lack of transparency in the planning process. Are there obvious gaps?

Whether LBC is grasping properly the opportunity to do something good for central Lewisham, I think we would all agree, is an issue. But isn't that what the planning process is for?

As for political mandate, LBC is of course an elected body. But I think the issues you mention here fall into the above categories.

3. The fact that area plans are produced in consultation with developers is surely legitimate and inevitable if private funding is to be secured for regeneration. For what it's worth, I don't see what's wrong in principle with high-density housing near the station. The area is an eyesore and, as you note elsewhere, people are always interested in flats near transport hubs.

4. I don't really have a feel for whether the developments will worsen traffic, but I do wonder how much worse it could get. As you say, sometimes you can see the bus coming minutes before it arrives. Provided rat runs are blocked, I would think congestion itself will act to regulate traffic flow as drivers choose not to come through Lewisham (or even choose to leave the car at home).

It would nevertheless be interesting to hear more about the alternatives suggested regarding traffic flow.

5. I agree the shopping centre has to go and ideally the Citibank tower (perhaps it will be swamped with other towers!). The plans might also create a windy city. I suppose I'm pretty relaxed because I don't expect the earth. It's a horrid area and town centre redevelopments never take away Nottingham and replace it with Weybridge. They just give the place a cleaner feel and promote economic activity. On the basis the proposed plans do this, I think I'd be reasonably happy. I don't think any of us expect central Lewisham to be transformed into a place we'd want to live. A smaller version of Kingston town centre would do.

max said...

Hi Hugh,

I agree with you on most considerations, a few points (I keep the points as a reference)

1) Nothing contentious.

2) When I referred to a lack of transparency I wasn't speaking of the planning process, it was about the Council's finances.
To give another example that is tangent to this whole story we can look at the money that Lewisham Council received 3 years ago from the sale of Aragon Tower.
Those where £10.4m of which £7m were earmarked for the new leisure centre to replace Ladywell in 2010.
That meant that the £7m went into a bank account and stayed there "earmarked".
A couple of weeks ago one item of the Mayor and Cabinet meeting said that those money were relocated. This happened in the confidential part of the meeting, no papers available for the public and discussion behind closed doors.
Why? That's our money and there's no reason for keeping that a secret.
I call this a lack of transparency.
The leisure centre will now probably all be funded by the profit for the sale of Loampit Vale and although we cannot know how much that is by reading answers to questions at Council one understands that the Council is making a profit.
That is an extraordinary cash flow for the Council and I think that it would be opportune for the Council to disclose how much that is and what they intend to do with it.
Unfortunately they do treat their business as if they were private when in reality they are not.


3) I agree entirely with what you say, what my point was about was the fact that now that they have a masterplan that has been drawn together with the developers and is likely to happen it should be kept in mind when making estimates of growth for other planning purposes, one can keep on the conservative side but what they are doing instead is to pretend that it's all not happening.
We can see this outside the issue of the traffic, the leisure centre to be built at Loampit Vale for example has been sized according to a population growth that does not include all those developments at the Town Centre.
What will happen is that the new swimming pool will be full of those new residents living nearby and the current users will have a much more limited available service.
I pointed that to the relevant people at Lewisham Council, nicely at first, more assertively after but the result is that they just device new ways to get away with it.

4) It's probably very difficult to predict traffic and you're quite right when you say who can spot the difference if it gets even worse, normally it's just packed from when you get there to when you leave, still, as that is a bottleneck, rpercussions of what happens there are felt quite far away in all directions.
Does traffic sorts itself? Ask cab-drivers in Athens. Jokes apart, improving public transport will make some difference but I fear that that is such a strategic junction that the flow of traffic through there should be a priority.

I'll try to find those plans for alternative traffic arrangements.

5) I would agree that if you keep your expectations down you won't be too disappointed but I still think that we can ask for some extra effort to makes things better round the edges.

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