What is Lewisham for?

We are fast approaching the deadline for the public to respond to the options set out by Lewisham Council in the consultation document for the Lewisham Core Stratetgy. The consultation period ends tomorrow and we have been meaning to write about it for some time after Cllr Walton tipped us off about it.

We were finally prompted to write about it by an email from BC regular Tamsin, who forwarded the submission provided by the Chair of the Telegraph Hill Society, which we have reproduced below.

According to Lewisham Council:

The Lewisham Core Strategy will set out the vision, objectives, strategy and policies that will guide development and regeneration in the Lewisham borough up to 2025. Major change is anticipated, with a focus on Lewisham, Catford, Deptford and New Cross, and we need to plan for this.

The consultation document sets out a number of options for the public to comment on, including two broad spatial strategies. In either case Creekside (Deptford), Catford, Lewisham and New Cross are where the main action is likely to be:

Two regeneration corridors would be established. The first would encompass the London Plan ‘opportunity areas’ of Catford-Lewisham-New Cross including Deptford and Creekside. This would be the main focus for the borough's housing, retail and employment growth, and associated social and physical improvements.

The key difference between Strategic Spatial Options 1 and 2, is that under Option 2 the six sites proposed as Mixed Use Employment Locations (MELs) in Deptford and New Cross would continue to operate as a Strategic Industrial Location (SIL) and a Local Employment Location (LEL).

This is a big document and we’ve been meaning to write a longer piece with our thoughts on the subject but we’ve run out of time and in the end they basically boil down to the following:

- Lewisham should make far better use of the river – it’s a completely wasted resource. If the cruise liner terminal is not a goer (and no good reason has been provided why it shouldn’t be) then concentrate on creating a world class river walk – deliver some of the residential and commercial developments planned, but make sure there’s plenty of parkland too – think Battersea Park or Richmond.

- Whilst grand spatial plans are important, far more priority needs to be given to investing in the area’s high-streets, creating good-quality environments in every Lewisham village (not just Blackheath) – that seems to us the cheapest and easiest way to regenerate Lewisham while the Council struggles with the Gordian Knots of Catford and Lewisham centre.

- If you have parcels of problematic land that you can’t find a developer for, don't allow cheap and nasty infil just to try and hit housing targets, give the space over to charitable groups to do something wonderful with – like the Bonnington Square Paradise Project in Vauxhall.

- The industrial sites in the north of the borough often provide relatively few jobs and opportunities for nearby businesses - they would be no loss if replaced with mixed developments, which included small scale workshops, studios and office developments.

- Build more council-funded multi-sports facilities and gyms– everyone should have one within walking distance.

We admit that this is not a very focused response.

However, the Telegraph Hill Society has written a detailed response, focusing primarily on the potential impact of the intensity of development proposed for New Cross and Deptford. Here’s what they say:

Both options propose a large amount of new homes inthe north of the borough between now and 2025 but provide, for example, for no new parks (indeed it effectively admits that if all these newhomes are built there is no space for new parks!).

No new transportinfrastructure is planned to accommodate these new residents other than the schemes already in existence (ELLX and 3car DLR).

In particular both Option 1 and Option 2 provide for / require the new Sainsbury's scheme with its tower blocks even though it has not gonethrough planning and residents have not been consulted.

The new development in the North of the Borough (Deptford/New Cross) is meant to provide for the regeneration of thewhole of the borough - which seems a little unfair: we get the houses, the whole borough gets any funds coming from the regeneration.

There is too much emphasis on providing housing and not employment. Indeed Option 1 utilises current designated commercial land for housing. This may therefore turn the borough into even more of a dormitory borough than itis now.

For Conservation Areas as a whole, there are concerns over how both Options explicitly state that development sites will include infill development, more conversions to flats and more additions and extensions to existing properties.

We also had concerns - expressed by a number of other residents groups-over the fact that the short three page consultation document was badly worded and short on facts.

The Option 1 scheme (40% more housing than the London Plan requires) is described as "boroughwide regeneration andgrowth" whereas Option 2 (London Plan level of housing) is described as"moderate regeneration".

It is not clear why building new houses rather than building fewer better houses or even offices, factories and shops is regarded as "regeneration". It seems an odd use of the word. Furthermore the short document states that the target Lewisham has beenset for new housing is "almost 10,000 new homes by 2017".

It then states that Option 1 is for a "40% increase" in housing over the London PlanTarget, whereas Option 2 "meets London Plan". You might be forgiven forthinking that this means Option 1 is for 14,000 homes and Option 2 is for10,000 new homes in the borough across the period of the plan. In fact,the full report schedules 21,650 under option 1 and 14,550 under Option 2- because the timescales are different.

We apologise for not getting around to this sooner, but you still have a little time to make yourself heard.


853blog said...

What is Lewisham for?

Keeping Greenwich and Southwark apart?

Interesting that the document mentions the riverfront, even though Lewisham's riverfront isn't much more than the Pepys Estate, Deptford Strand and Convoys Wharf (which was in Greenwich until '94). Is the Convoys redevelopment - which presumably this must mean - still on or is it waiting until things pick up?

Comment said...

There should be a homes to public amenities ratio set up.

Gyms, parks, public space halls to homes.

Putting loads of homes so house people from all over the capital, country and indeed world will just create ghettoes and unpleasantness if the social integration aspect is not dealt with.

Also jobs, it's time for the Lewisham Urban Farm where people can get local eggs and produce. Each town should have a little farm.

The Cat Man said...

comment, you should run for mayor - all good ideas!

david said...

It does seem odd that "regeneration" is equated with just building more houses/flats.

I'd have thought adding shopping (so improving high streets), parks and public transport were all required in addition to simply putting up houses otherwise you get degeneration (but not The D Generation).

Also, if the Lewisham plan does rely on Sainsbury's deciding to go ahead with their development it seems unlikely that the Council will be in any sort of position to say "no" to them if their proposal turns out not to be in teh best interest of the local communities (however you work out what that is!).

peasoup said...

I'd work on/help manage an urban farm. Can't think of anything more blissful/challenging/frustrating/rewarding. Great idea.

LewishamLovely said...

the focus on housing is disppointing. lewisham already feels housing heavy and ammenity light. the high streets and shopping precincts must be looked at. create precincts where people actually want to spend time (and therfore money). aside from blackheath does such a place exist in lewisham? enough of the loan shops and smelly commercial bins cluttering up lewisham town centre, get in some decent retailers, cafes and restaurants.

Cllr Dean Walton said...

Whilst it is a Lewisham-wide document there is specific mention of Brockley Cross area in the document sections 6.60 & 6.61 of the online document I think:

"Brockley Cross and Hither Green are well served by public transport and contain opportunities as a result of the availability of development sites located within close proximity to the local shopping parade. The focus of these local hubs will be to maximise the redevelopment potential of the available development sites, secure their regeneration, and ensure integration with the surrounding largely residential area and the local shopping parade."

"Clusters of small local employment sites at Brockley Cross (1.2 ha) and Hither Green (2.12 ha) would be released for mixed-use development. Brockley Cross has the potential to deliver up to 120 new homes and Hither Green up to 110 new homes by 2025."

Tamsin said...

Thank you for taking this forward, Nick. The amenity societys for conservation areas have apparently been given a bit more time to get in their comments, so there is still an adequate period for anyone to channel their views through the Broc. Soc.

One point that has been added to the Telegraph Hill Society submission by a committee member (not that the committee has met except by e-mail for ages) is on the very issue aired here of growing things and allotments. One of the matters highlighted in the Ward Assembly Steering group meeting.
And we do not want to become just a commuter belt dormitory. It is indeed a sad indictment of the state of our local employment that the Borough itself is the biggest employer in the area.
PS I like the concept of Lewisham's purpose being to keep Greenwich and Southwark apart - to grossly over-simplify, it fits our image of semi-gentrification!

Cllr Dean Walton said...

I've been looking through the more detailed proposals over the last few days.

Housing and housing need in Lewisham is a real issue - we have thousands of people on housing waiting lists - it is a real problem.

Lewisham is remaining committed to achieving "Metropolitan Status" for shopping in Lewisham Town Centre. The says:

"The option for Lewisham and Catford Town Centres is that the Council would actively seek,in partnership....to promote and improve fucntion, character, vitality and viablity".

When it comes to local shopping areas (where there is very little money to help)

"The option for local shopping facilities will be to protect them from chage of use or redevelopment where there is an economic demand for such services. In smaller centres and parades change of of use and contraction will be considered if evidence is established that there is no economic prospect of such uses continuing".

It's interesting that the case for supporting the development of the town centres is a 'shopping assessment' that predicts there could be enough cash around to make Lewisham's brand new shopping centres (as part of the Gateway a success) to support vigourous (but so far fruitless) activity to regenerate the town centre, but that no such research into the cash needed or possibly available to protect and enhance local shops has been done whilst they struggle before our eyes.

max said...

Exactly, and I wonder what "Metropolitan Status" means, quite possibly nothing.

Cllr Dean Walton said...

@max - it means something and nothing - simply 100,000 m2 of retail space in one place

david said...

@ Cllr Dean

Your point in your post 2 (if I read it right) is I think key. There seems to be a will to support and develop Lewisham and Catford town centres but none to to protect or enhance local shops.

If the housing is such a critical need in Lewisham then I'd have thought that if there are specific local areas (rather than a vaguely even spread across the borough) earmarked by the Council to provide that housing those areas will also be the ones most in need of enhancement of other facilities such as "shops", green space and improved transport links (ie the social integration aspect) otherwise it will really head (however gently and slowly) towards of creating ghettoes and unpleasantness.

@ comment 1 - the thrust, again, of the report bits you refer to seems to be to develop sites currently described as employment sites into "housing". What about the Council considering "regeneration" in Brockley Cross involving perhaps further support for ventures like tea leaf arts and so on to support the natural regeneration going on in Brockley within the "arts" community?

nobbly brick said...

ah, the bigger picture and the sound of dropping pennies...

Anonymous said...

Patronising saddo

Cllr Dean Walton said...

@david - you are correct about the emphasis on town centre shops as opposed to local shopping parades. it's based on a 'retail hierarchy'. Waltham Forest offered a far greater range of options in their spatial planning documents. Additionally they have banned (new) fast food outlets from within 400m of schools.

With regard to comments about the need to provide associated facilities with new housing - I agree there will be a need for new shops, green spaces and the like.

@david - support for Arts. I would tend to agree, but at some point we can veer from 'spatial planning' and into other aspects of what Lewisham can do generally without the need for a spatial plan. The line is probably not as clear as we would like. A way to generate the support you have described is to find ways of getting contributions from S106 agreements - and to get this we need to speak clearly as a community that this is what we want.

Tamsin said...

Actually, I did not make it particularly clear to Nick. What this thread opens with is just the bare bones of the basic points Malcolm was running past the committee for their approval (having posted earlier on thehill website asking for general comment with no result). The actual THS submission runs to 8 close-typed pages - the first one of which is pointing out flaws in the "consultation". A copy has been sent to Broc. Soc.

Brockley Nick said...

'8 pages - front and back!'

If there's a link, I'll add it.

Tamsin said...

Just single-sided (unlike Darcy's letter in Pride and Prejudice which is far too long to fit on the sheets of paper she describes, even "close written on both sides and the envelope written quite through").
No link, he's fed up with being shot down after the event by people who don't respond or contribute when given the opportunity - only criticise afterwards - but as I said, the Broc. Soc. have a copy and it has been sent in so the Councillors at least should be able to access it.

david said...

@Cllr Dean

Agree that s.106 agreements are very much something that can be used to help here.

However, where (for example) the Council bases whatever strategy it adopts on a particular project going ahead (eg the fact that both the Council's "options" are based on the Sainsbury's development going ahead with its full quota of housing) it does seem to make it (significantly) less likely that the Council will be in a positon to negotiate a decent s.106 agreement.

Anonymous said...

Lewisham Council should help provide more jobs i.e. office and workshop spaces should be built.
Merely building more houses, increases the population increasing strains on local transport, education, hospitals etc and will lower the quality of life for Lewisham residents.
As well as Jobs the Council should provide money to make the High Streets more attractive.
Finally the plans for Lewisham's High Street involves far too many ugly tall buildings which can be seen from a far distance and will damage views.
Lewisham High Street is quite possibly the worst in the Borough.
Why did the council allow the main Post Office in Lewisham to move thus creating a huge empty space in the High Street? Also since Yates Bar closed there is a big empty space there too. Couldn't the council use this space for something? A council services one-stop shop or offices?

Brockley Jim

Comment said...

"Housing and housing need in Lewisham is a real issue - we have thousands of people on housing waiting lists - it is a real problem."

What does this mean? Who are these people on this list? I think there needs to be a lot more understanding over what is driving this push for more and more homes.

Cllr Dean could you please expand on this.

Brockley Nick said...

There's nothing wrong with areas being mainly residential - Brockley is essentially a residential area, and we all seem to like it well enough.

What matters surely is creating good quality housing with real communities and proper communal facilities, such as schools, medical centres, shops and parks.

Deptford seems to be the main opportunity to create jobs in signifcant numbers in the borough. Lewisham perhaps. Catford no chance.

max said...

Why this negative outlook on the chances of economic development for Catford?
There is already a local economy mostly derived by the Town Hall (that sustains restaurants) but not just as there is also quite a lot of retail, from market stalls up to supermarkets, it has good transports links and there may be in the medium term opportunities to redevelop good chunks of it. It may actually end up as having a much more balanced variety of activities than other areas.
It does look a bit too scruffy sometimes but there are some sunny days when it looks positively nice.
Don't write it off.

Brockley Nick said...

Just to be clear, I wasn't saying that Catford's economic prospects couldn't be improved, just that I don't see it attracting a lot more private sector jobs by 2025.

I'd be happy to be proved wrong but its transport links seem too poor, with little prospect of significant improvement and it's far less central than - say - Deptford, which also benefits from having the river nearby.

Comment said...

"There's nothing wrong with areas being mainly residential"

I don't think anyone has said that there is.

"Brockley is essentially a residential area, and we all seem to like it well enough"

We like Brockley but we see unrealised potential.

"What matters surely is creating good quality housing with real communities and proper communal facilities, such as schools, medical centres, shops and parks."

Yes, indeed which is what has been said, through the 'public amenities to homes' ratio idead. So we have a good balanced community, with services and opportunities for all.

I really do think an urban farm would be great for each town that could have one in the borough.

Anonymous said...

If offices are built where land is available and they are offered cheaply, firms will open premises in the Borough. But currently there are few business other than shops.
Lewisham has good transport links but it is not attractive enough to attract shoppers or businesses at the moment. Catford too (although links are not as good). Both need to be made more attractive places to live and work.
Brockley is residential and many people commute into Central London for work. That is okay. Blackheath too. That is okay too although if there were more jobs in the Borough less people would need to commute. Also some areas have not got a balanced economy (New Cross - too reliant on students), others have a huge potential (Deptford) whilst others could be really nice with a bit of investment (Forest Hill).

Brockley Jim

Anonymous said...

why should building more houses be the only answer to "thousands" of people waiting for the council to provide them with one? surely the problem could be tackled from a different (and more sustainable long term) perspective than just build, build, build? sooner or later just building more houses will not be an option in lewisham.
also, as was discussed here recently, the council should be focusing on delivering improvements to the whole community, not just those who rely on the council to survive.
amenity and shopping space needs urgent attention to make lewisham a more attractive place for these people to live, work and spend money.
i understand the council can't control buildings owned by private landlordw (such as, i assume, the old PO building and the old yates bar), but could the council adopt some scheme to make lewisham town centre more financially attractive to businesses? (obiously without robbing the council of too much funds).
that aspiration to acheive "metropolitan status" sounds a little like hot air... what exactly has that commitment physically acheived so far? or is likely to any time soon other than being words on an expensively drafted council document?

patrick1971 said...

Where is the Post Office in Lewisham now? It used to be on Lewis Grove, didn't it?

I also hadn't noticed that Yates Wine Lodge had closed. Now there's a great loss.

Catford could be so much nicer but at the moment it's a toilet. It has that great sports field to provide a good bit of green, but the covered shopping centre is filthy and the shops down at heel. The town hall is very "of its time", shall we say, which I don't think helps either.

Anonymous said...

the PO is not inside Wh Smith in the shopping centre.
no one is crying over the loss of a yates wine bar, the point was made about the huge empty building in a prime town centre location it has left in its wake. with such a down at heel location, it's hard to see any business wanting to take it. except maybe oakham might open a loan/cheque chashing superstore

Anonymous said...

why isn't the old citibank building turned into apartments? if we're going to be stuck with it, it may as well be put to some use. it's been empty for a long time hasn't it?

Anonymous said...

I've been told that citibank is full of asbestos so probably has to remain because it would cost too much too demolish - bit like a Lewisham Chernobyl actually.

max said...

I instead heard that Citibank keeps it in state of readiness as a spare office, in case of terrorist attack to Canary Wharf, apparently every bank has one spare office like that.
If you walk by the entry lobby you can appreciate how inside it's in perfect order, like if people were going to work there every day.

Headhunter said...

I think it's true that most if not all major companies have secondary offices and it's possible that the Citibank building could be being held by Citi for this purpose. I had a friend who worked at Whitbread in "disaster control" or something like that, so that in the event of Whitbread's main office being blown up or whatever, all systems etc would revert to another building (so the world would not run out of Best Bitter). Also at the time of the 9/11 attacks, many US banks and brokerages moved to their secondary offices.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps there should be a tax on empty offices. Then Citibank would sell it on to a company that actuallty provided jobs to the area.
Brockley Jim

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said "i understand the council can't control buildings owned by private landlordw (such as, i assume, the old PO building and the old yates bar)"

When I once worked for Lewisham Council I was surprised by the amount of commercial property in the Borough owned by the council. It is possible that the old PO and Yates may already be council owned. Whether they are private or not the point is their lack of use doesn't reflect well on Lewisham High Street

max said...

I think you'd need a very big tax to make Citibank decide to do that. They may be in a bit of trouble but I still think that they are above those kind of measures.
I think that there is something similar for empty shops though, but how fair it is during a recession?
There was a tax on empty industrial estates introduced not long ago and it had the unforeseen result that landlords that couldn't find suitable tenants decided to demolish the units rather than pay the tax.

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Comment said...

To Cllr Dean Walton

Could you please answer this question, as I think it's something that people would like to understand better.

"Housing and housing need in Lewisham is a real issue - we have thousands of people on housing waiting lists - it is a real problem."

What does this mean? Who are these people on this list? I think there needs to be a lot more understanding over what is driving this push for more and more homes.

Cllr Dean could you please expand on this.

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