New campaign group demands status quo in Lewisham

"Nobody is saying that Obama is Hitler. What we're saying is that this health care plan mirrors Nazi Germany's and the Nazi Germany healthcare plan was the foundation from which they built the rest of their 'socialist paradise'."
- Rush Limbaugh

Lewisham Town Centre is trapped in a long-term spiral of decline. While the southern end still sustains a vibrant street market, much of the northern end is boarded up, driven through by heavy traffic or weed-on by drunks.

The Council believes that some drastic changes are necessary to revive its fortunes and that the unstoppable growth of the Canary Wharf estate, connected to Lewisham via the excellent and expanding DLR provides an ideal opportunity for reinvention.

Lewisham Gateway and Loampit Vale are among the major schemes planned, which will create approximately 2,000 new homes - bringing new people, life and spending power to sustain the retail and leisure facilities that are also planned. There are problems with the scheme (such as the unsatisfactory plans for Lewisham Bridge school) and disappointments, such as the fact that the new swimming pool could have been bigger. And of course, questions remain about the financial viability of the vision in the current climate - the current state of the housing market means that it may not generate the returns the developers need to justify the huge investment.

Ironic then, that the protesters from the "Central Lewisham Action Group" who kicked up a stink about the plans this week, should be pictured holding aloft "Build for people not profit" banners - as though the two things were incompatible.

Whenever we write about this subject, Brockley Central is always angrily attacked by protestors, who say that the arguments against the scheme are actually highly sophisticated and we don't give them enough credit.

Perhaps they are right - but on the other hand, all we ever hear from them are arguments like these, in the Mercury and News Shopper.

"The high-rise aspects of the projects are very disturbing. We don't want another Croydon."

Croydon's development was blighted not by a few tall buildings but by the decision to build it around the needs of the car - a problem which also afflicts Lewisham currently. Lewisham Gateway will fix that.

"The population density will be greater than Mumbai."

Our house has a higher population density than Mumbai too. The comparison between a relatively small area of land that happens to have some tall buildings on it and one of the world's biggest mega cities is ludicrous - you don't measure urban densities over such a small area. Other high-density hell holes that the protesters may wish to invoke in future include central Paris, Manhattan and Rome.

"We feel that it's not right to put these forward piecemeal."

The parcels of land involved may be subject to separate planning processes but the future of Lewisham town centre has been developed in an holistic fashion.

"These are huge developments and there's no guaranteed infrastructure."

We're not sure what they mean by infrastructure, but of course the DLR expansion is nearing completion and, from December, there will be a significant increase in the number of trains running Lewisham to Central London as a result of this reshuffle. The developments themselves will create new public amenities, including a major leisure centre and some decent public spaces, of the sort Lewisham town centre currently lacks. The plan is conceived to deliver a shot in the arm to Lewisham as a shopping centre, providing new retail space as well.

There is a sensible debate to be had. So let's have it.

50 comments:

Anonymous said...

As with any debate on this forum, it never gets anywhere (meaningful) - go along to the Brockley Society meeting on the 20th - you can debate it all you like there and perhaps your point of view will be taken into consideration.

Beecroftian said...

Someone beat me to it but yes go along to the BrocSoc meeting this Thursday at the Social Club (from 8pm i think) as there will be someone from CLAG speaking about the development.

GREG said...

This is what the brockley society had to say in their preview of the discussion:

"Land on south side of Loampit Vale�- the massive tower-block etc. development proposals -- controversial."

Anonymous said...

This blog isn't meaningful as it has been hijacked by some huge egos who spend their time trolling because they don't get enough action.

The only purpose it can serve now is to raise awareness. Incidentally that is what advertising and PR are supposed to do and are a very small part of marketing. Never let an adman or meeja luvvie con you they do more.

There is nothing wrong with raising awareness, even if it is selectively applied to vested interests. The higher the awareness, the more people get involved in doing.

Anonymous said...

I suspect apathy will kill off the potential of this scheme.

Whatever you want (subject to the conservation area guidelines) said...

Status Quo is Lewisham? Will they be playing the Rivoli?

TM said...

"Croydon's development was blighted not by a few tall buildings but by the decision to build it around the needs of the car - a problem which also afflicts Lewisham currently. Lewisham Gateway will fix that."

Nick I'm afraid I don't share your confidence in the Gateway Scheme to solve Lewisham's traffic problem.

If it is built in its present form I predict it will make congestion much much worse.......

Anonymous said...

There is also no long-term future in an economy built around chainstore retail. It's a ridiculous misallocation of resources.

And while I agree tall buildings are not necessarily an evil in themselves, Croydon IS blighted by them, and there are far more than just a few. They have created horrendous wind tunnels - go and ask the queue forced to line up outside the Immigration and Nationality Directorate - it's like being whipped with sharpened icicles.

patrick1971 said...

Hopefully it will make congestion much worse, for the car, not for buses or cycles.

I guess my reservations about this scheme stem from previous huge redevelopment schemes that have gone bad (Elephant & Castle). These huge overarching designs often look good on paper but can fail very badly (Aylesbury Estate, for example). Whereas successful urban environments have often grown up piecemeal (even Canary Wharf took 20 years to be "finished").

No one's saying Lewisham town centre doesn't have its problems. I'm just not sure that an enormous redevelopment is the answer to them. The current town centre is at least on a human scale, and a lot of the problems are of the council's own making; why have those shops been boarded up for YEARS, for example, when we're no closer to work starting than we were when they shut?

I think it's also worth remembering, as someone pointed out last time this was discussed, that the current face of the north end of Lewisham High Street is the result of a major redevelopment in the 1970s which was also going to solve all the problems of the town centre...

Brockley Nick said...

Thanks TM, Anon and Patrick - some interesting responses.

TM - I accept that Lewisham Gateway will make the experience of driving through Lewisham slightly longer and and I'm quite prepared to believe that it will make it more frustrating . But my point about Croydon is that they built overpasses and underpasses to make it great to drive through - trouble is, by prioritising the needs of cars, they ruined the place for pedestrians - favouring pedestrians creates better places to live. The Gateway favours pedestrians.

Anon and Patrick - you're right about how many major developments have failed in the past and that some tall buildings can cause downdraft. But the failires of the past (50 years in the Elephant's case) are not an argument against trying again. Developers have learned a lot and there are plenty of successful precedents of the reinvention of past white elephants, such as the Bullring.

Elephant's failures were again due to the car being given priority. Check out this brilliant history of Elephant's failures:

http://tinyurl.com/nqsjzh

"The Elephant was quite simply designed for the car, with the social and commercial provision fitted in between the road network. It was very clear from the start that pedestrians were to be given low priority (Abercrombie stated that "traffic weaving will dominate"). His recommendations were not questioned. The implementation of the scheme appears to have been undermined, forcing several amendments. The LCC, charged with bringing it to life, was forced to work with and rely upon an "impoverished Ministry of Transport,"154 whose priorities differed widely from that of the civic authority. This bureaucratic wrangle undermined the good intentions of a public authority widely admired across the world. The LCC were not masters of their own house at the Elephant. The road plan usurped the town plan to devastating effect."

Brockley Nick said...

PS - Canary Wharf is absolutely not a piecemeal development - it is probably the most rigidly masterplanned development in the whole of the UK. Virtually everything that has been built over the last 20 years is in accordance with the original vision and they have a planned pipeline for the next 10 years at least, which they will stick to.

Headhunter said...

I have to say, I have little concern over tall buildings in Lewisham and am far more interested in removing traffic. Central Lewisham is hardly a pretty, picture box area to be preserved so I don't believe tall buildings will affect it adversely. As discussed, currently traffic dominates, from the major artery and roundabout cutting the station off from the centre to the clogged road running throuh the centre itself. Remove traffic and it will immediately become a far nicer place.

Anonymous said...

There is nothing wrong with chain stores. They pay all their taxes and ensure their staff get the minimum wage. Taxes pay for hospitals, schools, roads, etc. How many small retail businesses ring up every sale and pay their staff beyond cash in hand?

The most successful chain stores measure and manage customer demand, providing us what we want for less. Cakes from M&S cost 1/3 to 1/4 of similar cakes from an artisan bakery.

Pete said...

Provided they aren't going to make any of these new flats into gated communities then I think it will potentially improve the area.

I only say this based on the new flats that are being built in Deptford at the Distillery.

http://transpont.blogspot.com/2007/07/disappearing-deptford-1-distillery.html

Making what were public spaces private is a bit rubbish in my opinion.

The council also have to be careful to ensure that they provide enough social housing etc. Rather than just catering to people such as you and me!

Pete said...

The traffic that goes through Lewisham will have to go somewhere. My concern with substantially restricting the flow of traffic through the centre of Lewisham is that it will find other routes and that these will be through residential streets.

Brockley Kate said...

I predict that in the next property boom, Elephant & Castle will actually take off. Many of the elements of it are already bubbling under.

Pete said...

Elephant and Castle will only be a nice place to live if they get rid of the huge round-about.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone spotted the elephant in the boom?

Anonymous said...

So will you go to the meeting Nick?

Anonymous said...

I would have like to have seen a far wider scheme possibly taking in Lewisham Bridge to the West and Claredon Rise and behind the police station.

Currently this scheme seems to be off the radar...when was the last time the developers announced something that took the project forward?

Headhunter said...

Pete - The thing is, the easier you make it for people to jump in their cars and zip along roads through centres like Lewisham and E&C, the more people will do it. Look at the M25 - built by Thatcher and almost consistently jammed since. If you build it, they will come.

Making it more awkward to drive through places like Lewisham and E&C and making them more pleasant for peds may discourage people from driving if they realise they will be sat in gridlocked traffic.

Of course this would have to be backed up by measures preventing them from diverting along residential streets and perhaps more investment in public transport to encourage people further to leave their cars at home.

Tyrwhitt Michael said...

Removing traffic from central Lewisham will not happen unless the A20 is re-routed.

It is the main artery from the channel ports into London and most of the traffic on it is long distance not local. Local car users already avoid Lewisham believe me.

Brockley Nick said...

Anon - what are the details of the meeting?

Lou Baker said...

The regeneration of Lewisham, if it happens, must be good news. We need more shops (and not just tacky chain stores), a cinema, leisure facilities and restaurants.

Tall buildings, providing they're done well, should not be cause for objection. Canary Wharf is a brilliant example of how regeneration can work - and lots of that is very tall.

But I have one major concern with the Lewisham plan: Transport. Our roads and railways are already at, or near, capacity and without solid plans for very significant improvements adding huge number of extra people in to the mix will only make things worse.

Anonymous said...

nick:

http://www.brockley.com/brocsoc/getinvolved.html

Brockley Nick said...

Thanks anon - I thought it was a BrocSoc, rather than a transition towns meeting people were referring to.

Anonymous said...

well, it's at the BrocSoc, and presumably a little debate might be in order.

Anonymous said...

Heidi Alexander is a master of the political sentence:

"It is simply wrong to say that local people haven't been consulted about these proposals"


She could have added to that that the consultation was flawed with questions geared towards getting the response that the Council wanted (and gathered by agencies in the pay of the Council) and that, of course, the Council can ignore these consultations if they choose to.

Brockley Nick said...

@Brockley Kate - agreed.

Anonymous said...

This might be a debate for a different thread, but in my opinion this Transition Towns stuff is seriously dodgy. It's an 'international movement' but from what I can see it seems to come down to adulation for Cuba. You've got to wonder, who's behind it? The people involved seem to be a propaganda front for pro-Cuba campaigning.

Brockley Nick said...

Well whilst I share your reservations about the pro-Cuba propaganda, I think the people running the group are a well-meaning bunch and I don't think it's a front for anything, other than their ideas about the imminent arrival of peak oil.

Anonymous said...

Yes Nick, I meant the people involved at an international level - those who set up Transition Towns.

The local people involved in Brockley seem well-intentioned and I'm sure they're not some kind of underground Cuban revolutionary cell or anything ...

Paul Bell said...

Let's face it; Lewisham Town Centre is not nice. It has far too many awful 1960s and 1970s buildings and as a resident in Crofton Park, I avoid it like the plague, unless I am going to Tesco’s or the DLR. I would love a better town centre, but the problem with regeneration schemes is that they are guided by an architect’s whims and not the needs of the community.

However, I welcome any development in Lewisham, though poverty of architecture usually generates little love for an area. While this scheme could be improved, the economics of the day usually impact on the quality of the design. I want Lewisham to be a safer, greener and nicer place to live, shop and pass through. I hope this scheme does that, but I am doubtful because in order to make Lewisham better, there must be a vision, a purpose for the regeneration. In these plans, I don't see anything that would make Lewisham stand out from other London boroughs, nor do anything about the fear and actual crime problem in the town centre. One way of doing that, is by encouraging a greater mix of people who use the space in the evenings, with bars and restaurants, coffee shops, leisure facilities and housing. When I look at Lewisham Town Centre, I see the old 1960s Bull Ring in Birmingham and I want to leave as soon as I can, because it is depressing.

The town centre I would like to see is one stretching to Ladywell Fields, offering a safe and beautiful park, next door to restaurants and places to socialise and meet friends. The buildings would be modern, with an eye on the past, built of steel, glass and stone, with trees and a central green area. There would be things to do, a cinema, more festivals and maybe a conference centre. In addition, we need to encourage new businesses and organisations to setup in Lewisham, not stick to the 1970s model that has created the Lewisham ‘Bullring’. I am sympathetic to Cllr Alexander, because she is doing a great job in difficult circumstances; but Lewisham needs to be bolder and have more vision; and perhaps I need to stop dreaming.

patrick1971 said...

@Tyrwhitt Michael: if local car owners are already avoiding Lewisham, who's using all the car parking space above the shopping centre and at Tesco? And why are people in the roads between Lewisham and Ladywell campaigning for a CPZ?

Headhunter, it's an interesting question how bad roads have to get before people will stop driving. Have any studies been done? Clearly commuting into central London is one example; there's nowhere to park and you can't be sure of getting there on time, so people don't generally do it. But if you look at holidays to Cornwall, for example, even though it's quicker, less stressful, and, if you book in time, cheaper to go by train, loads of people still put themselves through what by all accounts is an agonising drive.

Anonymous said...

not all the people between Lewisham and Ladywell are campaigning for a CPZ...

Pete said...

The reason that people drive to Cornwall rather than take the train is that when they get there the car is very useful. The journey there is probably a complete nightmare but they like having a car when they reach the destination as public transport in rural areas is rubbish.

The last time I went to Cornwall we went by train and took our bikes and that worked out fine. But if you weren't as fit as me you might have found it to be a nightmare as plenty of the hills were very, very steep.

Headhunter said...

Patrick - Yes it'd be interesting how bad it needs to be made to get people out of their cars for short journeys they could easily make on foot.

As for journeys further afield, I can understand going by car if you have a lot of luggage to transport (for a holiday may be), perhaps a couple of kids or if yuo are expecting to make journeys locally once you have arrived. Local public transport in rural seaside spots is usually pretty much non existent.

Tyrwhitt Michael said...

Caught me out there Patrick.

I was projecting my own behaviour on to everyone else.

Bit like saying everyone between Lewisham and Ladywell is campaigning for a CPZ, which it seems is not the case.

I am afarid I haven't parked in Lewisham Tescos for about 5 years or so, so I wouldn't know who is responsible for parking there.

French Tourists?
People from Kent?

Pete said...

I park at the Lewisham Tesco. I go once a week.

There, I've said it. I am personally responsible for the traffic hell that is cetral lewisham...

max said...

The underground car park of Tesco is mostly empty, the one above ground is always full but it's not big compared to the size of the shop.
I agree with what Tyrwhitt Micheal said on the transports issues. Most of the traffic passing through the roundabout is not local.

People may not like it but a roundabout is the most efficient way to process cars and since the traffic passing by there is not local but is made of several flows of vehicles that meet there and only pass by there because there aren't alternatives then the area is likely to remain blighted by heavy traffic.

The lower h road layout that is supposed to replace the roundabout was devised on the principle that it shouldn't have made matters worse than what there currently is there, but I think that at the end there was an admission that it will make things marginally worse. And that study of course didn't account for the cumulative impact of all the other developments, it assumed a status quo with the except for the Gateway.

But considerations on traffic are very elastic. I am involved with a campaign to have a pedestrian traffic light installed at the bottom of Courthill road and TfL opposed that because it would slow down traffic.
So, TfL agrees to slow traffic down in the most sensitive junction of the Borough to allow the Gateway development to be built and did allude to the positive effects of capacity constrain as a a measure that would make people switch to public transport. At the same time they oppose slowing traffic down for safety reasons on a much less crucial junction that's only about a quarter of a mile down the road.

Headhunter said...

Ooh you naughty boy, Pete. What's up with the bike?

Pete said...

When we didn't have the car we used to walk to Tesco rather than cycling. I could never bring enough stuff back from the shop on my bike.

Once you've got a car that you're paying to insure etc you might as well use it for these small jobs. It makes life easier. I'll admit it, I'm a lazy f*cker.

Headhunter said...

I must admit, big shops would be easier with a car, but I tend to do a few shops a week on the way home. I drop in at Asda or Tezzies on OKR and fill my rucksack with stuff. Otherwise I shop at Lewisham market and just do a couple of trips. 2 rucksackfuls of food is all I need to last me a while.

matrowan said...

Bit late on the discussion here, been away. The Lewisham Gateway favours pedestrians if you want to arrive at the station and walk into the shopping centre. If you want to walk home up to Brockley for instance, you have the same over crowded pavements as you do now. The developers were very satisfied with this, and didn't see the irony of a 1/4 billion pound scheme not improving the situation. The pedestrian flow didn't take into account the extra hundreds in the proposed Loampit Vale development or a new secondary school. They couldn't find any money on their scheme to improve the lot of cyclists although they were very pleased with their provision of on street cycle racks.

The proposals for Loampit Vale aren't making any improvements to the access along the front, developer just said they were keeping the cycle route. Well an extra few thousand people with no carparking and a new secondary school aren't likely to generate any more cyclists, I suppose.

At the planning meeting the main planner produced some info about shoppers going to Bromley instead of Lewisham. He thought this was terrible and the rest of the discussion was really about going shopping in Lewisham. Hot topic for your blog. He didn't consider that much of Lewisham was closer to Bromley and they had a few department stores.

Hey but someone seems to think that people don't have a valid argument for objection when they say the schemes haven't taken a holistic approach. Can you see the problems with piecemeal?

Anonymous said...

Can we persuade the mayor to take children's future seriously, scrap Loampit Vale plans, build a new secondary school there, with a playing field, a swimming pool and maybe keep some of the low level housing and the creative art business units. It might persuade me to stay in Lewisham. My neighbours left after the go ahead was given for Lewisham Gateway. First of many I imagine

Brockley Kate said...

Loampit Vale planning application was approved last night - 3 votes in favour, 3 votes against, so chair's vote swung it - according to Sue Luxton.

maxink said...

Labour Councillors for, the others against.
I was there and spoke too, I posted a complete commentary on my blog.

Brockley Kate said...

Max - were any councillors who are members of the committee absent?
The council's website is confusing in terms of who sits on the planning committee, there seem to be several committees and I can't work out which one it was.

maxink said...

Yes, absent were Klier (Lab), Long (Lab), Priddey (Libdem) and Britton (Cons).

Brockley Kate said...

Hmmm, interesting. Thanks Max!

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