Big Yellow wins Lewisham Way fight

Big Yellow has been given permission to build a new storage facility on a site opposite Lewisham Art House on Lewisham Way. The site is currently occupied by poor-quality commercial warehousing.

The plans had been strongly opposed by local campaigners and Lewisham Council's planning committee voted 5-1 to turn down Big Yellow's application, but the decision has been overturned by a planning inspector.

The setback is not really about aesthetics. Big Yellow is not proposing to build one of its trademark bright-yellow centres on the site, but has come up with something more muted. It will arguably be less ugly than what it replaces. The real blow is that storage centres encourage traffic and discourage development on a human scale. It means that any hope that this stretch of Lewisham Way could be redeveloped to create shop-fronts or housing, to form a coherent stretch of high-street, is gone.

As Darren Johnson writes on his blog:

"This is the wrong facility in the wrong place, and this decision to overrule elected councillors is bad news for Brockley. Lewisham Way should be a vibrant high street for the area, not a location for warehousing and storage. Local people say they don't need another storage facility and want to protect the existing local jobs on the site."

44 comments:

Michael said...

I find this a bit depressing. How much opposition to a project does there have be before it is taken seriously?

Michael said...

I find this a bit depressing. How much opposition to a project does there have be before it is taken seriously?

Pete said...

It strikes me as completely wrong that elected councillors can be over ruled. But then I suppose if they couldn't be then things like wind farms would never get approval.

Anonymous said...

These things will always happen because we as a community aren't able to galvanise ourselves to put up a coherent and effective opposition sufficient to match the developers.

BrocSoc and others do their best, but they are volunteers. Developers will have professionals dedicated to get these proposals pushed through.

All we can do now is make the best of the situation. It's a new business in the area so jobs, and new visitors to area should ensue we can try and incorporate the company into our community and encourage it to sponsor/promote/take part in local events.

Pete said...

I'm not sure if it would matter how coherently galvanised we are. You can only object to things on solid planning grounds. If these aren't deemed sufficient you will always be over-ruled by planning inspectors.

Anonymous said...

It seems there was no other proposed developments,or was there ?

Anonymous said...

It's difficult to oppose a plan like this when it is replacing a complete eyesore - even though he 'improvement' is only marginal. Unfortunately no developer ever came in with plans to turn that area in nice shop fronts and housing and the planning department has an argument to say 'well how long do we have to wait, someone here has presented us with a perfectly viable option?"
That area unfortunately seems a bit lost to me as a nice consumer hub, and has for a while - there are other areas though in Brockley that have shown seeds of hope and it's in those areas where public support should be focused.

Hugh said...

I'm not the biggest fan of storage depots, Nick, but Lewisham way has had years to come up with shop fronts or other 'human scale' alternatives. The market says Big Yellow so let's go with that.

Brockley Nick said...

Hugh, I agree with you to an extent, and with anon who says we should now just get on with it and try to make the best of it.

However, we don't always have a perfect market and it doesn't operate in isolation. Perhaps the Council could have been more proactive in terms of looking at what could be done with this site, what other uses, other than light industrial, it could have been put to.

Hey ho.

Anonymous said...

This is a shame. Old kent road is only a stones throw away and there are a number of storage facilities there. I thought Lewisham was planning ahead for an imminent population rise...couldn't this area could have been another residential area in the future (I guess this may have been investigated but one can not assume.

Raven said...

I find it a bit depressing too. The Big Yellow also won a fight at LB Greenwich a year or two ago for the former World of Leather site in Eltham on the A205 (at 400 Westhorne Avenue). Work has begun in earnest there now. It's shame because there were a number of retail outlets there used by people (including Grays Tyers, Maplins, Topps Tiles and a Fitness Centre), though I don't know ultimately how profitable they were.

Val said...

Brocsoc's strategy has been all wrong.

Wasn't Brocsoc set up for planning applications WITHIN the Brockley Conservation Area?

That said, it should have neogotiated a deal with Big Yellow for apartments or a good Section 106 re road improvements, etc. It failed to negotiate and was most hostile. (I recently discovered that one of its senior members doesn't even live in the borough?...)

I think Hugh has pointed out that no one wanted to do anything with the site - and for years - and this would have been taken into consideration by the Planning Inspector. The latter whom, I should add, also comes down on the side of the little people too; 1-3 Ashby road (mental health unit) and 60 Manor Avenue (nursery) and others, which ere turned down at Appeal. All, incidentally, would have increased traffic - but within the conservation area that Brocsoc should actually be concentrating on.

It did not in the case of work units in Ashby Mews, which will increase traffic in the CA following an increase in capacity.

Brocsoc should stop interfering in every planning application in the Lewisham borough, which dilutes its power. It should also learn to negotiate with potential developers - and stop being so dictatorial.

Ed said...

Planning laws/rules should be stricter and demand higher standards although I agree that this is market driven. On another planning point is there anyone who knows how we might challenge some of the less sensitive advertising sites in Brockley?

Hugh said...

Separately, any news on whether the corner of Tyrwhitt Road will become a cafe?

Anonymous said...

Thank god, a victory for common sense

Anonymous said...

As was predicted the local protestors shot themselves in the foot.

The inspector did not take much notice of the local petition as it did not represent the application - much more yellow was shown than is actually proposed.

Good to see a respect for the truth winning through.

Brockley Nick said...

@Anon - your point about misleading visuals is well-made. I think it's extremely important for protest groups to represent issues accurately.

The same could be said of the misleading visuals produced by the Lewisham Gateway protestors - only more so.

Sartana said...

In defence of the Brockley Society.

The stretch of Lewisham Way that includes the Big Yellow proposed development is within the Conservation Area - and directly faces it. Gordonbrock School also directly faces it.

Also - Brockley does not end at the edge of the Conservation Area. That fact that the CA exists does make it slightly easier to campaign for the built environment within these boundaries, but it would be ridiculous to wash our hands of the immediate neighbouring area because of this technicality.

Also - the Society actually has very little negotiating power. We can kick and scream as much as we like, but are oftened ignored. It would be great to think that we might have the power to negotiate improved Section 106 agreements and the like - but we are simply not powerful or influential enough.

The sad fact is, we are just a humble bunch of locals trying to use the experience we have to influence the decision making process for the better, in the little spare time that we have.

We are very sorry that the decision to develop more industrial units in Ashby Mews was granted permission. Another occasion where our advice was ignored. We will continue to object to future developments in any way we can - as we have recently at Breakspeares Mews.

Also - I suspect that the individual you are referring to that no longer lives in the borough is the same individual who has received an MBE for their services to Brockley, who has given up more time to the area than anyone I can care to think of. I think this person may have earnt their retirement outside of London, and we are still very grateful for the considerable input that this person is still able to put in to the Society on a regular basis.

What an odd comment!

Brockley Nick said...

I agree that it's very welcome to see Broc Soc engaging with issues outside the confines of the conservation area, which is in any case, only a stone's throw from this site.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the shop on the corner of Tyrwhitt Rd will become Big Yellow's Offices.

Anonymous said...

We need to empower people with knowledge, maybe the next local assembly pays for a trainer in planning issues and then we do a cascade of information throughout the community. I feel upset to think that there might have been some much needed section 106 funding from this developement that has been lost.

TM said...

Cafe on the corner or Tyrwhitt Road?
Believe me but it won't happen before the Olympics and probably not even then.

VAL said...

Why should it be odd to suggest that those who have moved outside the area should leave decisions on the area to those still living inside it?
Unless you're suggesting that an MBE trumps any A level for community support? (Perhaps in your circles it does.)

Anonymous said...

Val that's a childish and unpleasant comment.

I don't see why someone who has left an area shouldn't continue to have an interest in it, and their experience of how things work in that area may be invaluable to those left behind.

I would hate to see things left in the hands of someone who shows the sort of petulance and immaturity displayed in your last post.

Brockley Nick said...

Thanks - please can we start being nice to one another again. ta

Anonymous said...

and what 'decisions' are you referring to?

CA dweller said...

I think the attacks on BrocSoc are disgraceful and I'm not surprised that VAL has reacted. Its easy to carp at the side and do nothing to improve things. I have more respect for those that try but fail. Than those that critique but do little else.

Osh said...

CA Dweller it was VAL who was doing the criticising

Anonymous said...

A new unit there will look better than what's there now and will provide a useful service and a few jobs.
An area can only sustain so many shops- obviously nobody shopped on this bit! There is limited parking, and other shopping venues near-by with better facilities. Investment in the row further up near Tesco would be welcome, but that row of shops, together with the ones at the top of Upper Brockley Rd, surely add up to enough small shops for this stretch of road. I'm not against the Big Yellow really- I'd rather that than a large supermarket with lots of extra traffic.

Anonymous said...

storage units don't bring that much traffic- once it's in, it's in...

Anonymous said...

I think the inspector got it right, on balance. Hard to make a credible argument against, despite Lewisham voting against (they really do seem to persistently back the wrong horse - Homeview anyone!). These things have to go somewhere.

Anonymous said...

P.s. Conservation Area arguments are all well and good. But the inspector would be have been looking at views into and out of the CA and its overall impact. Hard to argue that the impact in this case would be anything other than neutral. Sorry,

grandad said...

Ee, Homeview. That takes me back.

Anonymous said...

To those who wondered why there was no other proposals for the site - to the best of my knowledge, Big Yellow targeted the area, negotiated with the owners of the Industrial site, then did not renew leases when they came up. This was not a case of them replacing something run down, but actively running it down.

Anon 9:17 said...

BrocSoc did not stand a chance, these people know what they are doing, the pay consultants to devise a strategy for every potential move any local lobby group can come up with.

Hugh said...

BrocSoc's strengths are probably its local restaurant reviews, to be fair.

Eggs good, toast quite good...

Tressillian James said...

Hugh -BrcoSoc work damn hard for no reward. Why don't you help an under-resourced group....

Broc Soc good egg, Hugh bad egg

Anonymous said...

Surely all the bankers moving into the area need somewhere to store their cash?

Brockley Jon said...

I think what's there now is pretty grim, but if people knew what was there first of all, they might be less impressed by Big Yellow's proposal:

The Pynes department store circa 1935, part of which remains as flats on the corner of Tanners Hill, and previously had a frontage along Lewisham Way as far as Ned's Beds.

Oh, and good on the Brockley Society. Anyone who gives up their own time for the community deserves our respect, whether they win or not.

Headhunter said...

I agree that it's a shame that the Big Yellow facility has been granted approval. Why is it that decisions are so frequently overturned in Lewisham? Ashby Mews development, strip bar in New Cross and now Big Yellow to name a few. It seems that the 1st decision is merely a stepping off point for developers to continuously make new applications and appeals which seem to eventually get through, no matter what locals or elected officials want.

I see that to a certain extent there were no other viable suggestions for the site, but why can't we see our local council positively encouraging local retail or residential developments for people who actually live locally, rather than big commercial operations like this for out of towners to drive to? SE London arteries like OKR and Lewisham Way already has its fair share of megastores and drive to developments.

Shouldn't planning inspectors be doing just that? Some planning, rather than approving whatever comes along?

BTW what happened with the nursery on Manor Ave in the end? The medical health unit AKA young offenders institute on Ashby Mews/Rd? Another couple of examples of the developer pushing and pushing and pushing against local opinion until it gets its way. Did they get rejected once and for all? What's the development on Breakspears Mews that Broc Soc is opposing?

Anonymous said...

i was wondering how many new jobs will big yellow bring to lewisham - does anyone know

Tyrwhitt michael said...

If you read this article it seems any number is possible...........

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2009/nov/29/self-storage-britain-tom-lamont

Anonymous said...

More jobs have been lost with Big Yellow buying the Industrial Site and then not renewing than Big Yellow can ever provide. How many jobs - probably no more than three.

Oh and has anyone seen a white Big Yellow? Please note that there is NOTHING preventing them from changing their mind and painting it yellow.

Flyby said...

I think I read last night that Lewisham has to pay costs for Big Yellow's successful appeal. Don't know whether is true or not, hope not though.

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