Guest post: Kirsten Downer on the Surrey Canal redevelopment

The surest way of killing off a discussion about why Brockley Central hasn't written about a particular subject is normally to suggest to the person asking that they write something themselves as a guest column.

However, reader Kirsten Downer has done what almost never happens and written an article. So in the spirit of both plurality and laziness on BC's part, here it is:

The plans for redevelopment of Surrey Canal (which includes approximately 2,500 new homes) that were submitted earlier this month are - I believe - seriously flawed, for the following reasons:

- the level of 'social housing' - developers have recently switched to saying that provision of social housing with any scheme is within or close to guidelines by counting the number of habitable rooms - ignoring the fact that it is family units that require housing and therefore it is units of housing that are needed to make any dent in Lewisham's homelessness problem. Poor provision of social housing is an important issue to highlight because some people are hoodwinked by promises of extra housing.

- Building heights. Many problems here - wind, interference with TV reception, sunlight (both for those in the new flats and those in the surroundings). Here the developers try to blind with science but there is usually some statement admitting that there is a problem (eg for the Gateway certain areas became 'dangerous' for cyclists due to the wind effects!)

- Highways and congestion - TfL and the Highways Agency seem to bend over backward to permit these schemes, but there are usually increased levels of congestion and air pollution.

- General lack of infrastructure. There will be increased pressure on medical facilities and schools and no provision in the schemes to provide it.

Whilst it seems many Brockleyites see this area as a dump, people like me actually manage to live here and we don't feel that more concrete and glass will improve it. Why is it always assumed that more housing units are what is required to regenerate an area?

The area could support some more housing but not on this scale. What it needs is clean air, more green spaces and more local independent useful shops such as a bakers, greengrocers etc. 300 small businesses exist on the development site already - why not keep these these and expand on them to create a new 'green industry' zone, for example. As for brownfield sites: they may not look so obviously pretty as woodland but they have been shown to be magnificent biodiverse urban habitats, especially for invertebrates.

Those out there who share residents' concerns have til 14 March to make their opinions known, by contacting Chris Brodie, Principal Planning Officer

The Council seems to be politically committed to this decision, as was the case with the huge Loampit Vale development - lessons learned from Loampit Vale campaigners is that the only way to stop developments like this are forming a campaign coalition early on to exert political pressure. If anyone out there has 5 minutes to set up a Facebook page about the Surrey Canal Road development concerns, then that could help galvanise such a campaign. Takers, anyone?

27 comments:

mb said...

Not absolutly clear, would you support a development that went some or all the way to address your concerns or are you saying leave the area alone?

pedalmatic said...

With regards to your statement on the dangers of wind for cyclists, are you including cyclones?

Bored and tired (in a pedantic mood) said...

Sorry Nick, but 'killing-off'?? There's is absolutely no need for that hyphen. It is plain wrong. You're very fond of hyphens, I know, but I find them irritating. The article is interesting though ;-)

Brockley Nick said...

Yes, I recognise it is a weakness of mine. I use them almost indiscriminately. Apologies.

silly-sausage said...

should that be use-them?

probably-not....

Tee-Hee

Lou Baker said...

The two words in the English language which instill the most fear in me when put together are 'social' and 'housing.'

The notion that you should build specific new houses for a specific quota of poor people is just pathetic. It's like having a Chavs' charter.

300 poor people should live here. 27 people in here can be poor, providing 121 are not.

It is the most evident example of how attempts at social engineering have repeatedly failed.

Brockley Nick said...

@Lou - if you'd said "affordable housing" I'd agree, quotas are bad ideas.

But surely social housing needs to be be planned, because it's for people who aren't able to participate in a commercial market.

mb said...

well some social engineering has failed, some has not. Education as a right, whether or not your parents can pay, was a cunning bit of social engineering that I think we can all agree is a good thing?

Lou Baker said...

@mb

But every child is entitled to go to school.

Not everyone is entitled to 'social housing.'

And it seems to me those that throw away the chances offered to them by the former of these are more likely to end up in the latter.

@nick

Housing should be affordable. If no one can afford it, what's the point?

It's quotas I find offensive.

Brockley Nick said...

@Lou - re: affordable housing exactly. The state shouldn't try to dictate what counts as affordable, but social housing is different - you need quotas.

mb said...

@lou, yes children are entitled to go to school. It wasn't always the case, it's a social intervention by the state.

I'm not saying housing is exactly the same but I do think the state has a role to play in trying to ensure that the basics are provided to ensure that everyone has a fair go. Either by state funding, tax breaks, legislation, ... Is that social engineering? perhaps.

Anonymous said...

@Bored pedantic...

There's is absolutely no need for that hyphen.

There is no need for the 'is'. It is plain wrong.

Tom said...

I guess Kirsten's piece points out some flaws but it would have been to have an element of constructive criticism. Like mb, I'm left unsure where the issue really lies - is the specific development or the general idea of developing the area?

I cycle through that part of the world frequently and does seem in need of something. (Other than white vans and recycling centres.)

Tom said...

What is it with me missing words at the moment?! "... would have been nice ..."

Anonymous said...

After 50-60 years since World War 2 and no major incidents, you'd think intelligent university educated leaders would have resolved the shortage of housing.

Danja said...

I'm not sure about Kirsten's downer.

Brockley Nick said...

I've updated the article now, so that Kirsten's alternative is explained.

Tamsin said...

Housing was affordable when mortgages were only obtainable from building societies, you needed to have saved up for a reasonable percentage by way of deposit and the size of the loan was linked to earnings. It was when everything de-regulated that things got silly.

Anonymous said...

"Not everyone is entitled to 'social housing.'

And it seems to me those that throw away the chances offered to them by the former of these are more likely to end up in the latter."

I'm moving to Brockley soon and some of the views expressed by regular posters here strike me as very Daily Mail.

Brockley always struck me as multi-cultural, but maybe not as well integrated as it should be...in Finsbury Park for example (where I'm moving from) the local blog never crept into that territory.

Sorry for going off-topic!

Brockley Nick said...

@Anon - however discomforting it may be, there are Daily Mail readers everywhere. Even Finsbury Park, where I once lived too. Pretty sure you'll find community integration is much the same in both places, which are quite similar.

As for the local blog, I know Harringay Online, good website, requires everyone to go through quite a lengthy registration process before they can comment. When people don't have the cover of anonymity, they are rather better behaved. But it can lead to some fairly dull discussions.

Horses for courses of course, but I think even reactionary right-wingers deserve to be heard (and challenged).

Brockley Nick said...

Besides which, Lou is practically Nunhead. ;)

Anonymous said...

And your blog is far superior Nick.

Those sorts of comments instantly irk me having myself lived in 'social housing' at one point, knowing my neighbours there, having had family and friends in social housing and understanding the reasons why some of them live there.

Lou Baker's past comments about dirty chavs are equally delightful.

I'll register here once I've moved to SE4 and try not to rise to the reactionary right-wing bait so easily...

Brockley Nick said...

Cheers, and welcome to the area!

Lou Baker said...

I used to live near Finsbury Park too. And I don't read the Daily Mail.

And unlike some I also don't pretend to be oh so tolerant and then vent my own intolerance at those who I consider to be intolerant.

Reactionary right winger? Me? I've never voted anything right of Lib Dem. I want to adopt the Euro; I'm in favour of massive defence cuts and unilateral nuclear disarmament, I'm pro-ethical foreign policy; I think we should use 100% renewable energy; I'm against any sort of cap on immigration; I support gay marriage; I back voting reform (up to a point); I'm a republican and would like separation of church and state. So I think I'd struggle to be the right wing poster boy you make out.

What I object to is the view from the extremely left that government is perfect and that spending money and state intervention is the solution to every problem. It is not. Individuals must take responsibility too.

And that's what I mean by chav. It's not about rich and poor - it's about those who are socially responsible and those who are not. Just because you're poor it doesn't mean you have to chuck your left over chicken take-away on the floor. Just because you're rich it doesn't mean you have to drive your kids to school in a 4x4. Just because you earn below average salary it doesn't mean you should expect a state subsidised house for life.

These things are not black and white. But maybe, like most Guardian readers, you don't do shades of grey?

Welcome to Brockley. The Nunhead-end rocks. Beware those Crofton Parkers.

Anonymous said...

For once a Lou Baker post I almost agree with.

Mb said...

How odd. There's me thinking you always see things as black and white. The Market ALWAYS finds the best solution etc, etc....

It sometimes does and sometimes doesn't.

Perhaps you need to look at your presentational skills. When some one talks about social housing you shout "chav!" obviously people have a measure of responsibility for themselves. I also think that we have some obligation to one another.

Tone down your bile and you may actually persuade some people.

urbansurgery said...

"that were submitted earlier this month are - I believe - seriously flawed, for the following reasons:"

"- the level of 'social housing' - developers have recently switched to saying that provision of social housing with any scheme is within or close to guidelines by counting the number of habitable rooms - ignoring the fact that it is family units that require housing"


On the contrary the overall mix as a measure of habitable rooms is a more worthwhile judgement. Yes there is a substantial need (as some would measure it, not lou) for an increase in social housing, but it is because he need is coming from families that the LAs and GLA are pushing for this measure as family friendly units have a greater number of hab. rooms per unit than not. If you weight the mix of affordable to market higher the the mix between family and 1/2 bed will shift as the envelope will accomodate only a specfic quantum. The measurement shift has come from the publi sector not the private preceisely to ensure affordable units are bigger. This is to be encouraged. While I may follow Lou's line on why this provision is being made, if it is then i'd prefer it to be family housing than a leg up to singletons.


"- Building heights. Many problems here - wind, interference with TV reception, sunlight (both for those in the new flats and those in the surroundings). Here the developers try to blind with science"

Science is more reliable than mere opinion


"- Highways and congestion - TfL and the Highways Agency seem to bend over backward to permit these schemes"

More often than not TFL and HA are completely ambivalent to schemes coming forward or not verging ont he contra position to that you state. Their mandated job is to mitigate the likely increase in congestion.


"- General lack of infrastructure. There will be increased pressure on medical facilities and schools and no provision in the schemes to provide it."

Are you in receipt of the Section 106 Heads of Terms. I'm not. This statement has a general lack of measurable fact.


"Why is it always assumed that more housing units are what is required to regenerate an area?"

Regeneration of an area is generally provided by an increase in investment. The highest return on investment which generates offshoot cash to pay for infrastructural improvements is from residential development both in the short term to the developer and in the long term via taxation.


"The area could support some more housing but not on this scale."

Opinion or fact?


"What it needs is clean air, more green spaces and more local independent useful shops such as a bakers, greengrocers etc. 300 small businesses exist on the development site already - why not keep these these and expand on them to create a new 'green industry' zone, for example."

Work out how that can make money for a developer and they will do it. Otherwise you are stuck with the state providing it for you ... I wouldn't wish that train-wreck on anyone. It isn't greedy or evil for a development to have to make money. The majority of building in the UK is funded by pension funds which use construction as a safer investment than stock markets believe it or not.

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