The Brockley Cross Action Group, which has for years campaigned for the Council to help the regeneration of Brockley Cross, has issued a statement about the substance abuse centre proposed for Shardeloes Road. They say:
This is an extremely valuable service and one that is worthy of support in principle. That is not in doubt.
The current service is located at New Direction, 410, Lewisham High Street. This serves users in the north of the Borough. Users in the southern part of the Borough have an equivalent centre in Forest Hill. Despite many successes with the current service the Council now believe they could achieve much more if the service for the north of the borough was better located. They think that a new service centre located in Brockley Cross would better serve users in Brockley, New Cross and Deptford. They justify the choice of Shardeloes Road as it is on a main road, it is close to Brockley Station and has frequent bus services. But do these brief statements in the consultation document really stand up to closer scrutiny?
The current Lewisham High Street centre is on a busy main road with a heavy footfall, a very urban site within a commercial parade of shops, close to Lewisham Hospital. In contrast Brockley Cross, although it has a small nucleus of shops, is a much quieter and more residential area.
It is a very small building too, about 4 times smaller than 410, Lewisham High Street. Furthermore we have established that there are only 5 years left on the lease, after which time the landlord has stated his intention to develop the site. The building, vacant for many years, will require considerable funds to convert it to the new use. Will this be good value for money, given that it will have a maximum of 5 years use?
The problem [of alcohol and substance abuse] is much greater and widespread in New Cross and Deptford [anecdotal rather than statistical evidence is used to support this claim]. It therefore makes much more sense for a support centre to be located where there is a greater demand and it is easier to get to. Our concern would be that by opening a new centre in Brockley Cross we would be bringing people with drink & drug problems into an area where they don’t currently exist. There are anti-social problems associated with the current centre in Lewisham, but it is in a non residential area where the impact is minimal and where such issues can be managed. The Lewisham Central Safer Neighbourhood Team (SNT), who regularly deal with drinker-related incidents outside the existing centre, said they were “relieved” to see it go. An adjoining shop stated that police attend to incidents outside the Centre every week. Lewisham has a large Police Station.
Their statement concludes that the centre is proposed in the wrong location. They urge people who agree with them to make their feelings known by emailing DAATAdmin@lewisham.gov.uk
Given their mission, it is perhaps not surprising that they have concluded that this plan is the wrong one, but their arguments are worth listening to, for two reasons. Firstly, and most importantly, they are well-reasoned. They list the practical reasons why this location is not particularly suitable and we have reproduced the ones we think are most compelling. However, arguments against specific proposals like this are often met with accusations of prejudice and intolerance. So secondly, it's worth pointing out that the BXAG group are a fair-minded group who gave the plans their first public consultation opportunity (at their AGM). We once organised a walkabout of Brockley Cross with the BXAG and the then-Deputy Mayor and mentioned on the tour that there were at least two businesses in the area that openly dealt drugs. We were urged not to rush to judgement by the BXAG (we weren't actually judging them, just pointing out that it wasn't a sign of a particularly successful commercial centre).
These are not reactionaries, they are people who care about their area and have taken their time to evaluate the proposal and found the arguments for it to be deeply flawed.