Mayor calls in Convoys Wharf

The Mayor of London has called-in the £1 billion plan to redevelop Convoys Wharf in Deptford after the developer Hutchison Whampoa lost patience with Lewisham Council over the protracted decision-making process. Building Design reports:

Hutchison Whampoa lost patience with the local authority, accusing it of making “unreasonable and unwarranted” demands and of pushing the scheme’s viability “to its limits”.

It wrote to the GLA in October, just a week after its executive director, Edmond Ho, sent a letter to the head of planning at Lewisham expressing his frustration.

“After more than five years, firstly with our previous masterplanners Aedas and then with Farrells, we simply cannot comprehend how you can now choose to prolong the decision process further,” Ho said. “We fail to see any justification for such a major strategic project suffering further unnecessary delay.”

This week Johnson, whose design advisers include Terry Farrell himself, agreed to take over as planning authority for the 3,500-home scheme which will see three towers built on the site of Henry VIII’s naval dockyard and Sayes Court, the home of 17th-century diarist and gardener John Evelyn.

He praised Lewisham’s recent record on housing but said: “In this particular case the planning history over the long term and particularly over the past year or so indicate that the breakdown in relationship between the council and the applicant is such that I am not satisfied that you will be able to reach a timely planning determination in respect of the current planning application for this important site.”

Opponents of the scheme are right to criticise its lack of respect for the site's history and the worryingly poor transport access to the site, but this saga has dragged on for an inordinate amount of time - meanwhile, lack of housing supply in London pushes prices higher and higher.

79 comments:

Honest Local Man said...

Good news, bit by bit Deptford will be made less scuzzy

Anon said...

Is that Lewisham Council that engaged developers to start Lewisham Gateway in 2006 and was finished by the Olympics in 2012? The same borough that has a massive site at Catford which has been derelict for years?

Andy said...

Bad news. Now any commercial party can simply go over the head of the local authority and ride roughshod over any request for sensitivity to local requirements. I have no confidence in the Mayor's desire, or ability, to act in the best interests of the area. When these schemes require local authority input - particularly at this scale - the local authority needs to have the appropriate resources to respond, and it's the Mayor's party, who have left councils with deskilled and threadbare planning resources, that exacerbated this issue in the first place. Boris will gladly sign off on a culturally impoverished scheme with no local relevance, and where you would be hard pressed to distinguish a photo from any number of shiny glass developments in any number of cities.

Nemo said...

I expect the most powerful developer in China has quietly explained to Boris the frailty of his recent trade deals. When you sup with the devil democracy goes out of the window.

Kunta said...

Well done Boris

Sue Lawes said...

London's housing shortage will not be solved by the addition of 3,000 luxury homes sold off-plan to overseas investors, Nick.

Gash said...

Are they all going to be "luxury"?

3000 new homes in London is a good thing

Anon said...

Wonder where this leaves the Lenox project?

Bill Ellson said...

3,500 residential units, not homes. A home is somewhere that a person or persons live in on a semi-permanent basis as their main place of residence. Private developments in inner London are invariably marketed in south-east Asia before being available to purchasers in the UK. Although demand occasionally slows down, and therefore prices remain static, the overall trend of the last couple of decades is that prices of inner London residential rise by such an amount that they are now regarded as a reliable investment that will produce significant returns without even bothering to rent them out.

SAYES COURT 4EVA said...

Bring on the development... Build Sayes court and sink the Lennox....... Boris is right this time and 13 years to sort out planning is ridiculous.

Brockley Nick said...

People will live there. That means they won't have to live somewhere else. Which means there won't be so much pressure on other housing stock. Of course they won't solve the housing problem on their own. We need to build hundreds of thousands. But this is a small part of the solution. To pretend otherwise is dishonest.

Bill Ellson said...

Too spineless to put your name to your comment and woefully ignorant of the planning process. There is a Development Plan for the London Borough of Lewisham and if the site owners had put in an application in accordance with that plan they would have been granted planning permission in a few weeks as happens with the vast majority of planning applications.

Kunta said...

Lewisham Council and management are inadequate for the 21st century.

ABZ said...

Thousands of homes in London are being bought by overseas investors (currently estimated at 60% of all new development in inner London) and many of them are left empty as they are bought purely for investment purposes. Despite incredibly high rents the returns aren't high enough to make it worth letting the properties so flats are sitting empty, increasing in value and not being damaged by anyone living in them.


Developers always find planners difficult because planners do annoying things like attempt to make developments comply with policy and get decent S106 agreements negotiated to mitigate the impact of the development or, heaven forbid, insist on levels of affordable housing that developers claim make their schemes unviable.


Boris is in bed with the developers and was accompanied by some of them on his recent visit to China. I'm sure on this development they'll find him a lot easier to deal with than Lewisham planners.

Sue Lawes said...

Did you not read what Bill wrote, Nick? The investors don't have to rent them out to make money. If they do, then they'll charge the going (up) rent of £1300 for a new-build one-bed flat, and contribute to the general hike in rents.



Presumably you're up to date about the Tories' plan to decimate social housing. Eg capping local authority borrowing so that local authorities can't build new social housing. For instance Lewisham is trying to sell off its social housing stock to a reconstituted Lewisham Homes that, as a new Housing Association, will be able to borrow more money to build new homes.


However, those homes will be mostly 80% market rents (government rules) except that Lewisham wants to keep them at 50% for transferring tenants, but cannot guarantee this for new tenants. 80% of £1300 is £1000, perhaps the sort of rent you'd like to charge (but not pay) in Brockley. Also, the whole project is doomed to fail as long as the Right To Buy exists, since new tenants can buy their flats after 5 years, and meanwhile, the government is already offering up to £100,000 discounts to council tenants wanting to take up the Right To Buy.



Get with the programme, Nick.

Sue Lawes said...

Fighting, and strangely glad that Hutchison Whampoa's speculative (as is every move that Li Ka Shing makes) venture is hitting a bigger stage with a celebrity name tag (Boris), so that more people across the world will realise the importance of Deptford Dockyard.



BTW, did you know Li Ka Shing owns UK Power Networks, the London electricity grid and the grid that powers Stanstead and Heathrow, among other things. And that the most frustrating thing for those left without power this week across the South East was the total lack of communication from UK Power Networks. Just sayin' !

Sue Lawes said...

It hasn't been 13 years. It has been just a few months. And the present application is no different from the one last year. And the previous application was equally of no benefit to Deptford whatsoever. The only thing holding up this development is the developers themselves.

Sue Lawes said...

The Planning system is inadequate, especially after Tory speculators have totally ruined it, whilst pretending to be doing something else (Localism). Lewisham have in fact been fairly rigorous with this particular application though they needed to hear the voice of a well-informed local community and the advice of English Heritage to insist on alterations to a masterplan that they may have otherwise let sail through with much less fuss (like their own schemes that tread a similar path)...

Andy said...

Some more tin pot analysis from Nick

Sue Lawes said...

Can you supply a photo so's we can rob you next time you're in the badlands.

Sue Lawes said...

what a kunta.

Jimmy said...

Sorry Billy but that's a whole load of assumption, presumably the "yellow peril" can buy up whatever they want anyway, how would you stop them?

Foreigners want to invest in developments here, they also want to buy them. Sadly we need their money and yes it will continue to push up and raise demand for housing.

Anon said...

Weeks? Make a case study of Lewisham Gateway. The public consultation for a road scheme was 2 years behind schedule. Having selected a developer it took 18 months rather than the normal 2-3 months to sign a deal. A regeneration board's six year funding to oversee the development ran out before a single brick was laid.
Every time questions start being raised about Lewisham Gateway the council announces something to make it seem the development was moving forward. Firstly the demolition of a row of shops, then the rubble was grassed over followed by 'landscaping' to create open spaces. Which will be built over and are just cosmetic to cover up Lewisham Gateway should have been done dusted 2 years ago.
As to private money building residences, do you want some sauce for that chip on your shoulder? Much of the housing that people love in Lewisham was built by commercial developers, such as Corbett, Jerrard & Laird.
As to the developers of Convey's Wharf how dare they risk putting money into Deptford, shocking! And they are foreigners to boot, outrageous!

Kunta said...

5 years for a planning application? Lewisham Gateway is also heading that way. Confirm they are inadequate.

Kunta said...

Lewisham is one of the poorest and deprived areas in the country riddle with unemployment, dilapidated areas and one of the lowest income per capita. The high streets are closing down and Lewisham should welcome investments that will bring jobs and a more balanced mix of ta payers to the area. But I am afraid that until it is run by the unions we will see very little jobs in the area.

Brockley Nick said...

Sue, as I say in the article, this proposal is not without its problems. However, to entirely dismiss its benefits in order to try to win your argument is a dishonest and ultimately counter-productive strategy.

"The investors don't have to rent them out to make money."


True enough. Some units will probably stay empty longer than they should. However, most of those bought by international investors will be let, so this is a marginal problem.


"If they do, then they'll charge the going (up) rent of £1300 for a new-build one-bed flat, and contribute to the general hike in rents."


Like most landlords, they will charge the market rate. The second part of your sentence doesn't make any sense.

"Presumably you're up to date about the Tories' plan to decimate social housing. Eg capping local authority borrowing so that local authorities can't build new social housing."


I support Councils being able to borrow to build homes and I support the private sector being able to do the same. What has that to do with this issue?


Again, I simply make the point that when / if this is built a lot of people will live there. That will help to alleviate demand for other houses and in the long-term, help to keep rents and mortgages lower than they would otherwise be. London is a fast-growing city. We need to build homes for a growing population. These are homes. Some of the growing population will live in them. Are you going to try to argue with that?

terrencetrentderby said...

Awful woman.

Alexander o'neil said...

Terrence, u are a Parasite

Anon said...

We've been told many new properties are bought by jolly foreigners as an investment and left empty. What figures do Sue & Bill have for say the Barratts development at Loampit Vale ?

Bill Ellson said...

"how would you stop them?"


Very easily, a simple amendment to the "Use Classes Order" requiring planning permission for 'Change of Use' when was has been built and/or used as residential becomes unnoccupied for more than say two months. The Secretary of State can consult on and make such an order in about 3 / 4 months.



If foreigners want to live and work here then we should welcome them, immigrants have always been (overall) net contributors to the British economy. Foreigners building flats to sell as investments to other foreigners contribute very little to the UK economy.

Bill Ellson said...

Yes weeks, as stated above the vast majority of planning applications comply with development plan and are granted with little fuss or bother. Sucessive owners of the Convoys Wharf site has sought to over-develop the site. What you alledge about Lewisham Gateway has nothing to do with Town Planning and is therefore completely irrelevant. As for "private money building residences" your imputations are entirely false and malacious.

Bill Ellson said...

As I clearly explained above:


"There is a Development Plan for the London Borough of Lewisham and if
the site owners had put in an application in accordance with that plan
they would have been granted planning permission in a few weeks as
happens with the vast majority of planning applications."

Bill Ellson said...

I do not have any figures for Loampit Vale, but it does not really compare with a Thameside site like Convoys Wharf.

terrencetrentderby said...

You would scare off FDI and not much would get built, this would compound the housing shortage even more.

Think things are bad now, imaging if we scare away the rich foreign investors. Anyway many of them rent out their properties. People want to park their money in London, short of damaging protectionalist policies and the government actually building social housing there is little we can do to to help "indigenous" people.

Bill Ellson said...

Your dogmatic beleif that all foreign money coming into the UK benefits the UKdoes not stand up to a minute's scrutiny. Foreigners building units for other foreigners as speculative investments with all profits going offshore whilst tying up the finite resource of London does not benefit the UK. Resticting the use of residential property to being used as such might scare away a few chancers, but in that it would release currently disued properties onto the market it would have a net positive effect on housing supply.

terrencetrentderby said...

Many many jobs in the UK are linked to foreign investment in property and finance, a sad over dependance yes but it is fact. If foreign money leaves the dole queues would be a lot longer.

This is fact your comments are just idealistic wishful thinking.

Incidentally Johnny Foreigner dominates high end purchases, not every development is high end.

Bill Ellson said...

The idea that proportionate restrictions on the use / non use of residential property would have any substantive effect on the level of foreign investment is risible.

As for your childish remark about "idealistic wishful thinking." this is a local blog read by intelligent and educated people not the letters page of the Daily Mail.

terrencetrentderby said...

Bill I thought we were getting on so well?

Throwing Daily Mail accusations at someone who disagrees with you is a bit lame don't you think?

The metropolitan Sasquatch said...

Judging from the number of lit windows in the evening, Loampit Vale is full. I think that Asian investors are the metropolitan equivalent of the Sasquatch.

Penfold said...

Not allowed to build flats in Lewisham cos the Chinese will buy them all and steal out wimmin

Penfold said...

"We'll informed local community" aka NIMBYs

Max Calò said...

Lewisham Gateway's troubles have nothing to do with planning, it's just about finances.

Max Calò said...

Can somebody explain what exactly are these "unreasonable and unwarrated" demands that Lewisham was making?

anon said...

Errr...how about recognising the heritage aspects which could be exploited to Deptford's advantage, and the inappropriate height of the 3 towers, and the lack of provision for infrastructure, and so on...

anon said...

which confirms the inadequacy of Lewisham Council, if they cannot event succeed in developing the town center

Max Calò said...

Ok, this in general terms (although I'm not sure Lewisham Council was worried about the height, it's not normally one of their concerns) but in the specific I'd like to know on what grounds Boris Johnson has given himself an unprecedented power to facilitate a developer.
What were the "unreasonable and unwarranted" demands that Boris think must be got away with?

Anon said...

The vast majority of planning applications are to existing buildings and often minor issues such as tree pruning, velux or dormer windows not providing additional housing.
A new scheme can tick all the boxes when it comes to a local development plan, but if enough people object there has to be a public consultation or does Bill propose to outlaw local people having a say?
A scheme can go to committee and on a whim can be rejected by councillors, and on appeal the development gets the green light. Is Bill proposing to scrap the planning committees to get schemes approved within weeks?

Parade said...

Last time I checked China was still a communist republic, so are we not shooting our friends here. I would understand if we were talking about evil American colonizers investing, but these are our comrades coming to invest in our beloved Lewisham. If we are nice to them they may even build a railway for us. We should welcome them with a nice official parade!!

Anon said...

Bill, of the roughly 2000 residential units already built within walking distance of how many are owned and left empty by foreign owners?
Or do you only have the ability to see into the future with certainty?

Deptord on the rise? said...

I visited the Convoys Wharf site during the Open House day, a few months back. It is huge! The idea of having a couple of cultural attractions to rival Greenwich like a reproduction of The Lennox, a 17th century warship on the site where the original was built, and Sayers Court garden is very attractive. The waterfront area stands out in the Thames and has great views up and down the river. It is easy to see Convoy Wharf could become a second tourist area in south London in addition to Greenwich.

However, the lessons from Greenwich regarding development are not encouraging. The place is a dogs dinner of heritage projects, 'exclusive riverfront properties' that all look the same and opportunities for tacky shopping chains that pursue the footfall.

I guess there is only one chance to influence the character and mix of the development of such a significant site. This long drawn out process reminds me of the couple of decades it has taken to get the Battersea Power station development progressing. The 02 also took a decade of negotiation to see the finance and a development plan in place. Much of the delay is because of the relatively few developers who can muster the large investment and the local council trying to get the best deal for the people of the borough.

Seems very appropriate that the London mayor should try to help the process along. I doubt whether he will do any worse than Lewisham and he has more resources to make it happen. The site is so big it is an issue that affects the rest of London. It is an opportunity to develop this section of riverfront that is more than just another anonymous residential development.

The site is not without problems. It has little in the way of transport connections. The roads are already choked and Deptford High St station is long way from the river. The DLR is also quite far. I remember Battersea Power Station was also dogged by such transport considerations.

I would like to see another cable car link, maybe along the river from Convoy Wharf to Greenwich or across to a DLR stop on the Isle of Dogs What chance a river walk all the way to Greenwich?

Is the alternative another decade of dereliction in an area of London
that desperately needs improvement? This could be the making of
Deptford or it could add little and be another sterile backwater.


Let us see what sort of deal the blonde nitwit comes up with.

Anon said...

But the conditions laid down as part of planning permission can have a financial impact?
At Loampit Vale a condition was the provision of a new Leisure Centre by the developer. Yet it eventually required an additional £20m from the government to kick start the project.
The plan for Lewisham Gateway may be out of date if High Street shops are finding it difficult to be viable alongside internet shopping. I think town centres will need to be built round what cannot be experienced in the comfort of peoples homes. Lewisham market is one thing that be used to get people into the town centre, eateries is probably the other.

Anon said...

Bill, of the roughly 2000 residential units already built within walking distance of the DLR at Lewisham how many are owned and left empty by foreign owners?


Or do you only have the ability to see into the future with certainty?

Max Calò said...

Good points, but the main problem of Lewisham Gateway is that it's got added costs for infrastructure because of the re-routing of the roundabout and of the mains that run under it, so unless you can sell the residential units at a price that's much higher than what they currently sell in Lewisham for then it's not viable.
Loampit Vale got the £20.5m from government in the days soon after the credit crunch when the building industry had a valid argument to ask for government support and just before the elections so a pretty specific set of circumstances but the considerations put forward have similarities with Lewisham Gateway insofar that at Lewisham market prices it can't be built unless supported financiall by government.

anon said...

Well, is about the chicken and the egg story. Build and improve the area and they will pay,

Sue Lawes said...

Well Deptford's history has been buried for years, so you do have to do a bit of digging – like the biggest archaeological dig in the country for years on the King's Yard, aka Convoys Wharf. More like NITKYs (Not In The King's Yard).

Sue Lawes said...

See Bill Konos' report at Alternative SE4 blog : http://alternativese4.com/2013/06/09/overseas-buyers-snap-up-lewisham-new-homes/

Sue Lawes said...

Max, see new post by Deptford Is...
It has a bit of detail in it and some advice for Boris...

http://www.deptfordis.org.uk/2013/11/mayor-of-london-takes-over-planning.html

Sue Lawes said...

See http://www.deptfordis.org.uk/2013/11/mayor-of-london-takes-over-planning.html for some ideas for Boris to play with.

rationalplan said...

There was an interesting study of foreign buyers by Savills recently. They actually constitute a small percentage of overall house purchases in the Capital. Where they do have a much bigger influence is New Build properties worth over a million pounds. As a newly urbanising societies most middle class Asians are only interested in New Build properties and associate 'old properties with substandard construction and poor facilities.


Actually 85% of properties bought by foreign investors are rented out. The rest are intended for family use and a small percentage are left empty.

rationalplan said...

I'm sorry it is you who is ignorant of reality. If you have not noticed UK banks are still busy rebuilding balance sheets and increasing capital reserves. There is much less money to be lent to building companies to speculative build than before. One of the sure fire ways to finance any construction at the moment is to sell a significant proportion of units off plan to foreign investors before construction has even started. This was they can raise the capital they need to build.


Without these investors there would be very little new high rise construction going on in London at the moment.


You are also operating under the false belief that they are leaving all these properties empty. I'm sorry they are not that rich to turn down additional income. 85% of foreign bought properties are rented out. The rest is either used by family members, particularly children studying in London universities, and a small percentage is actually left unused.

rationalplan said...

This in untrue. Very few of foreign properties are left unused. 85% are let. Also that 60% figure only applies to newbuild, which is a tiny part of the London housing market. Most Asian investors only like newbuild as they don't like 'old' houses in their own countries. The recent rise in house prices in London is in entirely being driven by the growth in domestic demand.

Bill Ellson said...

Weeks includes consultation and committees. Councillors in Lewisham do not reject applications on a whim and the vast majority of appeals against their decisions are rejected.

Brockley Nick said...

That's not actually a "report" is it. It's a bit of conjecture, based on some BBC stats for London. There are no numbers / nothing that sheds any light on the situation in Lewisham.

Max Calò said...

Thanks.

Anon said...

On Sept 2 as a matter of urgency Lewisham cabinet discussed funding for Lewisham Gateway...

"Homes and Community Agency (HCA) were making a decision on 13 September 2013 whether to provide further funding in the region of £17-£20m to the Scheme from their Get Britain Building Fund. The programme required a start on site in November 2013, a key milestone to the achievement of which is Mayor & Cabinet approval being obtained to the matters outlined in the report."

It was resolved that....

[I]"(ii) authority be delegated to the Executive Director for Resources & Regeneration, in consultation with the Director of Regeneration & Asset Management and the Head of Law, to negotiate and agree the final Heads of Terms and the terms of the amendments to the Development Agreement and Landowners Agreement that may be necessary to secure the delivery of the Lewisham Gateway Development Scheme, including authority to agree to any necessary extension of the existing long stop date of [b]31 December 2013[/b];"

(iii) the acquisition for planning purposes ..... the land owned by the Greater London Authority/GLA Land and Property Limited shown, on a freehold basis, be approved; and

(iv) the acquisition for planning purposes ... any of the other land owned by the Greater London Authority/GLA Land and Property Limited shown, required for infrastructure areas on a leasehold basis, be approved.[/I]

Max Calò said...

Very interesting. But I see in the HCA shortlist that Lewisham is only mentioned for the "Deptford Project" so I guess they missed on this round of fundings.

Anon said...

Lewisham Gateway delayed again?

Max Calò said...

Good! I still need convincing that the Gateway is an improvement on the roundabout.

Sue Lawes said...

???? so that is solving London's housing crisis ???

Sue Lawes said...

Oh sorry, did I hear that unsubstantiated percentage quoted earlier? !! Link to evidence? None !

Sue Lawes said...

54 quid compensation for being without power for almost an entire week.

Sue Lawes said...

Give us proof, dearest. And also, we like new build too, we like the fact it is low-maintenance, why should overseas get the first grabs on it?

Sue Lawes said...

What would you know, Nick, you're just a PR company for a DEVELOPER.

Sue Lawes said...

Thanks for reading, Max, and please do comment thereupon if you find any flaws or indeed you agree..

Sue Lawes said...

What I see in Deptford/Greenwich is a lot of windows where people can't afford fucking curtains and have dragged a sheet across said window. Whether those properties belong to someone who actually wants to live there but can't afford to, or have been let unfurnished to someone who can't afford to furnish it, remains to be seen...

Brockley Nick said...

I know because I can read.

Kirkie said...

I love it, Nick: when I look at the abbreviated recent comments on the right hand side of the main page, your last comment shows as "Brockley Nick: I know because I can read. I do the PR for the World......"

Tony said...

You remind me of that angry and agressive lesbian from Viz, what was her name, Millie Tant or something?

Max Calò said...

Thanks Sue. I think that Boris received an offer he couldn't refuse. Let's see what he does now, but I wouldn't bet any money he'd do anything else than approving it as is because otherwise he'd be opening a can of worms and upsetting someone quite powerful and influential in all Boris' chinese investments plans. One thing I disagree with you is that I can't really think of a valid objection against non-British investors buying off-plan since it's a private development that didn't receive public money (unlike the Loampit Vale development). In my ideal world I would tax second homes and empty homes, but that for everyone regardless of nationality.

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