Answers from Lewisham Council



Brockley Central has become a little obsessed with trying to understand the Council's vision for Brockley and Lewisham more widely. We've read papers, plans and articles but still didn't really understand what a Local Development Framework was, what was being done to improve Brockley Road and whether we could really be sure that a new pool in Loampit Vale would have windows. So we decided to make an audacious bid for an interview with the Head of Planning for Lewisham Council - one of the key architects of Lewisham's destiny.

"How about we talk tomorrow?" came the reply. So we did.

But before we go on, some caveats:

1. John Miller is Head of Planning for Lewisham, which means that he has to focus on the biggest issues facing the borough and he can't be expected to be au fait with every stray satellite dish. Having said that, he was very knowledgeable about Brockley's issues and had taken the time to read all of your comments before we spoke.

2. We have a proper job, which frowns upon us spending all day talking to people about Brockley, so the amount time we had for the interview was limited.

3. Issues like the thunderous car stereos that shake the window frames of many in Brockley, though important, are outside of his remit.

4.This is the beginning, not the end, of Brockley Central's pestering of the Council.

For these reasons, we're afraid that the interview won't address all the issues suggested by readers, but we hope you find what we did manage to cover interesting.

The interview will come in several parts - the first of which addresses developments in Brockley. Essentially, Brockley is not targeted for massive regeneration (unlike Lewisham town centre) because it's neither appropriate nor desirable. Development will be more organic - nurtured by planners and stimulated by the East London Line. We don't believe that's a cop out - we've recently managed to speak with a number of council officials and it's clear that they are passionate about Brockley and find working in this area rewarding, due to the enthusiasm of local residents. As we've had opportunity to write with increasing frequency - regeneration is happening in Brockley - in a quiet, small-scale way.

The Lewisham Local Development Framework is essentially a spatial plan for the whole borough. It maps out not only physical changes, like road layouts and new buildings, but also changes in things like healthcare provision, employment patterns and sport and leisure opportunities for local people.

Lewisham isn't developing the LDF in a vacuum, it's part of a planning process determined by national government and the Mayor's London Plan.

For example, Lewisham has been set a target by the Mayor of building 975 new homes every year (net) for 10 years, to play its part in meeting London's growing housing needs. In the LDF, Lewisham has to decide where these houses go and what other infrastructural changes are needed to provide for these new houses. Places like Brockley have relatively little scope for building new homes, whereas areas like Catford and Lewisham town centre have more available land and have had special Action Area plans written for them. This is where projects like the Lewisham Gateway scheme come in.

As we wrote here, the Brockley Cross 'masterplan' was never officially adopted as a proper masterplan and has instead been superseded by the LDF. Many of the ideas from that masterplanning process will be incorporated.

So - here's the first part...

What does the LDF mean for Brockley?

"We look at Lewisham as a collection of different communities, each of which needs a different approach. Brockley is considered "an area for local renewal", which means small-scale developments and regeneration based on Brockley's existing assets, including excellent (and improving) transport links and strong local identity.

"That doesn't mean we won't be focusing on Brockley and there is a a cluster of sites around Brockley Cross, including the timber yard, which were subject to a planning process with the Brockley Cross Action Group. We now have a plan for that area which is ambitious but also realistic for commercial developers, as well as being sensitive to the local community.

"The improvements we've seen to Coulgate Street and the approach to the station on the east side are exactly the kinds of improvements which are appropriate for Brockley and I've been impressed with the work of groups like the Brockley Cross Action Group in helping to make that possible."

What do you think will be the most important changes to the area?

"There are a lot of blank-fronted buildings around the station, create an oppressive environment. By replacing those buildings with mixed use developments, with lots going on at ground level, we can really change the feel of the area, particularly on the west side of the station.

"In my view, Lewisham has undersold itself as a destination for business in the past [a 2001 study ranked Lewisham 30th out of 33 London Boroughs for competitiveness] - we have a lot to offer business and we are determined to spread the message effectively. Offices, studios and other workplaces help to create communities which are lively throughout the week, rather than just at weekends."

How optimistic should we be that things will change?

"The world of urban planning never moves quickly, I've learned to be patient! However, I've no doubt that over the next few years major changes will happen. We are currently in lots of positive discussions with developers about Brockley. "

What is the Council actually doing to change things?

"The investment will come from private enterprise, which means that the Council's role is to promote Brockley Cross as an opportunity, give guidance and direction about the kinds of developments we want to see and to meet with developers and provide the right assurances and encouragement they need in order to commit money to the area. As I say, there is a lot of positive interest in this area, as well as many other parts of the borough.

"We also have a local officer (Sarah Pfeiffer) whose job is (partly) to work with local businesses setting up in the area - to help them become successful and meet their requirements to the community. Much of the best examples of local regeneration happen just by small businesses having the confidence to invest in an area and, through their success, encouraging others. It's the "tipping point" that lots of people on the blog have referred to."

What about the cursed double roundabout?

"We appreciate how important an issue this is and our transport people are looking at it but we haven't got a solution just yet. One of the most important issues to consider is the impact of layout changes on residential streets. Traffic will always seek out the quickest route between A and B so, we have to make sure we don't simply divert traffic on to other streets."

How much impact will the East London Line have?

"Although it won't provide any new stations, I think its impact will be comparable to the arrival of the DLR in Deptford and Lewisham town centre. The new options it will provide commuters and Brockley's appearance on the tube map will create significant interest from developers. In fact, we are already seeing this - particularly in Brockley and Forest Hill. Developments like "One SE8" simply wouldn't have happened without the DLR. I'm not suggesting we'll see a development of that type in Brockley, but it shows what becomes possible with the right transport infrastructure."


Lewisham Gateway, Convoys Wharf, New Cross, Loampit Vale, enforcement, shop fronts, effective local engagement and trees!


Monkeyboy said...

Very interesting Nick, thanks for taking the time to pester the local Gruppen Fuhrer.

Andy Pandy Pudding and Pie said...

Well, its always good to hear what the council has to say, but i get the feeling its a case of appeasing the locals without actually commiting to anything!

expat said...

i love the smell of cynicism in the morning! Hang on, people -- Fuhrer? Non-commital? which is it? As far as I can tell, the gist so far is entirely in keeping with the published information, which is extensive; and I think he's being very honest and upfront about not committing to anything. Under the circumstances (these being that he can't magically solve everything) I think he sounds very reasonable. (Granted, we haven't come to the lewisham gateway issue...) Thanks, John Miller, for taking part, & so promptly; & Nick, for instigating this exchange and reporting it. Looking forward to the next installment.

John S said...

Hear hear. Whilst I appreciate that local consultation is part of John Miller's job it's good of him to take the time to address these issues. And it was a great effort by Nick. As John says, urban planning is a very slow process, but these types of dialogue can only serve to positively influence our local environment.

Monkeyboy said...

Sigh.....some people have NO sense of humour. Just to make it clear I didn't mean to imply that our man from the council is an ex member of the German Armed Forces and likley to invade Poland at any moment. Mind you, as my Italian dad always said, you can say what you like about Mussolini but he always got the trains running on time.

Ed said...

Thanks Nick, very informative, looking forward to more later. I am very keen to hear good news about the ghastly double roundabout but understand this this need to be done right.

I have to say the Brockley community spirit, illustrated by the level of interest and activity on this site, means I am really looking forward to becoming part of the community and I am sure others will feel the same.

Hugh said...

Bit long for me to read. Was the man saying wait a few more years?

Richard Elliot said...

Excellent blog. Really worthwhile and interesting.

Did I get quoted when he said "tipping point"? Or is someone else going to try and claim that one? ;-)

Sad to see my question about Meze Mangal was dropped......... lol

Anonymous said...

I know that, in general, you people don't like to think very much beyond your own surroundings and outside of your own experience, but I found this on the Lewisham gateway objectors website. Ray Hall gives a very personal background to the whole Gateway affair, naming names etc etc

another thing, take anything that John Miller says with a big pinch of salt...

lisa said...

Oh for heaven's sake. If you're trying to alienate some potentially useful, and probably sympathetic allies, then nice going, "anonymous", keep up the good work. Lots of commenters have noted the relevance of the Lewisham Gateway issue as something that impacts on everyone in the area; Nick has posted about it and linked to the objectors' site. If you're serious about attracting support for whatever your position is on the LG development, I suggest you quit sniping at people, & give a less antagonistic approach a try. Who knows, you might actually accomplish something.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Nick for going to the effort of giving us this information, yet more positive news for Brockley!

JPM said...

Great interview...

However, I would like to know why getting rid of a double roundabout monstrosity is such an issue?

We surely can move that one forward.

I suspect the Council is waiting for a developer to pay for any changes as a Section 106 (planning gain), that way everyone wins.

The ideal would be to pave and lockout traffic from entering Geoffrey Road and Malpas Road, and introduce a cycle way adn al fresco quarter. More trees could be added.

Shardeloes Road is bigger and better suited to cope with any diverted traffic, but this would naturally tail off wants teh ratrun brigade discover the 'improvements'.

Block all roads midway leading off Brockley Road, which will allow resident and delivery access adn stop ratruns. Make Harefield Road for Bus access only at its east interface (save for resident access).

CPO every car show 'warehouse' and demolitous. Encourage shops to do up frontage or get Council to assist. (This is happening in Lewisham centre, and Brockley is being bypassed.)

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