The Martin's Yard masterplan

Ahead of tonight's consultation meeting regarding the newly unveiled master plan for Martin's Yard in Brockley Cross, we spoke to Colum Maloney from developers MacDonald Egan, about the project...

What are your plans for Martin's Yard?

We've owned the site for about 7 or 8 months now and we want to turn it in to a new street, right in the heart of Brockley. It will be home to around 40 commercial units and family homes.

It's a very unusual design - a modern take on the Victorian housing nearby, they look a little like beach huts. There will be three blocks of housing, each with their own green space. There'll also be quite a lot of parking provision for a development of this size in this sort of location. Parking is always a major concern for existing residents and something a lot of buyers look for.

Brockley still has relatively few businesses operating locally, which means you have a bit of dead time between about 10am and 5pm, when not many people are about. This development would help change that, creating 40 new commercial units, ideal for small entrepreneurial businesses. If each of those businesses employs two people, that's a business community of 80 new people, who will help to bring more life to Brockley during the working day, supporting the businesses around Brockley Cross.

There is also a small building intended for community use, though we haven't worked out exactly how it could best be used yet.

Given the current dearth of local businesses, why do you believe you can attract business people to the area?

Places like Shoreditch are becoming too expensive for many small businesses. But Brockley has a lot to offer them including great transport connections and a creative community. Obviously the East London Line will help, but it's also about creating the right facilities.

One of the really important aspects of Martin's Yard is that it won't be a gated development, we're effectively building a new street, which we hope will be home to a lot of like-minded businesses and a part of the Brockley community. That footfall will also help those businesses. We're creating facilities which just don't exist at the moment, certainly not like the business park next door.

If planning permission is secured, how soon can we expect to see the project completed? Will the turbulence in the property market delay things?

We want to submit planning in May. In an ideal world, it would take around two months to get approval for the project. If all goes to plan [and he stresses there are always plenty of hurdles that any development must overcome] then the plan is to start pretty much straight away, with a 14-month build programme.

As for the property market, well it certainly is "interesting" at the moment, shall we say, but as a developer you have to take a call on what the property market will look like when the project's due for completion and have confidence. Things will look very different in 18 months to two years.

What feedback have you had about your plans from the local groups you've consulted with?

The local community groups in Brockley are some of the best we've dealt with. Very proactive, with a good attitude. The BXAG, for example, have asked to be responsible for planting the flower beds in the development, a suggestion we're very happy with.

And what does he hope to get from meetings like tonight?

It's obviously important to have local support and we believe in transparency, so we're just going to lay it all out for people and ask for their feedback. Secondly, we're interested in ways in which we can make it work best for the local community. The development is big enough that there will be Section 106 money available for the community and one of the groups [the Telegraph Hill Society] mentioned that they hoped some money might go towards their plans to rennovate the community centre, but that kind of issue is for the Council to decide on. Above all, we hope people like what they see and hear about our ideas.

We have two sites nearby, currently in development. One in New Cross, one on Lewisham Way. Our bread and butter is developing in Lewisham, so it's really important that we don't let people down and we deliver on our promises. In a year's time, we could be back in Brockley trying to develop another site, so we want to get this right.

Five minutes later, Colum rings back...

One other thing I probably should have mentioned before is that our architect, Mary Duggan, has lived on Drakefell Road for several years now, so she's paid special attention to these plans. She doesn't want to let her own area down.