The Brockley Central Interview: Cllr Heidi Alexander (Part II)

A few weeks ago, we had the opportunity to interview Cllr Heidi Alexander about some of the issues facing our area. You can read the first part of our interview with Cllr Alexander here.

What are the big development opportunities in Brockley?

Aside from the Martin's Yard site, the Timber Yard at Brockley Cross is a key priority for us. We hope to redevelop it as a mixed use site, but although we have held discussions with a number of potential developers for a number of years, there are currently no active discussions.

That's bound to disappoint people who've been waiting many years for something to be done to Brockley Cross. The Tea Factory will hopefully play a positive role in the area, but there are a number of semi-derelict buildings there - right in the middle of Brockley, next to what will be a tube station in a couple of years. If the developers aren't biting at the moment, it's presumably got a lot to do with the terrible road layout at Brockley Cross. Are there any plans to finally sort out the traffic system there, if only because of the high number of road accidents it currently creates?

As you may know, the Council did investigate the options a while back [alternative layouts can be seen on the Brockley Cross Action Group website, in the masterplanning section]. Before we can make any changes, we need to properly understand the impact this will have on traffic in the area more widely - changes to the system can have profound knock-on effects. Unfortunately, we don't have the budget to commission that work at the moment. We need to raise it from Transport for London and, at the moment, the Council's priorities are the New Cross gyratory system and the roads in Sydenham.

It's a difficult decision and I agree that the road system in Brockley Cross is far from ideal. I would love to tackle it - along with many others in Lewisham. I can't make any promises today, but we are very aware of the issue and will address it as soon as possible.

It's impossible to keep everyone happy when you have to prioritise, but many people we've talked to and who have posted on Brockley Central in the past feel that the Council places too much focus on Lewisham and Catford town centres, to the detriment of other parts of the borough. What's your response to those concerns?

Lewisham Borough is absolutely not just about Lewisham and Catford. But they are our two largest centres, both of which need significant investment, and it is right that they should be a key focus for us. Brockley is an exciting opportunity, thanks to the arrival of the East London Line and our challenge is to help add to the interest that the project will generate.

Which brings us back to Lewisham Way and Brockley Road. One recent application to redevelop a car dealership on Brockley Road was turned down. In rejecting it, the Council highlighted concerns about the quality of design. But it also suggested that any non-residential-led development on that site would be inappropriate, because there are a number of empty shops in the area and the size of the site might lend itself to something like a chain restaurant, which would not primarily cater for "local" people and might therefore add to parking problems in the area. But isn't there a case to suggest that a "destination" restaurant might help to draw new people and therefore new businesses in to the area - to take up some of the empty shops? And isn't it reasonable to assume that a lot of people in Brockley might want a few more options to eat out locally? Or that visitors might come by public transport, especially when the ELL arrives?

I can't comment on that particular proposal, but we're not opposed to bringing in chains or larger restaurants to Brockley. It's true that commercial space is currently confined to a number of clusters along the road and our preference is that we develop those existing clusters, rather than stretching them.

Beyond Brockley, what are the most significant developments in Lewisham?

In Lewisham Town Centre, we are currently awaiting a detailed application and we hope that work will start next year on the road layout, rivers and services. At the nearby Loampit Vale Site we are currently working with Barratt on pre-application consultation to create new homes, a community swimming pool and leisure facilities. We're really determined to create a top-quality swimming pool facility. Currently, the plan is to create a swimming pool with an 'active frontage' - large windows that look out over Cornmill Gardens and on to outdoor space, where people can get a coffee or something to eat. It will be a very accessible site.

At Convoys Wharf in Deptford, the GLA were initially very supportive of our plans, but during the planning process, they changed their position on safeguarded wharves and the landowners News International were asked to carry out additional work on this issue. That work has only recently been finalised and the GLA are now considering it and we're waiting to hear whether the application can proceed.

And in New Cross, we're in discussions about the site currently occupied by Sainsbury. There are a number of options being considered at the moment, including rebuilding New Cross Gate Station and bringing the store forward, closer to the road, to create more space for new homes.

[Click here for more information about developments in Lewisham]

  • Thanks to Cllr Alexander for her time. During the interview, she offered to go on a walk-round of Brockley with some BC readers, to understand the issues that concern them most. We will be publishing details of that initiative in the coming days...