Lewisham: The Bigger Picture

You take the blue pill - the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill - you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.
- Morpheus

Chided by one of our regular contributers for failing to understand the "bigger picture" in Lewisham, we have ventured down the rabit hole of Lewisham planning to check on the status of the Loampit Vale development, which is adjacent to the not-yet-underway Lewisham Gateway scheme.

There is a public consultation coming up, which we will try to cover and which of course we will gladly take your contributions about.

But in the mean time, here's what Cllr Alexander had to say about this one:

"On the recent planning application that has come in for the new leisure centre and housing on Loampit Vale, we believe this to be one of only a small number of schemes to be given approval by the Barratt's board - good news for Lewisham.

"The planning application is out to public consultation however Barratt's did do some earlier consultation work which showed a considerable amount of support for the scheme. The initial drawings I have seen are fantastic. The leisure centre will be incredible and I am very pleased with the way in which the design of the residential element has progressed. I have always been keen to incorporate some larger, affordable homes in this scheme and believe the architects have come up with some innovative solutions, especially around the provision of good quality outside space.

"I have also been keen to keep the carbon footprint of the new leisure centre and housing to a minimum and the scheme includes a Combined Heat and Power Plant which will provide both electricity and heat. The location of the scheme next to the train station and DLR is also important and enables us to keep car parking levels low - although there will clearly be an appropriate amount for both the leisure centre and housing."


Anonymous said...

Starting with the positive. Loampit Vale is a great scheme. It's sympathetic to the locale and it will actively enhance the area with the new accompanied facilities. It's my belief that Lewisham council got lucky with that one.

Being a self declared 'dormitory borough', means Lewisham council doesn't appear to have much self esteem and so is quite happy to pay undue heed to any developer attention. It isn't fussy because it has no confidence in its people to be creative and generate wealth, it, the 'collective council think' believes money can only be generated by sources from outside the borough.

The Lewisham Gateway is a disgrace, a bank of tower blocks in the middle of a suburban, zone 3 town?

Thanks to the wider economic conditions, a bit of reality is now biting. Hopefully this barmy plan will now be revised. Every crunch has a silver lining.

Brockley Nick said...

Lewisham's zone 2, no?

max said...

Jt you're absolutely right, and last week there was the approval of the planning application for the Catford Dogtrack site, about 600 flats in a cul de sac, a straight challenge to planning laws, a completely unsuitable site that could have been an employment area instead.

Employment areas are converted into housing and the Council is guarding them for the developers.
When the campaign for the new school asked the Council to acquire the Dragoon Road site (Evelyn Road near Deptford Park) the Council said it wouldn't because developers had shown interest in that site, and this in spite of the fact that it wasn't in their possession, then with a Freedom of Information request a letter to the Council from developers emerged and it was asking them to issue CPO's on those sites on their behalf so that they would then develop it into flats.

Tressilliana said...

Lewisham station is, if I understand correctly, a Zone 2/3 station. As soon as you move south of the station you're in Zone 3, I think.

patrick1971 said...

If I wanted to get the great car debate going again, I would say it's madness that we are building housing which is right next to a railway station with any car parking space at all, but I don't so I won't.

patrick1971 said...

But at the risk of focusing on the negative with my comment above, apart from the car parking it does sound like a great scheme.

max said...

I think that if you're building lots of housing on a congested road and not providing a car park then planning consent should be agreed only if clause in the contract stating that buyers don't have a right to a parking permit around there and if you want to have a car you have to buy yourself a garage.

patrick1971 said...

Exactly, max, that's what I meant. No parking spaces and no eligibility for a permit - you're just asking for trouble otherwise.

max said...

Well, we're still in time to make this point, I will surely submit an objection to the application on this ground.

max said...

We could even collect lots of signatures at the bottom of an objection/petition making that point exactly, tht would give it a much better chance to happen.

Tyrwhitt Michael said...

Sounds like a good subject for the next poll.

Are you in favour of banning all cars in London?

I suspect my opinion is at odds with that of Max and Patrick.

Anonymous said...

I don't really understand this. A developer wants to build flats on the old dog track site and provide parking. Other than the obvious it may encourage people to own cars and drive, what is the problem with this?

max said...

The problem is that the site has only one access and it's on the most horrid traffic blackspot on the south circular and this means that hundreds of cars turning into the development will slow traffic even further making the peak time traffic congestion centered on Catford last longer and getting further than it does today,it's a straightforward environmental damage to all those that suffer from that traffic.
If you live on Stansted road and you have a very slowly moving traffic in front of your doorstep for 3 hours a day today it will be 4 hours a day when that is finished.
The developer's argument is that it's already so congested that nobody will notice the difference, I beg to differ and think that you'd notice the difference if you try.
The development is high density and unsuitably so, it is a recognized departure from planning regulations ad it should have been scaled down, either that or parking should not have been provided and then be sold to only people that don't drive.

nobbly brick said...

HA says "earlier consultation work which showed a considerable amount of support"

we can test this "considerable amount of support" from the consultation that took place in 2006:

Extracts from that document:

"Lewisham already is high density and has insufficient schools. We should try to attract families into pleasant houses/flats with good schools nearby. Playgrounds
and cinemas are also important. There should be no 1 bedroom flast- cater for families or very rich commuters. This development looks like a concrete jungle from the 1960s. Like the Ferrier Estate in
Kidbrooke. Remove all traces of
concrete and add brick or sterrl to create high value housing that appeals."

"Overdevlopment. The road system and
particularly the parking cannot cope with this kind of density- as we have said about the B&Q site. You would be foolish to assume that these buy to let properties wont come with car owners. What were need is more sport and less
commercial housing."

"Please don't ruin this area. There is no infrastructure to support this. It is grid lock anyway, disturbances, pollution. Lewisham shopping centre is quite enough already."

"Not enough information to base a view on. How many units? Will it have dedicated parking? Will the pool be built first? The pool 6-8 lanes- what on earth has that got to do with anything? The map is useless. The open space will be
reduced to the size of a postage stamp. If this is consultation you really need to use a professional company. The postal address has alientated my elderly neighbours."

There are many more very similar statements in the pdf file available at:


I'm afraid this shows that HA is not able to, or is not choosing to, give a balanced account of the information gathered for the council.

Anonymous said...

I begin to smell a very huge rat with change-of-use as applied in Lewisham Borough.

MANOR AVENUE, from a down-at-heels club to a 76 place nursery, with 29members of staff and delivery vehicles.
1-3 ASHBY ROAD, change of use from very good and much-needed office space to to a Mental Health unit with 24/7 drop-in facilty. [Turned down by the council, refused on appeal by the Inspector, paying no business or council tax, and currently let to oversees visitors. Why?]
CATFORD DOG TRACK, change of use... the list goes on and seems to fly in the face of common sense.

max said...

TM, I'm not against cars, I'm against planning developments that bring a serious worsening of that kind of traffic that is already unbearable and I mean large developments that are allowed to go ahead because they are near stations and yet they also bring in a lot of cars exactly where they shouldn't be because stations are normally placed by important and congested road, almost by definition.
So, if those developments must go ahead then people that chose to buy those properties should be disincentivized from owning a car. It would also make those property more affordable and if you need a car you can still buy somewhere else.
Those developments are only allowed there because there's been an amendment to planning rules specifically for areas around stations and they should include measures to counter the most negative effects.

max said...

"Sustainable Living Areas", that's the technical name of the special planning regulation for areas near train stations that allow these developments to be proposed.

nobbly brick said...

Not wanting to wade in with more comments so soon after being described as 'chiding' or of being over critical and not aware of the effort that you go to on this blog, but the 'bigger picture' is still eluding you Nick. No amount of questioning of either HA or the planning department is going to reveal anything they don't want you to hear, but to have some further understanding of the issues regarding the 'regeneration' of central Lewisham you (one) has to assemble the facts, which are available in the planning application documents, and test those facts oneself.

I tried to illuminate this process in my previous post where I plucked some residents statements out of the Loampit Vale consultation that took place in 2006. This consultation is interesting because the company that were hired by lewisham council (urban practitioners) bend over backwards in an attempt to give the Council the results they required, but inevitably they cannot mask the fact that many of the residents who chose to take part, although recognising that there was a need for change in Central lewisham, they were not at all happy with the plans put forward.

Sticking with Loampit Vale and the 'collateral damage' that is going to occur because of the development you could bring your hazy analytical light to bear on Lewisham Bridge school. I don't have all the facts to be able to argue fully about what is happening at the school, and I'm sure other parents with children at the school may chip in, but would you be happy to have your child 'decanted' there and back to New Cross every school day for the next two years at least, taking into account the negative effect that this may have on your childs education?

Why must the school be knocked down in the first place when there is ample empty space right next to it to build a new school? Is it that this land has already become part of Barratts 'landbank' and therefore taken away from public ownership into private hands?

Could it be that the effects of construction next to a school would be in breach of regulations regarding dust and noise and any attempts at mitigation would push the development project closer to being unviable?

And the size of some of the buildings? 22 stories? Why have some of the buildings got to be higher than the Citibank building? (here's an opportunity for you to wheel out your old heightist arguments Nick.) We can easily guess this answer anyway - to keep the operation financially viable. The amount of 'affordable housing' will decrease as the project goes along for the same reason.

We could turn to many other aspects to illustrate the bigger picture - the proposed road layout around the Gateway for example. I know you've attempted to defuse the proven extra time it will take to move through the road system, 100% and more in some cases. Perhaps when you're sitting in a car at the top of Loampit Vale (if you do) and thinking now that it's going to take you 15 minutes to get to Lee High Road, and ponder perhaps that when the regeneration has taken place it'll take you half an hour. I may mean nothing to you but for many thousands of drivers it will mean considerably more, and it will inevitably have a knock-on effect on Brockley Cross and all the other roads that take traffic south and south-east of Lewisham.

The aspect of the bigger picture that you most critically decided not to mention, and the most far reaching is that many people have expressed strong objections, through official channels, to what is going on, and they've expressed these opinions without being a member of any kind of pressure group, because they can look at what is presented to them and make up their own mind without being taken in by 'artists impressions' or claims that something is going to be 'fantastic', and these people, residents like you and I, are being ignored.

Tressilliana said...

I can't comment on most of this, nobbly, but as to the school - I used to be a school governor and was moderately au fait with the postion nearly ten years ago when Lewisham was first reluctantly responding to parental pressure and thinking about planning for a new secondary school. As I understood it then, the extraordinary fact is that Lewisham does not provide enough secondary places for all the children of secondary age in the borough. They rely on the fact that many parents will send their children to schools in other boroughs, or move when secondary transfer looms, or find the cash for private education, or, in a tiny number of cases, home educate. If I remember rightly, about 4000 children leave Lewisham primary schools each summer and only about 3000 move on to Lewisham secondary schools. (About 500 children come into Lewisham schools from other boroughs.)

However, ten years ago parents in the north of the borough got increasingly vocal about their annoyance over not being able to get their children into Prendergast, Addey's, Aske's, Bacon's or even Deptford Green, and instead having to send them to schools much farther away. They wanted a new community school in the New Cross/Deptford area, as I understand it, or in the north of Brockley.

The council responded by admitting that there might be a case for a new secondary school, but their view was that it should be in the centre of the borough. They justified this by saying that if you look at the number of families who get a place at their top preference school, it's lowest in the centre of the borough, ie Crofton Park, Ladywell and Brockley. Well, helloooo - could that be because Crofton School was so incredibly unpopular with people living in that area that very few families put it down as a top preference? Wouldn't it have been better to address that, rather than look for a place near Crofton to build a new school? Not in Lewisham's view, hence the protracted battle over the plan to build a new school on the site of Ladywell Baths - which our own Max was, as I understand, instrumental in preventing, and all credit to him.

Way back before they'd even fixed on that site, Lewisham suggested four possible sites. The pool was one, the Tressillian/Lewisham Way site of Lewisham College was another (the idea was that the college would be moving to Deptford - is that happening?), the third may have been the Playtower/Police station/mortuary site in Ladywell, and the fourth was Lewisham Bridge. At the time the town centre manager was very unhappy about the Lewisham Bridge idea because he foresaw hordes of youths flocking to the Riverdale Centre at lunchtime and putting off other shoppers. However, when the Ladywell plans fell through, given that Lewisham College wanted too much for the Tressillian site, I believe, and the other Ladywell site had already been sold off, the only remaining viable option was Lewisham Bridge.

Decanting is not something that parents welcome but it’s just happened at Ashmead and several other primary schools in the borough, and as far as I know it’s not been that bad. Better that than squashing the children onto a tiny site next to the noise and dust of a construction site. I’m not qualified to say if the site is suitable for the new school. I do, however, wonder very much how Prendergast The Vale College, as I believe it’s going to be called, will fare, run by the same team which will be trying to keep up the high standards at Prendergast Hilly Fields College (formerly Prendergast School) and to turn Prendergast Ladywell Fields College (formerly Crofton School) into another high-achieving, popular school. The best of British luck to them, if they can pull all that off.

Incidentally, if anyone has ever come across an uglier set of school names than the above, I’d like to hear them.

max said...

Tressiliana, that's impressive, I think it's impossible to condense the whole story of the New School (that still needs building) in less than that without leaving out some crucial points (and thanks for the mention).

There's been an in depth research into all that went wrong done by a sub committee of Overview and Scrutiny, I witnessed all sessions and wrote a report on each of them.
You can read it here:

Anonymous said...

nobly. . . Nick has created a thread, you use it to air your views. Thats a good thing, its one point of the blog. Not sure what the snide comments are all about? Start your own blog if you feel this one is part of some conspiracy.

Anonymous said...

So what everyone seems to be saying is... Nobbly is missing the bigger picture.

Anonymous said...

The bigger picture is now the Deputy Mayor has announced the new Leisure Centre has been delayed.

The Mercury reports the new date for completition is possibly Summer 2012.

Originally Ladywell Pools were due to close in 2007, after protests that was amended to when the new pool open. Maintenance of the existing pools appears to already be running down, will they remain in use till 2012?

Having already demolished the flats, the site at Lomapit Vale will remain empty for at least another 2 years.

Construction of the Lewisham Gateway road scheme should have begun in January 2006. 3 years later all we have are derelict buildings and plans to begin work sometime in the future.

On the council website Heidi Alexander cabinet member for regeneration gives an extremely vague assurance the centre will be built. Firstly it does not have plabnning permission and secondly there's no evidence Barratt's have been made to sign a financially binding contract.

Just a reminder in 2000 a letter was sent to residents that the new centre would be open by 2003/2004.

At Downham in 1998 they were told a replacement pool would be built by 2000. The current Mayor said in 2002 it would built by 2004. In 2004 he said by 2006. A year later and an additional £1m in consultants fees a contract was finally signed and pool opened in 2007.

Then there's the saga of Forest Hill pools...when it comes to swimming pools is this council like a fish out of water?

Eleanor said...

Can I just add my twopence worth? I am a parent at Lewisham Bridge and I have been involved with various protests against the plans to hand over a public asset to a private company.

The fact is that Lewisham does need a new secondary school but the proposal to establish a 3-16 school on the site of Lewisham Bridge primary school will not provide enough of the places that are needed. When this proposal was first made public at a public meeting organised by the council there were several represenatives form parents who had spent years lobbying for a new school. They stated then and consistently since, that this will not provide enough places and is not in the area that needs plalces.

What we are seeing here is the council seizing the chance to carry out central government policy and break-up education in the borough by handing it over to private companies like Leathersellers.

Parents and teachers at the school have expressed their opposition to the plans during all of the consultation process and we have been ignored.

Comparing the decant of Ashmenad with that of Lewisham Bridge is not a fair comparison. Ashmead has reamined a community primary school and the parents, children and staff have come back to a new building but still a community school. That will not happen at Lewisham Bridge. Of course parents are against such a decant. We don't want our school to be given away. We know what happens when things get privatised.

if you want further infomration please go to our blog http://defendeducationlewisham.wordpress.com

Further to Loampit Vale this is yet anohter example of how the council is making a mess of our community in the scramble to sell off assets to big business. The fact is that Lewisham needs council housing and what we're getting is non-affordable housing 22 storeys high!

This is all about privatisation not people's lives. We have organised a public meeting on 22nd November at St Mary's Centre Ladyweel. Please come along an dfind out how we can fight these plans which are breaking up our community.

Tressilliana said...

Eleanor, I have great sympathy for your plight and I agree that the new school will be in the wrong place and won't be big enough. However, when it comes to equating the Leathersellers' Company with privatisation, you should bear in mind that the Leathersellers' Company is a charity which has been involved with Prendergast School since its foundation and I don't think you would find many people working at Prendergast with a bad word for the company. I know from first-hand experience how committed the Leatherseller governors are to the school. What bothers me is that they are moving out of their comfort zone in taking on first Crofton and then, if it happens, a new school. Prendergast and Colfe's (the other local school they're involved with, which was a grammar school before it reverted to independent status after the 11+ was abolished) are a very different kettle of fish.

Mat said...

I see Lewisham has made the BBC news.

What a philistine our mayor is. Like he cares for children's education, sending them on buses to New Cross before there is a planning decision on the new school. Plus plans don't fulfil current educational guidelines for school buildings. Aaagh, I despair.

patrick1971 said...

"The future prospects of our children and young people cannot be sacrificed for the sake of somebody's fancy for Edwardian sinks, butterfly designs and tiling."So let's demolish a great old building and replace it with a soulless box. These schools have worked well for 100 years. Why not just build an extension?

What is wrong with Lewisham Council that they are so intent on demolishing structures that people enjoy, appreciate and use (see also Forest Hill Pools), but are quite happy to leave unused, empty eyesores in place (Citibank Tower)?

Tressilliana said...

Lewisham needs another secondary school and has done, very badly, for a long time. It came as a huge surprise to me a few years ago to learn that Inner London councils mostly don't have enough school places for all their children and routinely expect that a fairly large chunk of their resident child population will commute to outer London to go to secondary school. In Lewisham the shortfall is about 1000, although that's offset by the 400+ children from Greenwich, Bromley and Southwark who attend Lewisham schools.

So we need a new school and as the greatest need is in the north of the borough it needs to be in Brockley or Deptford - but Lewisham Bridge was never the place to put it. Now the building is Grade II listed, the council, and especially Sir (!) Steve, should do what it has proved over and over again that it's very bad at doing, namely, accept with some grace that its plans will have to change and get on with working out a sensible new plan. Instead of which, the Mayor is, completely predictably, charging on, head down, ignoring all the opposition.

My only hope is that now that the council is not controlled by Labour the opposition might be able to get some sense into the debate.

The Cat Man said...

I read the article linked above. According to Mayor Bullocks our history is surplus to educational requirements - he would happily tear down a listed building just in order to provide some cheap school where the private contractors are the main recipricants receiveing all the public money.

Honestly, this guy is a joke - who elected him mayor anyway?

max said...

Another issue is that when the decision to use Lewisham Bridge Primary as the site for the new secondary was taken part of the motivation was that the number of children attending it was dwindling and it would have been sized down anyway.
At the time I attended the meeting of the decision and it was reported to the Mayor that the Head of the school had indeed asked for a reduction in size of the school.

Now we have new projections for needs of places at primary schools and the forecast is that we'll need many more primary places than available so if the plan goes ahead then the Council will have to start thinking about a new Primary too, that means spending for building two schools instead of one.

The Cat Man said...

ill tell you the reason why lewisham council is broke - it is one of the most unfriendly business councils in london plus they do far too much to encourage soical handouts - who knows, if they cut the handouts, maybe the average wealth of the borough would go up with a reduced council tax.

Jt said...

the sad reality is that Labour need to be kicked out of Lewisham.

drakefell debaser said...

and government.

Mat said...

It isn't just labour though is it? Checking local blogs, the greens seem to be saying it's not ideal but it is the best we will get in the timeframe (not my idea of green, unsustainable, short term thinking). Plus non of them would support the parents who didn't want the unneccessary decant of their children when planning hadn't even been given. With all the new tower blocks which are residential, it is also acknowledged that there will be an increase in the population. So doesn't this mean that from day one there will be a shortage of school places. They don't seem to have planned enough for the existing children at Lewisham Bridge, let alone the new residential developments.

Just a thought, whilst I am rambling. There seems to be reference to 3 to 16 schools and how this works in private sector. May well do on their huge sites where they might as well be separate schools. They also have playing fields. So could the council persuade Barratts not to ruin Lewisham's lovely views with the tower blocks planned on Loampit Vale and get them to provide the school with some playing fields. Oh and maybe move school building onto the neighbouring site. Then it wouldn't be such a squeeze and we can keep our architectural heritage.

Think I know the answer to that question already.

And isn't Mornington Centre of any use for a secondary school?
What is happening to that very lovely building in the long term? Infact, there seems to be loads of empty space in New Cross, Deptford area is nowhere suitable for a school? Can't they get a bargain with the current market?

Comment said...

I was on Hilly Fields, the other looking out from the top of the Hill near Prenderghast school. I suppose looking out towards Kent, the view interpersed with lovely mature trees. Then I realised with horror the impact Lewisham Gateway will have.

hill said...

Yes, I don't think the views not just from Hilly Fields, but all the neigbouring streets and other Lewisham parks has been appreciated. The Loampit Vale drawings all show the tower blocks against a blue sky. The Park User group did put in an objection to the high rise at Lewisham Gateway. One councillor dismissed our concerns as "parochial".

Anonymous said...

I hope that councillor was not a green (although it's unlikely any of them would express such a unequivocal view)

Anonymous said...

No, not a Green. He was a Lib Dem for Downham, I think. I think he has moved on since then. It was quite an eye opener seeing the power the few councillors had to lumber us with such a dreadful development.

Tamsin said...

Upwards of a decade ago perfectly viable plans were promulgated for a new secondary school near Fordham Park - but the Council would not move on that because the compulsory purchase process it would entail would take too long - five or six years. And now where are we?
Getting them to drop a policy they have got their teeth into is next to impossible.

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