The new Loampit Vale plans revealed

Last Saturday we walked from Lewisham Station to Ladywell, passing via Loampit Vale. It smelled strongly of wee as we crossed the little patch of grass and walked through the underpass toward Algernon Road. It was a hot day and two people who also smelled strongly of wee stood around, for want of anything much else to do.

It was for this reason that, when we received the email from Matt, informing us that the revised planning application from Barratt for Loampit Vale was available online, we were predisposed to look favourably on it.

The plan is for:

The construction of eight buildings ranging from five to 24 storeys, incorporating balconies and terraces, comprising 788 residential units (including up to 186 affordable), a leisure centre, 1,856m2 of commercial floorspace (Use Classes A1, A2, and B1), including 626m2 for creative industries), an energy centre, replacement London City Mission facilities, public and private amenity space, together with associated landscaping, bin stores, 866 cycle, 10 motorcycle and 181 car parking spaces on ground and first floor levels, associated highway works, plant and servicing.

The development is dense and reasonably tall, though to give some sense of scale, the tallest of the proposed buildings (24 stories) is roughly half the height of the Pan Peninsula buildings (48 stories) in Canary Wharf and is likely to be equal in height to the existing "Lewisham House".

The planned pool will be eight lanes, which is very good news. The play areas, podium gardens, public spaces and main roads look high-quality. The green roof scheme is good though should be standard for any development of this kind. The architecture and planned materials are decent, particularly on buildings C and E, which have nicely-proportioned recessed windows. Unfortunately, the tallest of the buildings is also the most disappointing, employing the randomised cladding that is heavily overused by developers at the moment.

As we write this, there are probably others in the borough poring over the planning documents, cataloguing flaws. Matt, who tipped us off, does not seem like a big fan himself, writing:

They seem to be trying to get a huge development through on the promise of the new leisure centre. If you consider that this site backs onto roads of terraced housing the impact on these people will be significant. Of course for us all means another couple of Citibank towers to look at.

Well, we like looking north and having the horizon punctured by Canary Wharf. We don't like looking east at the horror that is the Citi tower, but that's because it's a bad building. These are not bad buildings and they will improve the view from Hilly Fields by screening that 70s folly.

The more important issue is the scale of the development, but again the positives surely outweigh the negatives; these buildings will play a key role in the revival of Lewisham as an urban centre and help the borough meet its housing commitments, injecting some vibrancy in to the area.

The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) concluded that "we see its potential to create a vibrant public destination and a pleasant place to live, whilst the quantum and size are large, this could be acceptable if carefully handled." The final point is surely the most important - Loampit Vale needs something ambitious. This is the deal that's on the table, but the devil is in the detail.

So what do you think?


max said...

Do you know what's the Council financial involvement into the leisure centre? How much are they putting upfront?
The Council's line used to be that it was to be paid partly by £6.9m capital funding ring-fenced for this use and originally coming out of the sale of Aragon Tower. I think that a few months ago there was an item at Mayor and Cabinet diverting those funds into the general pot though.
Quite a low ratio of affordable housing really, less than 25%, and this in the best of options as the press release says "up to 186 affordable".
Is this because the developers are paying for the leisure centre?

Anyway, I still contend that that lesiure centre is undersized. With the kind of passage that that spot enjoys the usage is likely to be very high.

Of course 8 lanes are better than 6 (and we fought for that), but 10 are even better and if there were 10 lanes I bet they would be just as used, it would also make it an outstanding competition pool rather than a pool that's suitable for competitions.
Also to have a decent depth that's suitable for diving would also be good and would be a feature that's missing from every other modern 25m pool, again something that would make it an outstanding pool.

It was the Mayor that indeed once wrote:
..I want this development to be the flagship leisure facility for this borough comprising two full swimming pools, one as a public swimming pool and one for structured lessons and training. We will look at incorporating a competition diving feature alongside the pools...

We're not getting two full pools, we're getting somewhere close to that with a good size teaching pool but the 2m depth at the deep end is really disappointing, Ladywell Pool has a 3.8m deep end and there's much more you can do with that, we're losing a good feature. I challenged the Council on this and the best answer I got was that there is diving at the Bridge now.

psyche9 said...

You have to imagine these buildings as they'd be on a cold wet day. The traffic thundering along round them, the wind tearing between the tower blocks ...

Do you really think these are good buildings, and better than the grim Citi tower? They look quite ugly to me (I like Canary Wharf, not against tallness!), dull at best - with potential for developing an Aylesbury-Estate type ambience in years to come.

Brockley Nick said...

@psyche9 I think that is a false argument. My house looks pretty grim on a cold, wet, windy day with traffic thundering past it. It doesn't mean it isn't a nice house. The materials should look ok in all weathers (eg: mainly brick), unlike glass or concrete which look markedly better in sunlight. There is a big section about wind in the app doc. They have realigned the layout of the buildings to mimimise impact and propose tree-planting to break up currents at ground level.

@max good questions, I will be trying to get answers to the issues raised here.

Anonymous said...

I'm not an architect so I'll leave the comments about views and sight-lines and so forth to those who are - but I know a good deal about housing development!

Surely the experience of the last year or so should have taught Lewisham Council something about the problems associated with developments that involve large volumes of flats? The whole trend in housing development at the moment is heading in precisely the opposite direction from this kind of scheme, which looks very similar to many drawn up in the boom years. High-volume, low space standards, throw in some community infrastructure to win the councillors over, and add some glossy-but-hard-to-maintain gimmicks such as the green roofs (who's going to want to live in those flats if they carry an annual service charge of a couple of grand? Who's going to ensure they're maintained to a high standard? That's exactly what did for the epic schemes built in the 60s and 70s: longterm maintenance expenditure just wasn't made available. High-density living requires high-density expenditure).

Unknown said...

Welcome to Croydon, everyone! (because THAT'S a nice area). p.s., enjoy the views of Blackheath while they last.

Nina said...

I feel wary about this. These buildings will probably be lovely when new and pristine but they're in Lewisham, not central London. Their condition could be left to degrade badly over 20 years. Will those huge windows be cleaned once a week? If not then you have another huge Lewisham building that isn't cared for and makes Loampit Vale look as miserable as always. Forget the extra promise attached- what about the basics?

Headhunter said...

I've no objection to tall buildings in Lewisham centre. Not sure about lines of sight and how they affect local Victorian housing though. It's not as if Lewisham centre is some kind of heritage spot to be protected. I do think Kate raises a good point though, service and maintanence charges in residential buildings like these are often horrific as it's all farmed out to some overpriced management company and although residents can stake a "right to manage" claim, trying to co ordinate that in a building of 50 or so flats would be a nightmare. Charges of GBP2k or more per year are not uncommon for places with concierge/security at the door or private gyms attached. The charges at the development next to Deptford Bridge are pretty horrific I think. As long as potential buyers are happy to cough up for this then fine...

max said...

Well, probably on location, on the pavement in front of Lewisham Station it will look ok because it's already a very busy urban type of environment, but I don't think this constitutes an improvement of the views from Hillyfields or from any other high point actually.
And it will not screen the Citybank building, just sit next to it.
I really like the views towards the City and Canary Wharf because they're in the distance, I'm not sure that Citybank's greatest sin is its awfulness, more its size and the way it breaks a rather gentle rolling of the cityscape.

Anonymous said...

I presume the thinking behind this development is that Canary Wharf workers will buy these flats. Setting aside the problems that employers in the Wharf and the City have, and will continue to have for quite some time, the question arises of the level of demand in the market.

Even at the height of the property bubble there weren't enough buyers to snap up all the city centre apartments that were built, and those are going to hang around for ages. They're unsuitable for social housing in most cases, so no easy route out there. So why on earth build yet more?

When the market comes back, lenders will still be wary of city centre apartment values, since they have proved so soft. Family homes and larger split-level apartments are where it's at, because that's where the demand is.

Is Lewisham seriously short of flatted accommodation for the young professional? Half the conservation area fits that remit, for a start. They'd be better off building larger properties that will prove more flexible than the usual 1-2 bed 'rabbit hutch'; property market mobility has gone through the floor in recent months and isn't likely to pull back quickly. So people need homes they can grow into; the traditional 'stay 4 years then move up the ladder' model is broken.

max said...

Kate, you've just described what's been pulled down to make space for this development.
All very sensible but can you imagine what a punched tyre would the Mayor look like if they pulled the plug on this one.

Anonymous said...

I really dont see many people in Canary Wharf rushing to buy in Lewisham when there are so many nicer alternatives. I mean have many of those Silkworks flats sold i wonder? Bless it, but poor Lewisham isnt the most attractive of places and any time i mention it in work to my colleagues who live in west London (i call them Westies, they call Brockley the Bronx), they pull a face of horror at the thoughts of it. People do lump it into the same basket as Brixton, Hackney etc... so I think a lot of these new flats on Loampit Vale will be social housing as private demand will be limited. Personally I find Lewishambles feels much safer than Brixton or Hackney at night though. Anyway, i dont really mind the new development but why no commercial element? Shouldnt they get some restaurants, shops and maybe a supermarket into the scheme somewhere? I think dangerous the way Councils are scrambling to get all these mini flats into their boroughs so they meet government housing targets, why not just control the surge in the population a bit more and the demand may be satisfied by what we already have.

Bill Ellson said...

Nowheresville northwesteurope, again

Anonymous said...

Another point to consider - is the development planned in stages? If so, the early stages often involve construction and sales to bring in some cashflow. If the public amenities which are presumably being Section 106'd are scheduled for a later stage, then poorer-than-expected cash flow (ie. sales) in earlier stages could impact on their delivery, timescale or quality standards.

It's quite common for developers to 'down-scale' stuff in later stages once they've got their priorities built in the early stages.
I do hope the council's negotiators have considered this.

max said...

I don't know about that but it may be done earlier rather than later actually as a new pool and gym downstairs is a good selling point, couple that with the DLR just out of the door and I think it may be an attractive proposal for a junior Canary Wharf worker looking for accomodation. So although the market for these kind of flats may be particularly and even irreversibly down this specific development may still sell well for these two reasons.

max said...

Also, it's not a section 106 type of agreement, it's a full partnership between the Council and the developer, the Council gave Barratt Homes the land.
It'd be nice if the Council made public the specifics of the deals really, just for the sake of transparency, after all it was public owned land that they agreed to give.

Anonymous said...

A JV? What type - a LHC? Is it profit-sharing?

Anonymous said...

I personally feel that these buildings will be way too tall. They are not especially good tall buildings. These are no 'gherkins' or Lloyds building - they are mediocre to dull. The fact that they may block the view of the ugly Citibank Tower is not really a positive.

Jake said...

Barratt? Has this company's reputation changed since the 1980's? Is associated with good quality housing and customer care now?

Report from Contract Journal

psyche9 said...

When I fitst discovered Lewisham area I passed through a grim and badly-weathered high-rise area on the train, to come up in a pretty and hilly district with low rise housing, rivers and green space.
To me that is what Lewisham is about and after the imaginative work at Cornmill Gardens and the schemes to open up the river, I am very disappointed.
I hadn't rejected the idea of high-rise for Lewisham, but I had hoped it would look a little better than this. They are dull and some of them are beige coloured (concrete?). Some of the new residential building around Elephant and Castle is more exciting. Good or bad weather, there are places you see and think 'i want to come back here and explore' and some places that only look good in an architect's drawing.
I'm trying to fill in the gaps in the pictures with what is already there, and that is what disturbs me most really - seems to pick-up on what is worst in Lewsiham : where there is mismatched higgledy-piggledy architecture, instead of trying to make things more harmonious and human-scale.

Anonymous said...

The affordable housing element is "up to 186 affordable" of a total of 788 units. In this context 'affordable' usually means 'shared ownership/equity', so it's not likely to contribute much traditional social-rented housing at all.

Also note the conservative use of the phrase 'up to'.

max said...

Optimistically "up to" means that the developers admit that whether shared accommodation is social housing is debatable.

Anyway, there is a breakdown of the types of affordable housing on the developers' webpage:

I've done the maths and it's 18.5% of socially rented and 5% of intermediate, as they put it, which would be schemes as shared ownership.
But the developer prefers to count bedrooms, not flats, and as they're 3 and 4 bedroom flats that are predominantly for social housing while one and two bedrooms are mostly for the private market then the quota accounted in this way is 30%.

Here's a complete breakdown, clearly a great difference in private to social ratio between different type of accommodations:

- 55 studio flats (6.9% of the total)- 100% private ;
- 291 One bedrooms (36.9% of the total) - 84.8% Private (247) - 11% Social (32)- 4.1% Intermediate (12);
- 354 Two bedrooms (44.9% of the total) - 84.4% Private (299) - 7.6% Social (27) - 7.9% Intermediate (28);
- 77 Three bedrooms (9.7% of the total) - 98% Social (76);
- 11 Four bedrooms (1.4% of the total) - 100% social.

And here the breakdown in bedrooms:

- 361 social bedrooms (27.1% of total bedrooms including studios);
- 68 intermediate bedrooms (5.1% of total bedrooms including studios);
- 429 total bedrooms social and intermediate (32.2% of total bedrooms including studios);
- 903 private bedrooms (including studios) (67.8% of total bedrooms including studios).

Hugh said...

Quite a few white people in that first picture.

Richard Elliot said...

Anything to smarten up this corner of Lewisham and get rid of the smell of wee has my vote.

Anonymous said...

Between last year's proposal and this year's the Deputy Mayor announced the building of the Leisure Centre had been secured.

How, has not been revealed. I think the public have a right to know if there will be financial penalties if the pool is not built by the summer of 2012.

Although the number of flats has been reduced from 816 to 788, the tallest building has gone from 22 to 24 storeys.

At the exhibition for the original plan the price of flats were about £40-£50,000 lower than other developments.

One point was strongly made, no flats, no pool.

The block adjacent to Elmira Road would be built first as it housed the engery centre and developers were hoping it would also provide engery for the new school.

I had the impression sales of flats would influence further stages. If that included the pool was not clear.

Another extremely tall building is proposed on the other side of Loampit Vale on the Thurston Road Industrial Site.

Silkworks on Connington Road may be an indicator to the fortunes of the Barratt development?

LewishamLovely said...

people living within close proximity to the lewisham town centre and loampit vale redevelopment were invited to a meeting last week with councillor heidi alexander for her to explain it all. if i remember correctly, i think she said the liesure complex would be amongst the first stage of development.

Hugh said...

Sorry if this has been asked, but does it matter what they do to central Lewisham and Loampit Vale? The only way is up.

Headhunter said...

Is the percentage of flat accommodation vs houses really that much in favour of flats in Lewisham Borough? Yes, most of the buildings in the Brockley conservation area are split into flats, but the conservation area is a tiny proportion of Lewisham as a whole. There are larger converted houses in Forest Hill too, but other than that, vast swathes of Lewisham are smaller, 2-3 bed Victorian houses originally built for the "clerkly classes" as they termed it.

Even in SE4 itself, I would guess that most accommodation is houses.

Blackheath has some large houses broken into flats, but there are also a large number of those which still exist as 1 house for the seriously wealthy. I don't think there is an over abundance of flats in our borough, perhaps unlike most other central London boroughs.

Headhunter said...

Talking of areas that smell of wee, does anyone know how on earth it is possible to make one's wee smell quite so bad? I mean even after a heavy drinking session, if I happened to have a wee in a railway arch, I don't think it could ever smell as bad as it does down by Loampit Vale (and other "public urinal" spots in London). Seriously, what are these people eating and drinking to make such an awful stench?

Tressillian James said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tressillian James said...


Headhunter said...

May be, but asparagus just makes your wee smell like wet dog, this smells like industrial ammonia or something!

tyrwhitt michael said...

They are probably drinking industrial strength alcohol.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Hugh.

The only way is up.

For this reason, Lewisham/se4 is a brilliant place to buy property, assuming you think current prices are fair of course.....

I personally think London has maximum another 10% of "froth" to go but, of course, the question then becomes whether you can time your re-entry into the market perfectly or whether it's better to jump now and be satisfied you did ok, as opposed to brilliantly....

risk and reward...

but what's clear is that se4 is good news relative to the rest of London....

Monkeyboy said...

Don't think there's much asparagus eaten around here.

Anonymous said...

Any piss artists out there may like to know Lewisham's housing strategy goes before the Mayor tonight..

Councils are now required to take a strategic view of housing across all tenures within their boundaries. The new housing strategy attempts to better reflect the Council’s medium to long term housing goals across all
housing tenures.

The strategy is focussed on delivering the right housing mix to meet the housing needs and aspirations of all our residents and achieving the wider goals expressed within the Sustainable Communities Strategy.
I believe that know include Hugh's pile when looking at housing need.

Anonymous said...

The Housing Strategy also contributes to the following priorities of the Sustainable Community Strategy:

• Safer – where people feel safe and live free from crime, antisocial behaviour and abuse.

• Dynamic and prosperous – where people are part of vibrant communities and town centres, well connected to London and beyond.

The new Housing Strategy aligns itself with the Regeneration Strategy and its three themes of People, Prosperity, Place.

In 2001 14% of households were renting in the private sector and this had increased to nearly 30% in 2007.Other key results of the Survey showed that:

48% of households had an annual income of £15,000 or less(excluding housing benefit)

11,300 households are overcrowded (10%) and 41,850 households are under-occupiedHouse prices in Lewisham have doubled since January 2001, going from £137,303 to £288,009 at the peak in April 2008.

Since April 2008, the housing market has contracted and the average house price in Lewisham in November 2008 was £261,056.

This represents an 11% drop over 7 months and forecasts suggest a further 10% drop in 2009.29.4% of all households were assessed as living in unsuitable
(Unsuitability refers to homeless or insecure households,
mismatch of household composition and dwelling, household amenities, poor conditions and social needs.

41.2% in the social rented sector, 40.9% in the private rented sector and 14% of owner occupiers are in unsuitable housing.Population in Lewisham is expected to rise to 279,600 by 2016 which
would represent an increase of 10% over 10 years.

Lewisham has a younger than average population and over 45% of households contain only one adult.

The Council has set itself a Local Area Agreement target to deliver 1287 affordable homes by the end of 2011.The Mayor of London ... new numerical target for affordable housing. For Lewisham the numerical
target is to deliver 1598 affordable units by 2011.

Lewisham is part of the government’s Mortgage Rescue Scheme.

The recent review of the private rented sector undertaken by Julie Rugg and David Rhodes highlights the importance of this housing sector.

Anonymous said...

The resultant Housing Strategy has been developed around three key themes – People, Homes and Places and Quality and Sustainability.

• People – Putting people at the heart of the housing system, meeting the needs of Lewisham’s most vulnerable residents, making sure that residents have access to as wide a range of housing choices as possible, and supporting them to extend these choices by linking housing up with opportunities for employment.

• Homes and Places – Increasing supply to meet the growing needs of residents, by building enough of the right new homes, making better use of the homes that exist, and ensuring that Lewisham contains mixed and balanced communities that make Lewisham an attractive place to live.

• Quality and Sustainability – Working to improve the quality and
management of new and existing homes in the Borough, and embedding principles of good design and environmental sustainability into all housing activity.

Anonymous said...

There are 5 areas where we need to make a key impact in order to delivery on the housing strategy. These are :

• Widening housing choice and managing demand so that a comprehensive range of housing types and tenures are but are flexible to adapt to changing circumstances.

• Increasing housing availability is a key commitment of the Housing
Strategy. Lewisham, despite current market conditions, is
determined to provide enough of the right housing in the right

• Developing a quality private rented sector which is more affordable
and offers more security so it provides an attractive tenure of
choice for residents.

• Expanding the housing offer to enable residents to link up with
wider services such as employment, health and education so we can truly maximise life opportunities and aspirations.

o Greening our homes and neighbourhoods to ensure that new
homes are delivered in an environmentally sustainable fashion, preserve green spaces and contribute towards meeting the carbon challenge, and existing homes are transformed to meet the energy efficiency agenda.

Anonymous said...

The top priorities identified by residents include:

• Increasing the amount of affordable housing for those on low incomes

• Improving estates and neighbourhoods to make them better places to live

• Improving the quality of housing

• Reducing the number of people living in overcrowded housing

• Reducing homelessness

• Taking action against anti- social behaviour caused by neighbours

Anonymous said...

The analysis of the focus groups results found that the majority of people liked living in Lewisham.

Some of the attendees felt that there was little choice available between tenures and that owner occupation remained the tenure of choice.

Some attendees voiced concerns about the private rented sector, particularly the high rents and lack of security.

A number of the attendees had trouble understanding the Choice Based Lettings Scheme.

Concerns were also raised about homelessness and temporary accommodation.

Anonymous said...

"The top priorities identified by residents include:..."

Who are these residents? I assume they are council housing tenants with a somewhat subjective view because I doubt they are the "top" priorities people in the private housing world would give.

Comment said...

Those are my priorities. Who doesn't want to live in an improved neighbourhood and estate. Reduce homelessness etc?

Council tenants aren't some alien species. It's you if you lose your job, become unwell or any manner of difficulities. Or simply do a job that doesn't pay enough.

Anonymous said...

everyone wants to live in an improved lewisham, it's just that too often council policies on improvements are weighted towards ones focused on social housing ahead of those improvements that could be appreciated by everyone in the borough.
let's reduce overcrowding in one council house by giving those tenants one each! it's not sustainable. the vicious cycle has to be broken in a more pro-active way.

Anonymous said...

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hilly said...

The proposed high rise development, when considered with the tower blocks at Lewisham "Gateway" will blot out the views of the river valley from Hillyfields Park. The user group agreed to write an objection to the Gateway development. The lib dem cllr Morris (I think he has now moved on) said we were parochial and dismissed our objection. No doubt we will be equally dismissed when we raise further objections to the further loss of the views. The hilltop site was saved as a park 100 years ago to preserve it from development and retain views.

So it matters to all those who care to look on the leafy hills rising out of Lewisham, what happens in central Lewisham and Loampit Vale. The only views retained will be from the top of the tower blocks. Usually reserved for the penthouse.

Not sure where the proposal will stand now if it is linked to Lewisham Bridge School. I see in "Building Design" that our elegant local building has been awarded grade II listing.

Anonymous said...

Am I reading this right? Lewisham House is the out of place and empty Citibank Building, and this is another development somehow using that building as a marker for how high you can build? My view, very depressing, beginning to think my neighbour's weren't so rash as moving out when Lewisham Gateway got planning.

max said...

A quite interesting observational type of post from Dave Hill today. Speaks of Hackney and Newham but is entirely applicable to Lewisham.

Comment said...

Thanks for linking to this Max. The reality is Lewisham thinks like a 'poor borough' and acts like one. I am losing hope. Whilst Brockley has a number of charms. It's a case of one step forward two back. It's attitudinal thing. Things could change if we have a different Mayor, but maybe the 'the problem' resides in the 'New Labour' mentality and consensus politics that we have. There's a lack of values, vision, it's managerial and that attitude manifests itself in perfunctory architecture and polices, as shown by this scheme. I suppose it's stems from a form of postmodern malaise, an anxiety to commit to any belief system because everything is perceived as relative.

Look at the attitude to people who want to preserve the character of one small area. It's "you're petty", "you like rules". Having values and a commitment to an ideal is looked down upon.

Anonymous said...

Here are some computer generated videos of the scheme.

Anonymous said...

All the 'computer generated videos' show is that the developer has seen fit to put a bit of money into marketing - probably not for the benefit of residents but more likely to try and attract more finance into the scheme - it must mean they haven't been able to flog any of the 'retail' space. It's nonsense.

Tamsin said...

Before I steal your pictures, Nick, (reached via a google search I might say) for a poster for a talk and presentation on the Loampit Vale project could you be good enough to confirm where they came from - save me ploughing through the planning documents.


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