What is Lewisham for?

We are fast approaching the deadline for the public to respond to the options set out by Lewisham Council in the consultation document for the Lewisham Core Stratetgy. The consultation period ends tomorrow and we have been meaning to write about it for some time after Cllr Walton tipped us off about it.

We were finally prompted to write about it by an email from BC regular Tamsin, who forwarded the submission provided by the Chair of the Telegraph Hill Society, which we have reproduced below.

According to Lewisham Council:

The Lewisham Core Strategy will set out the vision, objectives, strategy and policies that will guide development and regeneration in the Lewisham borough up to 2025. Major change is anticipated, with a focus on Lewisham, Catford, Deptford and New Cross, and we need to plan for this.

The consultation document sets out a number of options for the public to comment on, including two broad spatial strategies. In either case Creekside (Deptford), Catford, Lewisham and New Cross are where the main action is likely to be:

Two regeneration corridors would be established. The first would encompass the London Plan ‘opportunity areas’ of Catford-Lewisham-New Cross including Deptford and Creekside. This would be the main focus for the borough's housing, retail and employment growth, and associated social and physical improvements.

The key difference between Strategic Spatial Options 1 and 2, is that under Option 2 the six sites proposed as Mixed Use Employment Locations (MELs) in Deptford and New Cross would continue to operate as a Strategic Industrial Location (SIL) and a Local Employment Location (LEL).

This is a big document and we’ve been meaning to write a longer piece with our thoughts on the subject but we’ve run out of time and in the end they basically boil down to the following:

- Lewisham should make far better use of the river – it’s a completely wasted resource. If the cruise liner terminal is not a goer (and no good reason has been provided why it shouldn’t be) then concentrate on creating a world class river walk – deliver some of the residential and commercial developments planned, but make sure there’s plenty of parkland too – think Battersea Park or Richmond.

- Whilst grand spatial plans are important, far more priority needs to be given to investing in the area’s high-streets, creating good-quality environments in every Lewisham village (not just Blackheath) – that seems to us the cheapest and easiest way to regenerate Lewisham while the Council struggles with the Gordian Knots of Catford and Lewisham centre.

- If you have parcels of problematic land that you can’t find a developer for, don't allow cheap and nasty infil just to try and hit housing targets, give the space over to charitable groups to do something wonderful with – like the Bonnington Square Paradise Project in Vauxhall.

- The industrial sites in the north of the borough often provide relatively few jobs and opportunities for nearby businesses - they would be no loss if replaced with mixed developments, which included small scale workshops, studios and office developments.

- Build more council-funded multi-sports facilities and gyms– everyone should have one within walking distance.

We admit that this is not a very focused response.

However, the Telegraph Hill Society has written a detailed response, focusing primarily on the potential impact of the intensity of development proposed for New Cross and Deptford. Here’s what they say:

Both options propose a large amount of new homes inthe north of the borough between now and 2025 but provide, for example, for no new parks (indeed it effectively admits that if all these newhomes are built there is no space for new parks!).

No new transportinfrastructure is planned to accommodate these new residents other than the schemes already in existence (ELLX and 3car DLR).

In particular both Option 1 and Option 2 provide for / require the new Sainsbury's scheme with its tower blocks even though it has not gonethrough planning and residents have not been consulted.

The new development in the North of the Borough (Deptford/New Cross) is meant to provide for the regeneration of thewhole of the borough - which seems a little unfair: we get the houses, the whole borough gets any funds coming from the regeneration.

There is too much emphasis on providing housing and not employment. Indeed Option 1 utilises current designated commercial land for housing. This may therefore turn the borough into even more of a dormitory borough than itis now.

For Conservation Areas as a whole, there are concerns over how both Options explicitly state that development sites will include infill development, more conversions to flats and more additions and extensions to existing properties.

We also had concerns - expressed by a number of other residents groups-over the fact that the short three page consultation document was badly worded and short on facts.

The Option 1 scheme (40% more housing than the London Plan requires) is described as "boroughwide regeneration andgrowth" whereas Option 2 (London Plan level of housing) is described as"moderate regeneration".

It is not clear why building new houses rather than building fewer better houses or even offices, factories and shops is regarded as "regeneration". It seems an odd use of the word. Furthermore the short document states that the target Lewisham has beenset for new housing is "almost 10,000 new homes by 2017".

It then states that Option 1 is for a "40% increase" in housing over the London PlanTarget, whereas Option 2 "meets London Plan". You might be forgiven forthinking that this means Option 1 is for 14,000 homes and Option 2 is for10,000 new homes in the borough across the period of the plan. In fact,the full report schedules 21,650 under option 1 and 14,550 under Option 2- because the timescales are different.

We apologise for not getting around to this sooner, but you still have a little time to make yourself heard.