Ladywell Councillors' Loampit Vale reaction

Ladywell Councillors Sue Luxton, Ute Michel and Mike Keogh have submitted a response to the Loampit Vale proposal. Sue stresses it's not the official Green Party position.

The comments are broadly constructive and they have found much worthy of praise in the scheme, while seeking clarification on a number of issues relating to parking, traffic, healthcare facilities and the low level of social housing (though obviously the type of resident this development is aimed at - relatively affluent, young, childless people - is the same demographic which will put least strain on local healthcare services).

The response opens with an attack on the height of some of the proposed buildings, while accepting that this is a legitimate site for a high-density development. And here is the problem. If we want high-density, but place arbitrary height restrictions (based on purely subjective notions of what is 'too high') then what invariably happens is that a height reduction for the towers is matched by an increase in the height of buildings elsewhere. So rather than a few, relatively slender, elegant towers, the development becomes a monolithic slab, like Robin Hood Gardens. If you look at the early massings produced by the architect, you can see the alternative - squat and unrelenting. As for towering over Cornmill Gardens, well the juxtaposition of tall buildings with open spaces can be dramatic and beautiful - see Central Park, or more pertinently, Jubilee Park, for details. The comparison with New York might be ridiculous, but it is no more ridiculous than the regular comparisons with Croydon, which you can find on the petition against these plans.

We like their suggestions for improvements to Loampit Vale / Hill, though we don't buy the argument that a large injection of new people and shops in the area will damage the prospects of businesses located there. The new shops are unlikely to directly compete with the existing ones, and a revitalised Lewisham could benefit everyone. However, by all means drive as hard a bargain as possible with the s106.

Here's their response:

While in principle we welcome the building of a new leisure centre, new retail and housing units on this site, we have grave concerns about some aspects of the proposals. We formally object to the height of the buildings proposed.

24 storeys is too high and will tower over Cornmill Gardens and the surrounding area. The fact that there is a very ugly tower (Citibank) adjacent to the site should not act as a precedent to build more. We are supportive of high-density developments in areas with such good public transport links, but would argue that this is overdevelopment. In addition we would like to flag up other concerns about the proposed scheme, which we would like to see addressed:

1. The impact on existing services, in particular GP services: residents in our ward are concerned that the existing facilities at St John’s Medical Centre are insufficient to cope with an additional 2,000 patients. What work has been done on the impact this development will have on local health services, as well as school places?

2. The impact on neighbouring streets from increased traffic as a result of the development: a controlled parking zone is already in place in part of the surrounding area and a consultation on extending this to further parts of Ladywell is due to commence shortly. Would the stated principle that residents of the new flats will not be eligible to apply for permits for CPZs be confirmed in writing by the Council if the application was successful? What measures will be taken to prevent neighbouring streets such as Algernon Road, Ellerdale Street, Marsala Road, Sandrock Road and Undercliff Road becoming rat-runs and through routes to and from the development?

3. Low level of social housing: while we welcome the fact that a reasonable percentage of the social housing proposed comprises larger, family units, we are concerned that the overall level of homes for social rent in the development is only 19%, and affordable housing overall is only 24% including intermediate housing. This is below the borough’s stated threshold for developments of this size and does not sufficiently contribute to addressing the dire shortage of affordable housing in the borough.

4. If the committee is minded to pass the application, we would request that S106 contributions for improvements to the railway bridges and the footpath on Loampit Vale are added as a condition. We are concerned that with the new development, the existing businesses further up Loampit Vale and Loampit Hill, which are already struggling, will become even more marginalised. We would welcome efforts to improve the streetscape along the lower part of Loampit Vale, but urge that these improvements are carried out further up as well, as far as the junction with Tyrwhitt Road, to help connect the two parts of Loampit more successfully than is currently the case. We would suggest that this should include the planting of street trees, installation of cycle racks outside shops and funds for a community artwork project under the railway bridge arches, which are currently an eyesore.

5. We welcome the fact that the leisure centre will reach BREEAM excellent. We acknowledge that code for sustainable homes level 4 is better than many developments in the borough are currently reaching, but given this is such a landmark development and considering the lifetime of the building, we would like to have seen it reach level 5.

6. We welcome the CHP and the potential for this to be used in the future by the neighbouring school, but 11% on site energy generation is lower than the London Plan specifies and leaves future residents exposed to high levels of energy insecurity in a future with dwindling oil supplies and high energy prices.

7. Is there any provision for on site composting of food waste? The volume of waste generated on site will create considerable extra vehicle movements and carbon footprints if it is all to be processed remotely.

8. In the travel plan it mentions the provision of 8 spaces for car club cars – this is to be welcomed, but we would urge that at least some of these are in publicly accessible areas so the wider community can benefit, as suggested, not just in the private car park.