New campaign group demands status quo in Lewisham

"Nobody is saying that Obama is Hitler. What we're saying is that this health care plan mirrors Nazi Germany's and the Nazi Germany healthcare plan was the foundation from which they built the rest of their 'socialist paradise'."
- Rush Limbaugh

Lewisham Town Centre is trapped in a long-term spiral of decline. While the southern end still sustains a vibrant street market, much of the northern end is boarded up, driven through by heavy traffic or weed-on by drunks.

The Council believes that some drastic changes are necessary to revive its fortunes and that the unstoppable growth of the Canary Wharf estate, connected to Lewisham via the excellent and expanding DLR provides an ideal opportunity for reinvention.

Lewisham Gateway and Loampit Vale are among the major schemes planned, which will create approximately 2,000 new homes - bringing new people, life and spending power to sustain the retail and leisure facilities that are also planned. There are problems with the scheme (such as the unsatisfactory plans for Lewisham Bridge school) and disappointments, such as the fact that the new swimming pool could have been bigger. And of course, questions remain about the financial viability of the vision in the current climate - the current state of the housing market means that it may not generate the returns the developers need to justify the huge investment.

Ironic then, that the protesters from the "Central Lewisham Action Group" who kicked up a stink about the plans this week, should be pictured holding aloft "Build for people not profit" banners - as though the two things were incompatible.

Whenever we write about this subject, Brockley Central is always angrily attacked by protestors, who say that the arguments against the scheme are actually highly sophisticated and we don't give them enough credit.

Perhaps they are right - but on the other hand, all we ever hear from them are arguments like these, in the Mercury and News Shopper.

"The high-rise aspects of the projects are very disturbing. We don't want another Croydon."

Croydon's development was blighted not by a few tall buildings but by the decision to build it around the needs of the car - a problem which also afflicts Lewisham currently. Lewisham Gateway will fix that.

"The population density will be greater than Mumbai."

Our house has a higher population density than Mumbai too. The comparison between a relatively small area of land that happens to have some tall buildings on it and one of the world's biggest mega cities is ludicrous - you don't measure urban densities over such a small area. Other high-density hell holes that the protesters may wish to invoke in future include central Paris, Manhattan and Rome.

"We feel that it's not right to put these forward piecemeal."

The parcels of land involved may be subject to separate planning processes but the future of Lewisham town centre has been developed in an holistic fashion.

"These are huge developments and there's no guaranteed infrastructure."

We're not sure what they mean by infrastructure, but of course the DLR expansion is nearing completion and, from December, there will be a significant increase in the number of trains running Lewisham to Central London as a result of this reshuffle. The developments themselves will create new public amenities, including a major leisure centre and some decent public spaces, of the sort Lewisham town centre currently lacks. The plan is conceived to deliver a shot in the arm to Lewisham as a shopping centre, providing new retail space as well.

There is a sensible debate to be had. So let's have it.