Poor benighted Leegate

Initial plans to redevelop the Leegate Centre in Lee Green have been released by owners St Modwen. The 1960s-built shopping centre is largely deserted and something drastic needs to happen to it.

St Modwen's solution is to bulldoze it and replace it with a large Asda, with rooftop car parking.

Any retail-led development would be a mistake. With Blackheath up the hill for the chichi stuff, Lewisham just down the road for chains, Lee High Road for independent retail and a large Sainsbury's right next door (plus a Lidl 500 yards away), there is no niche left for it to occupy. Transport links are relatively poor and parking space is at a premium (hence the roof parking plan).

St Modwen claim that a supermarket is needed to create the footfall that will make the rest of the retail offer (25,000 sq ft of new shops and restaurants along Burnt Ash Road) work. They must know this is hogwash. If one large supermarket has done nothing for the site (arguably, it accelerated the decline), how would another help? Lee Green has been a dysfunctional town centre for decades and something much more imaginative would be needed to reverse its decline. This proposal plans to keep the ugliest bits (including Leegate tower, which is a strong candidate for the borough's worst building) and allow the site to be dominated by a supermarket shed, none of which is likely to turn this in to a leisure destination.

This looks like a cynical ploy to get permission to develop another large supermarket in the borough, rather than a considered attempt to regenerate Lee. None of the other projects featured on the developer's website give any kind of reassurance that they know how to handle a site like this.

If the problem is that the Council is insistent on restoring Lee's function as a bustling town centre, then the Council should stop and have a rethink. There's no need to retain Leegate as a shopping precinct, they should allow it to be developed as a residential area, with a high quality public realm and some leisure facilities (like a gym) that would really attract customers who might then be persuaded to try the local pubs or restaurants in the  area.

With new homes next door, maybe the New Tiger's Head could finally reopen.

[Full disclosure: the company I work for, Edelman, does a little CSR reporting work for Sainsbury's, so you can dismiss the above as a Machiavellian ruse to protect a client from competition if you like, but it really isn't - it's just the most depressing proposal we've seen in a long while]