#Lewisham 2014: The issues that do matter

Here are the issues that we think ought to define tomorrow's Lewisham elections and the years that follow. Please let us know what you think.


Prices and rents are rising faster in Lewisham than the London average, causing enormous problems for residents and changing the make-up of the area.

Like jobs, housing is a London-wide challenge. So why dismiss the former issue and prioritise the latter? Because unlike the jobs market, Lewisham has a major role to play in meeting London's growing demand for housing. Everywhere you look, major new buildings are at last appearing. But the housing challenge presents a number of questions that ultimately come back to the vision for Lewisham. These are:

- What balance do we want to strike in terms of "affordable" housing?
- Where should development be focused?
- What kind of developments do we admire?
- How much should housing needs take priority over all other considerations?

The Lewisham Plan contains a lot of answers, but our politicians should be campaigning on these fundamental questions. An example of the problem can be found on the Lewisham Labour website. First story "Lewisham Labour make housing top priority in local elections", second story "Boris lets Deptford down at Convoys Wharf [by steamrollering the proposal through without giving due consideration to heritage, transport and affordable housing]."

If Lewisham had articulated a clear vision for Deptford, explaining how its maritime heritage would be incorporated into a wider development strategy, then the years of delays to this major housing scheme would make sense. Without such a vision, holding up vital housing [their top priority] in the name of a completely unfunded 'Build the Lenox' scheme seems, at best, incoherent.

"Secondary schools"

There aren't enough good ones in Lewisham. Great strides have been made in improving and expanding local primary schools to accommodate a growing population and a a growing number of young families who want to stay in the area rather than decamp to the suburbs. Little progress has been made in terms of our secondary schools. If we want to reduce unemployment in Lewisham, we need to invest in secondary and vocational education to improve employability.

We need a detailed plan for new schools, expanded schools and improved schools now.


Improve public transport and so much else falls in to place. The Bakerloo Line through New Cross and Lewisham town centre would attract hundreds of millions of pounds of investment and thousands of jobs to this borough, while encouraging house builders to get cracking with dormant projects. It is a long-term vision, but also a realistic prospect and momentum is building. A DLR extension south from Lewisham is fraught with technical challenges but also a possibility. Quicker wins would include a later-running service for the East London Line.

Of course, all this is outside Lewisham's direct control and any party that suggested otherwise could be accused of dishonesty - but we need our leaders to make the case during and beyond the election. In part, that means Lewisham explaining what developments and improvements could be unlocked by these projects.

Beyond the major infrastructure projects, we'd like to hear more about Lewisham's roads. Are we serious about 20mph an hour limits or not? How are we going to encourage cycling and capitalise on the new "superhighway" due to pass through New Cross. When Lewisham Gateway and Convoys Wharf finally materialise, how should local transport cope?

"The night-time economy"

If you really want to help the local economy and improve quality of life for many residents, encourage more night-life. In an area like Lewisham, where most adults work elsewhere during the day, catering for drinkers, diners and people who want a hair cut, a facial or a workout after work is key to developing successful high streets.

We recently asked Deputy Mayor Alan Smith how we could create more space for restaurants, cafes and bars in Brockley, we were told that any new restaurant space would ultimately be turned into takeaways, so we may as well not bother. We asked what his solution was and the conversation ended there. This is another example of how a lack of vision translates into inertia and missed opportunities. Does Lewisham want to help high streets or not? If so, it needs to get serious about creating high streets that people want to use. That means a proper strategy for the night-time economy.