On Lewisham Gateway

The latest edition of Progress got me thinking – as it usually does. This issue has a focus on London and there’s lots to digest. In particular a piece about how Ken’s pushing up the density of the city and the compromises he’s made to get what he wants.

It seems to me there are a few things in the article that people thinking about Lewisham Gateway should be thinking about as they wrestle with that development.

The meta-context for London is that apparently we can expect an increase in the numbers living in London by 800,000 over the next decade or so, who will require an extra 450,000 new homes, many of which will be in the Thames Gateway. We already know that Ken’s a bit of a fan of tall buildings and with his hands on housing policy the article argues:

It is envisaged that these new homes—most of them connected to transport hubs—will be built at Parisian levels of density: between 240 and 435 dwellings per hectare in central London (and 55 to 275 in outer London), which means that almost all will be part of medium-rise flat complexes without gardens.

That sounds rather like the prospects for Lewisham town centre and beyond.

The article notes that:

Local residents often oppose major new developments, and the boroughs generally reflect this bottom-up pressure. However, Livingstone has just been given new planning powers that will make it possible for him to give approval to such developments regardless of borough opposition.

I don’t think that this means that those opposed to the Gateway (as currently conceived) won’t be able to push the developers for a better deal, but I can’t see that they’ve got much of a chance of getting the development stopped. Indeed there are clues in the report Ken received when he last looked at the application in October last year as to where pressure might be applied .

In summary he was told:

This is a complex urban regeneration scheme facing a significant set of heavy engineering constraints and other technical challenges. There is currently insufficient information to reach a judgement on the overall transport impact, particularly in relation to the highway network due to the absence of adequate modelling work. The scheme will bring significant regenerative benefits to Lewisham town centre, enhancing its role and position in the town centre network, and is likely to act as a major regeneration catalyst for the wider area. As with any regeneration scheme of this scale there are a number of significant issues which need to be resolved, relating to energy, children’s play space, design quality, noise, air quality, access and sustainable design and construction.

He was advised to tell Lewisham Council that “the broad principle of redevelopment is fully supported but a number of significant strategic planning issues remain outstanding.” And, looking at this letter, Ken took the advice he was offered.

Maybe Richard P can tell us how he thinks this’ll play out and whether what he’d like to see in the town centre can live with Ken’s vision for the city?

About Andrew Brown

I live in Lewisham, South East London, and spent 9 years as a Labour councillor in the borough between 1997 and 2006.
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23 Responses to On Lewisham Gateway

  1. Lone Ranger says:

    Weren’t the population of London encouraged to move out of London to places like Milton Keynes and Harlow, has that been reversed?

    In 1951 the population was 8,346,000 and 7,172,091 in 2001, although in recent years the population has been rising it has not been near the 80,000 a year indicated by your blog.

    http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?id=384

  2. andrewkbrown says:

    Nice find about 1951.

    You’ll appreciate that the figure of 800,000 comes from the article rather than my research.

    They say:

    Each year from 1997 to 2006 saw a net inflow of 100,000 foreigners to London, to which must be added the population’s natural growth (more births than deaths) of 50,000 to 75,000 a year. These increases are partly offset by an annual outflow of around 80,000 to the rest of Britain—take immigration out of the picture and, according to some estimates, the capital’s population would have fallen by around 600,000 between 1993 and 2000.

    And this report to the Mayor, from 2002 (so before the Olympic bid was won), forecasts that London will “grow by 738 thousand from 7.411million in 2001 to 8.149 million in 2016.”

    But I’m sure you won’t dispute the broader point that there is an urgent need for more housing across all sectors (even if the numbers of people living here are the same)?

  3. kate says:

    Hi . bet you knew id pop up ha ha 😉 This worries me as i have had contact from people living in appaling conditions. There are people with 4,5,6 kids being cooped up often in temporary housing through no fault of their own. Being dumped at the tenth floor of a new tower block in the heart of Lewisham would be most peoples idea of hell. The kids play area is only one small thing that im sure will be pushed to the bottom of the agenda to sort…. profit being top. Although new homes are being built i dont feel that theres any real thought into how local communities will be affected. I have heard lots about sustainable communities but if everyone is living in pigeon holes with no social activities on top of a retail area there will be no community and more problems with anti social behaviour bored kids running amok and people just not knowing how to get on with others. I know i paint grim picture but with so many flats people will end up being isolated.

  4. andrewkbrown says:

    I agree that if the planners don’t insist on great design and adequate provision of places for children and young people to play and for communities to thrive all get are the same sort of housing that the Council are trying to get knocked down at the moment.

  5. Andrew says:

    Prospect not Progress, surely? Unless David Goodhart has become unusually partisan of late…

  6. andrewkbrown says:

    Er, yes Prospect not Progress, sorry.

  7. Lone Ranger says:

    I didn’t read the report.

    So additional housing is primarily being created to deal with a fresh influx of people rather than deal with existing housing issues.

    In the mid 50’s and early 60’s there was a great deal of new council housing in Lewisham at a time when the population was falling and is still currently lower than 1951. In 40 years the issue should have been resolved.

    Much of the 60’s social housing is rubbished and said to need replacing, I’m concerned the same mistakes are about to be re-made in the rush to meet targets.

    I understand in Deptford the London Mayor has approved a plan to have a higher density of houses than in the guidelines.

    With mainly 1-2 bedroom apartments will it mean a high turnover of residents as those creating families move on?

  8. Lone Ranger says:

    Probably not directly connected with this thread but while researching something else I came across the following on the BBC news website.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/6048982.stm

    I put it here because I believe ‘affordable homes’ for ‘key workers’ is part of the plan for in or around Lewisham Gateway.

  9. The only sensible thing I can say about Lewisham Gateway is… can the little newsagent opposite the police station be replaced, please? Otherwise I have to wait ages to cross the road to go to the even littler one at the end of Lee High Road (and the paper’s out of date by the time the pelican crossing’s turned green). Got me in a right tizz the other morning, that did.

  10. Hi Andrew

    Sorry for late reply – too much work to do at the moment!

    The group has been working on our formal objection for a little while and this should be able to be made public (ie sent to the council) in the next few weeks.

    We are objecting to many parts of the scheme and how it contravenes many guidelines already laid down and accepted, such as the London Plan and the UDP.

    It does also raise the question of “whatever we do, or say we are going to do, we can change our minds about this whenever we like, if enough pressure is put upon us by developers”

    You get my drift (and have done in the past)

    More in a while

  11. andrewkbrown says:

    Well yes, but of course the Council won’t have made up its mind until the councillors on the planning committee make their decision, and have heard your (and the developers) arguments.

    I’m sure that Councillors on that committee will go into the meeting to try and make the right decision for Lewisham. And will come to their conclusions on the merits of the case rather than because one set of people or another put pressure on them.

  12. You have great faith in the Councillors!

    But we haven’t met any Councillors who had a good (in some case no) grasp of everything they *needed* to know to be able to make an informed, and correct, decision.

    The pressure isn’t about making the right decision for Lewisham any more either – it’s way beyond that – Lewisham will give way to the lobby with the biggest, loudest voice, be that voice Ken or AMEC.

    Be in no doubt, that if this goes ahead it will be the *wrong* decision for Lewisham.

    What started out, probably when you were a Councillor, as an attempt to get something good for Lewisham has now become the price of getting rid of the roundabout and putting in an untested road system that will be paid for by a high-rise development.

    Fancy living in one Andrew?

  13. andrewkbrown says:

    I do indeed have faith in the Councillors, every one of them that I’ve met takes these decisions seriously and properly. But maybe you’ve had a different experience?

    And while I’ve yet to be convinced that this will be the disaster you say, I’ll still read your objections with interest. I’d say though that you might want to think about the psychology of seeming to say that councillors are in the pockets of the developers or Ken – in my experience that doesn’t half put their backs up.

    As for high rise I’ve been there and quite enjoyed it and while I’m not looking to move at the moment, who knows in the future. There are people living in the Barbican who don’t seem to mind it. There are people paying silly money to live on the Thames who seem to think high rise is okay.

  14. All the councillors I’ve met have given full impression of being serious and proper, and I’m in no way trying to foster disrespect of councillors for the job that they do under, I’m sure, very difficult circumstances.

    What I did say was that I am concerned about the lack of information (about the Gateway) that councillors appeared to have whenever any of our group has met them.

    They have all been completely open to our information and received it gratefully but only the Greens have issued a statement with their views (I stand to be corrected there)

    And in no way was I saying that “councillors are in the pockets of the developers or Ken”. I was talking about the loudest lobby group which will inevitably be the developers. I was reminded of a speech given by Bridgit Prentice some years ago when she warned against the bullying tactics of developers – but I can’t remember my source for that . . .

    And of course, High rise developments are not necessarily a bad thing – the Barbican has tempted me in the past – but I don’t think that the Gateway is going to have the benefit of concert halls and art galleries (regretably), neither will it have views over the Thames and a short walk to the Kings Road (if that’s your thing). It will have traffic spinning (slowly) around it though, and it’s likely that you’ll be paying your rent to a corporate institution who own it as an investment – still, whats new!

  15. andrewkbrown says:

    Fair enough.

    I’m sure you’re right that none of the other parties have issued a statement on the decision. And given the Greens have they may find themselves barred from taking part in the decision making process. In any case I’m sure they’ll receive excellent advice from Lewisham’s very cautious lawyers about whether they’ve expressed too strong a view ahead of the decision being made.

    My personal expectation is that the developers will be given the go ahead, but the question is what the compromise will be. The report to Ken and the letter back to the Council are a pretty good indicator of what he’s looking for. The debate between Lewisham’s planning officers and the Developers is much less transparent but will be ongoing. And your group’s objections will play their part too.

    But I suspect that if you go into the process with a zero sum strategy you’ll end up disappointed.

  16. Thats an interesting comment about the Greens issuing a statement, but I suspect they stayed within safe bounderies, Darren whatisname strikes me as a cautious player all too willing to keep his eye on the (his) bigger picture.

    ‘zero sum’ isn’t our expectation, although it is within the bounds of possibility when you take into account the various things that the developers have infringed – but as I said previously, goalposts will be moved (by council/developers/ken etc).

    It also has to be said (and it was by one of the ‘master planners’ at a previous public meeting) that AMEC are having a lot of trouble being able to balance their books and a small shift against them could just push them too far and put everything back to square one – but thats probably wishful thinking.

  17. Sue Luxton says:

    Hi Andrew
    I don’t think the Green statement on the Gateway development should preclude those of us on planning committees from taking part in any future planning decisions on it. The statement didn’t come down for or against the project as a whole and was drafted by Darren, who isn’t on a planning committee. Dean, who is on Strategic Planning, purposely didn’t attend the local party meeting where the Gateway project was discussed and wasn’t party to the statement, to avoid being unduly influenced.

    Mike and I are also on planning committees and for the same reason have avoided forming fixed opinions either way. If outline planning permission is granted by the strategic planning committee, then applications for parts of the scheme may be considered at future meetings of our planning committees. We’ll have to see how things go, but at the moment I feel I have an open mind on this. As you say though, we have very cautious lawyers, who we will consult if in any doubt ;).

    For those who have no idea what I’m going on about, see: http://greenladywell.blogspot.com/2006/11/lewisham-gateway.html

    Best wishes

    Sue

  18. andrewkbrown says:

    Hi Sue, glad to hear that some thought has gone into how you’ve come to your position – at least as far as planning process goes!

  19. carl kisicki says:

    As a former Councillor who was a member of Lewisham 2000 and partly responsible for the roundabout at Loampit vale I look with great interest as to what is proposed. I assume that the proposed tower blocks would be developed by a housing association/private developer for young single people/childless couples who would be professionals who commute to central London/Canary Wharf and use the Network Rail and Docklands Light railway links?
    Under Ken Livingstone’s greater London plan higher density housing would be proposed for major Town centre’s such as Lewisham and Woolwich which have or will have once light railway links are completed excellent transport links.
    It should be remembered that the Barbican development in the City of London is high rise and I haven’t noticed any lack of popularity in that scheme which was built in the 1970’s. The reason why the Barbican unlike other high rise developments worked is that the original tenants were vetted and due to right to buy the majority of flats are now privately owned. The problems with high rise flats occurred when council’s started putting anti social families in who did not care for their environment and intimidated their neighbours.
    It only took a few bad apples in a close environment to make hell for the decent people in the blocks because council’s were using them as dumping grounds and not vetting prospective tenants.
    So high rise living does work if the blocks are well managed and you are housing people who are happy to live there.
    In relation to the roundabout I asked a number of questions to a Lewisham highways officer as to whether he was satisfied around 1992 whether the proposed roundabout could cope with future traffic levels and he assured us that it could cope adequately!
    My suggestion which was dismissed at the time was to install traffic lights on the entrance to the roundabout similar to what was installed at the Elephant and Castle and Hyde Park corner where provision was made at some of the junctions for pedestrian phases at the traffic lights. The one thing members of Lewisham 2000 were unanimous in being against were any proposals to install a pedestrian subway system as we felt that this would be potentially a crime hotspot. Not sure whether the new “H” road layout will work ,and great care needs to be taken in making the road layout as simple as possible, otherwise we will end up with permanent traffic jams all day long with cars at a standstill belching out fumes.
    My final comment is it is disappointing to see how tatty and neglected the Loampit Vale roundabout has become since responsibility went from Lewisham Borough to Transport for London.
    When it was maintained by Lewisham’s contractor Glendale there were well maintained flower beds and by now spring crocus bulbs would be popping up and it was attractive to look at.
    What we have now is just an overgrown mess with the flower beds filled in with wood chippings and the grass not cut properly and no flags on the empty flagpoles welcoming people to Lewisham.
    Contrast this TFL neglect with the attractive flower beds on the corner of Molesworth street and the roundabout which are maintained by Lewisham which at least has some civic pride.
    Ken Livingstone is only interested in Oxford street, Trafalgar square
    and Central London and not outer London.

  20. Zoë Gaffen says:

    The whole Lewisham Gateway scheme is an appallingly ill-considered and expensive plan. ..

    It is supposed to improve pedestrian access to the shopping area and reduce traffic congestion at the roundabout in loampit vale. I regularly walk from the station to the shopping area, and it involves crossing only 2 roads, and takes no more than 5 minutes – how can this be poor access?

    Poor access is better illustrated by croydon Shopping Centre, which I find difficult to navigate, and very stressful to negotiate the road crossings there! The buildings there are too high, which makes finding your bearings more difficult, and the whole shopping experience too time consuming!!

    Most of the problems with traffic congestion around Lewisham Roundabout could be solved by controlling the entry of vehicles into the roundabout flow with traffic lights, as at Elephant and Castle roundabout. The latter copes very well with a very high flow of traffic, which would tend to clog rapidly without the lights. This solution would be far less expensive, and would obviate the need for spoiling the green centre of Lewisham with such a large high-rise development, which most Lewisham residents would rather not have, in order to pay for the ‘Low-H’ road layout.

    Council monies could be far better spent on a small new development next to the Citibank Building, better traffic light positioning, and caring for the social needs of the existing community, than on a monstrous ‘Urbanisation Scheme’ that will tend to create more social problems, with the over-crowding that will result.

    The people who stand to gain the most from the proposed ‘Lewisham Gateway Development’ are Property De velopers, AMEC and Taylor-Woodrow. Any gains to Lewisham Council, in selling off the tracts of lands that are involved, will be short-lived, as that land will never again be affordable for Lewisham Council, and the proposed dwellings will not be sufficiently ‘affordable’ for the ‘key workers’ that will be needed to service the monstrosity.

  21. andrewkbrown says:

    Hi Zoe,

    I don’t know Croydon but agree that Elephant seems to manage the traffic pretty well, although I’m less sure about being a pedestrian there during the evening and night.

    I may be wrong but I think that one of the things that is attractive to the council is that it will bring in housing (a percentage of which will be for social housing) at no cost to the tax payer. I really doubt they see any selling of land as anything but a way of achieving other aims; ie significant investment in this bit of the borough.

  22. Hello Andrew

    Thanks for directing readers to my blog “The Report”. [http://jpmorganreport.blogspot.com.]

    There are two articles that may be of interest to you, “The Kilburn SRB Scandal” and a local issue about the yellow junction box outside Goldmith’s, titled “Lewisham Scam-Cams”.

    Regards

    JPM

  23. Andrew

    I have had to change the name of my blog due to an American site. It’s thebigretort.blogspot.com.
    Regards… JPM

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