25 February 2010

Heathside and Lethbridge Estate Update

Within a few days of contacting CABE I received a response - and not one that I was expecting. CABE had no knowledge of Lewisham's plans for this estate. CABE duly called Lewisham and updated their contact details but at this stage in the development's plans CABE did not consider that they should have any further involvement. I sent the email to the Head of Planning for comment and he confirmed that they will look again at how they might involve CABE in the future.

Quite apart from the possibility that we might have given planning permission to a large estate that could produce social problems at least as great as any coming from 1960s council estates we really need to be sure that good design when rebuilding estates is at the heart. There are swathes of estates in parts of Lewisham that could be redeveloped at some time over the next few years. Unless we work with organisations like CABE, listen carefully to bodies such as our own Design Panel and get the residents involved at a stage where they can have a positive impact we will risk as a corporate body encouraging the redevelopment of our estates in spite of local people rather than with them.

I contrast this with the plans for the redevelopment of one of the estates close to New Cross gate - residents came along to SUPPORT the plans - not oppose. A lesson for us all.


Andrew Brown said...

I'm really surprised if the design is as poor as you suggest, I spent a fair bit of my time in the last two years that I was a councillor working with residents on the estates at the point that they were helping the council choose the developers.

High quality design was very much on the minds of the residents at that point, and we certainly talked to the police and others about designing out crime, and thinking about the environment that we wanted to preserve in the area - there are a lot of mature trees that are close to the buildings.

I've no idea if my successors saw this as an ongoing priority (though I did hear that it was a rocky relationship in the early stages), but I was always acutely aware that local councillors had a massive role in making sure that the residents in that area got the best out of the deal that they could.

A shame it's taken so long to get it to this stage.

Cllr Dean Walton said...

Andrew, sorry for not getting back to you sooner – have been away. You'll know that one of the roles of the members of the planning committees is to review the evidence to satisfy themselves that in cases where schemes fall short of being totally consistent with policy the shortcomings are not so great to warrant refusal – or to agree with the wider case that even with the acknowledged shortcomings the overall benefits of a particular scheme are so great that we are prepared to accept the failure to meet policy – it's a matter of balancing various conflicting views/priorities and as individuals members of planning committee will always have different views on what that balance is. On looking at the design issues I placed greater reliance on the evidence of the GLA and the Design Panel prior to reaching a decision. The extracts from the report are below:

The GLA says:

“However, the following alterations should be considered:
• A review of the massing and detailing approach throughout the
scheme should be considered, to create a finer grain that better
addresses the street and courtyards, comprising elevations with a
- 57 -
lower degree of repetition, and clear identification of building
• Officers require further information regarding the approach to the
design of the Phase 1 elevations on Blackheath Hill, particularly the
core treatment and homogenous appearance of the facades.
• The rear elevation of Phase 1 should be reconsidered, with regard
to the fa├žade treatment at ground level, and access from flats to the
street. “

The Design Panel was also critical of the plans - the final comment from the officer's report says:

“The Design Panel most recently considered the proposed development on
15/12/2009, after the submission of amended drawings during the life of the
application, when the following comments were made:
• Panel did not consider any of the minor changes made to be adequate as they
fail to address the fundamental issues raised in previous meetings. A complete
redesign is urged and it was requested that the scheme be urgently reviewed
by the CABE design review team. “