Last Tuesday 12 February, around 40 locals gathered at Creekside Centre to hear more about the proposed Faircharm development (Application DC/12/82000) and ask questions directly of the applicants. The Chair, Dame Joan Ruddock, explained that the meeting was for those who'd registered objections but that others were welcome. She added that Lewisham is not required by law to facilitate such a meeting but often does when there are so many objections.
Lewisham planning officers, Gemma Barnes and Chris Brodie, were in attendance in a neutral role and to take notes. Ian Dubber, Development Executive for the developer (aka 'real estate investors') Workspace plc, was accompanied by Rebekah Paczek from PR firm SnapDragon (responsible for their pitiful public consultation), and the team from architects Karakusevic Carson.
The audience was made up of local residents, Faircharm tenants, representatives from Creekside Centre, APT Studios and Cockpit Arts. Much of the discussion was taken up with the plight of the present Faircharm tenants, leaving little time for Crossfields residents to express their concerns. However, there were some interesting points raised at the meeting which will hopefully inform the planner's negotiations with the applicant.
• We also learned that there is more time to object, since negotiations between planners and Workspace may continue until May.
• It was suggested that the developers use the Creek to transport materials in and out of the site, instead of 180 construction lorry trips a day for three years. This idea was supported by the planners and Creekside Centre and should be explored further with the Port of London Authority. (However, there are plans in the pipeline to build two bridges across the Creek – at Laban, and at the mouth of the Creek). *
• Sunlight drawings which were not submitted at first have been requested by the planners, along with further information which should be made public in due course. Further sunlight studies may help to establish objections regarding the ancient by-law Right To Light (which is currently under threat)
• Planners have asked Workspace to explore whether some B2 use can be fitted on the site so that present creative businesses can be accommodated (although this didn't sound very useful to the tenants present at the meeting)
• Section 106 mitigation is unlikely to produce any direct benefits for Crossfields residents (so no point in asking for any)
• Parking spaces are not likely to be increased (so this will still be a problem for everyone).
Notes made at the meeting can be read below. Planning officer Gemma Barnes' 'Local meeting notes' can be downloaded here (scroll to the bottom of the list of documents).
* Update 21.2.13: see the Deptford Dame's latest report on the two bridges here.
See also our previous post on how to object, or sign the petition here.
Ms Ruddock suggested four main themes as a basis for questions: Building Use, Phasing, Built Form and Transport, but no one really stuck to the list, so the headings below are partly notional.
Despite Ms Ruddock's proposed agenda, the meeting kicked off with a discussion about Consultation (or lack of it). Why had the invitation to comment arrived over Christmas and New Year, with little time to object? Lewisham Planners said that the Council cannot control when an application is submitted but had subsequently allowed extra time for comments/objections.
In fact, the application would now not be decided until at least May (originally March) since the application is still being negotiated, and comments can be received up until that time.
In a previous meeting with Faircharm tenants chaired by Joan, she had requested that a list of tenants' contact details be provided, so that they could communicate with each other. Why did this not happen? Dubber answered that they had consulted via blind copied email for data protection reasons. (So tenants were kept in the dark).
When did Workspace make the decision to apply for change of use from Class B2 (general industrial) to Class B1 (light industry/office) and could they justify any demand for B1 use when so much of it was already lying empty elsewhere? The planners explained that B1 can co-exist with residential units but B2 is problematic because of noise and smell. Ways can be found, however, to deal with noise and smell nuisance, and Lewisham have asked Workspace to explore whether some B2 use can be accommodated on the site – probably in the older retained buildings.
However this would only be 400sqm (1300sqft), not enough to house the current B2 useage. One business present at the meeting needed 1000sqft and another 20,000. They had not been offered any help to relocate and could so far not find any alternative suitable space. Workspace did not have other such spaces in its portfolio.
Ms Ruddock pointed out that Workspace are known to buy big units and redevelop them as small units. Dubber said there is a great demand for B1 use, which prompted the question why then build any residential? Workspace said the residential development is needed to pay for reinvestment in the business space. Why can't business rents pay for this?
Dubber said that presently the site is 62% occupied, and the new proposals would create better and more flexible units to attract more business. A local resident commented that the high vacancy rate is because there is uncertainty about lease arrangements and tenants have left. Is it true that tenants will all soon be given notice? Dubber confirmed existing tenants have secured agreements until July, after which there would rolling monthly contracts.
Dubber said they had set up a relocation fund and appointed Kalmars to look at relocation options for present occupiers. A tenant pointed out that this information had not been conveyed to them. Dubber also said they were looking at how some businesses could be retained during construction. Again, it was pointed out that this also had not been conveyed to present occupants (probably because Workspace want the site emptied).
Had the architects looked at commercial development options that didn't involve residential? Dubber said they had done this exercise and decided against it. What would the rents be in the new units? The rents would go up, but service charges would come down.
We don't need any more residential, what we really need is more jobs? Dubber said Lewisham is a net exporter of employees to jobs in central London.
Dubber said they are currently looking at the 'phasing' options (the order and timescale in which to demolish and construct buildings). This would be submitted as additional information to the application. A resident commented that that must be tricky if they can't relocate some of the businesses. Another said they should do their utmost to work with current tenants when planning the phasing.
Couldn't the Creek be used for the transportation of demolition and construction materials to mitigate the proposed road useage? Dubber said the Port of London Authority (PLA) wouldn't allow it, but the resident suggested they approach them again, since this was one of the main concerns for residents and businesses. Lewisham officers said they would encourage the use of the Creek. The Chair of Creekside Centre said the Centre would support such a plan, and as CEO of Thames Gateway Partnership she would speak with the PLA to discuss the idea further.
Ms Ruddock asked if there were any objections to the design of the development. A resident suggested the design isn't sympathetic to the heritage assets of the Conservation Area. Dubber said design is subjective. Others felt the proposed height was inappropriate, but Dubber said there are other tall buildings in the vicinity and their tower would "landmark" the Creek. The audience laughed.
A resident pointed out that Crossfields will lose at least an hour of sunrise each day. Workspace said the impact was not significant. The resident used the site model to demonstrate the bleedin' obvious, causing Dubber to start losing his rag. (Sunlight/daylight studies had been submitted in the application without any drawings – these have since been requested by Lewisham planners and will be made public in due course. These drawings were available to view at the meeting but were largely hidden from view behind the planner's and Chair's table.)
In designating the area a Conservation Area, why had a decision been made that Building B (proposed to be demolished) wasn't as important as Buildings A and C (fronting onto Creekside)? The planners explained that Building B wasn't considered to be as historically significant. Could the Planning Committee request retention of Building B? The Council will indeed have to decide whether to allow Building B to be demolished, but not allowing it would mean refusing the entire application. (Workspace would then appeal). The planners are still negotiating all aspects of the proposal.
How much commercial space will be provided on the site? 100,000sqft would be reduced to 57,000sqft.
Is there a Section 106 to mitigate the impact of the development? The Council would be expecting a contribution to affordable housing, improvements to transport links, education provision and enhancements to the Creek etc. (No ideas have been submitted by Workspace that would directly benefit Crossfields residents, and planners later said that they can't insist on direct benefits, for instance, nursery provision within the new buildings, if they are not offered by the developer).
Workspace have been looking at improvements to pedestrian routes which will form part of the Section 106 mitigation. Improvements to the Ha'Penny Hatch (the route to Greenwich rather than Deptford DLR), are proposed, whilst routes to Deptford station would resurrect plans for a path through the estate, involving the demolishing of a tenant's garden.
Are 28 parking spaces enough? Dubber said the number was dictated by the Greater London Authority in the London Plan Standards. (Planners later said this was the maximum as it related to residential units, it could be demonstrated that more were required to accommodate commercial use, but it would depend on what other sustainable plans are put in place).
How will construction affect residents? Dubber said they had submitted various reports on transport, ecology, noise, air quality etc to be assessed by Lewisham. Construction traffic would be 90 trips a day. This was corrected by a resident to the real figure – 180.
Dubber said it wasn't a big deal because their reports showed there were already 290 trips to and from the site. Residents and business tenants argued that this figure was greatly exaggerated and the report must've been conducted when Creekside was being used as a rat-run which happens when one of the major routes is congested for whatever reason. Dubber suggested congestion may have been bad during the Olympics. This prompted more laughter (there was hardly any traffic during the Olympics).
Others pointed out that the road is too narrow for construction traffic, and there would be health implications.
Other questions that didn't get discussed before Ms Ruddock closed the meeting: How many residential units would be affordable? (15%). How many local people would be employed on construction? etc
After the meeting, some residents took the opportunity to view the model for the first time, and the main topic of conversation seemed to be the conduct of Workspace's Ian Dubber. One resident commented, "I thought the Workspace guy was appalling. He smirked, derided and patronised his way through the entire meeting. Even Joan Ruddock and the architects looked embarrassed by his conduct. They'd be better off appointing a better spokesperson or someone with better communication skills."