Friday, February 26, 2016

Commenting on the Tidemill (old school) redevelopment

Tidemill site masterplan (p31 of Design & Access Statement). Our annotation of existing buildings in pink.


The Tidemill redevelopment is part of Lewisham's 'regeneration' masterplan for Deptford Town Centre and has been on the drawing board for ten years. It has finally been submitted to Planning and you can 'comment' on it by writing to Planning (include your full name and address and the application reference DC_16_095039). The deadline is 2nd March, but 'objections' can be received up until it goes to the Strategic Planning Committee (the date is unannounced as yet). But if you feel strongly, don't delay, object today!

The application can be found here: http://planning.lewisham.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=summary&keyVal=_LEWIS_DCAPR_82154 . There are 92 documents (under "Documents") – download the 4 x Design & Access Statements to start with. It's where all the pretty pictures are.

Lewisham's Deptford Town Centre plan includes the new Tidemill school and Deptford Lounge development. These were "funded by the future redevelopment of the old school site for housing" (p.18). How does that work then?

The Council has partnered with developer Sherrygreen Homes and housing association Family Mosaic to build out the 'old school site'. It is not clear to the layman how this partnership works. Presently the land and existing buildings are owned by Lewisham. Presumably Sherrygreen will stump up the cash for construction and take a profit on the private homes built, whilst Family Mosaic will administer the affordable homes (including an off-loaded block of tenants currently managed by Lewisham Homes). Or will Family Mosaic also run and maintain the whole site? Who will private leaseholders pay their ground rent and maintenance charges to? Is the land to be sold, or does Lewisham lease it? How do Lewisham make money from this scheme to fund the now well established Deptford Lounge and Tidemill School? What is the track record here, when the school governors immediately turned Tidemill into an Academy, and that other town centre co-development (the station/Deptford Project) ended up with flats being sold almost entirely off-plan in Hong Kong?

Affordable housing

210 homes are proposed. 176 of these will be private. The plan boasts 16.2% 'affordable' homes. That's 34, of which 8 will be 'shared ownership', leaving only 26 'affordable' rents (with 12 family homes). However, the existing Lewisham Homes block on Reginald Road will be demolished and its tenants rehoused in the new development – there are 16 flats at 2-30a Reginald Road, of which 13 are still council tenants. Therefore there will only be 13 NEW 'affordable' rental properties. That's only 6% – NOT 16.2%! This must be the lowest number of new affordable homes made available out of all the new developments in Deptford – and it's a Council-led project. So much for solving the housing crisis.*

A diagram of 'tenure' on p.34 of the Design & Access Statement shows that there are only 18 units available for 'social rent'. If you minus the 13 rehoused tenants then there are only 5 NEW flats for social rent. Is this the best deal Lewisham can get out Sherrygreen Homes?! Of course, after 3 years they all have the Right To Buy, which makes a mockery of Sir Steve Bullock's latest boast of building 250 new council homes. Only yesterday Crossfields residents received a glossy 8-page leaflet from Her Majesty's Government enticing tenants into grabbing their discount of "up to £103,900" to buy their flat. RTB includes Housing Association tenants now, of course. Whilst new tenants here may not easily find the extra £300-£500k to buy their new homes, cheaper public housing in the area is depleting at a rate of knots.

*UPDATE 4 March: The Deptford Dame's new post explains how the developer has stitched up the Council on the affordable homes quota...

Design

There have been some dreadful design layouts previously on the table which have been modified by Lewisham's Design Review Panel. The GLA have also had an input; a couple of local public 'consultations' may have had a modicum of impact too, though a second consultation with affected residents was very poorly attended – no doubt because they were all extremely depressed, and not because they approve. The layout has certainly grown less dense, and heights in certain places have been modified, but Reginald Road residents still face 5-6 storeys and there is a very questionable extension to the school proposed which will have an enormous impact on the existing Frankham House (more below). The high street will also lose a much needed parking area. There aren't a lot of detailed drawings at this stage so it's a bit hard to comment on the actual design.

Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden

The Tidemill garden was originally created by Crossfields resident and Tidemill teacher, the late Jani Llewellyn, who transformed the school playing field in the 1990s. The new plans involve chopping down ALL the trees she planted, including two magnificent now mature Indian bean trees. According to the Design & Access Statement, 36 trees will be removed in all. Another document specifically about tree removal shows 73 trees being removed, with 64 new trees planted. This leaves a net deficiency in the number of trees in Deptford.

Trees to be removed – click to enlarge
Since the school decanted to the Deptford Lounge, it has been lovingly cared for by the 'Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden' group, one of the few good things to grow out of the meantime use of the site. Although public access to the garden has been rather restricted, the group have been good at getting funding, growing food and running educational events and workshops. The garden's continued existence has allowed wildlife to thrive and offered a highly necessary lung to combat the horrendous pollution from one of London's most congested roads.

Naturally, the garden group are up-in-arms about the loss of green space – you can join their campaign here. They have prepared a document for download which provides an interesting analysis of the application in terms of its breaches of the London Plan, Lewisham's own Core Strategy and its own Leisure & Open Spaces Report. It's a very good reminder of how Lewisham pays no attention to its own policies.

OTWG also have a petition: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/save-old-tidemill-wildlife-garden

The application claims the group were consulted and their ideas incorporated into the plans. The result falls miles short of the group's ideals and borders on the ridiculous with a "Reginald Road Pocket Garden". Despite identifying the green area on the corner of Reginald Road as a "buffer" from the busy main road, the developer now invites us to enjoy a landscaped garden next to one of the most polluted roads in the city, planted with new trees that will plunge all surrounding flats into darkness.

'Reginald Road Pocket Garden' – click to enlarge
Small public park areas have been included in the plans (see p.49 for the Landscape Masterplan) as well as a "communal garden" which is designed to be more private, with access from Frankham House car park or from the new "pocket garden". But access from both is via a "controlled access gate". What's that when it's at home? Locked tightly shut, we expect. Especially if private owners are paying for its maintenance.

Communal gardens behind flats – click to enlarge

Frankham House will in any case be fenced off from the new development by a 6ft barrier, the highest wall on the site...(see p.64 for Proposed Boundary Treatments).


Frankham House

Frankham House comes off rather badly in these plans. Apart from unwittingly bordering a noisy and dusty construction site for the next 3-4 years, their entire outlook is going to change. Plus ca change, you might say. But how would you like a massive blank brick wall as tall as your block looming up in front of your kitchen window after enjoying such a lovely view (!) for so long?

Current 4th floor view from Frankham House
Potential view from 4th floor Frankham


The old school caretaker's house next to the school is to be demolished, and in its place, an extension will be added to the school that has no windows on the side (because of overlooking). Whilst the temporary (so no longer answerable) conservation officer wrote a glowing report on the school buildings themselves, he deemed the school caretaker's house too common an example of its kind to be worth retaining. What a gift to Lewisham's profit-driven partnering developer, Sherrygreen Homes!

Existing north elevation (our red shading)

Proposed north elevation (our red shading)


Click to enlarge. Note the gap between Frankham and the new extension is smaller than the one between the two school buildings and most of the space between all the other buildings. Also note there are much taller buildings proposed behind that butt up to the south end of Frankham but not included in this drawing.
 
The application states that "the historic core of Deptford still survives and is protected by the conservation area designation" (p.8). When the Creekside Conservation Zone (that envelopes Crossfields Estate of which Frankham is a part) was established in 2012 to mitigate against the worst aspects of the proposed new developments on Creekside, Frankham House was initially excluded despite being built around the same time. Residents begged to be included. They had heard rumours that the council block in Reginald Road was going to be demolished and feared the same fate.

The Creekside designation succeeded in reigning in the roadside heights of the new Faircharm Creative Quarter development because the old factory buildings' facades had to be retained. But there appear to be no supplementary planning documents that can be used to stop further developments from canyonising (or Croydonising) the rest of Creekside, and away from the Creek, being part of a Conservation Zone offers no relief to Frankham House either – even from a Council-led development.

Update: A "pocket park" has been proposed for the high street end of the development. Why not keep the old caretaker's house (it may not be a unique example of its kind but is certainly unique in Deptford), surround it with a "pocket park" and build the extension at the other end of the old school blocks? Just an idea...

What are the benefits?

In its preamble, the application talks of the council's plans to regenerate the riverside, town centre and housing estates, which "signal the revival of Deptford's economy" (p.17). No jobs though – not that sort of economy, silly! – but lots of new and wealthier citizens not necessarily shopping locally but definitely increasing the borough's council tax revenue.

As with all the other developments in the area, there are certainly no benefits for Deptford in adding thousands more people to an already bursting transport network, taking away what little green space we have, overshadowing existing residents, providing no additional doctors or schools, filling the air with brick dust, and adding to the huge number of construction vehicles that are already polluting our roads and poisoning us and our children.

Time to update our Fifty Shades of Grey route map again! Here it is with 2014's pollution readings...

Click to enlarge

Oh, and here's another petition, ironically from the Newbould 'Guardians', who the Council bought in (not brought) instead of offering the old school buildings to local artists – because Lewisham's Property Services thought they'd go more quietly when the time came to chuck them out...hahaha!
https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/save-old-tidemill-school-deptford-s-creative-community-space Update: we have been asked to make a correction to clarify that the "Save Deptford" campaign was initiated by 'friends' of the 'creative' Guardians in the old school, not the Guardians themselves (who one can assume would be in breach of their contracts).

Sign them all! Or write to planning.

1 comment:

  1. Public meeting about the garden campaign this Saturday March 5th from 12pm - 4pm. Come along and enjoy the garden and see for yourself why this green space is worth saving.

    ReplyDelete