Monday, June 18, 2018

More on No.1 Creekside – the long read!

Our visual showing the impact of No.1 Creekside and the Tidemill/Reginald Road development
As it is now (Google Maps image)
Crosswhatfields reported Bluecroft's acquisition of the MOT site at No.1 Creekside back in November 2014. We were then shocked to discover in July 2015 that Lewisham Council had "disposed" of the adjacent land (a strip of woodland that lines the busy main road) to the developer, in exchange for commercial space in the new development that the Council would lease back. Mayor & Cabinet did this without any consultation with local people. The same evening they were hypocritically patting themselves on the back over their new Biodiversity Action Plan "A Natural Renaissance for Lewisham" which extols the virtues of street trees in the borough and their role in combatting pollution.

The stretch of trees will be demolished and replaced with a building that fronts directly onto the road and dwarfs all the buildings adjacent to it:




The gap between the two towers is because the site lies in the viewing corridor for St Paul's Cathedral (from The Point in Blackheath and the General Wolfe Statue in Greenwich Park). The gap only slightly mitigates the loss of light to Frankham House residents opposite, whose windows will lose more than 20% of their daylight thanks to the towers. They will also be the only people who will be able to take in this particular view.

Ecology and environment 

The trees which Lewisham so carelessly disposed of as "surplus" are described in the applicant's Arboricultural Survey as being of little value except for bird nesting. The accompanying Ecological Appraisal was conducted in January (winter – when nothing was growing!) and states the woodland contains little of any ecological value and little or no biodiversity.

These assertions are strongly contested by local resident Ruth who lives next door to the site and says the area supports lots of wildlife. Bird species include robins, blackbirds, wrens, starlings, blue tits, great tits and goldfinches. Butterflies and moths include Orange Tips, Red Admirals, Painted Lady, Black Arches, Skipper moths and Jersey Tiger moth. The wildness of the area supports insects including Damsel flies, which bats feed on. The report states their survey found no evidence of roosting bats, making no mention of the fact that bats come to feed here in warmer months. Residents say they roost in the old Tidemill school caretaker's house that has been left to rot by Lewisham Council (as they intend to demolish it).

The wild wood is a bit of publicly-owned land that the Council have neglected to maintain or make anything of for years. Access to it has previously been through the Crossfields Estate – estate children have long played here and a BMX run was created by some lads who cleared the shrubland and used it for ten years or more. Residents thought it was part of the estate. As an ex-primary school teacher who taught in the area, Ruth believes wild areas like this give children "the opportunity to observe, learn and respect the natural world with the likelihood that they will respect each other more and grow into more sensitive adults". Everything Ruth says could be backed up by Lewisham's own Biodiversity Action Plan, but not in Deptford it would seem.

Mayor Egan has now introduced "a new ring-fenced 'greening' fund to support the work of local community groups, already doing so much to protect and enhance our green spaces". Yet more hypocrisy from a Council that wants to demolish all the green space in our area that local people are fighting to keep!

Local Pollution

Like others, Ruth also knows how the tree canopy helps mitigate against the high levels of pollution from the road, and bemoans the number of trees and green spaces being lost in the area. Crossfields Green was lost to Tideway Tunnel (45 trees removed) and Tidemill Garden is about to be lost (79 trees). In the map below we illustrate the lack and loss of green space in the area. Crossfields Estate (and other estates) and Creekside Discovery Centre are not included, because they are not public open spaces.

(Click to enlarge) Loss of green space before and after Tidemill and No.1 Creekside (grey areas are tall buildings over 5 storeys, dark grey areas are polluted roads).
Local studies have shown how polluted and polluting this road is. Our own tests for Nitrogen Dioxide in 2014 showed levels of 62ug/m3 at the Birds Nest roundabout (40ug/m3 is the EU limit) while at the junction with Deptford Broadway, it was 84ug/m3. These readings were taken before some serious building work began to take place at Faircharm, Kent Wharf and Tideway Tunnel on Deptford Church St and at Greenwich Pumping Station on Norman Road, as well as the other developments on Norman Road.

(Click to enlarge)
Goldsmiths academics ran a Citizen Sense project in the area in 2016/2017 to monitor Particulate Matter PM2.5. The highest readings were found at Deptford Bridge, but the second highest were on Crossfields Estate, as a result of the Deptford Church Street traffic to the west, including increased construction traffic, and to the east construction sites at Faircharm and Kent Wharf with attendant HGVs, as well as work at Greenwich Pumping station and sites along Norman Road.

(Click to enlarge) Deptford dustbox monitoring by Citizen Sense – 
Dustbox 103 on Crossfields Estate measured the second highest readings
Shockingly, the applicant's own Air Quality Assessment recommends that a filtration system will have to be supplied to all first floor and above spaces in the new development and that Bluecroft should advise future occupants to avoid opening their windows during high pollution episodes, ie, every morning and evening during the commuter run.

Deptford Church Street is identified by the GLA as one of eight Lewisham Air Quality Focus Areas, but Lewisham's own Air Quality Action Plan focuses on what it calls "The Evelyn Corridor" and fails to identify as hazard spots not only the two Tideway Tunnel sites in the area, but also the two construction sites it has an active interest in (No.1 and Tidemill/Reginald Road).

(Click to enlarge) A map showing the location of the PM2 monitoring box on Crossfields Estate drawn for Citizen Sense showing active construction sites, pending works and the concrete mixer routes using Deptford Church Street, Creekside, Creek Road and Norman Road.
Since pollution from construction work was raised as a concern at the public consultation nine months ago, you'd think the applicant might include a Construction Logistics Map in this application, to show how construction vehicles will arrive at and leave the site and what impact they will have on traffic in Deptford Church Street and Creekside. Especially since there will be construction work going on at Tidemill as well. But nothing, zilch. Already Tideway Tunnel have established a lorry park outside Frankham House (opposite the proposed development) which closes off the bus lane.

Because Lewisham Council became a partner in the scheme with its gift of valuable green space, the proposal for the site is now so over-developed there is no room for construction vehicles to turn, and no space for concrete mixers to queue, with their engines running, as they did in Creekside during the Faircharm redevelopment.

Impact of tall buildings on the local character of the area

The cumulative impact of two adjacent sites being built at the same time should be a consideration for Lewisham planners, and councillors on the Strategic Planning Committee. Also there is the cumulative impact that a new cluster of tall buildings on this corner (see visuals above) has on the local character of the Conservation Area – and local people. For the latter, it's increased pollution and the creation of a wind tunnel that could make for a hostile environment, despite the Council's and developer's excitement about opening up the street frontage.

The Lewisham Tall Buildings Study states that "Tall buildings in Conservation Areas will be considered inappropriate and careful consideration will need to be given to any impact of a tall building on their settings". The area is not identified as a strategic location for tall buildings in this study, and the character of the area is also defined as successful and distinctive in that it has a strong element of human scale whilst it’s acknowledged that at a local scale “significant trees and spaces can act as landmarks”.

In the introduction to the Lewisham Development Management Plan, they state their objective as being "to foster the delivery of sustainable development, not to hinder or prevent development" with an emphasis on 'collaboration'. They say they lead this process by "working closely with those proposing developments and others, particularly the local community". If that's the case, why has there been no further public consultation since 14 September 2017?

Creekside Conservation Area

The applicant waxes lyrically about the design of the building being based on the industrial character of the area with reference to the 2012 Creekside Conservation Area Appraisal's account of its history. But in fact the CA Appraisal praises the 'human scale' of the Crossfield Estate buildings (which make up most of the zone) and the low topology of the warehousing by the Creek. When the appraisal was written, the only tall building was APT Studios at Harold Wharf.

The designation was specifically created by the Conservation team to limit the impact of Workspace plc's redevelopment of Faircharm Trading Estate. Lewisham wouldn't allow them to extend the area further north where they had plans for their own development on publicly owned land behind the Laban Centre. Nor did they want the zone to include Frankham House, for the same reason. The latter had to be fought for to be included, otherwise it would currently be up for demolition as part of the Tidemill redevelopment. Nevertheless, the green area south of Frankham that became part of the Conservation Area, was appropriated without any consultation into the Tidemill redevelopment.

To justify the trend for high-density, high-rise buildings in London's inner city, the developers (probably advised by Lewisham planners) reference the long gone 19th century mills that once stood to the south of the conservation area. Only one remains, Mumford's Mill, outside the zone. It is however, like Crossfields Estate and Harold Wharf, handsomely built of red brick, but that is not referenced in this application. Instead we have here the same boring, drab and bland design with the same colour cladding used in all those other uninspired new builds going up across the capital.

If developers want to refer to the historical character of the area, why not build a windmill surrounded by small terraced homes and market gardens? (This blog is not called Crosswhatfields for nothing). If they must build tall (which is nothing to do with the housing crisis, but about getting maximum returns on expensive land), why do planners restrict architects with this drab 19th century industrial-use nonsense?

Great looking residential and mixed use buildings are being designed and built elsewhere (as a walk down Coldharbour Lane in Loughborough Junction revealed to this writer the other night) that use lots of colour and yet still manage to blend into their surroundings, whilst brightening them. The Creekside Conservation Area Appraisal celebrates the creative culture of the area most of all, but no creativity is apparent here.

We don't want to be surrounded by buildings that are trying to reference long gone dark satanic mills (but then try to avoid the darkness by using light coloured cladding) – so please stop referencing them and design something lovely! Something smaller, something quirky, something locals can be proud of, something that doesn't ruin the local character, perhaps even something covered in greenery, that celebrates the Council's somewhat dubious green credentials, rather than an ugly landmark for Lewisham's new flagship economic hub.

Commercial workspace

The application has been brought to planning far too soon, and one of the issues raised in the only public consultation event remains unaddressed. People wanted to know whether the new workspace would be affordable (especially to locals), and even questioned why it was needed. You would think that might warrant a full business case for the commercial space being presented with this application. That should come from Lewisham Council, but there's nothing.

Several pages of Bluecroft's Design & Access Statement refer to how creative spaces work already in the area, supporting the idea of flexible use. But a statement from Kalmars, the commercial estate agents of choice for Lewisham, reveals that the kind of flexibility the Council are really thinking about is more to do with who they can extract the highest rents from.

Although the scheme is dressed up with exciting visions of a creative industry 'hub', Kalmars suggest that any kind of office-based business could fit in here; the flexibility of the physical space is equally about being able to create rabbit hutches for office users or large floor space for call-centre operations. We wouldn't be surprised if the Council ended up moving Lewisham Homes in here, especially when they start concentrating on expanding their estate regeneration and demolition plans in the area.

Second Floor Studios have been involved in the planning of the space. Second Floor have up till recently been known for their artist studio provision but now seem to have become much more commercially orientated. Artists are described by Lewisham's Economic Strategy officer as not making full and 'sustainable' use of their workspace; the emphasis from Lewisham is on digital enterprise and TMT (technology, media and telecommunications) and for Kalmars, any kind of office/retail use that makes money would fit the bill.

If the space is for the 'creative industries' why isn't music production designed into it along with the sound proofing that would require? Music making is a strong facet of the cultural heritage of the Creekside Conservation Zone. Affordable rehearsal space for musicians is in deficit in the area. Music production/recording/rehearsal space would also support and complement existing community use such as the Birds Nest pub.

If the aim is to make as much income as possible for the Council to prop up services, affordable rents are unlikely, especially for the sort of creatives who established the Creekside area as one of artistic excellence which the Council uses to boast their cultural credentials (for instance, in their bid to become Borough of Culture). Lewisham are shameless 'art washers' – they have always used Creekside to attract developers and inward investment. Their promotion of the borough's creative output is purely about attracting money. What they want here is business that has been priced out of more expensive areas such as London Bridge or Bermondsey. This is not for locals, and especially not for artists or musicians.

Is it needed then? Aren't there going to be new workspace 'hubs' at Faircharm and Kent Wharf? Isn't there already a plethora of un-let office space in the area? Didn't the office space provided in the Seager building get turned into a hotel, there was so little demand? There is certainly quite a lot of un-let retail space (at the Deptford Project and Deptford Market Yard, for instance) which could be changed to other uses without losing too much 'active street frontage'.

That is why a business case should be presented as part of this application. Failure to do so makes it impossible to justify the need for this monster of a building.

Only 35% Affordable Housing and Poor Doors

As we mentioned in our previous post, the affordable housing quota is only 35%, and the affordable units are separated from the private ones by a 'poor door', with the affordable in the north 'core' (overlooking Cremer House) and the private in the south tower (overlooking the Birds Nest).

Mayor Egan's election promise was to achieve 50% 'genuinely' affordable homes in developer-led projects. He also promised to publish developer's Viability Assessments and there is one accompanying this application. The developer states they would struggle to achieve 35%, but a quick analysis of both current sales prices for new builds in the area and comparison with their figures indicates they could stand to make at least £4m more from private sales than they have estimated.

Lewisham's Core Strategy Policy 3 says that "60% of affordable housing provision should be for social rent and 40% for intermediate or sale, and that priority should be accorded to provision for family housing". Here the ratio is 55% social rent and 45% intermediate, with family homes being only 30% of the total.

While the Council may argue that they are providing employment space instead, we'd argue that the need for affordable housing is currently greater. That was certainly the argument presented by local ward councillor Joe Dromey to justify the demolition of Reginald House and Tidemill Garden.

Lewisham Labour's 2018 Manifesto also pledged "not to sell strategic council land to private developers", but this not only what the Council is doing at Tidemill by flogging off public land to Peabody housing association and Sherrygreen Homes, but indirectly what they have done at No.1 Creekside through extinguishing ownership of public land.


The most annoying thing about this development, apart from its size, is that the Council are partners and will want to drive it through regardless of how local people feel, just as they have done at Tidemill (see previous post). And like Tidemill (where it's taken officers several years to achieve any sort of decent 'social housing' quota on the site to justify demolition of homes and green space), the proposals for No.1 Creekside fulfill Core Strategy Policies on housing and employment whilst negating several others: Core Policy 5 (reduce carbon emissions), Core Policy 7 (protect open spaces and environmental assets), Core Policy 10 (protect local character) and Core Policy 11 (promote community wellbeing). These policies might as well not exist.

Even more annoying is that the new administration has promised change; they won't be like the old administration under Mayor Bullock, they say. But they forget to admit that Bullock's co-driver was Deputy Mayor Alan Smith, the main person responsible for most of the hideous regeneration plans implemented or planned by Bullock's administration, eg Lewisham Gateway and Millwall. Bullock may have gone, but Cllr Alan Smith is still here and has managed to wheedle himself onto all the most important committees so that he can continue to control and influence our futures with the same machiavellian relish he has always done, in cahoots with the same unelected council officials who are still running the show the same way they always have.


Saturday, June 16, 2018

Object to the No.1 Creekside development!

Proposal for No.1 Creekside on Deptford Church Street
Developers Bluecroft, who bought the MOT site in south Creekside opposite the Birds Nest pub, have put in for planning permission. Find their application here on the Lewisham Council planning portal (Ref DC/18/106708).

To object, email planning@lewisham.gov.uk, put DC/18/106708 in the subject heading and be sure to include your name and address in the content. The deadline for objections was Thursday 14 June, but comments can still be received up until the application goes to the planning committee. Advice what you can include in your objection can be found here.

Already the Birds Nest pub has over 2000 signatures on a petition it started only last week. Fears are that the development will threaten the future of the pub as a long-established live music venue.

Lewisham Council are partners in the scheme, having exchanged the publicly owned strip of wild woodland adjacent to the MOT site (without any public consultation) in return for leasing commercial space in the building which they intend to rent out to provide income to fund council services.

The submission has been made after next to no consultation with local people. The first and only public consultation event was held nine months ago, with no further information provided in the interim. We wonder if this is due to the involvement of the Council, who will be strongly invested in the scheme going through without opposition.

The applicant's 'Statement of Community Involvement' states there were a "multitude of offers extended to the Crossfields estate" to discuss the plans but this is completely untrue! Crossfields Resident Association is a statutory consultee but has not heard a peep out of either Bluecroft or the Council. Perhaps this is because the feedback from the one single consultation event back in September 2017 (revealed in the applicant's 'Statement of Community Involvement') was shown to be almost overwhelmingly against the plans.


Concerns raised at that time were about:

– the height and massing and the impact on the streetscape and character of the area in a Conservation Zone
– the loss of light and privacy for adjacent residents and overshadowing of amenities
– the loss of existing pollution-mitigating trees and green space
– the affordability of the housing
– the affordability, necessity for, and unlikely success of the commercial space, and
– the impact of construction in an area already plagued by the pollution of construction work.

After nine months, the applicant has failed to address any of those concerns.

The scheme is still an over-development of the site, greatly impacting on the Conservation Zone. It says it's 8 storeys, but in fact it's 11 in the tower next to the Birds Nest and 9 in the south tower (there are two extra floors in the roofs and two in the double height ground floor). The scheme also fail to take into account the Council-led plan to develop Tidemill on this same corner; two new developments here will change the local character (one of open and green space) forever.

A Daylight Assessment is supplied which shows that BRE guidelines are being breached in many cases, with overlooking issues for some. The impact of overshadowing by the building is shown for March, but omits the detail for June and December which usually accompanies such applications.

The Arboricultural and Ecological Assessments both conclude the trees and green area that will be swallowed up by the scheme have no value, despite the pollution they help mitigate. The Ecology survey was done in winter, omitting to measure the abundant wildlife habitat of warmer months.

The affordable housing quota is only 35% and the affordable units are separated from the private flats by a 'poor door'. The newly elected Labour administration pledged to "achieve 50% genuinely affordable homes in developer-led projects".

There is no full business case provided to justify the need for the commercial space, nor any indication of rent levels. It is hinted that the space could be let out to all sorts of businesses rather than the creative uses it is said to accommodate. Lots of new workspace will be provided by other new developments in Creekside, and there is no shortage of un-let office and retail space in the area.

No Construction Logistics Plan is provided to show how construction vehicles will enter and leave the site during the build. Although one cannot object to the disruption caused by construction, the air quality of Deptford Church Street is extremely poor, so any impact on traffic needs to be shown.

We'll cover the development in more detail in the next post.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Save Tidemill & Reginald House update

Save Tidemill campaigners met with the new Mayor of Lewisham Damien Egan and new Cabinet Member for Housing Cllr Paul Bell on Tuesday evening to demand that the redevelopment plans for Tidemill be re-drawn and that Reginald House residents, whose homes will be demolished as part of the plans, are given a ballot on the regeneration of their homes.

Before and during the meeting protesters staged a demo outside Lewisham Civic Suite, with their numbers swelling as night fell.

Save Tidemill campaigners outside Catford Town Hall on Tuesday evening

The meeting and protest came the day after a small group of Save Tidemill members, accompanied and supported by GLA Member for Lewisham & Greenwich Len Duvall, met with the Deputy Mayor of London for Housing James Murray to discuss how the GLA might 'call in' the scheme in order to explore alternative options that took the local community's needs into account. But later on the same day, to Len Duvall's great annoyance and campaigner's disappointment, the Mayor of London announced his final word on the scheme and passed it back to Lewisham Council, having declined the campaign's request for the GLA to take control of the development. 

But he also urged the Council to give Reginald House residents a ballot. Monday's GLA report stated, "in line with his Good Practice Guide the Mayor wants to see ballots used as widely as possible, and so he would urge the landlord of this scheme to undertake one”. 

The GLA signed off on providing funding for much of the affordable housing on the site earlier in the year, which led to Reginald House residents (as one of 34 sites due for demolition across the capital where planning permission has already been granted) being exempted from the new ballot rules when they are implemented. So this was either a cop-out or a challenge to Lewisham Council: if the council is actually behind the idea of ballots (as promised in the Lewisham Labour manifesto), there might still be time to implement one for this scheme. The GLA knew there was still time to change.

Although the plan to demolish Reginald House was approved by the planning committee in September 2017, the process is still incomplete and requires a sign off on the Section 106 agreement with the development partners, housing association Family Mosaic (now part of Peabody Homes) and private developer Sherrygreen Homes. In addition, the contract with them was signed 4 years ago this very month and is due for renewal. During that time, Family Mosaic have merged with Peabody. So it sounds like a great time to review the contract, and for a new administration to embark on a bold new plan to get a better deal than the original contract which sees our dear leaders disposing of publicly owned land to private developers for a quarter of its value.


Campaign banner on the side of Frankham House

Len Duvall also joined and led the meeting with Mayor Egan and Cllr Bell on Tuesday evening on behalf of the campaigners, and opened up the discussion for everyone to speak. Apart from the demand for a ballot for Reginald House, the main request was that Egan and Bell go back to the drawing board with the plans for the site and not push through the current plans which so many local people oppose. 

Save Tidemill said their alternative architectural plan for the site (which Egan and Bell seemed unaware of) showed that it is possible to keep Reginald House and Tidemill Garden whilst building at least the same number of units as current plans; it demonstrated that there was another way. Unfortunately, when originally presented to the Council and its partners in 2016, it had been quickly dismissed without any consideration. Monday's GLA report noted that the alternative plan hadn't even passed through any pre-application examination, but in reality this was because the Council hadn't permitted any examination to take place. 

Save Tidemill told Mayor Egan and Cllr Bell how they have continually tried to engage with the planning process but have been ignored and even sneered at by the Council's development partners. Len Duvall said the community and the residents of Reginald House had been treated appallingly by the Council and this should never happen again. Both Egan and Bell blamed the previous administration for the way things had been handled, with Bell stating he would not entertain the scheme in its present form if it were to come to him now as a new proposal. 

The fact that the new Mayor was Cabinet Member for Housing in the previous administration and would have therefore overseen the scheme was defended by Cllr Bell with the assertion that the new Mayor will no longer be the sole decision-maker in Mayor & Cabinet, unlike his predecessor, Mayor Bullock. One wonders what exactly Egan was doing all that time as he seemed (as did Bell) not to be at all familiar with any of the details of the Tidemill scheme (other than perhaps the affordable housing quota). Cllr Bell then robustly defended one of the campaigner's claims that making Mayor & Cabinet more democratic made no difference because it was still the same unelected Council Officers who were running the show and lying to Councillors in order to get schemes approved. It was later revealed that Cllr Bell had come to the meeting armed with inaccurate figures prepared by those same officers.


Campaigner outside Catford Town Hall on Tuesday evening

The regeneration plans for Tidemill were drawn up by the Council more than four years ago, in a process which began in 2008 after several permutations looked at how the land at the old Tidemill School could pay for the blingy landmark Deptford Lounge, the development of which LBL had fronted and which the school moved into in 2012 (and promptly became an academy!). The housing element of the scheme was built by Galliard and sold to L&Q and is now known by its tenants as the Titanic as it was so badly built. Two other council blocks in Giffin Street were originally included for demolition in the Tidemill scheme, but were dropped from the final plans due to fierce opposition from leaseholders. In 2014 Family Mosaic won the tender to deliver the scheme and promised to provide 35% affordable housing. However, they were unable to deliver more than 11% (or 16% according to the Council) when the application went to planning in September 2016. This was the main reason it got 'deferred' and sent back to the drawing board by the Strategic Planning Committee. 

Campaigners outside the town hall


Another year went by while Reginald House residents waited to find out their fate – with their lives, as well as repairs to their homes, on hold.

Although very little at all changed on the design of the scheme, the September 2017 application saw quite an improvement in affordable quotas, due to Family Mosaic's convenient merger less than a month before with the much larger Peabody Homes, who have better access to GLA subsidies. The quota rose to 37% (or 41% according to the Council) and the application was passed by 4 out of 6 members of the Strategic Planning Committee (with 3 of the committee being absent!). In the meantime, the GLA policy had changed and they now required schemes to have 50% affordable in order to access funding. So it was another six months before a figure just below 50% (the Council say 54%) was achieved due to the Council accessing its magic money tree and finding an extra £4.2m to contribute to the project in March 2018. As we have written before, none of the figures are publicly available, but it is unlikely that Sherrygreen Homes will be out of pocket and will still make a guaranteed 20% profit on the development, subsidised by public funding. 

Currently the proposals are for 209 homes, of which 74 would be 'socially rented'. While the tenants at Reginald House have been promised (nothing in writing) that they will pay the same Council rents as they do now, everyone else housed from the waiting list in the new 'social housing' will in fact have to pay London Affordable Rent, which in Lewisham is actually around 37% more.


As if you didn't know by now, the Council's plans also require the destruction of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden, a thriving 20 year old community garden originally created by children, teachers, and parents from Tidemill School with public funding. When the school moved, the garden was taken over by Assembly SE8 and local volunteers, who developed it into an educational and community wildlife garden that attracted both funding and ultimately accolades from the GLA Greener Cities programme which cited the garden as a case study in August 2017. The planning submission in September 2016 put paid to all this educational and outreach work as who would fund a space that might close at any minute? But volunteers have been trying to keep the garden open ever since with occasional events, and have kept the grounds in great shape. 
Events in the garden this June (click to enlarge)
Meanwhile, the Council insists on referring to it as 'meantime use' which negates the fact that it is an open green space that has existed for more than 20 years in an area where green space is being depleted. They even managed to persuade the GLA planning officers that it was merely a bit of brownfield scrubland that local volunteers couldn't manage to keep open regularly enough for it to be considered a public amenity – conveniently forgetting to remind the GLA how one of its other departments have supported and promoted it so keenly. 


Reginald House residents have been living with the threat of demolition for 10 years. More recently they have been harassed by council officers continually wanting to assess their housing need and to see proof of identity of everyone living in the property. One resident told the meeting with Egan and Bell how she had been racially abused by a council officer when she refused to answer the door to them, news of which appeared to shock them deeply. The Council has not responded in any meaningful way to the residents’ most recent petition (signed by 80% of them) other than by an acknowledgement from the Housing Strategy Team that could be read as a threat to keep harassing them. 
The Council's response to the Reginald House petition (click to enlarge)
Pauline, Sonia and Diann asked Egan and Bell not only for a ballot but also for Lewisham Homes to undertake repairs needed to their homes to make them safe and decent. Reginald House is structurally sound and has had a new roof, boilers, kitchens and bathrooms within the last few years. However Lewisham Homes has been ignoring requests for minor repairs, whilst failing to carry out more major refurbishment such as double glazing, external decorations and new fire-safety front doors. This has left the tenants with rotting and drafty windows, blocked sinks, unpainted walls, dangerous electrical powerpoints and other neglected repairs including front doors that not only don't meet fire safety regulations but are also falling off their hinges.  

After hearing about the harassment by council officers, the lack of formal written offers and the appalling state of non-maintenance of their homes, Cllr Bell told the tenants at the meeting “I personally guarantee that I will look at it myself” before passing the buck to local councillor Brenda Dacres who was also in attendance. God knows how Dacres is going to find time to liaise with Lewisham Homes on tenant's behalf, having just become joint-Cabinet Member for Parks, Neighbourhoods & Transport with responsibilities for "Arts, Sports, Leisure, Culture, Town Centres, High Streets, Night Time Economy Strategy, Parking Enforcement, Highways and Transport".

The residents kept saying they did not want to lose their homes and were not interested in the new homes, but Bell's response was to continue to encourage them to consider how they would best like to be accommodated in the scheme – ultimately sounding, in his repetition, not dissimilar to a holiday resort timeshare rep – whilst insisting that “the Council’s biggest priority is its residents”.

We have to wonder exactly what Lewisham Homes' role in estate regeneration is. They seem to be complicit in 'managed decline' (when an estate is allowed to get run down over a number of years prior to long-planned redevelopment, a tactic used most often to justify demolition) whilst benefitting from it. An FOI request has revealed that in the time that £104,000 was taken from Reginald House residents in rent and service charges, only £126 was spent on repairs. We have seen the same at Achilles Street in New Cross, where repair expenditure over 6 years was less than £240k while income to Lewisham Homes was over £2.6m, and the Council's plans for that site (the demolition of 87 homes and 15 or more independent businesses) haven't even gone to planning yet. 

Reginald House residents have heard very little from Lewisham Homes but a lot from Lewisham's Housing Strategy Officers, whose verbal promises have not been supported by written assurances. Tenants fear their close-knit community will be broken up, they'll be given smaller homes, have their rent increased and lose their gardens. Even with the best promises in the world, they don't want to leave the homes that they love. Their roots are not just in the area, but in the very fabric of their homes.


Reginald House and the garden beyond (Winter 2018)

Campaigners are hoping that Egan and Bell will spend further time in considering their demands, and come to a more enlightened and progressive view on how the scheme proceeds. Ideally they might reflect on their election pledges to offer ballots to residents threatened by demolition, and not to sell strategic land to developers. Both pledges negate what is happening at Tidemill, and the power is now in their hands to change things. 

They could pay more than lip service to existing core policies such as Objective 5 (to reduce carbon emissions), Objective 7 (to protect and capitalise on open spaces and environmental assets) and Objective 11 (to strengthen quality of life and well-being). With 79 trees proposed to be felled at Tidemill Garden, perhaps they could also pay attention to their Biodiversity Action Plan in which they promise to "maintain, protect and increase the number and quality of trees in the borough" and that's not even mentioning the full biodiversity of Tidemill Garden, let alone the opportunity it offers local people, especially children, to experience nature on their doorstep, instead of being municipalised into a clinical environment by a remote elite in Catford.

In the past, Cllr Bell supported the local campaign "Don't dump on Deptford's Heart" to stop Tideway Tunnel from taking over the green amenity next to St Paul's Church on Deptford Church Street to build a shaft that could have been built by the river. Locals lost that campaign – as well as 44 trees and a large chunk of green. Tideway construction vehicles are now queuing up in a lorry park on Deptford Church Street, adjacent to Frankham House (and opposite Cremer House) with the bus lane disabled, contributing to increased pollution in Deptford Church Street that is unmitigated by the loss of trees at the St Paul's site (till 2022), and will not be helped by the loss of green space at Tidemill. Nor at No.1 Creekside, but that's another urgent post to come. 

In 2013, while serving on the Strategic Planning Committee Cllr Bell was minded to refuse permission to Workspace plc for their redevelopment of Faircharm Trading Estate. At the meeting he made an impassioned speech about how "Deptford is always being 'done to' – and never 'with' ". He's now in a better position to stop us being 'done to', but the impression campaigners got at Tuesday's meeting is that there won't be any changes at Lewisham Council that will benefit Deptford any time soon. 



To arrange interviews with Save Reginald House and Tidemill campaigners, or for more information on the campaign please contact Harriet Vickers, 07817724556, harriet.vickers@gmail.com

Also see the Save Tidemill Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/savetidemill/


Wednesday, May 2, 2018

For the many, not the few – Lewisham Labour on housing (Besson St + Achilles St)

Not sure why red leaflets keep popping through the letter box chez Crossfields. It's not as though Labour aren't going to win the local election anyway, and voting Labour in local elections is not going to get rid of this awful Tory government!

According to one of the flyers, local ward councillors Brenda Dacres, Joe Dromey and Paul Maslin are standing up "for the many not the few". But living in Deptford, one wonders who "the many" are, since Deptford isn't mentioned once in their flyer.

In the other flyer, New Cross Labour are announcing a 'radical' manifesto. Deptford's mentioned twice, but only in the small print. Apparently Paul Maslin grew up here (though he doesn't live here anymore) and is "a partner in an art gallery". That'll be the one that used to be on Deptford High Street which he sold up to move to trendy Shoreditch; the lovely cafe and gallery that he flogged to "Jennings The Bookmaker" who sold it on to Coral, which precipitated an escalation of betting shops arriving on the high street that the rest of us then had to fight off. Thanks, Paul.

Deptford is also mentioned in the boast that New Cross Labour "secured the return of the Deptford anchor to our high street". What high street is that then? New Cross High Street? In any case, as local artists and residents who did most of the work to bring back the anchor have logged in full, it took four years and a petition of 4,000 people before Lewisham Labour agreed to return it. New Cross ward councillors played only a small part.

With the mantra "For the many, not the few"(a phrase first coined by New Labour in the 90s) we presume they mean the self-serving 'one per cent' who hold all the power and wealth. But the left has always championed the minority, surely. So what about when "the few" are tenants and leaseholders who don't want to be forced out of their homes so that Lewisham can house "the many" in their expensive 'place-making' vanity projects?

In its Green Paper on Housing, Labour promise to reverse all the damaging Tory housing policies of the past few years, but this may not be radical enough, as estate regeneration (demolishing perfectly sound homes) is still on the agenda. Having helped create the housing crisis by sitting on land without developing it and keeping prices artificially high by failing to build, the building industry must be wetting itself at the prospect of the profits it'll make out of all the new house building Labour proposes – just as it did in the 1960s, when it jerry built masses of social housing that later had to be demolished.

What are Lewisham Labour promising on housing then? Just picking out a few:

Introduce ballots on any estate regeneration scheme that includes replacing existing homes and back this up with a Residents' Charter that guarantees all residents the right to remain on their estate, and which guarantees an increase in genuinely affordable housing.

Blimey, that's three bullet points in one, surely? First of all, what do they mean by "replacing existing homes"? Surely they mean "demolishing people's homes", don't they? Afraid to say the word? Afraid to admit the environmental impact and massive carbon footprint that word evokes? Say demolition, that's what you mean! The rest of this garbled statement indicates that ballots will be worded so unintelligibly that residents threatened with demolition will hardly know what they're voting for.

Not sell strategic council land to private property developers
• Our target will be to achieve 50% genuinely affordable homes
• Publish all viability assessments so developers have to account to the public when they refuse to meet our target

This sounds good, but does it include Housing Associations (which are private until a change of government un-privatises them again)? And haven't they already sold off ALL the strategic land in Deptford to private developers (with council estates the only land left to redevelop)? Will the financial details of council-led partnerships with private developers be open to scrutiny? And are 'genuinely affordable homes' genuinely affordable?

Much of this is led by conditions of GLA grant funding it seems. But whatever now seems 'right' makes what has gone on previously look terribly 'wrong'. The new Mayor will still have to preside over the results of decisions made by the previous administration (when he was Cabinet Member for Housing and these rules did not apply). Or are they actually proud of schemes like Heathside & Lethbridge where 328 social tenants were forced out and took priority on the waiting list, pushing those already on it further down it, so that Family Mosaic could build 616 private homes?

Build a new generation of council-owned homes for private rents providing long-term tenancies of up to 10 years with rent controls

This must refer to the mass of publicly owned land down in New Cross Gate at Besson Street. A great place to build new social homes, you'd think. But no, this is where Lewisham Labour has decided to enter the Private Rental Sector through a joint venture (50/50) with Grainger plc, "the UK's largest listed residential landlord”.

The deal is to build 232 units, of which 65% will be let at market rent levels, and 35% as Living Rents. None of the tenants will be drawn from the Councils housing waiting list. Tenancies will be a minimum of 3 years and maximum of 10.

The Council call their "35%" of this development affordable, as thats what the GLA call it. In fact Living Rent is one of three types of what the GLA call genuinely affordable homes. They describe the London Living Rent as "homes for middle-income households"not earning above £60k p/a and the rent depends on where you live. Lewisham Council, on the other hand, claims that Living Rent is linked to the London Living Wage. It assumes that two earners occupy each flat, each paying 35% of their net income on rent. 

In other words, it can only be described as affordable if you share a flat, which many people do of course. But if you're a single mum or dad, you won't be able to afford a two bed flat for you and your children on your Living Wage take home pay of £326p/w when the Lewisham benchmarked London Living Rent is £225.46. Nor will you be able to afford to sleep with the children in the same room when a one-bed flat is £202.85. This development's not for them. 

How did this get past Cllr Dromey who claims he refuses to support any scheme that does not include "genuinely" affordable housing? Especially when 65% of homes will be at market rent levels and all the cash is going to a private company? A tidy profit on public land for Grainger plc –who met the Council at a speed-dating developer event at the Shard in February 2017. How can Dromey ignore the angry locals who are disappointed that a site which originally contained council housing (demolished in 2007) is not providing any homes for social rent when the area has so many low-income people in need? 

Of course middle class or middle-income people need affordable homes too, but it's really annoying when your councillor votes to demolish people's homes and keeps banging on about building new social housing to get people off the waiting list. 

In the deal with Grainger PLC, the Council wont be selling the land, but rather investing in it, and topping up its revenue with the rental income stream to fund services. Although they claim they dont plan to try this elsewhere, the proposed partnership allows for a similar venture to happen on other sites without having to choose another business partner, so its probably a pilot project that may see more unaffordable housing on public land elsewhere in the borough. So much for that waiting list!

The idea of not selling off public land sounds good, but actually this kind of scheme is a bit alarming. Global corporate landlords and private equity have been waiting for opportunities like this – for state owned land to fall into private hands, ripe for the plucking. Such entities are already benefiting from tax exemptions facilitated by the Tory government's introduction of Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) where the biggest profits are currently being made in student accommodation, and purpose-built student housing REITs are now listed on the stock exchange. 

Perhaps Lewisham are partnering a REIT in their plans for Achilles Street in New Cross, where they want to demolish recently built student accommodation, 87 council homes and 15+ businesses in order to build 90 extra 'social' homes and a massive tower of new student accommodation. The options presented to residents were to 'do nothing', or 'retain existing homes and add 22 new ones on underused spaces', or 'comprehensively redevelop the area' (aka comprehensively demolish the area). Unfortunately for those whose homes and livelihoods are threatened and who haven't been able to make any plans for two years, the Council have made clear what their favoured option is (the latter) whilst also saying no decisions have been made and that all options are still being considered. This is your lovely Labour Council!

Another initiative the Tories came up with to feather their nests is Build To Rent, a current example of which is the two towers going up on Deptford Creekside by Essential Living. All homes to rent, financed by global fund managers M3. But private equity firms are all too lightly regulated and far less accountable to tenants, the parent company being off-shore and answerable to no one. With the growing privatisation of public housing and the recent shift towards renting because no one can afford to buy, such companies are poised for a take over of London's privatised 'affordable rent' stock. Regeneration of our housing estates where councils partner with massive private interests on public land could lead to the mass transfer of social and public housing to the private sector. Just like the NHS.


Academics have shown that the shortage of housing and corresponding boom in UK house prices and rents has been carefully prepared and legislated for over a number of years, and Labour have been complicit in it. As far back as 1998, New Labour's Urban Task Force led by architect Richard Rogers  embraced American ideas of gentrifying the inner cities by building on brownfield land in Towards an Urban Rennaissance. But it was Lord Adonis in 2015 who put the nail in the coffin, with City Villages: More Homes, Better Communities, which advocated building hundreds of new "city villages" on existing council estates because the boom in land and house prices would enable local authorities to leverage their land ownership in partnership with private and voluntary sector developers (who are now privatised). The Tories promptly redesignated council estates as 'brownfield'.

Lord Adonis’s 2015 report includes a paper by the outgoing Mayor of Lewisham Steve Bullock and the former Leader of the Council Barry Quirk. They allude to the “personal attachment and belonging – to a locality, to a place” and then go on to say “most of us will move home at some point as our personal circumstances change and develop”. Yes, but we are hopefully in charge of such choices. They conclude that “developing more urban villages within London over the next 10 years will not only give people more places in which to live, it will give them more homes in which they can build belonging.” Tell that to the people you want to forcibly removed from their homes who already belong!

When Cllr Dromey talks about the huge number of people desperate for affordable housing, he falls into the same trap as everyone else – that the only answer is to build more housing. But, as Architects for Social Housing (ASH) argue, the housing shortage in London is a crisis of affordability, not supply, and building more homes does not push house and rental prices down. Estate regeneration is not a solution – on the contrary, it is helping to produce the crisis: "The motivation for demolishing and redeveloping estates is not the housing of London's rising population at higher densities in more and better homes, but to provide investment opportunities for global capital and the enormous profits to be made from building high-value properties on some of the most valuable land in the world." 

ASH are particularly critical of Labour councils who present themselves as opposed to Tory attacks on social housing while they continue to demolish estates and claim refurbishment is financially 'unviable'. It is not just Tory policies such as Right To Buy, Housing Benefit capping, Help to Buy, Rent to Buy and the failure to regulate private developer's viability assessments that contribute to the lack of affordable homes, but also GLA grants to private Housing Associations to build affordable housing for private sale, local authority funding for estate regeneration schemes and the transfer of public land into private ownership. They're all privatisation schemes subsidised by the public purse. Will Labour want to stop it?

Tidemill and Reginald Road #3 - Deptford Husting

As mentioned in our previous post, residents at Reginald Road handed in yet another petition to the Council last week saying they don't want their homes demolished. They also asked the Council to stop harassing them. This obviously fell on deaf ears, as officers from the Housing Strategy team were back door knocking again within a few days. Not only that, but last week a tenant was told by Lewisham Homes that they would not carry out any repairs and she would have to fund them herself

Lewisham Labour pledge to introduce balloting of estates threatened with demolition in their new manifesto, which is too late for Reginald Road, although since the development hasn't been fully signed off yet there's no reason why it should be. Of course there's no guarantee the officers in charge of balloting won't use the same manipulative (and now bullying) techniques that they're employing now, and twist a majority ballot against demolition into 100% consent.

Meanwhile, at the Deptford Hustings held in Old Tidemill Garden last Sunday (watch a recording  here), Cllr Joe Dromey repeatedly referred to a young woman he'd met on his campaign door-knocking rounds who is in dire need of re-housing. He wouldn't say which estate she was from but kept referring to her like a mascot (or a trope for his election campaign). Because she had cried in his lap, he was personally guaranteeing she be rehoused.

In a perpetual state of campaigning, usually in support of Council policy that goes against his own constituents, in March he was on Facebook saying the same thing: "When we were door-knocking on the Winslade on Saturday, I met a woman who is living in a tiny studio apartment, riddled with damp, with her two kids. All of them suffer from mental health problems, and they were in a really bad way. I'm trying to get them moved, but we have so few social homes, and there is so much need. They deserve a decent home, and this new estate in Deptford will make an enormous difference."

Candidates Joe Dromey (Lab), Jerry Barnett (LibDem) and Andrea Carey-Fuller (Green) just before the Deptford Hustings started on Sunday
While we agree that it must be truly awful for the young mother he met, our first thought is that the Winslade estate is owned by the Council and managed by Lewisham Homes. If the property is 'damp riddled', whose fault is that

The Winslade has recently had "Decent Homes" work done, but as with most of the Lewisham Homes project-managed Decent Homes work done across the borough in the past few years, damp was never tackled; the work was based on desktop stock surveys done by Savills several years ago, with no attention paid to the issues in individual buildings. As Lewisham Homes tenants know full well, complaints about damp are rarely adequately dealt with and tenants are often told it is their own fault (for drying washing indoors for example), when more often than not it's the result of long term lack of repair to gutters, loose roof tiles or chimney flashing, faulty communal walkway surfaces, inadequate ventilation or a leaking boiler from another flat. After 12 years in existence, Lewisham Homes still does not have cyclical programmes in place to solve repetitive problems, and their repairs service can be summed up in short term fixes that lead to long term nightmares – yet they are now in charge of building new homes! 

Our second thought was "What about the people in Reginald House?!" who have been living with the threat of demolition for ten years – living in fear of displacement and unable to plan ahead – while Lewisham Council have faffed around trying to up affordable homes quotas, chopping and changing their minds, lying to residents, failing to communicate with them properly, trying to pick them off one-by-one, and not once considering the impact of their plans on people

In the early days of so-called 'consultation', Housing Strategy officers reported to Mayor & Cabinet that the scheme had lots of support and the only ones who didn't want the scheme to go ahead were older residents who'd been living there a long time. Well yes, what a surprise! Pesky old people – the ones most invested in their homes, with the most to lose! 

As one campaigner responded to Cllr Dromey on Facebook, "you are riding roughshod over one disadvantaged community to serve what you perceive as an even more disadvantaged community. It is divisive."

This news report from 2017 by East London Lines captures how people in Reginald House feel:




Stress, a sense of loss, grieving, poorer mental health and a decline in physical health have been found to occur in individuals who are forced from their homes. Stress can also occur from the anticipation of dislocation and the lack of understanding from the authorities. Qualitative studies in the US have found the sense of bereavement that comes from being displaced is particularly acute among the elderly. 

In her recent book about the "financialisation of housing" Big Capital–who is London for? Anna Minton documents, among other things, the effects of demolition and displacement on residents at the Heygate, where some people are thought to have died as a result of the upheaval.  

Academics refer to the 'phenomenology of place' to distinguish 'space' (ie a unit of housing) from 'place' (home). Both home and hometown are intimate places, full of memories, and to dismiss the 'emotional geography' of place simply reduces neighbourhood and home to a spatial commodity or just mere numbers. 

Lewisham Council are offering the Reginald House tenants new homes in the new development. "Look!" they say, "you'll have a lift, you'll have a brand new home!", but fail to see the difference between opening your front door to the outside world as you have done for years and opening your front door onto a corridor – let alone the extra costs incurred in service charges for maintaining a lift. Or the difference between knowing exactly where your neighbours are, then finding them transferred to a strange new block – or even another town.

At the Deptford Hustings Cllr Dromey (son of Harriet Harmen MP and Jack Dromey MP) accused members of the audience of "nimbyism" – he twice muttered under his breath "It's never here though, is it, it's always somewhere else" and "Never in this spot, though, is it" as if no one wanted to see new housing built. As we have previously noted, campaigners have shown it is possible to build more housing on the site without demolishing homes and the garden. So he obviously missed all the relevant points and insulted everyone in Reginald House at the same time (not that they were ever going to vote for him anyway)... 

Managed decline

The exterior of 2-16A Reginald Road has been allowed to become run-down (while the insides have benefitted from Decent Homes work) in what is usually referred to as "managed decline" – or deliberate neglect, as film-maker Paul Sng describes in his film Dispossession: The Great Social Housing Swindle

At Reginald Road, service charges and rent are being paid but no repair work is being done. It's not as though the money isn't there to refurbish homes, it's just being spent elsewhere. An FOI request revealed that in the time that £104,000 was taken from Reginald House residents in rent and service charges, only £126 has been spent on repairs.

At Achilles Street in New Cross where 87 homes and 15+ businesses are under threat of demolition in Council-led estate regeneration, the residents made an FOI request to find out whether any money was being spent on their buildings. They discovered that whilst £2,601,009 had been collected in rent and service charges in the past six years, only £248,899 had been spent on repairs and maintenance. 

The way Lewisham Homes is managing the Council's current stock leads one to suspect that the Winslade estate – where Cllr Dromey met the desperately unhappy mum – is next in line for demolition and "regeneration". Meanwhile, residents at Achilles Street refer to Lewisham Homes as "slum landlords".