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.

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