A campaigning comrade, Rob Robertson visited a public exhibition about the Lewisham Gateway Project, the developments on the old station car park; he wrote up and shared his thoughts and reaction to it. I have permission to share it on this blog. …


Following on from our constituency housing meeting I recently visited a public exhibition in Lewisham hosted by the developers of the gateway phase 2 development.

Some rather sketchily informed employees of the Development company MUSE were in attendance along with some council employees who took notes of some of the conversations with the public. Otherwise the exhibition consisted of a series of boards displaying MUSE’s propaganda. Some of this information can be accessed at http://www.lewisham-gateway.com/ where you can view this propaganda for yourself and also find a  helpful pre-written letter ready to sign and email to your local councillor lending your full support to the development project and urging your councillor to approve its progress.

 

The display begins with the startling claim that “Phase 1 has been a resounding success with 193 new homes fully occupied including private rental sector homes that offer “well managed long term secure tenancies to local residents”. The PRS homes offer local people the chance to rent high quality homes which are professionally managed and escape the uncertainty  in the private rented sector”. There is no evidence that local people benefited from phase 1. When asked the person I spoke to admitted that no data existed to support this claim. Rather It is recognised that no “affordable housing” was offered from phase 1 neither is there any way to guarantee that the tenancies will be either long-term or well managed. the details of the tenancies were not disclosed, although new build 1 bedroom flats very close to the DLR are being rented at in excess of £1500 per month with minimum 6 month assured short-hold tenancies. Hardly in line with the budgets of most of our residents and hardly secure or long term.

The development promises to deliver in excess of 500 but this could actually be 568 according to the S73 application submitted for approval. They are promising to build “in excess” of 100 “affordable” homes (further investigation reveals this number to be 103), at least 20 percent of the total. Firstly if the total is 100 out of a possible 568 that is just 17.6 per cent. You might argue that its still worth it if it provides 100 affordable homes, but what do they mean by affordable? And can they deliver on even this very modest offer? The “affordable rents” are to be in line with the mayor of London’s London Living Rent.  The Mayor’s London Living Rent Ward Benchmark Data 2018/19 sets the following rent levels for the Lewisham Central Ward: one bedroom flats would rent out for £879 per month, considerably cheaper that the rents previously referred to but still a substantial amount in an area where the average salary is suggested to be less than £20,000 (www,payscale.com). This compares with average council house and secured tenancy rents which average at about £100 per month across the borough. Whether they can deliver the 100 “affordable” homes is also debatable. The s73 application affordable housing statement submitted to the council (see here … for the council document) states that “Subject to securing funding from the Department of Communities and Local Government’s Housing Infrastructure Fund, the proposed development is intended to deliver 53 affordable units at London Living Rent levels.  An additional 50 units of affordable housing at London Living Rent could also be included in Phase 2 subject to further funding becoming available, 27 of which would be 1 bed flats for 2 people”. The first 50 were, they report, made possible thanks to £10 million of public money from the governments Housing Infrastructure Fund. That is normally the maximum the local authority can claim from this fund for this kind of project which begs the question as to where the money is coming from in order to build the other 50. the developers say “we are working with LB of Lewisham to provide funding for another 50 affordable homes”, in other words another large sum (£10 million?) out of our councils money and ultimately our residents council tax.

The developer will claim that other factors such as income generated from additional council tax should be factored in when assessing the benefits from the development, and they also make dubious claims about providing jobs for local people. What is not in doubt in my mind is that this development will not provide proper affordable homes for local people. For me gateway 1 has been a monstrosity that has blighted our town with no discernible benefit to the people of Lewisham and I fear gateway 2 will only exacerbate this.

I also asked about the appalling new traffic system, the so called H design, which was recently described as unfit for purpose in a motion passed at a Lewisham Deptford Labour Party GC meeting. I was told that there had been no alternative and it had been impossible to provide a scheme with dedicated cycle lanes. I pointed out to the developer representative that Lewisham Cyclists had designed and offered a simple and effective design to just that and had been advocating for it for several years. They were of course ignored.

There is also the concerns around the developer plans for “co-living” spaces which they describe as innovative, “Co-living is a new and innovative housing concept, providing studio units for rent, with shared amenity space. All units will represent good value for money for residents who are looking for a place to live, work and play with high quality facilities and flexible tenancy arrangements.” however it is quite possible to end up paying £250 per week for a tiny bedroom with everything else shared with all your other co-living tenants.

All this still leaves aside the possibility that the developers will at a later stage change their plans (this comes under reserved matters, to be approved later), or that they will present a new viability assessment claiming that downward economic circumstances mean they can no longer deliver even their current meagre offer on affordable housing.

Planning permission is due to come up before the strategic planning committee for approval later this month.

Gateway 2 in Lewisham
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