Loampit Vale Redevelopment in Lewisham

Its ugly and its un-London.

Its ugly and its un-London.

The UK Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) was launched in ill-omened year: 1914. But it was founded by idealists and played an honourable role, until another year of destiny: 1947. Effectively, it then split. One portion became an arm of government, forever beholden to the ugliness of local government in the UK. The other portion, which has grown in size, became an arm of the property development industry. The idealists left.

The above image of a ‘regeneration’ proposal in Lewisham, South London, shows the result. There is a lot of patter about sustainability etc but the design is 1930s Corbusian with a sprinkling of rancid green sauce. The developers get a fat profit; the local council gets more tax income; the people get an ugly and badly designed project: 98% of respondents to a consultation were against the proposal. If Steen Eiler Rasmussen, author of London the unique city, could give an opinion he would surely sign it ‘Disappointed, Disgusted and Revolted of Copenhagen’. He believed London unique among world cities because such a high proportion of its residents have their own gardens and do NOT live in flats. Rasmussen also loved London’s parks and would be horrified the social uselessness of the proposed ground level space in Lewisham. The design is context-insensitive to a high degree. Poor old Lewisham. Poor old London. Poor old England.

14 thoughts on “Loampit Vale Redevelopment in Lewisham

  1. Ian

    Cheap and nasty design, no consideration over social impact. Yet another instant slum. Highly unpopular locally. Amazing that someone still thinks the Croydon look is good design.

    It’s Barrat homes of course.

  2. T Dunn

    Shocking that it passed only by virtue of the (Labour) chair of the meeting using the obscure provision for a chair’s vote, that is, he voted TWICE. Otherwise it would have been a split decision.

  3. Tom Turner Post author

    Do you know what the planning officers recommended? I think they, in conjunction with their landscape architects, should have produced an enlightened planning brief for the site and then negotiated a much better scheme for submission to the planning committee.

  4. Tom Turner Post author

    The underlying cause of the problem is that ‘local government’ is notlocal and cares little what local people think. Most of the money comes from central government and the popularity of local parties therefore depends on the popularity of national parties. Tragic.

  5. Rachel Mooney

    I think the brooding sky was a photoshop change, as the architects always show everything on a sunny day. As they aren’t in touch with the reality of British weather, you can see how they have missed the mark with the reality of Lewisham.

    With reference to the planning department at Lewisham, the report said it was “appropriate in use, scale and density for the area and the benefits of the scheme outweigh any disbenefit that may arise”.

    At a public meeting the architect referred to the site as the city centre. If he doesn’t know it is a town, what hope have we for him being capable of finding the centre?

    Given the history of the planning decisions for the Lewisham Gateway scheme, no-one knew the tower blocks there were going in for planning nor for the tower block they gave permission for on Thurston Road I don’t have any respect for their integrity. The original brief for Lewisham Gateway did sound enlightened and no doubt Loampit Vale too. The original Loampit Vale scheme did not allow for tower blocks. They seem to have come about by the change from family homes to one and two bed flats. The smaller units would only face north, so the developers were allowed to go higher, so new residents can have better views. Obviously, as existing residents we count for nothing.

    The original Gateway site was to have pedestrian and cycle priority, but in the end there was pedestrian priority for those wanting to get to the shopping centre. If you want to arrive at the station to go to one of the residential areas round about there were no real improvements. At the planning meeting the consultants showed how the footpaths would be just as congested as the current situation. They seemed quite smug at this fact.

    There is no provision for cyclists except advance stop points on a huge one way system. The consultant, I think from Arups was very pleased at the amount of cycle racks they were providing on site though. Apparently we cyclists like this. Again at the public meeting when asked about the cycle paths we were told the current one was remaining. No expansion for the extra 2000? residents and a new secondary school.

    So on the Gateway site they are spending a quarter of a billion pounds and not even managing decent cycle path.

    There is a whole list of outrages, which the planners have allowed.

  6. Tom Turner Post author

    If, as often seems likely, I am inadvertantly killed when trying to cycle through Lewisham, I have asked my wife to look up the records of the Aberfan disaster (a coal tip in Wales slid into a school in 1966) and, draw inspiration for a small temporary memorial at Lewisham Roundabout. I think it was a clergyman from Aberfan who wrote on a tombstone that his child had been ‘BURIED ALIVE BY THE NATIONAL COAL BOARD’.
    Wikipedia states that ‘The pupils of Pantglas Junior School had arrived only minutes earlier for the last day of term. They had just left the assembly hall, where they had been singing “All Things Bright and Beautiful”, when a great noise was heard outside. Had they left for their classrooms a few minutes later from the assembly, the loss of life would have been significantly reduced, as the children would not have reached their classrooms when the landslide hit: the classrooms were on the side of the building nearest the landslide.’ One should hum the tune when cycling through Lewisham.
    A heavy responsibility rests on those who are designing the Loampit Vale ‘Regeneration’. Note that word: ‘pit’. Should it be ‘pits’?

  7. Christine

    For anyone interested – this is the Environmental Statement as at August 2008 for the project[ http://acolnet.lewisham.gov.uk/ACOLLATEDOCS/38721_1.pdf ].

    It is worth looking at the key objectives of the project. Unfortuneately the objectives don’t sound very ambitious beyond merely providing facilities and meeting new dwelling/floor space requirments. All of which I imagine the scheme achieves without too much trouble.

  8. Rachel

    Apart from the obvious money issue, I still don’t see why the council are planning on selling land to Barratts, when they need it for their promised secondary school. Imagine the kudos of being able to provide a new school with a playing field.

  9. Rachel Mooney

    That would seem so, but when English Heritage listed the neighbouring school (http://www.bdonline.co.uk/story.asp?storycode=3138299), saving it from imminent demolition, to build a supposed state of the art school, the mayor of Lewisham is quoted as saying

    “This decision beggars belief. It has been made by an undisclosed civil servant with no regard whatsoever for local need. The future prospects of our children and young people cannot be sacrificed for the sake of somebody’s fancy for Edwardian sinks, butterfly designs and tiling.

    “Protecting our heritage is important, but while there must be hundreds of schools like this across London, the Lewisham Bridge site is uniquely suited to provide a desperately needed new school to serve the children, young people and families of this area. We know that from our exhaustive searches and consultation over recent years. We have looked at no less than 29 sites, this was the only possible realistic option. “I will be doing everything I can to get this project back on track.”

    Evidently, he is happy to have towers overlooking the school and other resident’s home. He is happy for one councillor to have two votes at the planning meeting and thus drive through this unpopular decision all against the wishes of Lewisham’s residents. At the public meeting the developer actually made some comment about a tower block enhancing the edge of the school.

  10. Tom Turner Post author

    English Heritage probably has a greater commitment to the public interest than Lewisham Council. UK local government suffers from a severe democratic deficit. Because it gets money from central government it tends to serve national party goals instead of local goals, so one has to doubt whether a Lewisham councilor has any valid claim to speak for the interests of ‘local people’, especially when his decision is deeply unpopular. I think the planning of the area between the station and the town centre has been terrible and as one small example give the bus station: why is there no roof for passengers and why is there no sensible pedestrian connection to the town centre and why did they close the footpath on the south side of the railway and why are they going to close the footpath on the north side of the railway? It is all because the urban landscape planning has been so weak. So the area is now a wasteland and they might as well fill it with tall buildings. It is the type of policy Mumbai is applying to Dharavi (of Slumdog Millionaire fame): ‘modern’ buildings, profits for builders, profits for landowners, misery for the people.

  11. Christine

    In May 2007 Cllr Chris Best – Cabinet Member for Community Services and member of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee of the Lewisham council released the following report
    [ http://www.lewisham.gov.uk/NR/rdonlyres/870FC9DB-7A1B-4F02-A45D-CEE7CCFF687F/0/070511ReporttoOSCommittee32.pdf ]

    It is worth looking at the conclusions point 6.3:

    “Consultation plays a key part in ensuring we provide the service offer our residents want. One area we must improve is in giving feedback on the outcome of each consultation and I shall be challenging officers to ensure that this happens in a systematic way.”

    In the spirit of community development it seems he would welcome input and feedback from local residents on council projects.


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