Timber Yard seeking planning consent for housing

A planning application for a residential building on the site of the Timber Yard on Spring Bank Road, just a few meters from the entrance to platform 1 of Hither Green Station, has been submitted. The designs are not available yet but what details there are of this outline planning application can be seen here.  The proposal is for:

The demolition of existing buildings on the Builders Yard site, Springbank Road SE13 and construction of a five storey building comprising 33 residential units (4 x 1 bed, 16 x 2 bed and 13 x 3 bed) incorporating balconies/terraces and landscaping, provision of refuse/bicycle store and 5 car parking spaces. (Outline Application, but with only landscaping treated as a reserved matter).

This is an important change of use for the site, it’s  currently designated for employment and there isn’t much going on around here. Hither Green is becoming more and more a purely residential area and this is a trend that is not really appealing and that once established is very difficult to invert. A local economy is a precious thing and shouldn’t be dismissed lightly. On the other hand I’ve been told that recently  trade has been terrible for them, it’s a sad state of things when businesses want to throw in the towel, but can you blame them for trying to make an exit landing on their feet if things are so bad that they risk to go down altogether?

But putting these considerations aside I don’t think that this proposal makes the best use of this site. It’s a sizable plot in a rather strategic location and I think that at the very least it should incorporate some commercial space at the ground floor. Being just outside a station entrance makes it highly suitable for some form of retail to serve commuters coming back from work and Springbank road would surely benefit form having an enhanced variety of shops outside the station. If a critical mass of shops would form then the whole street could take off as a well functioning shopping parade, as it is now it’s a bit patchy and lacking some basics, and that’s the reason why despite being a very busy commuters’ approach it struggles to fulfill its potential.

As for the protection of  employment areas, that’s another thing that need to be considered, but in a wider view. What is the Council’s policy about employment areas? It seems to me that all that’s happening is that they are being converted into housing. How can trades and businesses prosper if a policy to help them succeed is not deployed? There are a lot of big speeches made about apprenticeship schemes and trainings for people to go into plumbing of other trades, but once you’ve been trained what are the opportunities for employment if those businesses don’t have space to grow?

Again, the critical mass, if trades move out of the area then suppliers like the timber yard stop working, then cafes lose trade and so on and on and the whole area becomes poorer.

The space around Hither Green Station is now very valuable if converted into housing, and it can be a positive for the local  community if converted into an appropriately balanced mixed use, but these conversions should not come at the cost of the destruction of the local economy. Maybe employment areas should be protected, just like green spaces, if a site is being converted into housing then another of equal size must be found nearby for the same use.

Thanks to the ever alert Biccy (second mention on this blog) for posting about the application on the Hither Green Forum.


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3 Responses to “Timber Yard seeking planning consent for housing”

  1. Clare Griffiths Says:

    I agree with most of what you say. Losing all businesses would be bad. But things like the industrial-type businesses such as scrapyards, skip hire and timber yards make the area less attractive, so I’m not too sorry to see that back of them. Would be good to see some nice retail space, as I’m sure that done properly there would be demand. Five storeys seems far too high and out of keeping with the area though. Worth an objection or do you think it’s likely to be accepted regardless?

  2. Max Says:

    I think that an objection is very much appropriate, it’s change of use so unless what’s been proposed is really good, it should be rejected.
    I would see this as an opportunity for the area so we should really push for commercial space there.
    The height of the building would represent a precedent on that stretch of road I think but, as it gives on the railway I suppose that they can argue that it’s not a big deal and then of course there is an explicit policy to allow densification around stations (sustainable living areas).

    About the Timber Yard, ok, it may not be pretty, but it is a vital support to traders (as the skips hire is), so, yes to move it away from the entrance to the station as it’s not the most appropriate use of that land but efforts should be made to retain businesses. A few hundred yards up the road on Nightingale Grove there is a large empty plot that’s been cleared. I suspect someone wants to have housing there, I think that as there are other trades there as well it could be seen instead as a mean to produce a cluster of businesses that sustain each other. We are losing the emplyment area near Lewisham Station, the Catford Dogtrack is going to housing too despite bordering with industrial sites and those sites will in turn relocate once works start.
    We’re doing a terrible thing to small businesses in Lewisham. There used to be a very successful printing company in Mount Pleasant Road that I used a lot, they moved to Kent because all their clients progressively moved out and at a certain point they had very little keeping them here.
    We’d end up that people here either work for the Council or the hospital or work in central London or Canary Wharf. We must keep the place alive with people working during the day here.

  3. Max Says:

    Sorry, I should have added that the printer moved when they needed to expand, they couldn’t find suitable industrial premises and they had no particular reason to be here so they moved out.

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