Posts Tagged ‘Loampit Vale’

Lewisham Leisure mega-contract needs fresh re-thinking

May 5, 2010

Two contracts with leisure operators to run almost all the leisure centres of the borough are to expire soon and Lewisham Council is now advertising a major long term contract to run them all on a long term basis.

The London Borough of Lewisham is seeking a partner to enter into a contract to manage, operate and maintain a number of existing leisure facilities (“the existing facilities”) together with 2 possible new facilities (“the proposed facilities”). The existing facilities comprise of the following leisure facilities : The BridgeLeisure Centre and Indoor Bowls Hall (Kangley Bridge Road, Lower Sydenham, London SE26 5AQ, UNITED KINGDOM); Ladywell Leisure Centre (261 Lewisham High Street, London SE13 6NJ, UNITED KINGDOM); Wavelengths Leisure Centre (Giffin Street, Deptford, London SE8 4RJ, UNITED KINGDOM). The proposed facilities are Forest Hill Pools (Dartmouth Road, Forest Hill, London SE23 3HZ, UNITED KINGDOM) designed to replace the formerForest Hill Pools on the same site, and a new leisure facility development at Loampit Vale designed to replace the existing Ladywell Leisure Centre.

The Council proposes to award a 10-15 year contract in relation to managing, operating and maintaining the Existing Facilities with options (exercisable by the Council during this term) to require the partner to manage, operate and maintain the Proposed Facilities (such additional requirements to be performed within the 10-15 year term). It is estimated that the services in respect of the Proposed Facilities (if the option is exercised) will commence in the second year of the 10-15 year term.

Having watched closely how the leisure centres work in Lewisham I can surely say that there is a need of a serious re-thinking before committing to something like this.

The way this works now is a complete muddle, with results like the legionella bacteria crisis, when following discovery of the bacteria in the showers at Ladywell these were shut down by the contractor following an order from the Council (but allegedly without the knowledge of the Cabinet Member for Community). The result of this decision was that people couldn’t shower before swimming and therefore the water of the pool was becoming infested with other equally harmful bacteria.

The root cause was of course neglect, and at the root of that lack of funding for repair and maintenance.

This is a unique opportunity to re-organize these services so that they are maintained to the level they should be. It is also an opportunity to involve the local sport talents and clubs and develop a long term plan of sport development for the borough to make use the current local infrastructure to its full potential.

The first question to ask ourselves is how can we use these facilities at their best, and then look for the best way to run the centres to serve that plan.

Maybe Lewisham can set up its own social enterprise, 4 centres are already an economy of scale, that’s how Greenich Leisure started, they now run 70 leisure centres. Why provide profits for shareholders when we could be reinvesting in our community assets?

Because as the tender tells us there are money to reinvest, almost £2m per year:

Historic third party income levels in operating the existing facilities has been in the region of 1 940 000 GBP per annum (excluding VAT and the Council’s management fee). It is projected that income may not meet expenditure to manage, operate and maintain the facilities, thus, the contract awarded may involve a level of management fee payable by the Council. Further financial details will be provided in the tender pack and other procurement documents.

It can also be the way to keep services going and dodge those cuts that no doubt will soon hit our budgets.


Loampit Vale rescued by £20.5m of Goverment’s cash

March 5, 2010

The Mercury reports an incredible turn of events for Lewisham Town Centre, the Housing Minister John Healey has in fact announced that the Government will give £20.5m to Barratt Homes to allow the development at Loampit Vale to proceed.

The Housing Minister justified the cash to Barratts with the motivation that:

We have used the power of public investment to ensure that even in the downturn we continue to build the homes the country needs.
But I want to make the best of every taxpayer’s pound, which is why I am requiring those benefiting from this extra cash to offer local job and apprenticeship opportunities.

I really thought that there already were incentives for local jobs and apprenticeships. £20.5m sounds a bit dear for just one development.

Could it be that the Housing Minister is helping the Labour administration of Lewisham to save the face before an election with quite a bit of our money?

The negotiation for this development was a masterpiece in incompetence, this deal was signed off during recession but using a financial model developed during the housing bubble.
Even a donkey would have known that it couldn’t work.
Not Mayor Bullock though, he signed off the transfer of the most valuable plot of public land in the Borough to a developer on the back of an unrealistic deal, and if after this mess the Government would not have intervened with an unprecedented £20.5m handout to the land developer we would have remained with that hole in the ground in front of Lewisham Station for years to come.

By the way, when Loampit Vale was approved I made the prediction that Barratt would have come back with new requests in order to proceed, on that count I was right. I thought that they would have asked for more storeys to be added or a reduction in social housing. I’d have never thought that it would have been an all out handout of tens of millions in cash.

You read it here first

February 25, 2010

At last night’s Local Assembly for Lewisham Central ward, among the other presentations of community groups there was one update on the state of the developments at Town Centre delivered by no less than Mr John Miller, Head of Planning of Lewisham Council.

The news is that the Loampit Vale development is now due to start in “spring/summer 2010” with the delivery of the Leisure Centre now forecast for the first half of 2013. That’s after the London Olympics. As readers of this blog knew already.

The other information given about the developments is that the Gateway is not anymore viable and the Council will now wait until the economy improves to restart talks with developers. Whenever that is.

Roadworks at Loampit Vale

January 27, 2010

TfL has communicated that major roadworks on Loampit Vale will start on 1st February and will complete by 12th March. These are non-essential maintenance and are done to solve the problem of road drainage and will be a major disruption for traffic and bus service for the period involved.
Brockley Central has more details.

I wonder, does TfL knows that just there a major development is supposed to start? There Barratt should not only build hundreds of flats and a leisure centre, but also provide new pedestrian paths and also new bus stops.
Is this a case where the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand’s doing?

Maybe the timing of these works is a couple of years off the mark and those money would be better spent elsewhere, like providing pedestrian crossing at the various dangerous crossings around the borough, like Courthil Road, also belonging to TfL. But those are money for pedestrians, not cars, so Boris’ TfL may not see that as much useful.

Unless TfL has information that the Loampit Vale development won’t happen anytime soon, but in that case they could tell us as it would be an information of extreme public interest.

New Pool to miss Olympics

December 31, 2009

The Loampit Vale website homepage have not been updated in last few weeks, it still says:

Loampit Vale was granted planning permission at a Strategic Planning Committee meeting on 10th September 2009. Barratt Homes hope to start on site before the end of the year.

And unless works start in the next few hours before midnight this hope of Barratt will not realize.

Earlier today I passed by Lewisham Shopping Centre’s car park and from there there’s a good birds’ view of the site, I didn’t have a camera with me today, but apart from the seasonal colour the site looked exactly as it did a few weeks ago when I took this pictures in October.
Works have not started and the reason is clear, the business case for the Loampit Vale development stands on a 24 storeys high tower of one bedroom flats, and last week the Times told us that:

The effect of troubles in the City can be seen in the performance of the boroughs: Greenwich, a sought-after area in South East London within easy reach of Canary Wharf and popular with younger professionals and families employed there, has suffered this year, dropping 8.7 per cent.

Mr Lewis said: “The oversupply of new-build property around the Cutty Sark and Woolwich Arsenal has partly been to blame for the dip in prices.” The nearby areas of Lewisham and Tower Hamlets, also well-supplied with recently built apartment blocks marketed at first-time buyers, have also underperformed.

Three months ago, immediately after the Strategic Planning Committee unwisely voted in favour of planning consent to this scheme (Labour members for, all others against), I made here an analysis and a prediction. The analysis was that the developers are not in any hurry to start works, the prediction was that in the future a revised planning application to cut on amenities and affordable housing will be submitted.

And the fact that all was not well and that risks were high should not have been unknown to the committee members, in fact almost one year earlier, in November 2008, Sir Steve Bullock received this item telling him of a revised timetable for the delivery of the leisure centre:

5.2 Since the Mayor and Cabinet decision in July officers have been negotiating with Barratt a revision to the key terms which were proposed by Barratt in response to changing market conditions and the current economic situation with respect to the availability of credit. Other issues were also raised by Barratt but these did not result in the need to make any changes. As a result of this it has been agreed to extend the time Barratt have to deliver the new Leisure Centre from 24 to 36 months as Barratt had indicated that this was the only way they could continue with the scheme. The result of this deferment is to provide a cashflow for the scheme that is viable and enables them to continue with the scheme. Following this change contracts were exchanged with Barratt on 30th October

5.3 The time taken to negotiate the Development Agreement with Barratt had already pushed the programme back from an original planned completion date for the Leisure Centre at the end of 2010 to June 2011. This completion date was based on an assumed planning consent late January / early February 2009 with 6 months to complete outstanding S106 and Housing Corporation funding issues and clear the Judicial Review challenge period. On this basis, it was anticipated that the Development Agreement would become unconditional in June 2009 with Barratt then having 24 months to deliver the new Leisure Centre. The parties are still working to the original timetable for the Development Agreement to become unconditional. However, the 24 month period has now been extended to 36 months. Adding 12 months (on the basis of a June 2009 unconditional date) means an anticipated date for delivery of the new Leisure Centre not later than June 2012.

June 2012 is of course Olympic time for London and a new pool to celebrate it would be a great boast for Lewisham Council, but looking at the calendar today, reading the market situation for one bedroom flats and what the Mayor’s papers say about how long it takes to Barratt to build it I don’t think that anyone would bet a single penny on it happening.

Letter in the South London Press

December 6, 2009

On Friday the South London Press published this letter of mine about the new pool at Loampit Vale.

Sad dives

November 26, 2009

Everytime I asked at Council why the specifications of the “state of the art” new swimming pool planned for Loampit Vale are so poor and made specific reference to the very low depth that would never allow diving again in this Borough I was always told that hopeful divers are very well provided in South London and that there’s no demand for more diving facilities.

The South London Press now shows us what these wonderful facilities that our Labour Councillors were speaking about look like. Kids in a freezing room jumping on mattresses pretending they’re in a swimming pool! Of course when the Olympics were presented the opening video opened with some great divers, good for presentation purposes, not good enough to support for real.

Action for Lewisham public meeting report

November 13, 2009

Yesterday’s public meeting of the Central Lewisham Action Group was much better attended that I expected, halfway down the meeting I counted 55 people, and most of them stayed until the end, and it was a very long meeting.

Here’s Cllr Andrew Milton‘s speech which was really well received:

Other speakers from the platform were Helen Mercer of the group that opposed the Lewisham Gateway, Fran Rogers of Transition Lewisham and Matthew Blumner of QWAG, who also spoke as a former board member of Urban Renaissance Lewisham (URL), the board that gave us the Gateway plan, he was the community representative on that board but was unable to scrutinize appropriately the plans (a thing referred to by Andrew Milton’s speech when he mentions that the former Deputy Mayor, also chair of URL told Matthew Blumner that he would not have received further answers to his queries about the new traffic system. A serious matter of concern indeed.)

I spoke a few times, giving my opinion on the developments (that is still the same as here) but also trying to advise on practical ways to campaign. I saw a lot of enthusiasm and I really got excited, there is a will to propose alternatives and if the Gateway fails to happen there will be a chance to try to make them into a reality.

Among the practical things I mentioned is that I have two questions about the development at the coming Council meeting of 25th November, these questions ask details of the roadworks program for the new road layout and associated consultation.
This is a follow up to one of my questions at last Council meeting when I instead asked about the original Single Regeneration Budget (SRB) for Lewisham Centre and whether sums were allocated but yet unspent. The answer was that yes, there are almost £9m (out of a total of £15.9 of the original SRB) that were originally transferred to the LDA for the enabling roadworks and are still there.
At that point I asked whether the fact that public money had to be paid for this development instead of the usual other way round where developers pay for works around the developments for the privilege of building there meant that this deal had always been at particular risk from market fluctuation since despite its hugeness it never really stood on its own two feet . The answer I received was that no, on the contrary, they were now consulting with partners about the imminent enabling roadworks.
And that’s why this time I’m asking details about these roadworks and the consultation. I told people to come and support, so that after the meeting we can go and have a quick update at the Ram pub that’s near the Council (and you’re welcome to join us too).

Other politicians present there were Ladywell Councillor Ute Michel, my fellow Libdem Candidate for Lewisham Central James Jennings, who actually spoke very well about how the centre of Lewisham is really “the centre” of Lewisham and if you mess up there you really mess up everywhere.

There was also a Labour Candidate for Lewisham Central, who only identified himself when asked to (shame, but not a surprise). Someone asked how to send a strong signal to Labour, “boot them out” I shouted, and I won’t apologize for that.

But besides the politicians there were plenty of ordinary people concerned about the effect of these developments for the area and willing to do something about it and work for an alternative.

A tale of two Lewishams and many Croydons

November 10, 2009

Maybe it’s me not knowing where to tweak the blog settings but my blogging platform WordPress doesn’t display incoming links from Blogger based blogs so here’s a quick note about two links to my previous post, the one about the public meeting on the town centre developments, that are worth reading.

Transpontine makes a fascinating consideration on Croydon as an established byword for botched urban development. Meanwhile on Brockley Central an eagle-eyed commentator reports spotting that our antipodean namesake Lewisham, Australia is also faced with the prospect of Croydonisation and a public meeting on the subject will also take place on Thursday 19th November, just as here in Lewisham, UK.

Public meeting on Loampit Vale

November 9, 2009

This coming Thursday 12th November, at 7:30pm at the Tabernacle, Algernon Road SE13 7AT there will be a public meeting held by the Central Lewisham Action Group, a group of residents that opposes the current plans for redevelopment of the area often referred to as Lewisham Town Centre although currently this area is still mostly a transport hub with a roundabout.

This promises to be a very interesting and lively meeting, many important issues will be discussed, I will be attending and very possibly say something too.

Speakers announced so far are Libdem Councillor for Lewisham Central Andrew Milton and Fran Rogers of Transition Brockley.

Rivers of electronic ink have already been poured on this subject but here’s a quick to recap of the main points to allow me to state clearly where I stand on this issue.

There are two adjacent yet distinct main developments that are supposed to be built near Lewisham Station and that already have planning consent, these are the Lewisham Gateway and the Loampit Vale development. Besides these developments very close to these two there are other large blocks on the horizon and also a few others that have just been built. These developments would bring thousands of new accomodations, a large amount of commercial space, a leisure centre, a school, a new road layout, a new bus station and more. All in a relatively small area, with all the repercussions on the environment and services that a development of this scale creates.

The Lewisham Gateway development should rise where today lies the roundabout plus quite a lot of land around it, edging the Citibank Tower on one side and including what today is the Lewisham Bus Station on the other side.
Planning application for the Gateway development was agreed in April 2006, works have not started yet.

The other development with planning consent is the Loampit development and I wrote extensively about it on this blog (link to posts on Loampit Vale).

I personally strongly oppose the Loampit Vale development mostly because it includes a leisure centre that is not built to a size sufficient to serve both the existing local community and the newcomers that would populate all those new developments. There would be many losers, mostly among the current users of Ladywell Pool.
This is a straightforward damage to the quality of life of the residents of Lewisham that use Ladywell pool that would have reduced access to swimming. I squarely blame Mayor Bullock and his uncritical supporters and associates for the inability to plan for sufficient leisure provision.

Regarding the Lewisham Gateway I oppose that too, but for different reasons, one more mundane reason if you will is that to my eyes that’s plain ugly. Despite the best efforts of the architects it still remains a massive bulk, and this is  due to the economics of the development, that burdened by an unusually high level of expenditure for the preparatory infrastructural work, to cover costs and allow a profit for the developers must include an enormous volume of built and no matter which way you turn it the bulk just doesn’t  go away.

To be more specific this development must pay for a new road layout to replace the roundabout so to create the space for the development, and that alone is 2 years of roadworks, then it must move some very large utility mains that run under the roundabout, move a river and a bus station. All this is mightily expensive hence the massive bulk.

My main reason for opposing it though is that I am not convinced that the design of the new road layout is a good plan for Lewisham. I fear it will transform much of the centre in a massive near constant gridlock and that’s surely not my idea of a thriving town centre.
During the years of planning for this project we were all told that this new system would not have had any negative impact on the traffic, there was an explicit firm guarantee that at the very least the impact would have been neutral, this guarantee was repeated at every stage of the process. Then when the study was finalized for planning consent the admission came that it would have been marginally worse.
Now, even assuming that the admitted marginal worsening would have been acceptable the fact remains that the traffic model was done on the Gateway alone, without considering the impact of the other developments around it and so what we have is a traffic model that implies the same amount of built as today, which is a semi-desertic half baked retail park and employment area where there are supposed to be tall buildings all around and a few thousands people living in them, plus a school for 600 children, a leisure centre, a new parade of shops in front of the station. There is a lot of extra activity associated with this plan and this would have a serious further impact on traffic. Think about Lewisham roundabout at peak time today, well, it will be substantially worse.

At the recent planning committee meeting on Loampit Vale the Head of Planning himself admitted that the traffic passing through the Lewisham roundabout is not traffic generated locally, that there’s little that can be done to alleviate it and that probably it won’t get any easier. And I ask myself, if the new traffic system is guaranteed to make traffic slightly worse than now, and this even without considering all the developments surrounding the Lewisham Gateway, what will this high rise traffic-ridden quarter be like to live in? The answer is that probably it won’t be that great. And so, because I don’t believe that we should build houses we wouldn’t like to live in, I oppose it.

Now, as I already said, the Lewisham Gateway has planning consent, so whether we oppose it or not it doesn’t actually make any difference, but there is a concrete risk that the project derails without any external help, just because the numbers don’t stack up anymore, and 3 and half years after planning consent we’re now beginning to be quite close to the moment the planning consent expires.
And if the Gateway wouldn’t happen then that land and adjacent large plots like for example Thurston Road could be at the centre of new planning considerations because the much trumpeted new Town Centre wouldn’t have materialized and a fresh thinking would be required.
Likewise the Loampit Vale development may not happen, but that in my opinion is more at risk of delaying or losing some bits (like part of the social housing) than to derail completely.

Anyway, it may not happen, but a degree of risk that the project derails exists, and for us Libdems it’s time to think about it concretely so that if after next elections we gain control of this Borough Council we can work on an alternative and of course we must start by listening around to what people would like to see there and what ways there could be to move the current scheme to a more desirable one.

So,  if you’re interested in these and other matters related to the developments at the fabled Lewisham Town Centre (schools for example) then you’d do well to attend this public meeting.

Loampit Vale application approved

September 11, 2009

Members of Planning Committees are independent, unbiased and impartial.
Last night the three Labour members of the Strategic Planning committee (Smith, Paschoud and Wise) voted all in favour of the application for the Loampit Vale development, the others (Libdems Bentley and Edgerton and Green Party Walton) voted against.
The proposal was decided on the casting vote of the Chair, Labour Cllr Smith.

And yet the developers left with stony faces.
What does it take to make a developer happy if not approving a massive application?

The fact is that this application as is makes them little or no money, it’s an enormous development but it has to pay for a swimming pool that although insufficient for the area still costs a packet, then there is the affordable housing and that costs money too, and all of this must be paid by the sale of one bedroom flats and those are not currently making a lot of money.
Lewisham Council in exchange gets a pool built at no cost, then once that’s built they can sell the land of Ladywell Pool.

The financial case for the developments at Lewisham centre was always reliant on the expansion of Canary Wharf, connected to Lewisham via DLR, and the expectation that there the financial services would have created tens of thousands of new jobs in the next few years, and so Lewisham would build towers of one bedroom apartments as the 24 storey block approved yesterday, and these blocks would generate planning gains that would pay for new infrastructure, saving lots of money to the Council. But does this economic model still stand?

I’m going to now make a daring prediction, here’s my fear, the developer starts works, then submits a new planning application asking for more floors to be added or for less social housing or both and doesn’t finish the job until it’s approved. This would be textbook behaviour in the economics of deals like these.
Developers have now limited capacity and with multiple planning application approved they will always decide to go with the most profitable option and so if this one site doesn’t make enough money it stays on the back burner until it becomes profitable, and that could be some years down the line.

And the best thing is that now they own the land, the Mayor approved the transfer out of Council’s ownership over to the developer that can now very easily keep it bare as is for as long as it takes to see it become a profitable development. Lewisham Council cannot now just ask another developer.

At yesterday committee it was accepted even by the members supporters of the development that this plan stands on the limit of acceptability, even the Head of Planning called it a “challenging” development!
Cllr Andrew Milton picked on that in his speech against the development, it is in fact an unheard event that Lewisham’s Head of Planning uses a word that could imply in any way a negative judgement.
Cllr Sue Luxton also spoke against it and so did I, for the reason expressed in my objection.
There were also other objectors speaking at the meeting, Geoffrey Thurley of the Ladywell Society, and representatives of the Rivermill residents as well as the Gateway group.
One objection that was read aloud was from Transition Lewisham.

Then a pin-striped developer helped a blind man to walk down the isle and sit at the committee table, there with a raspy voice he spoke in support of the application. Houses for the people! He cried. And we need a new swimming pool! He added.

Anyway, I have to say that what I instead said was not contradicted either by developers, officers or Labour Councillors, the argument stood unchallenged, only Cllr John Paschoud declaring his vote in favour said something for the new pool and what he said was “I don’t have time for the argument that we shouldn’t build a new pool because it would be too popular”.
Nice twist John, only keeping by the shallow end and pretending of not understanding what arithmetic is allows you to dodge the issue, I shouldn’t explain it again because it’s dead easy but the problem is that it’s too small, not too popular.

The Labour-led Council negotiated a bad deal for both the developers and the residents, only that the Council makes a profit out of this. But the mutated economic situation opens us to a great risk of the thing getting completely stuck halfway for who knows how long.
The Labour members of the planning committee didn’t have the guts to stop it here, they approved an application for a development that reduces swimming provision for Lewisham residents and opens us to a great risk of having to live with an empty wasteland in front of Lewisham Station for years to come.
A bad decision taken behind closed doors and pushed through again and again thanks to a combination of peer pressure and lack of judgement.

The Lewisham Gateway development was also negotiated during the housing bubble, it received planning consent in April 2006 and so far nothing has been built. They should have learned something by now.

Loampit Vale #2

September 10, 2009

It’s tonight. Finally the Loampit Vale development goes to planning, and I spent the last couple of days reading from the mountain of documents that accompanies the application.
One document I can recommend is the design and access statement.
A massive tome of 277 pages giving a good overview of the project.
It’s very glossy and sexy, but planning should be about getting the best we can, and there still are issues.

I also spotted what looks like selective quoting there. At page 59 the document says:

We have met with CABE officers on two occasions and received a formal response following an internal Design Review Panel.
The outline proposals were considered at a panel meeting on 21 May 2008.
The panel stated that, “…whilst the quantum and size are large, this could be acceptable if carefully handled.
However, they remained to be convinced of the departure from the Development Brief Masterplan.
They concluded that, “…we see its potential to create a vibrant public destination and a pleasant place to live.”

Now, if you go and look at the CABE’s website and their responses to the submitted disegn you’ll find that those sentences are longer and have a somehow different meaning when read in full (CABE review 1 and CABE review 2).

The concluding paragraph of the latest contains one the quote included in the design and access statement document, only that in full it reads:

To conclude, while we see the potential to create a vibrant public destination and a pleasant place to live, we do not think that the composition of the different typological elements and the quality of the courtyards in terms of sunlight are fully convincing.

As I wrote in my previous post on Loampit Vale, I submitted an objecion and would be pleased if it was upheld and the plan being thought through to make it really worth its while.

It is of course also a matter of great concern that various massive developments are going up one next to the other and no overall study of the impact of these on traffic has been done.
The traffic through Lewisham Centre is traffic that generates elsewhere, Loampit Vale though narrow and congested is a major traffic artery, it hosts a public transport interchange and increased activity greatly impact on the flow of traffic. A study to determine what will happen once all these blocks go up would have been highly recommendable, the risk is that we create a spectacularly congested town centre when this could have been avoided with better planning.

There is no masterplan, in this document for the first time you find some pictures of how these giants would look like next to each other and personally I don’t like the result.
But that’s not a planning matter. Amenities’ space is a planning matter, quality of design is also a planning matter.
Tonight I’ll attend the meeting, let’s see what the committee members make of these concerns.

Loampit Vale development goes to planning committee this Thursday

September 8, 2009

A very important development is going in front of the Strategic Planning Committee this week, it’s the Loampit Vale development. Among other things this large development includes the forecast replacement for Ladywell Pool.
This is only the first post on this subject, I’ll post more considerations in the next few days.
The full application is available from this link. Here’s the proposal in short:

The construction of eight buildings ranging from five to twenty-four storeys, incorporating balconies and terraces, comprising 788 residential units (including up to 186 affordable), a leisure centre, 1,856m² of commercial floorspace (Use Classes A1, A2, and B1, including 626m² for creative industries), an energy centre, replacement London City Mission facilities, public and private amenity space, together with associated landscaping, bin stores, 866 cycle, 26 motorcycle and 181 car parking spaces on ground and first floor levels, associated highway works, plant and servicing.

I submitted an objection to the planning application, here’s the full text:

I write here to object to the proposed development at Loampit Vale
(Ref: DC/09/71246/X) because of the inadequate size of leisure provision and specifically the swimming pool.

The development is of strategic importance for its sport and leisure component since it’s supposed to replace the Borough flagship pool at Ladywell Leisure Centre.
Unfortunately the sizing of this new pool has been determined through a study that is grossly flawed.
The Leisure Needs Analysis commissioned and accepted by Lewisham Council as its policy and that stands at the foundation of this development did not consider the impact on the usage of the pool caused by the developments at the Town Centre themselves, which according to the Council’s own estimate stand at 4000 new housing units. It does not account for the impact of the transport interchange and doesn’t include any possible usage from outside Lewisham Borough boundaries, and despite the fact that the border with the London Borough of Greenich is extremely near and the pool will be very accessible to many Greenwhich residents.
This is an enormous underestimate of baffling proportions which means that this strategic development will only be able to deliver a largely insufficient amount of swimming opportunity for the resident of Lewisham within the catchment area of the Loampit Vale pool. This is in real terms a reduction in sport, health and leisure opportunities for this local community.

I ask this authority to reject the plans unless modifies are introduced so that adequate sports and leisure opportunities are provided to the residents of the area.

This planning application goes to Strategic Planning committee, and that is a special committee that also includes members of the Cabinet, which in this case are the same people that approved of the sale of Council’s land to the developers to build this very development.

On top of this the Council decided that the matter is covered by commercial confidentiality, so we cannot know what the agreement is and if there is room for improvement on what was decided.
But this is a very important and valuable piece of land transferred from Council’s property to a land developer, one wonders if it is appropriate to keep such a tight lid on the deal. I don’t think it’s so outlandish to think that it would have been the democratic thing to do to let us know what we’re getting and how those money are being used.

But putting aside the secretive nature of the financial deals involved and ignoring how appropriate (or not) it is for Council members tightly involved with the same development to sit on the planning committee that decides on its merits, there still is a serious issue that was raised many times over, and the answer from Mayor Bullock has always been a deafening silence.

This is in fact exactly the subject matter of my previous post and what the Mayor decided without motivating, and what the Overview and Scrutiny Business Panel couldn’t scrutinize because of the curtail on discussion imposed by the Labour councillors at Overview and Scrutiny Business Panel committee.

We said it loud and clear, the calculations of the leisure needs analysis are a masterpiece of numerical illiteracy.

In 2007 I presented this document to the Overview and Scrutiny Business Panel, it’s my analysis of what’s wrong with the Council’s analysis, the design of the development has since fortunately changed, but the specs of the pool remain the same. But thanks to some astonishing committee tactics the Mayor’s decision on this aspect of this important development was never scrutinized.

If this development goes ahead as proposed many of those that now use Ladywell Pool will see a serious reduction in availability and it’s quite possible that some will be pushed out altogether for lack of available slots that fit with their life, and the range of users is big, from the fitness lifestyle swimmer to the competitive swimmer, to the therapeutic swimmer, to children and the families.
Do we have to receive this unnecessary damage to our available amenities?

This development was the once in a lifetime opportunity to have a seriously good new pool, built with the same ambition that motivated those that built Ladywell Pool back in the 60’s.
The ambition to expand, not to contract.

I believe that my objection has legs, the case is supported by a solid research and the letter that I received from Planning specifies that one of the Planning considerations is “amenity space in the scheme”.

Will the Strategic Planning Committee do the right thing this Thursday?
Will this plan get the chance to become good enough or will it be forced through again?