Working Group ‘Size of the Superstore distorts all aspects of the Redevelopment’

Working Group issue a new response to St Modwen’s 2014 plans in which they say:

Site the problems of lack of public space, traffic, small retailers, massing and more and state that these problems ‘depend ultimately on the size and scale of the “anchor” superstore that distorts all the other aspects of the redevelopment.  We continue to believe that the size of the superstore remains an overriding problem

Here is the full text:

Lee Green Assembly Leegate Working Group

Position statement – 5 November 2014

We write further to our response in June to the revised proposals for the redevelopment of Leegate and our meeting with St Modwen in Leegate on 23 July. In the meantime, Lewisham’s Design Panel issued its third review of the scheme on 6 October, we had St Modwen’s response on 7 October by Killian Morris, and there was a wide range of questions put to the Council at meetings on 17 September at Deptford Green School and on 14 October at Trinity School.

As we have said before, we welcome many of the improvements in the revised proposals, notably the addition of more housing, the creation of public space along Burnt Ash Road and the inclusion of a community facility in the redevelopment. We were extremely disappointed, however, by what appears to be a considerable reduction in the amount of public space and St Modwen’s seeming reluctance to consider suggestions that would create a genuine quality public space.

There is a range of other issues, notably the potential impact of traffic and associated pollution generated by the proposed redevelopment for the service and user entrances to the Asda superstore, that contribute to our sense that St Modwen still has much work to do before the proposals go any further. In anticipation of another advertised public consultation and a possible planning application to Lewisham Council, we believe it vital that St Modwen reconsiders the plans, as we understand them, now… before it is too late.

Here is a summary of our concerns:

Public space

This is a serious concern of the working group. We do not believe it has been adequately addressed in the latest St Modwen proposals that we have seen. Our own survey of Leegate shows there are currently 2,420 sq m of public space comprising the walkway through from Burnt Ash Road and the square. St Modwen has suggested roughly doubling the size of the pavement area on Burnt Ash Road to create an oblong “square” for cafe-style living. This would create about 930 sq m of public space, a loss of more than half the amount in the existing precinct. We do not believe it is right to count the existing pavement space on Burnt Ash Road towards St Modwen’s totals because this is already existing public pavement.

The public space currently being offered will be alongside a busy main road and will be eaten into by a new recessed bus stop and by delivery bays for the independent shops at Leegate. It will also adjoin the entry gates and ramps for both delivery vehicles and supermarket customers driving their cars up to the rooftop parking spaces. The planting of additional trees along the oblong, although welcome, will not compensate for the intrusion of the bus stop, the delivery bays and the supermarket activities. Traffic turning into Taunton Road to visit Sainsbury’s superstore is likely to back up in front of the oblong.

Lewisham planners have described the question of public space at Leegate as “not a numbers issue”. This represents at best a glib assessment of the loss of more than half the current public space on the site. But it is not just an issue of quantity. The quality of the space on offer will be seriously compromised by the busy road alongside. One of the few pluses of the 1960s Leegate development – the provision of peaceful pedestrian areas away from busy traffic – will be lost.

Indeed, fundamental to our requirement that the public space meets the need for quality is returning to our option for a recessed square looking out on the Burnt Ash Road frontage, an option which St Modwen had considered, but rejected in favour of the oblong shape. In our view to sustain the existing site’s amount of public space, the scheme will require both the “promenade” style frontage and the square. Without these, we will continue to reject the proposals on grounds of loss of public space and its lack of quality.

The Design Panel report of 6 October concludes that “the detailing of the landscape and public realm scheme [… ] at present are aspirational rather than explicitly specified.” It says, “Public realm/landscaping needs more development in terms of detailed design before an application is submitted.” (Our italics.) At the 14 October meeting, planning officers said the public realm issue was “a work in progress, not finalised. If the square goes, an appropriate provision needs to be made. The public realm does need to be addressed. We will have to be robustly satisfied.”

Lewisham’s Core Strategy Development Plan Document states (page 65): “The emphasis within the District town centres will be to protect the existing open spaces from development and to promote environmental improvements which enhance the role of the centre.” The policy objective at Lee Green (page 63) is to “improve civic space and facilitate a more intensive mixed use development”.

The covered arcade

We do not regard the covered arcade cutting diagonally across Leegate as public realm and both the Design Panel and St Modwen’s own design team (according to the panel) agree with us. But we believe improvements can be made even here. We have urged that the dogleg at the north-east end of the arcade be removed to create a more visible open aspect and greater connectivity through the site from this feature. We note that the Design Panel agrees with us on this and has expressed disappointment at recent design changes that have led to a diminution of this aspect of the arcade. We support the Design Panel’s call for the repositioning of the travelators, so they do not block the arcade.

Further, we asked that the Asda cafe be withdrawn from its position as it contributes to the dogleg effect. We believe it must be part of the initial allocation of space for Asda and we have yet to receive assurances that the extra space taken up by the cafe will indeed be part of the original overall allocation.

Traffic congestion and pollution

We remain concerned at the likely impact of the construction of a second large supermarket at the Lee Green crossroads on congestion and pollution levels. Common sense indicates a big increase in car and lorry journeys, whatever the traffic experts say. This cannot be a good thing. London’s low emission zone regulations, covering all of the capital within the M25, penalise polluting vehicles but appear to us to result at least in the short term in another tax on the motorist but no tangible benefit for residents. The polluter “buys off” the authorities, but residents still get the fumes and the harmful soot particles.

We are not satisfied with the approach being taken by St Modwen and the planners to this question. We are constantly told that a traffic survey conducted by St Modwen and reviewed by Lewisham and Transport for London at a late stage in the process will provide the answers. This means the scheme will have been designed and the size of the superstore determined before any consideration is given to traffic issues – and certainly before the local community can have any input into this issue. This cannot be sensible and has led to the widespread view locally that the traffic survey will be “a fix”.

Lewisham’s core strategy on sustainability and transport (page 116) states that “travel plans will need to be submitted which meet or exceed the Dept of Transport’s thresholds for transport assessment and TfL guidance” and “the council will [..] address the cumulative impact of development by enabling more effective management of traffic and improving the environment for all users, including pedestrians, cyclists and public transport users.”

However Cllr Alan Smith, deputy mayor, said at the 17 September meeting: “We can’t limit the traffic that runs through Lewisham. We don’t have the powers to stop people driving through the borough. Twenty five per cent of pollution is from buses. [Pollution is] a national government issue.” This comment rather misses the point. What is clear is that we need greater transparency on this vital issue.

We believe St Modwen will need to reveal the results of the traffic impact assessment before it submits its application, otherwise, what credibility will your plans have with the public on what may well be the most significant issue for them?

Other issues

There are a number of other issues that remain unresolved, and which the working group wishes to have addressed. These are:

Massing

In June, while welcoming the increased housing, we highlighted concerns about the disproportionate height of the tall corner block. We note your reduction by one storey of that block, but think there is a need for further realignment, otherwise, it continues to provide an unsightly dominance of the scheme.

Community facilities

As we have said, we welcome the proposal for a community facility. To that end, Lee Green Lives and Soul Refresh have begun work on proposal for a community resource which would go beyond the traditional community centre and provide space – 250 sq m (2500 sq ft) – to accommodate community activities and to maintain the existing space occupied by Lee Green Community Centre and Soul Refresh – and to include a configuration that will allow for a youth club; a cafe/drop-in; meeting and event space and a modern computer-based educational resource. They hope to able to submit by December a statement suggesting how it might be financially sustainable. It would, however, need to be part of a “planning gain” agreement for the development.

We wish to emphasise that work on a community facility should not be seen as an endorsement of the overall plans, merely an attempt to get ahead with the work. If our other concerns about the proposals as they stand are not met, we would not expect to support the overall scheme even if sufficient progress is made on the plans for a community resource.

Existing shopkeepers and residents

Our remit includes a concern for the future of existing tenants and leaseholders. A number of shopkeepers and market stallholders have remained loyal and stayed in Leegate, although this has been an ever-decreasing band. Their businesses have been blighted by delays in plans and they face considerable hardship should they wish to stay during the demolition and reconstruction. We would expect, if and when the plans go ahead, meaningful support for them. Likewise, we hope that consideration will be shown for tenants and leaseholders of the flats for their plight.

Format of the plans

Earlier plans were often confusing because of variance of scale. We regard it as essential that any future plans are to a consistent scale and there should be a 3-D model.

Conclusion

We have highlighted our concerns about the quantity and quality of public space and the still unanswered questions about traffic congestion and pollution. Failure to respond to them could make all the difference between a quality development and a poor one.

The other issues we have pressed – housing and the redevelopment of the whole rather than just part of the site – all hang together. They depend ultimately on the size and scale of the “anchor” superstore that distorts all the other aspects of the redevelopment. We continue to believe that the size of the superstore remains an overriding problem. Lee Green is, after all, only the eighth largest of Lewisham’s nine district centres. The planning process, unfortunately, appears to have nothing to say on this.

The local community remains deeply concerned about several aspects of the proposed redevelopment of Leegate. As knowledge of St Modwen’s plans has become more widespread locally, some criticism has intensified as you will have seen from the recent council meetings. We would therefore ask if you could provide us some feedback in regard to the overall public response to your second consultation exercise held in June 2014 at Leegate?

With regard to the forthcoming consultation, in the light of the widespread concern among local people that they did not receive notification, we believe it advisable that you monitor your distributor’s efforts and ensure as wide a catchment as possible.

As we say at the outset of this statement, we urge St Modwen to revise its plans to accommodate our concerns and the unease in the local community. To this end, we would welcome further discussions before St Modwen goes to any formal stage.

Lee Green Assembly Leegate Working Party


No Replies to "Working Group 'Size of the Superstore distorts all aspects of the Redevelopment'"