London Plan: ‘Regeneration programmes should demonstrate active engagement with residents, businesses and other stakeholders….seek to empower communities and neighbourhoods’

Liaison with Leegate Working Group (part of the Lee Green Local Assembly)

In 2010, Jim Malory, Chair of Lee Green Assembly’s Leegate Working Group, and local councillor, was quoted in an Evening Standard article (‘Leegate: The worst shopping centre in Britain?’), as saying ‘ We need small retailers to create a niche offering to help them compete against the superstores’. The minutes of the Assembly show that the working group continued to fight for this, for example, November 2012 minutes say  ‘ Some of the issues  logged include the ways the proposed development goes against quite a number of the Council’s planning guidelines for district centres. One of the main issues relates to the size and scope of the superstore which it is envisaged would impact upon traders in the smaller shops and the open spaces currently at the centre’ .

From 2012 to mid 2014 the Working Group advised St Modwen that ‘Leegate was allowed to deteriorate by St Modwen’, ‘Residents and traders not kept informed’ and ‘for 2 years St Modwen said increased housing, underground parking and total redevelopment were impractical when they clearly weren’t’

The Working Group are still holding St Modwen to account. In a response to the June 2014 Consultation they said ‘We note that you are now promoting your public consultation, and the exhibition that will take place in Leegate on 20-21 June 2014, before we have had time, as previously agreed, to meet . The Working Group also said ‘the scale of the proposed supermarket … remains an issue as it impinges on all else’ .

In November 2014 the Working Group added further ‘St Modwen’s seeming reluctance to consider suggestions that would create a genuine quality public space’ and ‘what has disappointed us most about exchanges has been the sense that, following June’s consultation, there has been little in the way of movement from St Modwen, giving a sense of fait accompli’

Community Consultation run by St Modwen June 2014

Residents at the 1.5 day consultation in June were offered a rosy picture of proposed plans by St Modwens staff and their advisors. Those who were concerned about plans were answered with ‘only a superstore will provide funding for regeneration’, ‘there is no other way to create footfall for smaller stores’ ‘there is excess spending capacity in Lee to absorb another superstore’, ‘Sainsburys is over trading’, ‘there will be little change in pollution and congestion’, ‘new jobs will be created’ and so on. Most of these arguments have since been proven false or misleading yet these arguments, combined with the community’s desperation for something to be done with Leegate, made it very difficult for the community to comment honestly on the plans. It was almost impossible to get detailed answers to questions. To exacerbate this further, residents were not advised on the day of the short deadline for website responses to the consultation so many of them missed it. Available response buttons on the website were biaised towards a positive response, with two positive, one neutral and one negative answer available. Many residents were also not aware of the consultation  at all as some streets did not get leafleted.

Community Exhibition run by St Modwen November 2014

12,000 leaflets were distributed by St Modwen to the community, leading many to believe that public space and other issues had been resolved when they had not: Although sweet smelling blossoming trees were mentioned several times, the Asda superstore was mentioned once only at the bottom of page 3. The community were not invited to give recorded feedback at all. St Modwen continue to claim that this exhibition showed ‘engagement’ with the community.