Lewisham still seeking home for £6m housing budget

The local elections are coming soon and despite Labour's looming clean-sweep of Lewisham, candidates are dutifully going through the motions, with housing top of the agenda. Mayoral favourite, Damien Egan, made social housing central to his bid to win the party nomination.

So the first order of business for the new administration to consider ought to be the borough's £6m cash pile from developers, which is meant to be spent on providing affordable housing, but which has not yet been committed. The Huffington Post reports:

Councils across the UK are hoarding hundreds of millions of pounds set aside for affordable homes, HuffPost UK can reveal.

Data obtained by this website shows more than £375 million is sitting in councils’ bank accounts instead of being used to tackle the housing crisis. Two-thirds of that cash - £235 million - is being held by just 14 councils.

One housing campaigning group labeled the findings as “staggering”, while the National Housing Federation called it “deeply concerning”.

The money comes from a piece of planning law called Section 106 Agreements, which allows councils to get money from developers in exchange for granting planning permission for projects.

The cash has to be used for specific tasks, such as affordable housing, highways repairs and even public art.

Reacting to the discovery, Housing Secretary Sajid Javid MP said: “Section 106 payments help deliver the vital infrastructure required for councils to build the homes that this country needs.

“We expect councils to use funding from developers in line with the priorities agreed in their local plans.”

HuffPost UK asked every council in England and Wales to reveal how much they had received in Section 106 monies since 2013/14, how much they had spent and how much was unallocated.

Lewisham is among the top 14 councils hoarding money for affordable housing, with £16.3 million unspent, of which £6 million is uncommitted.

For the full article, click here. Thank you to Jenny for the spot.

Ladywell Fields river clean-up this weekend

Rob writes:

As it’s going to be a wonderful weekend you might want to publicise the Ladywell Fields river clean-up on Sunday, 22 April.

I have been to probably 20 of these over the years and I can honestly say they are great fun - an opportunity to do some useful volunteer work whilst enjoying a different view of the world wading along the River Ravensbourne and enjoying Ladywell Fields in all its Springtime beauty.

Lewisham house prices defy London downturn

For more than a decade, Lewisham house prices have been rising faster than the London average as inner city living has become more fashionable and improved transport links have attracted people priced-out elsewhere. The result is that, from a low base, Lewisham has moved up the league table of London boroughs in terms of average prices.

So one might of assumed that Lewisham would be among the fastest-fallers as London prices have started to fall in the last year. But new data from the ONS shows that in 2017, Lewisham house prices continued to rise at one of the fastest rates in the capital as the most expensive boroughs dipped.

The ONS found that between February 2017 and February 2018 the price of the average Lewisham home rose 2.7% to £414,516.

Speculative hotspots like Westminster (-2.4%), Hammersmith & Fulham (-5%) and Tower Hamlets (-7.9%) have taken a hammering, while more affordable outer boroughs such as Barking & Dagenham (4.4%) and Redbridge (8.9%) have shot up. Lewisham remains in the top ten fastest risers.

Thanks to Monkeyboy for sharing the data.

Brockley Open Studios, June 30th - July 2nd

Printmaker Maria Munroe is one of this year's participating artists
The organisers of the Brockley Open Studios festival have announced the 2018 line-up of participating artists - 36 in total. They say:

A great variety of artists has signed up and you can expect to see artworks including paintings, prints wood work, textiles, ceramics, fire etching and many more.

This year, we are also offering workshops and activities provided by Caravan Arts and Aurora Options for you and your family to get involved.

For the full roster, click here.

Lewisham Place: Like Lewisham Shopping Centre, only slightly more lime green

The future of Lewisham Shopping Centre has been the subject of feverish speculation over the years: Would it be completely rebuilt? Submerged below ground? Turned into a gastrodome? Appended with a cinema?

The answer is none of these things. Instead, they're adding some green signs. Fromthemurkydepths reports:

Lewisham Shopping Centre owners Landsec have just gained approval from Lewisham Council for a series of upgrades.

The focus is mainly on improving the six entrances to the site, which itself appears to be renamed as “Lewisham Place”. The centre first opened in 1977 and has undergone internal refurbishment in recent years.

The planning application states: 

"The design for the six entrances is in line with the principles intended for the rest of the Shopping Centre which include the use if timber, natural stone and stainless steel as materials and shades of green and grey for the colour palette and graphics with the intention to brighten up and refresh the space."

The entrance closest to Lewisham station and new builds at Lewisham Gateway is to be upgraded. A new green wall is apparent above the canopy.

For the full, uninspiring story, click here. Thanks to Miles for the heads-up.

Knock-back for block plot on Lewisham High Street

BCer Ed writes:

A few weeks ago I was shocked and appalled to find my favourite go-to spot for giant pots of honey, enormous tubs of humus and unlimited plates of baklava was no more. The Turkish Supermarket on Lewisham High Street simply closed overnight.

This site has actually been targeted for major redevelopment, with the latest proposal recently knocked-back by Lewisham Council.

A couple of years ago planning permission was originally granted for a 4/5 storey block of 22 flats and 195 sq m of street-level commercial space at 223-225 Lewisham High Street – that’s where the hole in the street is now. But planning permission for a much bigger development, stretching from 223-229 Lewisham High Street has now been knocked back.

A planning application was submitted in July last year for 691 sq m of commercial space and 51 flats over 5-8 floors – but it was refused at the end of October 2017. These pictures show what they were hoping to build.
In her refusal letter, Emma Talbot, head of planning, gave three reasons why Lewisham Council had refused planning permission:

1. The size of the development would fail to provide a high quality design.

2. The proposed flats would provide “A poor standard of accommodation that would fail to provide long term sustainable housing”.

3. The development as a whole was over-development, with an unsatisfactory “compromised internal layout”.

In short – loads of poky flats.

Since that decision was made the site at 223-225 Lewisham High Street has been cleared, although no building work is taking place there yet. The TFC supermarket at 226-229 Lewisham High Street is still standing, for now.

I have not been able to find another re-submitted planning application for the whole site, so - big leap - I presume it is going through the usual scaling-down hoops before being resubmitted. (I am an amateur when it comes to planning applications - perhaps someone else can tell us more?)

It is worth noting that barely 30m away, on the other side of the street, there is a development of 40-odd flats with a now-empty ground floor. It used to be a Tesco, but it’s been sitting empty for at least a year, if not more.

A block further south is the highly regarded and award-winning Place Ladywell – a well thought-out scheme of social-housing flats, as anyone who lives there, or has walked around them on Open House Weekend, will know. The cafe is nice too and has become something of a community hub – as was the planning intention.

It is clear that getting the planning mix right is crucial for Lewisham, especially in the town centre. What’s more, the success of Place Ladywell proves that planning actually works. When done well it can and does revitalise areas that need it.

Well done to Lewisham Planning for knocking this development back – lets hope, and lobby for, something better and more appropriate for this corner of Lewisham High Street.

Comedy Into Brockley

Comedy Into Brockley is a new local comedy night produced by home brewing kings Water Into Beer and hosted by Kiwi comic Jez Brown.

The performances kick-off on April 21st and each is recorded as a podcast.

Brockley Central Label Cloud