Last night Lewisham Council's strategic planning committee voted unanimously to 'reject' Hutchison Whampoa's outline planning application for Convoys Wharf. They accepted a substantial report compiled by the council's planning department which highlights some serious issues with the application that have still not been resolved, and agreed that as it stands, the application should be rejected.
Why the inverted commas? Although the committee unanimously agreed with the planners' report to reject the application, the fact that Boris Johnson last October called the decision in means that he is now the only person with the legal power to determine the application.
But this is not just a bog-standard redevelopment of a bit of derelict land, it's a massive scheme that has the potential to obliterate the history and heritage of Deptford. Whether or not you consider Farrell's 'new masterplan' to be any improvement on the previous Aedas scheme, it is still saddled with major obstacles to creation of anything ground-breaking; the demand for high density development, the inappropriate massing of buildings, the paucity of public transport infrastructure and the restricted highway access to the site which will cause serious problems for the level of car parking provision they propose.
That's before we even come to the proposed use of the listed Olympia Shed, the 'heart' of the development, in Terry Farrell's words, although it is currently without a beat. Yet none of Hutchison's huge team of highly-experienced, well-paid professionals seem to have the imagination or expertise to resuscitate it.
Although Boris now has all the power, he has absolutely none of the intelligence - naturally I'm using 'intelligence' here in the MI5 sense of the word, I couldn't possibly comment on any other meaning.
Neither do his planners, hence Lewisham's planning officers, who have been dealing with applications for Convoys Wharf and been in meetings with its owners over many years, are acting as advisers to the Mayor's team. The fact that Boris is exerting immense political pressure to get a determination of the application before the end of February is not particularly helpful to anyone involved, I would imagine. As well as being advisers, the council is a statutory consultee in the process,
So it's particularly interesting to read the report that the strategic planning committee approved last night - and this report (with a number of amendments that actually strengthen its recommendations) will be the council's submission to the GLA. Many of the issues that the report raises are the same ones that were highlighted by Lewisham's head of planning John Miller, in his letter just prior to Hutchison Whampoa's demand that the Mayor call in the application last year.
There are two main recommendations, I have cut and pasted below (due to time constraints I haven't interpreted or amended, apologies for all the Unnecessary Capital Letters. Emphasis is mine):
Members are recommended to resolve that the Mayor of London be advised that the Council:
Supports the principle of mixed use development of the site in accordance with Policy SSA2 of the Core Strategy
Considers that in its current form the application should not be approved and that amendments should be secured prior to determination in relation to the following matters:
1. Scale, Massing and Relationship with Historic Buildings and Spaces
Reducing the scale and massing of selected development parcels as outlined in the report to achieve an acceptable urban scale and an appropriate relationship of new buildings with historic buildings and spaces, in particular in relation to the Olympia Building, former Master Shipwrights House and site of John Evelyn’s House.
2. Sayes Court Garden and The Lenox
The approach to Sayes Court fails to link the site of the Gardens with the remains of Sayes Court House. The opportunity to link these two historically significant spaces should be fully explored. The Lenox preferred building location is either within the Double Dry Dock or Olympia Warehouse These options need to be explored further, as does the future use of the Olympia Warehouse and an agreement reached on the deliverability of the double dry dock or Olympia Warehouse as options for constructing the Lenox.
3. Building in the Scope for Design Flexibility, Evolution and Innovation
The Design Guidelines should either be significantly streamlined to identify what is essential (mandatory) in terms of providing guidance for reserved matters applications and what is too specific/constraining, or should become ‘for information’ only.
4. Transport Issues
The site has a relatively low level of public transport accessibility and it is essential that car parking is minimised and the opportunity to provide access to public transport, pedestrian and cycle links are maximised. This includes the widening of New King Street to allow for two-way bus movement and improved pedestrian and cycle access and the re-design of the New King Street/Evelyn Street/Deptford High Street junction to provide a direct single all-red phased pedestrian crossing.
5. Community Benefits
Securing appropriate social infrastructure and the maximum possible amount of affordable housing to meet the needs of new residents. There is an identified need for investment in affordable housing and a range of community infrastructure projects directly attributable to the impact of the new development including the need for a new primary school, jobs and training and open space. A number of questions remain about the applicants' assumptions on costs and future values in their viability statement, changes to which could support additional S106 payments and affordable housing.
The Council considers that to ensure policy compliance and safeguard amenity, and in addition to any conditions and planning obligations that are imposed or agreed, the following are matters on which clarification and appropriate commitment is required from the applicant prior to determination of the application. The GLA must also satisfy itself that it has the relevant information on which to determine the application.
6. Clarifications, Commitments and Procedural Compliance
Operation of the wharf. Process and timing of reducing the area of the safeguarded wharf. Retail floorspace impacts. Housing mix. Transport Assessment modelling. Car parking management. School capacity. Delivery of projects set out in the Cultural Strategy. Mechanism to ensure a mix of uses is secured across the site. Lifetime Homes Standard, wheelchair and housing design standards. Decentralised energy network connection. CfSH Level 4 and BREEAM ‘Excellent'. Environmental Impact Assessment and Flood Risk Assessment
Authorise the Head of Planning to continue to negotiate with the GLA and the applicant to secure the amendments highlighted in this report and to present a further report to the Mayor at the representations hearing ahead of determination of the application, updating the Council’s position in the light of those negotiations.
The Convoys Wharf application now has a dedicated page on the GLA website for those who wish to bookmark it.