Transport for London has dropped its main objection to a 35-storey tower block next to Lewisham station after fears it would interfere with plans for the Bakerloo Line extension.
Approval has already been granted for a scheme to build blocks of 16 and 30 storeys on the site of the former Carpetright store on Loampit Vale, with 242 homes, with 34 for social rent and 15 for shared ownership.
But the new owners of the site, Tide Construction, now want to replace these with blocks of 20 and 35 storeys to house 758 students, with just 40 further homes for social rent and 27 for shared ownership, alomg with retail and business units. Lewisham Council planners are recommending councillors approve the scheme, which would include the tallest block to be approved in a town centre already becoming dominated by towers.
Planners defend allowing the development, Lewisham Exchange, to be dominated by student housing in a document to be discussed by councillors next Tuesday, saying the council “supports the principle of student housing in Lewisham Town Centre provided that the development does not cause a net loss of permanent self-contained homes or town centre uses, prejudice the council’s ability to meet the London Plan housing target; or involve the loss of sites that are considered especially suitable for affordable housing. The proposed development is considered to meet the requirements of all three of these tests.”
It would be the second major student development in the area after the nearby Chapter scheme on Thurston Road, which can accommodate 611 students. Tide Construction was involved in the reconfiguration of that development to squeeze in 200 more students.
Lewisham councillors had been due to hear the application last month, but a meeting of its strategic development committee – its equivalent of Greenwich’s planning board – was pulled after TfL voiced objections that the foundations of the new blocks would get in the way of plans to extend the Bakerloo Line from the Elephant and Castle to Lewisham.
The new blocks would be designed to incorporate room for an entrance and ticket hall for the station, which could be open by the end of the decade if funding can be found for the Tube link.
TfL also voiced concern that noise from its yard on Thurston Road, where buses park up – which would be the site of the Bakerloo station – would affect residents. But planners did not accept its recommendation that windows be fixed shut, saying “the scheme is designed to mitigate noise pollution from this source”. TfL also dropped an objection that construction would affect the operation of buses along Thurston Road, as building work would require a lane to be closed off.
Lewisham planners shrug off the impact of the new development on the area’s other transport services, saying that most extra trips would be on cycle, foot or bus, and predicting that demand through Lewisham rail station would decrease once Crossrail opens. The developer would pay Network Rail £400,000 for improvements at Lewisham station and £80,000 towards new Docklands Light Railway trains.
The original scheme was passed by just four votes to three in February 2018 – councillors will vote on this new scheme at Lewisham Town Hall in Catford on Tuesday.
Other completed or proposed schemes in Lewisham town centre include: Lewisham Gateway, where phase one (up to 25 storeys) is complete, its park is nearing completion, and the second phase of which (up to 30 storeys) was approved by councillors earlier this year; Renaissance (up to 24 storeys), which is already complete and includes the Glass Mill leisure centre; Chapter, two blocks of 11 storeys on Thurston Road which can accommodate 611 students with an Asda beneath; approved plans for blocks of up to 24 storeys on Lewisham Retail Park, which depend on the owners buying properties on Loampit Vale; Thurston Point on Jerrard Street (up to 17 storeys); and a 34-storey tower in the car park of Tesco, which City Hall threw out in March but a planning inspector is currently deciding on a second, almost identical application for the site.
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