The property group behind the £1 billon Convoys Wharf development in Deptford has been criticised by Lewisham councillors for including “poor doors” in the scheme.
Hutchison, which behind the 40-acre development by the riverside, put forward plans for 124 homes in the same building, but with two separate “residential cores” and entrances – one for those paying London Affordable Rent and one for shared ownership.
All the homes proposed for Plot 15, which will also have office and retail space, are labelled “affordable”, but split into 64 for London Affordable Rent – about half market rent – and 59 for shared ownership.
At a meeting of Lewisham’s main planning committee last night, Blackheath councillor Kevin Bonavia questioned access, “because we want to make sure it’s as tenure blind as possible”, while the cabinet member for housing, Paul Bell, said there was an issue around “poor doors … which Lewisham doesn’t allow”. He also asked about pepper-potting, where tenants, owners, and leaseholders are mixed together.
Planning officer David Robinson said “poor doors” are “not accepted at all in Lewisham”.
But he added: “A poor door is usually considered an access point which is disadvantaged by design or location where internally occupants don’t have equal access to amenities.
“In this case both entrances are located in close proximity to each other, on the same stretch of public realm, with equal access to the main spine road, both entrances are well designed and easily identifiable.”
He added that the design quality is “completely equal” across the block and “all residents will have equal access to amenities”.
“The reason why this building and many buildings across the borough don’t have tenures pepper-potted throughout … is that registered providers [housing associations] resist this generally; they require different tenures are located in separate cores, and this way the management and service charge fees can be kept to a minimum to ensure that the affordability of the units being provided is optimised,” he said.
But Bell said reducing leaseholder bills was a “pretty poor excuse” from housing associations, and said they should do that by “actually dealing with housing management issues”.
“The point is you have an entrance for shared owners and leaseholders, and then you have an entrance for the tenants, and that’s not how you create mixed communities and I would say that one is a poor door and one isn’t, it doesn’t matter if they look the same,” he said.
Outline planning permission for the entire development was given by Boris Johnson as mayor of London in 2015. Plot 15 is the third of 21 to come forward for details to be signed off by Lewisham councillors, who have limited leeway in forcing through changes to the scheme approved by the Conservative mayor.
Two other plots, Plot 8 and Plot 22, were approved on June 9, with councillors branding the levels of “affordable” housing across the development as “pitiful”. Just five per cent of the 3,500 homes will be for London Affordable Rent under current plans, with a further ten per cent for shared ownership. With the meeting sitting beyond midnight, the decision on Plot 15 was postponed to last night.
Despite their misgivings, he councillors unanimously approved Block 15 but approved an amendment that means the developer will have to “reasonably endeavour” to pepper-pot the flats – this will be written into the planning agreement with the council.
Barnaby Collins, on behalf of Hutchison, declined to pepper-pot the building, but the developer must now prove it attempted to do so. He said the company would consider it in future plots.
Ten per cent of flats will be wheelchair accessible, while landscaping and public space details will be decided at a later date.
Proposals for the entire site, which is on the boundary with Greenwich borough, also include office space, a working wharf with vessel moorings, a hotel, shops, restaurants, cafes, bars, and parking. A new primary school, healthcare centre, and bus route are also planned.
Grainne Cuffe is the Local Democracy Reporter for Lewisham. The Local Democracy Reporter Service is a BBC-funded initiative to ensure councils are covered properly in local media.
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