A senior Lewisham councillor has urged local people join online consultation events about plans for a major redevelopment of Catford town centre.
Paul Bell, the cabinet member for housing and planning, spoke after residents raised concerns about a lack of publicity around the events.
Lewisham Council plans to revamp the area as part of a £500 million scheme to deliver thousands of new homes with plans to re-route the South Circular Road, replace the Catford Centre and demolish the 1970s Milford Towers tower block as well as its own 1990s Laurence House headquarters. The plan also envisages building homes on the retail park opposite Catford station.
A consultation began in November and will run until February 5; local campaign group Catford Against Social Cleansing has previously urged the council to extend the period to allow more residents to get involved.
In response to a question from the group’s Cheryl McLeod submitted to Wednesday’s full council meeting, Bell said: “While we had previously hoped to run face-to-face events in the New Year, the national lockdown restrictions mean this is not possible.
“Instead, we are hosting a further eight public information sessions via Zoom throughout January and early February. As the consultation concludes, all responses will be collated into a feedback report, which will form part of the documents shared with mayor and cabinet.”
Of those eight, four remain available to book.
He said hundreds of consultation events had already been held about the scheme.
“Over 2,700 views and ideas from local people have helped shape this latest draft of the Catford Town Centre Framework. Covid-19 has made it difficult to hold face-to-face consultation sessions, but we are running ten public information sessions on Zoom for local people to find out more and ask questions of the project team,” he said.
“Until February 5, we are encouraging everyone to share their response to this latest draft framework plan so it can then be finalised by the council in the spring.”
Bell added that it could be some time before planning application come forward for the area. “It is important to note that this is not a planning application, which would be more prescriptive with a specific number of homes and resulting building heights to be delivered in a short timeframe. It may well be several years, or even a decade, before planning applications come forward for these sites,” he said.
“The framework plan should be considered as a collective vision – a tool for both the council and the community to shape any proposal in a way that balances the requirements for new, affordable homes, sensitive building design and is realistic in terms of the development potential of these sites,” he said.
Part of the plan includes buildings that could be 17 to 20 storeys tall, but Bell said exact heights would emerge as individual planning applications come forward.
“The framework plan does not propose 20-storey buildings, but presents a maximum height range of 17 to 20 storeys in a handful of locations,” he said.
The works were initially planned to take place between this year and next, and estimated to cost between £4 and £5 million, but officers later found the cost of the works would be “much higher than the original budget”. Work is set to begin this autumn.
Gráinne Cuffe is the Local Democracy Reporter for Lewisham. The Local Democracy Reporting Service is a BBC-funded initiative to ensure councils are covered properly in local media.
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