PART ONE - THE LOCAL DEVELOPMENT FRAMEWORK AND BROCKLEY CROSS
"How about we talk tomorrow?" came the reply. So we did.
But before we go on, some caveats:
1. John Miller is Head of Planning for Lewisham, which means that he has to focus on the biggest issues facing the borough and he can't be expected to be au fait with every stray satellite dish. Having said that, he was very knowledgeable about Brockley's issues and had taken the time to read all of your comments before we spoke.
2. We have a proper job, which frowns upon us spending all day talking to people about Brockley, so the amount time we had for the interview was limited.
3. Issues like the thunderous car stereos that shake the window frames of many in Brockley, though important, are outside of his remit.
4.This is the beginning, not the end, of Brockley Central's pestering of the Council.
For these reasons, we're afraid that the interview won't address all the issues suggested by readers, but we hope you find what we did manage to cover interesting.
The Lewisham Local Development Framework is essentially a spatial plan for the whole borough. It maps out not only physical changes, like road layouts and new buildings, but also changes in things like healthcare provision, employment patterns and sport and leisure opportunities for local people.
Lewisham isn't developing the LDF in a vacuum, it's part of a planning process determined by national government and the Mayor's London Plan.
For example, Lewisham has been set a target by the Mayor of building 975 new homes every year (net) for 10 years, to play its part in meeting London's growing housing needs. In the LDF, Lewisham has to decide where these houses go and what other infrastructural changes are needed to provide for these new houses. Places like Brockley have relatively little scope for building new homes, whereas areas like Catford and Lewisham town centre have more available land and have had special Action Area plans written for them. This is where projects like the Lewisham Gateway scheme come in.
As we wrote here, the Brockley Cross 'masterplan' was never officially adopted as a proper masterplan and has instead been superseded by the LDF. Many of the ideas from that masterplanning process will be incorporated.
So - here's the first part...
What does the LDF mean for Brockley?
"We look at Lewisham as a collection of different communities, each of which needs a different approach. Brockley is considered "an area for local renewal", which means small-scale developments and regeneration based on Brockley's existing assets, including excellent (and improving) transport links and strong local identity.
"That doesn't mean we won't be focusing on Brockley and there is a a cluster of sites around Brockley Cross, including the timber yard, which were subject to a planning process with the Brockley Cross Action Group. We now have a plan for that area which is ambitious but also realistic for commercial developers, as well as being sensitive to the local community.
"The improvements we've seen to Coulgate Street and the approach to the station on the east side are exactly the kinds of improvements which are appropriate for Brockley and I've been impressed with the work of groups like the Brockley Cross Action Group in helping to make that possible."
What do you think will be the most important changes to the area?
"There are a lot of blank-fronted buildings around the station, create an oppressive environment. By replacing those buildings with mixed use developments, with lots going on at ground level, we can really change the feel of the area, particularly on the west side of the station.
"In my view, Lewisham has undersold itself as a destination for business in the past [a 2001 study ranked Lewisham 30th out of 33 London Boroughs for competitiveness] - we have a lot to offer business and we are determined to spread the message effectively. Offices, studios and other workplaces help to create communities which are lively throughout the week, rather than just at weekends."
How optimistic should we be that things will change?
"The world of urban planning never moves quickly, I've learned to be patient! However, I've no doubt that over the next few years major changes will happen. We are currently in lots of positive discussions with developers about Brockley. "
What is the Council actually doing to change things?
"The investment will come from private enterprise, which means that the Council's role is to promote Brockley Cross as an opportunity, give guidance and direction about the kinds of developments we want to see and to meet with developers and provide the right assurances and encouragement they need in order to commit money to the area. As I say, there is a lot of positive interest in this area, as well as many other parts of the borough.
"We also have a local officer (Sarah Pfeiffer) whose job is (partly) to work with local businesses setting up in the area - to help them become successful and meet their requirements to the community. Much of the best examples of local regeneration happen just by small businesses having the confidence to invest in an area and, through their success, encouraging others. It's the "tipping point" that lots of people on the blog have referred to."
What about the cursed double roundabout?
"We appreciate how important an issue this is and our transport people are looking at it but we haven't got a solution just yet. One of the most important issues to consider is the impact of layout changes on residential streets. Traffic will always seek out the quickest route between A and B so, we have to make sure we don't simply divert traffic on to other streets."
How much impact will the East London Line have?
"Although it won't provide any new stations, I think its impact will be comparable to the arrival of the DLR in Deptford and Lewisham town centre. The new options it will provide commuters and Brockley's appearance on the tube map will create significant interest from developers. In fact, we are already seeing this - particularly in Brockley and Forest Hill. Developments like "One SE8" simply wouldn't have happened without the DLR. I'm not suggesting we'll see a development of that type in Brockley, but it shows what becomes possible with the right transport infrastructure."
STILL TO COME...
Lewisham Gateway, Convoys Wharf, New Cross, Loampit Vale, enforcement, shop fronts, effective local engagement and trees!