In March, I attended the 2000 Community Action Centre to view a ‘public exhibition of proposals’ for the Convoy’s Wharf development. I was disappointed to learn that only 80 people attended and a mere eight feedback forms were received – wholly inadequate for a public consultation in an area with an electorate of 12,723.
No surprise then that Convoys Properties Ltd (CPL) recent application for Plot 15 of their development falls short of proposing little of use for my constituency. Only half of the 124 homes planned in Plot 15 will be available to the 10,000 people on the local housing list. Rent in Plot 15 is expected to be 60% higher than local authority rent, and tenure is limited to five years rather than lifetime.
Social tenants lucky enough to gain a tenancy in Convoys Wharf will likely require housing subsidy for the duration of their residency or swiftly fall into arrears.
Of the 124 residential units proposed, only 21 are expected to have three bedrooms and just two will have space for four people. There is a severe shortage of ‘family sized’ homes in Lewisham – as of April 2019, 1301 households were waiting for homes with four bedrooms or more, but the council has a mere 645 properties of this size. Plot 15 wastes an opportunity to address this need.
In addition to the lack of space within the homes CPL intend to provide, there is no mention in any plans for a play space strategy. Current mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, suggests that all new developments in the city should include a minimum 10sqm dedicated play space per child. The proposals for Plot 15 see play space for under fives incorporated with residents’ private communal space whilst older children can utilise communal areas and play-space off-site.
This also raises concerns that CPL’s proposal perpetuates a trend in modern private developments to segregate households on basis of socio/economic backgrounds. The private playgrounds and gardens in Plot 15 will be closed to neighbouring estates whilst tenants in Convoys Wharf are free to enjoy the surrounding public spaces.
Plot 15 also disregards the national need to lower carbon emissions and proposes a gas-powered energy centre. This is an unacceptable approach for such a large development to whom more economically efficient and sustainable systems are available. It is also not welcome in a borough which has declared a climate emergency and faces a tough battle to tackle illegal levels of air quality.
CPL and their developers Hutchison Whampoa Ltd (HWL) seem reluctant to consider the heritage of this site, ignoring the cultural and historical significance of Convoys Wharf in Plot 15. No prior consultation has been made with the Cultural Steering Group, which has only met twice since 2015 and Plot 08 and 22 remain ‘on hold’ as a result.
A better approach to public consultation is in dire need to ensure Convoys Wharf is developed in keeping with, and of benefit to, the community. I am assured that CPL will be setting up a new community forum in a few months’ time with which I encourage my constituents to engage.