Council meetings

Agenda item

Decisions Made by Mayor on 13 January 2021 - open session


The Interim Director of Regeneration and Place presented the report

Councillor Muldoon referred to page 29 of the Mayor and Cabinet report, 13

January 2021, and asked whether there was a great demand for commercial spaces on the east side of Lewisham High Street and whether tenants had

been identified. The Senior Development & Land Manager advised that all the

units were currently let; three through a company called Meanwhile and one

through the Council. Officers were working through the long term options for

the commercial units and they would be secure until at least October. There

were indications that the units were popular and able to be rented because all

of the units were currently under leases.


Councillor Codd said that he considered that the retention of the PLACE

Ladywell building on the current site was the best option and asked whether

Planning would support the sustainable future of the current site for several

more years. He had concerns about how long Planning would allow this

decision to stand and asked for some assurance that the future of the site

would be secured for a number of years.


Council Johnston-Franklin said that PLACE Ladywell was a great design on

Lewisham High Street and she asked whether it would be possible to relocate

to Slaithwaite Road car park in the future. She also asked whether only 69

homes would be built behind the site if it stays in its current location; this

would be a huge drop in the numbers expected at the beginning of this

project. She asked whether officers had undertaken a risk assessment.


Councillor Johnston-Franklin said that she had been contacted by parents of

children currently attending the nursery on the site, expressing their concern

at the loss of a very much needed nursery provision. She asked whether

spaces had been found in the borough to accommodate these children.

In response to these questions, Councillor Bell said that every development

undertaken by Lewisham is project managed. Occasionally, during this

process, an unforeseen problem may arise and it was important that decisions

change to ensure that this Council does not continue to lose money. The first

phase of this project would provide 69 homes, phase 2 would deliver more

with PLACE being retained in phase 1.


Councillor Bell said that the nursery had a commercial lease with the Council

for 5 years and they were aware that a break in this contract would take place;

he understood that this had been discussed with Lewisham Homes on 27

March 2020. In the summer of 2020 it was agreed that the lease of the porta

cabin at the rear of the site should be extended until March 2021.

Unfortunately the nursery did not advise the parents until 6 January 2021

Lewisham had empathy with the parents, particularly during this pandemic. A

meeting would soon be held between parents and CYP officers to consider

how Lewisham could support parents. Lewisham had managed this situation

correctly in their duty to give notice regarding the nursery closure. An external

company had been employed to find alternative provision. 13 sites were

identified, 3 were being given serious consideration. He said that Lewisham

must not allow the funding from the GLA to be lost, because families were

living in cramped temporary accommodation.

The Interim Director of Regeneration and Place clarified that 69 homes could

be achieved on site in the first phase, plus 24 retained, plus the further

development potential to be realised over time. The number of new homes on

the whole site would be 232. The number of affordable rented homes would

be 112 if the PLACE building were moved.


The Interim Director of Regeneration and Place, said that he expected the

refurbishment project necessary at PLACE accommodation, to be an

investment for several years. This would be discussed in the planning process

as officers considered phasing of the delivery of construction works.


The Senior Development & Land Manager said that planning colleagues were

supportive of the approach being taken. There was temporary planning

permission for the PLACE building which would be renewed on a temporary

basis and would be on a cyclical basis until officers were in a position to

continue with phase 2.


In response to a question about risk assessment at the outset of the project,

the Senior Development & Land Manager said that this was an innovative

project, something that had not been done in the UK before on this scale. The

risk was assessed with professional officers and an employer’s agent in

charge of checking that the project was being put forward correctly by the

contractors. During the tendering process, the costs associated with the

project were assessed and considered to be similar. However, the world had

changed since the inception of this project. Officers had to consider the

tragedy at Grenfell Tower, and the fire in Barking and the subsequent

changes in building regulations and building safety. A large amount of the

costs will ensure that the building was safe in perpetuity. These changes

could not have been foreseen at the beginning of the project.


Councillor Curran expressed his disappointment that the building at PLACE

Ladywell could not be relocated as had been anticipated. However, if a lot of

money had been saved by not having to keep families in temporary accommodation, he considered the project to be a success. He asked if the

cost benefit analysis included the costs of all consultants.


Councillor Curran also referred to paragraph 7.7 in the report where it states

that ‘the financial risk associated with the larger scheme is not commensurate

with the gain in affordable housing numbers’. He asked for clarification of this

statement because the site is large and even 112 affordable homes seemed

unambitious compared to the amount of space available. Councillor Curran

also asked how officers could ensure that future modular systems would be

fully locatable.


In response to one of Councillor Curran’s questions on an unambitious

number of homes on the site, the Interim Director of Regeneration and Place

advised that this was part of the work undertaken by the design team. They

would have held discussions with planning colleagues about the appropriate

level of development on the site. The headline number was in the region of

260 homes. This was considered to be operating within a reasonable brief to

achieve a sizeable scheme. It was further clarified that 260 homes included

the relocation of PLACE building too. On the Ladywell site it was being muted

that 232 homes could be delivered there. He said that with regard to the

perceived small number of homes at the rear of the site, the development at

the back must be sympathetic to the front coming forward at some date.

Planning colleagues would be looking for his colleagues to produce a master

plan for the development of the whole site.


In response to questions from the Chair and Councillor Handley regarding the

inability of the structure being relocated as anticipated, the Interim Director of

Regeneration and Place said that this project was innovative, and would

provide real homes and real value in this borough. It had been delivered at

speed, and there was still value in them. He said that where possible, when

moving accommodation around, the lesson he had learned was the need to

identify the sites from the outset. This would enable a costing based on a

particular site. The Council moved at pace in response to a genuine housing

need and this could not be criticised. The only refinement to this would be to

obtain a firm costing on an actual site.


The Interim Director of Regeneration and Place said that in the report, it did

not state that the structure could not be relocated. Officers had considered the

cost of relocation, changes in building regulations and other planning

considerations, and the risk to relocate the site had been considered too high.

Councillor Millbank said that nursery provision was important and Lewisham

would be supporting the nursery to find an alternative site because it would

only be available for 5 years. However, she wished to stress that by releasing

the site, 10 families would have lifelong tenancies.


RESOLVED that the report be noted.

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