Council meetings

Agenda item

Lewisham Playtower, Ladywell Road, London, SE13 7UW - DC/22/126038 and DC/22/125927






That it be agreed to GRANT planning permission and Listed Building Consent subject to:

i.             A S106 Legal Agreement and conditions and informatives to cover the principal matters outlined in the report; and

ii.            Additional informatives requiring the applicant to consider, in consultation with the Planning Authority:

·                    That arrangements for delivery and servicing consider the strain on Ladywell Road, in order to avoid peak times, especially due to traffic at the junction with Lewisham High Street;

·                    That the S106 offsite payment for play space should consider works to the north of Ladywell Fields, close to the café area; 

·                    That the S106 payment for planting should consider community consultation, including views from local amenity groups, to identify and agree where trees and shrubs should be planted.



The Senior Planning Officer gave an illustrative presentation of the report, recommending that the Committee approves the proposals for planning permission and listed building consent for the restoration of the exterior and internal areas of the Playtower, to facilitate the conversion for a multi-screen cinema, as well as the construction of two residential blocks, respectively on the south and east of the existing building.


5.1     The Committee noted the rationale for the application:


·            That the recommendations were brought for a decision due to the Council receiving 16 individual objections against the proposed development following consultation with residents and businesses in the surrounding area, the relevant ward Councillors, and the Ladywell Society.

·            That the consultation exercise had triggered a local meeting that took place on 21st June 2022, chaired by Councillor Liz Johnston-Franklin, where residents’ comments and concerns about the proposals were noted, and those were attached as minutes to the report as Appendix 1.

·            That the proposed building was currently in disrepair, both structurally through decay but also through vandalism, which had resulted in fires, damage to the windows, pigeon infestation, and graffiti drawings throughout.

·            That the proposed building in its current state had been included in Historic England at Risk Register and was identified as one of ten most “at risk” buildings in England by the Victorian Society.


5.2     The Committee considered the description of the proposed site and character of the area, and noted the following:


·            That Lewisham Playtower comprised of a two-storey Victorian building located on the southern side of Ladywell Road. 

·            The Victorian building was previously known as Ladywell Baths, but ceased to be in use in 1964, from which point it was used as a community space up until 2004.  The site had remained vacant after 2004.

·            That the site was located on the southern side of Ladywell Road, within the St Mary’s Conservation area and Lewisham’s town centre and had an excellent Public Transport Accessibility Levels’ (PTAL) rating.

·            That the surrounding area had a mixed character of commercial and residential uses.  The closest residential building is St Peters Gardens, which is located to the southeast area to the site.

·            That the most significant external feature was the tower, which formed a local landmark of Grade II listed, with historical aesthetic and communal value.


5.3     Commenting on the details of the proposed development the Committee noted:


·            That the works would include the conversion of the first-floor area to provide a ticket office and café/bar.  The main cinema screen pod, Cinema 1, would be sunken into the main pool tank.  The second Cinema Pod would be installed at basement level along with the toilet facilities.  At first floor level, there would be two smaller screen pods, Cinemas 3 and 4, in addition to a hospitality area.

·            That a pitched slated roof would be added to the flat roof of the 1930s extension. 

·            That the glazed roof on the western elevation would be replaced

·            That the main alternation at the front would be the restoration of the conical roof to the tower, to replicate the original design, with a view to enhance the character of the building and restore local landmark views.

·            That the rear renovation of the second-class baths would be demolished and rebuilt with the existing brickwork.  The approach would also be taken to the eastern elevation to incorporate blind windows.

·            That two new residential buildings would be constructed within the grounds of the Playtower to provide 33 residential units.  The southern building part 2, part 4, and part 5 storey blocks would comprise of 23 residential units. 

·            That the south elevations would be constructed from yellow stock bricks and would have slate roofs to match both the rear elements of the Playtower.

·            The first and second floors on the east elevation would feature projecting oriel box window designs and brickwork screening to the front to prevent overlooking onto the residential properties at St Peters Gardens.


5.4     The Committee discussed details about the indicative internal settings and proposed floor plan and received confirmation from the Senior Planning Officer that the proposed development had been assessed as acceptable in design and heritage terms due to the principles of the development, the delivery of quality residential units as a contribution to the local housing target, and the financial viability evidence.


5.5     In response to questions raised, the Senior Planning Officer clarified to the Committee:


·            That the urban design would be imposed by relevant conditions in the report.

·            That the separation distances were considered acceptable considering the dense urban location within a major town centre where the development plan directs local planning authorities to focus on density and consequently these relationships are more common and consistent with the GLA guidance.

·            That the impact of light and outlook levels towards St Peters Gardens would not be significant due to the modest separation of distance between the proposed buildings and the residential dwellings. Therefore, the harm would be modest.

·            That conditions were in place to safeguard the amenities of the adjoining premises

·            That the impact to the surrounding transport networks would not require any significant mitigation.

·            That the scale of the development to facilitate the scheme necessities net loss in biodiversity and the removal of trees.  Those harms would be mitigated by wildlife enhancement, and financial contribution to plant off-site trees of similar values.

·            That the large panels directly facing the bedroom areas would be translucent glazing screens to prevent views out, whilst allowing light to permeate throughout the rooms.  The obscured glazing is considered the optimal solution of preventing overlooking onto the neighbouring residential properties, whilst maintaining an acceptable level outlook.

·            That the oblique views from the clear glazed panels on both sides into the living room areas would prevent direct intrusion as that from a conventional window.

·            That the principle habitable living spaces for the flats would be dual aspects to benefit from the outlook from the north elevation.

·            That the viability considers Community Infrastructure Levy and S106 contributions.  Although both are quite significant sums, they are not going to provide affordable housing contribution based on payment because of the lower number of units to be delivered.

·            The applicant would have to submit a planning application in the event of a future change of use.

·            That the main area of overlooking is onto St Peters Gardens, but the windows would have glazed screens to obscure the outward glare, and the separation distances were considered as acceptable.  The general site area shows that there would be no other sensitive views because the buildings to the east and west would be for commercial uses.

·            That mitigation measures for parking restrictions contained in a Travel Plan submitted with the application considered the fact that location of the proposed site had PTAL 6 rating because it was supported by several bus routes and train stations. 

·            That mitigation measures to replace trees were in place for replanting to be implemented close to the proposed site.

·            That the harm of some overlooking onto St Peters Garden had been recognised, and mitigation was supported by Condition 10.

·            That the noise impact assessment submitted with the application was considered acceptable, and attenuation measures would be secured by a condition.

·            That the Council’s Highways Officer’s review recommended the provision of an area for two servicing vehicles.

·            That because of the constraints of the site, there would be parking provision for only three Blue Badge holders to be shared by residents and visitors to the proposed cinema. 


5.6     The Head of Development also responded to a question, clarifying to the Committee that:


·            The Council had a freehold interest in the proposed listed building, and therefore was obligated to maintain it.

·            There had not been a long-term plan for the Playtower house.  The Council considered that the current proposals appropriate for development on the proposed site.


5.7          The agents for the applicant also addressed the meeting and responded to questions from the Committee as follows:


·            That the applicant considered the sensitive nature of the proposed site, with the Grade II listed Victorian building, and took care to seek pre-application advice from the Council’s Planning officers, resulting in seven submissions.

·            That the applicant undertook extensive public consultation and maintained ongoing dialogue with neighbouring residents throughout the application stage.  Thus, issues relating to overlooking, loss of privacy, sunlight and daylight concerns were addressed and tested against the Building Research Establishment guidelines for evidence of a high-level compliance.

·            That the applicant considered alternative options to deliver affordable housing.  However, those were unacceptable both in heritage terms and relationship with the neighbouring residential properties.  The applicant was therefore requesting that the proposed development should proceed based on the minimum financial amount required to pay for the repair, restoration, and re-purposing of the building.

·            The applicant had selected the pitched roof design because it would match with existing buildings in the surrounding environs.

·            The colour scheme to be implemented was supported by Historic England, the Victorian Society, residents, and the Council’s Planning officers.

·            That although the applicant could not provide permitted affordable housing within the proposed development, it was expected that the heritage benefits of repairing and restoring the listed building, and the delivery of 33 homes had a significant weight, specifically that a derelict building would be brought back into use, with facilities to help enhance the local economy through the provision of a public cinema.

·            That the proposed works would not be abandoned by the current operator who had expressed committed to complete via a structured S106 agreement.

·            That there would be separate multi-screen systems to prevent inconvenience to customers.  Thus, it was unlikely for noise pollution to permeate into residential dwellings from concert instruments

·            That because of the construction of cinema pods, the operator was attracted to the idea that activities to be delivered would highlight the story of the previous swimming pool.

·            That the operator was keen to engage with local people for views about night-time economy, and the setting up of daytime and nursery events.

·            That the proposed cinema screen would occupy nearly 5½ metres of space from the windows in the hospitality area to reach the top end of the existing Victorian building.  Notwithstanding that, ideas would continue to be welcomed about how to utilise the upper part of the Playtower because the operator was keen to explore to further enhance the attraction of the historic architecture.


5.7.2   Continuing with responses to questions raised, the agents for the applicant advised the Committee:


·            That the policy perspective in the London Plan that was supportive of car-free developments.

·            That the proposed cinema would not be a multiplex facility, with local community influence as opposed to a regional one, with a view to encourage people could visit by train, bus, walk, or cycle.  Thus, the Travel Plan to be secured through the protection of a S106 agreement would help enforce the delivery of the vision. 

·            That a detailed sound proofing report was submitted with the application.

·            In considering climate emergency matters, not using gas is a new avenue which the operator had embraced and had substantially changed the green potential of the proposed development.  In terms of other green aspects, the applicant considered photovoltaic that had heritage significance.

·            The whole scheme had to be redesigned quite intensively during this last summer before to accord with Greater London Authority’s plans:

o           The applicant made several alterations and undertook detailed analysis to lower the level of impact in terms of daylight and sunlight onto St Peters Gardens by stepping the height and length of the proposed housing development prior to submission.  The mitigation was necessary to attain BRE standards.

o           The applicant had been able to ensure a yield of an amount of housing development to pay for the repair and restoration of the proposed building, whilst at the same time minimising overlooking and managing relationships with neighbours at St Peters Gardens in terms of the impact in the external environmental surrounds.

o           Given the constraints on the site, the Council’s Highways Officer raised no objection regarding the current position for refuse vehicles to enter the site in forward gear and reverse onto Ladywell Road.  The manoeuvre would inevitably disrupt the flow of traffic, but that would be looked at again when the servicing management strategy are finalised to be secured by a condition prior to occupation.


5.8     The Committee also heard from a resident of St Peters Gardens as follows:


·               Welcomed plans to install glazed windows but stated that its concern about the loss of privacy remained.

·               Unconvinced that the light issue had been adequately addressed.  Not satisfied with the findings of the light survey.  The loss of light on residential dwellings would be significant, particularly for those living on the east side of the proposed development, and those on the ground floor of St Peters Gardens.  Residents have expressed a need to appoint a light surveyor of their own choice if the Council would cover the cost.

·               Welcomed information that the acoustics would be installed to minimise noise from activities in the cinema.  However, the applicant did not visit residents until July this year, and that was after the night-time activities were included.  Residents continued to be concerned about potential disturbances because of the night-time activities at and around an entertainment facility that is close to residential dwellings. 

·               Welcomed information that additional trees would be planted.  However, the loss of the existing matured trees in the green space next to Ladywell Fields and St Mary’s conservation area was a concern.

·               The separation of distances between the proposed development and residential dwellings are significantly below the recommended levels as confirmed under paragraph 254 in the report.

·               Noted that the nursery school on the other side of the proposed development had been considered

·               Residents objected to the proposed development because dwellings at St Peters Gardens are subject to cladding problems at the present time.  Thus, residents would be unable to move if the impact of the proposed development worsens after implementation.


5.9     In response to questions raised, the resident addressing the meeting advised the Committee that:


·               Regarding the totality of concerns, there is not one main reason for objections expressed by residents living at St Peters Gardens:

o      The privacy issue and the distance between the proposed site and residential dwellings continue as concerns.  She informed that the presenting Officer’s mouse cursor was directly pointing towards her bedroom window during the illustration of the proposed layout.

o      The distance between the proposed buildings and residential dwellings should be 21 metres, but the applicant made provision for 10 metres apart.  That is unreasonable.

o      There is the potential for over-saturation because cinema facility is already provided in the Catford area.  Also, the new Gateway development cinema would soon be operating in Lewisham.

o      Not enough information had been provided about how the night-time activities would be managed to minimise disturbances in the outside environment at street level.  There is currently no concern from residents at St Peters Gardens about noise pollution from existing entertainment venues and use of the bus stops after night-time events.


5.10    Commenting on submissions and responses by the resident who addressed the meeting, the Chair, Councillor Suzannah Clarke stated:


·            That considering information in the Development Management Local Plan, there should be a minimum separation of 21 metres between directly facing habitable room windows on the upper floors of main rear elevations.  However, the figure in distance presented had been revised to 16 metres, and that was considered acceptable given that the proposed development had been assessed as a small site in relation to the number of housing units being provided.

·            That the Committee also accepted that the housing development would not have been available if the existing trees were not cut down, and therefore understood the mitigation regarding the replacement trees to be planted.


5.10.1The Senior Planning Officer responded to further questions, clarifying to the Committee that:


·            The level of noise expected after implementation of the proposed development is likely to be acceptable in terms of the site location within a local a town centre environment.

·            The main entrance for customers would be on the north of the proposed building.


5.11    Speaking on behalf of her constituents in the Ladywell ward, Councillor Liz Johnston-Franklin informed the Committee that:


·               Residents welcomed the fact that the proposed building would not remain iconic if it was not renovated in time to prevent further disrepair.

·               Residents supported that the proposed building to be renovated would provide the cinema entertainment facility for local people to enjoy.

·               Residents had challenged the lighting survey and were also of a view that the biodiversity proposals had not met the necessary requirements.  Therefore, those issues ought to be considered for a redress.


5.11.1Councillor Johnston-Franklin continued by advising the Committee:


·               That drawing on conclusions from further communications with the residents, she was disappointed that the provision of affordable housing was not possible because of the constraints in terms of financial viability assessment.

·               That consideration by the applicant to modify the application in terms of design, and the mitigating factors to balance the financial commitments seemed reasonable.

·               That not delivering affordable housing in development should not become a precedent, rather, it should serve as a one-off application because it would be delivering the restoration of a dilapidated building of architectural significance.


5.11.2In her closing remarks, Councillor Johnston-Franklin expressed an appreciation to local groups and residents who had been part of the community engagement experience relating to the proposed development.  She asked the Committee to note the following suggestions:


·            That due to the closeness in proximity of the proposed development to existing dwellings, there needed to be a reassurance about the revised changes to the design so that they would be acceptable to the affected residents.

·            That given the constraints on the proposed site, steps should be taken to provide as much space as possible for the cinema and for ease of access to residential dwellings.

·            That the proposed financial allocation for works to remove and relocate foliage shrubs and trees could be applied for community usage and supported by views from the Friends of Ladywell Fields or other local groups.


5.12    The Chair of the Committee:


·       Commented on statements by Councillor Johnston-Franklin about the constraints on the proposed site and pointed out that a provision was in place for a review of the financial viability assessment to determine any added future benefits from the proposed scheme. 

·       Endorsed suggestions about servicing and delivering considerations, community involvement in shrubs and tree planting, and the need to improve facility for the children’s play’ in the area.

·       Acknowledged that it was a challenging application, thanked all those who contributed at the meeting.


5.12.1The Chair also suggested a move of recommendations for planning permission and Listed Building Consent.  Councillor J. J Walsh proposed, and Councillor John Paschoud seconded a move of the recommendations, which were voted upon, but Councillor Will Cooper did not take part because he left the room during consideration of the proposals. 


5.12.2Considering the result of the vote, the Committee






That it be agreed to GRANT planning permission and Listed Building Consent subject to:

i.               A S106 Legal Agreement and conditions and informatives to cover the principal matters outlined in the report; and

ii.              Additional informatives requiring the applicant to consider, in consultation with the Planning Authority:

·                That arrangements for delivery and servicing consider the strain on Ladywell Road, in order to avoid peak times, especially due to traffic at the junction with Lewisham High Street;

·                That the S106 offsite payment for play space should consider works to the north of Ladywell Fields, close to the café area; 

·                That the S106 payment for planting should consider community consultation, including views from local amenity groups, to identify and agree where trees and shrubs should be planted.


The meeting closed at 9.13p.m.

Supporting documents: