BY CALUM FRASER
Landmark gas towers in South London are set to be demolished, in the teeth of local opposition.
Lewisham council published a decision notice approving the demolition of the Bell Green gas holders in Sydenham, Lewisham.
An Aldi supermarket, restaurant, coffee shop and 100 space car park are set to take the place of the vast Victorian iron structures.
Community group the Sydenham Society, who had set up a petition opposing the demolition, have slammed the decision to demolish the gas works.
Sydenham Society’s chairwoman Annabel McLaren said: “The Bell Green gas holders are a visual reminder of the rich history of gas production in Lower Sydenham.
“The decision to allow the demolition of these iconic cast iron structures is, in our view, vandalism. Demolishing the gas holders will inevitably lead to a bland streetscape, of the kind that is found everywhere.”
The Victorian Society (VS), a charity that champions Victorian and Edwardian buildings, had submitted a letter stating their “strong objection” to the demolition plans.
They urged the council to look into serving an Article 4 Notice on the site, which would restrict development right for the demolition of locally listed buildings – and linked the gas works with the Grade II Listed Livesey Hall, which commemorates the South-east London industrialist and philanthropist Sir George Livesey.
Bellingham ward’s Cllr Alan Hall has been a vocal opponent of demolition and the development.
He said: “Residents are not opposed to development, but they are in favour of an imaginative scheme that includes the listed and historic buildings on the site.
Bell Green urgently needs a masterplan. The fight continues.”
But resident John Doherty, 62, of Perry Hill, said: “This decision to demolish is right at so many levels.
The gas holders are an eyesore. The zone has been deemed by Lewisham Planning Officers officers to be an industrial waste-land which significantly diminishes the setting of the Grade II listed Livesey Hall.”
The planning applications to demolish and develop the site was submitted bysite owners and gas distribution company SGN.
The application to build an Aldi store was rejected but SGN and their partners Kier’s have submitted an appeal.
Mr Doherty said: “If the Kier appeal fails again, the site can be used for social housing at an affordable cost.
This affordability was not being offered if the gas holders were retained.” Dan Brown, spokesperson for SGN, said: “Energy regulator Ofgem has told us to dismantle all our gasholder fleet by 2029, as gas can be stored much more effectively in pipes.
Gasholders are a safety and environmental risk. “It’s not sustainable for us to keep the redundant Sydenham structures in a safe and visually acceptable condition long term.
“As part of our dismantling programme, we are committed to celebrating and capturing the history of our gasholders. We understand people see these iconic structures act as a visual reminder of an area’s history.
So we are working with communities, local history groups and museums to ensure each gasholder has its history captured for future generations to learn from. We will look to do this with the Bell Green gasholders.”
A Lewisham council spokesperson said: “The demolition of most buildings doesn’t require full planning permission.
In this case, the site owner only needed approval for the method of demolition. So the merits of the demolition, such as their local listing, could not be considered.
A decision also had to be made within 28 days otherwise the applicant would be automatically granted approval to proceed.”
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