By Grainne Cuffe, local democracy reporter
Lewisham Council has denied claims it lobbied the Greater London Authority (GLA) for more housing on a protected wharf in Deptford.
Following outline planning permission being granted in 2015, Hutchison Property Group is developing the 40-acre Convoys Wharf site with plans for 3,500 new homes.
One part of the site, dubbed Plot 21, is protected from housing development – it is safeguarded for use as a wharf.
But residents were shocked when plans for housing on the site emerged during a community engagement webinar, held in lieu of a face-to-face meeting because of Covid-19.
They were told that not only does the developer have plans to build housing on Plot 21, Lewisham Council is asking Hutchison to do it.
On top of this, when the webinar, held by Hutchison’s community engagement consultant Forty Shillings, was first published online, it was edited to leave out parts of what was said in relation to the council lobbying for housing.
The unedited version was published this week after a public outcry.
Representatives of the scheme said heavy goods vehicle access was not compatible with Plot 21.
Referring to the protected wharf, planning consultant Prashanna Vivekananda said: “We have therefore been considering if there are more appropriate uses that can bring this site into beneficial use.
“In addition Lewisham is under pressure to provide more homes and affordable homes and has asked if Convoys Wharf has the capacity for greater numbers for housing delivery.
“Taken together there’s an opportunity to extend the masterplan to provide for additional housing and accompanying employment space while logically following the form and layout of the existing masterplan.”
Barnaby Collins, from Hutchison, also said HGV access – necessary for a working wharf – was not compatible with the site.
“In addition to the demands being put to us by the GLA and the London borough of Lewisham to see whether the outline consent can generate more capacity [for additional] housing and the additional affordable housing that comes with it and employment uses too.
“We think a better use would be residential,” he said.
Mike Stowell from Farrells said more housing on the site has already been agreed with the GLA in principle.
“As Barnaby said the council have asked for housing on this site now – this has been agreed with the GLA in principle,” he said.
After locals voiced their concerns online, Lewisham’s cabinet member for housing, Cllr Paul Bell, put out a statement denying the claims.
He said: “I have been made aware of reports that Lewisham Council has been lobbying the Greater London Authority (GLA) for additional homes to be built on Plot 21, a protected wharf within the Convoys Wharf development.
“These reports are completely inaccurate and do not represent the council’s position.
“We have been consistently clear to the developer that any planning application for Plot 21 would require a strong planning justification. This has yet to be provided.
“We have also made clear to the developer that any plans for Plot 21 should be developed in consultation with the local community and would require a programme of genuine community engagement, as well as being subject to planning pre-application.
“The developer have yet to provide assurances on this and we will continue to hold them to account along with the local community.”
When questioned by the local democracy service about the stark difference in claims by the developer and the council, Cllr Bell reiterated what he said in his statement.
He said: “At no point have we lobbied the GLA to put more units on this site.”
He did not comment on the claims that the council has asked the developer to build housing on Plot 21.
But he said: “The council has been clear that Plot 21 is a safeguarded wharf site and that as such it is protected from inappropriate development which would include housing.
“In relation to other plots which are part of the development and as part of our commitment to tackle the housing crisis in Lewisham, the council has encouraged the developer to deliver the highest level of genuinely affordable housing possible.”
The agreed amount of affordable housing across the scheme when the outline planning permission was approved was 15 per cent, but the council has since negotiated 21 per cent for the first phase of the development, of which 52 per cent will be London affordable rent and 48 per cent shared ownership.
Local group DeptfordFolk is pushing for green space on Plot 21.
Trina Lynskey, chair of local group DeptfordFolk, said: “The Evelyn Ward desperately needs more green space.
“There are 10,000 plus homes consented for in this area, plus another 3,500 in the Surrey Canal development.
“To the north in Southwark’s Canada Water Development there are 3,500 new homes planned.
“That’s 17,000 new homes all heavily reliant on existing parks.
“Convoys Wharf Plot 21 could and should be a new park.”
Hutchison and Forty Shillings have been contacted for comment.
Please make cheques payable to “MSI Media Limited” and send by post to South London Press, Unit 112, 160 Bromley Road, Catford, London SE6 2NZ
Former Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has encouraged everyone in the country who can afford to do so to buy a newspaper, and told the Downing Street press briefing recently: “A free country needs a free press, and the newspapers of our country are under significant financial pressure”.
So if you have enjoyed reading this story, and if you can afford to do so, we would be so grateful if you can buy our newspaper or make a donation, which will allow us to continue to bring stories like this one to you both in print and online.