Mayor of London declines to intervene on controversial development

By Grainne Cuffe, local democracy reporter

The Mayor of London has declined to intervene in plans for a controversial development in Blackheath 

GS8 and Vabel plan to demolish all business units in the Blackheath Business Estate to build 63 flats in two blocks of nine and seven storeys, along with a four-storey workspace building.  

Lewisham’s strategic planning committee approved their planning application in December by four votes to four with a casting vote from the chair.  

The development will see 36 mature trees with a value of £124,447 cut down. 

The trees will be replaced by a large wall that will cut off light from a row of homes where vulnerable and disabled people live.  

This impact and the loss of trees themselves were some of the issues members, a ward councillor, and residents raised at the meeting.   

The developers argue the wall will be “green” – though it is not mentioned in Lewisham’s draft conditions or in the Mayor of London’s recent decision – while they plan to plant more trees.   

The developer’s consultant ecologist – who did not attend the meeting – concluded the current trees were of “low quality”.  

But this was at odds with the council’s own tree expert, who concluded that the plans would be “detrimental” to the area.   

The site is also next to a brain injury hospital. Patients recover in a garden right beside what is set to be a construction site. 

Planning consultant Peter Hadley, representing the Blackheath Hill residents group at the meeting, said it was one of the worst applications he had ever seen.   

The consultation on the plans was also poor, according to residents, who have been lobbying the GLA to reverse the planning permission. Some are only finding out about the plans now. 

Filipe Ribeiro – disabled resident who will feel ‘completely stuck’ in faced with a large wall instead of trees

The council says an extensive consultation was carried out.

After the committee’s decision, the case went to the Mayor of London. He has the power to take over as planning authority if he does not agree with the decision.  

But Sadiq Khan said he was “content for Lewisham Council to determine the case itself, subject to any action that the Secretary of State may take”. 

The news has dismayed locals who say “no voice” has been given to tenants in the social housing by the proposed development.  

Although the GLA’s report identifies some concerns with the plans, including the segregated rooftop play spaces, impacts on daylight and sunlight, on overlooking and privacy, and on the adjacent Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC), GLA officers concluded that the plans were on balance acceptable.  

According to the report: “GLA officers note that the residential element would cause negative impacts on daylight and sunlight, overlooking and privacy, particularly for ground floor units in Block D of Parkside but that there are some mitigating circumstances, including the urban environment, the site’s topography, and the limited daylight and sunlight impact on living areas.  

“Therefore, officers consider on balance that the negative daylight, sunlight, overbearing and privacy impacts do not raise additional strategic concerns.” 

The report also states that the trees set to be removed have a Capital Asset Valuation of Amenity Trees (CAVAT) value of £124,447. However, it states that the new trees the developer intends to plant will have a value of £138,863 in ten years.  

“As such, whilst the loss of existing mature trees is regrettable, officers are satisfied that the existing trees would be appropriately replaced, and the development therefore accords with London Plan Policy G7,” the report states.  

The site in not in a location identified as suitable for the height of the tallest building.  

But according to the GLA: “It raises no strategic concerns in terms of its impacts as set out in London Plan Policy D9(C).  

“Given this and the need to intensify development on well-connected sites in Policies H1 and D3, the general compliance with the policies in the London Plan overall and the significant public benefits of the proposal, on balance the non-compliance with London Plan Policy D9 does not on its own warrant a direction to refuse.” 

Bbe Business Estate

A representative of the Blackheath Hill residents group said the council “has not afforded appropriate weight to its policies that seek to preserve amenity”, particularly in relation to the loss of daylight and sunlight and the overbearing harm to those residents faced with a large wall instead of trees.  

Lewisham Council spokesperson said: “We recognise the concerns raised by local residents and have carried out an extensive consultation.  

“Whilst we appreciate that this development will mean a change in the local area, the council is satisfied that sufficient efforts have been made to uphold our planning policies which includes protecting existing amenities. 

“As part of the planning permission which was granted, the developer is obliged to support current business tenants to either relocate or secure premises in the new development.  

“Measures will be put in place to mitigate the impact of construction on neighbouring residents and businesses. 

“The development does not contravene the council’s development plan nor does it contravene the London Plan.”




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