26-storey student tower to be built despite fears bedrooms are like ‘rabbit hutches’

By Robert Firth, Local Democracy Reporter

A 26-storey student tower has been approved despite a councillor’s fears that bedrooms like “rabbit hutches” are damaging young people’s mental health.

The building in Deptford was waved through by a Lewisham council planning committee on Thursday of last week after a three-and-a-half hour meeting.

The site, in Surrey Canal Road, is currently home to scrap metal dealer Southwark Metals Ltd, which is relocating to Thamesmead.

What the site looks like today (Picture: Google Street View)

Under the plans the existing buildings on the site will be demolished and replaced with a 484-room student block, 42 flats, shops and studio space. 

During the meeting, Councillor James Walsh, a member of the planning committee, said he had concerns about the amount of space for students to hang out in the building.

Cllr Walsh, Labour member for Rushey Green, told the council’s planning team: “There’s a massive mental health crisis amongst young people. Them being kept in rabbit hutches as their bedroom and study space is exacerbating that problem. 

“There needs to be a good level of communal space for them to interact with each other, develop relationships and connect with one another. And I haven’t been assured that’s the case in this scheme yet.”

David Robinson, the council’s major and strategic project manager, said there would be communal space on the 25th floor of the building, as well as a roof terrace for students. He added that there was also a place in the basement for students to do their laundry.

Cllr Walsh also raised concerns about the lack of measures to deal with traffic from students arriving at the start of the university term and the end of the academic year in the design.

He added: “I’m worried about getting 500 families driving their son or daughter down from a shire, which you can’t cycle from, you can’t walk, with all their worldly belongings in the back of a car.

“That’s not coming on a train and it’s not coming on the back of a bike. What I’m really worried about is we’re going to have queuing for miles down our very small roads in this area for the weekend and it’s going to be chaos at the site.”

A representative for the applicant Fosfel Apollo Limited said he believed not all students would be arriving by car, with some expected to take the bus. He added that students would be moved into the building over several weekends, rather than just a single one. 

Of the 484 planned student rooms, 81 will be available at affordable rents. All of the 42 residential flats are classified as affordable, with 70 per cent of them at the cheapest social rents.

A planning committee made up of five Labour councillors unanimously approved the plans, with amendments.

Pictured top: A CGI of the building viewed from Surrey Canal Road (Picture: Lewisham council)

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