The Lenox Project has fundamental concerns regarding developer Hutchison Whampoa’s attempt to circumvent the established planning procedure and eliminate any meaningful discussions with Deptford and Lewisham communities over the redevelopment of Convoys Wharf.
HW’s request to the Mayor of London to call in the planning application – and the Mayor’s agreement to do so – is premature and undemocratic. This cynical move by the developer, which by its own admission is directly connected to the desire to maximise profit from this riverside land – is contrary to the government’s policy of localism, and seeks to force a decision without due regard to the international significance of the site.
The community proposals to integrate this large site into the borough of Lewisham and the adjacent world heritage site of Royal Greenwich Maritime in the form of The Lenox Project and Sayes Court Garden, generating training, employment, and community pride in the history of the site, have been paid no more than lip-service by a multi-national corporation that should have higher aspirations.
Our proposals have the potential to create enormous profitability for London in the medium and long term. The developer is only looking at this site in the short term.
Henry VIII’s Royal Dock at Deptford was recently designated as one of London’s heritage assets at risk by the World Monuments Fund (www.wmf.org/watch). We believe it is the Mayor of London’s role to safeguard London’s heritage, and especially its value in attracting finance for Lewisham Council. London urgently needs economic growth beyond the financial sector, and we believe a restored heritage site alongside a dynamic, regenerated dock would widen the Thames economy.
We are also concerned that there are details in the terms of the deal made when the present owners purchased the land from Rupert Murdoch’s News International that place pressures on them to seek inordinately high margins. These will only be at the expense of the local and London-wide community.
The owner made a speculative purchase of the land and as such, assumed the risk for this speculation and, with it, any losses resulting from any and all legal decisions made about the site, its use, or future.
Whilst the present owner may hold the site freehold, the history, heritage, use and future of this significant Thames belongs to London, Londoners, the UK and the nations around the world that benefited from the naval and maritime advances that emanated from this site. Collectively, and on balance, we believe that the worldwide importance of Deptford’s Royal Dock should take precedence over any proposal for housing on the site.
London’s housing shortage will not be assisted by the off-plan sale of 3000 high-end residential units to foreign investors, nor will ‘affordable’ units at 80% market rent (current market rent being approximately £1,300 per month for a one bedroom flat) enable key workers to live locally within their means.
Lewisham ranks as one of the most deprived boroughs in London. Over the last 10 years Lewisham Council has approved numerous new residential developments. Despite this, the Deprivation Index shows that these developments have made no difference to the well-being of Lewisham residents. Employees are brought into Lewisham to fill the temporary building jobs and profits are exported out of the borough, and even outside the UK. There is no evidence to suggest that this development will be any different.
Recent events relating to Lewisham Hospital demonstrated the unity, effectiveness and commitment of our local community, and we trust that we will see this strength of feeling demonstrated once more in support of local decision-making, and in favour of a sustainable, appropriate development of the site.