The community consultation on Lewisham’s biggest development was slammed as “an absolute shambles” at the council’s first virtual planning meeting last night. 

The mammoth four-and-a-half-hour meeting of the strategic planning committee, which suffered several technical issues, dealt with reserved details on the £1bn Convoys Wharf development by the riverside in Deptford.  

Plans for the development were submitted to the council in 2013, but the then London Mayor Boris Johnson took over as the planning authority.  

Mr Johnson stepped in after developer Hutchison Property Group became frustrated at the “unrealistic demands” from Lewisham Council over the project and urged him to intervene. 

The now Prime Minister decided to grant permission for the development in 2014, legally agreed in March 2015.  

Proposals include up to 3,500 new homes, office space, a working wharf with vessel moorings, a hotel, shops, restaurants, cafes, bars, and parking.  

A new primary school, healthcare centre, and bus route are also planned.  

The matters before the committee on Tuesday involved three out of 21 plots planned for the site.  

Councillors voted unanimously for Plot 22, while six councillors voted for Plot 8, one voted against, one abstained, and one had left the meeting because of an early start in the morning.  

Plans for Plot 22 involve converting the old jetty into a river bus pier, with a restaurant and bar, and Plot 8 involves 456 private flats, with blocks varying from two to 14 storeys 

Plot 8 was approved after midnight so the committee deferred the decision on Plot 15, which proposes 124 affordable homes, to a later date. 

The agreed amount of affordable housing 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.  

“For future phases we’re asking the developer to revisit the entire scheme that they agreed with Boris, and work with us to build closer to the Lewisham target of 50 per cent,” Mayor Damien Egan told the local democracy service.  

Committee members criticised the low level of affordable housing, with housing cabinet member Cllr Paul Bell describing it as “pitiful” and a “disgrace”, adding that Mr Johnson is “intent on making sure the population is being culled”.  

Cllr Kevin Bonavia said it was “very unfortunate” that the decision on the development was taken out of the council’s hands, and said there was a “shocking level of affordable housing”.   

Jonathan Sarfaty, speaking on behalf of the developer, said: “We’ve always wanted to ensure that our scheme realises the site’s tremendous potential, we believe we’ve achieved that objective.” 

He said it’s been “painstakingly designed to deliver huge community benefits” and would “radically improve the lives of local people”. 

“We’re particularly proud of our cultural strategy, which after a tremendous amount of consideration and consultation has been created in the knowledge that Lewisham is going to be London’s Borough of Culture,” he said, adding “we always knew it would not be possible to meet every demand and request”. 

But the consultation, as well as the lack of cultural strategy, was slammed by councillors and objectors.  

It emerged that the cultural steering group had not met since December 2018.  

Planning officer and head of complex projects at the council, Viv Evans, said there were discussions going on “continually” since, and that the steering group would meet as soon as possible, considering lockdown.  

A cultural strategy must be in place by the time 250 homes are occupied to adhere to the S106 agreement.  

Cllr James-J Walsh said the local community “feel they haven’t been listened to for an extended period of time”, while Evelyn ward Cllr Silvana Kelleher said the whole process was “really embarrassing”.  

She listed a host of issues with the development and added: “As a community we’ve tried really hard to engage with them, but as you can see from the steering group, essentially we’re excluded from the process.  

“We find this unacceptable.” 

Hutchison representatives committed to “better public consultation” at the meeting.  

Barnaby Collins, planning advisor for Hutchison said he understood the public consultation was a “very sensitive point”.  

“We’re trying our best to listen to what the local community has to say. 

“We did not get off to a very good start, but we have now appointed a new engagement team and we think we’re getting better at it, and we ought to get better still,” he said.  

Concerns were raised about the “gated” nature of green space planned for the development.  

Mr Collins committed to allowing all residents access to the spaces.  

But he said: “Each individual plot does have its own private space, in the way that I have a private garden, and it would be rather unusual for the public to be allowed into my garden.” 

Technical issues during the meeting meant one of the objectors was unable to speak or be questioned by councillors, although his statement was read out by an officer.  

Dr Roger Green, vice chair of Voice4Deptford and director of the Centre for Community Engagement at Goldsmiths, described the virtual meeting as a technical “shambles”. 

He also slammed the consultation with the community as a “disaster”.  

“There’s no cultural strategy, no cultural strategy steering group […] there is no real community representation on the cultural steering group,” he said.  

On the design he said: “This is an anywhere build site, this is a replication of other estates across London, they’re dismal, plain, poorly designed […]” 

The developer committed to adding disabled access to Plot 8 after a push from Cllr Bell.  

Councillors asked that the developer allow public access on Plot 8 to green space – but Mr Collins said he would have to get “instruction” on that.  

Hutchison reps said construction on the site would start 12 months after full approval.