Hundreds of new homes were approved for a vacant site in New Cross by Lewisham’s strategic planning committee on Thursday (July 30) 

The plans include 324 homes between three and 12 storeys, a new GP, gym, shared working-from-home space, and community facilities for the New Cross Gate Trust on the site at the corner of Briant and Besson Street. 

The land used to be home to a council estate and a pub, which were demolished in the late 2000s to make way for a residential mixed-use scheme. 

But the development, which included plans for 173 homes, was never built, and the site has been vacant since.  

The new scheme is a joint venture between Lewisham Council and private landlord Grainger plc. 

News Shopper:

Just over 35 per cent of the homes – 114 – will be let at London Living Rent, while 210 will  be privately rented.   

Lewisham’s target on new developments is 50 per cent affordable homes, but planning case officer David Robinson told the committee that the scheme had been viability tested and 35 per cent was the “maximum” that was feasible.   

Cllr Sakina Sheikh asked why there was no social housing available, though praised the fact that the scheme was tenure blind, meaning people paying LLR will be mixed with private.  

Mr Robinson said the scheme was part of a wider portfolio of housing being delivered.  

“This site is delivering a specific tenure […] delivered towards a specific need, and social rented units are being delivered elsewhere in the borough through other sites. 

“It’s not possible for a council to just deliver social rented units, we also need to acknowledge other products and tenures that are required in the borough,” he said.  

It was also said that there was a “relatively low proportion” of private homes in the area, demonstrating a “need”. 

Planning Monique Wallace said the homes were for the “squeezed middle”, those who are not eligible for social housing but can’t afford private sector rents. 

News Shopper:

Bellingham Cllr Alan Hall, who asked to speak at the meeting, raised concerns about the potential rise in building costs in future and whether, as a result, the amount of affordable housing would be able to be delivered.  

On the lack of social housing offered he said: “Monique said we hope to address the squeezed middle, I would say, what about the crushed bottom?”  

He also backed concerns from the Music Room rehearsal studios, which is just four metres from the site and can generate a lot of noise. 

Roger Birtles spoke to the committee on behalf of the venue – he asked not that the development be rejected, but deferred until a joint noise assessment between the venue and developer could be carried out as he felt the previous one was held at a quiet time.  

He said the mitigations proposed were not robust enough and suggested enclosed balconies be put in place so residents will be less affected by the noise.  

“The simple wish of the Music Room is to ensure those activities and in particular the noise [they] create is not a problem for the new residents,” he said.  

The applicant has agreed to a ‘deed of easement’, which would prevent future residents from objecting to noise generated from the Music Room.  

It also intends to mitigate the noise through glazing and adding solid balustrades to the balconies.  

Councillors asked how much the LLR flats would be rented for – though the rate changes every year based on median income per ward, the council’s head of planning said the rate at the moment is £1,030pcm for a one-bed, £1,145 for a two-bed, and £1,260 for a three-bed.  

Local Nathan Flowers objected on the grounds that light would be taken away from some residents, but committee members said “no application is perfect”, and that the benefits outweigh the negatives. 

Telegraph Hill ward Cllr Luke Sorba said people are struggling in the private rental sector and warned of a “pending eviction crisis because of the Covid-19 pandemic”. 

“[There are] landlords handing out six-month tenancies where people can be forced to move home time and time again and at great cost.  

“One in every two families who approach Lewisham Council for housing has been made homeless because their private tenancy has ended,” he said, adding that the scheme would help key workers who are not eligible for social housing and help fund “much needed” council services.  

The joint application was approved by eight committee members, while Cllr Suzannah Clarke abstained.  

Throughout the meeting she raised concerns about the height of the build, and was worried about future issues that would arise between residents and the Music Room.

On the decision, cabinet member for housing Cllr Paul Bell said: “The decision made last night will inject a welcome delivery of 324 new homes.

“The 114 affordable London Living Rent homes will be aimed at residents who cannot afford private rents but who do not qualify for social rent accommodation.

“We're proud to be able to jointly deliver these much needed new homes with Grainger that our residents so desperately need.”