Lewisham Mayoral candidates have responded to the way the council is using £19 million of Levelling Up funding.

The council has been given the funding after successfully putting a bid into the government and will also put £5 million in itself.

Plans are in place for the funding to be used to improve the town centre, making improvements to roads, cycle routes, CCTV, lighting and more.

However, as a by-election for Lewisham Mayor approaches next week, some of the candidates believe there are other aspects of Lewisham that need attention more urgently.


What is Levelling Up?

Levelling Up is a government scheme designed to use funding create opportunities for people throughout the UK.

The ways this will be achieved is by:

  • Improving jobs, pay and living standards  
  • Making streets safer  
  • Protecting health and wellbeing  
  • Investing in high streets and town centres  
  • Improving local transport  

£13 billion is being invested by the UK government into Levelling Up projects to help local people and businesses and to grow the economy.


How will the Levelling Up funding be spent in Lewisham?

The borough of Lewisham has been granted £19 million of Levelling Up funding from the UK government.

Lewisham Council has made plans for how the funding will be used, starting with transforming the market with the goal of supporting local traders and encouraging new visitors.

To improve the market further, the council has said that the layout will be changed to give traders more pitch space and to make it “more attractive” for customers.

The council has also confirmed that there are plans for “environmentally friendly” canopies to extend the market outside of its current trading hours, along with new paving, lighting and benches around the market.

Beyond Lewisham market, the funding will be used to support the refurbishment of Lewisham’s Grade II listed clock tower.

Another way the council will distribute the funding is by using some of it to renovate Lewisham library, including a new culture and business hub.

The council’s goal is for it to become a new community space for exhibitions, attractions and socialising through adding other services as well as books such as a workspace for local businesses or students, a new rooftop bar and a ground floor café.

In addition to this, the funding will be used to make the high street “better connected”, says the council.

The planned changes include:

·       Upgrades to current road crossings and the creation of new road crossings improving the area for pedestrians 

  • New trees and green space for people to enjoy 
  • Improved entry routes for cyclists  
  • A new mobility hub for cyclists and electric vehicles 
  • Better lighting and CCTV 

We spoke to some of the Lewisham Mayoral candidates for the 2024 election to hear their responses to the borough receiving the funding and how it is being spent.

Siama Qadar, Conservative candidate for Lewisham Mayoral election

Siama Qadar is running on behalf of the Conservative Party to represent Lewisham as its next mayor.

She was born and raised in Lewisham and went to school there, so she wants to be a voice for residents.

Siama told the News Shopper: “I’m a huge believer of Levelling Up and it’s going to make an incredible difference.

“What levelling up will do is it’s going to change our old goals and give us new goals.

“It’s going to give us a greater vision and it’s going to improve and grow our target so not only is Lewisham borough itself going to grow but also the people within Lewisham are going to grow in their mindset as well.

“So, we’re essentially pushing ourselves out of a comfort zone and into a new vision and aspiration so I think the levelling up is an incredibly good thing to have.”

While Siama believes the Levelling Up funding will be hugely beneficial to Lewisham, she also thinks there are areas in the borough that are overlooked.

Some of the places she outlined in particular Deptford and Evelyn due to their high crime rates.

Siama claims that the way to tackle this issue to find the root cause and spend funds to begin tackling it.

She said: “Most of the crime is shop lifting, for instance, and I have spoken to quite a few businesses in Deptford high street that have to shut by 5pm because they get a lot of shop lifting.

“They speak to the police but unfortunately, they can’t do anything about it.

“So, we need a lot more CCTV cameras but that is only a short-term prevention.

“What we need to do is work out the source of the issue when it comes to crime.

“We need more police on the streets, more neighbourhood watches so residents and businesses coming together with a cohesive partnership, coming together to actually work with one another to help as well where crime is being created.”


Chris Maines, Liberal Democrat candidate for Lewisham Mayoral election

Chris Maines is running on behalf of the Liberal Democrat Party to represent Lewisham as its next mayor.

While he welcomes the opportunity for funding to go into the selected areas, he has criticised the council for not focusing on what he believes are more important issues – tackling crime and the housing crisis.

He said: “The funding is certainly really welcome here and it should be used to really benefit Lewisham town centre.

“Sadly, the council has failed to make applications for previous schemes so we are playing a bit of catch up here.

“But it’s good that we’ve got the money.

“What I would be critical of is the fact that the council and the previous mayor particularly never really brought people together.

“So you’ve got the shopping centre about to embark on a huge redevelopment.

“You have got the Lewisham gateway development which is nearing completion and now Lewisham has got this money, but no one brings them all together.

“Together they could actually they could have a master plan where everyone’s developments link up together and actually have a vision for the town centre.”

He added that if he had it his way, he would bring all of these aspects together and that it’s a “huge shame” the council has not done this already and that this would be a priority for him if elected.

While he acknowledged that the market “plays an important role” in the borough, particularly for adding character to the area and helping those on limited incomes access affordable food, Chris thinks that “we need to be thinking about what the people  in 2030 and 2040 will want from a town centre.”

Instead, he thinks a focus on getting more people out and about in Lewisham during the evening would be helpful to the economy.

He describes the current evening economy as “dire” and the town centre in the evening as “almost a no man’s land.”

As well as improving the economy, Chris believes that the more footfall there is in Lewisham’s town centre, the safer it will be.

He said: “If you just spend money on CCTV and lighting but there’s nothing there for people to go to, it becomes a bit of a wasteland.

“If you could generate businesses, wine bars, cafes, it’s a traffic free zone a car free zone it could be a really nice area for people coming back from London, people wanting to go out nearby and locally.

“So, I think CCTV and lighting is treating the symptoms rather than giving a positive spin on why people would go there and making it more resident and consumer friendly.”

Another area Chris feels more of the funding could have gone into is housing, he suggested potentially an “imaginative scheme” that would involve “using the town centre perhaps as a hub for housing so people with complaints could go in for face-to-face contact and report problems.”

He slammed Lewisham Council as having been “very poor” working with developers to deliver social housing in the borough, claiming that lots of people spend hours on the phone trying to get through to Lewisham homes to report problems.


The News Shopper reached out to Brenda Dacres, the Labour and Co-operative Party Mayoral candidate for Lewisham, Labour MP Vicky Foxcroft, Labour MP Janet Daby, Labour MP Ellie Reeves and several Labour councillors from Lewisham for further interviews or comments but they did not respond.

A by-election for the Mayor of Lewisham will be held on Thursday, March 7.

This comes after former Lewisham Mayor Damien Egan resigned back in January 2024.