Lewisham’s housing solution: pop-up homes anyone?

Ladywell Leisure Centre will close once Lewisham's new leisure Centre is complete. Pic: Wikimedia Commons

The Ladywell Leisure Centre. Pic: Wikimedia Commons

Lewisham is set to be the first borough in England with ‘redeployable housing’ after the council approved plans for the redevelopment of the Ladywell Leisure Centre on 22 October.

The development, designed to last up to four years, will provide 24 residential and eight commercial premises that can be reused across the borough.

The proposals are designed as a stopgap before wider regeneration of the area in the coming years, creating a mix of housing and other amenities for the community.

Alan Smith, Deputy Mayor of Lewisham Council with responsibility for neighbourhood renewal and housing supply, said that more long-term redevelopment of the area had been delayed by TfL’s road works around the area, but also by the possibility of other sites around the leisure centre becoming available.

He added: “What we tend to do in Lewisham is ‘masterplan’ areas. This means that we look at the bigger picture so that we can maximise the use. That does slow it down a little bit, but you end up with a much better usage at the end of it.”

The council has now begun a procurement exercise aiming to award a contract by January with construction to start as early as summer 2015. Smith said there had been a ‘very positive response’ with confidential interest expressed by eight or nine different companies.

The Lewisham Green Party was cautiously welcoming of the council’s decision, calling for the tendering process to prioritise energy efficient homes and to use local contractors and workers, a matter on which Smith agreed.

The Greens also called on the council to ensure that whatever followed the redeployable homes gives priority to council housing, saying in their official response: “The development which replaces the temporary homes needs to be comprised of council and genuinely affordable housing. We already have several new developments of unaffordable homes being bought as investments, with more being constructed, while thousands of households remain on the council’s waiting list, hundreds in urgent need.”

Quick to build and easy to move homes have not been a common part of the British housing landscape since the government embarked on the building of 150,000 prefabricated homes after the Second World War.

Only designed to last 10 years, a number have survived to the present day with the largest collection being the Excalibur estate in Catford. The estate, which contains six Grade II listed prefabs, was approved for demolition by Lewisham Council in 2011.

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