Plans to redevelop Lewisham Shopping Centre will include over 2,500 homes

The current Lewisham shopping centre Pic: Henry Smith

Plans to demolish Lewisham shopping centre and renovate the site to include thousands of homes have been announced by its owners, major property development company Landsec.

Landsec are currently holding another consultation – following the first in November 2020 – on their plans, which still include shops, but also residential space composed of around 2,500 homes, and some commercial office space. The online feedback questionnaire can be found here.

The plans also include improved pedestrian access from Lewisham train station to the shops, as pedestrians currently have to cross the A20 to get there.

Lewisham Council’s draft Local Plan, which sets out planning and development guidance for the borough as a whole, identifies the shopping centre as a key strategic site in Lewisham Town Centre and highlights the opportunities which its redevelopment would bring.

The plan currently being considered is broken up into three stages, travelling from the northern end of the site to the south. The first stage would focus on creating space for small businesses, food outlets, and workspaces and leisure – which they hope will promote a more vibrant nightlife in the area – as well as an arrival space aimed at pedestrians and cyclists.

Also in the potential first stage is the ‘Lewisham Loop’, a network of connected public spaces for further pedestrian convenience, and more public spaces which would have ‘biodiverse planting’.

The second stage would be more about housing and retail space, creating new open-air shopping streets, and further space on the existing Lewisham High Street in order to extend the retail portion of it beyond its current boundaries, as well as ‘flexible shop units’ to attract different kinds of retailers. This stage also includes public spaces with lots of planting. This is the stage in which most of the housing would be put up.

Plans for the third stage are less concrete as it would be the last stage to be constructed, however it currently would consist of space for retail, ‘health and wellbeing’ and provide a pedestrian and cycle route connecting the high street and the Ravensbourne river on the opposite side of the site.

A 45-year-old building

The current Lewisham shopping centre was opened in 1977, built at a time of decreasing population in Lewisham, and an increase in the use of cars, hence the large multi-story car park on the site. Also on the plot is a large, 1970s office block, formerly belonging to Citi bank.

Lewisham council’s draft Local Plan states: “The character of Lewisham centre and its surroundings is strongly informed by its shopping and leisure destinations, as well as its highly active public places … many of the older sites have poor quality retail and leisure offerings. Significant redevelopment opportunities exist alongside planned transport investment that will allow the character of Lewisham to be reimagined.” They also say that they want Lewisham central to become more of a “metropolitan” area, “on par with the likes of Bromley or Croydon”.

Forest Hill resident Wahid Uddin, 20 told ELL: “The old city planners considered urban and metropolitan areas as having a major retail centre within a radius of a residential area. Removing the shopping centre for any amount of time would prove to be a logistical difficulty, to say the least, and the public reaction would certainly be a major factor against this proposal.”

Lewisham resident of 40 years, Katrina Rublowsky, 59 said: “I remember walking to Lewisham shopping centre in the 80s with my flatmates, trying on clothes, browsing in the record shops and buying fruit and veg at the outdoor market. Nowadays I find it a shabby and depressing place, with many of the big chains closed down, and I rarely go there. Lewisham has never been great for restaurants or nightlife. I hope the redevelopment will make it more of a cultural hub.”

Some have expressed concerns about if people will be able to afford rents in the new complex in the future.

Emma Henry commented on a post about the plans in a Lewisham community Facebook group: “And how many of those homes would be “affordable” and when I mean affordable people who live in the borough can actually afford them on a normal living wage. 🤔 Not against redevelopment but let’s face it, it’s going to price people out of the area. It would be nice to have homes that are not just for the well off with a sh***y poor door slung round the back.

Alex Zakharov told News Shopper: “I’m concerned the rents will go up by lots if they redevelop the centre. Whether we stay and survive, it depends on the rent prices. It’s 50:50 at the moment.”

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