Development of abandoned Lewisham landmark will have no affordable homes

Ladywell Playtower as it appears today. Pic: Wikipedia Commons

An abandoned 138-year-old Victorian building in Lewisham will be turned into a mixed-use scheme including a cinema and 33 flats – but none of them will be affordable homes.

Originally opened in 1884 as one of the first public swimming pools in the country, Ladywell Playtower will be transformed after the plans were approved by the council’s strategic planning committee this week.

Acknowledging the lack of affordable homes at the development, Labour councillor Liz Johnston-Franklin told the committee: “Social housing is so important in our community, and we weren’t able to provide it.”

“This is not a precedent, it’s a one off.”

Johnston-Franklin explained that the project cannot provide an affordable housing contribution due to the cost of the renovation and conversion of the building.

Some residents have criticised the decision.

Interior of the building at the moment. Pic: Lewisham Council

Wahid Uddin, long-time Lewisham resident told Eastlondonlines: “The lack of affordable housing has been excused as a cost of refurbishment, but it seems like it stands to fill the pockets of those responsible for the refurbishment.”

The plans for the building will see the former pool tanks being transformed into cinema rooms, allowing up to 300 person capacity. 

There are also plans for two news blocks, with five and three floors respectively, to be constructed to accommodate the new flats.

“This is an important milestone. It takes us another step closer to securing the future of this much-loved local landmark,” said Mayor of Lewisham, Damien Egan.

“As well as safeguarding the Playtower’s future, the new cinema will be a fantastic addition to the local community and create new jobs” Mayor Egan added.

New Building plan. Pic:Lewisham Council

The Ladywell Tower, which was used as a watch house in World War II as defence against air raids, is now in the top 10 historic buildings at risk in England.

Although only approved this week, plans to transform the building so that it is fit for public use again have been on the cards for some time.

Back in January, the council announced the agreement with construction company Guildmore to lead the restoration project in partnership with independent cinema operator, Curzon.

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