Leegate

Interview with Killian Morris of St Modwen

Killian Morris, St Modwen on right
Killian Morris of St Modwen at Leegate exhibition
There are a lot of people who support the scheme and are thrilled that Leegate’s days are numbered.  However, there were some tough questions being asked at the exhibition.  On your behalf, we put some of them to Killian Morris, Senior Development Manager, St Modwen.

 

 

 

Give us your vision of what the new development will look like and what it will do for the area.

KM: Our proposals will ensure a thriving district centre for Lee Green, with successful shops, cafes and community uses complemented by new housing, public outdoor space, and safe parking facilities. We are concerned with what people will experience at street level, and accordingly we have wrapped the foodstore element of the scheme with parades of smaller shops, cafes, and housing. This approach enables us to create active street frontage with a quality pedestrian environment around all four sides of the Leegate site – compare this to the current situation.  In response to public feedback, we have employed award-winning architects and landscaping experts to ensure a very high quality of design. Local people can expect to see beautifully detailed brick elevations and attractive shop fronts complemented by new trees and quality paving materials. It will transform perceptions of Lee Green as a district centre, and will act as a catalyst for further investment and regeneration.

 

Leegate has been an eyesore for years – with lots of empty shops.  Why has it taken St Modwen so long to do anything about it?

KM: We had hoped to bring forward a set of development proposals several years ago, but the deep economic recession that intervened in 2008 rendered those plans unviable. It was quite literally a case of ‘back to the drawing board’. It is also important to acknowledge the complex challenges that exist in redeveloping centres such as Leegate – it can often be impractical or unviable to redevelop where the majority of premises are let on long leases. Over the past number of years, we have been putting in place a site assembly strategy at Leegate, in order to facilitate redevelopment. This has involved replacing longer leases on shop and office premises with short-term letting agreements, and buying flats located above the centre. Whilst this does not make headlines, it is vital work in ensuring that we are well placed to deliver our plans. We hope local people will ultimately feel that the comprehensive design-led approach adopted in the current proposals has compensated for the longer wait.

 

Just how committed are you to ensuring this project is actually going to happen?

KM: We are fully committed to ensuring this regeneration takes place. Quite apart from the resources we have committed to date in bringing forward our proposals, we are excited at the prospect of realising a comprehensive regeneration that will transform this site and positively influence perceptions of Lee Green.

 

Why do we have to have a second superstore?

KM: The key question here is whether people wish to see an invigorated district centre offering a healthy range of businesses and local services, or whether people are content to see Lee Green decline further as a place for these activities. Whilst Sainsbury’s enjoys strong local trade, many local residents leave the catchment on a weekly basis to carry out their main food shopping in other district centres and town centres.  These residents are likely to use other shops and businesses located in these other town centres as part of a combined trip, which means Lee Green loses out further. We want to capture as much local spending as possible within Lee Green, and having a competitive food shopping offer will help us to achieve this. The new foodstore will create far greater footfall, which will ensure viable trading conditions for the smaller shops and businesses that will occupy the prime street frontages around the centre. The foodstore is an important element in ensuring that the overall regeneration is financially viable and deliverable. It will additionally create a large number of new jobs for the local community.

 

Why Asda?

KM: We approached all of the major food retailers, including Sainsbury’s and Waitrose, with the opportunity. We received competing bids from Asda and Morrisons. We selected Asda as they were the most willing to work with us on a design that retained the ground floor for retail uses (as opposed to parking), and accepted that street frontages should be given over to parades of smaller shops and cafes. Waitrose have declined the opportunity on several separate occasions.

 

The current trend is clearly towards shopping at the discounters like Lidl and at small convenience stores like Little Waitrose.  Aren’t you getting it wrong?

KM: Shopping patterns have undoubtedly changed. We all shop around more, and the large food retailers can no longer rely on the brand loyalty of today’s customers who demand greater value and choice. Notwithstanding the growth of convenience stores, the majority of families still carry out their main weekly food shopping at a large supermarket. Whilst shopping trends may have spelt the end of the ‘space race’ for vast superstores on the edges of our towns and cities, customer demand remains for well-designed supermarkets in densely populated urban areas served by public transport.

 

Couldn’t we have a smaller supermarket and more specialist food retailers?

KM: The proposed Asda supermarket has a sales floor similar in size to the Sainsbury’s store opposite. Both Asda and Morrisons (who also bid for this opportunity) have stated the importance of being able to compete with Sainsbury’s on a level playing field, and this means having the space to provide the same range of product lines. Unlike the Sainsbury’s development, our proposals feature new shops, cafes, community facilities, and an outdoor market. Our proposals aim to harness the benefits that the new foodstore will bring (high footfall, safe parking facilities etc) in order to ensure that these other businesses thrive. Specialist food shops, delicatessens, cafes and food markets can all form part of this mix.

 

What if Asda pulls out five years down the line?  You may have a 20 year agreement with them but I’m sure there are break clauses.

KM: There are no break clauses in our agreement with Asda, who are prepared to commit to a 20 year lease term.

 

Isn’t the development going to increase traffic in an already heavily congested area?

KM: We have undertaken extensive surveys to establish existing traffic conditions, and detailed traffic modelling to show the predicted impact of our proposals on the local road network. Whilst some additional traffic will be generated, it is important to recognise that many visitors to the new Asda will be local residents who might otherwise be on the local road network making trips to foodstores outside of Lee Green. Others will be shoppers who have simply switched from Sainsbury’s. Our proposals take into account improvements due to be carried out to the Tiger’s Head Junction by Transport for London during 2015, which are predicted to improve local traffic flow. We are additionally proposing a series of mitigation measure, such as the proposed new bus layby opposite Sainsbury’s which will prevent traffic backing up behind stopped buses on Burnt Ash Road. Under a Section 106 agreement, we propose to additionally make a sum of money available towards the implementation of further traffic calming measures on local roads. All of the survey information, traffic modelling and the related conclusions have been compiled in a detailed Transport Assessment and Traffic Statement that form part of the planning application. These will shortly be available, and local residents can review the detailed content during the formal planning consultation period.

 

The Lee Green crossroads are designated an ‘Air Quality Management Area by Lewisham Council because nitrogen dioxide and particulate levels have exceeded council targets.  Is the development going to make it worse?  

KM: The Council is working on improving the air quality across the borough through the implementation of its Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP), and St Modwen will seek to agree with the Council how it can contribute to the Air Quality Action Plan process or assist in the monitoring and implementation of some of the measures to improve air quality in the local area or more widely across the borough. Evidence shows that trees and other vegetation at street level can reduce the concentration of pollutants associated with traffic.  Our proposals include the enhanced planting of trees along the Eltham Road and Burnt Ash Road which will provide some benefit from an air quality perspective.  The development will also increase the width of pedestrian footways between the roads and the façades of the Leegate buildings, moving pedestrians further back from the nearby roads compared to the current situation. St Modwen has undertaken an Air Quality Assessment to be submitted with the planning application; the results of this will be used to determine whether the proposed development will affect the implementation of the Council’s Air Quality Action Plan.

 

Why put the ‘public space’ on that busy road next to bus stops?  Who will sit outside a café when they have to breathe in traffic fumes?

KM: The public space creates a distance of 16 metres between the proposed new building line and the road.  This is a generous distance, which will incorporate a double line of trees and market stalls that will make this an attractive space whilst providing a natural buffer between the road and seating terraces outside cafes/restaurant premises. The public space will be over 60 metres in length, and will not contain the bus stop which will be situated to its north.  The benefits for pedestrians on Burnt Ash Road will be very significant, as they will be able to place themselves at a greater distance from the road along the entire length of the site – I don’t think this has been fully appreciated as yet.

 

Some people were disappointed that the gardens aren’t going to be accessible to the public.  Shouldn’t they be?

KM: The proposed residents’ roof gardens are situated several floors above street level, where they will provide needed outdoor space and children’s play areas for residents of the private and affordable housing. Ensuring the provision of communal space and play areas for children in particular will help to foster a sense of community, whilst ensuring the development attracts a balanced mix of residents including young families. Permitting unfettered public access to these gardens would create a variety of problems for residents, particularly those with young children.

 

How about providing a recessed square with seating off the planned ‘public domain’ i.e. off Burnt Ash Road?

KM: In evolving our public realm proposals, our design team examined a variety of alternative approaches. Our concern regarding a deeper enclosed square is that the mistakes of the past would simply be repeated; quieter retail parades overlooking a largely internal square would reduce commercial viability and ultimately lead to vacant shop premises. It would risk creating a space perhaps well-used at certain times of day, but devoid of pedestrian activity at other times of day and in particular at night. A balance must be struck between creating a space that offers respite from traffic, and a space that remains dynamic and attractive for the retailers and for pedestrians.

 

You’re planning a number of retail units.  What sort of businesses do you think you’ll attract there?

KM: The future success of Lee Green as a district centre depends upon its ability to attract local people to visit on a frequent basis for everyday needs, as well as for leisure activities. We should especially consider the types of activities that people will combine with food shopping. We have already received strong interest from a national gym operator and an education provider, whose customers increasingly combine those activities with trips to a supermarket. Cafes, restaurants, newsagents, chemists, opticians, and hair & beauty are all services that people value having on their doorstep. If we can combine these types of uses with more niche independent shops such as a butcher, bicycle shop, patisserie or vintage clothes store, we will have a successful mix that combines everyday convenience with local character.

 

Is there going to be any room for the retailers currently at Leegate?  

KM: Yes. Our commitment to providing smaller premises suited to independent retailers means that there will be such opportunities. As demolition and rebuilding will take up to two years, all centre tenants will need to relocate at some stage with some potentially returning when the new scheme is completed.  Whilst it will not be possible to relocate all existing traders back into the new development, it must be appreciated that many occupy on the basis of short-term letting agreements having accepted that their premises would be required for redevelopment.

 

A lot of people consider the planned building on the crossroads is too high.  Will you reduce it?

KM: We have already reduced the height of this building in direct response to feedback from local stakeholders. It is intentional to place a taller building at the crossroads where it will have a landmark quality. We believe that the high architectural quality of this building will justify its prominence. The overall height and massing of the buildings have been developed in consultation with the Lewisham Design Review Panel which has said very positive things about the current scheme design.

 

The new homes will put pressure on schools, doctors, public transport.  Have you plans to mitigate the effect?

KM: Under a Section 106 agreement, the Council will require St Modwen to make a series of financial contributions towards the funding of local school places, doctor surgeries, local training and employment initiatives, and towards a variety of other local services. The Council will seek to ensure that the development pays its way in terms of any impact it might have upon local public resources.

 

What proportion will be affordable homes?  And what does that mean because not many new homes these days are affordable?

KM: Under the terms of any planning consent, St Modwen would be required to ensure that an agreed percentage of the new homes are designated ‘affordable housing’. This is housing that we must transfer, upon completion, to a housing association. The housing association will offer shared-ownership to purchasers who would otherwise be priced out of the local market, whilst providing rented accommodation at affordable rents to qualifying tenants. The exact amount and mix of affordable housing will be determined by a viability test imposed by the Council, who have employed specialist consultants to assess how much affordable housing the development can afford to provide. This will be determined prior to the planning application going before Lewisham’s planning committee, and the conclusions will be publicly available.

 

We know you won’t negotiate here, but under Section 106 you are expected to offer some provisions for the local community.  Can you give us a hint of what’s on offer?

KM: In addition to the Section 106 contributions mentioned above, St Modwen has voluntarily offered to provide a permanent new community centre as part of the development proposals. This will provide a hub for local organisations and activities within the heart of the new centre.

 

We know you’ve commissioned Stirling Prize winning architects, but developers are known for taking one lot of architects and plans to the committee and then watering it down and doing it on the cheap.  Can you guarantee you won’t do that?

KM:  In pre-application discussions, the planners at London Borough of Lewisham have made it very clear that any planning consent would contain conditions aimed at securing the quality of design promised in the planning application. This would make it difficult to water down the design subsequently. We are fully signed up to this principle, and will be providing very detailed drawings and materials samples as part of the planning application. St Modwen is proposing to invest in the region of £100m in Lee Green, and we have a vested interest in ensuring that the quality of architecture and design makes this a place where people will be proud to live.

 

When do you hope to start and finish?

KM: If we are able to have our planning application determined in the Spring of next year, we would hope to start works on site towards the end of 2016. It will take approximately two years to complete the commercial scheme and to deliver the new shops and outdoor space (completion of all of the housing will take longer). It is important that local people who wish to see this regeneration take shape, voice their support and tell Lewisham Council they want to see this happen.

 

 


 

Public exhibition on Saturday 15 November 2014

 

Were you there?  What did you think?

Exhibition 1 Exhibition 2 Exhibition 3 Exhibition 4Exhibition 12Exhibition 7

 

 

Exhibition 10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exhibition 9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From St Modwen:

Listening to people’s views expressed at two previous exhibitions as well as two years’ of consultation meetings with local stakeholders and the council, we have now put landscaping and improving the public realm right at the heart of the regeneration.  Our plans now include a comprehensive and high-quality landscaping treatment, new semi-mature trees and other planting to Leegatetransform the environment around the Leegate Shopping Centre, making it an attractive and exciting destination for residents and visitors alike.  Central to the latest proposals is a new public space on Burnt Ash Road framed by large, semi-mature trees that will provide an attractive and lively environment for café terraces, shops, market stalls and outdoor seating.

Our aim is to make the centre more attractive and successful as a local shopping destination – drawing in and retaining local shoppers, boosting daytime activity and improving safety and security.  The newly-developed scheme would create over 400 new jobs and would introduce a new mix of shop and restaurant units fronting Burnt Ash Road and Eltham Road.

Enhanced public outdoor spaces, safer and better parking facilities as well as a new anchor foodstore are key to re-establishing Leegate as an attractive local centre.  The proposed Asda would have a sales area of similar size to that of the Sainsbury’s in Lee Green and would be sensitively integrated within the overall development.  It would be largely hidden at street-level by these smaller units for independent shops, restaurants and cafés along Burnt Ash Road and Eltham Road and townhouses and residential entrances along Leyland Road and Carston Close.

St. Modwen’s proposals would:

Comprehensively redevelop the existing centre with new shops, cafés and restaurants as well as leisure and community facilities

  • Provide opportunities for independent shops, restaurants and cafés
  • Introduce attractively landscaped public spaces incorporating semi-mature trees
  • Provide 230 new homes set around landscaped courtyard gardens
  • Create a permanent community facility, providing a hub for residents’ activities and events
  • Replace Leegate House and Cantilever House with new, high-quality residential buildings
  • Provide a new Asda foodstore (similar size to Sainsbury’s at Lee Green) with entrances off Burnt Ash Road and Eltham Road
  • Enhance the public space within and around the centre, making it safer and more attractive
  • Create over 400 jobs for local people

The development tealeegate market stallsm will be available to speak to people and answer questions at the event.  Our revised plans will also be available on our website from 15 November:

www.leegate-regeneration.co.uk

I hope you will be able to attend the exhibition.

If you have any queries or would like more information, please contact us on 020 7323 3544 or via email at info@leegate-regeneration.co.uk

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