We asked St Modwen questions about the latest plans for Leegate – here are their answers

Q: Why are you keeping both the original planning application (Plan A) in place as well as the new one (Plan B)?  Are you hopeful that you can find an alternative to Asda? 


A: The original planning application was approved by Lewisham’s planning committee in May 2016 and, whilst we are now pursuing a set of revised proposals, we intend completing the Section 106 agreement in order to establish the planning consent for the original scheme. However, it will be our intention to deliver the revised scheme featuring the smaller supermarket and new public square if we are successful in securing a fresh planning consent.


Q: All the evidence for some time has been that large supermarkets are falling out of favour among consumers.  Why did you stick with your plans for so long – especially when you had Plan B up your sleeve?


A: We had entered into a pre-letting agreement with Asda in respect of the original scheme, and had contractual obligations to comply with whilst that agreement remained in place. Once the agreement with Asda expired, we ensured that we were in a position to move forward quickly with fresh proposals that responded positively to outstanding concerns that some local people had expressed.


Q: You’re now considering a smaller supermarket – might that be a discounter such as Lidl?


A: We are discussing the opportunity for a smaller supermarket at Leegate with several leading food retailers. The confidential nature of these discussions means that we cannot reveal the identities of these retailers for now, but we look forward to being able to do so as we progress through the planning process.


Q: Do you envisage the same mix of shops you were hoping for when Asda was still on board?


A: The same principles apply in terms of ensuring an appropriate range of shops, cafes and other local services in order to create a sustainable district centre that meets the needs and desires of the local community. The revised scheme is less reliant for trade on visitors arriving by car, and this makes it even more important that the mix of shops and other services reflect local daily need.


Q: How do you plan to find tenants for the shops?  You only have to look at the new retail units in Lewisham that haven’t been filled to realise there isn’t enough demand.


A: We have been very clear regarding our desire to underpin the role of Lee Green as a district centre with an appropriate mix of uses that serves the local community. Our revised proposals, which feature a range of shops, cafes and community facilities arranged around a new public square, reflect the aspirations of the local community. This approach, and the creation of an attractive environment through high quality design and landscaping, will be key to attracting tenants and visitors alike.


Q: You suggest the development will be completed by 2022.  Isn’t that unrealistic considering how long it has taken so far?


A: The planning process to date has been protracted, which is understandable given the significance of the regeneration proposals locally. Our revised proposals were very well received by the local community at our recent public consultation event, and we are hopeful that the planning process will move more quickly in response this time around.


Q: Plan B gives you the opportunity to build in three phases.  Will you build in phases and won’t that increase the length of time to completion?


A: The opportunity to divide the overall development into three separate blocks or phases does not necessarily mean a longer development timeframe. It may actually mean that we are able to commence development earlier than might have been possible under a scenario where the entire scheme had to be delivered in one phase. We would hope that the scheme phases could overlap closely, in order to shorten the overall building programme.


Q: Would you envisage selling off entire blocks to housing associations – as other developers occasionally do?


A: We would ordinarily expect a planning obligation for the developer to transfer all affordable housing to a housing association. The selected housing association would own and manage the affordable housing from the point of completion and handover.


Q: The 390 homes in Plan B will mean extra pressure on schools, GPs, public transport etc.  How can you mitigate that?


A: Under a planning consent, we would be required to make a substantial financial contribution towards the provision of such local services by way of a Community Infrastructure Levy. The planning authority may additionally request us to make specific provision for providing or improving certain local facilities by way of Section 106 planning obligations.


Q: Won’t the layby for delivery to the shops in Plan B lead to an increase in pollution?


A: Shops, restaurants and other community facilities will need to be serviced. Our revised proposals will result in considerably less traffic, and therefore better air quality, compared with the approved scheme.


Q: The mews houses were an attractive idea.  Why are you putting an extra storey on top in Plan B?


A: The revised proposals for Carston Close still feature three bedroom family-type housing, but will mix apartments and maisonettes rather than just townhouses. This approach should help us to increase the amount of affordable housing that can be provided in response to feedback from the local community.


Q: Has the large community garden in Plan A disappeared in the Plan B model?


A: The original proposals featured a large communal garden for residents on a landscaped deck above commercial uses. The revised proposals see this broken down into three smaller communal gardens, serving the residents of each of the three main building blocks.


Q: The “community uses” have been reduced by 100 square metres in Plan B. Does that mean a much smaller community centre? No.


A: The reference to ‘community uses’ in the exhibition material included other uses besides the proposed new community centre. The size of the community centre we have promised to provide remains unchanged from the original proposals.


Q: The public square and pedestrian routes will please local groups such as Lee Manor Society, but how can you be sure they won’t deteriorate into the sort of space we see at Leegate now?

A: The best way to ensure a safe and welcoming environment is to have active streets and public spaces that are used by different people, for different purposes, throughout the day and into the evening. This is embedded in our design approach which integrates a mix of different uses including shops, cafes, community facilities and new homes. Our aim is to provide active street frontage as far as possible wherever there is pedestrian activity.


Q: Is St Modwen in this for the long term if you haven’t got an anchor store?


A: The revised scheme proposals are not reliant on securing a single large anchor tenant. We are confident, nonetheless, that we will secure a quality food retailer for the smaller supermarket now proposed prior to commencing redevelopment. St. Modwen remains committed to achieving a regeneration of Lee Green that the local community will be proud of.


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