On 19 October 2006, Ruth Kelly, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, granted permission to Castlemore Ltd, the development arm of British Gas, to develop the long derelict Bell Green Gasworks site as a huge retail and business park. It will consist of a Homebase and garden centre, 4 additional retail sheds, business/industrial units, a “family” restaurant, together with 156 residential units on the site in front of Sainsbury’s.
Members of the Sydenham Society’s Bell Green Team are disappointed at the outcome, naturally. We are glad that we were full participants at the recent inquiry as there have been many concerns expressed by local residents (not just Sydenham Society members) about the consequences of a Retail Park at Bell Green. Of particular concern is the anticipated resultant increase in traffic with a hypermarket-sized Homebase and garden centre as its anchor store.
Also of concern was the effect on our local high street traders of the expected loss of trade to a retail park with 1,800 free car parking spaces.
By taking part in the inquiry we made sure that these concerns were taken into consideration and examined fully by the independent Planning Inspector. We were able to challenge various statements and statistics provided by the developers and the council when arguing in favour of the development.
The Sydenham Society must hope that its fears about this development are wrong – that it will not result in increased traffic which our roads cannot cope with, and that Sydenham retailers are robust enough to overcome the inevitable strong competition from the retail giants which will join Homebase in the other sheds at Bell Green.
ne welcome benefit of this decision should be the construction of an overdue pedestrian tunnel through the railway embankment at Southend Lane rail bridge – a long agreed safety measure which should not have been contingent on the outcome of a planning decision.
TheSydenham Society has always acknowledged that Bell Green is an area urgently in need of regeneration and has for many years argued with Lewisham Council that this could be achieved by other means. However, the die is now cast and we in Sydenham, residents and traders, are going to have to live with this development, whatever its consequences.
We would like to thank everyone who gave their support to this campaign, whether through a donation or by giving their time or support. Although the outcome is not what we wanted, we have represented local views on this subject at the highest level, which after all is the primary role of the Sydenham Society.