On February 5 Lewisham officers presented the Pools stakeholders’ group with the outcome of the feasibility study into the future of the pools. The study was undertaken at the request of the Mayor, Sir Steve Bullock, after the Council’s initial plans had been derailed last August due to the listing of Louise House by English Heritage.
The Council’s new thinking is contained in the following three options:
The first option is for a complete demolition of the Pools’ frontage block (the Superintendent’s House) and for a new building in its place incorporating a leisure centre and housing. This scheme would have an entrance facing east (towards Forest Hill station) and would be accessed via the green space in front of Kingswear House. The scheme is a variation on those submitted by HLM architects last summer and retains many of its design features. However, the officers stated that it was unlikely to gain approval as 1) it incorporates housing – and this will be difficult to ‘deliver’ in the current financial climate; and 2) it will be unlikely to satisfy English Heritage who will have to be consulted about any new development adjacent to Louise House (now Grade 2 listed). In addition, a review of the Forest Hill town centre conservation area is currently being undertaken and may well be extended to include the north side of Dartmouth Road up to and including Holy Trinity School.
In this scheme the Pools’ frontage block is retained and a new pools building is built behind and to the side – taking up approximately half the pocket park. Although the scheme (by Allies & Morrison) is only ‘indicative’ (ie. showing what is possible on the site, rather than a finished design) its features include a ‘wavy’ roof sloping down towards Derby Hill Crescent and skylights. The scheme does not include housing – instead, the Council are looking at their empty depot site in Willow Way as a possible site for housing which would provide a cross-subsidy to finance the new leisure centre. However, officers pointed out that in order to achieve this, the site would have to be re-designated in planning terms from ‘employment’ to ‘residential’ which could be a complex and lengthy process.
The third option is to build a new pool on the Willow Way site. As pools and leisure centres provide employment, the land would not require a re-designation. The advantage is that the site is empty and immediately available and a new complex could be built relatively swiftly. In a scheme submitted by Pollard Thomas Edwards Architects, Louise House and the Pools’ frontage block would then be converted into housing with new housing to the rear. Dartmouth Road would be a prestigious site and would attract maximum housing receipts once developed.
The Sydenham Society’s response
Having looked carefully at the three options, the Sydenham Society has decided to support Option 2 along with both the Forest Hill Society and the Save the Face of Forest Hill campaign. The Forest Hill Society has expressed its strong preference for Option 2 as it brings swimming and leisure back to Forest Hill and maintains the ‘civic focus’ of the Dartmouth Road group of buildings. The reintroduction of these facilities will help regenerate both Forest Hill town centre and Dartmouth Road – in serious decline since the Pools closed. Additionally, Option 2 will provide Dartmouth Road with a building informed by high quality contemporary design. As the architects of the extension to the Horniman Museum, Allies & Morrison are not only skilled at combining historic buildings with contemporary structures but they know Forest Hill and the surrounding area. A further point made by the Forest Hill Society is that the Willow Way site could be developed for some form of employment-led mixed use, possibly in the form of live-work units (apparently these are now more commercially viable than residential apartments). Lewisham is about to consult on its Core Strategy/Local Development Framework (the successor to the UDP) and re-designation of the site to residential could be addressed as part of this process.
The Mayor will make his decision on the three options at the Mayor & Cabinet meeting on February 25.
All three options and supporting material can be viewed on Lewisham’s website at: