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Bell Green Development

Bell Green urban renewal plan

This proposal below outlines a community-led plan for Bell Green has been initiated by the Sydenham Society with Discourse Architecture. It has been registered with Lewisham Planning Department in response to their recent ‘Call for Sites’ for consideration in the development of the new Local Plan. The catalyst has been the proposal to demolish the gas holders, adjacent to the Livesey Hall and Perry Hill, and construct new retail and light industrial units at the west end of the site. This has highlighted the profound failure of development at Bell Green to provide a good environment for local people, and the urgent need for a fresh vision for the area.

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Bell Green community-led master plan

The Sydenham Society has called for an immediate halt to demolition of the gas holders to enable proper community consultation, a review of options and completion of a masterplan for Bell Green.
Working with Discourse Architecture, we have embarked on the development of a community-led master plan for the wider Bell Green site. We believe that the gas holders, which are an important expression of our local industrial heritage, should be retained as part of this new vision.

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Bell Green Gasholders saved for now!

After a planning committee meeting that lasted two hours at Lewisham town hall, there was a unanimous vote to refuse planning consent for the construction of an Aldi supermarket, restaurant, coffee shop and storage facility for Southern Gas on the following grounds:

The proposed development would result in the loss of green space to the east of the Livesey Hall [the former bowling green] and would harm the setting of this Grade II listed building.

The additional traffic attracted by the development would have a detrimental impact on the Bell Green gyratory system and surrounding streets.

The provision of the additional retail floor space within the retail park would exceed the maximum limit of 16,110sq m as set out in the 2011 Core Strategy, thereby harming the character and viability of adjacent shopping centres.

The application failed to demonstrate that traffic and vehicle movements associated with the proposal would not increase levels of air pollution and would therefore have an unacceptable impact upon air quality within the area.

There is no mention of saving the gasholders in these conditions. However, we’ve got a ‘stay of execution’ for the time being and will continue to press for alternative uses, including the insertion of residential units into these wrought iron structures. Architects who specialise in sustainable development have advised us that flats in the form of pods, made from modern, sustainable materials could be suspended from the gasholders, removing the need for traditional foundations. We will also emphasise the need for green space at this location – echoing the reasons for refusal of the retail application.

A big thank you to everyone involved in the campaign, in particular Councillor Alan Hall @cllralanhall

“Pear Tree” statue to be erected at Bell Green

One of the conditions of the planning permission for the “Snail” development currently being built at Bell Green is that there should be money made available for creating some urban artwork within the development as part of the gateway to the pedestrian link within the scheme. The design brief was that the concept should relate to the site’s history and location. 

The sculpture which is be erected on the site is based on the fact that the area around Bell Green was once mainly farmland with a preponderance of  pear orchards with the abundant production of pear cider (perry) as evidenced by the local street names around the area – Perry Vale, Perry Rise etc.

The unnamed artist’s vision is that on approaching Bell Green one will become aware, from a distance, of two white flower structures, apparently “floating between the two buildings, presenting a soft, gentle poetic presence, amidst the bustle of Bell Green.

“Moving closer the petal structure forms and the shape emerges with clarity, revealing rhythms, movement and a magnificence of gestural curves. Amidst the whiteness sits yellow and pink centres giving a focus around which the flowers radiate.  On approaching the car park your eyes are lifted upwards and away from hectic noisy technology, attracted and enticed by the quiet, peaceful, contemplative white pear blossom sculptures.”

A planning application for the erection of “Pear Blossoms” has been submitted to the LBL planning department. 

Pear Tree sculpture

156-flat Bell Green development gathers pace. £1m new road and pedestrian scheme for area

Work is now underway on the new housing scheme at Bell Green, consisting of 156 flats, two retail units with 164 bike spaces and 111 car parking spaces.

In the next few months, planning will start on a £1m scheme to improve the Bell Green Gyratory system with improvements for pedestrians, cyclists and traffic.   The five sets of traffic lights around the gyratory will be improved and linked through SCOOT (Split Cycle Offset Optimisation Technique) – a system that responds automatically to fluctuations in traffic flow through the use of on-street detectors embedded in the road. It is expected that work on the new road scheme will be carried out in the financial year 2012-13.

Bell Green – Prescott calls a public inquiry

Strategically important site

In July 2005 Lewisham Council approved plans for the development of the Phase 2 and 3 sites at the former Bell Green gasworks. Because of the strategic importance of the site Lewisham had to refer their decision to the Mayor of London who decided not to direct Lewisham to refuse permission. Lewisham then referred the application to the Government Office for London (GOL) for John Prescott’s final approval. Deeply concerned by the superficial consideration given to the developer’s plans by Lewisham’s councillors, and by the GLA, the Sydenham Society made strong representations to John Prescott’s office.

Prescott’s action rare

John Prescott rarely calls in planning applications approved at a local level but in the case of Bell Green he has decided to do so. This means that there will be a local inquiry into the developer’s plans and that John Prescott will take the final decision rather than Lewisham Council.

Proper scrutiny

The Sydenham Society has long argued that the developer’s plan for a giant retail park at Bell Green was contrary to national and regional policies in respect of the effect on traffic levels in the area and the effect on the viability of local town centres such as Sydenham. The call-in decision vindicates the stance that we have taken and, vitally, will ensure that the issues involved are properly scrutinised.

Lack of support from councillors

The support that the Sydenham Society has received from our local councillors, that is the councillors for the Sydenham, Perry Vale, and Forest Hill wards, has been non-existent. Their conduct on this issue provides a shameful contrast with the evident care taken by the GOL in examining the developer’s proposals.

Extensive local concern

Local concern about the proposed development has been extensive. Those concerns were expressed at a large meeting in June at St George’s Church, and the response to the Lewisham consultation exercise was overwhelmingly against the development. Yet not one of our local councillors has spoken up in defence of their constituents’ concerns.

Sydenham residents are entitled to know that certain local councillors openly supported the planning application. Councillor Whiting (Forest Hill ward) voted for it, and Councillors Hastie and Best (of Perry Vale and Sydenham wards respectively) spoke in favour. Councillor Best is chair of the Sydenham Community Forum and it is difficult to reconcile her position with support for a planning application which, as the developers have acknowledged, can only damage Sydenham.

Last chance to stop the retail park

The inquiry will give local residents one last chance to try to stop a giant retail park going onto the Bell Green site. The Sydenham Society will have formal status at the inquiry and will have legal representation. That will be expensive and we will need to raise funds in order to help with the Society’s legal costs.

On detailed scrutiny John Prescott may decide that the development should proceed or should be modified rather than refused. Your Bell Green team will be arguing for refusal and for an alterative and less damaging form of development on the site. The important point though is that, at long last, the matter will have been properly examined.