It’s time to tell the council you want the roads moved back from the Quaggy and the river restored.

As we remarked in a previous news item – Lewisham Gateway outline planning application (18th May 2006) – the Lewisham Gateway application outlines the most important change to affect Lewisham since the ill-fated “Lewisham 2000” project, and will determine the look and feel of Lewisham town centre for decades to come.

Don’t be fooled again
It is because “Lewisham 2000” was such a big mistake that the council now plan to replace it! But this time we know from public consultation that the local community will judge this plan a success only if it results in the creation of more green space and opened-up rivers set in an attractive environment.

However, the current proposal results in less green space and only one improvement to the rivers – the confluence in front of the railway station. A significant stretch of the River Ravensbourne will be buried underground and roads will be moved close up against the River Quaggy – destroying the chance of making it a special feature of the town centre.

The current and planned layouts for the "Lewisham Gateway" area

The current and planned layouts for the “Lewisham Gateway” area

QWAG’s long campaign for a legacy for the future
QWAG have been campaigning since the early ‘90s for the restoration of the rivers in Lewisham town centre as a way to revitalise it – to make it a uniquely attractive and enjoyable environment for shoppers, workers and residents. QWAG have always believed that this was the key to making the area prosperous and successful.

The Urban Renaissance in Lewisham (URL) project (now in its sixth year of planning) looked as if it would provide a never to be repeated opportunity to re-engineer the rivers in this prominent location – to bring them back to life and give them back to the people – and to donate a great legacy to future generations.

But it seems that, while the developers recognise the way that the rivers can be used to highlight its development – by creating a single short river feature – they will not be restoring the rivers as a whole. In fact they will be either buried underground or strait-jacketed by the development.

The public spoke – but who listened?
A major public consultation exercise carried out for URL in 2002 revealed that people thought environmental issues, including “opening up the rivers”, were the most important things for the future of the town centre. “Open up rivers and create more green space and an attractive environment” was the most commonly expressed wish for the Lewisham Gateway area – fifty percent more important than the next most important issue – the quality of the shops.

So it is greatly disappointing that the recently submitted planning application details improvements to only one quarter of the length of rivers in the area. And it is very surprising that large sections of them will be buried underground and significant green spaces alongside them will be taken away. These spaces, although currently of poor quality, represent the potential to restore the rivers and create something very special.

What you can do
QWAG are asking for only 500 square metres of green space to bring the Quaggy back to life (see cross section below). We estimate the developer wants to remove 2,000 square metres of green space. Now it is your turn to say what you want.

The planning application has been lodged and Lewisham Council want your comments. Write to: Planning Department, Lewisham Council, Laurence House, London. SE6 4SW, quoting reference DC/06/62375. State that you want the roads to be four more metres away from the River Quaggy and the river restored with gentle, safe river banks, in a green corridor that you can enjoy walking along.

Remember that it’s your space – have your say.

How the river could be restored if the road was moved four more metres away from the river

How the river could be restored if the road was moved four more metres away from the river

QWAG’s view
The planning application does not create the unique river environment that could make Lewisham so special. It does little good in its current form for the rivers and for the most part it will actually destroy any opportunity to restore them in the future. QWAG believe that Lewisham would be better off rejecting the planning application if it is not changed.

How the river will remain

How the river will remain

If the planning application can be changed to move the development and roads four more metres away from the River Quaggy and the river is restored properly then QWAG would support the development.

The Quaggy as it is today in front of St Stephen’s Church on Lewisham High Street. If the roads are moved as close as the developer wishes then even the best possible restoration will still result in a river bank that is very steep and dangerous and we will lose the opportunity to bring the river back into the landscape. With a few metres more the river could be restored with gentle, safe river banks and a green corridor created.

Key points:

  • The development and roads will be moved closer to the River Quaggy making it impossible to restore this part of the river properly for the foreseeable future. All that is needed is an extra 500 square metres – a tiny fraction of the development space.
  • Only a quarter of the length of the rivers is detailed to be improved.
  • The development will add a significant amount of culverting to the rivers. (Some exposure of the Quaggy in front of the police station will be carried out but this was always intended as part of the development and has been delayed to integrate with any URL work.)
  • A large amount of green space is being taken away from alongside the rivers – loosing the opportunity to integrate them into their surroundings. (The developers don’t count pub gardens as green space.)
  • Public consultation for URL revealed that rivers and green spaces were the most important things to the people whose space this is.

What QWAG is looking for:

  • An increase in the width available to re-engineer and restore the River Quaggy on the eastern side of the development site.

Make a splash without getting wet!