Matthew Blumler gives an update on the £250 million urban regeneration program in Central Lewisham

Urban Renaissance Lewisham (URL) is in the 5th year of its 7 year program to transform the area between the railway station and the shopping areas of central Lewisham. QWAG have been actively involved in the project from the beginning and sit on the board that oversees this ambitious urban regeneration project.

Preparing the ground rules
Last year we reported on the two key documents that would help to define the nature of this massive redevelopment – The Planning Brief and the Development Brief. QWAG and public opinion had a positive effect on the Planning Brief, resulting in recognition that the rivers should become an integral, attractive, living part of the development.

Since our last newsletter the second document – the Development Brief – has been completed. This document was specifically written for prospective developers; to introduce them to the area and place the project in the context of aspirations for the wider area as well as detail the aims of this specific redevelopment.

The Development Brief also describes some requirements on how the project should be run. For example the brief states that “the design should be informed through public consultation”.

The initial draft of this document was rather turgid and was much improved after considerable input from the URL board. Not all of QWAG’s suggestions were adopted and QWAG would have liked to have seen more emphasis put on the rivers and the way that they could be expected to create a unique character for the area. However, the brief did state that one of the urban design objectives is “to improve the river environments, particularly around the confluence.”

Selecting a developer
At the beginning of this year the URL board began considering tenders from development consortiums. Although the board exists to try and represent all the interests in the area it was not allowed to select the developer. That task was given to the major landowners – Lewisham Council, Transport for London and the London Development Agency.

The URL board passed its comments to this group who took them into consideration when making their selection. The selected developer for URL was finally announced on the 21st June to be AMEC. AMEC is an international project management and services company and has teamed up with Taylor Woodrow Developments for this particular bid.

Of all the proposals put forward by 4 qualifying developers this was probably the most hopeful for the rivers. It included a number of linked green spaces including green space around the confluence. The URL board had indicated to the decision makers that it preferred 2 of the 4 – AMEC and Berkeley.

The AMEC proposal was preferred by the URL board specifically in terms of urban design, connectivity and sustainable development. Surprisingly, despite what the planning and development briefs said about making the most of the rivers, one of the 4 developers – Bellway – actually proposed covering up the river!

Be encouraged, be vocal
This decision is good news for QWAG and, we think, for the project as a whole. However we should all bare in mind that, so far, only suggestions have been made for the design and layout of the area. The final design will “… be informed through public consultation.”

We have seen that public opinion makes a real difference in the case of this project and so we should all feel encouraged to go out there and express ourselves, when that consultation process begins.

Make a splash without getting wet!