Let’s Get it Right! Community convinces Council to take their time over contentious Tidemill development.

Lewisham Council's Strategic Planning Committee has voted for more time to consider the community’s fears over the controversial Old Tidemill School housing scheme in Deptford

Lewisham Council's Strategic Planning Committee | Photo credit: © The Quay Point

A Friends of Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden Press Release

In a packed council chamber on Thursday night (29th September 2016) and with protests being held outside, the Strategic Planning Committee unanimously voted to defer the proposed planning application, citing their fears over the loss of the popular Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden, the impact of loss of sunlight on surrounding homes and the forced relocation of residents of Reginald House, earmarked for demolition.

The Chair of the Planning Committee, Councillor Amanda De Ryk said “I certainly would like to feel that we had done everything we could to broker an agreement between the community and the developers. We need to absolutely look again at the proposed spaces, both public and private, with the way that they are run, managed and shared, particularly in terms of the children, that’s a point that has been well made by community”

The council-owned site was controversially earmarked for development after Tidemill School was made an Academy and moved to the nearby Deptford Lounge. The current proposals include the demolition of Reginald House and the forced relocation of its residents and the total destruction of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden to build 209 new homes, including 175 for private and 34 affordable, with the number of social housing units unclear. Clarity over the number of units was continuously questioned through the planning hearing by councillors. Community groups have highlighted that these new homes will be out of reach for local Deptford residents.

Planning Committee member, Councillor Paul Bell echoed these concerns stating “For just a one bedroom flat – on a 35% shared ownership basis – you need to get a mortgage of £122,500. The problem is Deptford is always “done to” and not “done with” and I just feel this scheme is being “done to” the community of Deptford. I do not feel the council should be in the business of forcing people out of their homes.”

Nearly 9,500 people die each year in London because of air pollution (according to a study carried out by researchers at King’s College London) and Deptford is on the front line, the garden is key in our defence of poor air quality in the area. The Old Tidemill Garden is 2,400sqm and ideal for a variety of uses including outdoor education, children’s play, food growing, access to nature, health and wellbeing and building community cohesion.

The developer’s proposal is to replace this with a ‘Pocket Park’ of 500sqm on the corner of Deptford Church Street, a congested dual carriageway, identified as a blackspot for traffic pollution. This barren patch of grass is totally unsuitable for use as a community garden, as levels of air pollution regularly exceed the legal EU limit. Whilst the loss of the much-valued garden, with the felling of 73 mature trees would be crushing in a neighbourhood chronically lacking in green open space.

The Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden originally created thanks to the foresight of parents and teachers of the Tidemill School back in the early 90’s. They capitalised on a previous wave of regeneration in Deptford, demanding funds to landscape the garden with Groundwork, creating the largest school nature garden in the borough. Enjoyed by school children over the last 30 years and reinvigorated in 2012.

Members of the community in the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden
Members of the community in the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden | Photo credit: © The Quay Point

For the last four years, Friends of Old Tidemill Wildlife garden have run an innovative programme of free weekly intergenerational events and workshops including arts and crafts gardening and cooking, sports clubs, citizen science projects, and forest school sessions with local primary schools. With funds from Arts Council England, Vinspired, Deptford Challenge Trust, National Lottery Funding, Groundwork and NHS Choose Health Fund.

“It’s a stunningly beautiful and tranquil place in the heart of Deptford, and a fantastic opportunity to bring the local community together.” – Quote from Old Tidemill Wildlife garden volunteer

This is an opportunity for the community to feel empowered to make positive changes to get a fairer deal than currently proposed by the developer. Friends of Old Tidemill Garden alongside tenants and residents groups from the neighbouring estates are determined to promote a positive alternative to the development. An alternative in which, the social housing is retained with thorough refurbishment and one that also sees the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden remain an asset of value to the community, building on its successful interim use as a community garden.

Protesters outside the Civic Suite | Photo credit: © The Quay Point
Protesters outside the Civic Suite | Photo credit: © The Quay Point

“The Old Tidemill school and wildlife garden site represents – in terms of public ownership, community use and amenity (past, present and future), truly affordable homes for local people, etc. – the opportunity for Deptford to become a beacon of intelligent 21st C. urban planning for London: building healthier, happier neighbourhoods through collaboration and trust” said Andrea Hughes, a spokesperson for Deptford Neighbourhood Action

Deptford ain’t ‘avvin it!

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