Lewisham’s strategic planning committee agreed a development with 15 per cent affordable homes despite concerns about the housing crisis.

Kitewood and Galliard Homes’ plans include 393 flats in two tower blocks, 26 and 30 storeys, and an extension to the Trinity Laban music and dance conservatoire campus at Creekside Village East.  

See related: Creekside Village East Deptford development going to planning

Kitewood owns nearly half of the mostly derelict site, Lewisham Council owns a third, and Trinity Laban owns the carpark next to its building.  

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The council is set to get 16 flats through a land sale agreement with Kitewood – it would own them on 250-year leases and intends to let at full market rent.   

Because of the £13.6 million the developer is planning to spend on the conservatoire’s extension, (the shell of the building – Trinity Laban will foot £15 million to fit it out), Kitewood says it cannot afford anything more than 10 per cent affordable housing. 

However, as a “political” gesture, it raised the offer to 15 per cent.   

Kitewood said if the application was rejected it would reduce the affordable housing offer back to 10 per cent, blaming the “six-figure” cost of an appeal.  

At the meeting on Tuesday (November 17), Cllr Kevin Bonavia labelled this a “sweetener” and said the committee had the “sword of Damocles” over its head.  

“Our aspiration in this borough is 50 per cent and we try to get as close to that as we can,” he said.  

Planning Officer Gareth Clegg said the viability evidence had been scrutinised by the council’s independent consultants and by the GLA’s viability expert who found “10 per cent is the maximum that the scheme could deliver in terms of affordable housing whilst giving the required level of developer return”.

Cllr Bonavia later put forward a motion for the committee to refuse the application.  

He said he has a “lot of respect for Trinity Laban” and the “fantastic work” they do in the borough, but said Lewisham has a “huge housing waiting list”.

He added: “The value of the public benefit, we’re told is […] £13.6 million, would be the difference between 10 per cent and 35 per cent affordable housing. 

“That is a huge ask for public benefit when the biggest public benefit we can do for our people is to ensure they are properly housed.”

After a closed session with legal officers to inform the wording of the motion, Cllr Bonavia said he was putting it forward “on the grounds that the proposed public benefit […] does not offset the lack of genuinely affordable housing, which is a material consideration of significant weight given the housing crisis that is facing the wider area”.  

The motion, seconded by Cllr Aisling Gallagher, was rejected four to four as a result of the casting vote by the chair, Cllr John Paschoud. 

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Trinity Laban, a music and dance university spread across three campuses in Greenwich, Deptford, and New Cross, has about 1,200 higher education students. 

Committee member Cllr James-J Walsh said he was “not happy” with the S106 agreement in relation to how much Trinity Laban should give back to the Lewisham community.  

Its principal, Professor Anthony Bowne, said the institution does a “great deal” in the community.  

“It wouldn’t have happened in Lewisham without the support of Lewisham who sold us the land at less than best consideration.  

“In return, we have an organisation with a turnover of £28 million a year, employing 600 people, and the economists have worked out that the benefits to Lewisham of our student spending, our staff spending […] is worth £33 million a year,” he said. 

Professor Bowne said Trinity Laban spends £3 million on community work every year – £50,000 comes from Lewisham – offering free classes, and working with more than 10,000 young people, including 40 schools in the borough. 

He said 600 people come to the Laban every Saturday, 64 per cent of which are Lewisham residents, and over 50 per cent are from Black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds.  

“So they’re not middle-class white people, they’re representative of our local area,” Professor Bowne said.  

Cllr Walsh later asked if he would agree to a minimum of 40 per cent BAME representation – he said the councillor would be “very welcome to suggest that for the S106 agreement”.   

Professor Bowne said the institute had lost £1 million to Government cuts in four years and needs more students to pay for costs.  

“There’s a possibility, this is not a threat, there’s a genuine possibility that if this doesn’t succeed and we can’t expand, we might not exist in a few years’ time,” he said.  

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Public access along Deptford Creek forms part of the proposed development, though it emerged during the meeting that part of the access would be blocked during evenings and weekends to protect part of Trinity Laban’s building, “made from translucent material”, from damage and vandalism.  

A gate would block public access through the campus to Kent Wharf.  

Cllr Liam Curran pushed numerous times for something to be arranged so that access could be granted 24/7.  

Two residents from Creek objected during the meeting, raising concerns about loss of privacy and daylight, and criticised the “weight” given to Laban in the meeting, while one suggested it should instead lease nearby commercial estate and do collaborative work with other arts venues in their spaces.  

Near the end of the three-and-a-half-hour meeting, Cllr Walsh urged officers to ensure the community use agreement was strengthened in future.  

“We would be making a sizeable and significant contribution to Trinity Laban’s future and in return we need to have a significant and sizeable contribution back to us,” he said.  

Mr Clegg said officers can “certainly take forward further discussions with Trinity Laban with a view to significantly strengthening the provisions there and the community benefit that would be delivered”.  

The committee agreed the application five to three, with Cllr Bonavia, Cllr Gallagher, and Cllr Andre Bourne against. 

The application will next go to Greater London Authority (GLA) for approval.