DLR crush leads to TfL worries over 34-storey Lewisham tower

Meyer Homes render
A view of the proposed development looking south towards Lewisham station

Transport for London wants to make sure a proposed 34-storey tower next to Lewisham station does not open until it is running more trains on the Docklands Light Railway, according to documents presented to Lewisham councillors.

Lewisham’s strategic planning committee – the equivalent of Greenwich’s planning board – will meet next Tuesday to decide whether part of the Tesco car park can be turned into a new housing and commercial development. The development includes blocks of eight and 14 storeys close to the nine-year-old Silkworks complex on Conington Road, and a 34-storey block next to platform 4 at Lewisham station.

Developer Meyer Homes – which is also behind controversial plans for a tower in Woolwich – has offered to pay £469,000 towards improvements at Lewisham station, including opening up its northern entrance.

But TfL is warning that the Docklands Light Railway’s Lewisham route is already overcrowded, and is calling for a planning condition to be put in place to make sure the development is not opened until May 2022, when it plans to be running extra trains on the branch.

Meyer Homes graphic
Tower B1 is next to Lewisham station, while the other two blocks are next to recent developments on Conington Road

The 365-home development would add to the cluster of towers emerging around Lewisham station and Loampit Vale. They include:

  • The four Lewisham Gateway towers (up to 25 storeys) on the site of the old bus station, a second phase of which (up to 34 storeys) was thrown out by councillors in the summer after developer Muse refused to provide any “affordable” housing. (A new version with just 50 “affordable” homes is now out for consultation.)
  • The now-completed Renaissance development, including a 24-storey tower and the Glass Mill Leisure Centre.
  • Thurston Point, a 17-storey commercial and residential development.
  • Plans for blocks of up to 24 storeys on the site of Lewisham Retail Park, which were approved by Lewisham councillors in October.
  • The council is also considering plans to replace Carpetright on Loampit Vale with towers of 16 and 30 storeys.

But TfL is worried about the ability of the Docklands Light Railway to absorb its new neighbours. A report from Lewisham officers says: “TfL have just completed a review of the current and planned capacity of the DLR network. This indicates that the Lewisham branch between Bank and Stratford is now operating over capacity meaning that users at Crossharbour and South Quay are unable to board trains, additionally there is evidence that boarding from Cutty Sark onwards is increasingly difficult.

“Additional demand generated from the scheme would place further strain on the DLR network and likely extend capacity constraints further south along the network during the AM peak. To address this DLR will be increasing frequencies through the purchase of additional trains which will come online circa May 2022. In order to address this TfL will be seeking a Grampian condition preventing occupation of the development prior to May 2022 should approval be granted.”

No car parking is planned on site, but TfL also criticises Meyer Homes’ plans to issue flat owners with folding bicycles instead of providing generous cycle parking, saying more Londoners will need to cycle as the transport network will be unable to cope with the capital’s population growth.

Of the 365 homes planned, 20% would be “affordable”, with only 16 (4.4%) made available for social rent. 27 (7.4%) would be “affordable rented units”, while 30 (8.2%) would be for “discount market sale”. Lewisham planning officers are recommending councillors approve the scheme at the meeting next Tuesday evening.

Meyer bought 14 plots of land from Tesco two years ago when the supermarket giant scaled back its property development ambitions. Its plans for a 27-storey tower – with no homes for social rent – in Woolwich have sparked an outcry, with protesters planning to lobby Greenwich Council next week. It is also appealing against a council decision to refuse it permission to fence off the green space at the front of the Woolwich Tesco store.

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