Bell Green Gets Final Go-ahead by Government

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The 13 year fight to stop the former gas works site next to Sainsbury’s Savacentre being redeveloped into a retail and business park has finally ended in defeat for the Sydenham Society

The result of this summer’s Public Inquiry was made known on the 19th October. The Inspector confirmed the planning consent given by Lewisham Council to Castlemore Ltd (the property development arm of the former British Gas owners) and was confirmed by Ruth Kelly (Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government).

The plans, first approved in outline by Lewisham as far back as 1993, are for:

  • Large retail site dominated by a Homebase store with further units and a fast food restaurant to the north of Savacentre (adjoining the Gas holders)
  • Business units (along the railway)
  • Residential units (corner of Bell Green & Southend Lane)

There appears no alternative for the Sydenham Society and the majority of residents who voiced their objections to the plan but to accept the decision . The main concern was over the increase in congestion in the surrounding area and the loss of business in the Sydenham Road & Forest Hill. As part of the plan Bell Green would be widened for the short distance between the Perry Rise & Southend Lane traffic lights plus a pedestrian subway would be bored through the railway crossing in Southend Lane. However Southend Lane constriction of height and width at the railway bridge would remain unaltertered as a choke point for traffic.

Sydenham Society’s initial response:

Members of Sydenham Society’s Bell Green Team are disappointed at the outcome, naturally. We are glad we were full participants at the recent inquiry as there have been many concerns expressed by local residents (not just Sydenham Society members) about the consequences of a Retail Park at Bell Green especially about the anticipated resultant increase in traffic with a hypermaket sized Homebase and garden centre as its anchor store.

Also of concern was the effect on our local high street traders of the expected loss of trade to a Retail park with 1,800 free car parking spaces.

By taking part in the inquiry we made sure that these concerns were examined fully by the independent Planning Inspector and taken into consideration and we were able to challenge various statements and statistics provided by the developers and the council when arguing in favour of the development.

The Sydenham Society must hope that its fears about this development are wrong – that it will not result in increased traffic which our roads cannot cope with and that Sydenham retailers are robust enough to overcome the inevitable hard and strong competition from the retail giants.

One welcome benefit of this decision should be the construction of a well overdue pedestrian tunnel through the railway embankment at Southend Lane rail bridge – a safety measure which should not have been contingent on the outcome of a planning decision.

However the die is now cast and we in Sydenham, residents and traders, are going to have to live with this development, whatever its consequences.”

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