Lewisham Council - Catford Plan frequently asked questions

Catford plan - frequently asked questions

In general​

What is the purpose of the Catford plan?

The Catford plan will set out Lewisham Council’s overall vision for Catford town centre, including what it would like to see happen on the town centre’s six key development sites:

  • Catford Centre and Milford Towers site
  • Civic Centre site
  • Laurence House site
  • Plassy Road Island site
  • Former Greyhound Stadium site
  • Wickes and Halfords site

When finalised and adopted by the Council, the Catford plan will be used to assess planning applications within the town centre, to ensure all development contributes towards the successful realisation of the vision for the town centre.

The Council has talked about the regeneration of Catford for years. Why hasn't anything happened so far, and what has changed now?

Lewisham Council has made a firm commitment to regenerating Catford, but previous attempts have been hampered by complex commercial and financial issues, including the number of different landowners with stakes in and around the town centre and a lack of available external funding to enable or aid redevelopment.

However, now that the Council owns the Catford Centre - as well as Milford Towers and the Town Hall/Civic Suite and Laurence House sites - it has more influence on future regeneration plans and can drive things forward more effectively. Additionally, there are now a number of other key redevelopment opportunities which have the potential to change the town centre for the better.

What new housing is planned for Catford town centre?

Lewisham’s population is projected to grow by around 25,000 people by 2030, and accordingly the Council has targets from the Mayor of London to provide around 1,000 new homes per year for the next 15 years. Many of these new homes will be built within existing town centres to reduce reliance on cars and protect existing green spaces.

In Catford, the projection is for 650 new homes by 2016 and a further 1,100 by 2026, most of which would be located on the six key development sites. The Catford plan will specify the number of new homes which the Council believes would be acceptable on each site, subject to their size and tenure (i.e. whether they are social housing or for private sale, and - if the former - whether they would be for rent or shared ownership). In the current draft of the Catford plan, this looks as follows:

  • Catford Centre and Milford Towers site – up to 200 homes
  • Civic Centre site – n/a
  • Laurence House site – up to 250 homes
  • Plassy Road Island site – up to 350 homes
  • Former Greyhound Stadium site – 589 homes
  • Wickes and Halfords site – up to 350 homes

The Council will continue to work with partners to ensure there is sufficient infrastructure (e.g. public transport and health provision) in place to support the expected growth in population.

What sorts of new public spaces are planned?

The Catford plan makes it clear that any new major developments would be expected to include public spaces that are generously sized, well connected and free of clutter.

What public toilet provision will there be in the town centre?

The Council is currently exploring options for a ‘community toilet’ scheme on Catford Broadway. These occur in other town centres across London and beyond, and basically involve local businesses allowing the public to use their toilet facilities during their normal opening hours without the obligation to make a purchase. The scheme could be extended further as further developments occur.

Will the introduction of more ‘high street’ stores to Catford impact negatively on local independent retailers?

The Retail and Economic Impact Assessment – one of the supporting documents for the Catford plan – suggests that an enhanced retail offer is needed if Catford town centre is to avoid further decline. The Council believes that Catford can sustain a greater mix of shops, with something for everyone. Rushey Green and Catford Broadway will remain better suited to small independent retail businesses, and the Council will continue to do what it can to support these. For instance, as part of the work to rejuvenate Catford Broadway using money from the Outer London Fund, the Council is working with a number of local shopkeepers to improve the frontages and overall attractiveness of their premises.

Traffic and transport

Has the Council given up on the plans to re-route the South Circular behind the Laurence House?

Transport for London (TfL)’s long-standing proposal, which would potentially remove the Catford gyratory, still has no clear timetable or funding strategy. There are reasons why this project has not happened, primarily that it would be complex, expensive and difficult to implement.

The Catford plan therefore includes alternative proposals which would be more deliverable. These include simplifying pedestrian crossings, improving the Thomas Lane/Catford Road and Rushey Green/Catford Road junctions, and widening Sangley Road to create an eastbound bus lane to cut the number of northbound buses on Rushey Green.

How much disruption would be caused by changes to the road network?

The Council and its partners will do everything in their power to minimise disruption during any construction period. Before any works begin, details of how they will be managed will need to be drawn up to the satisfaction of both the Council and Transport for London.

How will pedestrians and cyclists benefit from the changes proposed for the town centre?

The Council is keen to see Catford become more pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly. Proposals included in the Catford plan include the widening of some existing pavements (particularly along Catford Road), removing unnecessary street furniture to maximise existing pedestrian space, introducing more and better-located road crossings, and improving cycle parking.

New accessible and pleasant public spaces would be an important feature of any major developments, along with better connections to (and through) them.

Collectively these would help to make Catford a much more pleasant place to get around on foot or bicycle.

What will the proposed changes mean for bus passengers?

The main proposal in the Catford plan relating to buses is the introduction of an eastbound bus-only right turn at the junction of Catford Road and Rushey Green plus a northbound contraflow bus lane on Sangley Road. This would mean that the 124, 160, 181 and 284 buses could avoid Rushey Green, cutting the overall number of buses on this stretch of road and reducing the journey time of those four routes. It would also mean that the 171 could avoid the Catford gyratory.

Other bus routes would be unaffected, although the Council is keen for some bus stops to be relocated to improve accessibility to the railways stations and other amenities.

What are TfL’s proposals for bringing the DLR to Catford?

TfL are currently considering the extension of the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) from Lewisham to Bromley, with the first phase being from Lewisham to Catford. So far, TfL have not expressed a preferred route, provided detailed plans or indicated costs and funding. The Council’s preference, which has been communicated to TfL, is for any route to be tunnelled to reduce physical and visual impact.

Is the Bakerloo line coming to Catford?

There is still the possibility long-term of a Bakerloo line extension which would reach Catford, although this is not currently a priority for TfL.

Will a lorry park be retained on the Laurence House site?

The proposals for the Laurence House site would mean the loss of the current lorry park. However, we know that there is a need for such a facility, and this is currently being looked into on a south east London-wide level.

Catford Centre and Milford Towers 

What did the Council buy in 2010?

Catford Regeneration Partnership Limited (CRPL) – the company set up by the Council to manage the Catford Centre – has bought the leaseholds of all the retail units in the Centre, excluding Tesco, plus the freehold and leaseholds of a number of properties around its boundary. The Council already owned the freehold of the Catford Centre.

How could the Council afford to do this?

The Council has borrowed money to make these purchases. Until a  commercial deal is secured with a partner or partners which would enable the redevelopment of the Centre to go ahead, the money is being repaid out of the rents paid by the Centre retailers.

What does the Council want to see happen on the Catford Centre/Milford Towers site?

The Council’s aspiration is for the complete redevelopment of the Catford Centre and Milford Towers, which would require demolition of both plus the car parks and associated buildings along Thomas Lane.

How much would such a redevelopment cost?

This depends on what any future scheme looks like. The Council is aiming to draw up development principles and consider how these will be delivered, which would involve a development partner (or partners) from the private sector.

Has the Council identified a development partner yet?

At present, we are still in the process of identifying a scheme that is deliverable and viable. We expect to start speaking to potential development partners later this year.

How is the Catford Centre being managed whilst vacant possession is being gained? How will empty units be dealt with? 

CRPL are building break options into the leases where possible, so that vacant possession can be gained at the appropriate time. The company is keeping existing tenants informed and will also pursue all opportunities for short term use of any empty units. Maintaining the vitality of the Catford Centre is a key issue for CRPL.

Do well-known retail brands have any interest in coming to Catford?

This is a key question, but early indications are that retailers would come to Catford for the right size unit and if it had the right mix of shops. The redevelopment of the Catford Centre site could create a more appealing shopping environment which would help to attract more ‘name’ brands. These high street shops are unlikely to come to Catford whilst the current shopping centre remains.

How will the Catford Centre be different in the future? Will there be more floorspace and what will happen with parking provision? 

It is likely that the amount of retail space would increase, and that there would be a different configuration of units to enable an improved mix of retailers. There will be a car park in the development, although the exact nature and scale of parking provision is still being explored.

How is the decant of Milford Towers progressing?

Milford Towers would need to be completely vacated, and new homes found for all its secure tenants, in order for the redevelopment of the Catford Centre to proceed. As expected, the early stages of the programme have been met with an enthusiastic response, and so far over 100 tenants have moved out.

Where have the former Milford Towers residents moved to?

The Council and Lewisham Homes have worked closely with those residents and found alternative accommodation for them elsewhere in the borough or beyond. 

As more tenants move out of Milford Towers, what is being done to ensure that it remains a secure and liveable environment for those who remain?

When tenants move out, their properties where suitable will be utilised for temporary accommodation for people on Lewisham’s housing list. Alternatively, vacated properties may be occupied by licensed ‘property guardians’, or made available for short-term private sector leases as part of a ‘local lettings’ scheme. 

What about the properties in Milford Towers which are privately owned?

Milford Towers includes 22 units owned by leaseholders. The Council will also be looking to acquire these units once commercial terms for the Catford Centre redevelopment have been agreed with any key parties who are, or will be, involved. Formal negotiations with leaseholders on this matter will commence at an appropriate time. Tenants are being kept informed as this matter progresses. 

What does the future hold for Catford market?

The market has an important role to play as part of Catford’s retail offer. Last year, the Greater London Authority (GLA) awarded just under £1.5 million to make improvements to Catford Broadway, to which the Council contributed an additional £600,000 in match-funding. Projects being delivered over the next year include the addition of new facilities for the market as part of the refurbishment of the street, the designing of bespoke stalls to give the market a more streamlined and modern look, and the 'trainee market trader' scheme which aims to attract new blood to the borough's markets.

The Council will continue to investigate - in consultation with market traders, retailers and other town centre stakeholders - ways in which the market can be improved and better managed.

Civic Centre and Laurence House

How can the Council justify the proposal to build an entirely new civic building?

The Council wants to rationalise its civic functions and offices onto just one site, in order to free up land for housing as well as reducing on-going running costs. At the very least this would require major adaptations to be made to either the Town Hall, Civic Suite or Laurence House buildings. As all three would already require significant investment over the next 5-10 years in order to remain fit for purpose, their collective redevelopment and the construction of a new purpose-built civic building - including modern community facilities - represents the best long-term value.

Why is Laurence House earmarked for a mostly residential development?

The Council believes that the size of the site, and its location on the edge of the town centre, makes it suitable as a location for up to 250 new homes of various sizes and tenures. The design of any new building(s) would need to take into account the scale and character of its surroundings, especially where the site adjoins existing residential properties.

What will happen to the Town Hall after March 2013?

The Town Hall will be effectively closed from April 2013. The Council is currently exploring options for the building in the intervening period between staff moving out and any redevelopment.

What does the future hold for the Broadway Theatre?

The Broadway Theatre is a Grade II listed building, so would not be included in any demolition/redevelopment of the Civic Centre site. It would, however, benefit from any such works in terms of an improved setting and better access. 

Other key sites

What is proposed for the Plassy Road island site?

The amount of ground level car parking and the lack of uses above ground level means that the Council considers the Plassy Road island site to be currently underused. The Council’s preference would be for the site to offer extra shopping or leisure facilities to complement what is on offer in the rest of the town centre, and up to 350 new homes in the longer-term. New and better pedestrian routes from the town centre would be required in order for the site’s potential to be maximised.

What is the current situation regarding the former greyhound stadium site?

In 2009, planning permission was granted for a scheme including 589 homes plus a community centre and a small retail area near the stations. However, following the economic downturn the original business case for the site was reappraised.

Last year, the site’s owners the Greater London Authority undertook a procurement process to identify a developer for the site, and has now appointed Barratt Homes to bring the scheme forward. The Council is in discussions with the GLA regarding amendments to the phasing and design of the scheme, which overall remains broadly the same as that which received planning permission.

What will happen to the Wickes and Halfords site?

The Catford plan sets out the Council’s aspirations for the site, which include higher density development with buildings that could overlook the sports fields to the east and open space to the west. However, the properties currently on this site have a number of different owners and there is no current known interest in redeveloping the site.

What happens next? 

What are the timescales for the redevelopment of the town centre?

The Council is now working towards a target vacant possession date for the Catford Centre and Milford Towers site of late 2015. However, this is still subject to many factors, including identifying a deliverable scheme and agreeing commercial terms with the key parties who are, or will be, involved in the redevelopment of the site.

In the meantime, the decant process for Milford Towers is expected to take until at least mid-2014, while improvements to Catford Broadway should be finished by spring 2014.

Work on the former Greyhound Stadium site is expected to begin by early 2014 for completion in 2017.

Will there be a plan to promote pubs and entertainment venues?

The Council will do whatever it can to support evening leisure activities in Catford town centre which are suitable for all sections of the community including families. A strong evening offer would improve Catford’s image, while increased activity would help to reduce fear of crime.

While there are limits to what can be achieved through Planning Policy, various proposals within the Catford plan have the potential to enhance Catford’s leisure offer. For instance, the redevelopment of the Civic Suite site could provide the Broadway Theatre with an improved setting and better access for visitors and services.

What are the next steps for the Catford plan?

Following this consultation, the Council will decide what policy options, alternatives or other suggestions are taken forward for inclusion in the Catford plan. There will then be another round of consultation and a further chance to comment before the draft plan is submitted to the Secretary of State for an independent examination to determine whether it can be adopted. This will all happen later on during 2013, and if the plan is considered ‘sound’ it should be adopted by the Council in mid-2014.

What other opportunities will there be for residents to voice their opinions?

As well as a further round of consultation regarding the Catford plan (as outlined above), developers and the Council will continue to consult with the public as plans for each individual site progress.

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