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Mayor of London approves controversial 3,500-home Convoys Wharf development

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Mayor of London approves controversial 3,500-home Convoys Wharf development

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Published by Jon Land for 24dash.com in Local Government and also in Communities, Housing

Mayor of London approves controversial 3,500-home Convoys Wharf development Mayor of London approves controversial 3,500-home Convoys Wharf development

The Mayor of London Boris Johnson has today approved plans to build up to 3,500 new homes and create over 2,000 new jobs on a site in Deptford that has been derelict for 14 years.

Convoys Wharf is one of the largest potential sites for much-needed new housing in the capital. Over the past decade a series of proposals to regenerate the site stalled before they could be considered.

An application was submitted to Lewisham Council in May 2013, but the local authority was unable to consider it before the statutory 16 week period to determine planning applications of this nature expired. At the request of developer Hutchison Whampoa, the Mayor chose to take on the role of planning authority in an attempt to bring the plans to fruition.

The 40-acre Convoys Wharf site was once home to a royal dockyard founded in 1514 by Henry VIII. It is also the site of the historic Sayes Court Garden and the boatyard where the Lenox warship was built.

At last night’s representation hearing at City Hall, the Mayor granted planning approval, subject to a Section 106 agreement, which requires City Hall planners to meet with Lewisham and Hutchison Whampoa to come up with a workable, alternative scheme for Sayes Court Garden.

The Mayor also heard the views of the Build the Lenox community project, who wish to construct a replica of the seventeenth century warship. The Mayor said that the developer must fund a feasibility study into the Build the Lenox project to produce clear options about how it can be incorporated into the regeneration scheme. He also said that the developer should contribute towards the business case of whichever of these options is most feasible.

The developer will also build a community hub that will be linked to Sayes Court Garden, with an integrated new primary school included at the heart of the site. There will be shops, restaurants, 525 affordable homes and a new riverside jetty park forming part of an increased area of public space.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson said: “We need to build thousands of new homes in the capital and proposals to do that at Convoys Wharf have stalled for far too long. I am pleased that we have been able to work on a scheme that will have enormous social and economic benefits for local people while preserving the heritage aspects of the site.”

London is experiencing an unprecedented population boom and over the next few years a million more people will have to be housed. The Mayor has called in 11 planning applications since 2009 as he looks to use the full range of his planning powers to speed up the decision-making process so that it is possible to reach a verdict on these vitally-important applications in a timely fashion.

Convoy Wharf's developers, Hong Kong company Hutchison Whampoa, had faced huge opposition from local campaigners, politicians and TV historians over their failure to include a contingency plan to preserve Deptford Dockyard, described by Lewisham MP Joan Ruddock as "London's best kept secret", and neighbouring Sayes Court Garden.

The dockyard, which celebrates its 501st anniversay this year, was built during Henry VIII's reign and for centuries played a key role in the country's maritime affairs. When England’s world power relied upon its navy, Deptford was at the heart of boat construction, exploration and royal might. It was the site where Sir Francis Drake was knighted by Queen Elizabeth I and where Sir Walter Raleigh is reputed to have laid down his cloak to prevent the Queen muddying her shoes.

Sayes Court has inspired has some of the most important innovations in the history of horticulture and landscape of the last 360 years. John Evelyn set out his famous garden in 1653, using it to test experimental new designs and horticultural techniques in conjunction with his founding role at the Royal Society. It was the attempt to secure this historic site as a public park in the late 19th Century which led to the formation of the National Trust. Unfortunately the Trust did not acquire Sayes Court, and only a small portion of the park remains - the rest, including the site of the manor house, now falls within the boundary of Convoys Wharf.

Ahead of the mayor's decision, the Council for British Archaeology (CBA) called for development plans to respect and integrate the surviving remains of the Dockyard in a proposal, in keeping with the scale and significance of the site.

CBA Director, Dr Mike Heyworth MBE said: “Deptford Dockyard has great heritage significance but today it lies almost forgotten, the poor relation of Greenwich further down the river which is by contrast a World Heritage Site. Yet without Deptford, Greenwich would not exist, and the physical remains at Deptford are extensive and significant.

"Deptford needs development to regenerate the area. No-one is suggesting that the site of the dockyard does not have development potential. But we should fully understand the significance of the dockyard and its complete history and reflect this in the development proposals: using this potential as a catalyst for the regeneration."

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