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COULD LEWISHAM BE THE NEW SHOREDITCH?

Lewisham Gateway is a huge regeneration masterplan that will transform Lewisham. The Loampit Vale roundabout will be replaced by Confluence Place, a green riverside park, and pedestrian-friendly routes into the town centre. The Guide Resident takes a look at this rapidly changing area… 

Words: Trish Lesslie

It may not have the hipster cred of Deptford or the village vibe of Blackheath, but Lewisham is about to unveil its very own landmark.

Lewisham Gateway – an ambitious project to transform the heart of the town centre, due for completion this summer – will create Confluence Place, a new park sloping down to the rivers Quaggy and Ravensbourne. The removal of the unloved Loampit Vale roundabout will allow for the new riverside park to connect to Lewisham’s town centre by pedestrian-friendly, shop-lined links, giving an extra boost to an area that already boasts gracious period properties, a plethora of new-build apartments, speedy transport links and some fabulous schools.

‘Once the road network is finished you’ll be able to see what we’ve been doing and we’re hoping that we will have created a quite different environment,’ says Mayor of Lewisham, Sir Steve Bullock. ‘Dominated by that roundabout it wasn’t somewhere people wanted to spend time, but we believe you’re going to see a renewed Lewisham town centre that will make the area a much more attractive place.’

It's out with the Loampit Vale roundabout and in with Confluence Place, a new park sloping down to the rivers Quaggy and Ravensbourne, connecting to the town centre

It’s out with the Loampit Vale roundabout and in with Confluence Place, a new park sloping down to the rivers Quaggy and Ravensbourne, connecting to the town centre

Bullock cites Lewisham Model Market – a bang-on-trend foodie pop-up by Street Feast (which also runs Shoreditch’s Dinerama, Canada Water’s Hawker House and Daltson Yard) that first launched last year – as indicative of the area’s potential. Open on Friday and Saturday evenings until the end of September, it has 10 micro diners and five bars allowing you to eat and drink your way around the world. Soak up the sun on the Lewisham High Line terrace, popular with families, or listen to the beats at record shop-meets-wine-bar Winyl until 1am. ‘It really shows the potential of Lewisham to become a very vibrant place that people will travel some distance to enjoy,’ says Bullock.

Lewisham People’s Day is a free family arts festival with seven stages of live music, dance, circus and comedy. Now in its 32nd year, organisers are expecting some 25,000 visitors

People will certainly be travelling to enjoy Lewisham People’s Day on 9 July, a free family arts festival with seven stages of live music, dance, circus and comedy. Now in its 32nd year, organisers are expecting some 25,000 visitors at this year’s event, which is being headlined by renowned reggae act Misty in Roots. And thanks to better-than-ever transport links, getting to and from the Mountsfield Park venue is easy.

‘The Overground Line coming down through Brockley and Forest Hill is one of the most spectacular changes in the area,’ says Bullock, a Yorkshire native who has called Lewisham home for almost 40 years. ‘We now just turn up at the station and expect there to be a train. Those parts of London that have had the Underground for years take it for granted but it didn’t used to be like that here.’

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Easier access to central London and the Docklands thanks to new Overground and DLR links has undoubtedly made Lewisham a more desirable place to live – as evidenced by the borough’s rapidly growing population: ‘Compared to the rest of London, Lewisham used to have relatively affordable housing and that’s one of the reasons our population has grown,’ says Bullock.

New developments seem to be popping up as quickly as you can say ‘planning permission’. Among them, the local council is building 500 affordable new homes 

As the number of residents surges, new developments seem to be popping up as quickly as you can say ‘planning permission’. Among them, the local council is building 500 affordable new homes for the first time since the late 1970s, working with partners including housing association London & Quadrant (L&Q), which has its headquarters in Lewisham. At the other end of the property spectrum is Tower Lofts, a luxury new development of Manhattan-style apartments in old Chiesmans department store right on the high street.

No doubt aided by the improved housing and transport in the area, the local restaurant scene has begun to thrive like never before, fast turning Lewisham into a perhaps unlikely foodie destination. As well as the epicurean delights of the Model Market, Rox Burger is billed as the UK’s top burger joint on TripAdvisor and there’s even talk of award-winning restaurant chain Polpo heading to SE13. Watch out Peckham, there’s a rival for your Hip Hood crown

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