Lewisham council has yet to sign the development agreement which will allow work to start on the restoration of the Grade II listed Play Tower, raising fears the project will be further delayed.
Developers and architects involved in the restoration say they are ready to proceed as soon as the council signs off on the agreement but are worried the project may be delayed again.
Lewisham Building Preservation Trust (LBPT), a charity which supports the restoration of listed buildings, says the Play Tower is now at a crucial turning point.
“We are writing to the mayor and local councillors asking for clarification,” says Tony Rich, chair of the trust. “Our fear is that a further delay could lead to developers Guildmore pulling out”.
People involved in the £14m project say they are waiting for Lewisham council to sign off on the development agreement – “then we can proceed. But it is taking time.”
“We were ready to press on with this a year ago,” they said.
Council officers stressed that the Mayor and Cabinet had agreed a way forward on the restoration works at a meeting in November 2019.
It had been agreed that the surplus ground floor space would be used as an affordable workspace for local businesses or bookable community space. The space would be let at rates below the market rate.
Officers said Guildmore were now developing the detail of these proposals. The mayor expects a planning application to be submitted in the near future.
These more detailed technical proposals will be assessed and there will be the opportunity for the public to have their say then too, they added.
It is understood that if the developers get the go ahead soon then they are expected to submit a planning application over the next few weeks – before Easter.
Guildmore and partners Curzon are proposing a four screen cinema, a bar and restaurant linked to the cinema, affordable office space for local residents and workers and 33 homes in two new buildings.
Guildmore say the core aim of the project is to use the for-sale residential units to release revenue to pay for the restoration of the Grade II listed Play Tower, bringing it back into public use.
Guildmore and Curzon secured the contract with Lewisham in 2017 to bring forward proposals for the restoration of this Grade II listed landmark.
The Play Tower is one of Historic England’s top 10 At-Risk listed buildings in the UK.