Could it be one bridge too far for Lewisham Council? Catford resident Austen Jones certainly hopes not.
Local resident Austen has been urging Lewisham to replace the footbridge that once connected the former Catford greyhound stadium (now Catford Green) with Doggett Road.
His hopes were raised in March when Cllr Louise Krupski told him there was some “positive news coming very soon” on the bridge.
She said it was “not currently in the public domain” but she “would update me as soon as she could release the information”, says Austen.
But two months on he has heard nothing more. “I really think it is time for the council to update local people on its proposals and allow them to comment,” he adds.
The footbridge was removed when housebuilder Barratt developed the greyhound stadium site creating the Catford Green residential complex, which was completed in 2017.
A footbridge would give residents an east-west crossing over the railtrack to either Catford town centre to the east or Ladywell Fields and Blythe Hill Fields to the west.
It would also provide a safe crossing point for school students attending Prendergast Ladywell School to the west or Holbeach Primary School to the east of the track. At the moment many have to use the busy, polluted route alongside the south circular.
A properly designed bridge should also accommodate the needs of disabled users, pushchairs and cyclists wanting to get across the rail track. The Ladywell Fields spiral bridge to the north is too narrow and too steep for many users.
The Catford Green planning application made provision for a replacement footbridge and cycleway. The bridge would have been funded by a section 106 community infrastructure levy on Barratt.
But Austen believes that when Barratt’s plans for a 17-storey residential tower faced local opposition the Catford Green scheme was amended and the proposed levy reduced.
As a result, the initial design proposal for the footbridge was changed to cut costs – a combination of stairways and lifts was proposed instead of stairs and angled ramps for cyclists and disabled users.
Austen, chair of Ravensbourne Park Gardens user group, and supporters of his campaign – the Ladywell Fields and Blythe Hill Fields user groups – are concerned by the design changes as well as the lack of progress on a replacement bridge.
“There’s not much enthusiasm for lifts as there would almost certainly be maintenance issues … and there are concerns about personal safety. The user group’s preferred option would be ramps, although we’d need to see a design that works,” says Tony Rich, chair of the Ladywell Fields group.
Austen says the original design for angled ramps both sides of the railtrack was preferable even though it is bigger than the proposed alternative.
He insists it is time for the council to consult and involve local people. “It is now 2020 … there’s no bridge, no public comment or commitment from the council. And to date not one of our three Rushey Green Ward Councillors has backed a project that would benefit local residents …”