Lewisham Gateway Guest Blog: Gareth Blacker

20.05.24 4 min read by Iona MacRury

Why the Lewisham Gateway partnership is a model for success

As we head in to the final two months of delivery at Lewisham Gateway, Gareth Blacker, Executive Director of Delivery at Old Oak & Park Royal Development Corporation, and former Director at Homes England, reflects on why the partnership which oversaw the project was successful and what others can learn from its success.

Gareth was involved in the development and delivery of Lewisham Gateway from its outset almost 20 years ago.

Where there was once a busy roundabout in the heart of Lewisham now lies a dynamic new neighbourhood. Lewisham Gateway, a uniquely bold and ambitious project, has transformed a concrete interchange into a destination defined by high quality housing, new public realm, and enhance connectivity into the centre of the Borough. Achieving a project of this scale is a tough challenge, but having been involved in the development for almost twenty years, I have seen how Lewisham Gateway exemplifies the very best of public-private partnerships.

The roots of Lewisham Gateway can be traced back to a broad ambition to transform this strategically important location into a place that delivers against its potential. The initial foundations to make this a reality were set when a range of public bodies came together to explore the what could be possible at the site. This included Lewisham Council, the London Development Agency, and Transport for London, and the Greater London Authority. While we were busy preparing the groundwork, including assembling the lane, exploring initial planning options and exploring the assets on site, we soon realised that we needed a private development partner who shared the ambitious vision which was emerging.

A partnership of trust

As the leading urban regeneration specialist, Muse was a natural fit to take on this responsibility. Since winning the competitive bid process to take on the opportunity, Muse has been a development partner that has delivered for wider public-private partnership.

One of the key strengths which has enabled this partnership to excel has been the strong working relationships which Muse has nurtured. While it may seem clear, it is difficult to overstate the importance of continuity to maintain these relationships. While it is unrealistic to assume that it will be the same people who complete a project which started 20 years ago, ensuring that there are personal linkages throughout the lifespan on the project is vital. Thanks to Muse’s approach, Lewisham Gateway has enjoyed this continuity and has, in turn, benefitted the enduring trust which emerged. This proved vital during particularly challenging periods, including the 2008 Recession and the COVID-19 pandemic, where the project faced significant obstacles which relied on effective working relationships to overcome.

Building a compelling investment case

The strength of trust and continuity between Muse and our partners also ensured that the project was an attractive investment for the public sector. This is a challenge for many projects, but the complexities of the site meant that we needed to effectively articulate our vision and ensure that these organisations had faith in our commitment to deliver it.

With Muse as the development partner, we were able to persuade these organisations that Lewisham Gateway was an exciting opportunity which promised to unlock significant social and economic value for the area.  As a result, Lewisham Gateway secured funding packages over the lifetime of the project, including funding from Homes England and the Government’s Kickstart Programme, a scheme set up after the 2008 Recession, with each proving vital to delivery of the project.

Equipped with this backing, our vision for Lewisham Gateway has become a reality. The project will soon provide over 1,000 new homes for rent, enrich permeability with Lewisham’s high street, and deliver valuable public realm for the community to enjoy. Muse has been at the centre of this success and the industry can take valuable learnings from this journey to help realise further regeneration opportunities across the country.

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Lewisham Gateway Guest Blog: Gareth Blacker