Millwall scheme will ‘bring old boys back to Bermondsey’


By Stephen Eighteen

Regeneration scheme plan for homes and restaurants

Millwall Believe that their ambitious regeneration plans can kick-start a trend of Bermondsey old boys returning to their roots. Michael Sarch, the project manager for the football club's South Bermondsey regeneration scheme, this week gave the 'News' an exclusive preview of what the area may look like in the next decade. He is convinced that the new-look area will prove so attractive that many former Bermondsey residents who moved to Kent -and beyond - for a better life, will make a mass homecoming to benefit the team they support. "At one of the fan meetings I went to," he said, "I spoke to a chap who moved up to the Midlands in his 20s. "But when he retired he decided to come back because he felt that every comer he turned in London there was something going on. "If you're a single guy or girl, or got married and have children who have all grown up and left home, you might want to live a more urban lifestyle that includes access to cinemas, restaurants, local activities and being switched on to the London scene.

 "People never used to have the opportunity to buy flats around the Den because there was never much there - they were more interested in having a private driveway and a car. "But lifestyles are changing. People are prepared to accept moving to an area they're comfortable with that has good public transport. "A proportion of people will move back to the area. You get people in their mid 50s whose kids have moved away. "They find the garden's a bit of a chore and would rather have sports facilities close by and be able to travel into town for shopping and entertainment by public transport, rather than having to go through pretty much endless traffic at an expensive price." Sarch's argument is based on the premise that the touted new East London Line Station at Surrey Canal Road will, along with a planned refurbishment of South Bermondsey Train Station, improve the area's transport links. The club believes these benefits, allied to their plans of creating 2,500 new homes with new shops, a hotel, restaurants, healthcare facilities, sports clubs and expanding the youth acade-my, will help boost the area as well as allowing Millwall to reap the financial benefits

"We want a large regeneration scheme around the ground with a lot of employment, jobs, housing and other social structures. We are hoping to have a three star hotel. We already have conference facilities at the Den, which is already only 90 seconds from South Bermondsey train station. "The East London Line will help improve that even more and we will try to increase the sport offerings, possibly in the shape of indoor tennis, squash, bowling and expanding the youth academy. "It's the Sports City idea based at the football club itself. Looking at clubs like Arsenal and Chelsea, and clubs all over the world, there's a move towards having stadiums as the focal point for urbanisation and employment. "In Holland there's a successful scheme where they've built around a stadium and there's another in Sweden. Even the coliseum in Rome has roots in this way of developing. "At the Coors Stadium in Denver, America, they have built workshops and offices around it. It revitalises an area, giving it a more urban feel." Education may also play a prominent part in the new-look South Bermondsey in the form of medical facilities and student accommodation. Yet with regeneration schemes come the inevitable concerns from local residents and businesses of gentrification. South Bermondsey is a deprived mixture of council estates - the Bonamy, Silwood and Bramcote area within striking distance - and light industry. Sarch has quashed speculation that some of the present buildings would have to be demolished to make way for the new offerings. He said: "Overall the area is capable of taking 2,500 homes. Many local businesses would remain. "We imagine that a lot of ground floor space would remain or be reduced because there really is a lot of land that isn't used economically. "The idea is to complement and integrate what these estates offer at the moment with good housing stock. "In terms of gentrification, this is a decaying industrial area. At one stage Surrey Canal Road was actually a canal. "So everything moves with the times and a lot of the surrounding industrial buildings are past their shelf life. "We live in a modern world where job opportunities have changed dramatically. The club is one of the best employers in the locality and to expand its influence and activities, encourage good quality housing with reasonably exciting architecture, would be a good thing. "This area, situated between Old Kent, Road, Bermondsey Spa and Rotherhithe is a little bit forgotten and the pattern of land uses are changing. "The council is doing their studies on the area, and they very much echo our vision for the future. "We have had discussions with the London Assembly and have been given favourable feedback from them, and have discussed it with local politicians and councils." The club hopes the first outline planning application is ready to be submitted by the end of the year.
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