In recent days Sainsbury’s decision to sell shops beside their Eltham store alongside the St Mary’s building on Eltham High Street have raised much comment and consternation.
AGL are behind the sale process with a price of £2 million being sought.
Many fears were raised when the news came out, but how likely are they to be realised? Worry about comprehensive demolition could well be overblown. Firstly, St Mary’s is a listed building. Not locally listed which affords few protections in law but nationally listed which is a whole different ball game. A developer would need an extremely good reason to demolish and new flats would not pass the test in this spot.
The listed price of £2 million is another hint no major changes could be expected, as it’s quite a low price for a town centre plot. Sainsbury’s are also somewhat unlikely to agree a sale which would cut off one main access point to the store from the High Street.
The advert lists adding floors to existing buildings to match the height of the adjacent cinema. That would be on retail units and not St Mary’s.
That could provide a modest number of new homes. Nothing too outlandish and any design would have to avoid encroaching on the listed building particularly from the High Street. Those who fear tower blocks are almost certainly wide of the mark.
A modest number of new flats and an added floor on buildings may well help existing businesses. Some shops here have struggled in the past and vacant units and high turnover are a long-standing problem. More custom on the doorstep will assist, and add in other local housebuilding planned around the High Street and the sustainability of commercial units improves.
Just today I covered how the Rusty Bucket pub is looking to expand in Eltham. A new housing block directly opposite has hardly harmed the business.
With town centre’s battered by high rates, rents and online competition a potential lifeline is more people living in proximity to shops. The balance is to integrate those new homes into an existing town without wrecking it. Let’s see what developers come up with on this site. They may well put in something pretty awful, but the listed status of St Mary’s offers hope plans won’t go too far if they do.