In general, I’m not a great fan of Bell Green. It feels very nineties to me and completely out of place in a densifying London - a bit of a missed opportunity really. How come they got away with allocating that much space to car-parking when there isn’t sufficient land available to build enough homes (and schools, nurseries, medical centres, for that matter)? Surely if a car-owning customer base is so critical to convince commercial tenants to settle, which I totally get, then a multi-story or basement car-parking should be the way to do it, all tucked away behind good architecture creating some attractive public realm while we’re at redeveloping the lot.
Instead, all we’ve ended up with are vast fields of tarmac with a few single-storey sheds of steel to make it look as cheep and cheerful as possible, pouring the value of the site down the drain. The race-course like road layout with its multi-phased pedestrian crossings finishes the job perfectly.
Given that the damage is done, they may as well complete the job. I suspect it will be for the interim only, say a mere fifteen years, before all of this will come down again making way for something better.
The bit that they should really focus on as part of the extension is improving public transport provision to reduce some of the car use - and not building any more parking spaces! The bus routes to SE23, in particular towards the Brockley Rise corridor, are unattractive at best. For instance, I’m convinced that an extension of the 172 bus via Cranston Road and Houston Road could help, but try and sell this to people living on these streets - I suspect they’d rather have a few hundred extra cars per day instead of a single bus.
The bus stops at Bell Green are in a dire state, seemingly located as far from the shops as possible with walking routes which are compromised in some places, and plain unsafe in others.
All in all, it’s a place I only visit if I really must and I’m happy after I’ve left it again, musing about why they couldn’t come up with anything better than this.
To avoid any doubt, I’m all for having the kind of shops which are present at Bell Green and I think they add to the attractiveness of the area in general, just not like this in the 21st century in the middle of a capital city that struggles with space and a lack of attractive urban realm.