33. New Mews and Alleys

33.1. General principles

Mews and alleys are a common feature of Lewisham, with many such examples found across the borough.

For the purposes of this document mews and alleys are considered to be continuous narrow passageways which are accessible from the public highway at both ends. Sites which are accessible from only one end generally fall under the definition of “garages and yards” and in this case the guidance for that section applies.

Historically mews and alleys will have been used to provide service access to the rear gardens of properties facing the street, and many feature outbuildings and garages facing directly onto the mews. Consequently they can fall under multiple ownerships or with rights of way, so permanent access for the purposes of development can be difficult to secure.

Piecemeal development along mews and alleys, including the conversion of existing workshops and outbuildings into new dwellings, will not be supported.

Where street-facing sites exist at the entrance to mews and alleys, development may be possible in line with street extension principles (see section 27).

New street-facing dwellings can act as a catalyst for further development along mews and alleys, but this should come forward in an coordinated way. That is not to say that all mews development should appear identical in character – in fact a variety of architectural styles is an attractive characteristic of such development – but that where new homes are proposed the installation of appropriate infrastructure (such as utilities, road surfaces, artificial lighting and so on) should be in place prior to development taking place. The use of pre-commencement planning conditions could be used to ensure that such provisions are in place at the appropriate time.

A drawing of a mews street with varied buildings.
Figure 179: When establishing a new mews street it is important to develop a strategy for the public areas.
A diagram of a mews street with a continuous route.
Figure 180: Mews and alleys generally consist of narrow, continuous routes along the rear of existing houses, often providing access to garages and outbuildings at the back of gardens.
A diagram of a mews street that is being developed in an uncoordinated way.
Figure 181: Piecemeal development along mews and alleys, such as those shown in red above, will not be supported.

Any development along mews or alleys should ensure that sufficient space is allowed for the safe movement of pedestrians and vehicles. In most cases mews which are narrower than 6m will not be supported. The use of shared surfaces is required, and proposals which include a separate pavement and roadway will be resisted.

Due to the length of many mews and alleys found in Lewisham, development beyond the first 40m is unlikely to be acceptable due to the limitations of waste collection. This can, in some cases, and if there are sufficient homes to justify it, be extended to 60m where waste collection vehicles are able to reverse safely up to 20m into a site (see figure 184). Where this is being relied upon, applicants will be required to provide evidence (through tracking diagrams, or similar) to demonstrate that waste collection vehicles can undertake safe and efficient manoeuvring without endangering pedestrians.

Where a high-quality road surface, artificial lighting, right of way, and sufficient turning capacity can be secured along the full length of the mews or alleys – from public highway to public highway – coordinated development along its full length may be acceptable where it is of sufficient width to allow access for waste, delivery and emergency vehicles, and for pedestrians to pass safely.

Occasional gaps between buildings are a characteristic of many mews developments, providing long views for homes within them and planning applications for such schemes should demonstrate a thorough understanding of local context and character. Design and Access Statements explaining how mews development responds to local character should accompany any submission.

Gates across the entrances to mews and alleys will not be permitted, although rising bollards or other methods of controlling vehicle access which do not inhibit pedestrians are allowed where appropriate.

Acceptable privacy distances can be difficult to achieve when new dwellings face one another across a narrow mews or alley. In these cases flexibility can be applied to the requirement for privacy distances, although steps should be undertaken to ensure that residents’ enjoyment of their homes and their right to privacy are not compromised to an unacceptable degree. Staggered windows, the use of projecting windows, that limit direct overlooking by focussing outlook sideways or upwards, or sloping roof windows can be employed to achieve these objectives and applicants will be expected to demonstrate how adequate privacy is achieved.

Where development is proposed within Conservation Areas, the accompanying character appraisal takes precedence and applications should demonstrate how proposals are in accordance with it.

A photograph of a black brick house on a mews street.
Figure 182: New mews house in New Cross designed by Kennedy Twaddle. (website: www.kennedytwaddle.com, photography: Chris Twaddle)
A diagram of new developments at the entrance of a mews
Figure 183: New dwellings at the entrance to mews an alleys may be acceptable in line with the principles of street extension (see section 27).
A diagram showing access necessities for a mews street.
Figure 184: Coordinated development may allow new homes to be built along mews and alleys provided that safe access for pedestrians, delivery and emergency vehicles can be secured, and a robust strategy for the removal of waste and recycling is in place.