Monday, 16 June 2014

Charlotte Turner Gardens

The recent Twinkle Park summer fayre which was intended to celebrate completion of the works in Charlotte Turner Gardens prompted me to take a look around this little piece of park to see what has been done and what I thought of it.

Charlotte Turner Gardens and Twinkle Park are both leased by the Twinkle Park Trust from the council, and the renovation work that has been done has been developed and funded by the trust, which has worked with the local community (and whose board includes local tenants and residents). 

The details of the full plans can be seen on this drawing - as well as landscaping and new features, existing features have been renovated or improved, and a new play area for toddlers has been created. Quite a few new trees - mostly cherry and local apple varieties - have been planted around the sides of the park. 

What always puzzles me about this park - and my recent visit was no exception - was the lack of use it seems to get. Aside from a few sallow looking youths hovering around the benches on an evening, I can't recall ever having seen anyone else using the park.

On the other hand, it's not really on my way to anywhere, so I've only ever walked through it about three times in ten years of living in Deptford, so that probably doesn't really prove anything!

All the same, I visited on a Sunday afternoon, and would have thought that would be a prime time for families to be out using the park and exploring its new features. I do hope it gets more use than I have seen.

The new play area for toddlers is at the south end of the park, and consists of a series of wooden stumps of various heights, some rocks, a wooden 'sea monster' with humps behind it, a raised wooden platform and two 'sound pipes' that I assume you can talk into and be heard from one to the other. In all honesty I can't remember what was in this fenced area before - let's hope for the sake of the toddlers it wasn't the dog run. 

There's also some new planting, including a load of lavender plants against the fence which separates the park from the road. In due course these should grow up and create a nice fragrant border to the park.

Around the park some new features have been created - one is some very subtle landscaping with two low embankments created with a length of low wooden fencing and earth mounds - intended to partially enclose an area of grass that can then be used for ball games and so on. I was a bit flummoxed when I saw the first one, but when I noticed the other (they really are very subtle) I clocked what it was for. 

The 'trim trail' has been improved with some new features that have rubber mesh around them to prevent the grass getting worn - the grass grows up through the mesh.

Every park has to have a table tennis table these days, and Charlotte Turner Gardens is no exception. Considering the use that the one outside the Deptford Lounge gets, I hope this one will be just as popular, although I don't think I've ever seen the one on Crossfields estate in use. Perhaps it's all about location?

Along the eastern edge is a small apple orchard which hopefully will be given the chance to mature into something quite special. I didn't see any of the cherry trees but I believe most of them are on the west edge of the park.

The petanque court right at the northern end has been refurbished and improved - again, no sign of it being used when I visited but I trust it does attract players from time to time.

All in all I think the work that has been done is successful - we'll only know about the trees and planting in due course when they have had time to mature - but I think the designers have managed to keep the intervention nicely understated and the overwhelmingly natural spirit of the space has been retained.

I do worry about usage levels of the park and whether more should be done to encourage local people to visit it more often - there again maybe it's better as a quiet, reflective place that can be enjoyed for peaceful reflection. 

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Save the Swan/Enderby Wharf campaigns

Two local campaigns have recently been launched just across the border in Greenwich which might be of interest to my blog readers.

First is the campaign to save the former Swan Tavern which was more recently known as Millers and is the elegant late-Victorian building on Greenwich High Road which has been slowly sinking into dilapidation over the last decade or so due to neglect.

The building was slated for demolition a few years back as part of the overbearing redevelopment which has sprung up around it along that side of the road, despite having been recommended for conservation in 2009 in a heritage report by the Mayor of London.

A group of local residents is calling for it to be retained, and are asking people to write to the local council in a last-ditch attempt to stop it being knocked down. They have a campaign website with more information here.

The second campaign concerns another ailing building with a particularly significant history - the 'home of the communications revolution' on Enderby Wharf. If you have ever walked or ridden the river path from Greenwich around the peninsula (and if you haven't, you are truly missing out!) you will have passed this sad structure on the west side of the peninsula.

(Photo courtesy Enderby Wharf campaign)

You might find it hard to believe these days, but Enderby Wharf was where the first telegram cables were made, as the campaign's website explains;

From the 1850s to the 1970s, Enderby Wharf in Greenwich is where most of the undersea cables that connect the world’s telegraph, telephone and now internet networks were made. 

More than 160 years after the first cables were made there, a factory behind Enderby Wharf still makes vital equipment for subsea cables to connect the world’s internet services. It was where the world’s first telegraph cables were made in the 1850s, pioneering technologies that for the first time allowed people to send and receive messages in minutes rather than days or weeks. 

Enderby Wharf had a leading role in building the technologies that connected the world — from the 19th century telegraph networks to the international phone networks of the 1970s to the internet today. In its first 100 years the Enderby Wharf factory made 82% of the world’s subsea cables, 713,000 km of cable.

There is a meeting scheduled for 25 June with the PR company working for developer Barratt, which is redeveloping the site, to explain the redevelopment proposals.

(Those from the Deptford area may be underwhelmed to learn that the PR company in question is Hard Hat, also responsible for representing Convoys Wharf developer Hutchison Whampoa. )

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Completion of Charlotte Turner Gardens improvements and Twinkle Park summerfest

Twinkle Park Trust has announced the completion of Charlotte Turner Gardens improvements; former ward councillor David Grant is set to formally open the play area in on Sunday 29th June.

The press release from Twinkle Park Trust says:

Ian MacVicar and Aileen Murray will also unveil a plaque in memory of two Trust members who sadly died within a few months of each other; Jim Murray (chairman of the Trust 1999 – 2012 and Richard (Mac) MacVicar (Trust director 2002 – 2013). 

The ceremonies will open Twinkle Park’s 2014 Summerfest, presenting performances by DJ Stormy, the reggae supremo; Heart of Soul steel pans and Havanna Good Time, salsa band. Other features include activities for children - craft makers Assembly, face painting, Games through the Ages (in recognition the Rachel McMillan Nursery centenary), 'Pimms-a-Clock' and a cafĂ©. 

The improvements to Charlotte Turner Gardens encompass both environmental and leisure assets. Veolia have funded a toddlers play area sporting a Viking longship play deck – sculpted by Richard Lawrence, Greenwich sculptor - facing a sea monster, to reference Greenwich’s long relationship and dependence on the nearby River Thames. 

Other leisure facilities include a refurbished petanque court, table tennis table, central casual play area and a fitness trail. 

A Kentish apple tree orchard has been planted and the natural cherry tree orchard refurbished to encourage ‘scrumping’, other planting areas have been rejuvenated to continue to attract birdlife and other wildlife to the gardens. 

Regular readers of the blog who know my interest in public realm won't be surprised to learn I'm hoping to get down there in due course to see what's been done.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Deptford Station shop units

Refurbishment of the arches under Deptford Station has now begun; you may have noticed if you have been there in the last couple of weeks - hoardings have gone up around them and excavation has started. 

Planning permission and listed building consent have yet to be granted, but the documents are online should anyone want to browse and comment; the renderings are reproduced below.

I can't say I'm hugely impressed with the proposed design although if you compare it to the previous application, which was subsequently withdrawn, it's a marked improvement.

My main gripe with this is the loss of the arch shape due to the infill at the sides. It's heartening that they've extended the facade glass to the full height of the arch, rather than allowing a mean little rectangular shop front to be fitted into the arch like you see on so many other conversions, but I'd really like to see that applied to the full width too, so that the arch shape is clearly retained.

These are going to be shop units, and if you remember one of the reasons why the former railway carriage cafe could not be relocated to this site, as had previously been proposed by the original Deptford Project developer Cathedral, was that Network Rail did not want a cafe competing with its own potential tenants. Since Network Rail owns most of this land, it was able to put a stop to the relocation.

As for tenants, I presume we are going to see the usual railway station chains. Thankfully there's top notch coffee just a few steps away at the Waiting Room (we might even be able to get them to open an hour earlier...!), and an independent newsagent and a chemist just round the corner if you want to give your money to someone other that Boots or WH Smith.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Wellbeloved; Deptford's most-loved butcher and possibly the world's best pies

Thrilled to have been sent a link to a video made by local resident and Wellbeloved customer Stewart Morgan about Bill's awesome steak pies. The film meanders into other issues from time to time but the steak pie is very much at the centre of the story, only playing second fiddle to the ever-humble Bill.

Favourite moments for me are Bill's recital of the pie fillings - I never tire of hearing it - and the guest  appearance of the pied wagtail that can often be seen pecking around outside the shops on the bottom of Tanner's Hill.

My original ode to Bill's pies can be found way back in 2007.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Deptford Big Lunch - diary date and volunteers required!

Ellie has been in touch about the Deptford Big Lunch she is organising on 15th June in Margaret McMillan Park.

That's not 'big lunch' as in the one you have when your boss is paying, or the enormous fry-up that seems appropriate once the hangover finally lifts at about 3pm; it's Big Lunch as in a community get-together intended to bring neighbours together over a plate of curry goat or some summer rolls.

Here's what she says about it:

It is essentially a big community picnic, with free food and arts and crafts for kids, and we are hoping to get lots of creative people down to join in. The idea is that it's a real grassroots community thing. Some local shops have agreed to donate food. 

I want anyone to be able to come down and contribute, either by just getting involved, bringing some food or sharing some talents. I want to celebrate all of the wonderful people we have in Deptford.
This is a charity event which is all about connecting with others, sharing food and celebrating the local community. 

There will be a barbecue and tasty home made salads made with foods donated by local grocers. 

We are also hoping to have face-painting, finger paints and activities for children. All are welcome to come along! 

Volunteers are still needed so please get in touch if you can help out in any way.

Find out more at the Facebook page here.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Another new pub on the way - Fuller's to open on New Capital Quay.

It's still a year hence (at least they are being realistic with their estimates, unlike Antic!) but news reaches me of a new pub planned for East Deptford*.

A press release states:
'Fuller, Smith & Turner PLC, the London brewer and premium pub company, has completed the purchase of two new freehold sites on the banks of the River Thames. A site in Fulham Reach will open later in 2014 and a second new site in Greenwich will open in early 2015. 

The Greenwich site is located close to the Cutty Sark and is Fuller’s second site in Greenwich**. It is part of the New Capital Quay development and will be called The Sail Loft. It is scheduled to open in the Spring of 2015 and will include riverside terraces with views over the River Thames and across to Canary Wharf.'

The pub will be on the Thames waterfront part of the development - presumably the anonymous-looking bar on this rendering - and provide a stopping off point for people walking or cycling along the river path and over the new footbridge.

*oh alright, West Greenwich if you prefer
** I had to look this up - the other is the Pilot on Greenwich Peninsula

Friday, 2 May 2014

Widespread testing reveals appalling pollution levels across Deptford and New Cross

In fact the widespread testing has revealed appalling pollution levels not just in Deptford and New Cross, but right across Lewisham and Greenwich, as well as in parts of Tower Hamlets, Southwark and Bromley. The results are incredibly shocking, if not surprising,

More than 150 monitoring tubes were put up by campaigners from Don't Dump on Deptford's Heart and No to Silvertown Tunnel across south east London to measure the concentration of Nitrogen dioxide, a pollutant directly linked to vehicle emissions; only 16 of these tubes showed pollution levels below those permitted by the EU - and some of the worst pollution spots had levels nearly three times higher!

The monitoring follows on from a similar exercise carried out by No to Silvertown Tunnel which I wrote about last year, but this time three times as many pollution tubes were installed over a much wider area. The Silvertown Tunnel campaigners teamed up with local campaigners in Deptford who are protesting against Thames Water's plans to sink a shaft for its 'super sewer' project in the middle of one of the few bits of green space in Deptford.

With funding from various sources - including individual donations from some local residents - they were able to pay for the pollution tubes supplied by the Network for Clean Air, who advise on the process for installation and removal of the tubes, and get them processed by an official lab to ensure they are done in accordance with DEFRA guidelines. Teams of volunteers went out and put the tubes up on lamp posts where they remained for a month, before being taken down and sent away for analysis.

The results for the tubes installed by the Deptford team can be seen in detail on this map but you can get a rough idea of the overall pollution levels on this map; only orange and green blobs are below the recommended level of 40 microgramme per cubic metre set by the EU. Red blobs represent anything between 40 and 60 microgrammes per cubic metre, and black is anything over 60 (and potentially up to 110!).

This map plots the extremely high levels found along the main roads, but perhaps more surprisingly, it shows that levels along Deptford High Street are also worryingly high. Considering the fact that the street is used as a rat run in the morning and evening rush-hours, I'm not quite so surprised, but all the same it gives great cause for concern.

Deptford Church Street also has several black blobs, and it is these measurements in particular - as well as those on Creekside - that local campaigners fear will be exacerbated by the congestion caused by construction traffic on the super sewer, as well as traffic from major developments such as Faircharm and Convoys Wharf. Thames Water's proposal to restrict traffic on Deptford Church Street to single lanes each direction during the construction of the shaft has even greater implications.

The measurements from tubes installed by Silvertown Tunnel campaigners can be seen in detail on this map, but the screen shot above gives a good indication of similarly high levels across the area.

The two campaign websites go into much more detail about the implications of these results, but even without the need to gather hard evidence to argue the case against these two tunnel projects, the fact is that air pollution caused by vehicles is way above acceptable levels in most parts of south east London, even in our high streets, outside schools, houses and other public amenities. Everywhere you go in this part of the capital puts you at risk of harm from nitrogen dioxide and given the levels that are being measured, it seems inevitable that other pollutants are also present in high concentrations. Lewisham council does monitor air quality, but only at four sites and the last time it published results from diffusion tubes like the ones that were used in this survey, was 2012.

Surely it's time that they put a bit more effort into it, especially given these results? Having reliable, frequently-updated information like this is going to be fundamental to any argument against, for example, developers at Convoys Wharf pitching to send all their construction lorries along local roads?

Monday, 28 April 2014

New planning powers for councils against betting shops

More than four years since my first post about betting shops on this blog, and finally I read some vaguely good news about changes to planning powers. While the detail has still to be revealed, media reports suggest that planning law will be changed so that betting shops are classified separately to other 'financial' services, and local authorities will be given more power to refuse new betting shops where clustering is a concern.

Even four years ago Deptford High Street had six betting shops, but the subject of my post was the imminent loss of the Deptford Arms pub to Paddy Power. Within a very short time Paddy Power also took over the John Evelyn pub on Evelyn Street and turned that into another branch, presumably for those people incapable of staggering to any of the other three betting shops on the Evelyn triangle.

When the Halifax closed down its branch on Deptford High Street within weeks of Paddy Power's latest licence being granted, I predicted what would happen next; it was only due to a condition imposed when the previous planning application was granted that the planners were able to reject Betfred's attempts to open a branch in the empty unit. They had to reject it twice - Betfred was so determined to have its own branch on a street with so many that despite the first application being rejected, and the decision upheld by the Planning Inspectorate, they submitted a second application which was also rejected by the council and the Planning Inspectorate.

Since then things have gone rather quiet - cynically I suspect it's nothing to do with the success of our campaign, rather the fact that there's been a dearth of shop units with suitable business classifications for the betting shops to target.

As it stands at the moment, betting shops come in the same business classification as banks, building societies and other financial services, so if a bank closes down, the betting shop does not need to apply for any 'change of use' permission to use the same shop unit. Likewise if a pub closes, betting shops can move into those premises at the drop of a hat.

From what I'm reading, betting shops will be given a separate use class and hence will have to apply to convert old banks, pubs etc into new betting shops. And if councils are able to use the argument of 'clustering' of betting shops as a reason to reject an application, so much the better.

Any change to the law can't come soon enough - the Harp of Erin at the bottom of the high street has been closed for some time now, and many locals fear that we will be seeing it reopen as a betting shop before too long.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Paynes & Borthwick and Venice Preserved

With the redevelopment of Paynes & Borthwick wharf, just over the border in Greenwich at the bottom of Watergate Street, another tiny slice of south-east London riverside is opening up to nosey people like myself.

The site has been under redevelopment for a good few years now, and the build itself has been quite slow by modern standards - especially since I first wrote about the construction 18 months ago. There's now about 260 residential properties in new blocks and a tower (44 of them 'affordable' and a number of live/work units), and promised to be a restaurant, art gallery and commercial space behind the retained facade of the old wharf.

I've had a peek at the latter from the riverside, and it's an impressive space with a nice terrace out the front. Easy to imagine people sitting out of an evening drinking and dining (obviously wearing coats apart from in exceptional weather, given that the terrace is north facing). Unforunately the rather remote location of the development, removed from Greenwich and Deptford town centres, and not on any waterfront route (the river is accessible here, but you have to come through the development from the road and there is no through route to anywhere else) makes me think it would have to be an exceptional offer to get enough diners to sustain a large restaurant.

The obligatory landscaping is a bit odd but not entirely unattractive - seems they have opted to create water features in the walls, with plants in huge baskets of gravel. I do hope that these will take, and be regularly maintained, to prevent them becoming unpleasant, stagnant pools with litter floating in them.

News for the mudlarks is mixed - there are now new steel steps providing easier access at the watergate down to the riverside, but of course the bad news is that as a result, the local mudlarking is likely to become less solitary. At the time of my visit access from Watergate Street was closed off, but it's possible to scoot round the front and over the P&B access if you are on friendly terms with the security guards.

If you are keen to experience the new Paynes & Borthwick building up close and personal, you may want to go along to one of the shows of 'Venice Preservd' being put on by the Spectators Guild over the next month or so. It's an 'immersive theatre' production of a play by Thomas Otway which started this week.

It sounds like it will be quite a spectacle - the action starts in Greenwich and promenades along the waterfront to the site where it continues in the wharf building where seats and set are being created from scratch.

Sadly the ticket prices are likely to be out of reach for many locals - they start at £35 full price plus the usual hefty service charge, or £25 if you live in Greenwich or Lewisham boroughs, although you won't see this shown as an option on the main page, just on individual date listings. However if you want to take advantage of the £10 concession ticket - still a lot of money for many - you must 'prove' that you are in debt by bringing along a bailiff's letter, proof of a student loan or overdraft presumably for a stranger to peruse.

I'm not sure who thought that particular idea up but to me it seems overly invasive of privacy. By all means ask for student or OAP identification, or mail to prove you live in the borough, but asking people to prove they are in debt is going a bit far.

I'm not questioning whether the performance merits the ticket price - it sounds like a very involved production and I'm sure it will be a fun night out for those who can afford it - I'm just wondering what it offers to the local community. According to trade press reports the developer has put £100k into the production, which is not to be sneezed at. The Spectators Guild is a not-for-profit organisation, so similarly I'm not questioning the motivation of the people running it, which I am sure are entirely  genuine.

One initiative that is being supported is a scheme to offer young local people theatre training and the opportunity to work on the shows with the intention that a local production company will be created that can be left as a legacy for the area. I'll be interested to see how that pans out in the future and how it fits with the other local theatres and performing arts groups. Such training and work experience will be valuable to those involved, but the difficult part will be keeping such an initiative going when the production company moves on.

Meanwhile anyone want to start a sweepstake as to how long it will be before our new 'West Greenwich' neighbours start complaining about having an SE8 postcode?