Sunday, 29 March 2015

Deptford to Woolwich - our changing riverside

Photographer Peter Marshall, who has a lifelong fascination for London's industrial heritage, has just published the fifth in his series of London Docklands books, this one focussing on the riverside between Deptford and Woolwich in the early eighties.



Peter has been taking photos of industrial heritage in London for years, and has recently scanned many of his pictures of the city's former docklands and compiled them into a series of books focussing on different parts of the riverscape.

You can see a preview of the book online, including photos of Convoys Wharf in use, the Master Shipwrights House pre-restoration, and the heavy industry of Deptford power station and the scrap dealers of Stowage and Creek Road.

On his own blog, Peter gives some insight into the technical challenges of scanning old film and the havoc that bugs can wreak on gelatin. There's also another blog entry showing some of the images that didn't get chosen for the book.

This latest book and the others in the series are a great record of the largely-disappeared industrial heritage of east London - and a stark reminder of how rapidly our riverside and docklands have changed in just a few decades. Very little remains and it's only through Peter's picture captions that it's possible to place the vast majority of the locations.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Bike parking in Lewisham - need some near you?

Lewisham Cyclists has shared the following information for anyone who wants to request new bike parking - whether secure on-street parking, if you don't have room inside your own flat for your bike - or new hoops close to shops, a pub or some other place in Lewisham borough where they are needed.

Sheffield stand-type parking

If you want 'Sheffield stand' type parking, for example at your local shopping area, send an email to highways@lewisham.gov.uk with the subject line 'Cycle parking request' and a note of the specific location where you would like stands to be installed.

You should receive a response by email indicating when your request is likely to be reviewed for potential implementation.

Bikehangers on Pepys estate

If you are interested in getting a 'Bikehanger' installed in your street to provide secure on-street parking for bikes, please send a request to highways@lewisham.gov.uk with 'Bikehanger' in the subject line.

Implementing Bikehangers takes longer than Sheffield stands as there needs to be an identified demand in the general area and prior local consultation is often needed. So if you do want one encourage your neighbours to email as well. There is also a modest annual charge for use of a Bikehanger to cover upkeep and key management.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Deptford Station shop fronts - must try harder

Hot on the heels of my last post praising council planners for the top quality result on the Lord Clyde, I find myself obliged to hand out a few brickbats on something closer to home.

Readers may recall my post last year about the proposed refurbishment of Deptford railway station's arches, questioning the quality of the new shopfronts that were submitted for planning permission. As a listed building in a conservation area - and the first place visitors see when they arrive - it's clear they should set a precedent for quality design on Deptford's high street.

At the time of my previous post, Network Rail started fitting out the historic arches without waiting for the pesky matter of planning permission, and it was not until locals made a right old rumpus that the council stopped contractors from working while due process took place.

New plans were submitted by Network Rail in February, and a report by council planners is recommending them for approval by the planning committee at its meeting next Tuesday.

You would think that after months of consultation with the planning department, Network Rail would have come up with substantial improvements. Unfortunately it seems to be the exact opposite!

Pushing the shop fronts further back into the arch should have enabled an appreciation of the brickwork but this is totally undermined by the redesign of the shop front units into some kind of messy jigsaw puzzle that drains every ounce of joy out of the visual impact.

Before
After
Before
After
Quite how Network Rail's 'designers' (having seen those new bridges at New Cross and New Cross Gate I use the term advisedly) and Lewisham's planning officers between them could have devised something so downright ugly and cheap looking is beyond me!

Could a conservation officer really have approved this?

And what was the response of the Amenity Societies Panel, who were presumably asked to comment on it?

I had a read of Network Rail's revised Design & Access Statement accompanying the new planning application; it's very firmly in the camp of 'we did what you told us so you can't say you don't like the result' rather than 'we employed an architect with a good track record in this type of work who was able to create something suited to a listed building in a prominent position'.

As regards the design amendments, the report states: "Network Rail undertook a process of consultation and engagement with Rebecca Lamb, Conservation Officer at Lewisham Council over a period in excess of a year in order to discuss and agree upon the principle of the design, appearance and materials of the development. This process resulted in the submission of these applications. 

A series of amendments were subsequently requested to change the materials and design, moving away from a brushed stainless steel finish and moving more towards a timber effect panelling. Network Rail had reservations about the design, particularly on the use of timber effect panelling, but this was the clear steer provided from the Conservation Officer at the time. 

Since this time, Rebecca Lamb has left the Council and been replaced and with that a different opinion has been provided by Officers on the appropriateness of the agreed design and use of materials. Furthermore, comments were provided through the formal consultation period by parties expressing their concern regarding the design, not least by The Deptford Society."


A shopfront that drains every ounce of joy out of the visual appearance

All very confusing. As far as I'm aware there was no application involving 'a brushed stainless steel finish' but former conservation officer Rebecca Lamb is most definitely being dealt the blame for all the inconvenience and delay caused to Network Rail.

Once Rebecca left - and the tone of the report gives some indication of how the authors felt about her departure (let's say they probably didn't get an invite to her leaving do) - there is no further mention of a conservation officer. Was one involved in the process?

More worryingly the revised design did not go to the Amenity Societies Panel, a group of representatives from around the borough who are given the opportunity to comment on planning applications such as these.

In the report, Network Rail claims it consulted with the Deptford Society. There was indeed a meeting on site - at which no planning officer was present - yet at the meeting, the Network Rail representatives confirmed that they regarded it as an informal chat, not intended to be consultation.

Quite aside from the fact that a cheap-looking, generic shop front design is being recommended for approval for one of Deptford town centre's most historic structures, there are serious concerns about the process that has been followed here.

There is no mention in the officers' report of any input from a conservation officer. Planning policy states that 'consent for works to listed structures will only be given where they relate sensitively to the building's significance and sustain and enhance its significance and integrity'. I strongly challenge whether this requirement has been met.

The report also states that 'officers welcome the simplified approach to the shopfront'. Take a look at the before and after pics again and see whether you agree that the shopfront has indeed been simplified.

The revised plans were only submitted a month ago and there has been no formal consultation period, yet the application is going to committee on Tuesday, recommended for approval. No-one was given the opportunity to comment on these revisions - the officers simply rolled out the report and put it on the committee's agenda.

It's disappointing to say the least - the only hope is that committee members take notice of the poor design and the procedural failings and reject the application in its current form. Passing it would not only damn Deptford's listed building to a mediocre decline, it would send the wrong message to all those local shop owners wanting to 'improve' their shop fronts with this kind of joyless intervention.

Deptford deserves better - will our elected representatives support us on this?

Ask them yourselves if you agree - details of committee members here.

Update: Unfortunately despite a number of last-minute objections and lobbying from local residents, the planning committee followed the recommendation to pass the application. Some conditions were imposed but it seems likely that the final outcome will be pretty uninspiring.  

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

The Lord Clyde

The past months I've been watching the refurb of the Lord Clyde, a rather grand old Victorian pub which remains as the only sign of its era in a sea of 70s maisonettes and tower blocks and boxy 80s cul-de-sac housing. It's been a bad couple of weeks for Lewisham pubs so it's nice to have something good to report.

The building was saved in 2012 when the council refused an application to demolish it and the planning inspectorate subsequently upheld this decision after the developer appealed. The appeal was dismissed and the council's decision upheld, largely on the grounds of the heritage value of the building.
In its former state
The first application was to demolish the old pub and build a three-storey block of seven two-bed flats, on the grounds that the pub contributed little to the community. A campaign by the pub landlord, and support from the clubs that used the gym on the first floor to train local youngsters in boxing skills, proved otherwise. Although it was saved from demolition, the boxing gym closed its doors in 2013 and the pub eventually closed too when it was put up for sale.

A revised application approved last year gave permission for construction of an extension on the rear of the building for use as a gym, and conversion of the upper floors into one two-bed and two one-bed flats. The conditions of approval not only required the ground floor to be retained as a pub, but also put conditions on the type of replacement windows to be used and the external refurb.

Having seen the building going through the refurb process I was initially quite disturbed when the signs disappeared - not only the ones at ground floor level, but also the pub name on top of the building. Happily they have now been replaced/replicated in identical form - even the painted 'Home of the world-famous Malony's Fight Factory' has reappeared over the side doors.




The brown ceramic tiles on the pub facade have been cleaned/repaired/replaced and now shine in the sunshine like warm chocolate, and the replacement/refurbed windows give the place a really smart appeal that was sadly lacking before. Having seen the damage that has been caused to the tiles on the facade of the former Deptford Arms by Paddy Power, it's good to know that there is another way.


I spend a lot of time scrutinising reports by Lewisham Council's planning department and/or decisions by the planning committee and more often than not, the process does not end in applause, but credit where credit is due. On this occasion - and judged purely on appearance at this stage - the outcome seems to be a win and is a welcome reminder that objections can occasionally have an impact. The council's planning officers seem to have kept on the ball in ensuring that conditions were met, and that the quality of materials was up to scratch.


I used to feel depressed when I passed this pub - its peeling paint and dirty exterior made it look like a slow death was the only possible end. Now I have a renewed optimism that it could have a future.

Whether or not my optimism will be rewarded remains to be seen - although the planning application was originally submitted in the name of Safeland PLC, presumably the owner in April 2014, the building went up for auction in July 2014, and I don't know what the outcome was (if anyone does, please add in the comments).

The guide price was just £350k, hence the addition of three flats is likely to pay back the buyer's investment in no time, but it will take a determined and imaginative landlord to make a success of a pub on this site, especially considering that the rent/lease will be a lot higher than before. But not impossible in my opinion - let's hope there's someone out there who's up for it.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Dig this nursery/puzzle organico - organic food shop in New Cross

Not quite in Deptford I know, but a great addition to local food shopping. I've often bemoaned the absence of any kind of health-food shop in Deptford, and the need to go to Greenwich for specific items you can't buy locally. 


Dig this nursery used to be based down the side of the former Hobgoblin pub in New Cross, which was recently done up into a gastropub and renamed the Rose. The eviction of the nursery was part of the refurb.

Happily they have taken a shop unit on Clifton Rise, just between the Venue and Fordham Park, and guessing by the sign, have teamed up with Puzzle Organico which is based in Peckham to supply groceries and other organic food.

So now you can buy plants, flowers, organic food and even second-hand records in this little shop just a short walk from Deptford. They also have a good selection of greetings cards and stock what seems to be a full range of Pukka teas. I would buy the latter just for the packaging but it turns out they are also very tasty and much better than the insipid fruit teas that are often the only herbal drinks on offer.   Quite a few of the things I usually buy in Greenwich are cheaper here, so worth the pleasant walk through the parks.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Smashfest UK kicks off in Deptford

The Albany, the Deptford Lounge and the Stephen Lawrence Centre are venues for a whole host of events for young people taking place during the half term break. Zombies and asteroids feature heavily in the story, which creates a narrative around all the different events.

These events, which start this Saturday, are part of Smashfest UK, a brand new science and arts festival for young people, which is being piloted in Deptford from 14 - 22 February.

The press release says: 'Part sci­fi, part horror and part post-apocalyptic-nightmare, the festival is themed around a gripping story in which an asteroid is on a collision course with Planet Earth and a zombie invasion ensues.

You can follow the story online here. Join in by sending us your own Asteroid Survival Kit list, or sending photos with the #smashfestuk hashtag to @SMASHfestUK on Twitter or Instagram.

Real life visitors will have the chance to plan for Armageddon, whether it’s preparing to go underground at our Survival Supermarket Sweep, singing for your lives at Armageddon Open Mic, simply enjoying your last night on Earth with the End of the World Cabaret, creating a #FRIDGIE for our time capsule; The Peoples’ Ark or taking a trip to the Intergalactic Travel Bureau.'

The Intergalactic Travel Bureau
For details of all these events, and lots more, click here.

SmashfestUK is the first event of its kind, intended to widen participation and build diversity in science, technology, engineering and maths by engaging young people and hard to reach audiences. It is the creation of science TV production company The Refinery, and is partnered by the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, the Wellcome Trust, Middlesex University, and the Royal Observatory Greenwich.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Has TFL finally got the message about Deal's Gateway?

Transport for London has today launched a consultation into further revisions of the major highway junction at Deal's Gateway where Greenwich High Road joins the A2 just east of Deptford Bridge DLR station.


The proposed changes to the highway markings and layout are shown above (and explained in more detail on the consultation site) but the most significant concession is TFL's acceptance that separate green phases are needed for lights controlling traffic from Deal's Gateway and Greenwich High Road. The addition of new pedestrian crossings is also welcomed.

It's now more than four years since the original change that saw the separate green phases being removed after TFL deemed them unnecessary, leading to treacherous conditions for traffic (which includes a large proportion of cyclists) exiting from Deal's Gateway to Greenwich High Road.

A concerted campaign by Lewisham Cyclists - including some hair-raising videos of the conditions - led to some minor changes being implemented, but despite this, no significant change to the signal phasing.

It's great news that they are finally considering bringing the separate phases back, it will make a huge difference to all the traffic that uses this route, not just cyclists.

With changes to the adjacent junction at Deptford Broadway currently under discussion, let's hope they can learn from the experience and pay attention to feedback from user groups such as cyclists and pedestrians so that they can get the improvements right first time round.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Kent Wharf planning application

Crosswhatfields has already written in some detail about the planning application for Kent Wharf on Creekside, a parcel of land which extends from opposite Ferranti Park to the banks of Deptford Creek, and which now includes the VW parts dealer/garage directly opposite the end of Bronze Street. Sun Wharf, which is where Jones Furniture is currently housed, is expected to be redeveloped once Jones' lease expires in 2022 (or earlier presumably if they find another site and decide to move on before they are shown the door - one more sad employment loss for Deptford). It's another prime Creekside spot, so expect lots more high rise residential to be proposed.


The planning application for this site is already with Lewisham's planning department and the 'official' consultation period ended early in January.

But if you want to comment don't let this put you off; the planning officers will accept feedback right up to the time the application is considered by the strategic planning committee, although the sooner you get your comments in, the more likely they are to impact on the final report.

As always, don't forget to copy your comments to your local councillors, as well as members of the strategic planning committee, whose details can be found here. Objections and other feedback is usually summed up by the planning officers for the purpose of the report, so it has a more direct impact if you copy it to the councillors themselves (assuming they read it of course!).

The application is for a mixed use development at Kent Wharf and 24a Creekside which will consist of three buildings ranging from six to 16 storeys, containing 143 flats and 1,375 square metres of 'commercial' floorspace.

What kind of trees are those? Monster trees?!
The 16-storey building has been put at the corner of the site, apparently after a series of pre-application meetings with council planners and feedback from the design review panel, much of which is detailed in the design & access statement if you want to read it. There's a lot of focus on how the buildings reached their final positions and layouts, but little on how they reached their final heights, which I would have been more interested to hear. 

As usual there seems to have been no consideration as to what is appropriate in terms of building heights for the area, with developers always benchmarking their proposals against the tallest examples they can find. It would be so refreshing to read a design statement explaining how the architects had put together a masterplan that respected the four-storey neighbouring residences rather than ones that competed with a series of blocks three streets away. They nearly always try to justify towers as creating 'landmarks' and 'way finders' but fail to acknowledge that it's going to be impossible to identify one from the other when they are all the same height and block views of anything but the street and the nearest facade.

View from Deptford Creek - the white block on the left is the building currently housing Jones Furniture 

In the case of this application, the height of the buildings is my biggest grip, mainly due to the impacts they are going to have on the neighbouring land, in particular the public spaces and parks which will suffer much greater shadowing as a result. But is there any process for measuring this loss of amenity? Some of the flats on Crossfields estate will also lose light as a result of the tower and they have a case for objecting - ultimately though the greater good of building more housing will no doubt prevail over the quiet enjoyment of a handful of residents. 

The view along Creekside with the three-storey Cockpit Arts in the foreground. More monster trees!



Just one more word about scale: the elevation above, which is looking directly at Kent Wharf from the Deptford High St direction, is useful in that it shows the scale of the smallest buildings - you will have to peer on the extreme right of the image where you can see the Cockpit Arts studios coming into view. And below is a mock-up of the scheme in situ, although the only item for scale here is the shelter in Ferranti Park.


Of the 143 housing units, only 18 will be allocated to anything other than private ownership. They will be 'intermediate', which is officially defined as 'homes for sale and rent provided at a cost above social rent, but below market levels subject to the criteria in the Affordable Housing definition. These can include shared equity (shared ownership and equity loans), other low cost homes for sale and intermediate rent, but not affordable rented housing'. As a percentage of the whole development it's pitifully low, even in these supposedly straitened times. I hope the planning committee will raise this as an issue since it now seems to be a favourite theme for Lewisham's mayor.


I put this rendering in to show the view from street level, although it was cropped in the report, preventing me from enjoying the full rearing presence of the main tower. The inclusion of only two cars makes it look very weird, especially without any of the double parking that's usually rife along this stretch of Creekside. 

Which brings me to traffic and parking.

The development includes just three car parking spaces, which I welcome wholeheartedly. The cycle parking provision is not as good as it could be, but still generous. Of course the lack of parking will encourage the new residents to use the surrounding streets - already heavily overloaded both in daytime with local workers and commuters and overnight with residents - making the introduction of a controlled parking zone inevitable. However the site's proximity to the boundary with Greenwich will need the two to work together if this is going to be successful. According to the transport assessment, residents of the new blocks will not be eligible to apply for parking permits if and when a CPZ is introduced.

Construction traffic is stacking up to be a major problem on Creekside - not necessarily due to this development, but the cumulative impact of the multiple developments that are expected to move to construction shortly. Everyone makes noises about using Deptford Creek for material deliveries and spoil removal, but no-one has made any effort to actually put it into practice. 

Don't forget the Thames Tunnel shaft is expected to start construction some time soon, requiring Deptford Church Street to be shut down to just two lanes for a period of three years, and requiring a predicted 140 vehicle movements per day. Faircharm redevelopment is estimated to require 180 vehicle movements per day so Kent Wharf's 20 vehicles (or 40 vehicle movements) is a mere drop in the ocean. But with the two sites next to Creekside Village having applications pending, not to mention Convoys Wharf, we look set to be dodging HGVs for the next five years or more. 

I was particularly confused to read that construction traffic is only being allowed to come via the A2 because the lifting bridge on Creek Road is dodgy (er, get it fixed? It has no weight limit posted as far as I can see). 

The travel plan suggests construction traffic should turn along Creekside at the Birds Nest roundabout which seems like a particularly risky route - not only will traffic be snarled up by the heavy parking that Creekside endures, but it will direct traffic along a quite major cycling route. HGVs and cycles? Rarely ends well.

I also gave a hollow laugh when I read that construction workers would not be allowed to park on the roads in the vicinity, and this would be policed by the contractor. The shambolic situation on Norman Road and surrounds (cars parked halfway up the Ha'penny Hatch footpath) when the Movement was being built was brought to mind, and the efforts and nagging I know people had to exert to get the situation resolved to any extent. It's a fine aim but in my opinion not worth the paper it's written on - many subcontractors are expected to bring their own tools and equipment and in practice I cannot see how this can be imposed.

One of the positives aspects which the design review process seems to have brought to this development is accessibility to the creek and some level of permeability on the site. A new path will open up access to the Creek, and presumably link into one alongside the Laban (otherwise it will be an utterly pointless dead end).


From the ground floor plan (above) you might be forgiven for thinking it is three buildings but in fact the two on Creekside are actually linked about ground floor level (see below)


A walkway leads into what they are classifying as 'semi-private' space - on paper a nice idea but even in this rendering I can't help wondering what those shady-looking characters are doing hanging about in the underpass.



Thursday, 22 January 2015

Job Centre pub forced to launch petition for a kitchen



Right I've been silent on this for long enough.

I was so excited about getting a new pub on Deptford High Street, especially one run by a company whose reputation for well-kept ales and good pub food was already well-established in the area via the Royal Albert in New Cross.

With the opening of the Job Centre last year, there was finally a glimmer of hope that Deptford High Street did have the potential to become an evening destination for pub food as well as Vietnamese cafes and our old favourite the Orient.

Ever since it opened we have been continuously taunted by the promise of a kitchen arriving 'soon'. The original refit included an obvious kitchen space which made it seem utterly likely that the fit-out was simply delayed by a lack of organisation on behalf of Antic's overworked builders, or perhaps a slight problem with programming.

In the end I stopped asking as the usual answer ('apparently coming soon') started to be accompanied by a long sigh and a visible slump in the shoulders. When I took the decision to celebrate a special occasion there, I did my own catering. My own catering. In a pub.

All this time the usual Antic antics continued. New pubs opened left, right and centre. The Woolwich Equitable even opened in November with a brand new finished kitchen in situ and I considered unfollowing them on Twitter because of the constant tweets about lovely-looking food being served at the other end of SE London.

All these shenanigans were annoying enough, but now the Job Centre has been forced to set up a petition in order to get Antic's numpty overlords to concede that people in Deptford are not just out-and-out lushes, they ACTUALLY EAT TOO! They are asking customers to lobby for a kitchen by signing the petition at the bar - a strange way to run a business if you ask me.

Does Antic make all its decisions on the basis of names on a piece of paper? And what about those potential customers who don't visit purely because there's no food? How does Antic intend to gather market intelligence on that particular demographic?

Why open a cavernous pub on our high street, bring us fine ales served by friendly and helpful staff and then make us grovel for sustenance?

I say fuck your petition. 

Just get a kitchen in there and I will visit on a regular basis, at least once a week, and I will buy food. I will also most likely buy more drink than I do at the moment since I usually have to leave after a couple of pints because I need to eat. I cannot survive on your sausage rolls, however nice they are.

I'm sure many of you out there agree; feel free to comment, share this, tweet @Antic_London or go straight into the ear of the boss via their website (play nicely now).

Thursday, 15 January 2015

New riverside path finally on the horizon

On a morning pootle earlier this week I discovered that the riverside route from Wood Wharf through to New Crapital Quay is finally open! Yes, the much-misused cul-de-sac that used to serve as an impromptu rain shelter for fisherman, not to mention a venue for the misplaced youth of Greenwich, has finally achieved a more useful purpose. 


It's not much of a change at the moment, but does continue the traffic-free link a few hundred yards further towards Deptford. In due course there will be a new pub on the riverside as another stopping off point, but right now it's just a swathe of underwhelming public realm with more oddly-positioned seating (a view directly into someone's front room, anyone?).



From next Monday, of course, the route will continue still further with the opening of the new Deptford Creek swing bridge. The official opening takes place at 9am, for anyone who wants to attend and doesn't have a job to go to.