Sunday, 3 October 2010
Proposed improvements to Douglas Way
Ironically enough the improvements that are planned are not part of the general Deptford town centre regeneration works - which perhaps explains why fellow Deptford blogger Marmoset's visit to the town centre regeneration office shed so little light on the matter. Instead, the improvements to Douglas Way are being carried out by the North Lewisham Links project, which is intended to improve walking and cycling connections in north Lewisham - and which includes the work that has already been done in Margaret McMillan Park, the ongoing work in Fordham Park, and the improvement of the underpass that links the two.
The good news is that this means the funding for the work is already allocated. The intention to improve Douglas Way has not been publicised till now because there were uncertainties about whether the funding for the North Lewisham Links project would stretch this far. But miraculously it has, so this phase of the work is just about to kick off.
I do feel that the designers have got the hardest task in front of them with this part of the work, in that they have to accommodate the practical requirements of a working market in their plans. Three days a week, market traders need to be able to drive their vans in to the square, wheel in the stalls, hook up to electrical supplies and set out their wares for the day. Annoying things like benches and trees will just get in the way for them.
But for the other four days of the week, Douglas Square is a desolate place and there is an urgent need to improve it. Without the market there to attract people, it lacks any kind of redeeming feature. There is nowhere to sit, no shelter and no greenery to soften the harsh lines of the wonky bollards and uneven paving. It's a place through which to hasten on your way to somewhere else. I'm sure the Albany suffers to some extent, being on the other side of this unwelcoming expanse - people walking along Deptford High Street are not tempted to venture into the square to see what's there, and passing business for the cafe must be minimal.
No renderings were available at the consultation simply because they have not yet been developed - but the intention is to introduce some elements of the improvements in Margaret McMillan park such as similar furniture and finishes and so on, in order to create a 'continuous' link. Anyone wanting to assess the likely quality of the work and the type of furniture that might be used can do so by having a wander towards New Cross station.
There is a limit to what can be done in the square because of the need to retain access for the market traders - no option to introduce large planters or landscaping for example! - and a limit to the items that can be consulted upon anyway. It's more a case of 'what colour paving do you prefer?' and 'how do you feel about a few trees?' than anything particularly radical, hence it does seem that a start date of January 2011 is achievable.