Sunday, 12 January 2014

Creekside Village urban sprawl

After a year or so of respite, signs are that our beloved Creekside Village will soon begin to undergo an element of urban sprawl. Whether it is going to be renamed Creekside Town or Creekside Village-And-Large-Housing-Estate remains to be seen, but at least one parcel of the still-derelict land on the other side of Copperas Street bordering Deptford Creek itself has now been sold to another developer.

The Creekside Village development was originally intended to be about twice the size of what it is today. But while the completed section that towers over Creek Road is in Greenwich borough, the land of the remaining part of the development (Creekside Village East) straddled between Greenwich and Lewisham. In 2007 developer Ampurius Nu Homes Investments was granted permission for redevelopment of the land at the east end of the site in Greenwich, but the application for the Lewisham side has never been approved.

The developer went bust and the land was put on the market last year in four parcels; news is now in that purchaser Essential Living ('specialist developer of homes for the private rented sector') has bought the eastern parcel of land and intends to submit a new planning application for construction of a 17-storey tower next to the Creek.

The apartments will be 'investment grade quality' and other meaningless buzzwords: this bit lifted straight from the press release I don't doubt:
Built to investment grade quality, it will feature a host of on-site amenities, as part of Essential Living’s ambition to transform renting into a lifestyle choice, rather than a stopgap to ownership.

View from Deptford Creek lifting bridge

My previous unflattering remarks about Creekside Village have more than once prompted angry responses from residents, but I have no hesitation in repeating them. I feel this architecture has no place in this location (nor in fact do I think it is appropriate for residential buildings, although I realise that's an even more subjective point); its overbearing glass and steel facade totally dwarfs the streetscape on Creek Road and makes it an even more unpleasant place to walk along.

Yes, the development has some elements of public space - the mean little flower beds and water feature on Copperas Street, for example - but it serves its neighbours and community very badly in this respect and the height and mass of the blocks does nothing to break up the monotonous and windy environment to a more human scale.

The 'canyonisation' of the Creek continues
I am told that there's a strong and active community among the residents, which is at least a positive thing. Not knowing how the internal layout works or how the building is managed, it's difficult to say whether this community spirit is influenced by the building itself, or just a reflection on the community-mindedness of those who live there. I strongly suspect it's the latter, as with any residential block.

Despite the fact that there are many empty units at street level and on the first floor of the blocks, there are vague signs that this situation could improve in the near future. Conversations on Twitter last year suggested that a new deli and cafe would soon open in one of the shop units, although I haven't seen any further signs of this.

In the meantime a planning application was recently submitted to Greenwich Council to provide a space in the block on the corner of Creekside and Creek Road for the Galleon Theatre Company. You may recall that this small but thriving organisation was displaced in a rather unpleasant fashion from the Greenwich Playhouse in favour of backpacker accommodation last year.

Before you get all misty-eyed thinking it's a heart-warming tale of the Creekside Village developer offering to provide cultural space out of the goodness of its heart, let me just point out that this application is a result of the Section 106 agreement for the site development that originally included affordable cultural space (previously intended to be an extension for the Laban Centre). All that's happening here is the developer is attempting to fulfil its legal obligations, although hopefully we will see the benefit of it in due course.

'Inspired by dance' apparently
I sincerely hope that the developer continues to find tenants for these empty units, it might do something to alleviate the grim walk along Creek Road.

Unfortunately the news that the new landowner wants to build rental flats specifically for investors will do nothing to improve the community of the 'village'. Unless existing residents keep a close eye on the application, I suspect that Greenwich Council will simply wave it through as they have done in the past. The images I've posted are from the previous planning application - although a new application will be submitted, I suspect the architecture will remain 'inspired by dance' and it will be simply a case of redesigning the internal layout to incorporate the 'on-site amenities' which are essential for 'lifestyle choice'.

The original proposal did at least provide public access to the Creek, and I'll be trying to keep an eye on it to ensure that this is retained, although how pleasant it will be to sit at the base of a 17-storey sheer glass facade remains to be seen.

10 comments:

fromthemurkydepths said...

This could be good news. It means the previous plan, continuing with the same style of architecture is dead. Of course they could produce similar designs but that's not guaranteed.

Selling off the land on 4 parcels is another positive. It will hopefully mean 4 different architects and 4 varying designs and not the mono style that would have been built.

I don't mind the scale of the existing development. With buildings of 5-8 storeys lining the road it feels reminiscent of many European cities, with a road that is quite wide. The materials however aren't great, nor is the colour scheme (too drab and cold - pale blues and greys used for the buildings and paving). The facade is also very monotonous along the entire road. However it is zone 2 inner London - height and density is needed, though a stepped back effect on the upper couple of floors would have worked better. The corner tower is a bit overbearing but given the need for housing I'm not too concerned.

What I don't like is that the roadside pavement is at a different level to the retail level pavement, with a 4 foot wall facing the roadside pavement. Also, no doubt the rent for the retails units are way too high preventing independent traders from establishing themselves.

fromthemurkydepths said...

One more point - I need to look into Essential Living and the belated move in the UK by institutional investors into building flats for rent, but it may not be bad thing. It is common in much of the developed world.

If developed in the normal British way much of it would be sold in Asia, and many residenst renting on an AST contract with very little legal rights, and minimal security of tenure, such is the English rental market (Scottish tenants have better protection). By renting from an institution (eg a pension fund) there could well be better tenant security, and longer contracts, along with an easily traceable landlord who can rectify issues and be held liable.

Crossfields gal said...

Wondering if this will spell the beginning of the end for Prior's Aggregates?

Deptford Dame said...

@murky depths do let us know what you find out in your research into the developer, it would be great if such developments did provide longer, more secure tenures but I can't see it happening in the UK market. Having been a long-term renter myself I know that there ARE tenants out there who would love to get the same rights as our European neighbours, and for long-term renting to lose its ridiculous stigma of being a second-class option.

Anonymous said...

Re Prior's - let's hope so. Breathing in cement dust on my way to work each day always worries me, let alone having it based so close to a primary school...

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15448758

Anonymous said...

Going off on a tangent but it is it is opposite the Creekside development and cement related...I see the Euromix site on Norman Road has actually gone bust. Odd when the construction industry is one of the few areas booming at the moment, but as the article suggests it seems to be due to poor cash management rather than a lack of profits.

http://www.cnplus.co.uk/companies/administrations/euromix-set-for-takeover-as-big-firms-circle/8657580.article?blocktitle=Business&contentID=565

Ed said...

I can't wait for this land to be developed. The derelict buidlings currently occupying that space are an eyesore.

Hopefully the bridge over the creek follows shortly after.

Just. Hangsing said...

I have to agree with Ed. The derelict buildings is indeed an eyesore. However the empty space for hire at Creekside is also an eyesore. hhhmmm........

SeenInGreenwich said...

I'm told the deli/cafe which will occupy one of the existing ground floor units will be ready by Easter...

Bugbeaky said...

Re the existing Creekside development, I think it's a matter of taste.

I've lived in Deptford for nearly ten years now and I am passionate about it and its people.

I should also add in honesty that I am a resident on one of the blocks, but as such:

- Personally I like that the colour scheme and glazing reflect the sky and IMHO make the blocks less dense. Far rather that than dirty orange or cream render.
- I also think that it’s a rather striking modern design that will age well - taking its lead from the Laban centre's ribbed exterior.
(p.s. They are also very nice to actually live in and are well run and maintained)
But as I say, each to their own - only my opinion.

However, completely agree re being a shame that the retail spaces are empty. The whole of the ground floor of the central Cavatina block was meant to be a pod hotel - but that floundered. Personally I think that the key issue is the scale and shape of the units - they are all double height which I would imagine makes then difficult for the average small business. Also they are complete shells - so they would require extensive prep before any business was up and running. Yet they are all apparently sold according to the stickers on the windows - but where are the businesses? A great shame. Hopefully the increased footfall of further development might actually motivate some movement here?