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?