Saturday 29 November 2008

Deptford Christmas 6&7 December 2008

Next weekend is the first Deptford Christmas event, organised and partially hosted by the Deptford Project.

A yurt at the Deptford Project will be the venue for Snow Stories performances morning and afternoon on both days, and there will be a Christmas market in Giffin Square and at the DP throughout the weekend.

'Home-made fairground games and clowing around' will be taking place from midday onwards Saturday and Sunday and if you want to get your own home-made Christmas decorations on show, bring them along to the Deptford Project where they will be hung up on their festive wall.

Arts and crafts for kids are promised from 11am on Saturday in Giffin Square, and at 4pm the grand switch-on of the lights on the Christmas tree will take place, with Snow White as the guest of honour.

It seems there will be festive music from carol singers and a band over the weekend, not to mention Santa in a grotto at the Deptford Project. More info here.

Don't forget it's Cockpit Arts open studios the same weekend - another great reason to pop along to Deptford for a visit!

Once you are tired of shopping, how about some art?

Bearspace is showing Raising Ground while APT Gallery has a show by Emyr Williams.

Friday 28 November 2008

Vote for Deptford Park!

Deptford Park is one of 47 across London that have been shortlisted by the Greater London Authority for the chance to win a bit of extra cash.

It's one of the two in Lewisham that have been shortlisted, but it needs your vote if it's going to win! Only ten of the shortlisted parks will win funding, so it's up to us to make our voices heard!

I reported earlier this year about the masterplan that has been drawn up for the park. Funding was secured for the first phases, but additional money could pay for

* a new pergola and shelter;
* new seating;
* improvements to the play area including natural play features;
* colourful 'picture meadow';
* fruit trees;
* community food growing plots.

Investment funding of up to £400,000 each is on offer.

Londoners can vote to choose which parks get the £400,000 simply by logging on to, by text message or by postal vote. Voting closes on Friday 30 January 2009.

The Dame says go along and vote, and good luck to Lewisham Council for this initiative.

Just don't try and sneak anything into my leasehold bill for it afterwards!

Wednesday 19 November 2008

Lewisham Homes "resident-led" programme of works

I suspect that some of the regular readers of this blog might be leaseholders or tenants of Lewisham Homes, the arm's length management organisation that took over ownership of some of Lewisham Council's housing stock a couple of years ago.

This is particularly relevant to Deptford, since the vast majority of its council housing - the Pepys and Evelyn estates which stretch west from the High Street towards the river, and the Crossfields estate on the east, among others, are all now owned and run by Lewisham Homes. And the Dame's limited experience, so far, had suggested that it was an improvement on the service offered when the council was in charge.

Those readers who are Lewisham Homes residents may well be aware of its ongoing 'resident-led' programme or works. Essentially, we were told earlier this year, we were being given £500,000 to spend on improvements to our estates, and residents were going to decide how it should be spent.

Individuals, residents associations and local groups were invited to put forward their proposals for improvements, and bid for a slice of the pie. At the end of the summer, the winning schemes were announced - and the funding was split between the north and the south of the borough. Residents were even involved in the judging panel which decided where the money should be spent.

Two projects won funding on Evelyn estate, the Dame's demesne. A community garden (nice idea!) and a dog run (unnecessary - we already have one and it has become a grubby, misused strip of mud). Letters were sent out asking for feedback from residents - did we think the projects were a good idea or not?

But one MAJOR piece of information that has been left out of all correspondence and publicity so far is the fact that leaseholders will have to pay towards these works! Only a thorough read of the article on the next to the last page of the recent Homes magazine revealed the true state of play.

Believe me, this has NOT been communicated to leaseholders. They believe, as they have been led to, that this money is 'free of charge' from Lewisham Homes. They are NOT expecting to see it in their maintenance bill next year, or the year after for that matter. And quite frankly, in the case of a dog run, why should they?

According to our leasehold agreement, we must pay for the upkeep and repair of the building in which we live (fair enough, even if sometimes the charges NO WAY represent value for money, but that's for another day), and we must also pay for the MAINTENANCE of the estate on which we live. I understand that to mean cutting the grass, picking the litter, mending broken fences etc. Not building a community garden or a dog run.

Aside from anything else, to offer money for improvements and then ask leaseholders to pay towards it is a very divisive policy: tenants who want to see improvements will be pushing the schemes while leaseholders will be resisting them or resenting them. Not the best way to create and strengthen communities.

Despite being an out-and-out cynic, I suspect the failure to communicate this information properly is the result of a cock-up rather than a conspiracy. But it is shockingly lax of our freeholders to let this slip through - especially since they have scored very low on services to leaseholders in the past. It does suggest that they are not getting any better.

A campaign is being launched by leaseholders against this inappropriate levy; for more information contact me at the email address shown in the left hand column.

Sunday 16 November 2008

Deptford Station redevelopment - is the beginning in sight?

The saga of the proposed redevelopment of Deptford Station has been grinding on for several years now, but the latest planning permission application is due to come before Lewisham's planning committee this Thursday.

This application covers the demolition of the existing station building and the construction of a new one, incorporating the top part of the listed carriage ramp, as well as the refurbishment of the platforms and canopies. Instead of entering the station from the high street, the intention is that passengers will enter the new building at the junction of the carriage ramp and the train line (the carriage ramp in question was built to enable horse-drawn carriages to access the platform level of the station, and is the only one remaining out of three that were built in London. It can be seen from the west end of the London-bound platform or through the security gates to the left of the station building at ground level).

Originally the station redevelopment was tied in with the proposed construction of a new 8-storey building next to the carriage ramp, by developer Cathedral Group, and (from what I understand from the documents) the last time an application was submitted, in 2005, the planning committee recommended that permission be granted subject to the two being formally linked. In effect, the council wanted to ensure that the station redevelopment and the refurbishment of the remainder of the carriage ramp and the station yard would happen at the same time. But it seems Cathedral Group wasn't having any of it, and as the document coyly puts it, this agreement 'was not entered into'.

As we know, Cathedral Group is (was?) intending to launch an arts and crafts market in the station yard, but this has yet to materialise. As for the Octavia Street development (intended to create live/work units which will make use of the arches under the carriage ramp and create a new public plaza) a separate planning application may be forthcoming next year.

Overall I think it would be a good thing to have a new residential building next to the carriage ramp although I am slightly perturbed by the proposed height of it, which does not scale well with any of the surrounding buildings. It would have been good to have both projects progressing at the same time, but I feel it is more important to try and get the station redevelopment going if the apartments are going to lag behind, which seems even more inevitable in the current economic climate.

The station badly needs improvement; it is grotty and unattractive, difficult to access even for those of us with full mobility (ever been late for your train?!) and as well as being depressing for users, it gives a very poor impression of Deptford to anyone passing through. No wonder only 175 people on average use it in the peak period of 8am to 9am - one of the facts in the application documents - although going on the usual state of trains at this time, I would suggest that this is pretty much capacity or perhaps above!

**Incidentally, plans for the redevelopment of the area around Giffin Street are also going to be considered at the same meeting. Of which more later.

Wednesday 5 November 2008

Cockpit Arts - pre-christmas open studios

Cockpit Arts will be having an open studios weekend on 5-7 December at the site in Creekside; you might also want to make a trip up to Holborn to see some of the other designer-makers in action at the other site on 28-30 November. Hot drinks and snacks supplied as usual by East Dulwich Deli (which to me always seems a bit mad since surely we have plenty of good caterers in Deptford and Greenwich?)

It's £3 admission at Deptford, or £5 for a ticket for both sites.

A great place to go if you are looking for a really special christmas present.