Friday 11 December 2009

Convoy's wharf redevelopment plans

If you didn't manage to get to the public exhibitions this week, here's a brief description of the plans, timescale and some personal comments on the proposals.

The new owner of the Convoy's Wharf site is Hutchison Whampoa Properties, a developer and investor with roots in Hong Kong but which has built or is working on various property schemes in London, several of them on prestigious riverside sites.

The company's intention is to submit an application to Lewisham Council for outline planning permission in January 2010. A previous scheme was given outline planning permission*, but HW still has to go through the same process again even though its plans are very similar to those submitted before.

Outline planning permission will set in stone some quite fundamental things, such as the positions and maximum heights of buildings, the layout of the roads, the number and type of properties, the number of car parking spaces and so on.

Whatever the developer's plans for the entire site, once/if outline planning permission is granted, the developer will then have to submit detailed planning applications for each phase.

According to the plans on show at the exhibition, they are proposing three towers, the tallest of which will be on the riverfront, with the two shorter ones beside each of the two main roads coming in to the site. You can click on the photo of the model to make it bigger - it's not particularly sharp but gives you idea of the general layout.

This board shows the view from the river, with the tallest tower in the foreground.

As well as the plans for more than 3,500 new flats, the proposal also includes industrial use, which will be based at the most easterly end of the riverfront and is intended to fulfil the requirement that a working wharf be retained on the site.

The site also includes the Olympia Warehouse, which is protected by a grade II listing. I understand that the listing relates to the internal structure - the external cladding is relatively modern - although I'm not clear as to what it is about the internal structure that makes it worthy of listing. The photo above shows the inside, which is currently full of Lewisham Council bins. Since the building has to be retained, it is proposed that it will become some kind of arts centre or 'cultural hub'. How this will be achieved and maintained is unclear.

For road traffic, two main routes into the site will be provided - one along King Street through the main entrance, and a second one through the disused gates on the corner of Grove Street and Leeway. These two avenues will meet at the approximate centre of the site.

Quite a few people at the exhibition were interested to hear from the representative of transport consultant Colin Buchanan, about how all the cars (2,500 parking spaces, don't forget) were going to get in and out of the site through two very small roads. His answers were not reassuring, relying as they did mainly on some rather spurious assumptions to prove that residents would not be using their cars.

On a more practical level, noises were made about the possibility of reopening the end of Dragoon Road into Evelyn Street, providing bus services into the site, and having a riverbus pier with an increased frequency of boats, and possibly even a direct connection to Canary Wharf. Crossrail is apparently going to solve all the problems with congestion on the trains; earliest opening date I believe is 2015. Personally I feel that the transport plans and the level of car parking provision are the most important and possibly contentious issues the development faces.

The site visit offered an opportunity to see the riverfront, the vast majority of which will be incorporated into the Thames path and offer open access to the river. At the eastern end the working wharf (and the neighbouring Master Shipwright's house which fronts the river) will mean that the path has to divert away from the river for a short distance, but in my opinion all the more convenient for nipping to the Dog & Bell for a restorative pint! The opening up of the river front will be one of the biggest immediate benefits to local residents and we should be pushing for this to take place as early in the process as possible.

One thing I noted at the exhibition was the total lack of signs outside the front gate of the site. I was surprised that they had not exploited such a direct and simple way of engaging with local people. On questioning the marketing folks more closely it was interesting to hear how they had 'publicised' the event, and clear that they need to give this more thought if they are to consult properly.

What they did:
1. Article/advertisement in the News Shopper and/or South London Press. Everyone knows that newsprint sales are in decline - where I used to buy a paper every day I now only buy one on a Saturday. I've never bought either the SLP or the News Shopper - I did used to get the latter free but that was when I lived in Greenwich. I don't think Pepys Estate fits the target demographic for receiving free newspapers.

2. Leaflet drop to local properties. I seriously question the effectiveness of this, given the number of blocks in the area which have security systems on the front doors. I live about five minutes' walk away and did not receive the leaflet, while a nearby resident I spoke to said that one leaflet had been put through the communal doors in her block, each of which led to seven properties. The information about the exhibition was buried in the middle of the leaflet in very small writing.

3. Publicity to local bloggers and websites. Computer ownership and computer literacy in this part of the borough is very low. And much as we like to think it's otherwise, us bloggers reach a very small percentage of the local population.

Some ideas for future consultation:
1. Big, clear notices on the front gates about meetings - possibly even with images of the proposals.
2. Distributing leaflets and invites to local resident associations and/or working with Lewisham Homes to fund a mailing to its tenants. Making the information available in different languages on request.
3. Posters on estate noticeboards, in local shops, community centres and housing offices.

The cynic in me knows that public consultation is largely a box-ticking exercise and developers don't really want to get too many of us involved or we might start asking too many questions, demanding too many changes, organising effective opposition and generally being a bit of a nuisance. However one hopes that they can also see the wider benefits that may come from engaging effectively with the local population.

*in fact outline planning permission was never granted, as one of my commenters has pointed out. Further research has unearthed the following: the size of the scheme meant that it had to be referred to the Greater London Authority as standard procedure. On 25 January 2005 the GLA decided that the application was fine in principle, in strategic terms, but subject to further negotiation on a number of points. These included the percentage of social housing and mix of tenure, safeguarding of the wharf, improvement of transport links, and securing the presence of creative industries on the development. Concerns were raised about the number of parking spaces proposed, although in the earlier proposal this was approximately one space per property - 3,500 - and this was reduced to 2,318 after negotiations. Lewisham Council then resolved to grant planning permission subject to quite extensive conditions and the signing of a Section 106 agreement. But the application was never taken any further and the site was eventually sold. The council's website has a link to the planning documents if you want to read further..


keith said...

sorry to correct the dame but the first scheme for outline planing permission (by Richard Rogers) has not been consented to; it is still pending.

keith said...

its possible that the new owners would rather you believe that consent WAS granted but .....

check out

Deptford dame said...

Thanks Keith, I've done a bit more reading and clarified my post, hopefully correctly! From what I understand it is now expired as the council's agreement in principle had a time limit on it.

shipwright's palace said...

Dear Dame devotees

interesting that new residents will be discouraged from car use. Missing from all the data declared at the open days was any depiction or description of the widening of Prince Street (former Dog Street) to allow 120 lorry movements per day in and out of the site and proposed Working Wharf. These lorries will travel into the Home Zone established on Watergate Street as far down as Rowley House. SO far I have been able to ask half a dozen residents on Watergate Street about these proposals. None of these residents were informed of the Open Days nor received a leaflet. Hardly surprising. It is however highly disingenuous of the developer's architects to propose the scheme and Open Days without overtly declaring the road widening schemes they already know are essential for the successful operation of their scheme. 120 lorry movements per day, along Prince Street passing the Dog and Bell into a new two lane highway alongside Watergate Street will significantly increase air pollution, sound pollution, vibration pollution and visual pollution. Is anyone aware of any existing policy that prevents the diminishing of and considerable detriment to existing assets (the enjoyment of peoples' homes) whilst maximising other assets (developer's capital? CJM

Anonymous said...

have you seen the thread on skyscrapercity?

keith said...

stand by - I understand that a new application is anticipated in June