Wednesday 24 February 2010

Shopping price comparison

A recent comment by a reader that they never shopped in Deptford High Street and instead went to Greenwich set me pondering on why that might be.

I guess there are many reasons why someone would choose to shop somewhere less convenient, and those might be:
- price
- opening hours
- parking
- products available
- quality

I know for sure that lots of things are cheaper in Deptford's various independent retailers than in the supermarkets, but I've never done a proper price comparison. Today on a whim, when I returned from a lunchtime reccy, I decided to do just that. I noted the cost of the rather random basket of goods I'd just purchased in Housewives Cash & Carry, one of the unnamed Asian greengrocers, Robert Walker* and the British veg/flower shop whose name I have momentarily forgotten, and then checked the prices of the same things (or as close as possible) at Tesco online.

The results were rather interesting.

Four 400g tins Napolina chopped tomatoes: £2.00 (Housewives) - £3.00 special offer normally £3.89 (Tesco)
One 400g tin chick peas: 39p (Housewives) - 45p (Tesco)
Tube of tomato puree: 79p (Housewives) - 33p (Tesco)
Half a pound of Lurpak: £1.39 (Housewives) - £1.38 (Tesco)
Fresh mint: 75p for a large bunch (Deptford) - small pack for 79p or plant for £1.49 (Tesco)

Six free range eggs: £1.09 (Housewives) - £1.42 (Tesco)
Mozzarella cheese: £1.50 for 440g (Robert Walker) - £1.59 for 250g (Tesco)
Cheddar cheese with chives: £1 for 250g (Robert Walker) - £1.45 for 200g (Tesco)

Whole nutmegs: £1.99 for 100g (Housewives) - £1.39 for 44g (Tesco)
Whole cucumber and one yellow pepper: £1.09 (Deptford) - £1.96 (Tesco)

In total, to buy the equivalent in Tesco that I bought in Deptford today, would be £15.45, compared with the £11.99 total I actually spent.

I know this isn't exactly a 'typical' basket of food and the results might be very different with a different range of items, but it is a very sobering example of how much extra I might have spent at the supermarket.

*I don't think the shop is actually called Robert Walker, but it still has the old sign above it so that's how I know it. Inside is a rather random collection of groceries and some good continental cheeses/anchovies in the fridge at the back. The place to go for excellent quality dark chocolate, olive oils and vinegars, great value blocks of mozzarella, etc etc. Don't pass it by!

Deptford changes

Do you want to know why no work has been started on the railway station yet (contract award imminent I believe) or what plans the council has for cracking down on rat-running along the High Street at rush hour? Perhaps you're wondering what's going to replace the wonky street furniture on Giffin Square, or confused about the parking charges at the new boulevard?

Or maybe you just want to get your face painted and tell people what you like about the High Street?

Whatever your gripe or query, get yourself down to Giffin Square this Friday or Saturday and visit the exhibition trailer for all the answers (or not).

The exhibition will be there from 1-6pm on Friday, and from 10-4pm on Saturday. The Deptford Steel Pan Band will be playing from 12-3 on Saturday, and there's a children's storyteller at 3.45pm on the Friday. There's 'all-day face painting' and a balloon artist.

Apparently there will be updates on the station, Tidemill School and the Deptford Lounge, the high street and New Cross links. Your chance to say what sort of services and 'art installations' you want to see in the lounge.

Apologies for the short notice but I've only just found out about it myself.

Creekside hermit

Thanks to Helen for sending me the link to the Creekside Hermit, another local blog which has so far passed me by.

The hermit is Creekside's artist-in-residence one day a week for the coming year, and will be posting about plants, the weather and wildlife of the creek. Pop over there for some short videos of the creek in spate, very atmospheric, and some interesting information about medicinal uses of some of the plants you can find growing in the creek.

Tuesday 23 February 2010

Deptford green drinks/Project Dirt

The inaugural 'Deptford green drinks' takes place this Thursday 25th February, upstairs at the Royal George pub on Tanners Hill from 7.30pm onwards.

Contrary to popular belief you will not be required to drink creme de menthe unless you really want to - the 'green' bit refers to bringing together like-minded folks interested in 'green' issues such as transition towns, renewable energy, food growing and land use, local economies and so on. Similar events are run all over the capital - and in fact the world according to the website - and I know that Lewisham has had a group running for some time.

Another website to check out if you are interested in environmental issues on a local level is Project Dirt. Here you can find links to lots of projects and events running in south east London, as well as the people who run them. If you are interested in getting involved with something, or want to find collaborators or volunteers for your own project, or just ideas about what kind of things are going on, this is a great place to start.

Saturday 20 February 2010

Sayes Court gardens

Another new Deptford blog comes on the scene - check out London's Lost Garden, which focusses on Sayes Court.

And if you're wondering what on earth could be so interesting about what is a rather underwhelming park, it has a fascinating history taking in John Evelyn, Peter the Great and the National Trust, making it one of Deptford's more significant historical locations.

Monday 15 February 2010

Waldron Health Centre landscaping - epic fail!

I really like the new Waldron Health Centre on Stanley Street, right next to New Cross Station. As a patient I enjoy the clean, shiny facilities and I also like the building, it has a solid warmth to it - and in the right light, it is stunning.

I've been waiting excitedly for the landscaping at the front to be completed, so that I can get a photograph of the finished article in its full glory. Well they haven't removed all of the hoardings yet - I suspect the bit in the corner will be a car park and they are waiting for proper fencing to arrive before they take down the remaining barriers and turn it into a free for all.

That's as maybe, but please someone tell me the nasty, uneven, multi-coloured asphalt effect is a temporary fix while they source some good quality paving or similar? I cannot stand by and let vandalism on this scale go unchallenged!

Saturday 13 February 2010

Another Tesco in Deptford

I haven't really written about the 'Theatro' development of apartments that's currently approaching completion on Creek Road - mainly because it is relatively small compared to the other local sites, but also because it is similar in size and scale to the other new blocks along that stretch of road.

As usual the marketing blurb tells you that you are 'moments' from the glories of Greenwich in this exclusive development of 48, 1,2 and 3-bed apartments.

But what's this? Spotted last night, this intriguing notice on the side of the hoardings.

Sure enough, if you look at the ground floor plan of the development, there's sufficient space for a Tesco Metro or something similar.

Not content with having a foothold in the locality, Tesco intends to get Deptford in a pincer manoeuvre, slowly draining off the High Street's trade from both ends.

Friday 12 February 2010

Oxestalls Road Development: The Wharves, Deptford

I've written previously about the planned Convoy's Wharf development - as well as many of the other planned and under-construction projects in the area around Deptford and Greenwich. But there is still plenty of land in North Deptford around the Pepys and Evelyn estates which can be classed as 'ripe for redevelopment'.

This includes at least four other sites of varying sizes, some areas currently unused, others housing low-quality business or industrial premises. In comparison with the Convoy's Wharf monster, none of the other sites come close in terms of size or scale, but the land at Oxestalls Road - now known as 'The Wharves, Deptford' still has a not-insignificant footprint.

Last month a planning application was submitted to Lewisham Council by City & Provincial for the outline planning permission for redevelopment of the whole site, and detailed planning permission for phases 1 and 2 - the southern two thirds of the site.

If you're travelling along Evelyn Street towards Surrey Quays, it's the bit where the road goes over a bridge (in the past you would have been going over the Surrey Canal) - just after the Kentucky Fried Chicken place. This edge of the site (on the opposite side of the road to KFC) is currently occupied by a car auction house, a self-store facility and the rather bizarre car wash/off licence combo.

On the Grove Street side, it's the section opposite Pepys Park, marked by the stretch of unremarkable light industrial units with the rather nasty scrap yard at the end - huge scrap lorries are usually badly parked and clogging up the roadside. The sad old pub gives welcome visual relief.

Here's the vital statistics from the developer's website, where there is a great deal more information available, from full transport and environmental statements to a full set of planning drawings (how refreshing to have a developer which doesn't treat the public like idiots!):

- 905 mixed tenure new homes
- 35% affordable housing
- 17% family units
- 16,400sqm non residential floorspace
- 580 - 750 new jobs
- a new and enlarged facility for Ascott Cab Company
- retention of the Victoria Public House
- on site CHP, Solar PV and ground source heat pumps
- new public realm and a water feature on the line of the Grand Surrey Canal

The planning application is here.

There are quite a few things about the information I've seen so far that give me cause for optimism about this particular development, which is quite promising!

In no particular order these are:

The parking facilities. As well as proposing to provide a relatively modest number of residential parking spaces (a maximum of 370 for the whole development of 905 units) the residential travel plan also suggests providing secure bike parking on a ratio of one space for each unit (nice start guys, but why stop at one?!). These will be contained within each building, or even within each floor - I'm not sure how this will be achieved and how people will be expected to get their bikes up to the 18th floor (extra large lifts?) but it's a very positive start. Not having secure storage can be a major factor that deters people living in an apartment from keeping or buying a bike for regular use. It's not practical to keep it in the apartment but no-one wants to leave their bike locked to a bike rack outside for any length of time, at the mercy of the weather and thieves. Eight car-club parking spaces are also proposed in the residential travel plan.

Reinstatement of the Surrey Canal as a water feature. This got me quite excited, I'll be honest, although I do feel strongly that the plan doesn't go far enough. The Grand Surrey Canal ran from Surrey Docks all the way to Camberwell and with a branch to Peckham (most of which forms Burgess Park these days). There is a fascinating feature about it on the London Canals website here, with links at the bottom to detailed descriptions of all sections and glimpses of what still remains. I particularly like the third photo down on this page which shows an old sign board from the Pepys Estate with the route of the canal marked on.

This is pretty much the section that the developers are planning to reinstate (east of Oxestalls Road that is). While this is a great idea, it would be a hundred times better if they added the dog-leg at the east end where it turned almost at right-angles and went under Evelyn Street and on towards what is now Surrey Canal Road.

The bridge is still there and it strikes me that it would be an excellent opportunity to keep open the possibility of improving cycle and pedestrian links across Evelyn Street (and perhaps as far as the developers are concerned, even help towards their intentions to promote sustainable travel solutions?). North-south links across Evelyn Street for cyclists are currently appalling (almost non-existent in fact) and limited to pedestrian crossings and that awful accident-waiting-to-happen mini roundabout at the end of Abinger Grove. No matter how many bike parking spaces you provide, you still need to offer safe routes in order to get people on their bikes.

Ideally the canal (or simply a traffic-free cycle route) could be reinstated west to Surrey Dock (there are no buildings currently in the way, and the bridge at the west end under Oxestalls Road still exists and is being retained) and even south at least as far as the end of Surrey Canal Road.

Whatever the long-term plans, it would be a real shame if a new building was sited in front of the bridge on Evelyn Street - it's difficult to tell but I believe this is the case from the plans I've seen. This would eliminate any possibility of using the route of the old canal in such an imaginative and positive way. I would suggest that this should be given serious consideration by the council and the planning department as a long-term goal which could contribute to improving cycle links in the borough.

Other things I saw that I liked the look of:

Proposals to retain the Victoria pub. The planning application suggests that the pub will be renovated and restored 'for its original use'. I was also pleased to see that the site does not include Scott House, which is at the junction of Oxestalls Road and Grove Street and is a very imposing and well-kept building deserving of retention.

The plans include photo-voltaic cells on the roofs of the buildings for solar energy generation, and the developers are suggesting that they will use ground-source heat pumps and combined heat and power systems on the site. I think that's what they mean by the 'energy centre'.

I was disappointed to see that despite the positive aspects of the development, they still want to include two high-rise blocks (18 storeys, 70m high) - one at the corner of Grove Street and Dragoon Road, the other at the corner of Oxestalls and Evelyn. But to put this in perspective, the smallest of the three towers proposed for Convoy's is 26 storeys high, the tallest 40.

Tuesday 9 February 2010

Parking facilities in Deptford

With all the market traders and shops in Deptford displaying posters complaining about the new Controlled Parking Zone, I decided to do a bit of investigation to try and establish why they are so upset. Are the new parking facilities affecting trade as much as they claim, or is it simply the case that any change to parking availability and regulation is unpopular and there has been a drop in trade for other reasons?

I'm sure many people feel strongly that shoppers should be encouraged to come on foot, by public transport or by bike to Deptford High Street - and I agree wholeheartedly with this sentiment. The recent refurbishment of Frankham Street into a 'parking boulevard' (more of that later) was particularly notable for the fact that it was aimed squarely at motorists. For a borough that likes to claim its green credentials, the council totally failed to take the opportunity to improve the facilities for cyclists. Yes, we do have some bike racks already, but turning a couple of the parking spaces in the boulevard over to bike racks would have sent a much more positive message in this regard.

But on the other side of the coin, I do think that if we want our market and independent shops to survive, there is also a strong case for provision of car parking. Many people come to the market and the high street to do their weekly shop, and if you have more than a couple of mouths to feed, this can mean some serious baggage. As someone who lives a few minutes' walk from the high street and has a household of two to provision, even I struggle home with my bags when I have to shop solo. The range of shops and stalls on the high street means that most people can buy everything they need here, which is why they come. And have you seen the size of some of the sacks of rice in Housewives?!

But I digress.

Parking in Deptford has undergone a number of changes over the last year or so, and there are signs that it's not over yet. The loss of Giffin Street car park, the introduction of the Controlled Parking Zone and the creation of our famous boulevard have all had an impact one way or another. The council has also been (somewhat sneakily, it has to be said) trialling a new method of parking enforcement using cameras rather than traffic wardens.

I understand there are also tentative plans to get rid of Frankham Street car park (not the boulevard) which are under consideration at the moment.

All this change has introduced uncertainty and confusion for motorists, and unfortunately does not appear to be happening within any overall strategic plan. I could be wrong about this, of course, perhaps the council is merely failing to communicate its strategy clearly.

Let's take the Giffin Street/CPZ/boulevard situation first of all.

Giffin Street car park was closed to enable the construction of the new Tidemill School/Deptford Lounge building.

According to the council, the 'parking boulevard' was intended to replace this facility.

Giffin Street car park provided 71 spaces. The charge was 90p per hour, with a maximum stay of 6 hours. Charges were in force Mon-Sat 8am-6.30pm.

Frankham Street car park (NOT the boulevard) levels the same charges over the same hours for its 55 spaces.

The boulevard, by contrast, is regarded as 'street' parking and hence attracts an increased parking charge, although you wouldn't know this until/unless you went to the ticket machine and read the very small writing on it. The charge for the boulevard is 25p per 15 minutes, making it an hourly charge of £1. It has approximately 120 parking spaces, and about 8 disabled parking spaces.

The charging regime has the benefit of offering a minimum charge of 25p as opposed to 90p, for anyone wanting a short stay. Charging does not start until 9am and finishes at 6pm, and there is also free parking on Saturday afternoon from 1.30pm onwards. However these spaces do have a maximum stay of four hours.

At the moment the difference in charges between the two parking areas on Frankham Street is anything but clear. The machines on the boulevard dispense the more expensive (but cheaper for short stay) tickets meant for the boulevard. But a big sign in front of the car park, which faces the boulevard, declares the 90p/hour rate and the machine next to it dispenses these tickets. There is no indication for motorists that the different charges apply depending on where you are parked. I wonder if anyone has been fined for buying a ticket at the Frankham Street car park machine and using it on a car in a boulevard bay?

The Controlled Parking Zone is a different kettle of fish altogether. It mainly covers Giffin Street and Reginald Road, and is intended to prevent commuter parking on these roads, and give priority to residents and businesses in Deptford. Residents and businesses now have to buy permits to park there, and the zone operates from 9-6 on Monday to Friday, and Saturday morning till 1.30pm. Residents can also buy visitor permits - for long stays they are cheaper than using the public parking spaces - although they have to go to Lewisham to do this which must be pretty inconvenient. Market traders can still park for free in certain roads, and there is a separate car park solely for market traders in Hamilton Street - although no-one could blame them for not wanting to park there since it looks more like a rubbish dump than a car park.

Market traders are unhappy with the new parking arrangements; they believe that the one-way system which is now in operation around Frankham Street is annoying and inconvenient for drivers and that the parking area needs better signage. Moreover they believe that the footfall on Saturday mornings is reduced because people are waiting for the afternoon (and the free parking) to come to the high street and do their shopping. This is difficult for the post-market clean-up since some traders want to keep their pitches up longer for the afternoon shoppers. If the weather is bad, people just don't bother coming at all.

Traders suggest having a free stay of up to 2 hours in the car parking areas on market days, and/or making Saturday morning parking free rather than Saturday afternoon.

I don't really think the first point is valid - if drivers can cope with the High Street being shut to vehicles, they can soon get used to the one-way system. However I do have some sympathy with the second point about shoppers coming later in the day and market stalls missing out on the trade. It seems rather irrational to only charge for half the day on Saturdays - either impose charges all day, or none of the day. The current regime does seem to penalise the stall holders.

I know that the subject of parking control does tend to galvanise people; so comments please!

Saturday 6 February 2010

Deptford Urban Screen and Deptford Film Club

This Wednesday at the Albany, Urban Screen is showing Nick Love's film The Firm. "A classic coming of age story set amongst one of England's most revered tribes."

See the trailer here.

Tickets are £5 and the film starts at 7pm. There will also be a Q&A session:

"Making a special appearance for a Q&A will be actors Calum McNab and Eddie Webber, also director of photography Matt Gray and there are whispers that Nick Love might make it along as well," according to The Screen Biz website.

Bookings at the Albany website here.

Meanwhile don't forget that Deptford Film Club's inaugural showing will take place the following week on Wednesday 17th, 7.30pm at the Bird's Nest pub. They will be showing Les Demoiselles de Rochefort, something of a contrast!