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.


Gareth Gardner said...

Interesting stuff - my knowledge of Hawkins/Brown is that they are a cut above when it comes to schemes like this.

However, those visualisations beloved by developers always make me chortle. All those pedestrians enjoying a summer's day walk! No empty windswept plazas here. In developerland, the sun is always shining and the pedestrianised streets always thronged with happy, healthy people who look like they've got disposable income burning through their pockets.

Anonymous said...

It's the site that Mayor Bullock refused to consider for the new secondary school because a developer was interested in it.

julesargonaut said...

It strikes me that this is so close to the Convoys monster that they must be talking to each other.Better still,the council planners should be doing what they never do which is considering the two proposals in relation to each other. If they did that they would see plainly that there is not enough employment created to balance out the influx of thousands of people. So lets step further outside the box than The Dame,lets make this a real canal that makes the turn south into the course of the old canal down surrey canal st onward to the Old Kent Rd and also link it north through Convoys to the river.The "sustainable"boxes ticked by this are numerous,commercial transport,passenger transport,recreation,and flood capacity and drainage to name a few.but hey,that's all far too straightforeward for the Catford Bunker..