Saturday 23 April 2011

Deptford: apartment city SE8 part II

I've written before about how Deptford seems to be turning into a mecca for high-density housing, and this trend seems set to continue, with a number of stalled projects now coming on stream, and new applications in the pipeline. The recent arrival of a couple of tower cranes on the New Capital Quay site just over Deptford Creek heralds continued progress on that project; the final phase of One SE8 at Deal's Gateway is going up rapidly and the Old Seager Distillery tower has finally cast its full height on our neighbourhood and the smaller buildings are going up.

That's without even mentioning the Deptford Project (planning application expected shortly) Renaissance on Loampit Vale in Lewisham, Greenwich High Road residential and hotel development, the Movement development on the old industrial estate in Norman Road, which was very recently granted planning permission, and Norman Road Wharves further along on the side of Deptford Creek. Going further west, the massive schemes of Convoy's Wharf, Oxestalls Road (The Wharves Deptford), Neptune Wharf and all the Surrey Quays developments bring it full circle.

Firstly, one of the projects I've previously written about; now that the leering lump of steel and glass aka Creekside Village has sold its first phase, and hence has more money to spend, construction of the tower on the west end of the Creek Road site is continuing apace.

I won't rehash all my previous arguments, just reiterate that this development is wrong on many levels - most notably in its density, scale and visual impact relative to its surroundings. The blocks that already exist on Creek Road are the small ones; the tower under construction opposite the Duke pub will rise half a dozen floors higher than the existing blocks. I did try to find out exactly what height this block will be, but the documents relating to the development are not available on Greenwich Council's website.

Inconveniently for the developer, Creekside Village as a whole straddles the boundary between Lewisham and Greenwich boroughs, meaning two planning departments to deal with and two sets of submissions to make. The buildings that you see on Creek Road were approved four years ago by Greenwich Council - phase II of the development, slated for the other side of Copperas Street, fronting onto Deptford Creek and up to the Laban Centre, is still awaiting planning permission from Lewisham Council. Phase two includes two even higher towers, the tallest up to 21 storeys. Phase two also includes the cultural/dance centre which is presumably the sop which was proffered/concession which was demanded in order to appease objections from locals and smooth the way for the planning process. All the planning documents are available on Lewisham's website should you wish to read them; no decision has yet been made and no date is set for a decision. Twenty-three responses were received during the consultation phase in 2006, 8 for and 15 against. This rendering of Creek Road showing the height of the tower currently under construction came from one of the documents on Lewisham's site, ironically.

The model here shows the whole development looking from the Lewisham side...

...while below is a rendering of what phase II will look like when/if permission is granted. The website of architect Squire & Partners gives an insight into the process of building design as seen by the architectural psyche: 'four more playful structures are proposed, whose shape expresses the patterns formed by a dancer, using the system of notation pioneered by Rudolf Laban. This results in four simple sculptural triangular prisms with complex modulations to their facades which respond to both their local and global environment, such as views, sunlight and thermal performance.'

Or to you and I, some tall pointy glass buildings.

Meanwhile Greenwich Council's planning site lists a number of applications from the developers of Creekside Village to discharge their commitments in relation to a number of clauses that were presumably set as conditions of the original planning permission. Some of these read as if they are merely administrative matters, given that the scheme was subject to some revisions since it was first granted permission, but some are rather more concerning. One relates to the developer's wish to discharge its commitment to provide affordable cultural space (10/1956/SD) while others relate to noise attenuation and the marketing of affordable housing (11/0604/SD). The latter application basically says that if the 'affordable housing' (cheapest unit £240k) has not been sold to buyers in the target income range within a certain amount of time, the developer is then free to offer it for sale on the private market.

But still, enough about that particular monstrosity. Let's take a look at some of the more modest developments set to grace Creek Road/Evelyn Street in the coming months and years.

Blogger fromthemurkydepths has already touched upon this one briefly. A proposal has been submitted for the piece of land on Evelyn Street which is currently occupied by a second hand car lot.

The owner of this piece of land also owns the listed building at 227 Deptford High Street - I believe this is the oldest building on the street - and also has plans to redevelop this property.

According to the documents available, it seems Lewisham's planners are keeping a close eye on the listed building. However the owner is claiming that the cost of the work needed to refurbish the listed building is disproportionate to the amount of money he will be able to recoup from selling the resulting flats. To make it worth his while, he needs to be able to make it up through building a new block on 402-410 Evelyn Street. Here's a rendering of the proposal - I've used the rendering which shows the adjacent buildings so that you can get an idea of scale, and also to underline my own comments.

It's a mean and mediocre-looking block in my opinion. The architect argues that he intends to reinstate the traditional terrace streetscape, but it's arguable that the only aspect of this he has achieved is the fact that the buildings are connected to one another.

The roofline of the existing corner unit is maintained for the first part of the new block, but steps upwards on the west end of the building, and is further sullied by the addition of the 'penthouse' structure. I take particular exception to the jumble of levels, lines and proportions created by the various window sizes and elevations, as well as those offensive and pointless little 'Juliette' balconies which serve no other purpose than to clutter up the facade. 'Each unit is provided with a balcony' the design statement boasts, while in the next breath explaining how there will be no need to open the windows because the development will have a 'fresh air intake' drawn from the rear of the building.

The ground floor has five retail units which seem to have compressed somewhat under the weight of the upper floors, which offer a total of 19 residential units - two studios, six one-bed flats, eight two-bed flats and three three-bed flats.

The argument that the proposed development is an improvement on the existing use of the land is rather meaningless, given that it is currently a second-hand car lot. Futhermore I cannot help feeling that the attempt to link the granting of permission to this scheme with the suggestion that it will enable works on 227 Deptford High Street to progress, is inappropriate to say the least.

Meanwhile a stone's throw from this site - but back over the border in Greenwich borough - work is just beginning on another uninspiring block of units, a mix of studio flats, one, two and three-bed units. Except in the marketing world of Barratt Homes, these studio flats in the 'Delta' development are not studio flats they are 'one bed suites'.

Ha ha ha. I've heard it all now.

Oh wait a minute, there's more! These 'one bed suites' will set you back £185k! Perhaps not so funny. That's why Barratt is marketing it as 'boutique and chic', needs to justify the outrageous price tag. The original planning application suggested that 38 of the 59 units would be 'one bed suites' but thankfully this has been revised to a more appropriate mix of 11 studios, 27 one-bed, 14 two-bed and 7 three-bed units. Twenty-one of these units will be marketed as 'affordable' - all of the three-beds, six of the two-beds and eight of the one-bed flats.

It's worth noting that planning permission was only granted on appeal - Greenwich Council originally refused permission because of the proposed height of the building (about six storeys in the original application) which seems ironic given the Creekside Village situation. The original application also proposed 78 units on the site. The amended proposal of a lower building with 59 units was allowed by the planning inspector.

Now I know this is going to prompt a whole lot of angry comments, but naturally, when you visit Barratt's website and look at the 'local area' tab you can find the traditional photo of the Greenwich World Heritage area with Canary Wharf in the background. Yes, we live in Greenwich don't you know! However things must be changing a bit, because 'edgy upcoming Deptford' does get a name check on the 'lifestyle' page.

To me it's an uninspiring and rather cheap-looking building, which does not belie the price tag of the units. It does have an 'exclusive residents roof terrace' so if this entices you sufficiently to shell out that amount of cash, get ready for the 21 May launch date.

View from McMillan Street.

Looking from St Nicholas' Church, you can see the scale from the adjacent grey building (formerly Heather's restaurant).

That's it for this edition of Deptford Planning Watch, but I'm sure we'll be back soon with some more gems. As always, comments please!

Wednesday 20 April 2011

Creekside cafe

(Photo: TCoM)

I'm not quite sure how long ago the Creekside Cafe opened for business, but it certainly snuck in under my radar. I've been over there a couple of times now to try it out, and think it will make a welcome addition to our local cafes, of which we now seem to have quite an embarrassment! (not that I'm complaining, I hasten to add!)

(Photo: TCoM)

It's tucked into the side of the 'reception' area of the Faircharm Estate on Creekside, through a door in the front wall which I'm pretty sure didn't exist before (or at least was never open). There are half a dozen tables and a corner of big comfy sofas, as well as a bookshelf full of lots of hardback books, many of them cookery books, which are useful for browsing if you go in there on your own. The staff are very friendly and the place is clean and pleasant.

(Photo: TCoM)

They serve a range of light lunches and sandwiches, with daily specials such as roast butternut squash with feta cheese and couscous salad, toasted panini, savoury tarts and various sandwiches made to order. A selection of homemade cakes is also on offer, and as well as teas and coffees they have a range of soft drinks that are superior to the usual offerings.

Prices are very reasonable - around a fiver for a salad or lunch special - and the food is tasty and fresh. The coffee is acceptable, although rather too bitter for my taste, but it does come with one of those little crunchy biscuits, which is a nice touch. Just one minor irritant - I was a bit narked that the delicious chunk of baguette that came with my lunch was marred by the addition of margarine. Butter or nothing next time please! I've no objection to margarine being offered but it shouldn't be as standard.

The cafe is open daily in the week, as well as on Saturdays, and seems to get a good trade from businesses on the estate in addition to some passers by. Don't rush down there this weekend though, they are taking a break this weekend. But do go and try it out - the quality food and prompt service are worth the effort.

Tuesday 19 April 2011

Greenwich Industrial History; Deptford dockyard archaeology

A possible date for the diary for fellow Deptfordians: the 10th May meeting of Greenwich Industrial History group will include a presentation by Duncan Hawkins about the archaeology of Deptford dockyard. Details of the full programme and venue are here (many of the other evening meetings have fascinating topics too).

Duncan Hawkins works for CGMS Consulting - or CgMs as they like to style themselves - which has been involved in investigations into the site archaeology over the last decade or so.

If you are planning to attend, you might want to read up on some background so you can have a few questions ready - either my previous post here, or the longer version on the Shipwright's Palace blog which it is drawn from.

Monday 18 April 2011

Social centre plus moves door

According to their blog, the squatters in what used to be the job centre on Deptford High Street have moved out - and taken up residence next door!

Social Centre Plus – who occupied the old Job Centre on Deptford High Street in order to create “an anti-cuts space for the community” – celebrated completing their brief move next door by announcing a new programme of events and another Open Day for this Wednesday (20th).

“Following last Tuesday’s failed eviction attempt by bailiffs and builders sent by landlord Paul Jackson,” Jenny Wilshere said, “the SCP Collective decided to move out of number 122 into number 124 next door. You can currently find us by knocking on the door underneath the ‘Christ Life’ sign.”

The move was undertaken in order to maintain a safe space open to the community, Wilshere said on behalf of the anti-cuts group. “Despite the fantastic showing from almost 100 local residents in order to prevent the bailiffs from entering last Tuesday,” she continued, “we can’t be sure that the Locks Bury Services thugs won’t return with heavy tools and violent intentions. So we felt that the best way of keeping open a genuinely community-led space against the cuts was by moving into a new site which had no legal eviction order hanging over it.”

Wilshere emphasised that the space was once again open to the community, and that Wednesday’s Open Day – which will include food, drinks, a film and even a barbecue (“weather-permitting!”) – would be the first of many. “We have loads of events planned, but we want members of the local community to continue to make use of the space, so we once again invite everyone to come and pay us a visit for a quick cuppa and a nice chat.”

Crafty weekend 17-19 June

This year is Cockpit Arts' 25th anniversary, and they are celebrating with a number of events, one of which is FREE ENTRY to the summer open studios weekend at the Deptford studios on 17-19 June.

Normally a modest admission charge is made on the weekend days, but this year everyone will get the chance to get in for free. It's also worth making a trip up to Holborn the weekend prior to this, to visit the open day at the other Cockpit Arts studios - also free!

They have plenty of things planned for the open studios, full details here.

Meanwhile plans are afoot at neighbouring Faircharm to host another Faircharm Fair the same weekend, following the successful event that was held just before christmas. Jeweller Herve Boscher is involved with organisation and is inviting local crafters who are interested in taking a stall to contact him by email at More details about the event are here.

If any of the other local arts or crafts organisations has plans to piggy-back the same weekend, do let me know either by email or in the comments.

Meanwhile I'll be marking the date in my diary and saving up some pennies to spend on lovely crafty things!

Saturday 16 April 2011

Douglas Way - ready for action?

Friday afternoon saw the final sprucing up of the main market square on Douglas Way, presumably ready for action for the full Saturday market. I'll be off down there later to find out how it's working.

My recollection from the original consultation pictures was that the lovely paving would go right across the square, but either my memory has failed me, or plans changed since then - or perhaps funding didn't stretch that far. I do think it's a bit of a shame that they have chosen black asphalt for the main square and the central strip of Douglas Way - a lighter alternative would have been less oppressive especially for days when the market is not there.

They have marked out the pitches on the new asphalt - more than 30 in total! And they are tiny! Perhaps the council want to impose a new regime on stallholders, especially in the main square where they have got into the habit of simply emptying their boxes onto whatever bit of space they can find. Personally I find the random heaps of trash that pass for stalls at the second hand market add to the charm of Deptford, but I can imagine that it is both an administrative and a health and safety nightmare for those who bear the responsibility in legal terms.

All I can say is I look forward to seeing how the market is arranged this morning, and I don't envy the task of the market inspectors if they are expected to shoehorn Peter and his 'top quality rubbish' into even a couple of those pitches. I am sure I can hear the sound of the air turning blue right now...!

I am delighted and slightly relieved to see the lamp posts are not wonky; there are a few bike racks in the square and rows of lovely trees, very pleasant. I'll be doing a full appraisal once it's all completed.

*update: the square is still fenced off today, somewhat disappointingly. Seems we'll have to wait a few more days to see it in action!

Tuesday 12 April 2011

Planned work at Deptford Station

After getting off to something of a shaky start, Deptford station contractor Volker Fitzpatrick has been making a big effort to rectify the situation and inform residents in the immediate area about the work which will be carried out over the coming months. Flyers have now been delivered to those properties that were left out on the previous round, with promises that they will be kept in the loop as work progresses.

Some of the construction work has to be undertaken at night, but the contractor has committed to putting up notices at the station two weeks ahead of any out of hours work. They are also promising that they will do everything possible to minimise the amount of noise that these out of hours operations will generate, by trying to plan the noisy works during the daytime as far as they can.

The night-time works include installing the foundations for the new station canopies (April-May 2011), installing the new canopies (Aug-Sept 2011) and removing the old canopies and glass (Nov-Dec 2011). Normal site hours will be Mon-Fri 8am-5pm and Saturday 8am-1pm, although they are also allowed an hour each side of these for set up and shut down. Naturally there's going to be increased traffic on the high street, Ffinch Street and Edward Street with deliveries, plant and materials going in and out.

The contractor is a member of the Considerate Constructors Scheme, which means they are committed to comply with the CCS code of practice which you can find here.

If you want more information about the project, or are not happy about something, your first stop should be the project manager Ken Falano, whose phone number is 07717 275264. There is also a complaints procedure on the CCS website, which you may wish to follow if you do not receive a satisfactory response.

The planned completion date for the project is 2 May 2012.

Deptford street party

If you are scratching your head about what to do on 29 April - got a day off work but don't fancy sitting in front of the tele watching the royals get wed - you might be interested to hear about the Deptford Street Party that is planned to take place behind the Deptford Project that day.

According to Emma Symes of local street theatre company Ta Na Deptford, the party is intended to be a celebration of Deptford rather than the royal wedding. She says: "Over the past few weeks I have been trying to discover what the people of Deptford want to get out of this event- doing everything from learning about shrubs at the Evelyn Community Garden, to having tea and cake with the ladies of DAGE."

As a result there will be tea dancing, live music, the Deptford photo archive, market stalls and of course plenty of street theatre. And for those who are interested, they will also be screening the wedding live - but don't let that put you off!

If you are interested in finding out more about what Ta Na Deptford get up to - and perhaps getting a sneak peek of what's going to be happening on the 29th, they hold open workshops every Wednesday at the Amersham Arms pub from 7pm till 10pm. "We fill a room full of costumes, we DJ music and get the participants to create performance impulsively," says Emma, adding that all the costumes that are used are sourced locally from Deptford market. "We open the workshop to everyone- not just to partake in but also to come down and watch. Tables are laid out in the front section of the back room for this purpose so people can come down, grab a bottle of wine at the bar and enjoy the spectacle!"

You are invited to join in either at the workshops or on the day. For more information about the street party, check out the facebook page here, or visit the website here.

Friday 8 April 2011

Proposed reduction in train services during the Olympics

Darryl over at 853 has posted an article which will be of interest to anyone intending to go to work by train during the Olympics. (Yes I know that most of you are planning to rent out your studio flats for whopping sums of money and flit off abroad on the proceeds for a couple of weeks, but I'm sure there are plenty who also intend to keep going as normal. Or more likely haven't even given it much thought yet.)

Normally Deptford gets six trains an hour to town on weekdays; proposals could see this cut to just two. Other Greenwich-line stations are also set to be affected. Full story here.

Wednesday 6 April 2011

Deptford station refurbishment; open day fail!

So, just 24 hours after my plea to contractor Volker Fitzpatrick to be a good neighbour during the reconstruction of the station, they announce their first community event.

According to the official press release from Lewisham Council:
"The majority of construction work will take place from 8am-5pm Monday-Friday and 8am-1pm on Saturdays. Some night work will be necessary but any residents likely to be affected will be kept informed.

In order to help answer residents’ enquiries, VolkerFitzpatrick has organised an Open Day on Friday 8 April from 10am-4pm. The Open Day will take place at Unit 4, Titan Business Estate, Finch Street, SE8 and will also provide an opportunity to view drawings, plans and a model of the new station."
(That should be Ffinch St by the way).

An open day to be held on a weekday between 10am and 4pm. With 36 hours' notice. Nice one. I do hope this is not a sign of things to come.

The Waiting Room coffee shop

Deptford's new coffee bar is now open for business; a great spot for an early morning cappuccino or espresso on the way to work, it opens its doors at 7am on weekdays.

It's very early days - the Waiting Room has only been open since Monday - but the signs are good so far. Excellent quality coffee from the Union Hand-Roasted Coffee Company, which is both fair trade and organic. Prices are good too - my medium-sized cup cost £1.90, which included two shots and was enough caffeine to keep me going for most of the day! A range of Clipper teas is available for your afternoon cuppa, and there's a supply of cakes that I intend to sample before too long.

Soya milk can be had on request, and at least one of the four or five cakes that I saw listed today is vegan.


There's a large sofa for lounging just inside the door, as well as some bar stools and a counter along the opposite wall and a seat in the window for Deptford people-watching (quite addictive).

Photo: TCoM

Once they've had time to bed in, I'll be doing a proper review. Suffice it to say that this morning's coffee was just right, so I'm expecting to make it a regular stop-off when I get the chance.

The Waiting Room
142 Deptford High Street
London SE8

Southeast Central forum launched

Those clever folks over at Brockley Central have just launched a new forum, Southeast Central. As the name suggests, it's aimed at residents in our local, lively south east London webosphere (did I just make that word up?!).

So all those of you who want to find out about the things we local bloggers don't cover, have a burning question about somewhere else in the south east, want to connect with other people interested in your particular hobby, track down a good local electrician, or find a flatshare, hop on over there and join the message boards.

Brockley Nick explains more about the background to the development of the site and how it is intended to work here.

Tuesday 5 April 2011

Work starts on Deptford station

I meant to post this at the weekend, having noticed the hoardings going up, but real life got in the way before I had chance to nip down and take a photo.

I'm delighted to see that the obligatory sod has now been turned for a photo op. It looks like this was taken round the south side of the station, although the hoardings I saw first are actually on the north side of the viaduct. Site cabins and more fencing have appeared on the south side of the viaduct too so it looks like we are actually off this time!

The press release promises it will be completed in 'spring 2012'. It also promises that local residents will be informed of any out of hours work 'well in advance'. (Volker Fitzpatrick if you are reading this please note that as someone who is likely to be affected by this I expect 'well in advance' to be AT LEAST a fortnight! And if not, don't be surprised to find me down there in my slippers haranguing your staff.)

Lewisham council's contribution to the cost of the work is almost £5 million, with just £2 million contributed via the DfT-backed National Stations Improvement Programme.

I don't know about you, but I'm a bit bemused as to why Lewisham Council is paying (so much!) to rebuild a station that belongs to Network Rail.

Left to right: Ken Falano (Volker Fitzpatrick); Jim Munro (Volker Fitzpatrick); Steve Diplock (Network Rail), Rt Hon Joan Ruddock MP; Cllr Alan Smith (Lewisham Council) celebrate the start of work to upgrade Deptford station

For your delectation, here's the full press release from Network Rail:

Lewisham Deptford MP, Rt Hon Joan Ruddock, joined Network Rail and the deputy mayor of Lewisham council to mark the start of major upgrade of Deptford station which will improve accessibility and the overall travelling experience for passengers.

Ms Ruddock said: “This is a very happy day for me. After years of complaints from residents I set up a Deptford Station roundtable to bring all the rail operators, developers and council together. After a decade of campaigning it’s happening at last. Congratulations and thanks to everyone involved.”

Dave Ward, Network Rail’s route director for Kent, said: “Providing easier access and better facilities at stations is a vital part of building a bigger and better railway to better meet the needs of passengers and businesses. The improvements to Deptford will bring long-lasting benefits for the passengers who use it for more than 700,000 journeys every day.”

Alan Smith, deputy mayor and cabinet member for regeneration at Lewisham Council, said: “The new railway station is a key element in our plans for Deptford’s regeneration. The idea is not only to update and upgrade the station for the benefit of local residents and businesses but also to create an excellent first impression for people visiting this increasingly attractive part of the borough.

“We plan to install lifts, glass facades, improve lighting and extend canopies to provide better protection from the weather. The station will lead onto a new public space created on the site of the currently-derelict station yard off Deptford High Street. This will allow access to the Victorian railway arches which will be converted to provide studio space for local artists.”

The upgrade, which is being funded jointly by Lewisham Council and through the national stations improvement programme includes:

- Constructing a new station building, including modern ticket office, accessible ticket window and improved passenger information.

- Installing two new lifts to create step-free access between the station entrance and platforms. The existing stairways will also be refurbished to make them easier to use

- Extending the canopies along both platforms so passengers can wait under cover during bad weather

The station and key facilities will remain open to passengers with minimal disruption throughout the construction.

The work, which is being delivered by Volker Fitzpatrick on behalf of Lewisham Council, is expected to be completed by spring 2012. Jim Munro, contracts manager at Volker Fitzpatrick, said: “We are delighted to be starting work at Deptford Station. The new, modern entrance will significantly improve accessibility for local residents and visitors, whilst the sensitive restoration of the arches and carriage ramp, which date back to the 1830’s, will also ensure the station retains some of its rich history.

“Some night time works will be required when we need to work on the railway line itself; this must be done at a time to minimise train disruption. Local residents will be informed of any out of hours works well in advance.”

Vince Lucas, service delivery director, Southeastern, added: “This new development is great news for passengers using Deptford. The new station will not only help those using the station but also for the local community and will help attract regeneration to the area. Being only 10 minutes from Cannon Street the whole area is set for a boost.”

The national stations improvement programme is a £150m Department for Transport-backed rail industry scheme to enhance 150 medium sized stations in England and Wales. Typically the initiative responds to the key needs of passengers, to provide safe, secure and comfortable stations, and provide suitable information.

Friday 1 April 2011

Betfred and planning law

Many Deptford residents will have been delighted to hear the news yesterday that Betfred's application for a change of use for the former Halifax premises has been rejected by Lewisham's planning officer.

If you remember from previous posts, the former planning consent for the shop allowed it to be classified as A2 use only if it was occupied by a building society. Betfred had to apply for a variation to this change of use, so that its classification would apply to all A2 uses (banks, building societies, financial services and betting shops).

The official reasons for the rejection were:

1) The proposed variation of Condition (2) to allow use of the premises for unrestricted A2: Financial and Professional Services, for use as a betting shop would continue the proliferation of an over concentration of betting office uses in the vicinity within a designated core shopping frontage, beyond an acceptable level, detracting from the range of retail services available within the defined District Town Centre, adversely affecting the diversity of uses and the vitality and viability of the area, contrary to Policy STC 4 Major and District Centres - Core Shopping Areas of the adopted Unitary Development Plan and Policy CSP6 of the Submission Core Strategy.

2) The proposed variation of Condition (2) to allow use of the premises for unrestricted A2: Financial and Professional Services, for use as a betting shop, would have the potential to cause harm in terms of anti-social behaviour, crime and disturbance to neighbouring residents and other users of the town centre, contrary to the requirements of Policy STC 4 Major and District Centres - Core Shopping Areas in the adopted Unitary Development Plan (2004) and Policy CSP6 of the Submission Core Strategy.

Betfred is bound to appeal this decision, which will be referred to the Planning Inspectorate; we sincerely hope the inspectorate will back up the council's reasoning.

Some people are asking why this defence has not been used before to prevent the situation on Deptford High Street getting so bad. The answer, certainly in the case of the last two establishments (Paddy Power shops in the former Deptford Arms and John Evelyn pubs) lies with planning law.

Most properties in the UK have a planning classification, defined by the local authority, which governs what kind of business, if any, can be carried out on the premises. These range from A1 (shops, post offices, travel agents, hairdressers etc) through businesses, pubs, industrial uses, institutions and so on.

If you buy a shop and want to change it into a takeaway, for example, you have to make a planning application for a change of use from A1 to A3.

In the past, anyone wanting to change a pub into a betting shop would also have had to apply for change of use. However amendments to the planning laws in 2005 not only created a new classification for drinking establishments, A4, they also permitted change of use from this classification to A3, A2 or A1 without the need for planning permission.

Since Paddy Power did not need to apply, there was no formal process or opportunity for local residents to object and also it seems no mechanism by which the council could prevent the betting shops opening.

During the time I've lived in Deptford (about six years) two other betting shops have opened; Macdonnell and Better. Whether or not these shops had to apply for change of use, I don't know, and I suspect the interest in such matters was not as critical or widespread then, with fewer betting shops on the high street, as it is now.

It would be interesting to know what powers, if any, Lewisham's planning authority would have should Barclay's Bank move out and Betfred decide to open a betting shop there, assuming the premises has full A2 classification.

Even if the planning inspectorate backs Lewisham's decision, don't expect this issue to go away. I'm sure even now Betfred's on the prowl - along with every other bookmaking firm - for new premises, whether failing pubs or building societies that are bailing out - in and around the south east of London.

Residents of Blackheath, Greenwich, Woolwich, Lewisham, Catford, Peckham and Elephant & Castle (Walworth) might want to keep an eye out, what with seven handily-classified ex-Nationwide premises about to become available.