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!


Anonymous said...

I like this post :)

Marmoset said...

One of the things I just learned about these new developments that are springing up around here - the ''social'' housing is served by separate entrances from the private sector. (And I've just been up in Adagio house, Plebside Greenwich) You know, there's a form of ''Apartheim'' developing here. Upstairs, downstairs'' only with different elevators. Guess who gets the views and the roof gardens and the chance to look down on the rest....

David B said...

Great post, thanks. I live slap bang in the middle of the arc you describe. I can't help feeling you are being a little harsh. All of the proposed developments are architecturally plain, yes. And they will see the housing density of our area jump upwards. So it's change. But what about the other side of the argument? The developments are all a long way better than the concrete tower blocks that went up all over the country in the 1950s and 1960s, and still characterise Deptford today. And why are they being built in the first place? We - the incumbents - have nothing to gain from new housing developers coming in, but there is a long list of people who do gain: practically anybody leaving school/ university in the last 10 years is priced out of the London housing market and left to stay on at home with the parents or rent and share small flats; families stuck on the local authority housing list with no guarantee about where they'll land. That's why we need more housing, and those are the people who win from it. And I'd suggest the social justice benefits of supporting those groups goes over and above the concerns of the local residents.

Could all this development be done better - oh yes. We seem to be living in an age of hugely uninspired housing developers who have the same identikit block of flats to put up anywhere they can find the space. That's why I was actually enthused by the Creekside Village development - at least someone has had a think about it and tried to create something a little different whether it is to your taste or not. (I don't mind it y'know - clear lines an all, kind of cute.)

How can we get the developers to up their game and produce better stuff? Hmm. That would be worth thinking about ...

Rational Plan said...

The Creekside buildings are alright, if they had an extra 20 feet of space between them selves and the street, just they did not loom so much. Their height and massing do create are very overshadowed street wall.

It's Sad the Barratt scheme looks the best of the bunch. Just don't look at any floor plan it will depress us.

Brockley Nick said...

The Creekside Village development is the worst in South East London I think.

Quite like the Barratt one.

Anonymous said...

great article DD

It'll be interesting to find out, in a few years time, how many of these 'properties' are owned by overseas investors and housing associations and simply rented out for investment purposes. The glossy brochures (aimed at the Far East investor) available (certainly for Loampit vale) picture Lewisham in a way that many residents might be surprised about about - all that remains is for Loampit Vale to be renamed Loampit Village.

Any perceived 'architectural merit' would have come about by chance rather than planning by the way, but we are so brutalised and degraded by architecture these days that its almost impossible to distinguish good architecture - i mean, some people think the Shard is architecture . . .

John said...

A little bit off the point and you may have already touched on the subject in the past as Marmoset has done:

At the OneSE8 site there is a little travel line telling you the distance the premises are from nearby transport facilities. Apparently Deptford Bridge station is 3 minutes away but St Johns station is only a further 3 minutes away. Bearing in mind that you have to walk past Deptford Bridge to get to St Johns station this is remarkable! Do they do these dummy runs on horseback?

Creekside Village shadow said...

Great post, Dame.

I agree with Anonymous - "how many of these 'properties' are owned by overseas investors and housing associations and simply rented out for investment purposes".

David B cannot be serious in imagining single people in their 20s can afford studio flats priced at £185K. Surely they'd have to be earning at least £60K a year or £30K for shared ownership (and what key worker earns that sort of money in their twenties)?

Families stuck on the local authority list don't have a hope in hell of moving into these apartheid buildings. This is not social housing, Mr B. This is the Buy-To-Let market gone mad, where professional landlords can get 90% LTV mortgages denied to the rest of us. WAKE UP!

Anonymous said...

Fantastic post. A really good and extensive round up, including some I had completely forgotton about.
It will be interesting to see what pressure they place on the trains in the mornings. I think the DLR upgrade to 3 cars helped a few of these get off the ground, but many people living there will be using the Rail service, given its proximity to London Bridge. I read one planning application that predicted a massive fall in usage of Deptford station in 2016 from 2006 levels. Absolute nonsense, and I can only assume it was because they were going on 10 year old predictions of when crossrail would open. It's 2018/19 now so any drop wouldn't be until then. Assuming all these are built by 2016 it could be a tough couple of years getting on at Deptford station.

David B said...

Couple of responses:

Creekside shadow: If prices are too high (they are) then you have to increase supply to reduce them. So it's a bit rich to complain about prices and want to block development. One or the other I'm afraid.

Murkydepths: indirectly, you make my points about incumbents. I know we have nothing to gain from new arrivals in the area - more crowded public services (remember that is an argument used by assorts of people), new developments, changing character of some streets. But we shouldn't be the only ones that count, that's my point.

guy smiley said...

great post. must have taken a while. i wonder whether this will benefit Deptford as a whole ? I just moved to the area (altough have worked here for years) and naively thought that at least development was bringing people into the area to feed shops, restuarants etc etc ? I agree that Creekside has obliterated sunlight from what was once a well lit road which i enjoyed walking along. The sheer quantity of high buildings being built in the area makes me wonder what Lewisham planners are up to ? surely there will be a lot of wind tunnel avenues and dimly lit streets as a result ?

Sir Compton Valence said...

Hi DD,

Signs of new activity on the corner of Plough Way and Lower Road/Evelyn Street - just in SE8 I think - and a nine-storey tower planned for Rope Street on a plot opposite the watersports centre in SE16. God knows where else they can fill in around here.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting post but you seem to be opposed to everything.
Take the Barrat Homes development on Creek rd for example. Unlike Creekside Village, it is not a 'leering lump of steel and glass.' It appears to be being built from red brick, in keeping with the immediate area. You describe that as uninspiring and cheap. So what exactly do you think Deptford should look like?

Deptford dame said...

@sir compton is that part of the Marine Wharf development? I haven't really investigated that one at all, again the sheer volume of documents is overwhelming. However I note that planning permission has not yet been granted.

@anon if you look back through my previous housing/development posts you'll find I don't dislike everything, but it's true I tend to post more about the schemes I find objectionable. You're right, the brick development on McMillan Street is a total contrast to Creekside Village, but that doesn't make it right either. I'm of the opinion that Creek Road is at risk of becoming the Boulevard of Architectural Mistakes, such is the quality of the new buildings along it. The Drake Apartments (just past the end of Deptford High Street) are not inspirational by any means, but by comparison with the other buildings on this road they are attractive, on a human scale, and look pretty livable-in. It's not just architectural quality - density and building height seem to be regularly abused on Creek Road, which as guy says, have turned it into a windswept, rather depressing place to walk.

Sir Compton Valence said...

Tavern Quay, not Marine Wharf, and yes, all we've had so far is the notice of application. I should think it'll go through. The lot has had boarding around all the time I have lived in Rotherhithe (five years) and the adjoining property seems never to have been finished - one wall has tatty weather-proof sheeting on it. The tower would be no taller than Baltic Quay, probably shorter in fact. My own feeling is that it would be a case of finishing something that looks unfinished.

One is less enthusiastic about the one at the corner of Plough Way: some many cars and buses go by one could never have the windows open, leading to cramped and unhappy living. Not really what is needed.