Sunday, 15 May 2011

Douglas Way

A few comments on the Douglas Way improvement project, which seems to be gradually edging towards being completed.

For the last couple of weeks the main square has felt more like a car park than a market square - the oppressive black asphalt and numbered pitches have added to this impression, as well as the fact that vehicles have been using it like a car park. Hell they've even been parking in the numbered spaces! The only thing missing is the pay & display meter.

I noticed the other day that some steel plates seem to have appeared in the pavement at the High Street end of Douglas Way, so I trust these house the fold-away bollards that should prevent vehicles using it in this way in the future. However I'm not really sure how else it is supposed to be used.

The lighting over the main square is also rather odd - it looks kind of experimental and somewhat insubstantial as if a strong gust of wind might bring the whole lot down. I don't really like the poles from which the wires are suspended, they look like they aren't properly finished. I haven't been down there at night yet to see how effective it is - apparently it's intended to provide better lighting for the whole square. 

The renderings I saw at the public consultation had the same paving extending across the whole square, no sign of asphalt anywhere - certainly not black like this. I wonder what happened - did the money run out or did someone fail to order the right number of blocks?

On Saturday I noticed that one stallholder had returned to the square, but he was alone. I guess the others like to be on the main drag because they get more footfall, with many people coming into Deptford that way. They can also spread their wares more extensively. I understand those people who live alongside Douglas Way are not very happy at having Peter's 'security' staff peeking over their garden walls as they perch on their ladders.

The seating has been installed and looks quite solid and comfortable. The bins don't really do the appearance of the square any favours - the big dumpster bins are only there on market days but the smaller litter bins with their bright blue bin liners seem rather out of place.

The addition of the trees is a major plus - great to see a bit more greenery in the town centre. I do hope they can be efficiently and effectively maintained.

One major issue is with the dirt and staining on the light-coloured granite setts used throughout the market square and Douglas Way. Since this was taken they were professionally jet washed and looked much better, but Lewisham Council has said it cannot afford regular jet washing and so you can expect it very soon to return to this grubby state.

It's incredible that these light colours were specified, given the fact that they are outside food takeaway shops, and that they will be house fruit and veg stalls, takeaway vans and other vehicles. It really does not bode well for the long-term appearance of our newly-resurfaced pedestrian routes and market square. Added to this the black asphalt, which very soon will be disfigured by blobs of chewing gum. Didn't anyone consider this?

At the ends of the street the details of how the new paving will connect to the existing street seems to have been neglected and left to a bodge.

So all in all, rather hit and miss. Great to get rid of the old wonky black bollards and see a bit more greenery and seating in the square, even if it does still lack any focus.

But poor choices of paving material have let the design down.

Meanwhile I hear rumours that Lewisham Council is planning to use a similar paving design along the High Street. I trust that the maintenance issues raised by Douglas Way will inform their choice of colours in a sensible way, but it's a shame that no-one gave it serious thought on this project, given its visual impact on the town centre.


Sue said...

Oh dear, I couldn't've put it better myself. The way this project has been managed it wouldn't surprise me if some paving stones found another home, possibly not even in this country, let alone an Essex criminal's driveway (like the cobbles that disappeared from Creekside).

On the other hand, perhaps the tarmac is a temporary surface like it is where it meets the high street. I think it's interesting the stall holders are still choosing to spread up the lane instead of congregating in the square. I suspect a temporary mutiny and even some attempt at squatters' rights after what they've had to tolerate.

I like the long lane, but I have to say I'm sometimes feeling too lazy to walk it, whereas the square feels more manageable, but then my approach is always from the high street and not from New Cross. I did wonder where all the extra stall holders would come from if the architect's drawings were ever to become reality.

It would be great to see some examples of this paving being used in other busy shopping streets that have markets and still allow normal traffic rather than just access. I can think of other town centres with paving where normal traffic is not allowed and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out the paving is still in tact. No doubt it is properly maintained as well.

Needless to say the last paving exercise in the high street has never been maintained, along with the gazebo etc. It is ALL so predictable.

And the white paving turned a dull grey after the first day of rain. Before even a splash of juice from a fruit & veg stall had landed, it was discoloured by pollution from the sky.

As for the lighting, I was reminded of Pinata, the Mexican children's party game, where you have to hit the swinging papier mache animal filled with sweets. The lamps are hanging so low, I was tempted to take a swing at them with a big stick. Maybe that says more about me than the lights though.

fiesti said...

lewisham are prepared only to replace holes in the pavement with asphalt - they cant afford the expense of stocking hundreds of different types of spare paving in the public realm - take it from someone who knows - its either this or pay a helluva lot more council tax - you pays your money..etc