Friday 29 July 2011

Thames Tunnel proposals: upcoming events

Thames Water's proposals to possibly site an access shaft for part of its Thames Tunnel construction project on the green space next to Coffey Street has generated a lot of concern among local residents.

I was one of many people who attended the consultation event in June and came away with a lot of information (much of it only verbally communicated) and what I thought was a greater understanding of what the project would involve. I haven't had chance to blog about it yet, due to ongoing commitments (and the fact that it's a very complex subject), but in the meantime other local residents have organised groups to protest against the plans.

A couple of upcoming events may well be of interest to anyone in Deptford who either wants to find out  more, or wants to voice their objections to the plans.

This Saturday 30 July a group of residents will be protesting at the proposed site next to St Paul's Church from 11am onwards.

If you want to learn more about the proposals, or have unanswered questions that you would like to put to Thames Water's representatives, you should make a date in your diary for the public meeting that is being held from 7.30pm on 9 August in the Salvation Army Hall in Mary Anne Gardens.

Wednesday 27 July 2011

Guerrilla gardening in Deptford

Anyone living on the Evelyn estate in Deptford will probably recognise this depressing flower bed, which sits in the middle of the gyratory halfway along Edward Street. It's home to a few oversize trees and some grubby rose bushes that burst into flower once a year and are stagnant the rest of the time; it has lost a fair amount of its surrounding paving stones and a large chunk of the wall on the corner where it was knocked through by an errant lorry one morning; and yet it retains a magnetic charm for some people.

Magnetic because it's a large growing area that is hugely underused, one that is visible, available and free! Arguably its position on a gyratory makes it an unsuitable place for growing food, but perfect for some bright flowers to add a splash of colour and give passers by something to admire.

Which is why a friend of mine has been pimping it - May 1st is official sunflower planting day for Guerrilla Gardeners, and that's what happened on the Edward Street Gyratory. I understand the ground was a little hard as it had been hot and sunny for most of April, but the seeds got planted and watered regularly in the following weeks. I pass the bed every day on my way to work, so was able to keep an eye on progress and see if the flowers actually made it.

The seedlings started to emerge, and slowly reached skywards. Sunflower plants grow quite quickly and once they are established, can survive with relatively little care and attention - these are dwarf and medium-height sunflowers, not the giant ones which would have needed canes for support. A few clumps of poppies kept them company at times.

The sunflowers have just started to open over the last week or so, and add a lovely splash of colour to a very dreary corner. I was surprised to note that the area around them was actually weeded a few days ago - I'm not sure whether by Glendales, whom I presume are supposed to look after this bed, or by another guerrilla gardener.

My friend plans to expand the planting in this bed, to take advantage of its prominent location and huge capacity, and is looking for collaborators either for this site, or to form a Deptford guerrilla gardening corps to brighten up neglected flower beds across the area. If you live in this part of the Evelyn estate or Deptford/New Cross borders and are interested in doing a bit of urban gardening, or have ideas, seeds, unwanted plants, tools or time on your hands, please get in touch with me via the email in the top right-hand column and I'll pass your details on.

Saturday 23 July 2011

Convoys wharf 'revised proposals'

When today's exhibition for Convoys Wharf revised proposals was announced a couple of weeks ago, a lot of people complained about the fact that they would be away and would miss it.

Well don't lose too much sleep over it - you didn't miss a lot! I went along briefly and picked up a brochure, but didn't hang around because there wasn't anything on the display boards that wasn't in the brochure, and not much detail to be seen.

Here in 'full', for those who missed the exhibition, is the content of the 'changes to the outline planning application' page:

Since submitting an outline planning application to the London Borough of Lewisham in November 2010, a number of design reviews have taken place, involving both Lewisham Council and the GLA.

As a result of those changes, a number of design-related alterations have been made to the application. While the broad fundamentals remain the same, we have tried to vary the layout of the streets and public areas to give the development more character and identity. The changes include:

- the main road in to the site from the top of New King's Street has been made less straight to create a sense of discovery
(wtf?) as you move into the site, with the Olympia building and surrounding square as a progressively revealing destination point

- the main public square now wraps around the Olympia Warehouse creating a more intimate, lively and interesting space

- the residential street pattern has been changed to reflect the local area and create a stronger identity for the development

- the landscaped park around the double dry-dock has increased in size to provide a more enjoyable open space for the local community

What exactly does all this flim-flammery mean, and what else has changed since last time?

The 'revisions' that the developers have actually pointed out, as the cynics among you will not be surprised to learn, are basically smoke and mirrors dressed up as 'revisions'. If the area around the double dry-dock has increased in size, it is by a very small percentage (not specified but I'm comparing the two plans - the previous one here and the new one in the brochure, which I intend to post as soon as I have a digital version).

The fact that the developers are still focussing attention on about the area around the Olympia Warehouse (which is a listed structure and they legally have to retain and protect it) and ignoring the hugely more historically-significant remains of the Royal Dockyard (still mostly buried, its full extent not confirmed and no commitment from any government bodies to investigate further) demonstrates where their priorities lie.
The brochure states that the heritage and cultural history of the site will play an important role in the development of the detailed proposals, but fails to say exactly how, except that it will 'reflect and reinterpret' that heritage. I don't really like the sound of that, do you?

The brochure also has a big section about affordable housing, since it seems London & Quadrant has been brought on board as the affordable housing partner in the development process. But 500 affordable houses (and we all know that 'affordable' is a very flexible concept) out of 3,500 total units is woeful, if I might be so presumptious. About 15% for those who don't have a calculator to hand, which is way less than the 25% they were touting last time. I'm not sure what Lewisham's current target for affordable housing quotas is, but I'm damn sure it's not as low as that!

I was also very interested to see that the introduction to the brochure, focussing on The Masterplan, has given the details of the outline planning application and its various types of land use in square footage, casting us back into the mists of Imperial units.

This is very curious. Or perhaps not; my inner cynic advises me that it's just to make comparison with the previous application a bit more onerous. And my inner cynic has also warned me that this is probably because they have got something to hide.

Well here it is folks: I've done the maths, as they say, so you don't have to. Check it here if you wish.

Original proposals:
Cultural & community space 14,400m2

New proposals:
Arts & cultural uses 100,000ft2 (9,290m2)

Of course there may well be an 'innocent' explanation for this, but my inner cynic has just chipped in with "Don't you think they would be bigging up the amount of arts and cultural space as much as they could, with whatever they could shoehorn into that category? And anyway why the hell do you think they have changed it to square footage now when they could have just cut and pasted the previous numbers?"

I'll be posting information, renderings and more comments on here when they become available - apparently by Thursday on the developers site here.

In the meantime, you can read my previous posts about this project by searching 'convoys' in the box on the right hand side.

Please add comments below if you found out any more interesting information at the exhibition.

Meanwhile the Shipwright's Palace has posted an incredibly beautiful and moving description of what things could be like if the imaginations and ambitions of our local experts, campaigners and visionaries are nurtured and allowed to participate fully in this process.

Jamaican food on Deptford Market

Deptford Market has a new food vendor selling home-cooked Jamaican food on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

I noticed the stall on Wednesday but didn't get to try the food as I had already eaten. Today I made a special trip to try it out for lunch, and decided to sample Jamaica's national dish, ackee & saltfish.

There's a range of dishes to choose from, including curry goat, beef & pepper stew, and curried chicken, as well as jerk chicken (which I have to say is next on my list to sample!) and some kind of fresh fish (perhaps it was red snapper, I'm not too sure) cooked whole.

For a fiver you get your choice of the dishes with rice & peas, a couple of slices of fried plantain, and some salad.

Portion size is impressive, and although there was a lot of rice, there was also a good helping of the ackee & saltfish. It was my first taste of ackee in particular, which I found extremely moreish (so much so that I've already looked up a recipe for making it at home!); the rice & peas was perfectly cooked and tasty, if a little more spicey than I'm used to, and the fried plantain added a lovely caramelly sweetness to the dish. To be honest the salad was rather dull, just a few slices of cucumber and tomato, and could have easily been omitted from my point of view, although would probably be a welcome companion to the jerk chicken.

Overall...? The following picture probably sums it up nicely.

The guy running the stall was very friendly and keen to explain the dishes and their ingredients, and overall the food hygiene seemed to be of reassuringly high standards.

At a fiver, it's a little more pricey than the other takeaway stalls on Deptford Market, I worry that they might find it difficult to attract the penny-wise shoppers in Deptford. They might want to consider making the jerk chicken available at a price per drumstick if they don't already, for those people who only want a small snack (and who might be persuaded to buy the whole meal if they like what they taste). I will certainly be going back to try the other dishes.

Community night at Silent Cinema; 30 July

If you fancy checking out the Silent Cinema at the Deptford Project but can't afford tickets, or if you just live in the area and fancy a nice freebie, Saturday 30 July has been nominated as this year's 'community screening'.

The film being shown is Grease which I think is a bit like Marmite - you either love it or you hate it. In spite of its dreadfully anti-feminist message and implication that bad girls get what they deserve etc, I loved it as a teen and still can't totally dispel this emotion. I blame it on weeks of being subjected to John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John at number one on Top of the Pops. Tell me about it, stud!

For those of you too young to remember it, and those too old to care, here's the fateful song. And while you are watching the actors (including Stockard Channing, future First Lady in West Wing!) strut their stuff, don't forget they are supposed to be teenagers...!

(you will have to click through and watch on Youtube)

To get your name on the guestlist, send an email to Doors open at 7pm and the film starts at 9.15pm. I believe food and drink will be available for purchase beforehand.

Friday 22 July 2011

Seager Distillery art gallery under threat

I'm sure many of you consider me an old cynic when it comes to developers and their particular visions for Deptford. And I worry that there seem to be a lot of people out there of the opinion that because Deptford is a poor and deprived area, any manner of improvement (for this read 'construction of new buildings/facilities') should be applauded and is almost certainly more than we deserve.

I'm afraid I don't subscribe to this view, and luckily I'm not alone in this. I can't see why we should settle for anything less than state of the art - of course mostly we do have to settle for something less, but there's no harm in setting your standards high in the first place. Set them at mediocre or low and there's nothing to aim for - and developers will soon exploit this lack of concern even further.

Unfortunately my cynical attitude is regularly reinforced by experience, and a recent application for a revision to the original planning permission by the developers of the Seager Distillery has continued that trend. 

The developer was originally granted planning permission to convert the old distillery building that fronts on to Deptford Broadway into a ground-floor art gallery and six floors of office space.

But now they are claiming that they've had no interest in the office space, but have been approached by a hotel chain wanting space for a four star hotel with 90 rooms.

The old distillery building would be perfect, if it weren't for that pesky art gallery on the ground floor which is putting the mockers on the plans.

Easy; just shift it round the corner into the ground floor of the newbuild on Brookmill Road.

So rather than giving it the promised high-profile location on a major traffic route, and the opportunity to signal Deptford's art credentials to the wider world, the developers want to tuck the gallery out of sight in a smaller, uninspiring space with limited marketing potential.

It's not difficult to see why the developers want to change the office space to hotel space - and pronto if they intend to cash in on the Olympics of course, as I think it will take some clever marketing to sell rooms in a 4* hotel on Deptford Broadway under normal circumstances - but it really should not be done at the cost of the gallery space, which after all is one of the few benefits that the local community will gain from the development.

If you wish to object to this application, you can find the documents here by searching for the application number DC/11/76500/X.

Objections should be sent as soon as possible, the target date for a decision is 3 August.

Wednesday 20 July 2011

Living Streets campaign; make your views on betting shops known

Living Streets is billed as 'the national charity that stands up for pedestrians' but its latest campaign 'The local joke' is intended to address an issue that would probably be billed more appropriately as standing for local shoppers, residents, businesses, sustainable communities and so on.

I was delighted to come across this campaign, which includes a template letter that you can send to Eric Pickles, secretary of state for communities, who is apparently reviewing the planning rules for change of use in buildings such as pubs, banks and building societies.

Please visit the website and make your views known. It's a good idea to personalise the template letter with your own comments, perhaps bringing in the Deptford experience, to make it more forceful.

What's more, tell all your friends.

Meanwhile, as Sue has posted over on Crosswhatfields blog, we have also seen some action by our MP on this issue at last, with Joan proposing legislation to create a separate planning use class for betting shops and enable local councils to consider demand when a new betting shop applies to open.

Sunday 17 July 2011

The Old Haberdasher

Formerly known as the Rosemary Branch, having enjoyed more recently an infamous period as the Black Flag, this rather handsome corner pub on Lewisham Way is now renamed and reopened as the Old Haberdasher. Myself and the Geezer popped down there last night to check it out

Considering it's only been open a few nights, the pub was fairly lively - I suspect everyone else was also checking out this new arrival on the New Cross pub scene. Staff were very friendly, first impressions were good.

Having never been in the pub before I don't know how the interior differs to what was there before, but it's certainly very smart now. Wooden floors, 'heritage' paint colours, slightly mismatched furniture, mostly regular tables and chairs but with a corner of banquettes and some of those high chairs for people who like to view the bar from an elevated position. The area to the right of the bar had tables all laid out restaurant style, so this place seemingly has either aspirations or delusions of grandeur, however you like to see it. Personally I'm not a fan of restaurants in pubs - fine if they have a dining room, but if it's a pub it should be a pub - and if you want to eat, the staff can bring cutlery etc to the table. The decor was fairly bland, nothing offensive but nothing characterful either - reminded me rather of the Duke on Creek Road in this regard. There is plenty of outdoor space at the front and an enclosed garden at the back, could be quite nice on a sunny day.

There was a choice of two real ales - Greene King IPA (meh) and Timothy Taylor's Landlord. I chose the latter; nicely kept and reasonably priced at £3.20. A third handpump suggests other ales might arrive in due course - let's hope something a little more unusual. Lager choice was Staropramen, Becks and Stella, prices from £3.60 upwards. There was an extensive wine list too. I particularly liked the fact that the prices of all the beers were included in the menus on the table - for some reason it seems to have become fashionable of late to dispense with price lists in pubs. I find it rather irritating in places like the New Cross House where they sell some very expensive lagers and there's no way of telling the price of what you are buying without asking (and even then the bar staff don't always know, they just press the appropriate button on the till).

The menu was typical pub grup - burgers, steaks, fish n chips etc with a range of ciabattas too - priced slightly above the norm. We didn't try anything so I can't comment on the quality, intend to rectify this in due course. They also have a short specials menu which seemed a little more adventurous - pea risotto, sea bass, etc.

Two things grated - the music was rather patchy, ranging from acceptable to MOR ballady-type stuff which was just naff. Hopefully this can be fixed quite easily.

The second is a little more permanent - the smallest toilet cubicles IN THE WORLD! The positioning of pan and door in the ladies toilets means that in order to enter or exit the cubicles you have to straddle the pan so that you can open or close the door! At the risk of being caught in the act and branded some kind of pervert, I took a photo to more easily demonstrate this abomination. Please forgive the vulgarity - after all a Dame should never be seen in this kind of compromising position - but I thought it was necessary to prove my point.

It's galling that the rest of the washroom is quite spacious, so the teensy cubicles were not created just so they could be shoehorned into a tiny area. Gents don't fret though, the cubicle in the men's toilets is suitably capacious for your manly thighs and large feet (or so I am told!).

The Old Haberdasher
44 Lewisham Way,
SE14 6NP

Wednesday 13 July 2011

Tea party at the National Maritime Museum

Anyone fancy reminiscing over a nice cup of tea in Greenwich this weekend?

Tea Party at National Maritime Museum, Sunday 17 July, 11.30 - 12.30, 14.30 - 15.30

What are you earliest memories of Greenwich Park and the Museum? Do you remember the allotments here during the Second World War? Or maybe it was the scene of your first kiss? And how would you like to see the Museum and Park used in the future? With the opening of the Sammy Ofer Wing the main Museum entrance will move from Romney Road to the Park side, modifying the local landscape once again. We'd love to hear your stories about the Museum and Park over the years to help us plan our 75th anniversary celebrations next year.

Please join artist Sadia Ur-Rehman, local residents, and Museum staff and volunteers, for a cosy tea party in the new Sammy Ofer Wing café. Delicious complimentary teas and cakes will be served, while Sadia uses simple parlour games to get your table talking. The conversations will be recorded.

To book your free place please email Sara at specifying which sitting you prefer. Places are limited to 20 per sitting.

Convoys Wharf exhibition of revised proposals 23 July

The developers of Convoys Wharf are holding a public exhibition of their revised proposals at the Albany on Saturday 23 July. I can't say the renderings of the waterfront fill me with excitement - what about you?

Here's the full text of the invite:

The Albany, Deptford, SE8 4AG (The Red Room, Ground Floor)
Saturday 23rd July, 10am – 5pm

Hutchison Whampoa and the development team for Convoys Wharf would like to invite you to a public exhibition of the proposals to regenerate this key Deptford site.

The Convoys Wharf project will transform a 42-acre brownfield site into a vibrant riverside community, bringing in over £1 billion of inward investment in Deptford.

The development will provide 3,500 new homes; 120,000ft2 of shops, restaurants, cafés and bars; a 300-room hotel; a new primary school; 550,000ft2 of employment and wharf uses and 100,000ft2 of arts and cultural uses.

Since submitting an outline planning application for the site in November 2010, Hutchison Whampoa have been working with the London Borough of Lewisham to bring forward some amendments to the proposed development.

The amended outline planning application for Convoys Wharf is due for submission to the London Borough of Lewisham in the next two weeks and the exhibition will provide information on the finalised proposals.

Members of the development team will be available at the public exhibition to address any queries and listen to your views on the proposals.

If you have any queries in the meantime, please phone 0845 460 6011 or email your comments to

I will be interested to see what amendments have been made to the proposals, and indeed whether the previous public consultation had any effect. Presumably most of the amendments have been prompted by comments from Lewisham's planning department. In the meantime there is an ongoing campaign to try and get a more thorough archaeological investigation carried out, and hence to get the developers to make more of the unique historical remains at the site. Of which more later.

Friday 1 July 2011

Silent cinema returns to Deptford

From 14 July the yard behind the Deptford Project once again plays host to the 'silent' cinema, which will be screening films over a series of weekends in July and August.

There's an extended programme compared to last year, with five themed weekends of films showing on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Filmgoers wear headphones for the soundtrack, which means neighbours are not disturbed by the outdoor setting - and I presume the unusual seating that was made last year, out of pallets and cushions covered with old curtains and the like, will be brought out of retirement for ticket holders.

The programme is as follows:

80s weekend (no apostrophe please, Ticketweb!)
14 July: St Elmo's Fire
15 July: Pretty Woman
16 July: Dirty Dancing

Sci-Fi Alien invasion weekend
21 July: Invasion of the bodysnatchers
22 July: Terminator
23 July: Alien

Americana weekend
28 July: Easy Rider
29 July: Pretty in Pink
30 July: Grease

Weepy weekend
11 August: Terms of Endearment
12 August: Brokeback Mountain
13 August: Beaches

Black & white classics weekend
18 August: The General
19 August: Nosferatu
20 August: Metropolis

Tickets are £10 and can be bought online at Ticketweb

Meanwhile over in Greenwich, Meantime Brewery has teamed up with Nomad Cinema to host a series of three films to be shown in the grounds of the old Royal Naval College. You can see Groundhog Day, Time Bandits, or Memento which are showing on the weekend of 8-10 July. Prices here are a bit steeper though - £12.50 for the ticket plus the £1.25 'booking fee' that Wegottickets charges you to send you an email with your unique reference number.