Saturday 31 March 2012

Poundland shopfront application refused

Poundland's planning application for its new shopfront opposite Deptford Station has been turned down by Lewisham planning department.

Objections to the application were mainly due to the fact that the amended shopfront design failed to respect the proportions of the architecture and high quality finishes of the rest of the building, and that its location in a conservation zone demanded a higher quality treatment.

The council cites the following reason:

The proposed shop front, by reason of its design and use of materials would detract from the architectural integrity of the development approved under reference
DC/03/55454, dated 16 June 2004 and would fail to either preserve or enhance the
special character and appearance of the Deptford High Street Conservation Area. As
such, the development is contrary to Core Strategy Policy 15 High quality design for
Lewisham (June 2011) and saved policies URB 3 Urban design, URB 8 Shop fronts
and URB 16 New Development, Changes of Use and Alterations to Buildings in
Conservation Areas in the adopted Unitary Development Plan (July 2004).

A second application to erect an internally-illuminated fascia and projecting signs has also been refused.

Giffin Square lighting

So, the new lighting on Giffin Square has finally been installed, which hopefully means that the public realm works are nearing completion and we might actually get to use the square in the near future.

It's a difficult one this. Looking at the number of lighting units on the poles, it seems that the square is going to be very well lit, which is good.

On the other hand, the black material combined with the design of the lighting units (in particular the rather ugly connection between the poles and the lighting units) makes them look rather lumpy and also quite sinister.

On the plus side, at least they are upright and less gimmicky than the other lighting solutions we've seen in all the other new public realm works in the area.

Monday 26 March 2012

New Cross & Deptford free film festival

The New Cross & Deptford free film festival, which launches at the end of next month, is shaping up to be a very interesting nine days.

As the name suggests, all the screenings are free and they take place at locations in Deptford and New Cross.

Some of the pairings are inspired - for example on 2 May at St Nick's church you can see Paolo Pasolini's 1964 classic The Gospel According to St Matthew,; or you may prefer Tim Burton's version of Alice in Wonderland which will be screened at the Sandbourne Road Community Garden on 29 April as part of a Mad Hatter's tea party.

Freedom Cells, a weekend of films by human rights film makers and artists, will take place at the Old Police Station from 27-29 April, where the films will actually be shown in the old cells, transformed into tiny temporary cinemas.

The Big Red plays host to an illustrated talk by local historian Neil Gordon-Orr, who will be talking about 'The Lost Cinema of Deptford' and showing clips, images and local short films. Where was Deptford's first picture palace? What was the scene of South East London's WW1 cinema disaster? Which local nightspot was once a major cinema and palais de danse? Which angry-young-man flick features Deptford market? What about 'last tango in New Cross'? Find out all this and more!

An all-nighter at Release nightclub in New Cross on 4 May will include a screening of Attack the Block, followed by local DJs 'playing the best in dubstep, house, hip-hop, garage, grime and RnB'.

There's also the opportunity to dig out your old home movies on Super8 or VHS for public humiliation at 'No DVD' at the New Cross People's Library, which sounds like it could be great fun. If the locals prove unwilling to reveal their past fashion crimes, there's always plenty of old films to be had on Deptford Market!

And there's plenty more - the excellent documentary The Tunnel, about Malcolm Hardee's infamous Tunnel Club, will be shown at the Big Red in Deptford and 'introduced by a special guest', or if you want something a bit more active, why not help out at a bike-powered showing of Harry Potter or Sherlock Holmes, both of which need fit volunteers!

I can see I'm going to have to block out a good few nights during the film festival, there is so much to see and do. You can check out the full programme here.

The organisers are also asking people to support this event with online donations, which you can do here.

In their own words: In order to get our festival off the ground we need your help. We have already secured £1,000 from funders, but to make our free film dreams a reality we need to raise a further £4,000 to cover security, equipment and facility costs. As the name suggests, all of the events are free and we are not hoping to make a profit from the festival. Backers will be rewarded and credited, so not only will you get the warm fuzzy feeling of knowing that you have helped create something wonderful, but you will also get a little thank-you present from us.

Even the smallest donation will be gratefully received, and I have to say that such a varied and imaginative free festival deserves whatever support you can afford.

Sunday 25 March 2012

Convoys Wharf open day

Glorious spring sunshine surely boosted the turnout at Hutchison Whampoa's 'community consultation day' yesterday, which saw a (guestimate) 150 people in attendance.

I went on the first site tour along with a lot of other people - it was not always easy to hear archaeologist Duncan Hawkins' explanations of the various structures we were seeing below ground - even when I managed to get to the front of the crowd there were a few groups of people who seemed to have just come along for a chat with their mates.

All the same the site tour was very interesting, emphasising once again the extent of heritage that is present here and the history of the former dockyard.

Much of the archaeology that was visible on the previous tour has since been infilled, with excavations now continuing in the great basin in front of the Olympia buildings, and the slipways at the northern end of the site.

The impact of relatively recent (1980s) construction work on the site was demonstrated by the presence of large concrete slabs and beams cutting across the top of parts of the old slipways and dock wall structures. Only a few decades ago the archaeology of such sites was woefully neglected, with archaeologists having little more than a watching brief, and contractors often simply digging out inconvenient bits of archaeology or infilling them with concrete before the remains could be spotted.

Although the site tour was interesting, the main event from my point of view was the community presentations, which took place in a marquee that had been erected specially for this purpose. The number of visitors clearly outstripped the organisers' expectations too, with a good many people having to stand for the duration of the presentations - a couple of hours in total. The fact that they stayed throughout this underlined their enthusiasm. 

It was encouraging to attend a presentation where local people and groups were the focus of the event, not an afterthought added on as a placatory measure.

It was also encouraging to see that Hutchison Whampoa had wheeled out top brass both from its own organisation (Edmund Ho, managing director of Hutchison Whampoa Ltd gave the introductory welcome) and from its consultants, including of course Sir Terry Farrell who was there with the intention of listening to the presentations from community groups ahead of reviewing the masterplan for the site. Staff from other consultants such as Alan Baxter and BPTW were also present, although I didn't see anyone bearing a badge with Aedas on it. Funny that.

Local MP Joan Ruddock was also present, having been involved in putting the developers in contact with some of the community groups, and advising on the format of the day. In her intro she acknowledged that she had not always been HW's biggest fan (and still did not proclaim any allegiance) but said that she was encouraged by the fact that this event was being held, and hoped that it marked the start of a process of meaningful engagement with the community.

It seemed they couldn't quite get underway without allowing Sir Terry Farrell to talk for a while about his architectural portfolio. His first design (and arguably his best) was for the ventilation shafts for the Blackwall Tunnel which are now Grade II listed. After that it was downhill all the way to such post-modern horrors as the MI6 Building and Embankment Place - in my opinion two of the ugliest buildings in London.

Once Farrell had told us he was ready to listen, but not until he'd showed us quite a few of the projects he's working on, we eventually got onto the community presentations. The first was from the Second Wave Youth Arts organisation, and was all the more poignant for the fact that the young cyclist who had been killed in a hit and run accident on Deptford Church Street the previous day had been involved with the group and was known by the young people who were giving the presentation.

The presenters were aged from 15 to 21 and all were involved with the organisation in one way or another; each spoke of what their nightmare scenario would be for the site, whether it would be segregation, alienation or just a feeling of not being involved with the creation of this new neighbourhood on their doorstep, in particular any facilities designed with them in mind. When old people try to design things for young people without consultation, one of the group said, they inevitably get it wrong. They all conveyed a very obvious passion for and pride in Deptford, as well as a strong desire to create something positive for future generations. Any masterplanner ignoring this wealth of local knowledge and strength of feeling would have to be crazy. 

The second part of the community group presentation focussed on three projects which fall under the remit of the local organisation 'Deptford Is..'. William Richards, one of the owners of the Master Shipwrights House, introduced the proposals, all three of which are strongly influenced by the heritage of the site, by saying that these ideas were achievable, and pointing to examples where similar schemes had already been successful. He also acknowledged that local residents would be crazy to resist the redevelopment of such a rich and valuable site, but that they were mainly concerned with creating something meaningful and enduring. 

Author Richard Endsor and local boat builder Julian Kingston spoke about the proposal to build a replica of the restoration warship Lenox, and use this to create tourism (especially with the National Maritime Museum so close by), to support local apprenticeships and education, and to offer a direct link to the history of the King's Yard. Richard even presented Edmund Ho with a copy of his book about the ship, which struck me as a hugely diplomatic gesture!

The second presentation, by architect Renato Benedetti, left most of the audience mystified as to why he was talking about bridges (and his bridge designs in particular). He presented about 8 of his bridge designs, most of which were only competition entries, before bringing his talk to an abrupt end as members of the audience began to fidget and mutter. A separate conversation enlightened me as to the purpose of the bridges - the idea would be to have seven bridges along the waterfront, either marking or crossing over the remains of the structures that would have originally connected the docks and slipways to the river. Disappointingly this aspect of the project was lost in what was essentially a showcase for Benedetti's (mostly unbuilt) bridges. 

Finally landscape architect Roo Angel and Bobby Bagley spoke about the proposal to recreate Sayes Court Garden, the footprint of which overlaps the site and includes the existing Sayes Court Park on Grove Street. Again this idea had many different advantages - from offering apprenticeships and training in a huge range of professions, and linking to the heritage of the site and the famous diarist John Evelyn, to providing local people and new residents with the physical and mental health benefits that gardens can bring.

With the formal presentations concluded, members of the audience were invited to comment, question and participate, which about half a dozen people did. Aside from a couple of people who just seemed to want to moan, most of the speakers offered constructive ideas and pleas for engagement with specific members of the community on specific topics. 

Creating a workable and useful link on the west end of the site to Twinkle Park and Greenwich borough was one such suggestion; incorporating safeguards to ensure that our many local, independent businesses are able to survive was another. The issue of education provision was mentioned, as was the spectre of traffic gridlock and public transport overcrowding. Although many of these are the responsibility of the council itself, there's no denying that the impact will be directly linked to whatever density of units HW decides to incorporate into its masterplan. 

Proceedings drew to a close after a couple of hours, with Joan Ruddock summing up briefly and the audience learning that the event had been filmed in its entirety and would be used by Farrell and his crew to inform their review process.

Watch this space, I would say. Naturally my cynicism as to the extent to which developers want to 'engage' with the local community is still alive and well, and ultimately I'm sure they would prefer to make their money without having to undertake such bothersome procedures. Let's hope that the widespread condemnation of the Aedas scheme has been noted by those at the top of the chain - this event is a pretty strong sign that it has - and that HW is imaginative enough to understand the benefits that proper community involvement can offer to all sides.

Footnote: As far as I am aware, not one of the Evelyn ward local councillors attended the event. If anyone knows different, please add it in the comments as I am very keen to find out whether our elected representatives (other than Joan) really give a toss about the most significant change that their constituency is going to see in decades.

Tuesday 20 March 2012

Deptford news roundup

A few short items of news that have made it on to the Deptford radar; firstly the news that the Olympic flame will be travelling along Deptford High Street on Monday 23 July, although the organisers seem to have baulked at taking it past our betting shop cluster; the torch bearer will come up from Evelyn Street and then turn along Giffin Street past the Deptford Lounge before heading off to the Stephen Lawrence Centre and on to Lewisham.

The torch, which is made of gold-coloured aluminium alloy pierced with 8,000 holes (to represent the number of torch bearers and the number of miles of the route), should feel quite an affinity with the Deptford Lounge. Perhaps one was inspired by the other? It's all the rage these days, seen locally not just on our new library but also on the ugly new buildings at Greenwich Pier which make the Deptford Lounge look quite classy.

In the meantime and on a more mundane level, over at Deptford Misc, Bill reports that Lewisham Council has launched a consultation on the scoping report that will set out the methodology by which the sustainability appraisal will be carried out. This is part of the process for developing the Deptford Creekside Supplementary Planning Document. The document will set out the council's key considerations for future development within Deptford
Creekside, and the policies it contains will be used to assess relevant planning applications.

The consultation document is here and the closing date for comments is 27 April.

Finally you may have read elsewhere that the Deptford Project was granted planning permission recently. I was present at the strategic planning committee meeting at which the decision was made, but I haven't written about it because I found it such a depressing, box-ticking experience.

The presentations from developer and architect included a lot of general flim flam about inspiration and creativity, and some vague comments about what's going to happen in the public realm outside the station which is currently under the control of Network Rail. Apparently negotiations for Cathedral Group/Lewisham Council to incorporate the station forecourt (and indeed the overlap at the top of the carriage ramp) into the rest of the new public realm of the carriage ramp are still ongoing. As yet the future of the Deptford Project train cafe is still in doubt as there is nowhere for it to move to, and the uncertainty about plans for the station forecourt, the first part of Deptford that arriving visitors will see, is worrying.

And scrutiny of the application by our elected representatives? There were extensive comments from councillors about the colour scheme, which seemed to preoccupy them so much that I found myself wondering if they'd actually studied the planning application or had they just looked at the pictures?

The developers were quizzed on how they were going to stop residents from putting bikes/windbreaks etc on their balconies and spoiling the look of the building (they can't but believe that providing lots of secure bike parking will minimise the problem) and how many parking spaces they were providing (the details are in the planning document, so this councillor clearly hadn't read it). One councillor was outspoken about the fact that she did not like the building and said that she found it 'arrogant'. But when it went to the vote a few minutes later, she still put her hand up with the rest of the committee.

Another councillor was scathing about the role of the Design Review Panel - a group of independent specialist design advisers who act in a voluntary capacity with the intention of promoting high standards of design in new developments. Such a dismissive attitude was highly inappropriate in this context, given that developers and architects were present among about 20 members of the public. I did wonder what sort of message this was giving to such developers: 'Don't worry about the design, we do have a Design Review Panel but we don't respect their opinions'.

I sincerely hope that this new development will make a positive impact on Deptford, despite its gaudy colours (I'm afraid the Resolution Way building has rather set a precedent in this regard) and its height (ditto the Distillery Tower), and that the new public realm design befits its high-profile location. While not being impressed by the scrutiny process, I'm afraid I was not entirely surprised by it.  

Anyone had the same/different experiences at strategic planning committees either in this borough or any other? Please feel free to share in the comments.

Sunday 18 March 2012

Free tickets to Lord's on offer for the over-60s

No idea how or why this promotion came about, but if you are a Lewisham resident who's over 60 and like cricket, it could be for you..! (And incidentally it would be interesting to see how many of my blog readers fit this description!)

This press release from the council:

Lewisham residents aged 60 and over are being offered free Lord’s cricket passes for the 2012 season.

Tickets are for the April-September season and include 11 home matches.

There are a limited number of tickets available. If a large number of applications are received, names will be selected at random.

How to apply
You must:
· be aged over 60 (as at 3 April 2012)
· live in the borough of Lewisham
· have a Lewisham library card
· complete an application form.

What if I don't have a library card?
If you aren’t already a member, it's free to join and you just need to take proof of age and address to any Lewisham library.

Closing date for completed applications is 3 April 2012.

More information on the scheme or email or call 0208 314 6288 (please leave a message on the answerphone which is checked daily).

Wednesday 14 March 2012

Convoys Wharf consultation day: further details

Further details of the Convoys Wharf Community Consultation day on Saturday 24 March:

PLEASE NOTE: The site can be dusty and muddy depending on the
weather, so please bring appropriate footwear and clothing.

11.00 Exhibition opens

11.15 – 12.15 Site and archaeological tour opportunity 1

12.15 – 14.15
Welcome from Hutchison Whampoa, followed by speeches and presentations, including Joan Ruddock MP, Sir Terry Farrell and colleagues, and local community groups.

The presentations will be followed by question and answer opportunities and refreshments will be provided during the two-hour period.

PLEASE NOTE: If you want to take a full part in these sessions, please arrive promptly at noon. Register for one of the site tours on arrival.

14.15 – 15.15 Site and archaeological tour opportunity 2

16.00 Exhibition closes

For further information and to confirm attendance please call 0845 460 6011 or email

Tuesday 13 March 2012

Convoys Wharf masterplan to be reviewed

Convoys Wharf developer Hutchison Whampoa has appointed architect Sir Terry Farrell's practice to review the contentious masterplan proposed for the former Royal Dockyard site in Deptford.

The current masterplan by Aedas which the developer submitted for outline planning permission to redevelop this historic site did not go down well with local people, the council's planning department, archaeologists and industrial historians, garden history experts, maritime heritage specialists, and MP Joan Ruddock to name but a few, as detailed on the Deptford Is.. blog.

Aside from retaining the Olympia Building (which is listed and hence protected) and creating a public area over the site of the former double dry dock next to the Master Shipwright's House, the Aedas proposals pay scant regard to the heritage of the site. And though the Olympia Building was to be retained, the masterplan saw it all but cut off from the river and hence denied any context in terms of its original purpose. Boats were built on these covered slipways (which remain just below ground inside the building) before being launched into the great basin for fitting out, and eventually to the river.

The site of Sayes Court Gardens, which was created by diarist John Evelyn and was widely renowned at the time, also remains unacknowledged in the original masterplan, as do almost all of the former dockyard structures which remain below ground in unconfirmed states of repair.

Apparently the consultation day on 24 March will be a 'listening exercise' at which Farrell's team will be invited to hear short presentations from some of the community groups such as Second Wave Youth Arts and Deptford Is.. and its associated projects Build the Lenox and Sayes Court Gardens.

Reassuringly Hutchison Whampoa has said it regards this event as the 'beginning' of the consultation process rather than the end of it - I trust this means that they now accept that previous consultation exercises have been rather shallow.

Apparently a more detailed agenda for the event, which has been set up in liaison with Joan Ruddock, will be sent out in due course.

Friday 9 March 2012

Convoys Wharf 'consultation': date for your diary

(click on the picture to make it big enough to read the text)

Deptford is being invited to another 'consultation' event by developer Hutchison Whampoa, which owns Convoys Wharf. I am slightly sceptical given the extent to which the comments made at the previous 'consultation' were skewed and abused by the developer in its planning application.

This is rather interesting since Hutchison Whampoa submitted a planning application for the site last year, but Lewisham Council has apparently told them that their current masterplan has a long way to go before it approaches anything acceptable, and that it needs to make greater efforts to acknowledge the heritage of the site.

However we were promised an independent public meeting by our mayor Steve Bullock, supported by MP Joan Ruddock, of which nothing more seems to have been said.

I do hope that this 'consultation' (I continue to use the word advisedly) is not intended to replace the public meeting plans, as it will surely not be an independent and unbiased event. All the same I recommend that you get your name down for it and do your best to make it along on the day. At the very least it's worth getting a tour of the site so you can appreciate its extent and the potential impact the development will have on Deptford.

If you are new to this development and need more information, may I recommend the Deptford is.. website and mailing list, which I am sure will be ramping up its coverage of the proposed scheme in the coming weeks.

Deptford High Street regeneration plans

I reported a couple of months ago that Lewisham Council had been awarded £1.5 million funding from the Mayor's Outer London Fund for its proposals for improvements on the high street.

Improvements are way overdue in my (humble?) opinion, so this was music to my ears. I'm pretty convinced that you're in greater danger of personal injury in Deptford from block paving trip hazards than you are from street robbery or attacks, and the sooner they get rid of that wonky paving slab outside the Cod Father's, which squirts fishy water all over your foot if you aren't vigilant, the better.

The funding depends on the council stumping up £600k of match funding, but apparently approval of this is just a formality. The project team is planning an exhibition at the Deptford Lounge from 15 March - 1 April and on Wed 28 March members of the team will be on hand to answer any questions from 11am to 4pm and from 6.30-7.30pm. I do hope that the exhibition will be comprehensive and clear, otherwise we will all be fighting to talk to the project staff during that precious hour on the Wednesday evening.

Parking was identified as one of the 'main issues' with the High Street as a result of consultation over recent years, although it's not clear from the information I have whether this is lack of parking, illegal and inconsiderate parking, too much parking, the level of parking charges or what. These are all very distinct issues which impact at different times of day and on different days. For example there may be a perception of insufficient parking provision on market days, but the other four days of the week the car parks are not used to capacity. Fewer people visit Deptford and of those who do, many use the High Street to park.

Illegal and inconsiderate parking is a separate issue, and one which is particularly problematic in the early evening and on Sundays when there is no parking control. I pity people trying to make their way along the northern end of the high street with pushchairs, mobility scooters or wheelchairs - they don't stand a chance with cars parked all over the pavement. Pedestrians take their lives in their hands walking along this section of the street at this time of day, with drivers mounting the pavement at speed to park while they nip into one shop or other because they can't be bothered to walk a few yards from the nearest parking space.

Rant over, let's move on. Ahem, where was I?

Here's what the council's flyer says about the proposals:

The council is looking at improving the physical condition and layout of the High
Street so that it is better equipped to accommodate traffic four days a week and a
the market three days a week.

Other ideas being worked on include:
• looking at ways to improve parking across the whole of the town centre which take into account current and future user needs and appropriate regulation

• recruiting an experienced Events And Town Centre Renewal Manager who will put on a set of events to showcase the town centre’s potential

• creating a new public space at the southern end of the High Street which could host events or seasonal markets while still providing vehicles with access

• designing a set of portable hoardings to show outdoor art exhibitions

• holding a competition to find five young apprentice market traders of the future, who will receive mentoring and a contribution to their start-up costs

• establishing a more effective process for collection and disposal of business waste, including recycling

• identifying solutions for the market’s future storage needs.

The southern end of the street (where the anchor currently resides) is earmarked for an overhaul; as yet there is no indication of what will happen to the anchor so if you think it should be incorporated in the new design, it might be worth feeding this back to the project team. Since it's about the only visible sign on the High Street of Deptford's significant role in maritime heritage we should certainly retain it, perhaps we should even be agitating for more!

As I understand it at this stage, the intention is to repave the whole street in a mix of paving slabs and asphalt (presumably similar to Douglas Way), and replace the wonky bollards (which house the electrical supply for market stalls) with rising power points as they have done in Douglas Way. Lighting will be enhanced to offer greater security at night time, and the clutter of street furniture, signs, etc will be rationalised and improved.

Designer BDP, which was responsible for much of the North Lewisham links project (including Douglas Way, Margaret McMillan Park, New Cross underpass etc) is working on this scheme, which gives me mixed feelings albeit erring on the optimistic side. No 'experimental' wonky lights please.

I'm delighted to see that funding has been allocated for a new town centre manager; we lost ours a couple of years ago and their absence has been apparent. The presence of new facilities and new businesses will hopefully give a boost to this role and enable them to capitalise on the ongoing improvements.