Thursday 16 August 2012

Deptford Tales walking audio tour

StoneCrabs Theatre has been working with children of St Joseph’s Primary School to create the Deptford Tales. Inspired by Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales they have written and recorded their own unique, humorous and refreshing versions.

This Saturday you can experience these stories as you navigate your way around Deptford!

Pick up a map and mp3 player for a tour from Deptford Lounge (click for map) anytime between 11am and 2pm on Saturday, 18th August 2012

Tours will last approximately 45 mins.

After these dates recordings will be available from Deptford Lounge.

Sunday 12 August 2012

The Global Picture Palace film weekend

A festival of popular world cinema is taking place over the bank holiday weekend at the Stephen Lawrence Centre, courtesy of our very own Deptford Film Club.

The club has been working with young people to design and build two temporary cinemas at the centre, taking advantage of some of the building's quirky angles and overhanging bits to turn them into temporary screens, and a series of films from Asia, Africa and the Caribbean will be screened there over August bank holiday weekend.

Its great to see something like this happening at the centre, which I have always thought needs to forge stronger connections with the local community and open itself up a bit more. Tickets for the Friday or Saturday are £10 (which includes a choice of two out of the four films) or you can buy a ticket for both days for just £15. Free popcorn is included!

Tuesday 7 August 2012

Lord Clyde saved from demolition

Earlier this year I reported that a planning application to demolish the Lord Clyde pub on the Evelyn estate and build a block of flats in its place had been rejected by Lewisham Council's planning department.

Four reasons were given by the council, which were basically the loss of a heritage asset and the impact this loss would have on the surrounding area; the loss of a public house, boxing gym and meeting rooms, which are all considered valuable amenity assets and particularly important for an area which suffers deprivation to this extent; the design, scale and massing of the proposed building, and the poor quality of living accommodation proposed.

The developer appealed, but when the decision was published last week, it seems the Planning Inspector agreed with Lewisham Council on most of its grounds for the rejection.

Even though the Lord Clyde is not listed either nationally or locally, its only heritage importance being that it has been identified by the council as 'an undesignated heritage asset', the value of the building from a heritage point of view was agreed by the inspector. He noted that the building was fine example of a Victorian pub, he pointed out the prominent parapet inscribed with the pub's name and said that the building was important because it provided architectural variety within an area otherwise dominated by residential buildings.

The design of the proposed replacement building was too bulky and would dominate the street, the inspector said. The replacement of a locally-important building with a new one that failed to respect adjoining buildings was contrary to current planning law, in his opinion. (I must say that this particular point was music to my ears, although if we could see it applied to a few more developments I would be much obliged!)

It's heartening to see that the representations made by members of the local community were given appropriate weight in the inspector's decision. In its application, the developer claimed that the pub 'does not provide any positive contribution to the area', incensing the landlord and prompting him to start his own campaign, which successfully garnered significant support.

The representations convinced the inspector, who was also impressed by the boxing gym and meeting rooms in the upper floors of the pub, which he saw on his visit and accepted made a valuable contribution to the local community, in particular to young people.

It was particularly heartening to read the inspector's comment that although the developer stated the public house was no longer viable, no evidence to substantiate that claim had been submitted. All too often such claims about viability of businesses are taken as read rather than being examined properly and challenged  - we've seen it recently in claims by betting shops that they occupy what would otherwise be empty retail units, when in fact there has been no testing of the market whatsoever.

He also pointed out that no attempt had been made to find alternative premises for the boxing gym or meeting rooms, and that without their presence, the community's 'life chances' would be reduced, contrary to London Plan policies. Moreover, the proposal would be contrary to other policies which seek to protect social infrastructure provision. 
What will happen next is anyone's guess. It would be great if the building were sold to someone who was actually willing to invest in it and spend some money on refurbishing the pub and upper floors, but I guess that would be pretty unlikely unless we have any kindly benefactors lurking around locally. Perhaps it would be a prime candidate to be owned by some kind of local cooperative or trust fund, run by local people who could improve and strengthen the community facilities, renovate the pub and come up with some new ideas to help keep it going and attract new custom.

Friday 3 August 2012

Deal's Gateway - cycling suicide

Cycling has been very much in the news the last week or so, both positively, with medals for our track and road cyclists, and negatively, with the sad news that another cyclist has been killed on London's roads.

Regular cyclists will know that the main changes that are needed in order to reduce road deaths are improvements in the design of junctions and road layouts, with the safety of cyclists in mind.

Anyone who rides the same route regularly becomes familiar with the junctions, and if they are anything like me, subconsciously builds up a safety rating for each part of the journey. Sometimes it's not the actual layout of the junction that's at fault, it's the fact that the relative direction or volume of traffic has not been considered by whoever designed the traffic phasing. Usually the main consideration in terms of traffic is to keep the cars moving.

It is now two years since Transport for London deemed it necessary to change the traffic signalling at Deal's Gateway - the junction where Greenwich High Road meets the A2, and the construction of the new development known collectively as One SE8 created a new road, Deal's Gateway, on the opposite side.

When this new stub of road was first built, the traffic lights at the junction had three phases. The main phase was green, for the traffic on the A2. The second phase was green for the traffic on Greenwich High Road, the vast majority of which emerges and turns right into the A2, heading for New Cross. A third phase (which I believe only operated when a vehicle was detected on Deal's Gateway) was a dedicated phase for traffic coming out of the One SE8 development.

Now I can't remember the exact details of why it was changed, but I seem to remember that TFL thought that having a dedicated phase for Deal's Gateway was causing delays to drivers on the A2, and so decided to do away with it. Now traffic from Deal's Gateway gets a green signal at the same time as traffic from Greenwich High Road.

Under normal circumstances on any other crossroads, this would not be a problem. Unfortunately it often happens that the only traffic emerging from Deal's Gateway is cyclists coming through the cycle route in Brookmill Park and heading for Greenwich, while in the opposite direction, a non-stop stream of cars, buses and vans wants to turn across the Deal's Gateway traffic.

This change to the traffic pattern was rapidly identified by local cycling groups as posing a huge danger to cyclists and the issue was flagged with TFL. After a lot of pestering and the intervention of various politicians and cycling groups, TFL made some 'improvements' to the junction by bringing the signals on Deal's Gateway nearer to the junction and putting some signs up on Greenwich High Road.

But the improvements it offered were barely noticeable; cyclists still had to take their lives into their hands every time they wanted to cross the junction. I have used this junction once since the change, I will never do it again while these traffic phases remain - however I am lucky in that I rarely need to do so.

Last week, Lewisham Cyclists decided to film a cyclist attempting to perform this manoeuvre. You can see the results below.

I don't believe it would be melodramatic to say that a cyclist is likely to die on this junction if the traffic signalling is not changed. I would hazard a guess that the only reason no-one has been killed so far is that the vast majority of cyclists change their routes to avoid it.

If you want to help with the campaign, or find out more about it, you can get in touch with Lewisham Cyclists.