Tuesday 29 January 2013

Local news round-up: Silvertown Tunnel, Lewisham Hospital, Evelyn Assembly

Occasionally there's so much going on locally that I have to admit I have no hope of covering it all unless I give up my day job and live on charity. (Yes, bloggers do have day jobs! No, we don't get paid for blogging! Some of us even have lives outside blogging!)

Luckily South East London is blessed with a fantastic selection of hyperlocal bloggers, many of whom you will see listed in the sidebar to the right and all of whom do a great job in rooting out stories from across our corner of the capital.

I'm sure most of my readers also visit these other blogs regularly, and those who do will no doubt have been following the stories I'm highlighting - but if you don't read other local blogs, I urge you to do so. It will give you a much better understanding of local news, politics and history, give you a range of different angles on the same story, and will prove to you just how much is going on!

Save Lewisham Hospital

Unless you have been on Mars (the planet, not the chocolate bar) for the last few weeks, you will of course be aware of the Lewisham Hospital story and the huge march that took place last weekend to support the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign. I haven't covered the march on this blog - although I did take part - because it's been covered so extensively elsewhere, not least on the national news.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt is due to decide on the future of our hospital on Friday, but there's still time to sign petitions, email him, demonstrate and spread the word about the campaign before then - more info here.

No to the Silvertown Tunnel

Meanwhile just across the border in Greenwich, there's an active campaign stepping up against Greenwich Council's support of the so-called Silvertown Tunnel (effectively a third Blackwall) which threatens to heap more congestion and pollution on the borough and its neighbours.

The proposal is one of several being put forward by TFL in its consultation on river crossings in east London, and is being backed vociferously by Greenwich Council, despite the council having no evidence to support the case for a new road tunnel.

The potential pollution impact of this proposed tunnel have been set out in detail at recent public meetings in Tower Hamlets and Greenwich and covered here in the Guardian.

TFL's consultation ends this week too, so if you want to comment on it, you will have to do so by Friday. The campaign against the Silvertown Tunnel also has a petition on its website if you want to register your objection to the plans.

Evelyn assembly

Finally, a little closer to home the next Evelyn Assembly takes place on Thursday 7 February from 7pm to 9pm at the 2000 Community Action Centre on Grove Street.

Food and hot drinks from 6.45pm, all welcome.

Here's the blurb:

Find out about opportunities for young people in the Army, Air Force, Pathfinders, Police, St Johns Ambulance & Sea Cadets

Find out about a local training opportunity for young people aged 18-24 

Find out how the Evelyn Assembly helped your community in 2012 and hear updates from Evelyn Parents Forum and Montage Theatre Arts 

Have your say on what needs to be done in 2013 and get involved 

The latest on the Convoys Wharf from residents who met the developers 

Speak to Lewisham Homes, Hyde, Notting Hill Housing, and Lewisham’s Community Safety Team 

Sunday 27 January 2013

Say hello to your new Waitrose

No opening date set as yet, but the new Waitrose on the other side of the Creek is taking shape, and is expected to open 'some time in the summer'. It's the ground floor of the building on the south side of Greenwich Reach (or New Capital Quay or whatever its latest name is) - you can see it as you cross the Creek on the Creek Road lifting bridge.

At a reported 31,000sqft it will easily be the largest supermarket in Greenwich itself, much bigger than the 'local' versions of the other supermarkets, but only about two thirds the size of the Sainsbury's on Greenwich peninsula.

Personally I'm quite ambivalent about having a Waitrose nearby - I may well make the occasional trip for a few bottles of decent ale (still pretty much impossible to buy in Deptford) but I'll still be doing most of my shopping in Deptford High Street, which for me is still most convenient, fun and cheapest.

I'm not really bothered about what effect the Waitrose will have on the other supermarkets in the area, however I suspect the arrival of this new supermarket is likely to impact on some of the local, independent shops in quite a devastating way. Businesses such as Deli X on Deptford High Street, or Greenlands Health Food shop in Greenwich could be hit badly, until now having had little competition and being able to survive in their respective niches.

Let's hope with some canny business nous they can find a way to survive - I'm sure if Deli X had their daily specials menu on a board outside, for example, they might get more custom for the cafe which is tucked away at the back. Greenlands is an absolute gem, in my opinion - the range of different products they stock makes them rather like a mini Waitrose for groceries, and they do have the best humus known to man. I'll still be going there for the odds and sods I normally make the trip for, and will be keeping my fingers crossed they can find a way to survive.

Friday 25 January 2013


Latest new cafe on the local scene is Chinwag, which opened a few weeks ago in New Cross - it's in the row of eateries on the London-bound side of the one-way system, right opposite to Goldsmith's college and just up the hill from the Marquis of Granby.

I went there last week to sample breakfast - all in the name of research of course. We got off to a somewhat shaky start when we found the cafe was only just opening up, more than an hour after the advertised time. But it was right in the middle of the snowy time, so we cut them a bit of slack and went for a coffee in the London Particular to kill 15 minutes or so. 

Given the fantastic breakfast offerings at the London Particular, it was tough work tearing ourselves away to go back to Chinwag, but we made the break.

The interior is quite homely and quirky, with old pages of the South London Press under glass on the table tops (with job advertisements pre-dating sex discrimination laws) and wall lights made of taps with droplet-shaped light bulbs. 

The menus are handwritten and stuck into the first few pages of old hardback books, another quirky idea - so you can read the book if you have forgotten your paper or iphone - but unfortunately not very legible, given that whoever wrote it doesn't have the best handwriting.

The breakfast menu was not huge, but as well as offering full meaty and veggie breakfasts (£6.99 each), you can have eggs benedict or eggs florentine for £4.99, omelette with choice of filling, or something a bit more healthy like granola or porridge.

I went for the full meaty breakfast as shown below; toast is included too. First comment, the sausages were very good - I am notoriously fussy about my bangers and have pretty high standards. These were proper sausages, not those bland sawdusty cheapo things. Bacon is not really my bag, it seemed ok but I did give the second slice away due to lack of interest. Roasted cherry tomatoes were excellent, as was the mushroom, and even the standard hash brown was hot, crunchy and fresh.

The only thing that let it down somewhat was the toast - regular white sliced, nothing special. A couple of pieces sliced thickly off a loaf would improve it, and offering the choice of white or brown would help. In all, though, a very tasty and filling breakfast - not cheap, but certainly not overpriced, and one of the best local options for a good quality full English.

Coffee got good marks too - perhaps a little below Waiting Room standard, but since they do the best coffee in the whole of London, nothing to be ashamed of. Very friendly and welcoming, we were even asked if everything was ok - not something that happens often when you are eating breakfast!

Chinwag also does lunches (wraps, soup, etc) and a range of burgers. There's an interview with the owners on Brockley Central.

21 Lewisham Way
Opening hours: 9am-9pm

Saturday 12 January 2013

Lewisham Hospital campaign gets national coverage

When the Question Time bandwagon announced it was rolling in to Goldsmith's College for the first show of the year, there was a flurry of excitement about the prospect of proposals for Lewisham Hospital finally getting national recognition. 

And despite audience members not being allowed to ask direct questions about the subject (apparently it's 'too local' - even though if it is approved, it will have national implications), the presence of a protest outside, campaigners in the audience, and of course panellists from all three parties wanting to jump on the bandwagon, the subject got a considerable amount of coverage.

If you didn't see it, you can watch it on iplayer (the debate about Lewisham starts about halfway through if you want to save yourself the bother of watching the rest of it).

In the meantime there is another march organised for Saturday 26th January, which will be your last chance to protest before health secretary Jeremy Hunt makes his decision about whether to implement the recommendations of the 'special administrator' to close Lewisham's A&E.

The march starts from the roundabout by Lewisham Station at 12 noon on 26 January and ends with a rally at Mountsfield Park. 

For more about the campaign. and to find out how you can help, visit http://www.savelewishamhospital.com/ 

Sunday 6 January 2013

Faircharm redevelopment plans threaten Deptford businesses

Long-standing successful businesses could be driven out of Lewisham borough if plans to redevelop the Faircharm Trading Estate in Creekside are given the go-ahead. Owner Workspace wants to change the classification of the business units on the estate to eliminate general industrial use, in order to build nearly 150 residential units on the land, and tenants are warning that they will have nowhere else to go.

An application for full planning permission to redevelop the Faircharm Trading Estate on Creekside was submitted to Lewisham Council at the beginning of December last year. Although the date for responses is nominally 7 January it is worth remembering that the planners will accept any responses submitted up to the date that the application is considered by the planning committee, currently scheduled for March.

However if you have strong objections to make, it is worth getting your comments in as soon as you can so that the planners have time to investigate and consider any specific points you want to make.

The application (reference DC/12/82000/X which you should use to search on this page for full details of the plans) is for:

The remodelling, repair, restoration and conversion of two existing buildings (A and C) to provide new commercial uses (4031 sqm of Use Class B1) with associated plant, servicing and storage. Demolition of Building B and the construction of four new buildings ranging from 6 to 12 storeys to provide 148 residential units (62 x one-bed, 69 x two bed and 17 x 3 bed), and new commercial uses (703 sqm of Use Class B1) together with new open space, landscaping, car and cycle parking at Faircharm Trading Estate.

The attempt to redevelop the estate already has quite a history, with the previous plans failing to impress anyone. I did not write about them in detail but Crosswhatfields blog did and pointed out the fact that the proposed new buildings on the Creekside frontage would overlook and overshadow the housing on Crossfields estate, and highlighted various other aspects of the proposals that did not endear them to residents or business tenants.

Lewisham Council took a decision in May 2012 to designate the Creekside area as a conservation zone, presumably to try and protect its character, despite the fact that planning restrictions in Deptford's other existing conservation zone, the high street, continue to be poorly enforced.

The new plans - which have now been submitted to the planning department - propose to retain and remodel some of the buildings facing Creekside for continued business use, with new buildings on the rear of the site - one up to 12 storeys high - for residential use.

If I were judging these new plans purely on their aesthetic, architectural or public realm aspects, I would probably comment that aside from the height of the residential block on the edge of the Creek, the architect had done a pretty good job of adapting the site to be more friendly to its Creekside neighbours.

However the main issue with this application, as I see it, is the proposal to make fundamental changes to the permitted use of the site.

With the proposal to build residential units on the site, the future for many of Faircharm's existing businesses is bleak. People living on the site will not want - and should not be expected - to live next to businesses that are noisy and dirty and have deliveries outside normal working hours.

To accommodate this, Workspace wants to make all its commercial units class B1, which is basically office-based businesses, eliminating any general industrial use of the site and driving out many of the businesses that have been there for years. As a result, the 'creative hub' which is at the heart of Deptford, and which so many developers capitalise on to convince people to move to trendy SE8, will be severely depleted.

Throughout the 'consultation' process, say remaining tenants, Workspace has promised to offer them units in the new development. But the proposal to reclassify the business space was never mentioned, and tenants believe that they will not fit the criteria for B1 occupation. With so many industrial sites in this part of the borough being redeveloped for housing, alternative space will be hard, if not impossible, to find.

The application documents make some interesting claims for how Workspace expects the redevelopment to increase jobs on the site - after all, this site is designated for employment use so they need to come up with some statistics to convince the council that they are not going to reduce employment in an area which already suffers high levels of unemployment.

With the redevelopment, the amount of non-residential floor space will be reduced from 12,749sqm to just 4,734sqm, a loss of more than 8,000sqm. And yet Workspace claims the 139 people that the site currently employs will mushroom to 339, despite there being considerably less space for them to work in. Since they will mostly be sitting at computers rather than operating machinery to make things, I guess we can cram them in like sardines, but even so this sounds like a very generous estimate.

If you want to read the details of the statistics that back up this bold claim, you need to download the Environmental Statement Main Text from the planning application website, and read chapter seven. Feel free to add any insights in the comments box below.

As you might expect, Crosswhatfields blog has gone into much greater detail about the proposals, you can read the posts here and here, which may be useful for any comments or objections you may wish to submit.

As always, send your responses (they MUST include your name and address) to the planning department, quoting the planning application reference DC/12/82000/X, either by email or letter.

Saturday 5 January 2013

Antic to open pub in former Deptford job centre

Pub company Antic - which runs the Royal Albert, Ravensbourne Arms, Catford Tavern and many other fine establishments across London - is planning to open a new pub in the former job centre on Deptford High Street. An application for an alcohol licence has been submitted and from the look of the company's new website it seems they intend to call a spade a spade by naming it in honour of its former use.

The fairly substantial shop unit is currently occupied by arts collective Utrophia, which has been running lunchtime music events and arts stuff along with a whole load of evening events during the last year or more, and the Extra Bones shop in the front. The temporary gallery licence that was granted in May 2011 was for a period of 18 months only, with the intention of using the vacant unit until redevelopment of the building began.

Although Utrophia has announced that it will be relocating at the end of February, so far there has been no application for a change of use of the building (which was changed last year from gallery space to retail space) which I believe will be necessary to allow Antic to open a pub here.

Personally I am hugely excited at the prospect of having a new pub on the High Street, especially in this high-profile location directly across from the station (and next to that classy retail establishment Poundland). Although as yet I haven't had formal confirmation of their plans from Antic*, I don't believe they would put such a thing on their website if they weren't ready to share this information publicly.

Deptford High Street desperately needs an injection of night-life beyond the fried chicken and betting shops, if it is to become something more than the ghost town it currently morphs into after 7pm. If/when the Job Centre opens, it may even give other investors the confidence to follow - with a couple of restaurants and perhaps another bar or two, the high street could become a safer and more attractive place after dark.

*Updated: they have now confirmed that this is the case and they are planning to open the Job Centre, although can't give a date as yet.

Wednesday 2 January 2013

Deptford station woes

Just weeks after our shiny new station was handed over by the contractors, it is looking distinctly shabby; without rapid action by Southeastern it risks becoming a shameful representation of our community.

Quite aside from the appalling level of grime that stems directly from the lack of any meaningful cleaning regime, the station now sports THREE broken glass panels; one at platform level, one on the stairs to the London-bound platform, and a third on the external cladding of the stairwell.

In fact the first shattered panel, the one on the London-bound platform, appeared some months ago. Contrary to the conclusion that many people immediately jumped to, the fracture was not caused by vandalism. Toughened glass is prone to a recognised phenomena of spontaneous fracture due to impurities that can be introduced during the manufacturing process. These tiny inclusions of nickel sulphide expand, causing the glass to fracture dramatically, and this can occur up to a decade after the panel was made. The first panel shows the distinctive 'butterfly wings' shape at the centre of the fracture that is said to indicate this method of failure (see the details in the link).

My brief inspection today indicated that vandals have indeed now been at the panel, perhaps trying to make the shattered glass fall apart completely, and it now sports several impact marks.

The panel in the photo below, which is halfway up the stairs to this platform, seems to have been fractured by impact, with a noticeable dent on the upper edge of the glass. Today was the first time I noticed it, although I am not a frequent user of the station so perhaps it has been there for longer.

On the outer cladding, the damage to one of the huge panels is very noticeable, but the jury is still out on the cause of damage here, and I believe a stepladder will be necessary to investigate further. 

I understand that a group of local residents has been pursuing Southeastern for a couple of months already, asking for a meeting with the person responsible for managing Deptford station. (Whether any progress has been made on this is unclear, perhaps if anyone knows they can add it in the comments.)

But it's clear that action is required as a matter of urgency. There is an immediate need to repair the damage (whatever the cause); Southeastern must investigate the matter further, and implement any changes necessary to prevent further incidences; and the issue of future cleaning and maintenance of our station also needs to be taken seriously.

With all the money, time and effort that has gone into giving the station a facelift, it would be criminal if it was allowed to deteriorate into the same scruffy state its predecessor was famous for. Surely Lewisham Council, which contributed the lion's share of the funding for this work, can put some pressure on Southeastern to address this matter?

Tuesday 1 January 2013

Three sheets to the wind?

Q: What's brown and sticky?
A: A stick

Apologies for the Brockley-Central-esque intro, I won't be making a habit of it. I just happen to like that particular joke and it seemed appropriate in these circumstances.

My Christmas Day walk along the river took me past Aragon Gardens on the Pepys estate, one of the area's parks that was recently refurbished. As I walked by I noticed that the 'sculpture' (I use the term advisedly) had finally been installed on the raised area next to the grassy knoll.

Lewisham Council's website explains (in rather appalling grammar) the thinking behind the 'design' of this sculpture:

"..a new sculpture has been commissioned which will be visible – including at night – to highlight Deptford’s river frontage. The sculpture’s design has been inspired by The Golden Hind, the ship in which Sir Francis Drake sailed around the world before finally mooring at Deptford. It will be constructed from Gleam timber and galvanised steel, with durable canvas ‘sails’. Local residents helped select the sails’ colours."

(Apologies for the rather dark photos, you may remember that it rained most of the morning on Christmas Day and this was about the brightest the day got).

The sculpture looks pretty miserable and pointless if you ask me; any expectation that its visibility from the river will 'highlight Deptford's river frontage' is optimistic in the extreme. It's right next to the massive Aragon Tower, and if/when the redevelopment of Convoys Wharf goes ahead it will have tower blocks on all sides.

And 'inspired by the Golden Hind'?

Nope, can't see it myself, even in the bad light.

I really wish they'd spent the money on something a bit more useful or beautiful; what's more why did it take more than 18 months to install?