Thursday 28 February 2013

Edward Street garden update

It's always pleasing when you feel you've made a difference, no matter how small, and it was particularly satisfying to hear that my efforts to publicise the poor state of the flower bed at Edward Street roundabout had finally borne fruit, so to speak.

Last year I wrote about the council's gardening contractor Glendale making a total pigs ear of its responsibilities towards this little corner of Deptford, and then reported that the outcry had forced Lewisham to actually make an effort to improve the flower bed.  

I am delighted to report that the bed was cleared of its shabby rose bushes and litter a few weeks ago, the lower branches of the three oversize conifers were cut off, and the bed has now been planted with the low growing shrub mix - option one of the two offered by Glendales last year.

I hope to see the shrubs establishing themselves over the coming months and trust that they will be properly nurtured and looked after in the years ahead, with the bed being weeded and litter picked at regular intervals. If not, I'm sure there's room for a few rogue sunflowers in between the shrubs - who knows, there might be some seeds left there from the guerrilla gardening of last year and the year before.

As for the guerrilla gardeners themselves, I'm sure they can find plenty more unloved spaces around the local area to turn their attention to.

Thursday 21 February 2013

Deptford Creek - a tale of two footbridges

So it seems that progress is expected this year on TWO new footbridge links across Deptford Creek, one of which you may be aware of, the other of which is a past project risen from the dead; the Lazarus of creek footbridges. 

We've all heard the story about the Millennium Quay footbridge, which is intended to connect Millennium Quay to New Capital Quay across the mouth of the creek, built with the express intention of providing a direct route from Deptford to Waitrose thank you very much. 

Originally it appeared rendered on the images of the new development as some kind of slender, white-winged angel of the bridge world, the deck held aloft by magic with no visible means of support. It was an architect's impression of how all bridges would look if you didn't have to get those pesky engineers involved.

There was talk of a design competition and promises of some glorious swing bridge that would elevate the riverside walk into a transport of delight.

But when it came to actually delivering the bridge, the developer not only demanded a couple of extra storeys on top of the tower block to 'pay' for the bridge, but also delivered this lumpen monstrosity as the proposed solution.

Could it be further from the original rendering? Quite aside from the fact that it ain't up to much in the looks department, there's the small matter of navigation on the creek. Apparently there is a right of navigation on the creek for all vessels, including those with masts, which is why the bridges that exist already are opening structures. After outrage was heaped on the design from all sides, the council asked the developer to perhaps give a bit more consideration to the bridge proposal. Apparently a new submission is expected soon, let's hope they have found something more appropriate both to its location and its operational requirements.

Meanwhile a planning application has recently been submitted to Greenwich Council for another bridge across the creek, further upstream, which is intended to provide a direct link from the land next the Laban Centre (and the odious Creekside 'Village') to Greenwich railway station.

Again, the footbridge is part of the 106 agreement relating to the Creekside Village development, and has been on the wishlist of Greenwich Council for more than a decade. Previous proposals have come and gone, and when this latest incarnation bobbed up on the incoming tide like an unflushable turd, one long-term Deptford resident was heard to comment: 'Blimey, that old chestnut surfaces again!'

No sexy renderings I'm afraid, this was obviously a low-budget report. There are some technical drawings in the feasibility study if you are interested, but the main usp of the Laban bridge is the unusual tilt and twist opening mechanism by which it intends to retain the clear navigation height on the waterway. It will be interesting to see how achievable this is - it's unusual for such a structure to be designed to tilt AND twist and it raises questions about the amount of space needed behind the abutment to achieve this. 

It's also interesting to note that the proposed bridge will not offer a clear span across the creek; for some reason the designers have put a pier in the river on the Greenwich side, something which is unlikely to be welcomed by authorities such as the Environment Agency and the Port of London Authority. Maintenance and operation costs of this type of structure are likely to be relatively substantial, considering the unusual nature of the bridge and the hydraulics required to open it, and I suspect may have been somewhat underplayed in the report.   

The impact these additional bridges could have on vessels using the creek has not been given any consideration. With four opening bridges potentially having to be operated by a single person, it could take some time for masted or large boats to get from one end of the creek to another, possibly longer than the available tide, putting severe restrictions on the type of vessels that could access the waterway.

Monday 18 February 2013

'Extreme reading' photos needed for New Cross Learning exhibition

Do you like reading in weird and wonderful places, perhaps standing on your head or while bungee jumping?

If so, New Cross Learning wants you to take a photo and send it in for the Extreme Reading Exhibition that is planned for next month. They want to see photos of where and how people read in the most peculiar, strange, weird and extreme ways. Deadline for entries is 28 February; digital photos can be sent to and they will be printed for you. Be creative and have fun!

The exhibition will be held during the first week of March, which includes World Book Day on 7 March. On World Book Day, New Cross Learning will be holding a book exchange, a write-in for the Bridport prize (flash fiction, poetry and short stories) and will have an exhibition of 'extreme reading' photos.

The write-in will start at 6pm, book exchange will run from 6.30pm to 8pm and is the perfect opportunity to pick up some new reading material. Bring along a book of your own (or a pile) and try and convince someone to swap it with you. Refreshments will be available.

On Sunday 10 March there will be another big book sale from 2pm to 5pm.

Underneath New Cross Learning, within the endless catacombs of the Lewisham Historical Society, we have accumulated a store of thousands and thousands of books, and the time has come once again to sell some off! 

If you’ve been to one of our Big Book Sales before you will know that they are among the best places in London to pick up new reading material. Get there early for sweet deals. Hardbacks £1. Paperbacks five for £1. Refreshments will be available.

Sunday 17 February 2013

Frankham Street parking 'boulevard'

After more than two years of nagging, the council has finally got round to building up new kerbs around the tree pits on Frankham Street.

When the 'boulevard' (sorry I have to keep using the inverted commas, it couldn't be further from a boulevard if it tried) was first built, the design incorporated tree pits along its length in between the parking spaces. These pits were installed flush with the parking spaces, with small barriers in front of them as the only protection. Not only did the contractors buy the cheapest street furniture they could find, but the designers also failed to take into account the general motoring fuckwittery that seems to be prevalent in Deptford.

Within a couple of months most of the tinny barriers were gone, whether through contact with bumpers or a particularly forceful gust of wind it's difficult to say, and some of the trees had even been knocked down. A jumble of litter bins, street signs and assorted bits of junk were drafted in as temporary protection.

Finally the tree pits are being remodelled with some kerbs around them. Hopefully new trees will also be planted to replace those that were lost. The tinny barriers are back but stand more chance of survival now that they are slightly elevated - not forgetting of course that many of Deptford's motorists regard kerbs and pavements as legitimate parking spaces, so don't hold your breath.

Thursday 7 February 2013

Revised proposals for Convoys Wharf: open days 28 Feb and 2 March

Developer Hutchison Whampoa, which owns the huge Convoys Wharf site on the Deptford riverfront, will be presenting its revised proposals for the redevelopment of the site of the former Royal Dockyard.

It's now more than six months since HW last presented its plans to the general public - the 'revised masterplan' put forward using a 2D model which left out all the details of massing and tower blocks that many people object to. It also underwhelmed those who had previously helped bring the redevelopment juggernaut to a shuddering halt with their objections to the masterplan's insensitivity to the incredible heritage of the site.

This enormous site, which was once home to the Royal Dockyard and which saw the construction and launch of many famous ships, still retains many of its original features in the form of buried dockyard structures - the great basin, five slipways, a double dry dock - and the Olympia Building above ground. The site also extends over land which originally formed part of John Evelyn's famous garden, Sayes Court.

It is fundamental to understanding the history of Deptford and how it came to be what it is today; but the site also has huge significance in the history of the river, of London and even nationally as part of British history.

I'll be going along to see what Hutchison Whampoa and its masterplan architect Terry Farrell have come up with as their latest plan for the site. I'll be hoping that they've put a bit more imagination into the plans, and haven't just shuffled things round a bit to see if we notice.

Thursday 28th February (3pm-9pm) at Charlotte Turner School, Benbow Street, Deptford, SE8 3HD

Saturday 2nd March (10am-3pm) at The Albany, Douglas Way, Deptford, SE8 4AG