Friday 10 May 2013

A matter of opinion

Last year before Deptford High Street 'improvement' works began, the council held a public consultation event at the Deptford Lounge. This was to tell people - residents, shop owners, market traders and so on - what they were proposing to do to on the High Street and ask for their opinions about how often they use the street and what would encourage them to shop there more often. 

With plans afoot to remodel the south end of the high street, the survey also included a question about what should happen to the anchor. 

At the event I was told by one of the staff that the results of the survey - which at the time was still open  - that there was strong support for the anchor to stay in Deptford, backing up my own experience of talking to people about it locally, and the comments they make on this blog and on other social media sites.

Since then, as has been reported on here and elsewhere, the future of the anchor in Deptford - seen here just prior to being removed from the High Street - is far from certain.

At the moment it is being stored on the Convoys Wharf site, and some councillors and officers have said that once redeveloped, the former dockyard will be its permanent home.

This would be utterly pointless in my opinion, you might as well send it back to Chatham where it came from. For a start, most of the former dockyard is still there - some parts such as the Olympia Building are even above ground - on the site of Convoys Wharf. The developers have paid plenty of lipservice to their commitment to acknowledge the former heritage of the site, and depending on how that pans out in their masterplan, they shouldn't really need an anchor to create the maritime link.

What's more, if they did need something, it would be more appropriate to request the return of the clocktower from the former 18th century storehouse, whose cupola was shipped away to Thamesmead in 1986, where it still remains unnoticed and unmarked in the middle of a dying cluster of shops.

I have always argued that the anchor - while not being originally from Deptford Dockyard, and being a relatively new addition to the High Street - should stay on the High Street itself. It is an overt symbol of Deptford's maritime history, of which there is very little else - close to zero I would suggest - left in our main thoroughfare.

When I first moved to this part of south east London it was several years before I came to appreciate the full significance of the area's role in England's maritime history. This was partly due to my own ignorance of course, but also because there was so little sign of anything to do with the docks, shipbuilding or sea-faring in the heart of Deptford. I strongly feel that we need something to make sense of Deptford's long and chequered history, something that serves as a constant reminder of the skills, industry, trade and international links that played such a significant part in its past.

But enough about what I think. Perhaps no-one else in Deptford really agrees with me?

I've been passed a copy of the results of the survey that I previously mentioned, obtained from Lewisham Council, and thought you would be interested to know about the strength of feeling in Deptford.

It's not just a moaning old blogger banging on about keeping this powerful symbol in our midst. There were 185 respondees to the survey - not great, but not to be sniffed at either considering it's not easy to get people to fill in a form or complete a survey online.

Here's the relevant bit:

What do you think the Council should do with the anchor?

Try and keep it in Deptford:   84%
Give it back:     12%
Don't know:     4%

You could argue that retaining it on Convoys Wharf is the same as 'trying to keep it in Deptford' but I'm willing to bet my worldly goods that that wasn't the solution the 84% of respondees had in mind when they ticked that box.


Anonymous said...

when the Council holds a Public Consultation they have no obligation to take any notice of the results they obtain, it's just that, a consultation - it could just as easily be called "Lets ask the civilians what they think but we know better so we'll do what we like", but that would be a bit long-winded, so they stick to consultation.

deptford pudding said...

Visitors to Sheerness are treated to a plethora of anchors and ships' figureheads dotted around the town. Why not the same in Deptford, where it all began.

Deptford Dame said...

@anon indeed, that's become very clear over the last few years. In which case I wish they would spend the money on something more productive.

Anonymous said...

Interesting that the question was "try and keep it in Deptford" as opposed to "keep it in Deptford". To what extent they "try" will be subjective and means that if it doesn't stay in Deptford they have still done what the vast majority of respondents have asked. Why didn't they just tell the designers to ensure it is/was included in their proposals?

Anonymous said...

I want the anchor back!!! :) and also the clock tower!!! :)

ChrisS said...

Jess Steele once got a promise from Ken Livingstone whilst Mayor of London that he would try to get the clock back to Deptford. Of course it never happened but I so agree with you that we should have it back and what better place than at the High Street/Broadway junction.

Jane said...

I was sad to read you comment that the clocktower, moved to Thamesmead in the 1980’s “remains unnoticed and unmarked in the middle of a dying cluster of shops.” As a former Deptford resident now living in Thamesmead I think this is a deeply unfair and inaccurate characterisation. The town centre in Thamesmead is a vibrant place, with tenants in every shop and a good range of retail opportunities from vets and opticians to cafe’s and newsagents and supermarkets. Many thousands of people pass by the tower each day and I know that I am not alone in always enjoying coming around the corner of the centre and seeing the tower there and to hearing its chimes when I am in the vicinity. Whilst I applaud your desire to see the tower returned to its rightful home in Deptford I am sure that this would be better achieved by working in co-operation with the people of Thamesmead rather than throwing insults at their community.

Deptford Dame said...

@jane I'm heartened to hear that the shopping centre is better used than it seemed when I visited, in which case perhaps my comment about dying shops was unwarranted. But that still doesn't give me any comfort as regards the clocktower itself - I was very disappointed not to be able to find any sign explaining the history of the clocktower, no indication that it was anything but a frippery created by the developer as a centrepiece for the shops. Having even the simplest sign stating where it came from would show a little more respect for it as a historic artefact. Let's be clear, my comment is not an attack on the 'community', I know nothing about the people who live in the area and in any case wouldn't make such a judgement. But aside from the lack of any interpretation relating to the clocktower, the public realm in the shopping centre leaves a lot to be desired - as well as being badly designed with far too many steps and unattractive bridges (admittedly of their time) I found it tatty and badly maintained, with the water features full of rubbish. It would be a simple matter for the council to address the lack of signage and maintenance issues, perhaps under pressure from shopkeepers and local residents.

Eleanor said...

The reference to Chatham being where the anchor came from - what was its history there? I was told recently by a long-time New Cross resident involved in the 'original' redevelopment of the south of the High Street that is only 30 or so years old.

Anonymous said...

They did state that didn't want certain types of people hanging around the anchor i.e antisocial drunks (yes its an oxymoron term. At a more recent assembly meeting with the company that have been commissioned for regenerating the high st. But wouldn't it be more prooductive to evaluate the types of businesses that are given planning permission to open up i.e betting shops & brokers & why so many chose to go in themn. No matter how many times you try to paint the walls with gold mould will show through if you haven't taken care of eradicating the mould underneath.