Sunday 30 June 2013

Cathedral seeks to cut Deptford Project costs with cheaper architect

More bad news for the standard of Deptford's built environment after trade magazine Building Design claimed (site requires registration) that the high-profile practice Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners would not be taking the proposed Deptford Project through to completion.

The magazine reports:

BD understands it is the firm’s fee demands that have resulted in it being sidelined on a housing scheme in south-east London which is being developed by Cathedral and social housing specialist United House. 

RSHP won planning for its role in The Deptford Project in March last year, but it is understood the developer is now looking at replacing it with a cheaper firm. 

Cathedral hopes to start work on its Deptford site later this year and said: “As with many projects of this type we will be entering a design and build contract with our contractor, and under that arrangement we will, together, decide which architecture practice provides delivery services throughout that process. We are currently working through that discussion.”

The scheme got planning permission last year but very little has happened on site as yet except for the temporary tenants of the arches being turfed out and some hoardings put up; and as Crosswhatfields blog reported recently, the future of Deptford's beloved train carriage cafe is now in doubt as no-one is willing to offer it a new home.

While I'm not unduly worried about the loss of the 'starchitect' on this project, I do hope that whichever practice replaces RSHP will have sufficient weight and authority to ensure that the quality of structure proposed in the original application will be carried through to completion.

I am not a huge fan of this particular design, but if executed properly it could become a strong visual landmark for Deptford. Unfortunately too often in design build contracts, cost is the sole motivator and quality of design and construction becomes an afterthought, or even worse, is entirely forgotten.

The evaluation process that contractors now refer to as 'value engineering' generally uses the word 'value' with all the finesse and sophistication of Tescos.

Friday 14 June 2013

Cycle parking facilities at Waitrose

With cycle parking in Greenwich town centre often at a premium, it's great news that the new Waitrose on New Capital Quay is providing parking spaces for 14 bikes.

Apologies for the rather dark image, but you get the idea - secure bike parking in a covered location, right next to the main entrance. 

In the days before I lived in Deptford, and I had to do my weekly shop by bike, I often bemoaned the poor facilities offered to cyclists by supermarkets, like they were some kind of afterthought. True, that was quite a few years ago and much has changed since then, but there's still too many places where cycle parking is poorly located, with inappropriate racks used; they are too close together or there are not enough of them. 

Only the other day at the brand new Glass Mill Leisure Centre in Lewisham I struggled to lock my bike to the rack on the end of the row, due to its positioning next to a big column. Luckily there were plenty more to choose from, but I did wonder what had happened there. And the few racks outside Wavelengths in Deptford are almost always over-subscribed - the high street itself is not particularly well served for bike racks, although this has improved with the recent works at Deptford Lounge and Douglas Square, as well as the massive rake of racks at the station. Living nearby I rarely need to use any of these, but I'm not sure I'd be confident leaving my bike at the station in its current state. 

Whoops this has turned into a bit of a rant, I'll stop now. Good work anyway, Waitrose.

Sunday 9 June 2013

Deptford market 'food court'

I put the 'food court' in inverted commas here because it's a phrase I really don't like. For me it conjures up plastic fixed bucket seats and tables in an airport or shopping centre, with half a dozen piss-poor food concessions dealing out greasy burgers and unattractive slop.

Such an image is a far cry from what I found in Douglas Square yesterday, the first chance I'd had to visit the new foodie part of the market since it launched four weeks ago.

There were about a dozen food stalls arranged into a little square right in the middle of Douglas Square itself. In the centre a chap playing a guitar was being accompanied in an impromptu performance by a fellow wearing a red T-shirt with the words 'God Inspired Me' emblazoned across it. Divine inspiration or not, his repertoire may have been somewhat limited but his style was 100% Deptford. You won't get that kind of entertainment at Brockley Market.

The range of cuisines on offer was encouraging, although the presentation and marketing effort was very variable. As I understand it, the stallholders have had training to help them make a success of their new businesses; it seems one or two may not have been paying attention in class.

Overall, however, the standard of food and presentation was excellent, and I'll definitely be going back for food next weekend. It's not just a great place to get your lunch, there are quite a few options that you can take home with you to heat up for dinner later in the week - a high quality ready-meal, if you will.

Many of the stallholders were offering free samples - a great marketing tool as it gives stallholders the chance to chat to potential customers and talk about what's special about their food, how they make it, where they are based and so on, and strike up a relationship with them - and obviously customers get the opportunity to see if they like the food before they buy it.

Foods ranged from the ubiquitous jerk chicken (sold by at least three stalls) to Portugese baked goods via Italian, Vietnamese and Mexican. There were also freshly squeezed juices and flavoured ice cones on offer. I tried all the free samples I could, and enjoyed talking to the stallholders to find out how they liked the market and how they were getting on.

I particularly enjoyed the samples from Pastificio Mansi and Two Hungry Bees, but since I wasn't really in the mood for a pasta lunch, I decided to make the spectacular steamed pork bun my main dish - not before I'd gobbled down a pesto and cheese pastry from Wonder Baker.

I washed my lunch down with a freshly-juiced mix of orange, apple, carrot and ginger squeezed by the friendly guys from That Natural Stuff.

I saw plenty of other options that I wanted to try, which means I plan to be dining at the 'food court' *shudder* for the next few weekends at least, until I've sampled them all.

Just a few observations which might be useful feedback for the organisers/stall holders; the seating consisted of a few benches arranged in a square. This was not particularly sociable since friends have to sit in a line, and the benches themselves did not look very stable. Tables would be better and you could probably get quite a few more in the space available.

In my opinion the marketing has been spectacularly poor - aside from a half-hearted online publicity campaign, there were no posters or signs on the high street to direct potential customers into the foodie area. Even when you are on Douglas Square you'd be forgiven for not noticing it at all, there's no signs there either. A lost opportunity in terms of passing trade and a kick in the teeth for the traders, who need all the help they can get with this new venture.

Traders who are friendly and welcoming, who offer free samples, and who come across as passionate about their food and their business, are much more likely to get my money and support. A couple of stallholders who showed no interest in potential customers - whether because of a lack of confidence or just indifference - seemed to be short of trade, not surprising really. But it was a shame as their products were markedly different from the others on offer, and I felt they could probably have done pretty well if they'd only pushed themselves forward a bit more and talked to people.

My final word of advice - make sure your menu (including veggie options) and prices are crystal clear, and legible from a reasonable distance. People want to know what is on offer and what it will cost them before they start to consider whether they are going to buy it.

See you in Douglas Square - every Saturday 9am till 3pm.

Saturday 8 June 2013

New Cross Learning documentary

Lovely documentary about New Cross Learning, the former New Cross Library which is now run by volunteers. Personally I was gobsmacked by the basement full of local history, would love to go and spend a few hours rifling through the archives - bit like Deptford market on a good day!


It's also worth noting that NXL is hosting a Local History Society talk about Deptford Power Station on 20th June at 6.30pm.

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