Sunday 30 November 2014

Deptford Creek bridge close to completion

The new bridge across Deptford Creek has been swinging to and fro over the last couple of weeks, as engineers commission the mechanical and electrical equipment and operators are trained in its use. When I passed by on Friday it looked like lots of snagging was under way on the structure, and I've been told that handover to the council is imminent.

The bridge designer Flint & Neill made a nice little film showing the bridge swinging across for the first time - ooh the excitement of whether it's going to slide smoothly into place and the two ends are going to meet properly as it reaches the other side! (Spoiler - it does!)

According to one of my sources, who lives in a flat with a view of the bridge, it looks 'quite sexy' with its lights on. It's a very pretty little bridge alright, but I think 'sexy' is taking it a bit far. All the same it's much more fulfilling than watching property investors talking about selling Deptford. 

Tuesday 25 November 2014

'Rise' marketing leaves Deptford unimpressed

'Rise' developer Cathedral Group seems to have waded into a shit storm in its cosy link up with overseas property investment company IP Global, which bought up all 120+ flats in the development being built next to Deptford Station and is currently flogging them off-plan to its overseas investors.

The property company's promotional video for the Deptford scheme - aka the Deptford Project - in which Martyn Evans, Creative Director of Cathedral Group explained how important the link-up was, because IP Global had such a good knowledge of the Asian market, was pulled from IP Global's You Tube account this morning after complaints from local residents*.

Until this morning IP Global had two films on its website - a 360 degree panorama of Deptford (which claims to have been made using 'drone technology' but looks more like they filmed it from the tower crane), and a promotional film with IP Global CEO Tim Murphy telling all that is great about investing in Deptford - now only the former remains. (See update below for a link to the film elsewhere)

(Believe me you didn't miss much in the latter, but you can probably get a good idea by reading IP Global's wincingly tired piece about Deptford that they published earlier this year when the deal was struck with Cathedral).

There has already been scrutiny of the marketing of these residential units, with Crosswhatfields blog pointing out last month that they were being pitched for more than half a million quid as buy to let investments.

Last week I came across the offending video, and tweeted about it with my comments:

The video was shared on various other places, including the Quay Point and Facebook's I Love Deptford group, where it caused mighty outrage and came to the attention of local resident Maria Livings.

She was so incensed she wrote to Cathedral Group CEO Richard Upton to complain about the company's crass marketing and make some very salient points about the housing issues that dominate our local area.

'The idea that this project is being sold to investors and that the coolness of artists is being touted as the reason why property prices are about to hurtle still further up is completely sickening. None of the interesting, creative people who have contributed to the vibrant culture of the area are able to afford to buy a home and their work spaces are being eliminated wholesale as developers buy up all the land to create yet more unaffordable housing. 

I am an artist/designer and have lived and worked in the area for over 30 years. Although I initially lived in a council flat on Pepys Estate I was able eventually to get a shared ownership home in which I still live. As a result of being part of this fascinating creative community I have become quite successful and have developed a thriving business. 

However, even though I am relatively well off there is no way I could afford to buy a home at today's prices. Where are the people who work in a coffee bar/Sainsbury's/school/garage in Deptford supposed to live? I don't suppose anyone at Cathedral knows or cares. 

You may live in a parallel Universe where moral and social considerations are not an issue and therefore have no interest in anything except making money. However you must know that public opposition to this tastelessly marketed development will be strong. You have made no friends amongst local people and ensured that the cool, friendly vibe that you are using to sell your development will be greatly diminished as a result of your poor grasp of the socio-economic realities of the area.'

The offending video was taken down this morning and Maria has been invited to meet with Cathedral Group to discuss her concerns. She is asking others to join her in writing to the council and meeting with Cathedral - details on the Facebook group.

Cathedral's strong presence in south east London, with developments such as The Mvmt (eugh) on Norman Road, and Morden Wharf on the Greenwich Peninsula, not to mention their ongoing efforts to project a cuddly, fluffy not-like-every-other-property-developer image, presumably make them particularly sensitive to this kind of criticism.

Let's hope they aren't crass enough to try and exploit the meeting to their own advantage - the cynic in me suspects that they may see it as a good opportunity to get a well-respected local creative on their side, although something tells me Maria isn't the type to be taken in.

* Update: The film is still available for now on You Tube. If you enjoy watching a property developer salivating over the prospect of making shitloads of money, get there quick. But don't say I didn't warn you. 

Saturday 1 November 2014

Revised plans for 'the Wharves' redevelopment on Oxestalls Road

Three years after the original plans for The Wharves got planning permission, a new planning application is being drafted for submission to the council early next year. The site, which is bounded by Evelyn Street, Oxestalls Road and Grove Street, has now changed hands and the new owners, Lend Lease, seem intent on wringing every last penny out of the land, with little regard for the neighbours or the local community. 

A few weeks ago they held 'public consultation' to showcase their new ideas - the presentation boards can be downloaded from their website here if you missed it. 

I've pulled out a few of the fundamental changes I noted, unfortunately mostly of them make the scheme much less appealing from my point of view. And as normally happens when developers and their marketing folks get together, and there's things they don't want to tell you straight, you really have to read every sentence to find out what it is they are trying to keep from you. Which is nice, since otherwise the money they lavish on these marketing consultants would be wasted.  

Here's the brief version for those of you with limited attention span or short on time:

Previously 905 residential units - now 1100

Previously 18 storeys maximum height - now 30

Previously a large facility for Ascot Cabs - now a 'creative hub' (*sigh*)

Previously a commitment to retain the Victoria pub - now 'considering options' for it

Previously a water feature to mark the route of the former Surrey Canal - now a 'greened' path

Previously public space - now private courtyards

And my favourite - buried away in the text without any numbers for those who are skim reading:

Previously a maximum of 370 parking spaces - now 'we are looking at providing up to 1 parking space per dwelling' plus extra for work and retail units - i.e. more than 1100 parking spaces. 

Before we get into the nitty gritty, see the rendering of the new scheme above. In the traditional way, the rendering includes every other tall building in the vicinity, and is arranged from a suitable viewpoint so as to make the new development's own towers seem modest even at 30 storeys.

The second thing you should note if you are an illustrator wanting to make a living out of doing renderings for developers, is that you must take ownership of every scrap of green in the vicinity whether it is within in the boundaries of the development or not. So the inclusion of Deptford Park and Pepys Park on the picture make this new development look like it's really green.

In fact this plan probably gives a better indication as you can more easily see the boundaries of the site. All the brown areas between the buildings are 'private courtyards' - inaccessible to the public and raised above street level to accommodate podium parking at ground level. Most of the other green bits are the oversize trees that they seem to be planning for the whole length of Evelyn Street. Better make those London planes, to cope with the appalling pollution they will be subjected to. 

The two images above show the original building heights (top) and the proposed new building heights. The 'feature' buildings at the corners have shot up - in the case of the one on the corner of Grove St and Dragoon Road, it has had an additional 12 storeys plonked on top of it, rising from 18 to 30 storeys in total. Even by the standards of Convoys Wharf this seems like an excessive increase.

Perhaps this building has had all the extra units lumped on it because it is in the first phase of the development - phasing is shown above. I seem to remember that Lewisham Council kindly offered to compulsorily purchase the land in phase 3 on behalf of the developer, which I struggle to get my head around, in particular the financial and moral implications. They are also doing a similar deal on the Surrey Canal Village development. I always thought compulsory purchase orders were designed for major transport links or other 'public betterment' schemes, not just a means to enable developers to make a profit out of land they don't yet own. Call me old-fashioned etc...

The move to try and shoehorn as many units and car parking spaces onto a development site does not surprise me; it's pure and simple greed. Naturally they will try and justify it all with 'solving London's housing crisis' but unless these flats are going on sale at less than £100k then I'm sorry to say it is unlikely to work.

It's the mean little things that really depress me - the downgrading of the public space provision from a number of permeable squares among the residential buildings to 'green verges' along the edges of the main roads around the boundaries of the site (yes really!) and from an imaginative water feature along the line of the former Surrey Canal to a 'linear park' without water. I would have loved to see something like the water feature that leads into Canada Water replicated here, but I was told firstly that 'there were concerns about safety' (?) and when I challenged this, was given another reason that was so lame I can't even remember it.

The suggestion that the former Victoria pub - the only building of any character within the development - might not 'need' to be retained was also depressing and indicative of the basic mindset of Lend Lease. I hope that responses from the consultation will prompt the developer to reconsider, and if not, any proposal to demolish it will be challenged by the council. There's a lack of pubs in the area and with new housing due to be built right next door, surely this is the perfect opportunity to bring it back into use?

There's no firm commitment on 'affordable' housing ('affordable' being a relative concept and in all honesty only translating as 'slightly cheaper') - the documents suggest the proposed 21% may be retained, but I'm betting this will be revised after the developers have done their mysterious 'viability' calculations and found they can make more profit if they sell their units for higher prices.