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.


Nemo said...

Utterly depressing mainly as I agree with every point made. What is worse is that when Convoys developer Hutchison Whampoa comes to their detail application they'll no doubt be arguing for the same pecentage increase in height for their vile towers along with extra parking.

Joe Beale said...

Developers... They come to town, take what they can, make it worse, and leave, like parasites. They will definitely do the "viability" trick to demand more units and they won't be affordable unless you're a Dubai businessman. Hope they get objections by the bucket load but I didn't know the council were so in their pockets.

Foreshore resident said...

Adding 4000 cars to the surrounding streets doesn't sound like a great idea to me (including Convoys). I thought Boris Johnson had banned developments with parking. I know Marine Wharf was not allowed to have such parking (although now the residents are moving in suddenly the streets around there are now lined with cars making that bend quite dangerous especially if a bus is coming around the corner from the opposite direction). As for the water feature... Have they not visited Canada Water's water ways? They look great and the water is very shallow. Surely such a feature would add value to these properties. I guess if the ground level is allocated to all the parking there is no space for the water way!

Anonymous said...

The strain on creek road traffic will be gridlock.

Anonymous said...

Excellent but depressing post. This is exactly what they are doing now at the Elephant. Including over-riding the zero car parking policy that was included in the SPD developed especially for their development to include 600 cars in an area of maximum public transport accessibility, plus podiums, misleading graphics showing minimum massing heights and not actual etc etc.. Presumably this application is one reason why Lend Lease are playing Southwark council over the release of the viability statement for the Heygate even despite Information Commissioner instruction to release it, Beware and you cannot be too cynical.

Anonymous said...

makes me sick, how can we fight this?

Anonymous said...

This is excellent news, London has a chronic housing shortage that is doing nothing but making home owners and council tenants (who can buy their houses at a discount) richer whilst punishing the working poor. The only way to solve this is to increase density, thank god the Mayor is ignoring the self-entitled NIMBYs of Deptford with developments such as Convoys Wharf.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 18/11/2014 - LOL! The irony of quoting a luxury penthouse-fest investment scheme like Convoys Wharf as an example of a way of helping the "working poor" would be hilarious if it weren't for the harsh reality that such schemes will just take up land and push out ordinary people. Boris is just another Bullingdon toff who couldn't give a toss about ordinary people as long as he and his mates stay rich.

Anonymous said...

yeah great idea. lets do nothing and let Deptford remain ashit hole. or lets develop the area and everyone will benefit. people are moaning about what will be . well its going to be 1000% better than the rubbish filled dross it it is today