Thursday 31 December 2015

Deptford food and drink - new kids on the block

Lots of new bars, cafes and pubs are opening up in and around Deptford - so many that I'm having trouble keeping track of them all, never mind checking out their wares and finding time to review them. The vast majority are independent, giving a great boost to the range of places on offer.

Here's a list of those I've noticed, with brief comments about the ones I've tried. None of them have been thoroughly reviewed; please feel free to add any feedback (or any I've missed) in the comments section.

London Velo 
Hardly a new kid on the block, but I've been too distracted with other things to blog about it since heralding its imminent arrival more than six months ago. It seems to have settled in nicely, although the evening opening that was a fixture when it first launched seems to have fizzled out - maybe not enough demand, or perhaps just for special events? According to Twitter, hours are now a regular 8-6 (9-6 on Sundays).

I've eaten here a couple of times; the food and coffee is good although it's generally a bit more expensive than similar Deptford High Street cafes. They also sell bike stuff such as clothing and accessories - the website suggests quite a range, although I haven't been into that part of the shop since the first time, when my eyes watered at the sight of panniers for £175.

It's also notable for regular fixture Maurice, the French bulldog who seems to like sitting just inside the door waiting to trip up hapless customers like me. 

Barely hours after I posted about the murky goings on in Creekside, street food trader Fleisch Mob announced that they were launching a pop-up restaurant in the former pizza bus. By all accounts they had to shell out a whole lot of cash to fix rotting floors and dodgy electrics to get the venue into a shape that was suitable for opening, and apparently only for a few months. The intention at the time of the launch was that it would only be there till the new year - now, according to the website it will be open again on 8 Jan so perhaps a longer 'pop-up' is in prospect? (Updated: apparently they now 'have the green light' to stay on at the bus for another year).

Wunderlust serves 'seasonal food with an Austrian influence' - the menu certainly features local ingredients from Kent, Essex and beyond, although the Austrian influence is harder to identify. Prices are higher than Deptford is used to, especially considering the surrounds - while generally cleaner and in better nick than before, with posh soap and hand cream in the ladies, you're still effectively eating in a covered yard.

I tried the food on the opening night and found it tasty and well-cooked; service was as you might expect on the first night (which was rammed) and I assume they have ironed out the glitches by now. 

As the name suggests, this new cafe in the Evelyn triangle is not particularly fancy, but it's very fairly priced and the food is tasty and filling. According to their Twitter profile, they work in partnership with Deptford Action Group for the Elderly (DAGE) and offer free tea and coffee to pensioners.  

Don't worry if you aren't old enough to benefit from the free beverages - prices are very reasonable and there's a range of sandwiches, quiches, soups and filled jacket potatoes on offer. Don't expect 'fancy' fillings like avocado or fried halloumi, but a (good quality) coffee and sandwich was less than a fiver when I visited, which is sufficient pay-off for me.

My only gripe would be the seating, which seems to be mostly sofas - not ideal for sitting in while you are eating, especially if they are the squishy 'pre-loved' kind. The Twitter profile says they are open seven days a week, but it was shut when I popped down on a Sunday in early December, so probably best not to rely on that.

Sneaking in on Resolution Way, just off the high street is Buster Mantis, a new bar and restaurant promising Jamaican-influenced food and drinks in two converted railway arches. 

It marks a new departure for Network Rail in the Deptford area; while arches are being converted all across south east London into micro breweries, eateries and delis, the trend is only just arriving here. It would be great to have one or two food and drink venues along Resolution Way, but I wouldn't like to see the wholesale loss of what still represent good-value rentals for offices, storage and space for small local businesses, bringing employment and a range of services to Deptford. 

I'm itching to check Buster Mantis out, but have been unable to do so as yet, there was a soft opening in late December, which I missed, and a (free-entry) New Years Eve do. But I intend to be there as soon as regular opening hours kick in - in particular I look forward to being able to enjoy West Indian food in a restaurant rather than just as a take-out.

This new corner cafe just opposite the Royal Albert on New Cross Road has been open just a month, serving similar fare (at similar prices) to London Velo. Handy if you are on the Brockley/New Cross side of Deptford, and it's friendly and comfortable.

I like the seats at the window for people-watching, and it's also a good spot for observing the traditional driving fuckwittery that seems to pervade this corner of London. Watching the shenanigans of motorists trying to execute the popular turns from Florence Road and Watson's St, using varied levels of diplomacy, will keep you entertained for hours.

Little Thames Walk cafe

Finally, one of the retail units in Creekside Village has found a useful purpose! This cafe is as yet so new that it doesn't seem to have either a website or Facebook page, but let's hope its presence will prompt other businesses to take up residence in those empty units.

The new cafe is on Little Thames Walk, one of the alleys through the Creekside development - look behind you as you go up Copperas St towards Greenwich. It's closed for the holidays at the moment, but promised hours include a 7am start and a 4pm finish, Monday to Sunday.

A wee bit out of the manor but a welcome new addition to the pub offerings in and around Deptford. Yes it's a chain pub, and it's close to the tourist fleshpots of Greenwich so it's likely to have a corporate approach rather than the homely appeal of local favourites such as the Dog & Bell, but I'm anticipating decently-kept ales and a reliable food offering. Its main attraction, especially for entertaining visitors, will be the riverfront views. Over two floors, there should be ample opportunity for exploiting its location.

The pub - on the riverfront of New Millennium Quay - is due to open in January (and is advertising for staff right now if you are looking for work.)

Finally let's not forget the Deptford Project, or Deptford Market Yard, or Rise or whatever it's called these days - the development next to Deptford station that's edging towards completion at an infinitesimally-slow rate. 

As well as a couple of large restaurant units in the new block and the refurbished St Paul's House, it's likely some of the small arch units will be taken on by coffee shops or food vendors. Whenever it completes (originally scheduled for May 2015, now presumably '2016') we are sure to see more competition/choice arriving. 

Let's see if Deptford has the appetite and the means to keep them all in business. 

Sunday 15 November 2015

How Deptford has changed in a decade

A lot has changed in Deptford in ten years. If you remember Little Mo's cafe, Witcomb Cycles, The Last Lick wine bar (yes really!) and the old butchers shop that used to sell tins of pease pudding, you might know some of the faces in Michael Smith's three-day photography project in Deptford in 2005 the photos from which he's finally got around to posting online.

Many of the faces are still around on the high street, just looking a bit older and a bit thinner on top, but a lot of them have come and gone. Michael wants to hear from anyone who knows any of the people in the pictures, contact him at

All photos copyright of Michael Smith; see if you recognise any of the others on his page.

Tuesday 3 November 2015

Petition to bring back the anchor

The Deptford Society has teamed up with Deptford is Forever to launch a new petition asking Lewisham Council to return the anchor to Deptford High Street.

The anchor was removed ahead of the high street refurbishment and in response to lobbying by some people who blamed it for attracting street drinkers to the south end of the high street. Money from the Mayor's outer London fund was used to pay for the refurbishment that was carried out - here's how the top of the street was intended to look after the work.

And here's what's there now: shabby and useless street furniture, electric points and broken bollards.

An abandoned waymarker, still wrapped in its plywood coffin. Covered in fly posters and slowly rotting.

An empty space where a cafe kiosk/row of trees/symbolic anchor/all three could happily co-exist. Now providing parking for Asda trucks to unload their goods noisily at anti-social hours.

The former setting of the anchor, on a low plinth, made it attractive to street drinkers, and their presence was one of the reasons given for its removal. Now the drinkers gather in Giffin Square instead, next to the school and library. 

Removing the anchor has swept away Deptford’s history, but the social issues persist. There is an empty space where the anchor once stood as a proud reminder of the Royal Dockyard. 
Our anchor can be reinstated without a plinth. The landscape architect responsible for installing the anchor in 1988 has said the plinth is not essential. There are many examples of anchors without plinths across London and the UK. 

Deptford began as a small fishing village and grew prosperous from its position on the river. The anchor serves as a reminder of the skills, industry, trade and international links so significant to the town’s history. We therefore demand that the Deptford Anchor is returned – without a plinth – to its rightful place, marking the gateway to the river where the town was born. 

It's time for something different. Time to bring back the anchor.
Sign it here.

Tuesday 27 October 2015

Deptford Park 'all weather' football pitch consultation

Lewisham Council is inviting feedback on its plans to put an astro-turf football pitch in the middle of the athletics track in Deptford Park. There's a month of consultation which started last week and goes on until 22 November by means of an online survey, with plans also due to be presented at the Evelyn Assembly at the Evelyn Community Centre in Kingfisher Square this Saturday.

I'm not far from Deptford Park but I rarely go there - probably because it's not very permeable, being surrounded by a big fence; it's not on the way to or from anywhere I want to go, and by and large it's quite well hidden from general view. It also has a rather old-world, forgotten feel to it, and certainly seems to have been well down the list for improvements over the years.

In 2008 a masterplan was developed and some changes were implemented, such as improvements to the entrance off Evelyn Street, but it has been slow progress. I haven't been back for some time so I'm not sure how many of the things that were highlighted on the plan have seen improvements. The fact that the map uses the word 'forlorn' is probably a good indication of the general feel of the place at the time.

On the plus side, it's tucked away behind houses that shelter it from the worst aspects of Evelyn Street, and mostly surrounded by quiet residential. It has a lot of mature plane trees, open space and benches for anyone wanting a bit of peace and quiet away from the hustle and bustle of Deptford; there's a playground for kids as well as the athletic track and a path all around the park circumference for runners. The 'secret garden' which was presumably created on a former bomb site where a gap was left in Evelyn St, is most definitely secret!

Does it need a flood-lit astro-turf pitch? It might be a good idea, if there was a clear shortage of such facilities in the local area - however I don't agree that that's the case.

For a start, it's just a stone's throw from the 'New Bermondsey' redevelopment on Surrey Canal Road where we are promised 'Energize Sports Centre & Onside Youth Zone' as part of phase two, which will include 'an indoor 3G football pitch that can be used by the Millwall Community Scheme (reproviding the Lions Centre), as well as for hockey and rugby and available to divide into 5-a-side pitches for hire to the leisure market'.

This is a huge development that was given outline planning permission three years ago but has yet to start on site. The fact that Boris announced earlier this year that New Bermondsey had been adopted as one of his new 'Housing Zones' might give it a rocket; if, like me, you've just read press release I linked to you'll be none the wiser about how these housing zones actually work. There's a bit more info here if you want to read further, but basically points mean prizes (and being chosen as an HZ makes you/the local authority eligible to bid for funding).

As his brochure says:
'The Mayor has made £400 million of funding available for Housing Zones. The funding can be used flexibly, from financing infrastructure to supporting individual schemes. This will maximise the number of new homes built and address the unique challenges at each site. The focus is on recovery and recycling investment, rather than conventional grant. Housing Zones are adaptable in terms of both funding and planning. That means it is up to London boroughs and their partners, to agree with the Mayor just what each Zone needs. in addition to investment, Housing Zones will offer focused planning, place-making and intensive engagement with a wide range of delivery partners important to making things happen, from utility companies to network Rail and Transport for London.'

But I digress. The park is also not far away from Deptford Green school, which coincidentally has a full size 4G astroturf pitch for hire (none of this 3G rubbish!). I think it's safe to say that demand is quite well addressed in this part of Deptford - especially when you take into account all the outdoor pitches that continue to be used throughout the year.

I'm not convinced it would be wise to do away with such a large area of wildlife habitat, carbon-dioxide-guzzling plants and a natural solution for soaking away rainwater without some serious consideration of the impact a football-pitch-worth of plastic would have on the ecosystem of the park.

Monday 12 October 2015

Silvertown Tunnel and beyond

Transport for London opened the formal 'consultation' on its Silvertown Tunnel scheme recently and is inviting the public to comment on the proposals.

The official line is that the Silvertown Tunnel (which will go under the river from the east side of the Greenwich Peninsula to the Royal Docks) is needed to relieve pressure on the Blackwall Tunnel and make it easier to cross the river in the east side of London.

While it might increase capacity under the river itself by doubling the amount of traffic lanes, this traffic will still have to squeeze into the same road system on each side of the river, so it seems obvious that the congestion on local roads each side of the tunnel will remain - and more than likely, will be exacerbated as it's long been known that new roads generate additional traffic. This was established by the Department of Transport itself, in its infamous Sactra report of 1994.

We already know that pollution levels in south east London are well above the EU recommended limits and additional traffic is only going to make the situation worse, with greater risks to public health, especially in children, the elderly and those who already suffer respiratory problems.

Quite aside from the debatable case for relieving congestion, is the fact that TFL is proposing to impose a charge on users of both the new tunnel and the existing one. They say this will be so that they can 'manage demand'. Hang on a minute, I thought the new tunnel was going to do that? So TFL is admitting that the new tunnel will not relieve the congestion, it will merely generate more traffic that will then have to be 'managed'. As an afterthought they also say that the user charges will pay for the tunnel to be built. Clearly the only reason they think they can get away with imposing charges is surely because there are so few other options for drivers in east London, especially if the Woolwich ferry is closed.

No to Silvertown Tunnel campaigners have published quite a lot of detail on their website, including the case against, and an interesting live air quality widget from the air quality centre at King's College.

We've also very recently seen the knock-on effect of the highway restrictions on Deptford Church Street, which came into play a couple of weeks ago. While these lane restrictions are currently only temporary, they are going to be in operation on and off for the next couple of years, and then for longer periods when the Thames Tunnel construction work actually starts. There's been a noticeable increase in traffic levels rat-running through the high street this last couple of weeks, and not only are there more vehicles, the proportion of heavy goods vehicles and lorries also seems to have increased.

Admittedly I've no solid evidence to back this up (traffic survey anyone?), it is merely perception, but considering I walk or cycle up and down the high street at least once on most days, it is a fairly well-informed perception. There's also been an increase in the number of times I have to dodge out of the way to avoid cars and even HGVs which mount the pavement to drive along because they can't be arsed to wait for parking drivers, or oncoming traffic. This type of behaviour appears to be ingrained as perfectly acceptable in the drivers who use the high street. I think it's high time the council took a proper interest in traffic levels, safety and driver behaviour on Deptford High Street and began to think seriously about how it can be improved.

Tuesday 22 September 2015

Deptford X 2015

Deptford X is one of my favourite times of the year in Deptford and as always, there's a packed programme of shows, events and open studios to get round in the week-long festival.

It kicks off on Friday from Deptford X's new home in Brookmill Road - an art gallery that was proposed as part of the Seager Distillery redevelopment and originally located in the lower floors of what's now Stay City. Under pressure from the developers, who claimed they had a four-star hotel operator lined up to occupy this building, the council allowed them to relocate the art gallery to Brookmill Road.

The gallery fronts onto Brookmill Road (while Deptford Broadway gets the blanked-out windows of Stay City apartments). Notwithstanding this, it's fantastic to see Deptford X getting a permanent home at last - they also have artist studios available for a very reasonable rent, although I understand they are mostly without natural light, so will only appeal to some.

Deptford X
Lead artist is Janette Parris, whose animation about Deptford will be showing throughout the festival at the Deptford Lounge. Her illustrations are colourful and quirky, I even recognise some of my favourite vendors on them. Her work will also be in a group show she has curated at the Deptford X gallery.

If you like your art in less conventional spaces, why not check out Uncle Ned's Beds at 147 Lewisham Way on Friday evening where Bernadette Russell's Bed will be taking place?

Bed explores magic, dreams, the power of suggestion, and the wonder of stories. It’s revisiting that childhood bedtime story experience as an adult, and it’s about what happens when we’re asleep in these times, when more and more of us have difficulty sleeping. 

Bed includes a 16th century spell and sweets made by a witch. What happens: in exchange for one story, you will be asked to sign a contract to provide Bernadette with the first dream you remember after this encounter. Your dream will provide inspiration for the next story, to be read to someone else, at some point in the future. After having listened to the story, you will be given instructions, which you may or may not choose to carry out, the contents of which are aimed at influencing your dreams. 

Bed takes about half an hour, for participants, it's free and non-ticketed - you just turn up and take a raffle ticket. They are also helpfully providing tea and cakes in exchange for a small donation to Macmillan.

One of my favourite Deptford X artists from last year, and winner of the 2014 fringe award - Luis Ignacio Rodriguez, who performed as a dancing builder on top of the Bird's Nest pub - is back again, on the main programme this year. 

This year Luis  is promising 'a series of daily LuisTV broadcasts, in, on, and for Deptford, ranging from 10 to 30 minutes, live on Periscope (viewable on various platforms), and displayed on a screen at Deptford Lounge throughout the festival. It will be recorded from various points in Deptford, from a market stall to a neighbour’s balcony, from the station to a takeaway shop, from some hidden corner to the LuisTV phone boxes. 

Look out for the standalone cardboard cutouts for the daily schedule. Programmes will vary in format and content, but, whenever possible, the public will be able to take part in them. Audiences can expect different programmes featuring exhibition reviews, interviews, puppet characters, art reading, walks, Deptford stories and more.'

You can see the broadcasts at the Deptford Lounge, or from the comfort of your own home on this channel

As well as the main programme, there's an extensive range of stuff going on in the fringe programme, so don't forget to check it out - in venues conventional and unexpected - right across Deptford and surrounds.

Join Sean Roy Parker in the Old Tidemill wildlife garden to contribute your own 'exhibits' as part of the trading post; there's Deptford Delft at Deli X - reflecting Deptford's past history of shipbuilding and commenting on its future of potential gentrification; or check out The One:One Collective's interrogation of Deptford housing in Giffin Square. 

Open studios
The studios around Deptford that are part of the regular Deptford X trail are this year joined by the Propellor Foundry on Childers St - Acme Studios has been there for 25 years but seems to have recently been rebranded. 

I'm looking forward to getting a look inside - the huge windows of the building and the tantalising glimpses of artists at work have always made me curious about these studios, so it will be good to get a look inside.

They have open studios on 3 and 4 October from 12-6, publicised thus: 

"The event will both include features such as a ‘Historic View’ comprising a video and graphic story of the Propeller Foundry building and its industrial heritage and a ‘Family Trail’ for the younger family visitors. We will be holding a silent auction of artists' postcards over the weekend; artworks will be available to be viewed online from 26th September. We will also be opening the ‘Foundry Gallery’ which will exhibit selected works. Refreshments will be available, including hand-crafted pastries and a range of freshly ground coffee."

If you are able to get there in time after a day at the office, you might want to join the architectural tour of Deptford being led by Burwell Deakins Architects on 1 October at 6pm.

"Although often overshadowed by the grandeur of Wren’s neighbouring Greenwich, Deptford itself is not lacking in architectural significance. Buildings designed by a Stirling Prize winner, RIBA Gold Medalist, international starchitects and some of the UK’s best emerging talent can be found within this rapidly changing Thames-side community. Join Deptford-based award-winning architect Nicholas Burwell and architectural historian and local resident Tom Ravenscroft for a walking tour of Deptford, where we will explore the historical highlights, modern masterpieces and hidden contemporary gems of this lively neighbourhood."

Or maybe you want to create your own guide persona and film your personal guide to Deptford? A project created by artist Jack Brown working with students from Tidemill Academy aims to do just that - and members of the public can join in either at the workshop on 1 October at the Albany, or simply by creating their own film and uploading it to You Tube, labelling it 'deptfordxtourguide'. 

And of course there's the regular South London Art Map tour taking place this Friday if you want a guided tour and an expert's view on the festival - tickets can be booked online.

Full programme available here

Friday 18 September 2015

Open House in south east London

It's Open House London this weekend, the one time in the year that you get to snoop behind the doors of buildings, houses and other structures that are normally off limits to the public.

It's also a great opportunity for me to write something fluffy and cuddly for any commenters who think I should stop moaning and pretend everything's rosy in the garden. Don't expect me to keep it up though - I'm far more interested in digging into murky dealings by local landowners or commenting on planning applications. If you're looking for jolly restaurant reviews, events listings and bland observations about the local area you'll be sure to find them elsewhere.

On the doorstep
If you want to keep it local, there's plenty to see in and around Deptford and they are all worth a look if you haven't been before. These are Deptford Green School (you will have to be well-organised, only on Saturday 10-11.30); Deptford Lounge (tours on Sunday 11-5); Rachel McMillan Nursery School and Children's Centre (Saturday 10-1); South East London Combined Heat & Power station (Sunday 10-3); Seager Distillery Tower (Saturday 10-5, Sunday, 10-1).

Through the looking glass at the top of the Seager tower

Don't be confused by the suggestion of 'tours' at the Seager Distillery Tower - it's essentially a lift to the top floor where you get to enjoy the views. While dramatic, they are a bit restricted by the fact that the glazing is substantial and it's not fully 360 degrees, more like about 250 degrees around. But still worth it.

A bit more effort
If you want to go a bit further afield and are looking for something a bit different, here's some ideas.  I've tried to avoid any where pre-booking is required - these are all turn up on the day.

Trinity Hospital, Greenwich
A chance for a closer look at this lovely building should not be passed up - drop by on Saturday between 10am and 4pm and you'll be granted admission to the courtyard and chapel of the early 17th century almshouses, which sit somewhat incongruously next to the looming brick of the old power station. And you have the splendid Cutty Sark pub just a few minutes away for great ale and food.

Saturday 10-4

Severndroog Castle, Oxleas Wood
Even if you don't manage to get here for the free tours on Sunday, I recommend a visit some other time. There's not a whole lot to see in the actual building, but the views will keep you up on the tower top for some time. When I visited it was cold and drizzly - the tower top had been closed earlier that day due to the pissing rain - but we still lingered for some time, admiring the views and trying to work out what everything was and spot the familiar landmarks.

There's also a cafe in the bottom selling lovely soup, sandwiches and cake - you can sit outside on fine days - and of course you have the whole of the woodlands to enjoy too.

Bring plastic boxes for blackberries either here or on nearby Woolwich Common.

Sunday 10.30 to 4.30

I went on a tour of this new building in the heart of Greenwich when it opened a year ago, and was greatly impressed - little wonder it's nominated for this year's Stirling Prize. Definitely worth visiting, there's plenty to see behind the striking facade - including roof garden study spaces, a TV studio, beautiful library and plenty of other interesting study spaces. I visited just ahead of the first student intake - it will be fascinating to see how and if it's changed.

Saturday 10-5
Sunday 10-5

You'll have to excuse me for including this crime against architecture in my list, but I do have good reason. Firstly, it's always better to be inside an ugly building looking out, and secondly I reckon there could be some good views to be had. Apparently it has the largest pillarless ballroom in Europe (3,100sqm since you ask), 453 rooms, conference spaces and 'sky bar' (is that some kind of celestial structural engineering gadget?) in its 18-storied glory.

There's no detail of which of these attractions you get to visit in the guided tours, but hey, it's free!

Saturday 10-1 (tours on the hour)

Under construction - arguably more attractive than now

Slice of reality, Thames Path near the O2 Arena.

I've been trying to get on this chopped up bit of ship that hovers on the fringe of the river next to the Millennium Dome for years but always seem to miss it! It's a combined sculpture/studio for its creator Richard Wilson, which explains why you will sometimes see it occupied. Diamond Geezer went to it during Open House a few years ago and his blog post tells the interesting story of how it came to be there.

Saturday 10-5

(Photo: Chris J Dixon)

There's plenty more gems in the listings that I just don't have time to cover, including 'Many ways to sit: the social dynamics of General Gordon Square' in Woolwich, which takes a look at the public realm, the problems and potential of seating in public places - presumably how to balance the needs of the general public against the perceived problem of attracting street drinkers and the like.

Use the listings here to search by borough, date or type of building. Open House has also created an app which is available for £2.99 and is a great way of supporting the charity that organises this annual event.

Wednesday 2 September 2015

Murky goings on in Creekside

It's coming up to three months since Deptford's Big Red Pizza bus abruptly closed its doors for 'refurbishment'. If you are waiting for it to reopen, I suggest you don't hold your breath.

Despite the fact that the service was occasionally shambolic and the toilets none too clean - not to mention the removal of my favourite chorizo and morcilla pizza from the menu a couple of years ago - I still enjoyed my visits and the pizzas were always worth the trip.

Its success was largely down to the staff, serving up consistently good food and being welcoming and helpful in accommodating whatever was thrown at them.

The closure was sudden and unplanned - not how 'refurbishment' usually happens - they even had to cancel bookings for Fathers Day which they'd been promoting only a day or two earlier.

Just a few days later came the sudden closure.

Since then the Twitter feed has been one a long string of increasingly-plaintive claims that there will be 'news' soon, and links to the website where you can sign up for their mailing list in order to be the first to hear about the 'exciting new developments'. I'm starting to wonder how long the person doing the feed can keep this up for.

What's more, if you have been past the Big Red recently, you'll be forgiven for thinking "what refurbishments?!" No sign of life, never mind refurbishments, within the ramshackle enclosure - if you don't count the rats of course.

So, what the fuck is going on?

Landowner John Cierach was the sole director of the operating company, Busbar Ltd, when it went into voluntary liquidation on 9 June. Staff were sent home without proper redundancy pay or compensation, some of them having worked there from the start. The winding up details say that the company owed £230k; according to the statement of affairs, some £78k of this was owed to Cierach himself, and some £85k to a company called Meredale (director J Cierach, secretary Mrs F Cierach) in lieu of rent.

Busbar Ltd also owed £30k to HMRC in income tax and £45k in VAT, as well as being in debt to EDF Energy to the tune of almost £10k. Not a happy state of affairs if you are planning to reopen a business any time soon. But a new company Bus2bar Ltd was registered in April (director Anthony John Mark Cierach) and maybe it is only a matter of time till the Big Red rises phoenix-like from the ashes. I don't know enough about corporate fraud or the insolvency laws to comment further, but there's a strong whiff of something dodgy going on if you ask me.

Cierach not only owns the business and the land on which the Big Red Pizza bus is parked (most of it at least, although I understand it does encroach over the Birds Nest's boundary), he also owns 2 Creekside (the big yard behind the Birds Nest pub) and 3 Creekside, site of the old Medina print works across the road. The latter is actually owned by a company called Grestar Ltd (directors Anthony John Mark Cierach and Fiona Cierach).

He has aspirations to develop all of this land, but his aspirations occasionally suffer from a lack of practicality - some might say they are even borderline delusional. Anyone want to buy a new flat under the DLR viaduct?

Maybe not even Cierach believes he will get permission for a large residential development at number 2, but his latest wheeze is that he is going to establish a Shoreditch boxpark market thingy on the land. All the paying tenants have moved elsewhere, and the yard that remains is a jumble of rubbish and discarded crap. If his ramshackle extensions and additions to the pizza bus are anything to go by, he is not known for his quality building work, so don't expect Deptford Boxpark to look anything like this.

For a start, there is a whole heap of shit still to be cleared out of the yard. Probably best to wait for that to happen first, before signing a lease on a new pop-up designer boutique container shop thingy.

Thursday 27 August 2015

Hotel plans for Deptford High Street.

In eight years of delving into the annals of planning proposals in order to write this blog I've read some ludicrous proposals, but I have to say that this one pretty much takes the biscuit.

It's been rumoured for several years now that the owner of this unattractive block of flats next to Deptford station had plans to convert it into a hotel, but as yet there is nothing in the planning system. With a 'public exhibition' now in the offing in early September, it seems that the scheme could be moving forward.

The flyer says that the owner of the site, Masstrade, wants to redevelop the site and build 'a high quality design hotel, including ground floor lobby with active uses and an improved community space for Our Lady of the Assumption Church'.

It would be hard to make this already-pitiful building look attractive, but the photographer and poster designer seem to have conspired to grime it up as much as possible, presumably so that we all agree it would be a blessing if it were rapidly flattened. I'm not necessarily arguing against that; my soul seems to die a little every time my eyes are forced to alight on its cheap and badly-proportioned exterior, and it adds little aesthetic value to the streetscape.

But turn the flyer over and take a look at the 'high quality design hotel' that is being proposed. I wonder if Masstrade got the 'architect' from the previous post to do a bit of moonlighting for them?

My untutored eyes are telling me that this is not a building, it is a stack of Ikea Billy bookcases. I am quite convinced that's what it's modelled on in any case. It most certainly is not 'high quality design', in fact it is close to making the existing structure look accomplished.

Whatever the quality of the building, I fail to see how change of use to a hotel will improve on the current use  - the upper levels currently provide six flats and there are two shop units at ground level, which with some investment could surely be lucrative for the owner, being right next to the station.

A hotel?

Fundamentally I cannot see any logic for building a hotel slap bang in the middle of Deptford High Street. A rash of new hotels sprang up several years back on Deptford Broadway and surrounds in anticipation of Olympic fever - the huge Travelodge, Premier Inn and Mercure brands moving in within spitting distance of one another. The 'boutique' hotel slated for the Distillery development failed to materialise, and it turned into Staycity apartments. I've often remarked how bleak the 'hotel reception' makes this stretch of the highway.

But according to the flyer for Deptford High St, there are many benefits. For a start 'hotels tend to draw more of their employees from the local area than other types of businesses', which is the first time I've heard this stated as fact. Perhaps those people renting the new flats in The Deptford Project need some zero-hours, minimum-wage work to cover the mortgage?

'Guests will use local shops, restaurants and services' it claims, which I very much doubt. Unlike the residents who actually live in the existing flats.

'The building will provide a new meeting hall for the catholic church next door'. Probably because the church owns the land at the back (and the freehold of the entire site) and it's the only way the developer can persuade them to let him build half a dozen extra storeys on top of it. Don't be fooled into thinking he's doing this out of the goodness of his heart, or a love for Deptford community.

'Providing active ground floor uses. Adding to the vitality and vibrancy of the local area'. Leaving aside the grammar, my only comment would be: 'in the same way as Stay City?'

'Contributing to regeneration'. By replacing one ugly building (which incidentally is only about 20 years old) by a newer one.

'Delivering accommodation. Meeting the need for quality overnight accommodation in the area.'

I thought it would be a great opportunity to test the statement that there is a need for quality accommodation in the area. Thursday night in August, just ahead of the bank holiday weekend. Nearly 10pm. Would I be able to find a room locally when according to the developer there's a dearth of quality accommodation....?

For two people wanting a double room tonight, the following are available:
Staycity apartments  (£72)
Mercure Greenwich (£107)
Novotel Greenwich (£110)
Ibis (£89)
De Vere Devonport House (£88)
Premier Inn on Greenwich South St (£115)

I rest my case, m'lud.

Want to find out more? (or count how many Billy bookcases it takes to build a hotel)
Public exhibitions at the Deptford Lounge Foyer on Saturday 5th September (10am to 2pm) and Monday 7th September (4pm to 8pm).

Thursday 13 August 2015

'Derelict' Deptford

There's something chillingly cynical about the 'for sale' sign on the former Lord Palmerston pub on Childers Street which advertises the £1.3 million building as a 'freehold derelict pub for sale'.

'Derelict: (adjective) in a very poor condition as a result of disuse and neglect'

This building is so 'derelict' that it's currently being used as a site office by the contractor working on the conversion of the old SR House next door.

Yes, it's so 'derelict' that until very recently the upper storeys were occupied by property guardians who have been living there since the pub closed a couple of years ago. While I'm sure it's no des res, the building looks far from derelict to me and there's absolutely nothing in the sales information to back up this claim.

The subtext of this wording, of course, is 'ripe for redevelopment' and helpfully the agent selling it, Acorn Commercial, has included a rendering in the sales brochure as to what this redevelopment could look like. Look away now if you are of a sensitive disposition. 

The only positive note is that the rendering above does not represent an actual scheme with planning permission, it's just the tawdry imaginings of some back-room wage slave who dreamed of being the next Norman Foster but is more likely to become the next Norman Bates. 

It's not even a fair match for the grey horror on the right, which is intended to represent the redevelopment of SR House, currently under construction behind its retained facade.