Wednesday 28 January 2015

Has TFL finally got the message about Deal's Gateway?

Transport for London has today launched a consultation into further revisions of the major highway junction at Deal's Gateway where Greenwich High Road joins the A2 just east of Deptford Bridge DLR station.

The proposed changes to the highway markings and layout are shown above (and explained in more detail on the consultation site) but the most significant concession is TFL's acceptance that separate green phases are needed for lights controlling traffic from Deal's Gateway and Greenwich High Road. The addition of new pedestrian crossings is also welcomed.

It's now more than four years since the original change that saw the separate green phases being removed after TFL deemed them unnecessary, leading to treacherous conditions for traffic (which includes a large proportion of cyclists) exiting from Deal's Gateway to Greenwich High Road.

A concerted campaign by Lewisham Cyclists - including some hair-raising videos of the conditions - led to some minor changes being implemented, but despite this, no significant change to the signal phasing.

It's great news that they are finally considering bringing the separate phases back, it will make a huge difference to all the traffic that uses this route, not just cyclists.

With changes to the adjacent junction at Deptford Broadway currently under discussion, let's hope they can learn from the experience and pay attention to feedback from user groups such as cyclists and pedestrians so that they can get the improvements right first time round.

Saturday 24 January 2015

Kent Wharf planning application

Crosswhatfields has already written in some detail about the planning application for Kent Wharf on Creekside, a parcel of land which extends from opposite Ferranti Park to the banks of Deptford Creek, and which now includes the VW parts dealer/garage directly opposite the end of Bronze Street. Sun Wharf, which is where Jones Furniture is currently housed, is expected to be redeveloped once Jones' lease expires in 2022 (or earlier presumably if they find another site and decide to move on before they are shown the door - one more sad employment loss for Deptford). It's another prime Creekside spot, so expect lots more high rise residential to be proposed.

The planning application for this site is already with Lewisham's planning department and the 'official' consultation period ended early in January.

But if you want to comment don't let this put you off; the planning officers will accept feedback right up to the time the application is considered by the strategic planning committee, although the sooner you get your comments in, the more likely they are to impact on the final report.

As always, don't forget to copy your comments to your local councillors, as well as members of the strategic planning committee, whose details can be found here. Objections and other feedback is usually summed up by the planning officers for the purpose of the report, so it has a more direct impact if you copy it to the councillors themselves (assuming they read it of course!).

The application is for a mixed use development at Kent Wharf and 24a Creekside which will consist of three buildings ranging from six to 16 storeys, containing 143 flats and 1,375 square metres of 'commercial' floorspace.

What kind of trees are those? Monster trees?!
The 16-storey building has been put at the corner of the site, apparently after a series of pre-application meetings with council planners and feedback from the design review panel, much of which is detailed in the design & access statement if you want to read it. There's a lot of focus on how the buildings reached their final positions and layouts, but little on how they reached their final heights, which I would have been more interested to hear. 

As usual there seems to have been no consideration as to what is appropriate in terms of building heights for the area, with developers always benchmarking their proposals against the tallest examples they can find. It would be so refreshing to read a design statement explaining how the architects had put together a masterplan that respected the four-storey neighbouring residences rather than ones that competed with a series of blocks three streets away. They nearly always try to justify towers as creating 'landmarks' and 'way finders' but fail to acknowledge that it's going to be impossible to identify one from the other when they are all the same height and block views of anything but the street and the nearest facade.

View from Deptford Creek - the white block on the left is the building currently housing Jones Furniture 

In the case of this application, the height of the buildings is my biggest gripe, mainly due to the impacts they are going to have on the neighbouring land, in particular the public spaces and parks which will suffer much greater shadowing as a result. But is there any process for measuring this loss of amenity? Some of the flats on Crossfields estate will also lose light as a result of the tower and they have a case for objecting - ultimately though the greater good of building more housing will no doubt prevail over the quiet enjoyment of a handful of residents. 

The view along Creekside with the three-storey Cockpit Arts in the foreground. More monster trees!

Just one more word about scale: the elevation above, which is looking directly at Kent Wharf from the Deptford High St direction, is useful in that it shows the scale of the smallest buildings - you will have to peer on the extreme right of the image where you can see the Cockpit Arts studios coming into view. And below is a mock-up of the scheme in situ, although the only item for scale here is the shelter in Ferranti Park.

Of the 143 housing units, only 18 will be allocated to anything other than private ownership. They will be 'intermediate', which is officially defined as 'homes for sale and rent provided at a cost above social rent, but below market levels subject to the criteria in the Affordable Housing definition. These can include shared equity (shared ownership and equity loans), other low cost homes for sale and intermediate rent, but not affordable rented housing'. As a percentage of the whole development it's pitifully low, even in these supposedly straitened times. I hope the planning committee will raise this as an issue since it now seems to be a favourite theme for Lewisham's mayor.

I put this rendering in to show the view from street level, although it was cropped in the report, preventing me from enjoying the full rearing presence of the main tower. The inclusion of only two cars makes it look very weird, especially without any of the double parking that's usually rife along this stretch of Creekside. 

Which brings me to traffic and parking.

The development includes just three car parking spaces, which I welcome wholeheartedly. The cycle parking provision is not as good as it could be, but still generous. Of course the lack of parking will encourage the new residents to use the surrounding streets - already heavily overloaded both in daytime with local workers and commuters and overnight with residents - making the introduction of a controlled parking zone inevitable. However the site's proximity to the boundary with Greenwich will need the two to work together if this is going to be successful. According to the transport assessment, residents of the new blocks will not be eligible to apply for parking permits if and when a CPZ is introduced.

Construction traffic is stacking up to be a major problem on Creekside - not necessarily due to this development, but the cumulative impact of the multiple developments that are expected to move to construction shortly. Everyone makes noises about using Deptford Creek for material deliveries and spoil removal, but no-one has made any effort to actually put it into practice. 

Don't forget the Thames Tunnel shaft is expected to start construction some time soon, requiring Deptford Church Street to be shut down to just two lanes for a period of three years, and requiring a predicted 140 vehicle movements per day. Faircharm redevelopment is estimated to require 180 vehicle movements per day so Kent Wharf's 20 vehicles (or 40 vehicle movements) is a mere drop in the ocean. But with the two sites next to Creekside Village having applications pending, not to mention Convoys Wharf, we look set to be dodging HGVs for the next five years or more. 

I was particularly confused to read that construction traffic is only being allowed to come via the A2 because the lifting bridge on Creek Road is dodgy (er, get it fixed? It has no weight limit posted as far as I can see). 

The travel plan suggests construction traffic should turn along Creekside at the Birds Nest roundabout which seems like a particularly risky route - not only will traffic be snarled up by the heavy parking that Creekside endures, but it will direct traffic along a quite major cycling route. HGVs and cycles? Rarely ends well.

I also gave a hollow laugh when I read that construction workers would not be allowed to park on the roads in the vicinity, and this would be policed by the contractor. The shambolic situation on Norman Road and surrounds (cars parked halfway up the Ha'penny Hatch footpath) when the Movement was being built was brought to mind, and the efforts and nagging I know people had to exert to get the situation resolved to any extent. It's a fine aim but in my opinion not worth the paper it's written on - many subcontractors are expected to bring their own tools and equipment and in practice I cannot see how this can be imposed.

One of the positives aspects which the design review process seems to have brought to this development is accessibility to the creek and some level of permeability on the site. A new path will open up access to the Creek, and presumably link into one alongside the Laban (otherwise it will be an utterly pointless dead end).

From the ground floor plan (above) you might be forgiven for thinking it is three buildings but in fact the two on Creekside are actually linked about ground floor level (see below)

A walkway leads into what they are classifying as 'semi-private' space - on paper a nice idea but even in this rendering I can't help wondering what those shady-looking characters are doing hanging about in the underpass.

Thursday 22 January 2015

Job Centre pub forced to launch petition for a kitchen

Right I've been silent on this for long enough.

I was so excited about getting a new pub on Deptford High Street, especially one run by a company whose reputation for well-kept ales and good pub food was already well-established in the area via the Royal Albert in New Cross.

With the opening of the Job Centre last year, there was finally a glimmer of hope that Deptford High Street did have the potential to become an evening destination for pub food as well as Vietnamese cafes and our old favourite the Orient.

Ever since it opened we have been continuously taunted by the promise of a kitchen arriving 'soon'. The original refit included an obvious kitchen space which made it seem utterly likely that the fit-out was simply delayed by a lack of organisation on behalf of Antic's overworked builders, or perhaps a slight problem with programming.

In the end I stopped asking as the usual answer ('apparently coming soon') started to be accompanied by a long sigh and a visible slump in the shoulders. When I took the decision to celebrate a special occasion there, I did my own catering. My own catering. In a pub.

All this time the usual Antic antics continued. New pubs opened left, right and centre. The Woolwich Equitable even opened in November with a brand new finished kitchen in situ and I considered unfollowing them on Twitter because of the constant tweets about lovely-looking food being served at the other end of SE London.

All these shenanigans were annoying enough, but now the Job Centre has been forced to set up a petition in order to get Antic's numpty overlords to concede that people in Deptford are not just out-and-out lushes, they ACTUALLY EAT TOO! They are asking customers to lobby for a kitchen by signing the petition at the bar - a strange way to run a business if you ask me.

Does Antic make all its decisions on the basis of names on a piece of paper? And what about those potential customers who don't visit purely because there's no food? How does Antic intend to gather market intelligence on that particular demographic?

Why open a cavernous pub on our high street, bring us fine ales served by friendly and helpful staff and then make us grovel for sustenance?

I say fuck your petition. 

Just get a kitchen in there and I will visit on a regular basis, at least once a week, and I will buy food. I will also most likely buy more drink than I do at the moment since I usually have to leave after a couple of pints because I need to eat. I cannot survive on your sausage rolls, however nice they are.

I'm sure many of you out there agree; feel free to comment, share this, tweet @Antic_London or go straight into the ear of the boss via their website (play nicely now).

Thursday 15 January 2015

New riverside path finally on the horizon

On a morning pootle earlier this week I discovered that the riverside route from Wood Wharf through to New Crapital Quay is finally open! Yes, the much-misused cul-de-sac that used to serve as an impromptu rain shelter for fisherman, not to mention a venue for the misplaced youth of Greenwich, has finally achieved a more useful purpose. 

It's not much of a change at the moment, but does continue the traffic-free link a few hundred yards further towards Deptford. In due course there will be a new pub on the riverside as another stopping off point, but right now it's just a swathe of underwhelming public realm with more oddly-positioned seating (a view directly into someone's front room, anyone?).

From next Monday, of course, the route will continue still further with the opening of the new Deptford Creek swing bridge. The official opening takes place at 9am, for anyone who wants to attend and doesn't have a job to go to.

Wednesday 14 January 2015

Asda coming to Deptford High Street

A tip-off last night alerted me to the licensing applications that are plastered all over 5-9 Deptford High Street (currently the cheap end of the row, the 99p Store).

Apparently Asda is applying for a licence to sell alcohol from 7am to 12 midnight at the premises, suggesting that the 99p Store's days are numbered. 

I have never come across one of Asda's 'convenience' stores so I've no idea what to expect, although I know like all the other chains they are looking to the high street as their saviour, and turning away from the out of town megastores. My only experience of shopping at Asda prompts memories of shelves full of enormous boxes of everything, with the only discounts available if you bought multiple enormous boxes. Bugger-all use for a single person in a London flat, unless of course you've got a lock up shed for the extra. 

So what will it mean for Deptford High Street, aside from the lurid green signage and even more places for cheap booze?

Some competition for Tesco won't be a bad thing, although I have to admit that the latter seems to have pulled its socks up a bit recently in terms of its stock. I only ever go in there to buy the things that Deptford High Street has failed on or when everywhere else is shut and I've noticed recently that I've generally been able to find what I need, which is a change from the situation when it first opened. 

Perhaps they got wind of what was happening - they probably had their eye on the unit themselves, hey you can never have too many Tesco stores apparently!

Depending on what they stock - and don't forget that's a pretty spacious retail unit - it could impact on the rest of the food stores on the high street and potentially even the market. With booze on sale 17 hours a day it will certainly offer competition to the multiple off-licenses at that end of the street. 

To challenge the licence application you should email no later than 10th February. Be aware though that there are only certain grounds on which you can challenge such an application. For more details see the information on the council website. 

Greenwich Line User Group wants your comments

The Greenwich Line User Group, aka Glug (sounds like my kinda group!) is meeting next week to review the impact of service changes on local train passengers. With no more direct trains to Charing Cross from our local station, how are people coping with these changes and are they finding themselves out of pocket because of it? Are tickets being accepted on alternative routes?

Our local Deptford representative is asking for feedback from passengers on their experiences so far; please either leave comments in the space below or email them to the address in the sidebar and I will forward them.