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. 

Friday 7 August 2015

Deptford sunflowers

I've been enjoying watching these sunflowers sprout up and raise their yellow faces to the sky, making a mockery of the council's neglect of this car park on Vanguard St and Glendale's wholesale removal of all signs of life from the borders last year.

Sadly some norbert has been trying to pull the flower heads off the plants - as well as being a selfish oaf, they have no doubt found that sunflower stalks are pretty damn tough and unless you are going to carry a big pair of shears with you, you're unlikely to end up with anything worth displaying in your house. It's always a risk with guerrilla gardening, but one that's worth taking in my opinion.

These particular flowers were planted by local residents, I understand, using packets of seeds that cost £1 from Terry's shop on the high street, and planted in less than an hour.

Hopefully there's lots of others out there who've enjoyed seeing these towering beauties cocking a snook at the council's planting policy for this corner of SE8. 

Keeping my fingers crossed that this year's success will lead to a repeat planting next year.

Wednesday 5 August 2015

The Burning Church

It wasn't long since that the idea of a pub crawl on Deptford High Street was laughable - the rather skanky White Swan* being the only regular drinking venue on the street, if you didn't count the shebeens and late night clubs.

But then the Job Centre turned up as a regular fixture, and although Little Nan's cocktails came and went in all too short a time, it was fun while it lasted.

Now however we are starting to see a few new venues appearing on a regular basis, and for a lightweight like me, the idea of a pub crawl along the high street is starting to seem like a possibility at last! I haven't yet tried out the evening fayre at London Velo cafe at the top end of the high street - their beer offering did not look too hopeful when I was last in there - but I am going to try and get sample it sometime soon.

However I've tried the Waiting Room's Friday and Saturday night pop-up bar The Burning Church a couple of times for ales and cocktails. They have commissioned a special Deptford Anchor light blonde ale to sell in the bar - it's rather too light and fizzy for my liking and the bottles I had were thoroughly chilled but apparently you can have it at room temperature if you prefer. It's £3.50 a bottle  and invaluable for keeping the spirit of the anchor alive.

I think the cocktails won me over though - featuring ingredients such as Deptford Dock Gin, oodles of dark rum, and as you might expect for a pop up bar in a coffee shop, lots of cocktails with espresso-based liqueurs and coffee husks. As you might expect in the Waiting Room, made with loving care and a bit of ceremony but not the ridiculously flash and long-winded performance that you get in those pretentious joints.

(Photo: Waiting Room)
Sure, it's a tiny place and you can't get more than a dozen or so people in there without it getting pretty cosy, but it's been pretty laid back when I've been in, and there's always the tables outside on the pavement if it's not British summer weather! Open till 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays, they also serve their veggie and vegan food in the evenings - a useful alternative to the Job Centre kitchen hijack which is not always very veggie-friendly.

*Incidentally I did notice last weekend that the White Swan was undergoing a bit of a refurb, although I didn't see any sign of hand pumps appearing on the bar so not wildly optimistic about that.