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.