Monday 18 December 2017

The anchor cometh

The imminent return of the anchor to Deptford High Street is a demonstration that people power really can make a difference - although you do have to be incredibly bloody-minded and tenacious, particularly if it involves dealing with local councils.

Luckily Deptford has got more than its fair share of bloody-minded and tenacious folk, some of whom were not willing to take no for an answer after the council removed the anchor from the south end of the high street during the renovation works in 2013.

The anchor was a much-loved reminder of Deptford's maritime past; it might not have originated from a Deptford-built ship, but it provided a symbolic link to the prosperous days of Deptford's Royal Dockyard and local people did not take kindly to it being removed. Long term followers of this blog may recall that I was particularly narked about the consultation that took place before its removal; the consultation included a question about what should happen to the anchor, and 84% of respondents agreed that it should remain in Deptford.

However council officers chose to interpret this as supporting the permanent relocation of the anchor to Convoys Wharf - something I'll wager not a single one of those respondents even considered would be an option.

Lobbying for its return has been a long and complex process, with the usual meetings, petitions and lobbying being interspersed Deptford-stylee with parades, street interviews, posters, paper bags, tattoos, chalk and red tape - both literally and figuratively. If you want to read all the ins and outs, they are set out in minute detail on the Deptford Is Forever website. Tireless efforts by DIF and the Deptford Society were fundamental to getting this issue resolved, despite repeated efforts by council officers and even some council members to obfuscate, delay and derail the process.

Cutting a long story short, the upshot of all this activity is that a mere five years since being removed (a drop in the ocean of Deptford's history) the anchor will be restored almost to the exact spot, but without the plinth that created a handy seating area for Deptford's street drinkers.

As we all predicted, the street drinkers did not magically disappear when the anchor was removed - they just relocated to other places in the high street where they had somewhere to sit - Giffin Street and Douglas Square are firm favourites now.

Anchor and plinth - ideal for an alfresco pint
Anchor no plinth - not so comfy

Current ETA is February although don't hold your breath; the ETA has slipped a few times already, but there's no reason to think it won't happen. Planning applications have been submitted and approved, funds have been found (from the appropriate part of the community infrastructure levy, one assumes) contractors have been briefed and all they have to do now is get Hutchison Whampoa to let them on the site to pick up the anchor for a good wash and brush up ready for its triumphant return. 

I'll certainly be raising a glass (discreetly of course) to celebrate.

Sunday 29 October 2017

The scandal of Deptford's empty homes and abandoned public realm

When Lewisham Council spends £4 million annually on providing temporary accommodation, and the borough has one of the highest levels of rough sleepers in London, why are newly-built apartments allowed to stand empty?

And why is the council allowing the same developers to wriggle out of their commitments to improve public realm, plant trees and provide disabled parking spaces?

This development on the corner of New Cross Road and Watson's Street has been finished for more than a year now.

The red brick building which faces onto New Cross Road and the smaller, grey/brown bricked block are part of the same development by Kitewood Estates which created a total of 44 new homes; 35 for private ownership and 9 for social rent. The flats for social rent are located in the lower block on Watson's Street, at the end of the development furthest from New Cross Road - the entrance, or 'poor door', to the social housing is in the extreme left of the picture below.

Not a single one of the private flats, which have separate entrances closer to New Cross Road, is occupied; they have lain empty since the block was finished. 

The entrance to the low-rise flats has a sign propped in the window warning that the properties are protected by a security firm; the corridor leading from the street to the flats on the main road still has protective covering on the floor and several notices in the door warning that entry is forbidden and giving a phone number for deliveries.

The casual passer-by might be forgiven for thinking that the blocks are still under construction - the large retail units at street level have been boarded up since being built, and the patchwork of footpath and public realm on Watson's Street is clearly nowhere near finished.

But the social housing is already occupied and the pavement has been like this for months. Surely this is not how it is supposed to be?

Indeed not - the planning application for the block (which was initially refused by Lewisham Council but which was passed at appeal) gives details of the soft landscaping and public realm improvements that the developer was promising.

You can get a clue from the rendering below, although for the full details it's necessary to go to the drawings.

The plans promise six semi-mature trees (five London Plane trees, and one Tulip Tree) and six Witch Hazel shrubs next to the block, to soften its hard edges no doubt. Three mature trees were removed so that the block could be built.

The soft landscaping was even made one of the conditions when the application was given permission at appeal. 

The inspector's report said:
All planting, seeding or turfing comprised in the landscaping scheme hereby approved shall be carried out in the first planting and seeding seasons following the occupation of the buildings, or the completion of the development, whichever is the sooner. Any trees or plants which within a period of 5 years from the completion of the development die, are removed or become seriously damaged or diseased, shall be replaced in the next planting season with others of similar size and species.

As well as soft landscaping, the plans included the creation of four disabled parking bays (the ground floor flats are designed to be accessible for wheelchairs) and a delivery bay, presumably to service the retail units and/or allow parking for refuse collections.

Instead there is a mish-mash of asphalt, a wave of shabby paving stones that hug the edge of the block for dear life, and remnants of the concrete pavement that dates back long before the building work started. If you're walking down here watch your step, especially if you are old or unsteady on your feet - pity the few new residents who have to negotiate it on a daily basis.

When developers fail to deliver on this kind of commitment, and bugger off leaving the job unfinished, it's down to the council's planning enforcement team to sort it out. Officers have the power to investigate breaches and ensure that developers don't get away with cutting corners.

But Lewisham Council's planning enforcement team had other ideas. After the Deptford Society brought it to their attention last year, an 'investigation' was launched.

A copy of the officer's report, which was issued to the Deptford Society last week when they chased the issue up, came into my possession.

The report makes interesting, if jaw-dropping, reading.

Responsibility for enforcing the construction of disabled parking bays was dismissed with the excuse that "if parking is required to make the scheme acceptable then it would have been specified by the planning inspector as a condition for the development".

As for the public realm the comments confirm they couldn't even be arsed to visit the site:
"The aerial photos shows that the soft landscaping scheme has been substantially implemented; to the extent that the aerial photos only show a minor difference to what was approved as part of the appeal decision. The information gathered as part of the desktop study demonstrates that the conditions have been substantially met, and that any breaches of the planning conditions are only minor in nature."

Allowing a public pavement to be left in this state can only be described as negligent - not to mention a personal injury claim waiting to happen. 

And who are the villains in the piece? Which money-grabbing developer is responsible for leaving newly-built flats empty while housing is in such short supply?

Ironically, while the original development was the work of Kitewood Estates and they are most likely responsible for the unfinished state of the public realm, since July 2016 the entire block has been owned by London & Quadrant Housing Trust, bought at a cost of nearly £15 million. 

Tuesday 10 October 2017

Cycle superhighway proposals for Creek Road and Evelyn Street

TFL is rolling out plans to expand the cycle superhighway network across this part of London, and is currently consulting on proposals for a new route between Tower Bridge and Greenwich.

As well as creating fully segregated cycle lanes along the entire road, a whole host of other improvements are planned, not just for cyclists but for pedestrians as well. Simplified pedestrian crossings and improvements to public realm are proposed; one bus stop fewer is proposed for the Deptford Park section of the road, and most of those along Evelyn Street are set to be moved one way or another to make spaces between them a bit more even.

The overview map is shown below - there's no detail as yet on the plans for Lower Road, apparently this is still in consultation with Southwark given that the area around Canada Water is due to be heavily redeveloped in the near future.

The plans so far show the segregated cycle lanes crossing from the north side of the road to the south side just before Southwark Park, so that cyclists and motorists will no longer come into conflict on the unpleasant Rotherhithe roundabout. Further along on Evelyn Street they are back on the north side of the road, but as yet there are no suggestions as to where or how this will happen - presumably at one of the junctions that is earmarked for full remodelling.

(Click for a bigger version)

Plans for the bottom end of Deptford High Street are shown below - the current situation top (although this is now slightly out of date with the new, widened pavement already in place) and the proposed segregated lanes on the second image.

The main change to what's there now are restrictions on right turns and the removal of the two pedestrian crossings, which will be combined into one single crossing and brought much closer to the end of the high street.  

Motorists will no longer be able to turn right out of Deptford High Street towards Greenwich, nor will they be able to turn right into DHS from the Greenwich-bound lanes of Evelyn Street, which makes a lot of sense in terms of simplifying the situation for cyclists and pedestrians here. There will also be a ban on right turns out of Watergate Street.

Being a regular cycle commuter I'm firmly in favour of this proposal, and having used the segregated lanes in central London I relish the idea of similar facilities in our local area, making bike travel safer and easier for everyone.

Consultation is open until 19th November and there are plans available in the Deptford Lounge and Canada Water Library throughout the consultation - there's also a consultation event at Deptford Lounge this weekend where TFL staff will be present to answer questions (see below).

The online consultation has links to much more detailed maps of each section of the proposed route.

Consultation events:
Saturday 14 October 11am-3pm, Deptford Lounge 9 Giffin Street, SE8 4RH 
Tuesday 17 October 4-7pm, St Alfege Church Hall, 3 Greenwich Church Street, SE10 9BJ 
Saturday 21 October 11am-3pm, James Wolfe Primary School, 21 Randall Place, SE10 9LA Wednesday 25 October 3pm-7pm, The Finnish Church, 33 Albion Street, SE16 7JG 
Saturday 4 November 11am-3pm. The Finnish Church, 33 Albion Street, SE16 7JG 

Saturday 23 September 2017

Deptford Cinema patron scheme and volunteers

Deptford is lucky to have its own independent cinema, thanks to its dedicated crew of volunteers who have spent many hours renovating the property on Deptford Broadway and now provide an incredibly varied programme of films and events.

They have plans to make further improvements and have recently launched a patron scheme to try and raise funds to support this work.

You can become a patron for just £25 and as well as getting perks such as a free screening every month for you and a guest, you'll be giving them the means to expand and improve what the cinema does.

They say:
"An overhaul of the cinema's electrical system is the next big thing in our plans. Once complete, it will allow us to be more adventurous with our programming and events, we can push forward with the creation of the darkroom and office space allowing us to start providing film and photography workshops and improve the lighting of the whole space to make it feel that much more homely. 

The shop front hasn't changed since we took over the space and we've great plans to replace the whole thing with a beautiful front with a big double door, seating and illuminated signage. 

Deptford Cinema is for everybody and as such we've plenty of plans to improve accessibility; such as a chairlift for the stairs and a hearing loop for our sound system."

I find it amazing that such a great facility has been created by volunteers and think it's well worth supporting.

As well as inviting people to join its patronage scheme, Deptford Cinema is always looking for new volunteers - if you want to sign up, or just find out more, pop along to the volunteer meeting which takes place every Sunday at 11am.

Sunday 3 September 2017

Creekside community under threat from 'box park' plans

On the face of it, a planning application to create a pop-up community of shipping containers on 'derelict' land behind the Bird's Nest pub in Deptford might seem a sensible use of an awkward parcel of land.

And if you read the planning documents, you could easily be lulled into thinking that this development offers nothing but benefits to the area.

Unfortunately the entire planning submission goes out of its way to gloss over the fact that this parcel of land is not just derelict industrial waste ground; in fact it is home to a small but long-established community of boat dwellers whose presence is one of the few positive elements highlighted in the conservation area assessment of this part of Creekside.

It's easy for the general public to forget that this community exists - with the yard at 2 Creekside no longer in regular use and most of the land around the waterside either inaccessible or fenced in, it's difficult to get a view of Theatre Arm, as this offshoot of the creek is known.

But it would be a bit remiss of the landowners to forget that they are there, considering that they collect rent on most of the moorings; in terms of the planning documents, the only real acknowledgement of their presence is these couple of renderings, along with a few boat outlines on some of the drawings.

There's a marked absence of any human aspect to the plans that have been submitted, not least in the fact that the impact the development will have on the residents of the creek has been utterly ignored.

The boating community is a diverse and varied one, with residents of all ages living on a wide range of vessels moored along the creek, some of which also directly support businesses. The residents assist each other in practical ways and have a strong and well-established community group, the Friends of Deptford Creek, which supports, represents and protects the human, natural and built environment of the creek. 

On the FODC website you can read Jeannie Seymour's story - her husband Julian Kingston is the longest-established resident on this site, having arrived here 30 years ago, well before the Docklands Light Railway was built. As well as running his welding business from the boat, Julian keeps his restored Saker cannon and Lenox Project trailer on the land next to it, along with half a dozen beehives which provide him with enough local honey to last the year.

And while tarpaulins may not give the best first impression, they can be a sign of good things to come. You can read Mat's story about restoring his broads cruiser Suffolk, his comments giving testimony to the strength of the community that exists.

The way of life these people have chosen may seem unconventional to some, but as Jeannie points out, the main difference is that they are afloat. They have all the same gadgets and facilities as 'normal' households - even a bath! - and they pay council tax and utility charges like everyone else.

Six of them moor on the riverside at 2 Creekside, and over the last 16 years have had to suffer the vagaries and poor management of the site by owner John Cierach (of murky goings-on fame). As this detailed post on Crosswhatfields explains, the murkiness that led to the demise of the Big Red pizza bus (and most likely also the demise of the subsequent tenant Wanderlust) has for years also been inflicted on those who call Theatre Arm home.

So what is the detail of the planning application proposal? 

Essentially the new owners of the land, Artworks Creekside 2 (a consortium between the former owner John Cierach and another company (Stow Projects) whose directors Charlie and William Fulford have history, among other things with box-park pop-ups such as 'Artworks Elephant' on the former Heygate estate in Elephant & Castle) want to stack a load of converted shipping containers up to create Deptford's very own box park. 

The plans include bringing the 'big red' bus behind the Bird's Nest back into use as a restaurant, and are also linked to proposals for number 3 Creekside across the road, now owned by another new company whose directors are the same as 2 Creekside. Make what you will of the fact that two different companies have been created for the purposes of what's being proposed and promoted in all other ways as a single, unified development.

The presence of the DLR restricts what can be built on the land at 2 Creekside, as there is an exclusion zone around the structure, so the plans include mobile 'shepherd's huts' under the viaduct with views across the creek. 

Or to be more precise, with views directly into the living quarters of the boat dwellers. The relative privacy that they currently enjoy will be gone in one fell swoop, with the vista for new tenants valued above any protection for those who already live there. So keen are the developers to boast how they will open up pedestrian access to the creek and provide new views across the water (or the mud for half the day, considering it's still tidal here) that they conveniently gloss over the fact these are people's homes.

The renderings show how active the river frontage is intended to be - in good weather the occupants of the mobile units will be able to spill out onto the creekside and enjoy the sunshine; the ground-floor units in the main stacks of shipping containers are intended as cafes or restaurants, so these are likely to have customers coming and going throughout the evening. 

The planning application disingenuously states that this development is 'not intended to be positioned as a late night venue', while simultaneously applying for opening hours extending to 11pm every weekday and till 1am on the weekends. With the site open from 8am, there will be no respite for those living on the water.

The boats which are shown on the other side of the creek wall seem to be mere afterthoughts, just there as decoration or in the spirit of accurate representation. It's almost as if Artworks Creekside is keen to be rid of these inconvenient incumbents.

This image from the planning application is probably the clearest indication of the attitude of Artworks Creekside towards its existing tenants. It clearly shows the impact the new units will have on the existing boats - this rendering being created from a photograph taken from the boat Julian uses as his workshop, the edge of which can be seen next to the creek wall. 

The renderings in the application give no indication that the rights of the existing residents (to privacy, to light, to quiet enjoyment and so on) have even been given even the most fleeting consideration.

There's no explanation of how they will get on and off their homes, take delivery of fuel, or continue to securely access utilities such as water, electricity, telephone lines and so on. 

There is no space for any residents to store equipment or park the vehicles by which they make their livings, and nowhere for Julian to relocate his beehives.

In short there is no consideration of how the proposed development could be successfully delivered without severely impacting on the existing residents.

The fact that the boat dwellers did not even receive official notification of the planning application from the council is also worrying - as registered council tax payers with their own letterboxes in the gate, why did they have to find out about the planning application from official notices on lamp-posts on the public highway? As direct 'neighbours' to the development, they should be statutory consultees  if the planning process is correctly followed.

While failures in official planning procedure are of concern, more worrying is the ongoing bullying and intimidation that the new site owners are inflicting on the existing residents, presumably in an attempt to drive them away so that they can progress their plans unhindered. 

Huge proposed hikes in rent, unreasonable demands (such as allowing other boats to moor alongside and giving people access across your own home), repeated threats of expensive court cases, and getting the Port of London Authority involved as a means of further increasing the costs to residents - all these tactics are being employed by Artworks Creekside in their unsavoury efforts to socially cleanse Theatre Arm. 

Without such murky goings on I might have been in favour of a slimmed-down version of this proposal, which if done properly could offer useful space for small businesses. With fewer shipping containers, proper, private moorings with secure access and facilities for existing residents, and restricted hours to provide the boaters with quiet enjoyment of their homes it might work - but with its current backers the whole idea leaves nothing but a nasty taste in my mouth.

Friday 11 August 2017

Battle of Lewisham - 40th anniversary

The most famous brawl in the recent history of south east London will be commemorated this weekend in and around Deptford and New Cross.

On 13 August 1977, the National Front planned a march from New Cross to Lewisham against a background of ongoing racial tension in the area. The situation had been fuelled by dawn raids in the area earlier that year in which 21 young black people had been arrested, with the police claiming that they had been responsible for 90% of street crime in south London over the preceding six months.
Subsequent demonstrations in defence of the accused had been attacked by the National Front and race relations were at a low point.

A number of anti-fascist and anti-racist groups organised an opposition rally, assembling some 5,000 people in Ladywell Fields before deploying to try and stop the National Front demonstration.

Crowds gather on Clifton Rise (photo by Chris Swartz)

Initial efforts to stop the march were unsuccessful, with several thousand police playing a contentious part in accompanying the estimated 500 National Front members on their route, and the two sides ended up coming into contact on Lewisham High Street, where violent clashes ensued for more than an hour between the two sides as well as the police. Riot shields and batons were used for the first time on the British mainland.

In the end the NF abandoned their march and the protestors claimed victory, although there were conflicting opinions on whether the opposition had been successful in winning wider public support at the time. Ultimately it has become a symbol of community solidarity against racism and a badge for SE London to wear proudly.

There is plenty of fascinating material online about the clashes, including eye witness accounts and newspaper reports.

To celebrate the 40th anniversary, Goldsmiths has organised a series of walks, talks and shows culminating in a community festival on Sunday 13th at the Albany.

There's an exhibition of photographs on show at Goldsmiths until the end of the month, a maroon plaque commemorating the event will be unveiled on Clifton Rise on Sunday between 12 and 1pm, and a gig at the Albany on Sunday night.

See the website for full details of events.

Cafe Royal Books has also published a book of photographs which are available here.

Thursday 10 August 2017

Deptford Community Pride - this Saturday

First in what's intended to be an annual event, this weekend sees Deptford LGBTIQ Community Pride 2017 being launched in Deptford Market Yard.

There's an afternoon of workshops, stalls in the yard and a programme of entertainment in the evening - and it's all free to attend!

The organisers write:
"The event will consist of empowering workshops, inspiring activist stalls and amazing performances and DJs. Our compere for the day is the sasssy Kevin Le Grande: not only is she a 6 foot tall gorgeous leggy blonde, she is also a Queer cabaret and performance artist. Using speech, song and dance to discuss politics and share stories for comedic affect, she has performed in venues all over the country. We are excited to have her as our compere for the entire day. She’s sick, she’s tired and she has something to say!"

 Workshop listings:
 • Jai's Wutian Martial Arts Institute London – LGBTIQ Self-Defence class (2pm - 3pm)
 • 'Exploring Identity workshop' with Intersex activist and human-rights campaigner Valentino Chienmortx (3pm - 4pm) 
• 'Customise a T-shirt workshop' with non-binary artist Ruby Barclay (3-4pm)
 • 'Beginners workshop on Screenprinting' with Queer printmaker Hannah Toehill (4pm - 5pm)
 • 'Self-care workshop' with transgender woman and mental-health nurse Sami Hillyer (4pm - 5pm)
 • 'Knitflex and Chill'- knitting and stress-relief focused workshop with queer feminist activist Georgia Little (5pm - 6pm)
 • 'Sober Space' - workshop and conversation around the safeness and accesibility of London's support services (this workshop is a strictly alcohol-free zone) (5pm - 6pm)

Stalls (2pm - 6pm)  • Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants • Movement for Justice • South East London Sisters Uncut • The UK Lesbian and Gay immigration group • Sexual Avengers • The Outside Project • Cat Sims zines and more

Performers (7pm - 10.30pm)
Spoken word & live music: • Damien Arness Dalton • SJ Soulist • Alana Francis • Danielle Adomah • Charmpit DJs: • Lady Miss Ikea • Resis'dance • BBZ (individual timings TBC)

All donations raised from the event will be evenly split between:

The Outside Project: The outside project is currently fundraising to create the UK's first LGBTQI+ winter shelter. (

The UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group: The UK Lesbian & Gay Immigration Group (UKLGIG) is a charity that promotes equality and dignity for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) people who seek asylum in the UK. (

Facebook listing here
Deptford Market Yard

Saturday 29 July 2017

Gin and beer..

..not in the same glass I presume, but you never know. Might start a new trend.

That's the moniker of a new bar planning to set up in Resolution Way, which looks like it could soon  become the golden (quarter) mile of Deptford pub crawling if this trend continues. 

Gin & Beer ( is setting up shop in number 2 arch, right next door to Buster Mantis, and will apparently specialise in Belgian beers ('all styles including Trappist, new wave craft, lambic and sours') and a huge variety of gins too - about a hundred different ones. That's quite a night out.

There's still a way to go yet as they have only just applied for planning permission to convert the arch, but they have said in a News Shopper interview that they are planning to open in the next couple of months.

I wonder if they are paying attention to the recent issues next door?

The licensees of Buster Mantis were summoned to a hearing recently by the licensing committee, after ongoing problems with residents whose properties overlook Resolution Way. The bar is licensed until 2am at the weekends and residents complained about noise from music playing inside the bar, and the noise of customers leaving the bar in the early hours of the morning.

Although the licensing committee did not decide to reduce the opening hours of the bar, Buster Mantis was ordered to install double glazing to the two units, as well as fitting a 'noise limiter' inside to try and reduce the nuisance caused to neighbours by the music.

This is not going to help with the noise caused by customers leaving the bar in the early hours, which I imagine is amplified by the narrow street and tall buildings that run along both sides, and the impact of more boozers opening along here is only going to add to this. On the other hand, maybe the presence of more bars will enable multiple business owners to work together to minimise the impact by encouraging people to disperse quickly and quietly when they leave.

Monday 17 July 2017

Community meeting about Arklow Road ball court

A community meeting is being held this Thursday for people who are interested in campaigning to save the ball court on Arklow Road. 

Lewisham Council recently announced plans to build a new development of temporary housing on the site, but some residents have raised concerns about the loss of play facilities in the area, and want the council to consider renovating it instead.

The meeting is Thursday 20th July at 7pm at the Olivet Baptist Church, opposite the ball court.

Tidemill Garden celebrates its 20th birthday

This weekend the Tidemill Wildlife Garden is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a family open day including games, story-telling, free veggie food provided by the Deptford People Project, a pop-up bar by Little Nan's and bands including The Ukadelix, Cre8ive Choir, Tom Moody, the Inheritors and Rhiannon & the Nightmare.

It takes place on Saturday 22nd July, running from 4pm till 11pm, and will include a community drum circle, a show by the Magic Book Theatre, a treasure hunt and coconut shy/human fruit machine. 

If you can't make it this weekend, why not pop in another Saturday, it's open to the public every weekend (details here). If the council has its way you won't have much longer to enjoy this lovely green space...

Saturday 8 July 2017

Sayes Court Gardens is fundraising!

Sayes Court Garden CIC is fundraising on Spacehive to support its plans to establish a community and outdoor classroom in Sayes Court Park at the top of Grove Street.

Once three times the size, Sayes Court will in time reclaim its lost land and leap the fence into the Convoys Wharf development, being one of two community-led projects that successfully lobbied for space on the site - the other being the Lenox Project. 

They say: "Before that happens, Sayes Court Park will be the community-led testing ground where we imagine and plan what that future will look like. Together we'll transform this neglected park into a source of pride for Deptford and a destination for London. This legacy is an invitation to test, grow and transform a part of the city, making better places to live. Through collaborative workshops, events and a reinstated pavilion, Sayes Court will become a centre for the community once again."

The CIC is looking to raise £40k for a number of initiatives which are detailed on the Spacehive site. Pledges will only be taken if the project reaches its target, so if you want to support these ambitious plans, please pledge, share and help them to raise their profile.

Friday 7 July 2017

Consultation on first phase of Convoys Wharf development

Convoys Wharf developer Hutchison Property Group has a public 'consultation' event today and tomorrow (Friday 7th and Saturday 8th July) at the Deptford Methodist Church on Creek Road.

You are invited to attend and give your feedback on the plans for the first detailed planning application for the site, which relates to one plot in the first phase of the work (the one marked in red on the plan below). 

Outline planning permission for the site was granted in 2014 after the developer demanded that the mayor of London call the application in, saying that Lewisham planners were taking too long over it and that they were in a hurry to start work.

Scroll forward three years... 'nuff said. 

You can read my post about the outline application here and there's a lot more background on the development on this blog if you search for 'convoys'. 

The developer's rather woeful website is here.

The consultation is at the methodist church on Creek Road (not Creek Street as the flyer says FFS) from 5-8pm tonight, and 10-1pm Saturday.

Saturday 24 June 2017

Outdoor bars proposed for Deptford Market Yard

It took an embarrassingly long time for Deptford Market Yard to reach full completion, and there are still a few kinks that need properly ironing out (parking abuse etc), but overall the end result is pretty pleasing.

The quality of finish on the carriage ramp retail units is pretty good, and the public realm stuff is attractive and seems durable, excepting the flimsy bollards which have almost all been flattened by our local drivers and are currently being replaced. The trees add a very pleasant atmosphere to the yard and soften the somewhat hard edges of the brick, stone, steel and timber that is used throughout the rest of the landscaping. As they mature I think this will only improve.

I like the mix of independent tenants in the retail units, although I do worry how many of them are actually managing to make a living; the promised market has yet to materialise and although the managers of the yard seem to be putting on events now and again, I'm not confident it's enough to generate the footfall to bring sufficient business to these units.

There are also ongoing issues that demonstrate how poor the current management is. The flimsy bollards that were initially installed at each end of the yard were promptly battered and eventually flattened by manoeuvring drivers. Wholesale abuse ensued, and with no parking enforcement the yard rapidly turned into a car park. After weeks of nagging the management company put up parking notices, which has improved the situation somewhat, but the installation of the new bollards seems to be taking an unreasonably long time and there are still some serial parking abusers who are going unchallenged.

But the latest plan by owner U&I plc - to bookend the public spaces with two outdoor bars, one under a posh tarpaulin - seems to be heading in totally the wrong direction. If the planning application that has just been submitted gets the go-ahead, you can kiss goodbye to any opportunity to relax while you eat your sandwiches sitting on the benches in the dappled shade of the trees.

The proposals involve nothing more imaginative than dumping two converted shipping containers down on the new paving, and annexing a large proportion of what is currently public space under a fabric roof connected to the street lights and weighted down with huge water containers. Punters will sit at tables that can be folded away at night for storage, but the roof is intended to stay in place - a permanent temporary arrangement.

Permission for two 'bars' is sought - a large one outside the station and a smaller one down at the other end of the market yard, next to the lower part of the carriage ramp.

The larger one has a capacity of 150. 

The leaves of the trees will not be visible to anyone at ground level - the most visible and significant elements of the landscaping will be annexed to act as supports for a plastic tent to keep the rain off those wanting to indulge in what is essentially middle-class street-drinking. 

As well as being attached to the trees, the roof needs guy ropes to tie it down. The proposal suggests that large water containers will serve this purpose. You know the kind of thing.

The design and access statement which forms part of the planning application also suggests that plants in upcycled oil barrels will be dotted around the bar area, presumably to add a bit of greenery to make up for the greenery that you can no longer see. It proposes that patio heaters - one of the most environmentally-insensitive inventions ever - be used inside the tent. 

It also includes designs for the eight market stalls that will be placed opposite the existing carriage ramp, although this does seem a little like an afterthought. Six 'food trucks' will be parked between these stalls - on the diagram below, which has the high street at the bottom and the station top right, the yellow boxes are the bars, the red boxes the food trucks and the blue boxes the market stalls. 

The bar opposite the station would be placed right in front of one of only two public benches in the market yard, thus cutting public seating by half in one fell swoop. The remaining seat would fall within the bar area so it's unlikely to be available for public use, and even if you do get to sit on it you'll only be looking at a load of people drinking. Not to worry, you can always sit on the picnic tables under the tent - provided you have the money for a drink of course.

You're probably getting the drift that I'm not in support of this proposal. I'll set out a few of the main issues as I see it. 

1. The annexing of the public space. 
It's clear from the diagram above that the proposed bar would take over most of the public space outside the station (and quite a bit of the remainder has already been annexed by the bars and cafes at this end of the ramp). The public realm works very well, it has been refurbished to a high standard with good quality street furniture and it looks good. I often see people sitting on the benches enjoying sandwiches or just hanging out, watching the world go by. It can be, and is, used for events - whether that's dancing or a 'carless car boot sale', or any other temporary use. If a bar under a tent took over the space, this genuine public enjoyment would be lost, and temporary events would only be possible if they fitted in the space and outside the opening hours of the bar.

2. Where are the toilets?
No details have been provided of where the toilets will be - or even if there will be any. There is only one toilet for most of the carriage ramp (Little Nan's and Mousetail each have their own) so where are all these customers going to pee? Deptford already has a problem with public urination, this won't help. Perhaps they are going to dump (pun intended) some ugly Portaloos next to the remaining flower beds. Who needs greenery in any case? 

3. Why is it ok for some people to drink outside and not others?
Street drinking. The anchor got the blame for causing problems down at Deptford Broadway, but the street drinking that used to happen there is now rife in Douglas Square, and still causing problems. Why should that be classified as public nuisance but put the drinkers under a tent and charge them more, and it's a legitimate business. It also neatly leads me into the security issues. What's to stop the 'undesirable' drinkers just bringing their drinks and joining the party? Will they have to put barriers round the seating and have security on the door?

4. Loss of amenity.
The vast majority of the ground-level landscaping that was created as part of the public benefit from the development will be squandered. Seats will be unusable, plants will have their light blocked and the flower beds will become a litter trap, difficult to access for maintenance, the trees will become tent poles (and most likely leaning poles at the lower level).

5. Noise nuisance.
Residents in the Deptford Project already suffer noise from some of the units under the carriage ramp - speakers get brought outside by some tenants even though their leases prohibit it - and with a large bar in a mostly hard-landscaped area, the noise from drinkers can only add to this. Other local bars such as the Job Centre and Buster Mantis have limits on when outside drinking areas can be used, to limit noise for adjacent residents. Allowing a huge open-air bar in front of a huge residential building would make a mockery of this and could reasonably lead to other bars challenging such restrictions.

The planning application can be found online here

Sunday 18 June 2017

Our air, your health - air pollution in Deptford

How has air quality in Deptford changed in the last 350 years? Scientists from the Centre for Environment & Health, which does research into the health effects of environmental pollutants, are hosting a free event at the Deptford Lounge this Monday.

This will be an evening of interactive activities and talks that will give participants the chance to learn more about how air quality can affect their health.

Find out how you could be breathing cleaner air, and learn how traffic noise and other pollutants might also be having an effect. Scientists from the MRC-PHE Centre for Environment & Health will be on hand to offer expert advice and answer questions. The event is part of the Medical Research Council's second annual Festival of Medical Research.

There will also be several presentations during the evening, including one on air pollution in Deptford from 1661 to the present!

Tea, coffee and soft drinks will be available. The event is free, but the organisers ask anyone wanting to attend to register online.

Deptford anchor consultation

Further to the council report in March which recommended the return of the anchor to Deptford High Street, Lewisham Council has launched a consultation into some aspects of its proposed reinstatement. These include the style and type of textured paving that will be placed around it (to assist the visually-impaired) and whether a plaque should be included, and if so, what this should say.

Current timescale intends the anchor to be back in position in time for Deptford X festival in late September.

The public is invited to respond via the online consultation survey where you can also find background information about the process (downloadable here).

There is also a drop-in session at Deptford Lounge on Tuesday 20 June between 3pm-7pm.

The current documents show the anchor to be somewhat sidelined in the proposed location at the top of the high street; why not have it more central in the streetscape? At the moment it looks like an afterthought.

The online consultation closes on Tuesday 27th June.

Wednesday 14 June 2017

The history and future of Laurie Grove baths

Things are finally happening in the project to remodel the former public baths on Laurie Grove in New Cross, which is due to become the new Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Art. I wrote about the plans a couple of years ago, since when there has been a bit of a fundraising hiatus; but having been prompted to look it up again I see that according to the Goldsmiths website it is due to open this time next year.

If you want to get a look inside, there's an event tomorrow (Thursday 15th) that involves a look back at the history of the building and its future, combined with a special exhibition of collaborative, site-specific installations and coincides with the opening of the Goldsmiths Fine Art degree shows.

The blurb says:

Join us on June 15th, at the Laurie Grove Baths, home of the Centre for Urban and Community Research at Goldsmiths in New Cross, for an evening dedicated to the slippery inheritances of this historic building. 

This event marks the launch of Urban Water Cultures – a series of collaborative public work, organised and supported by CUCR on the urban sociology of water. Talks by Les Back and Sophie Watson will explore the social significance of water and public baths in the city. It will also celebrate the opening of Slippages – an exhibition of site-specific installations. 

The event coincides with the opening of the Goldsmiths Fine Art degree shows, so there will be a rare opportunity to wander around the baths. Slippages is an exhibition co-curated by the Feminist Methods Masterclass, convened by Nirmal Puwar. It features work by Katerina Athanasopoulou, Yani B, Ama Josephine Budge, Hari Byles, Clare Daly, Chloe Turner, and Santiago Rivas. 

Tickets (which are free) are available here:

Saturday 10 June 2017

Eight-storey block proposed for New Cross site

A planning application for an eight-storey block of flats in New Cross is threatening to overshadow neighbouring houses and threaten the productivity of one of the area's few allotment sites.

Developers have submitted a planning application to build 26 residential units on a scrap of land sandwiched between the end of Royal Naval Place and the railway line. A block of eight storeys will impact daylight and sunlight to the terraced houses on Amersham Grove as well as blocking out a substantial amount of the sunlight that the allotment site currently enjoys.

The proposed development takes up nearly all the space on the site, representing a gross over-development of the land, in my opinion. The council's (independent) design review panel agrees; original proposals were for much higher blocks which have since been reduced, but the panel noted that even with the changes this represents a very dense use of the site.

A cynic might say that that eight storeys was always the plan. Start high so that you can offer 'concessions' and get down to the height you actually were aiming for. Bargaining is a way of life round here.

Unless you've walked down Amersham Vale from New Cross Station towards the Old Police Station, you've probably no idea where this site is.

At the moment it is used for storing haulage vehicles, and I can't imagine it's pleasant for residents of the small houses opposite having these huge trucks swing in and out of the tiny street every morning and evening. The land could arguably be usefully employed for housing, and its proximity to New Cross station makes it ideal for a car-free residential development.

But the height of the block and density of the development should surely be questioned by planners? Even the housing development planned for Amersham Vale is only five storeys high, and if this proposal ('Hereford Place') is approved, the size and visual impact of the block would be completely out of scale and context in this location.

Residents on Amersham Vale (shown on the right of the picture above) will lose daylight and sunlight to their gardens and properties if this development goes ahead.  Allotment holders are also voicing concerns that their plots will be completely overshadowed by the new building, which is on the west side of the allotments. The waiting lists for Lewisham's few remaining allotment sites are famously long - eight or nine years is the current waiting time apparently. Allowing developments that make plots unviable is surely not a good idea?

In my opinion the council should be making efforts to improve facilities that support healthy lifestyles - growing your own food promotes healthy eating, not to mention the physical exercise and mental health improvements that come from maintaining an allotment. They offer social contact for plot holders and strengthen community links, not to mention creating natural habitats for birds, insects, bees and so on.

Objections and comments can be submitted to - the planning application is here

Friday 9 June 2017

Local consultation on 'Place/Deptford'

Late notice of a rather poorly-publicised consultation event being hosted by Lewisham Council about the proposed construction of a temporary housing site on a corner site of Edward Street/Arklow Road where the disused ball court currently stands.

I wrote about this proposal a couple of months back when it was first announced; tomorrow there will be a public consultation at Charlottenburg Park on Amersham Grove, which is just across the road from the site.

The council is inviting feedback on the proposal and asking for ideas of how the proposed community space might be used. 

If you've not yet had a wander down to see this bit of new public realm, might be a good opportunity to do so.

Saturday 10 June
Charlottenburg Park, Amersham Grove, SE14 6LH

Sun Wharf revisited

I didn't make it to the 'consultation' event for this Creekside development which took was held last month, but I've been taking a look at the information that the developer put on show and which is now available on the website. It's still not a planning application as such, but I guess we can expect one to be made pretty soon, given that this is the second public event and that's probably more than enough to tick the required boxes.

I wrote about this development at the time of the last consultation, when the building heights were proposed as being seven storeys to 16 storeys high.

Scroll on a year and the revised plans (below) show that the heights proposed range from 'one to two storeys' to 'nine to seventeen storeys' although the information provided on the exhibition boards seems rather deliberately vague, and for some reason (no doubt to justify the height of the main tower) includes the blocks on Kent Wharf next door.

It's not easy to distinguish the difference in heights from the diagram above - if they'd chosen different colours rather than different hues of blue to differentiate the buildings, it would have been a lot easier, and of course the cynic in me thinks that was probably the reason behind the choice. And having one category ranging across potentially eight storeys, in particular since it only applies to two buildings, one of which is not even part of the development, muddies the water even more. 

Who are the 'communications' experts who put together these public consultation events? Since they are being paid by the developers, I shouldn't really be surprised that they seem more adept at creating smokescreens than at communicating basic facts to the general public.

What's all this about, for example? Why would the public care about how you intend to label the different parts of your development? What is a 'Victorian' wharf building in any case? What characteristics does it have and is it anything more than a vague aspiration at this point? Looking at the first image in the post there's nothing distinctly different about these buildings that I can see, frankly this diagram is irrelevant.

But I digress. Here's a few renderings from the 'information' boards for anyone else who missed it.

View from the Greenwich side of the creek, with the railway viaduct shown on the left hand side. Original plans were to open up routes through the railway viaduct, and although that's not explicit in the new details, the renderings suggest that it's still part of the masterplan.

Full east elevation - the white buildings on the right are Kent Wharf; an idea of the tower height on the left can be gained from the presence of the railway viaduct on the far left.

Above is a view from within the development itself, looking south towards the railway viaduct (on a street parallel to Creekside).

Oh look, green spaces! But not for the general public, only for the residents. These will be at 'podium' level, between the housing blocks. 

The renderings include an (almost) separate building for Cockpit Arts, whose current home on Creekside will be demolished to accommodate the development. I assume that they negotiating hard for favourable terms on the final scheme - having an independent building which ensures Cockpit Arts can continue its existing work in Deptford is essential. Presumably they are also in discussions to ensure that any impact on their designer-makers during the rebuild and relocation is minimised.

Of course it's all aspirational at this stage, but I was particularly taken by the level of aspiration needed to envisage the 'wonderful sunny aspect' that this new public realm is expected to have. 
The developers say that they are going to create a new public space 'in the proximity of the historic Normandy Dock inlet' which will have a cafe and outdoor seating. 

Looks quite attractive on the rendering, but in reality it is an east-facing strip of land which will only get direct sunshine for a short time in the morning, being overshadowed by the railway viaduct on the south side. Even its morning light could be threatened if/when Greenwich agrees to develop the land on the other side of the creek, no doubt with more of the high-density type of blocks that are already built on sections of the waterfront that have already been developed. And at the bottom of a seventeen-storey block it's likely to be pretty breezy.