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.