Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Party in the Park!

The fabulous and free Party in the Park is back in Fordham Park on 1st September with three stages for a host of local bands and musicians, community stalls and even a 'wellness' area!

The Tent City will focus on local housing issues with talks and workshops looking at the serious housing problems that many local people face.


The festival is descended from the legendary Deptford Urban Free Festival which took place in the park in the 1990s. It's still a free festival and still organised by volunteers, community groups and activists.

Want to get involved? Email vols@pitpnxd.co.uk

Saturday 1st September, 12 noon - 8pm.
Fordham Park

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Tidemill campaigners seek funds for judicial review

Deptford's Save Reginald! Save Tidemill! campaign is trying to raise funds on Crowd Justice to challenge Lewisham Council's decision to demolish the council homes of Reginald House and the community-run Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden.

The demolition is scheduled as part of a regeneration scheme of the Old Tidemill site in Deptford, London, and the community group wants to mount a judicial review against the Council's approval of the plans.

They want the council and its partners to redraw the plans in partnership with the community, so Reginald House and Old Tidemill Garden are kept, and as many social homes as possible are built on the land.

Alternative plans have been produced by the campaigners

Campaigners claim it is possible, and that they have produced alternative architectural plans to show it, however the Council have so far not pursued the alternatives.

They say: We need your support to expose how the Council is going against it's own environmental, housing, human rights, equality and air pollution policies, how they have abused the planning process to push the plans through, and the sham nature of their consultation process. And to force them to redraw these plans in partnership with the community, via a transparent and collaborative process.

The campaign's solicitor is Richard Buxton, an environmental and public law lawyer who is also concerned about social housing and social justice.

The group is trying to raise £10,600 by September 9th in order to pay for legal advice and explore the possibility of a judicial review.

For more information, or to make a pledge, visit https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/save-reginald-save-tidemill

Monday, 18 June 2018

1 Creekside planning application

A planning application has been submitted for the corner site of Creekside/Deptford Church Street for a mixed use development of housing and commercial units.

The land on which the development is proposed, opposite the Birds Nest pub, is currently occupied by the MOT centre at 1 Creekside, and the adjoining unoccupied area which the council fenced off with hoardings a year or more ago. This council-owned land was sold to developer Bluecroft, which owns 1 Creekside, under a deal which will see the council leasing back the commercial space on a long-term basis to generate an income.

I hope that the council has fully tested the viability of its plan, given the amount of new office and commercial space in the area that is either still empty, or just coming on stream. A number of spaces in the Deptford Market Yard building right next to the station still remain unlet, with the starter units in the market yard itself exhibiting a fairly high churn rate.  New developments on Creekside such as the high-spec, high-rent Fuel Tank at Faircharm and the Artworks spaces at the other end of the Creekside (and the other end of the rental spectrum) mean that the market is becoming somewhat saturated. 


It's a fairly small strip of land and the council's commercial space is intended to occupy an overheight ground floor which accommodates a mezzanine level, so the buildings have to be quite large in order to accommodate just 56 residential units. No matter how you cut it, this is going to have quite an impact on its neighbours. The architects have split it into two 'cores' with the intention of giving it a bit more character than a single block.

They've incorporated a yard at ground level which goes through between the two cores and around the back to Creekside. The documents show all kinds of nice landscaping, although I'm not entirely clear what a 'rain garden' is and the landscaping is often the bit that gets cut back when the penny pinching starts. What is intended to be a pleasant space for those who use it, more often turns into a drafty, litter-strewn wasteland. 



Talking of aspirational landscaping, there are a lot of trees shown on the renderings. Past experience suggests that when it comes to actually planting trees outside new developments there are a myriad reasons why they don't materialise - and considering that this development involves the loss of trees on the existing land, let's hope that the planners are willing to enforce their provision if the proposal gets permission.


You can find the details of the planning application via the council's planning portal by searching the reference number DC/18/106708; the official deadline for objections has passed but objections can be submitted up to the date of the committee hearing at which the application will be considered.



Monday, 4 June 2018

999 Club fundraising for a summer shelter

Deptford's 999 Club is crowdfunding to raise £20,000 to open a Summer Shelter to provide space for 20 homeless people each night.

Although they have already raised almost £6,000 they still have a long way to go and the appeal closes on 20 June 2018.

This will be the only shelter in Lewisham and one of only three night shelters open in London over the summer.


Most people are aware of the shelters that open up in winter to provide safe, clean and warm sleeping space for homeless people at a time when the weather is particularly bad.

Ironically in summer, homeless people find it even harder to find a safe, quiet and unexposed place to sleep.

With no door to lock behind them, 999 Club reports that homeless people are 17 times more likely to experience violence including being hit, kicked, urinated on, threatened, robbed, sexually assaulted and verbally abused.

Rough sleeping has a grave effect on homeless people’s mental and physical health resulting in an average age of death of just 43 for women and 47 for men.

Rough sleeping is a devastating experience – not just in winter but at any time of year.

The 999 Club wants to extend its night shelter so it can open this summer, and is crowdfunding to raise a further £20,000 to fund its summer shelter.
https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/summershelter

The existing night shelter runs at the 999 Club's hall in 10 week blocks. Traditionally night shelters run during the coldest months of the year but the charity is currently delivering a three-year pilot to extend this to provide year-round support. By 2019 their aim is to have the shelter operating for 40 weeks, across all four seasons.


It's not just about somewhere to sleep - the work of the shelter combines emergency accommodation with the wider support services offered by the 999 Club to empower people to change their lives.

It provides respite from sleeping rough which gives homeless people the space and opportunity to engage with the charity's other services:
- the day centre offering access to practical facilities, such as showers, laundry and internet access;
- advice and support to help with benefits and find and keep a home;
- employability support to access training, gain qualifications, get work ready and find a job;
- learning & activities workshops to gain new skills and increase confidence and self-esteem;
- personal transition service for highly personalised one-to-one support;
- health & wellbeing clinics to improve physical and mental health.

The night shelter provides each guest with a locker, mattress, bedding, towels and a welcome pack including essential items such as deodorant, razors and sanitary products. They are assigned a case manager who assists with securing any missing ID, accessing or maximising benefits, receiving healthcare, getting a job and securing housing.


Guests arrive at 7.30pm each evening for a nutritious meal cooked by a team of volunteers. During this time guests can also access laundry facilities, showers and computers before settling down for the night in the hall. They get breakfast in the morning and are encouraged to stay on during the day at the charity's Gateway service.

For more information about the service and the crowdfunding appeal, visit https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/summershelter

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Stephen Lawrence Centre fences to go!


It's not often that I am sufficiently moved to put an exclamation mark in a headline, but when I discovered that the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust had submitted a planning application for new landscaping around its building on Brookmill Road, and when I realised that this new landscaping includes TEARING DOWN THE FENCES, my heart sang.



I've always felt that this was a woefully unfriendly building - even finding the entrance door can be a challenge - and the fencing around it makes it look more like a Northern Irish police station at the height of the Troubles than the community building it is intended to be. This may be the reason I've never been inside. I don't dislike the building itself, just the overtly unwelcoming face it offers to its neighbours. 

Unfortunately the building was vandalised just a week after opening in 2008; the huge wall of glass designed by Chris Ofili was smashed by bricks thrown from outside the perimeter in what was dubbed a racist attack at the time. The fences failed to prevent the attack - finally they are going to be removed and hopefully the centre will start to have a more neighbourly relationship with the local area. 


First phase of the centre's reinvention was this week's launch of the new 'co-working' space which featured in Wallpaper magazine. It seems that the next phase will address the poor public realm on the site itself, and its relationship with Deptford.

There's not much in the way of renderings in the planning application, but the main change is going to be the removal of the steel fences and the gates, with just a low wall retained. A new pedestrian  route into the site will be created right in front of the building entrance, and a range of landscaping, picnic tables and raised planting will be installed within the site. On the Brookmill Park boundary there will be raised allotment beds.




I look forward to getting a full length view of the magnificent windows. 


Friday, 18 May 2018

Twinkle Park pond update


With Twinkle Park currently a no-go zone and work to reinstate the pond seemingly halted, comes an update from the Twinkle Park Trust.

The bad news is that the reinstatement of the park's pond is going to take longer than expected - but the good news is that the cause of the mysterious loss of water has finally been found (...and the question on everyone's lips is how the previous investigations managed to miss it!)

The official line is as follows:

The work started was due to be completed in mid-May but unfortunately there has been a delay which has resulted in work being halted until July, at which point we will finally get our pond back! 

In the first few days of work, as the vegetation which had taken root over the past few years was being cleared and the contractors began to tackle the liner, they found evidence of subsidence. In the months following the draining of the pond, the Twinkle Park Trust commissioned costly scans of the pond bed to be undertaken, none of which showed any conclusive results, so to finally have found the probable explanation for the water’s disappearance was a relief, but there was obvious concern that the discovery might jeopardise the entire project. 

Further examination quickly followed, and a dig around the area uncovered a brick structure with a void, into which some soil had collapsed. It seems that the pond was originally built on top of an old cesspit or well, which had been disturbed (perhaps by the building or utilities works, ongoing in the area at the time), causing a degree of collapse. 

Following advice from a range of architects and builders, as well as consulting with the project’s funders, the Trust has been able to determine a course of action which will see the safe completion of the pond restoration. Unfortunately, owing to the delay, our contractor was forced to move on to their next scheduled job, forcing our own building work to pause. 

The contractors are scheduled to return as soon as possible and are now expected to return to recommence the work on 2nd July 2018. The Trust is grateful for the assistance and advice we have received from all parties involved in the project over the past few weeks, and whilst we are naturally disappointed that this unavoidable delay has occurred, we are thankful that the project has not been threatened. 

Whilst we recognise that it is not ideal, we are sure that the surrounding community will agree that the return of the pond to Twinkle Park will be worth the price of a couple of extra months of fences and exposed soil.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Keep the Waiting Room in Deptford!

My favourite (and one of the original) of Deptford's coffee shops has launched a Kickstarter campaign to support a move to new premises.

The small-but-perfectly-formed Waiting Room is being forced to relocate as the landlord of the property wants to redevelop it and no doubt take advantage of rising rents. 

The good news is that they have a new premises lined up - one with more space and a garden, and they plan to open in the evenings as well. 

The bad news is that they've not had time to save up enough money to pay for the work that needs doing, new equipment and so on.

That's where us lot come in.

Show your love for Alec and Kev by pledging whatever you can to help them stay in Deptford High Street. Let's face it, it won't be the same without them.



(and even if you can't afford to give, it's worth a read just to learn the story of how the Waiting Room came to be....)

Monday, 9 April 2018

New Cross & Deptford Free Film Festival 2018

Woo!

Very excited that one of my favourite local events is nearly here - the annual New Cross & Deptford Free Film Festival.

Totally free, all run and organised by volunteers, and in some great venues across Deptford & New Cross - a fabulous example of our vibrant, enthusiastic, imaginative and fun SE community spirit.

Once again this year there will be a whole host of different films in venues ranging from the traditional to downright wacky, encouraging people to visit new parts of the borough and seek out the green spaces, churches and bars they aren't familiar with, in the pursuit of free entertainment.

Launch night kicks off at the Brick Brewery in Blackhorse Road with a showing of Get Out - Jordan Peele’s chilling satire on liberal racism in America. The bar will be open and food will be on sale, with a DJ and party after the film.



Watch in comfort at the Brookmill pub; put your energy into pedalling at the bike-powered park showings or watch a film somewhere you don't normally get to visit, such as Sanford Housing Coop or the Stephen Lawrence Centre.


On Facebook and on the web - and usually printed programmes to pick up a week or two before the festival from local libraries and cafes.

http://www.freefilmfestivals.org/filmfestival/new-cross-deptford/


Sunday, 8 April 2018

Twinkle Park to get its pond back

Twinkle Park at the bottom of Watergate St is one of the hidden secrets of Deptford - it used to be one of my favourite haunts in happier days when its pond was a beautiful centrepiece.


Sadly and somewhat mysteriously in October 2013 it sprang a leak and all the water drained out overnight.


Since that time the pond has remained empty, and has turned into a kind of grassy crater in the middle of the park. Not really what was intended.

So I was delighted to discover that the Twinkle Park Trust, which manages the park and neighbouring Charlotte Turner Gardens, has finally raised funds to pay for the pond to be relined and renovated.

Work on the pond is due to start tomorrow (Monday 9th April) and is expected to take about a month. Twinkle Park Trust is hoping to celebrate the reinstatement of the pond at its summer festival this year.

Monday, 19 March 2018

Housing - winners and losers

Councillors in Lewisham were patting themselves on the backs last week after a Mayor & Cabinet meeting agreed to fund an increase in the number of affordable houses that will be built as part of the Tidemill redevelopment in Deptford.

It's difficult to know what sort of compromises have been made, what deals struck and where the money has come from, as the report was debated and the decision taken behind closed doors - a common procedure with 'commercial sensitivity' usually blamed. Councillors rarely, if ever, seem to challenge the decision to conduct proceedings in secret. Or perhaps that's just the unavoidable consequence of having no opposition.

In this case even the general gist of the discussion was kept under wraps ahead of the meeting, which could be considered rather draconian given that it's clearly in the public interest to know about these sort of things.

The council must however report the decision that it took, and it did so in the following way:

Having considered a confidential officer report and a presentation by the Cabinet Member for Housing, Councillor Damien Egan, the Mayor agreed that:

(1) the update on the Deptford Southern sites project, as detailed, and the progress in negotiations led by officers with development partners and the GLA with the aim of increasing the amount of affordable housing within the proposals be noted;

(2) the Council provides grant funding on the basis set out;

(3) the tenure of 43 homes on the Tidemill site be changed from private sale to London Affordable Rent (social rent) at a cost to the Council of £4,310,211 and 16 homes from private sale to shared ownership at no additional cost to the Council;

(5) the revised budget for the development, as set out, be approved; and

(6) authority be delegated to the Executive Director for Resources & Regeneration, in consultation with the Executive Director for Customer Services and the Head of Law, to negotiate and agree the necessary legal documentation in connection with the recommendations in this report.

Apparently this means that the redevelopment will now provide 104 new units for social rent - in addition to the 16 provided for those tenants whose flats will be demolished to make way for the new development - and 41 new units for shared ownership. 

The sound of mutual congratulations echoing round social media made it easy to forget the rather disappointing news that the housing select committee had just received the day before. 

A total of £40 million promised by the Mayor of London through his Housing Zones scheme to support housing provision on the New Bermondsey and Catford Town Centre redevelopment schemes has now been withdrawn because the developments are not progressing quickly enough.

In the case of New Bermondsey/Surrey Canal Road (aka the Millwall fiasco) most of the funding was intended to pay for the fit out of the new Overground station which locals have pretty much stopped holding their breath for by now. The plan was that £12 million of the money would pay for the station fit-out, enabling it to be built and opened very early in the phasing of the development. The contribution that developer Renewal would have been obliged to make to TFL towards transport as part of the Section 106 agreement would then have been diverted to fund additional affordable housing on the site.

But it's all about swings and roundabouts in the crazy world of funding. What the Mayor takes away with one hand, he (almost) gives back with the other. Lewisham might have pissed away their £40 million allocation, but according to the same report a new allocation of £10 million from a different fund has been approved for Catford scheme. Trebles all round!

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Smashfest in Deptford

Unbeknownst to Deptford, extreme climate change has caused a huge flood, which will overwhelm London. How can we prepare? What can we do?


The annual free family festival which focuses on science, technology, engineering and the arts is back next week at the Deptford Lounge and the Albany.

It's billed as a big adventure for all the family – comedy, music, performance, arts, crafts, science, engineering, games, activities and experiments… SmashfestUK is an award-winning narrative-driven science/arts festival which aims to widen participation and increase diversity in STEM and the arts.

Each year it focuses on a different natural disaster, featuring interactive installations, games, experiments, comedy and storytelling for all the family.

This year's theme - flood! - takes over The Albany Theatre and Deptford Lounge over half term from 12 - 16 Feb. They will be tackling a topical and challenging subject - a climate change-induced flood that submerges London.

Find out more at www.smashfestuk.com

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Lights out over Deptford

How many of you visited the wonderful Lumiere festival of light in town last weekend? I hope you got your fill of awe-inspiring illumination as you ain't going to get much in SE8, not even the bog standard stuff. 

With bitter irony, as Deptford's night-time economy takes an upturn, its public lighting seems to be going head-first down the pan.

Of all of Deptford's public areas, Giffin Square is surely the one most generously provided with lighting facilities. As well as eight towering lamp standards which each carry five or six lights on the top, the square also has small lights set in some of the stone cubes, and strip lights place randomly between the paving stones in the square.


Hard to imagine when this is the scene after dark in Deptford's main square. The north side of the square, in front of Costa Coffee, is pitch black.

Out of more than 40 lights on the eight lamp standards in the square JUST TWO are actually working, shining pitifully down on this gloomy landscape.


Luckily floor level is lit sufficiently to prevent pedestrians tripping over the randomly-placed blocks of granite, but almost everything else is in shadow.


What exactly is the point of having a lamp post with six lights on the top if you can't be arsed to replace the bulbs? 

Walk a bit further and you start to suspect this is not just a one-off fail. 


Douglas Square was refurbished with those odd hanging lights a few years back - four sets of cables each with three lights strung between poles to illuminate the market square. 

Or not. 

ONLY HALF of the lights in Douglas Square are working - six out of twelve unlit and no sign of them having replacement bulbs any time soon. 


As if that's not bad enough, anyone walking to New Cross station has to pass through yet another square of gloom on their journey.

The infamous 'public realm' (I use the term advisedly) outside the Waldron Centre is also cast into shadow as soon as the sun sets. There are four streetlights in the square, only one of which continues to shine doggedly onto the uneven and unfinished asphalt with its dead trees.


The lamp in the photo below may look like it's on, but in fact it's just being lit up by the lights behind the lettering.


Street lighting in Lewisham is the responsibility of Skanska and John Laing, who took it on in a huge 25 year PFI contract in 2011.

Lewisham Council's website includes an online reporting form which also lists the faults that might occur. Some of them - including any situation where three consecutive lights are out of order - are classified as 'emergencies'. These can only be reported by calling the freephone number, and the contractor promises a one-hour response to fix them.

Having struggled with this 'reporting' system in the past, I'm not surprised to hear from a correspondent who says they reported the Giffin Square lighting fail several weeks ago. So much for a one-hour response - surely it's just a case of putting new bulbs in?

Looks like we're going to remain in the dark for some time yet. Anyone want to do the mushroom joke?



Friday, 19 January 2018

Celebrating the return of the anchor

A small fleet of ships is currently anchored at 28 Deptford High Street 
Why?
To celebrate the imminent return of the Deptford anchor! 

Deptford Does Art, Sayes Court and Deptford Is Forever are planning a programme of events to coincide with an exhibition around the imminent return of the anchor. 

‘Drawing The Line’ - Max Barnes; Curated by Sayes Court Garden CIC 
‘Give Us Back Our Bloomin’ Anchor’; a campaign archive by Deptford Is Forever 

Friday 19th January – Sunday 4th February 
Preview: Friday 19th January 6.30-9pm (bar open till 10.30pm) 

Venue opening times: Wed-Sat 12–11pm / Sun 12-10pm

Friday, 5 January 2018

'Liveable neighbourhood' plans for Deptford Park and environs

Late last year Deptford Folk (the user group for Deptford Park and Folkestone Gardens) got the welcome news that a bid for funding from TfL had been successful. The bid was developed in partnership with Sustrans and proposes a number of improvements to walking and cycling routes in and around the parks - some of them quite substantial projects in their own right.

The money is coming from the 'liveable neighbourhoods' fund and the first tranche will be used to cover the cost of further feasibility studies, with a second slice paid out later for the actual work, presumably depending on the projects being proved feasible - a potential total of £2.9 million for these schemes.


The overall package includes six 'Copenhagen Crossings' (improved road crossings for cyclists and pedestrians) at locations around the parks, and seven more substantial 'interventions' which involve improving existing cycle routes, and creating and opening up new ones, among other things.

One of the flagship 'interventions' which would impact directly on access to Folkestone Gardens is improvement of the existing crossing of Rolt Street, which links the Woodpecker estate (and the pedestrian and cycle route through it) to the gardens.

Although this already exists as a raised crossing, and is on the bend of a road ostensibly with a 20mph speed limit, anyone who uses it will know that this counts for very little. A lot of traffic uses this route as a cut-through, especially in the rush hours, and much of it takes this corner way too fast. There is no refuge or island to slow drivers down, and visibility is poor for anyone coming out of the park, due to the bend in the road and the density of parked cars outside the houses.


Last year Sustrans held a public workshop which involved restricting the road width with some cunningly-arranged straw bales, and inviting school groups and passers by to experience the new road environment and give their feedback on the idea.


During this 'temporary street event' Sustrans also recorded the number and speed of vehicles that passed in both directions - this was collected over a seven day period, 24 hours a day, including the day of the event. Data (which is published in the report here) showed a reduction in traffic speed of around 23% in one direction and 17% in the other at the counter nearest to the restriction. 


I'm curious as to whether this speed reduction would be a permanent outcome of the traffic calming measures that Sustrans is proposing. How much of the speed reduction was down to drivers wondering why there were bales of straw in the road, and kids were prone on the road behind them? Don't speeds just creep back up once drivers get accustomed to new driving conditions? I presume Sustrans has monitored what has happened in other schemes, and I'd be keen to know how it pans out in the long term.

One of the other major projects that the funding will be used to investigate is the plan to create a new cycle route under Evelyn Street, right next to the Blackhorse pub. This route will provide a safe route for cyclists and pedestrians between the parks and estates on the west side of Evelyn Street and the riverside paths and parks of the Pepys estate and Surrey Docks.



It is a collaboration between Deptford Folk, Sustrans, the Ramblers Association, Lewisham Cyclists and Lewisham Council and would create a new route along the line of the former Surrey Canal.

I'm particularly excited about this as when I looked back in the archive I realised I've been banging on about it for seven years now. Seven years! Turns out I've got stamina!

You can read my initial blog post here which includes a photo of the bridge parapet, and a subsequent one here, in which I remarked on improvements to the layout of the buildings proposed for the Wharves development (now the Timberyard) which would make this route a possibility.

It will also build on Deptford Folk's subsequent work which involved objecting against the planning application for the Shurgard storage facility that has just been built at the end of Blackhorse Road. If this application had passed in its original form, the building would have obstructed the proposed route. But Deptford Folk was successful in challenging the application, with the result that the building footprint was moved slightly to leave space for a cycle route on the west side of the road.

With the recent funding award we may at last find out how feasible this idea is, and perhaps even see it brought to fruition in the near future.


More details of the Deptford Folk plans can be seen on the web page here, and if it's something you want to get involved with, they also have an email newsletter you can sign up to, so you'll be kept in the loop.