Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Deptford landmark torn down under cover of renovation

An unscrupulous developer has overseen the demolition of one of Deptford High Street's most prominent landmarks, under the guise of renovating the facade.

The former Noah's Ark pub, at the north end of Deptford High Street at the junction with Creek Road, had lain empty and untouched for months, despite developer Visionbell Ltd having gained planning permission for residential conversion.

In happier days - Noah's Ark in 2008 (Google streetview)
Now the top two floors of the building, which falls within the Deptford High Street conservation area, have been torn down, after the whole structure was concealed beneath a shroud of scaffolding and plastic wrap. This includes the facade of the building which has been removed almost entirely to ground level.*

Planning permission was granted earlier this year for the developer to put in replacement windows and renovate the facade, as part of a wider scheme to add new residential units at ground floor level, which was approved in 2018, and a two bedroom flat extension on the roof, approved this year.

Scaffolding erected earlier in the year seemed designed for this work, but after being left in place for months, with bags of rubbish piled outside and no sign of work starting, the scaffolding was suddenly removed.

After being left uncovered for a short time, the former pub was once again surrounded by scaffolding, but this time it was fully shrouded in plastic wrap - one might suggest this was to prevent anything from being seen from the outside (although I couldn't possibly comment).

Today local residents were shocked to discover what was actually going on behind the scaffolding, after witnessing skips full of bricks and timbers being removed from the site over a period of days and seeing glimpses of daylight through the building entrance.

Carnage inside the former pub
Although not having served pints for some years, the former pub has long been recognised as a local landmark, and is a gateway building to Deptford High Street's conservation area. It stands right next to the only listed building on the high street (number 227) and being within the conservation area, is legally protected from unauthorised demolition.

As Historic England's website states: Demolition of an unlisted building in a conservation area without planning permission is a criminal offence. 

The defences and penalties are the same as for listed buildings. As with listed buildings, an enforcement notice can be served to rectify any works done without planning permission or work done in breach of a condition on such a consent. Breach of the enforcement notice is itself a further offence committed by the then owner.

(Turns out they weren't willing to wait that long...)

No doubt Visionbell Ltd will claim that the building was unsafe and had to be demolished to prevent it falling down and being a danger to the public (the only acceptable 'defence'). However erection of the full heavy-duty scaffolding and wrapping suggest that this was the intention right from the start. Such extensive temporary works would not be necessary just to put some new windows in.

In its planning application to restore the facade, RRA Architects stated:
The existing building is a disused three storey building covered in posters and adverts. Currently, the facade is run down and does not present a welcoming approach to the High Street. Following the prior approval it is our intention to vastly improve the building. 

I only hope that the council takes immediate action to prevent any more of the building being knocked down, and starts legal action to force the landowner to reinstate it.

*Article updated on 28th November to clarify that the facade has actually been removed too. This was not made entirely clear in the initial blog post, I can only apologise for not meeting my usual standard of clarity; I was fuming when I wrote the post.


Anonymous said...

No good talking to the Council - Lewisham are money grabbing again - at the expense of the community. Flats are being given the go-ahead by a council who have not provided decent rentable homes for the people who live in the borough... and in case anyone wants to know, they are also re-defining the boundaries of Lewisham - soon they will be able to wash their hands of Deptford, because they are contemplating putting it back to being Greenwich and Deptford - like the old days, when we had communities. Just saying

eleanargh said...

To be fair it does seem quite common to cover buildings in that white plastic stuff when doing works now - the building next to my work has been covered in it for a year during (genuine) renovation. I presumed it's about protected workers from the elements, and/or reducing air pollution from works.

Re the comment above, council boundaries - Lewisham is looking at changing the boundaries between wards within Lewisham. Losing any part of the borough to a neighbouring council is not part of that. If the commenter has different information can share it ?

Unknown said...

Terrible shame that this historic Listed building has been illegally destroyed. So many of London's old pubs have disappeared. Hope this developer gets taken to court.

Anonymous said...

@ anonymous 27 Nov 00:25:

What would you expect from a borough where every councillor is Labour! money hungry numpties who lack any intelligence or foresight. Let's just hope that twit Corbyn doesn't do the same to the rest of the country when he bankrupts it!

Anonymous said...

Speaking of old pubs... Does anyone know what they are doing with the one on the corner of Childers Street, by the junction of Abinger Grove?

Unknown said...

This is another example of deregulation allowing private companies to do what they like. Property developers in North London thought they could tear down a historic pub. They were ordered to rebuild it brick by brick.

Anonymous said...

This is criminal! You can see that its been demolished if you look under the scaffolding wrap on the side of the building. So shocking to see it all gone!!
Does anyone know the history? How old is it? It seems as old as the listed building...!
I am sure the Council will be acting on this as its in a conservation area, but I doubt it will actually get very far with Lewisham's enforcement team history! They never do anything!!
Has anyone notified the Council or the conservation people?
these developers just keep doing what they want and getting away with it.

Anonymous said...

This appears to be an entirely speculative 'article'. Surely the facade is the only thing that matters and that appears to be in tact? What am I missing? Has an architect actually condemned this building or is that just the assumption of the writer?

Edd Gibbs said...

Lewisham council will de nothing to put this right.
The councillors that were paid off to allow this to happen will make a little noise and seem to be on the right side of legal but once the dust settles and the brown envelopes have been opened, it will be business as usual and the developers will get what they want.
Profits all round and make mine a large one old boy!

val said...

For all Deptford residents, the Noah’s Ark (pronounced “Norr’s Ark”) was a way of referring to the junction of the High Street and Evelyn Street, and for going that way. The destruction of Deptford’s history is criminal. I have a Museum of London book on the excavations in the docks area, showing what we’ve lost. My heart breaks. When I had a conversation with the mayor he was surprised I had spent all my 66 years in Deptford, the last 42 in a house in Ladywell (still in the constituency) bought from parents of a schoolfriend and therefore known to me for over 50 years. He has no sense of the historical nature of the borough he is destroying, and which Bullock before him ruined. We should be more famous than Greenwich and carry the royal borough title they bear.

eleanargh said...

The council has confirmed the frontage is demolished above the ground floor - https://lewisham.gov.uk/articles/news/statement-regarding-former-noahs-ark-public-house?fbclid=IwAR1fwqE5YbSvMNb4SRF7mZiNYPwAuae4bDXVWg4dD8Mb635i7TogEP8GJA8

Anonymous said...

How was this missed by the council - which has last year appointed a Heritage Officer on their pay roll and consultants at hefty fees to assess the heritage assets of Deptford High Street. And that is after 20 years of inaction following an official recommendation for preservation action on Deptford High Street In the 1990s. Only now as that order is about to expire and there is MONEY for the council have they take very tardy steps towards the first phase of looking. IE OVER TWO DECADES OF heritage destruction later. Even so and despite the many voluntary hours put in by Concerned residents to the council’s present Heritage Strategy consultations THIS HAS HAPPENED UNDER THE RADAR of a paid consultantfromBakers of Clerkenwell simultaneously assessing the heritage of the High Street for the council at THE SAME TIME as the wraps went around the Noahs Ark. If there is a law Lewisham can be prosecuted for its neglect and long standing abuse of the physical environment of Deptford then charge them now.
Also wondering why the group self tasked to look after the High Street the Deptford Society missed this before it was too late.

Anonymous said...

My late wife lived in the Noah's Ark as a toddler. Would have been around 1940 or so. Her parents were landlords of the pub. Many years later we ventured there and she was surprised to see the brown tiled exterior as she remembered it. That was about 1990.

Olly said...

This was mental.. in defense of the current developer, they did not tear down the building but another previous developer did, the council did act as soon as it was reported - please see link below: https://councilmeetings.lewisham.gov.uk/documents/s1486/227%20DEPTFORD%20HIGH%20STREET%20SE8%203NT.pdf