Monday, June 14, 2010

New path update – your input required

On Friday evening, me and Marmoset met with WWM Architects, represented by Arthur, Steve and Jonathan, at Creekside Centre. They had just had a meeting with Jill Goddard, founder of the centre. Jill is now Executive Director of Thames Estuary Partnership, a dynamic woman with a full time job, who has stepped back to Creekside to salvage the Centre from extinction....

Having guessed what the meeting might be about and why it should involve representatives from Crossfields, we were a little weirded out by the first half hour of our meeting. Steve described their role as 'spacial negotiators', having to work in partnership with local authorities, communities and developers with a brief originating from Design For London. At some point soon they would like to present some workable ideas to Lewisham Council...

The focus was on how Crossfields as a community might use the Creekside Centre, and how we might like to expand our use of our green areas. They would like to introduce us to Claire Pritchard, who runs Greenwich Community Development Association (, a long running project that had just moved close by into Norman Road. Claire could come and tell us how to develop our green areas. All very interesting, but when were we going to get to 'the path'?

Getting to the point

Although there were plans in front of us on the table showing the route of the path, this was last thing being talked about. I suggested that these ideas about green areas we had just discussed were sweetners, since extending the path meant one of our gardening enthusiasts would lose their garden. They confirmed this. However, they believe the land belongs to Network Rail with whom negotiations were at an early stage. Later it was clarified that they did not envisage that the new extension to the railway path would be fenced off, so north and south parts of the estate would not be cut off from each other. But the garden would go.

They stressed that their focus was on improvements to our area that happened to include the proposal for the extension of the path and what happens to it at either end. Marmoset and I were entrapped in a bit of 'blue sky thinking' – or pie in the sky, as I like to think of it, such as we have come to expect from architects employed in the public sector given free reign to imagine our futures, unlike those engaged by developers who might at some stage be asked to draw up something to assauge a Section 106 community use....

They were expanding on ideas that had arisen in the Creekside Charette that had obstensibly had the aim of protecting us from the most dismissive aspects of new developments, unable to stop them, but suggesting ways to soften their harsher aspects...

It immediately appeared to me that there were snags and problems with almost all of the ideas on the table. No wonder these guys called themselves spacial negotiators, they were more like date finders for all the disparate interests, hoping to get a marriage from the most unlikely partners. I was reminded of local heroes long gone who made careers out of this sort of thing, for instance Jess Steele and Richard Walker, who, among others (eg Creekside Forum as was), fought for us to get the Ha'Penny Hatch. Marmoset and I were out of our depth.

How does your garden grow?

For starters, they had been looking at our little patch as a delightful collection of 'green areas', and wanted to improve our 'garden' spaces. The vision was of one long gone, the orchards that were here when we were Kent, let's not mention that's before it became home to the most toxic and smelly industries outside the city (tanning, potteries, slaughter, etc) that were housed around the Creek. These new boys must know that now the Thames is one of the cleanest rivers in Europe, but that doesn't necessarily include the land alongside.

Perhaps the GCDA might be able to help us, for instance, to increase the potential of our green areas by establishing more growing areas (allotments to you and me)...but I wondered after the meeting if the GreenwichCDA would be able to offer funding for what is essentially Lewisham Council land. Is the land even fit to grow on, for instance? Wasn't the nature park so contaminated they decided not to build on it? And, who on earth would manage our little green spaces? And there might be lots of us balcony dwellers who dream of growing stuff and then lose interest when most of our plants die after a hot summer or a cold winter...(a bit like Glendales, really, leaving a lot of bare patches)...

It became clear that 'looking for other parts of the estate to cultivate' was compensatory to the loss of the garden that the new path would cut through...That the path would be extended alongside the railway up to Deptford Church Street didn't appear up for debate. Another piece of land would be found for this gardener, we were told, with no one accusing anyone of 'squatting' on owned but unclaimed land.

I told them we had an Allotments Rep who we could take this to. I failed to say that Crossfields allotments were a rather informal arrangement, and this could be complicated. It appeared that was already recognised, in that land ownership was rather hazy. Marmoset and I also failed on the spot to identify other 'growing areas' whilst the architect boys thought we might take down the big trees on the Farrer lawn, for instance, and replace them with less shady and, er..., more trendy, fruit trees...

Whilst we liked the idea of returning to the Kent garden that this area once was, we already foresaw differences of opinion among the community on the whole tree thing. I say 'trendy' because the trend was definitely 'grow your own', regardless of the quality of the soil around here, which I was reminded earlier by one of our gardeners, is possibly still contaminated. It became apparent, whilst we were blue-skying with the architects, that they hadn't even walked round the estate yet and identified the green areas they had most likely mapped out from a Google satellite view. (BTW, it was a bit creepy that Frankham House, Congers, Finch and Cremer weren't included on it, but let's not get paranoid, and put it down to their concerns with what was closest to their main objective, 'the path')...

Surely they weren't working from Estate Plans which we still haven't been supplied with. We pointed out there was a patch of land near the Wilshaw allotments that was so overgrown that a dead body was found there recently only when some estate lads had been working to clear a bit of the land to make a BMX track. The TRA had been asking whether this land was part of the estate for a long time and had never got an answer. It was certainly never included in any maintenance. Could our architect friends perhaps finally find out once and for all who owned it?

Creekside Centre

As previously stated, they were also interested in expanding the use of Creekside Centre. Would residents like the use of it as a clubhouse? We talked about using the classroom area for table tennis or dance classes, but all this is dependent on plans for how the building is managed in the near future. The Centre needs to expand its revenue sources, but realistically, any alternative community uses should not interfere too much with the intrinsic purpose of the centre – environmental education and nature conservation. There is much public confusion around just what that is, and meanwhile, the Centre itself has still to find the funds to finance a manager that could keep the building open and be able to co-ordinate alternative uses.

Nevertheless there are possiblities there that it is hoped Crossfields folk may work with – summer events, playschemes perhaps...all ideas welcome. But probably nothing that involves the TRA directly, who in their present incarnation don't really have the wo/man power to run more than the Crossfields festival once a year by the skin of their teeth. All hands to the deck. (By the way, more news on Crossfields Festival soon)...

The West End...

As for the path through the estate, it is indeed a proposal to favour cyclists. Despite denials, the plan to extend the present path through to Church Street on the south side of the railway was obviously the reason for all this cuddly talk of green areas, but it was also unclear. Perhaps the pavement area by the bus stop would be divided into pedestrian and cycle path, encouraging cyclists to use the new entrance.

Perhaps another crossing of Church St would be made that led to Resolution Way. That was certainly how the path had been drawn on the map presented to us. It was suggested that when the Tidemill development was complete, the old Mechanic's Path would be opened up (and not closed at night), offering another safe route for pedestrians and cyclists, ie from Deptford Station direct to Ha'Penny Hatch.

Arthur had been involved in drawing up plans last year to redesign Church Street which involved getting rid of the bus lanes and reducing the dual carriageway to single lanes with a large central area studded with trees. This proposal would mean the road was much easier to cross and three informal crossing points were indicated on his plans. But they weren't hopeful of this going ahead any time soon, since it would be such a large and expensive project.

The architects seem to think this is the salve that would solve what they see is a great divide between us and the high street – even bigger than the Creek in the West-East division, Steve said. I pointed out the road was extremely busy and couldn't accommodate the loss of the bus lanes. They said they thought it was a quiet road on the whole. I said you haven't been here on Saturday when it could take half an hour to get out of Creekside by car, or when either of the tunnels are closed or there's an accident on the A2 or A200 and Creekside becomes a rat run...

The East End...

I was later reminded that the Blackwall Tunnel is now closed until further notice every weekend, so it is no wonder their scheme for a single lane Church Street is not being taken on seriously at this stage. Talking of the Greenwich end of things, it was very unclear what would happen to 'the path' when it meets Norman Road. Their plan showed it proceeding along the north of the railway after Norman Road, meeting with Straightsmouth to end up in Greenwich.

Unfortunately, as Marmoset pointed out,  this 'continual path' idea is scuppered by Greenwich's plans for a two-lane one way system planned to be put in place in time for 2012. Crossing such a bypass presented a problem that these boys still had to work out, and it appeared their 'spacial negotiation' abilities might be stretched to the full on that. One can only speculate what plans there may be for Deptford roads to be unveiled in the future to accommodate the wonders of Greenwich in 2012.

Another area the architects would like to develop for community use is the patch of land at the Greenwich end of the Ha'Penny Hatch which is owned by Thames Water, and they would welcome suggestions from locals for this too, 'spacial negotiations' with Thames Water were ongoing...

I mentioned to Steve, Arthur and John that there were ideas for this space emanating from some Creek boat people that sounded rather feasible in the spirit of a Berliner canal sort of happening. I was told the ideas couldn't include licensed premises...Doh!...surely this is a great spot for such a project before the hotel gets built on the disused industrial estate...tea by day, beer by night? No one around to hear it? Across the Creek, nestled in nowhere...Perhaps Pizza John and his Deptford Dekker might like to relocate?....I urge all local impresarios willing to pay ground rent to get in there now....

Over to you, folks...

In the meantime the WWM boys were tweaking with what they could. We agreed to meet again in a couple of weeks with a walkabout to identify potential in the green areas on the estate that we might 'develop' (anyone up for mocking up a fake dead body for them to come across? sorry, bad taste).

I hope this next meeting will include some Crossfields gardeners who know rather more than Marmoset or I about growing things in our green areas, or anyone who has something to say about the path extension, and others who may be interested in what we want and need in the area that might utilise Creekside Centre.

We'll let you know the date of this meeting as soon as we know (perhaps the 24th June before the TRA meeting?), but in the meantime if you've got any ideas let us know, contact crosswhatfields, the TRA, talk among yourselves, or leave your comments below.

Background information:


  1. shipwrights palaceMonday, June 14, 2010

    how timely! the Creekside Centre came up in a conversation yesterday, as a result of an idea circulating that Sec 106 from Convoy's will go to the Creekside Centre despite their being a multitude of opportunities and needs for "ecological" environment assistance along that part of the Thames. Surely with all the development currently taking place along the Creek, The Creekside centre shouldn't need to syphon off Sec 106 funds from Convoy's?

  2. shipwrights palaceMonday, June 14, 2010

    See Ianvisits latest posting.

  3. I have been looking after the garden that the proposals for the new cycle way/ footpath through the estate would seek to destroy.

    I love my garden and have poured so much of my heart, time effort and indeed money, into turning a neglected wilderness into as beautiful and positive place as I possibly can. As well as improving the estate the huge benefits to myself in terms of improved mental and physical health cannot be exagerated.

    Local children have helped me planting and growing a huge variety of plants , both vegatable and decorative. They have enjoyed playing in an area of the estate that was was previousley used by addicts etc and was very unwelcoming and unused. I had waited 6 yrs to get an allotment which shows how valuable and valued they are.

    Of course it sounds like I am being put in a very awkward position in that other improvements on the estate seem to be conditional on my garden being destroyed. So I am presented with a very harsh choice. But we are still at an early stage, even though it is being presented as no choice about my gardens fate seeming possible.

    Well we shall see eh;O} Ideally we should get all the benefits offered without having to destroy a valuable and now much loved community resource. Let's see what we can do!

  4. Shipwright's Palace, the subject of Section 106 money did not come up in our particular meeting, and as I understood it the Centre is still trying to raise funds to get a manager...where has this rumour come from?!

  5. Are there plans for developing the old Greenwich Industrial estate facing onto Norman Road on the other side of ha'penny hatch?

    The plans to make Church Street single lane are ridiculous. There has been other schemes like this that have been complete failures. Woolwich springs to mind.
    All we would end up with is a larger green area in the central reservation but that would just be dead land. Who would want to spend time there? With a single lane traffic would increase leading to bigger tailbacks feeding out onto the other main roads that Church Street meets at either end.
    At the moment bus users benefit by wizzing down the bus lane and that offers an incentive to use a bus. Take that away and the bus will sit in traffic. With added traffic on nearby roads due to added congestion on Church Street, buses on those routes will be held up too.
    It wont ever get people out of their cars. The time benefit of using buses goes, and if people are going to be stuck in traffic then they will at least want to do it in their cars.

  6. James, I have added some links to the post...

  7. shipwright's palaceTuesday, June 15, 2010


    source of rumour perhaps:

    Isn't there also always something unpalatable about these schemes? the above seems to be treating Crossfield's as, how does the saying go "putting lipstick on a pig" ? now i'm not saying Crossfield's is a pig, as a former resident, I am aware of the intricate complexities, joys and frustrations of the unique place that is Crossfields and its people, there is something remarkable and precious about the place, Surely this present spend has more to do with tarting the place up so as not to upset the new neighbours? to say nothing of the irony of erasing a much treasured garden in order to "green" spaces.........

  8. James, there was info about the plans for the Industrial Estate at a Charrette update, but I can't find anything on the web except the Deptford Dame's and 853's reports...anyway, it's another hotel, luxury flats and some retail, as usual...
    At the same meeting we got info about what they're going to do with Faircharm/Workspace (put a roof on it) easy-to-hand info on that either, unless you have time to trawl the planning portals...

    Shipwright's: I wonder how up to date that council page on Convoy's is?

    Re the Crossfields pig, oink, oink, any fabulous lipstick-sorry-landscaping should certainly draw attention to the fact that Lewisham Homes have let the whole place decline even more than the council did when they were in charge. Oh, er, actually, Lewisham Homes are the council...