Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The future is fragmented

Thanks to Deptford Dame for digging up an almost secret consultation process about the Future of Deptford Town Centre this weekend.  How comes nobody seemed to know about the upcoming consultation on the proposed developments for Douglas Way?  Who has been told about the meetings in the Albany Theatre tomorrow (Wednesday, 29 September, 4 - 7pm) and on Saturday (2 October, 10am - 12 noon)?

So as yesterday was a bit of a ''walk around making a nuisance of myself day'' I popped into the regeneration office in Unit 1, Resolution Way, to see what I could find out.  The initial conversation started off a little like this:

''I wanted to see what I could find out about the consultation that's coming up at the Albany.''
''We've already done it on Friday and Saturday''

Perplexed, this turned out to mean that not only was there an Albany-based consultation that nobody seemed to know about but that there had also been another Unit 1 consultation that nobody seemed to have known about as well.  How did that work out?

It appears that the office was talking about this consultation....
This particular consultation was specifically targeting the tenants who would need rehousing if the architects' plans got the go ahead.  I can't remember the exact order, but there would be a chain of rehousing which works out something like this;  build new flats on the Tidemill nature garden site, rehouse the residents of the block on the north side of Reginald Road, demolish this block and rebuild on that site, move residents in one block on Giffen Street into there, demolish that block and rebuild, and so on.  Until just about everybody has moved one block along.

The residents of Frankham House, which is on the same block of land, were not consulted on this.  It appears that the progressive rebuilding and rehousing of a local community does not concern them because they're not part of the rehousing chain.  These old Crossfields flats were built to last it seems.

So, regardless of the rights and wrongs about very targeted consultations that leave neighbours wondering about what's going on in the blocks next door, this fragmented approach to letting us have our say is how they're working.

More concerning, however, was that, while the man I spoke to, Gavin, was exceptionally helpful and communicative, he didn't actually know anything about the Albany consultation that Deptford Dame flagged up on Sunday.  I actually had to get him to type lewisham.gov.uk/deptfordtowncentre and steer him away from vainly looking at Lewisham's list of active consultations (where I've yet to track it down - while the link claims ''This site lists all consultation events being run by the Council'' there clearly is no trace of any of these consultations) before he knew what I was talking about.  So, absurd as it seems,  I've walked in off the street, asked about a consultation, and I'm actually telling him how to get to where a different wing of his own department is carrying out its consultations.

''Ah, it's the Douglas Way consultation!''

How are we supposed to find out what is going on when the Regeneration office doesn't know what its other hand if doing?  It seemed pointless to ask what kind of publicity, leafleting, etc is being carried out because Gavin would have had no way of answering.

It strikes me that there's something dysfunctional about all this.  Modern information technology allows people work in isolation - because information is easily circulated.  But this can only be effective if the information genuinely gets circulated.  Otherwise the whole thing becomes fragmented and uncoordinated, both within the council's offices and between the public and the council.

EDIT: I would like to re-emphasise that in no way do I want to criticise the person I spoke to.   Gavin's helpfulness was exemplary.  It's not the person, it's the structure that I'm unhappy with.  The simple fact that these consultations are not listed on the council's consultation page demonstrates that the system isn't functioning properly.


  1. The rumour that has been circulating in Frankham House for quite a while is that they're going to be sold off and pulled down, so it would be nice of the planners to reassure them that they're not.
    (Or are they?)

  2. Those rumours are a demonstration of the harm partial or inadequate consultation can do - residents know that something's in the air to do with selling off buildings (The old Tidemill school may gain a roof and be sold for private dwellings) and general reconstruction. In the absence of consultation, it's only natural that rumours and suspicions about why they're being kept in the dark will start to circulate. In fact, the lack of information about what is going on is probably a result of Frankham not being directly involved in the big changes.

    (Of course, I'm assuming that there is no bigger secret plan lurking in the background....)