Friday, October 12, 2012
We've been meaning to write about this for ages, but never got round to it: how Lewisham Council intends to spend the £1.5m awarded by the Mayor of London's Outer London Fund to make improvements to the southern end of Deptford High Street.
Now there's a drop-in event at Deptford Lounge on Wednesday 17 October (4-7pm) for you to find out for yourselves.
You can read more on Lewisham's website. Also see Deptford Dame and Brockley Central. On the council website you can also fill in a survey that asks "What would encourage you to shop more often at Deptford High Street and Deptford Market?" and, having declared that the anchor is to be moved from its present position, ends with the question "Where do you think it should go?"
The Deptford Dame says there is a very obvious place to put the anchor – in the new skate park at Giffin Square (the kids can skate around it). She also points out that the plans show some nice new low-level seating, so the drinking community will still have a spot to perch.
Whilst new lighting, better electrical connections, more trees and new drainage are all improvements to be welcomed, other plans may be less so. New paving will obviously improve the look of the place, but how many times must we get new paving, for it only to look dirty and terrible within a few weeks? Just look at Douglas Way now, it's absolutely filthy. The new paving in Giffin Square is already stained and never cleaned. And within days of being laid, new paving by the main road was being dug up by utilities whose obligation to return it as found was not enforced by the council with any vigour. Not to mention the paving already in the high street which has been filled in for years with tarmac by Lewisham themselves (as is most of the paving elsewhere in the borough).
And what is the point of new paving when there is no proper cleaning up (ie jet washing) after the three-day-a-week market? What is the point of new lighting when the lighting is never properly maintained? What is the point of new trees when they are left to die? (see Frankham Street).
Ongoing maintenance of the high street is sadly lacking. Fancy new stall canopies and outdoor art exhibitions are not going to hide the fact.
Another fine example of how all this new stuff just goes to wrack and ruin within months is Deptford Station, which some have said is "approaching dereliction before it is even fully finished". The spanking new surfaces are showing the results of six months of neglect, with dirt, dust and pigeon droppings, staining from spillages on flooring and glass, leaks in the roof, dead pigeon feathers, a shattered glass panel (due to steel tension rather than vandalism), a smell of fish, and the lifts stinking of urine (no toilets, alas!).
The rapidly declining state of the new station is thanks to Network Rail or South Eastern's neglect, rather than Lewisham Council's, but goes to show that without cleaning and maintenance, there's not much chance of new public spaces looking – and feeling – good for long.
Update 17/10/12 (edited 18/10/12):
From the mini exhibition this evening we gather that the team working on the Deptford High Street Improvement Scheme have given a lot of consideration to the issues raised above and in our comments section.
Some points to note are:
• The anchor will be moved from the top of the high street, but Giffin and Douglas Squares are not considered appropriate new homes for it since both are used (or will be) for the market and as event spaces. Due to popular demand, however, the "cherished landmark" will not be returned to Chatham Dockyard (from whence it came 20 years ago), but kept in storage until it can be accommodated somewhere. We forgot to ask where the "storage" is – it could well be Chatham. Not a very satisfactory solution for those who have come to regard the anchor as the only visible sign of Deptford's maritime heritage.
• The low seating featured in the architectural drawings will not go ahead. There will be no fixed seating since this attracts street drinkers. Never mind that the late night betting community are not worried about sitting down. The team are considering the idea of having a kiosk (or sort of pop-up cafe) that might sell hot drinks etc and which will have non-fixed seating that will be put away at night. Quite why anyone would want to sit outside by the busy A2 for a coffee is beyond this author. And where are they going to store the furniture? The bloke who runs the Wimpy wasn't too happy about the idea either.
• Some shop keepers who were concerned about losing much of their shop frontage as the market space is widened will be variously appeased. Some of the more historic shopfronts have been identified to receive improvements, though we're not sure what this means.
• The council have entered into a joint PFI (Private Finance Initiative) with Croydon Council which will involve the renewal of all street lighting in the borough and the long term maintenance of its lighting stock for 25 years.
• In a time of cost cutting, the chances of ongoing maintenance of new paving etc is too much to hope for. Since there is no money to maintain what is already in place, it is felt that this opportunity to renew the dilapidated street is better than nothing.
Other issues dealt with include business waste, parking, traffic flow, the market's future storage needs, and ideas for pulling in shoppers. A forum will be set up consisting of various stakeholders and residents.
The team are also working with the police, local organisations and charities to address the issues of street drinking, antisocial behaviour, betting shops, drug dealing and the alarming increase in rough sleeping and homelessness.