Friday, October 12, 2012

Deptford High Street improvements

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.



  1. Absabloodyright.

    I particularly like the white, middle class, 30 somethings, outside Peacocks in the artists impression.

    Well done Lewisham!


  2. I would like to see a local steering group with people like joan and peter and a few market traders and also one of the market managers like Lucy coupled up with4or5 resident reps and a street cleaning manager
    leading the way on our loval environment local people making Lewisham a better place for thrir nrighbours

  3. I live in Deptford High street and have done so for 14 years. I have lived in Deptford itself for 19 years.

    I have written many, many letters to the council, the local MP and the police about the appalling problems of public drinking that affect this end of the high street. For years the focal point for this problem has been the low wall around the anchor. This wall is almost permanently occupied by alcoholics. The problems spilling over from this spot have affected myself and my children for years.

    My front door step is habitually used as a toilet (3-4 times a week) My children have witnessed weekly, sometimes daily violent brawls that the local residents and shopkeepers are now so habituated to that they rarely call the police. I and my children have witnessed stabbings, robbery and assault. Almost all of this behaviour is as a direct result of drunks permanently sitting at the end of the street.

    The anchor, it seems is to be removed. But the anchor itself is not the problem. It's the low wall that surrounds it.

    I am therefore frankly astonished to see that what appears to be a planter with a low wall for seating is being proposed. This will in fact be more of an attraction to the street drinkers than the existing lay out. It is set further back from the main junction and has trees to provide shade.

    In fact the proposed 'seating' is almost directly opposite my house and that of my opposite neighbours who have also experienced and protested about this chronic problem.

    I try to be a humane and compassionate person. I fully recognise that alcoholism is a complex illness arising often from poverty, deprivation, abuse and unemployment. I am aware that moving the drinkers on simply moves them somewhere else. But I am, after years of enduring this situation, coming to the conclusion that many people think Deptford high street should be the place to dump street drinking. It would not be tolerated in the centre of Lewisham or Greenwich but then as this is Deptford one of the most deprived areas in South London...

    Please, please do not ruin this development by building what will very quickly become a toilet and 24-hour lawless bar.

  4. Zaphod BeeblebroxMonday, October 15, 2012

    Re highway and pavement vandalism, we are talking about Lewisham Council here. The same council whose own highway department regularly steals Victorian granite sets (cobble stones) whenever it gets the chance and then sells them on to garden centres etc. The proceeds of which never see the inside of a council coffer. Ask them what happened to the wonderful sets at the southern end of Creekside for example ? They'll blame it on cyclist safety though there is no record of any cyclist ever having fallen off there. They'll say they are safely stored but see how far you get when you ask to see them. It's fun seeing how fast they can make up the next lie though.

  5. It seems the anchor may be entering a storage facility in Kent (Chatham). We must save the anchor!

    1. If Chatham gets the anchor back, then we must have the original Royal Deptford Dockyard Clock Tower back from Thamesmead. Let's have both!

  6. What if the anchor stayed where it is and they get rid of the low wall surrounding it? Would the alcoholics still congregate? Probably, because it's close to the shop(s) that sell to them (there's a clue).

    1. If the anchor wasn't there, people would still congregate at the top of the high street cos it's near the 999 Club and close to the booze and betting shops, and by being next to the main road these people can "be seen" and feel part of something whilst living outside it. Exclusion orders issued by the 999 Club to those in their care hanging out at the anchor have only resulted in them moving to outside the shop on the corner near the anchor.

      The problem could be exacerbated by the central London clearing house for the migrant homeless (St Martin's etc) sending folk to Deptford specifically, along with other places where homeless (migrant) charities operate. Not all homeless people helped in this way end up at the anchor of course. A number of tent dwellers were recently removed from the Sue Godfrey Nature Park on Deptford Church Street. They may not be the same people as the hardened alcoholic (and drug using) migrants who can be seen stealing tins of booze from the rubbish bins at Eurowines in Creekside, but they may have been searching a rubbish bin near you.

      These are hard times that are going to get harder.

  7. Just a technical note: the shattered panel of glass at Deptford station is likely to be 'nickel sulphide induced' failure, ie, a manufacturing fault. Not 'steel tension' as reported.

  8. Deptford Pudding, you were right! What a waste. What's to be done to stop this?