Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Crossfields Green Spaces update

Last Saturday, members of Greenwich Co-operative Development Agency (GCDA) helped some green-fingered Crossfields residents to build raised beds in the cleared area next to the Sue Godfrey garden. Eventually this little patch will be sheltered from the main road by a hedge and residents will be able to grow and tend plants – without too much bending! 

If you want to get involved in gardening and growing food on the estate, please contact TRA Chair Tim Wilson.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Lunch music at Utrophia

Saturday 25th February 1.30pm
Charles Hayward 
"What's your problem, pal?"
Drums, songs, spoken word, gesture
Utrophia Project Space
120 Deptford High Sreet

Utrophia have been running 'Lunch Music' on Saturdays for quite a while now. Check out the programme at their Extra Bones website. Crossfields resident and international superstar Charles Hayward plays tomorrow at 1.30pm.

Charles' last outing at Utrophia was on 11th December 2011, during a weekend of events that formed part of the exhibition Deptford Soil. Drumtrophia featured eight drummers playing together, riffing off each other and weaving rhythm and sound throughout the project space for a mesmerising two hours.

Drummers included (clockwise round the room and top to bottom in the pictures below): Charles Hayward, Arnold Lane, Ashleigh Marsh, Kit Mackintosh, Rik Irvine, David Aylward, Merlin Hayward and Matt Rigsby Smith.

Photos: Sue Lawes

Monday, February 20, 2012

Deptford Lounge Launch Week 1st–10th March

The Deptford Lounge has just announced a short season of FREE events in celebration of their official opening.

Describing the Lounge as "the new place to do more, think more and be more in SE8", The Albany (who are in charge of the Lounge) have programmed various dates that should appeal to a large range of tastes (mostly of a literary bent).

They are also inviting people to get involved by hosting a stall at one of the open days (notably, the Recognition Festival on 10th March). Contact Senay Gaul (the Albany's Administrative Director or Jackie Miller (from the Lounge) to find out more.

We're particularly excited that comedian and activist Mark Thomas will be reading from his new book Extreme Rambling on Thursday 1st March – entry is free but booking is essential. And on Friday 2nd March, for retro-pop fans, Deptford Film Club are staging a sing-along to the film Purple Rain which features Prince performing all his 1984 hits (again, booking essential).

There's also an event to mark International Women's Day on Thursday 8th March – The Deadly Dames Rewrite – with readings from Short Stack, a collection of new pulp fiction featuring heroines hell-bent on vengeance. Grrr...

The first event in the afternoon of March 1st marks World Book Day, with kids invited to meet best-selling children's author Steve Cole (3.30-4.15pm). On 2nd March, you can get a guided tour of the building, and on Sunday 4th March there's a Family Fun Day with crafts, poetry, storytelling and the chance to try out the fab software on the Mac computers. The last event on Saturday 10th is the Recognition Festival aimed at young people where they can find out about and try out the variety of activites on offer from local youth-orientated organisations.

For more info, download the e-flyer, or check out the launch events on the Albany website. The Lounge is also on Facebook and Twitter. Note that if you want to book online for Mark Thomas, Purple Rain, or Deadly Dames, you'll need to do a quick registration with The Albany first (otherwise call them on 020 8692 4446).

Friday, February 3, 2012

Join the Thames Tunnel Protest – Sunday 5th February

Don't Dump of Deptford's Heart (the campaign against Thames Water's plans to use the green beside St Paul's Church as a work site for the Thames Tunnel) have organised for a press photo to be taken on Sunday 5th February at 12 noon on the green.

They would like as many people as possible to be in this picture, so if you support the campaign, please pop over – they hope it will only take 20 minutes and there will be soup to keep protesters warm!

They will also be celebrating the announcement that the council have granted the newly formed Deptford High Street Garden Association a lease to use the site for 2-3 years. The aim is to set up a community garden on the green for use by all.

The protest on Sunday will also highlight the impending deadline for the Phase Two public consultation on the use of this site which ends on February 10th. Meanwhile Crossfields should have already received a letter from Thames Water about the tests they will be running on the green, which will last for 10 weeks over February and March. They will be boring three holes 70 metres deep on the site to test soil and water conditions, and work will be going on from 7am to 6.30pm Mondays to Fridays.

Don't Dump on Deptford's Heart believe that Thames Water's previously considered alternative site at Borthwick Wharf Foreshore (on the river) should be used instead of the Deptford Church Street site, which is part of St Paul's Conservation Zone, including both St Paul's Church and St Joseph's Primary School, as well as being in close proximity to Crossfields Estate – Farrer, Congers and Browne House in particular.

If you still haven't objected you can download the campaign crib sheet here which lists the arguments and important people to copy your objection to. Here are the arguments against using Deptford Church Street in preference to Borthwick Wharf in brief:

Deptford Church Street will be reduced to a single lane each way with bus stops relocated. Church Street will be the main means of removal and delivery of excavation materials, seriously affecting traffic and pollution in the area. There is no option to use the river at the Deptford Church Street site, unlike at Borthwick Wharf.

Many residential properties will be affected, especially Farrer and Congers House which are single glazed unlike those at Borthwick Wharf. Thames Water has completely missed out Farrer House in its evaluations. Only Congers House is considered a "Residential Receptor" for Noise and Vibration.

St Joseph's School will be severely affected by dust and noise. One of the reasons Thames Water gave for not using Borthwick Wharf was because of its proximity to Charlotte Turner School – which has been closed for years!

St Paul's Church is a Grade 1 listed building and a tranquil place of worship and a burial ground. The many mature trees (about 36) and the historic wall will be lost, as will the archaeological evidence of Thomas Archer's 18th century rectory. The site is also opposite the Sue Godfrey Nature Reserve, which is also a shortlisted site but considered less suitable because works would need to be carried out across both carriageways of Church Street, causing more disruption (not because it is a nature reserve!).

Many local businesses will be affected, but there is only one business at the Borthwick Wharf site that will be affected (the AHOY centre). Road access to businesses in Crossfield St will be compromised and high street businesses backing onto the green will be affected by noise and dust (such as Deptford Deli).

Borthwick Wharf Foreshore was the preferred option in Phase One consultations, but is now considered less suitable "because of the potential effects on residential (the private Millennium Quays development), visitor (?) and business amenity (Ahoy Centre) and due to restricted vehicular access along Glaisher Street (a 'private' road) which is less suitable for heavy goods vehicles. Although the use of barges to transport material could help reduce these potential effects, lorries would still need to be used to transport some materials to and from the site. Furthermore, the use of barges at this site would be complicated by the existing derelict jetty." See "How We Chose This Site" on the Thames Tunnel website. Also see their latest report on the Deptford Church Street site.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

High Street Lament

One of our readers has been emailing us (and other bloggers) for a while about certain developments on Deptford High Street, which is, if you didn't know, a Conservation Zone. Listed below are some of the issues he has raised that counteract and negate all the efforts being made to rejuvenate our high street or honour the designation "Conservation Zone". Included at the end of the post is New Cross (also a Conservation Zone). The Queen of Shops, Mary Portas, could make a whole telly series out of it...

124 Deptford High Street (the old Job Centre)

Our reader's latest lament is over the plan for a massive Poundland at the old Job Centre site, which is currently being built by McDonald Egan. We first reported on the job centre redevelopment in August 2010 and later in July 2011, and the arrival of Poundland was confirmed in August 2011. It appears McDonald Egan could not find tenants for the two previously planned restaurant/bars and this was the best they could do. They always had the option for retail, covering themselves, since it was hard to imagine two restaurant bars competing with each other (though this is an ideal business model apparently – the more the merrier, competition and all that)...

Talking of which, with six or seven pound shops already this side of the railway, one would have thought greater efforts might have been made to attract a less downbeat retail tenant to greet visitors as they emerge from the brand new station in the not so distant future. As the Deptford Dame points out in her latest post, McDonald Egan threw in the towel before any of the new improvements (Douglas Way, the Deptford Lounge, Giffin Square and a brand new station) had begun construction – not to mention the potential Richard Rogers development at the Deptford Project... Read more in the Dame's post 'The Future of the High Street?' here.

Perhaps the developers think Poundland will trump all the other pound shops and run them out of business, leaving the way clear for some bright entrepreneurs to start new and interesting enterprises in their place. Joking (it is unlikely that McDonald Egan think beyond their bank balance)! But already, Seneer, who runs Danny's Pound Land further down the street, told the South London Press before Christmas that he was approached by Poundland to change the name of his shop – with a threat of trademark infringement!

Meanwhile our reader would like everyone to object to the nasty generic shopfront design proposed by Poundland which, if you've a mind to (as Dame Joan Ruddock would say) you can do here (application DC/12/79286/FT – deadline 20th March).

104 Deptford High Street / Giffin Square

Another proposal that has our reader in fits of despair has also been covered by the Deptford Dame recently. In this case a previously submitted and fairly attractive building design has been replaced by one of unutterable blandness, made more horrible by the inclusion of yet another mural by the awful Artmongers, who seem able to do no wrong with Lewisham despite their ghastly mural on Deptford Broadway. The development will back onto the fish shop on the corner of the job centre parade and face onto Giffin Square – so it will be quite a main feature in our enjoyment of the (yet to be finished) square.

Incidentally, the square itself was extremely compromised from its original design – an ampitheatre was envisaged but someone forgot to look into the major drainage problems, and even now, a BT phone box cannot be removed from the resulting compromise (sorry no drawings). We have never seen anyone in the BT phonebox (unlike the one down near Tescos which is used for smoking crack). Anyway, here is what was previously proposed for the new development overlooking the square:

Again, read more details in the Deptford Dame's post 'Giffin Square/104 Deptford High Street'. If you're in the mood to object, the planning application and drawings can be found here (application DC/11/78353/X).

Paving and shopfronts in the Conservation Zone

The main issue that drives our reader to the point of madness is what is allowed to happen to already existing structures in the high street – a Conservation Zone, remember.

For instance, street paving is dug up by utility companies and not reinstated properly (which they are obliged to do within six months but often do not). Soon after the York paving was laid at the corner of Douglas Way, Southern Gas had dug it up and filled it in with tarmac. OK, they've got time to sort it out, but other places such as on Tanners Hill have been unresolved for three years. There appears to be no enforcement and our pavements everywhere are a patchwork of tarmac where paving stones were once laid. Lewisham's reaction to uneven paving is TARMAC before any citizen falls over and litigation can be brought (see our recent post Filling A Hole).

Meanwhile, shopfronts are altered without permission, and guidelines drawn up to maintain the character of the high street are ignored by unscrupulous and uncaring businesses. The more often owners are allowed to get away with unauthorised alterations, says our reader, the more it will happen – making a mockery of the Conservation Area status.

The planning department have stated that "Taking enforcement action can be a long drawn out process and cannot produce ‘quick fixes’...It is not an offence to carry out development without first obtaining planning permission for it. In line with Central Government guidance – PPG18 entitled ‘Enforcing Planning Control’ and Circular 10/97... states that the Local Planning Authority should first attempt to resolve breaches of planning control informally through negotiation with the land owner or developer... The land owner or developer has the right to apply for retrospective planning permission. It would be considered ‘unreasonable’ to issue an enforcement notice (unless the development was about to become ’time barred’) whilst a planning application was in the process of being considered..."

It seems that enforcement might result in appeal with the possibility that costs may be awarded against the council for 'unreasonable' behaviour. There are loopholes in our planning laws that cash-strapped councils are unable to plug.

Paddy Power's alterations to the Deptford Arms is just one of many flagrant abuses of Conservation Area guidelines. In this case, "authorisation for the service of an enforcement notice is being sought". In the case of 37 Deptford High Street, which Abermarle & Bond altered before planning consent was granted, we are told that "informal negotiations are underway to resolve the issue" – in actuality, a "retrospective" planning application was submitted and approved after the alterations took place and before that statement was offered.

You may wonder in some cases, do our public servants have no backbone?  Our reader suggests there should be an "at risk" register for Conservation Areas like Deptford High Street, which, he says, faces a "slow and painful death" (presently, there is only an "at risk" register for specific buildings).

He would also like to see an "amenity group" made up of local people, who could contribute as a panel (expert or not) to advise against the sort of poor design that is proposed for Giffin Square and lobby on all sorts of fronts for a better environment. Perhaps it is only locals who understand the "essence" of what makes the area special, who "get" the gritty grunginess, yet still demand some standards to be met.

A difficult call. Why, for instance, insist on paving to be properly replaced when it is already stained to beyond buggery within a couple of weeks of installation by daily life and commerce and local business tenants and street traders who don't live here, who don't understand nor give a shit what mess happens outside their shop or after they have put away their stall. Go on, replace the paving and see how filthy the rest of the paving is in comparison and expose how it is NEVER CLEANED by the local authority, who will simply replace it all in ten years time when the big funding comes round again.

Rumour has it the lovely paving we were given for the south of the high street, what, 10 years ago (?), now pockmarked with tarmac and filthy as hell, is to be replaced by new paving, courtesy of a big grant from Boris (watch this space or the Deptford Dame for news), and rumour also has it the rest of the high street may get paved with money coming from a Convoys Wharf deal (no way!).

What's the bloody point of all this new paving when utilities dig it up and aren't fined, and traders don't clean up after themselves, and the local authority NEVER washes it. How do we compare to most European cities? Surely we can find a solution (including a cleaning solution that works on York stone) that allows real life to take place and makes housekeeping easy? Despite this local authority neglect, can the problem be solved with Pride?

Back to that picture of the tarmac outside the new barbers (above) – look at the walls, the shop keeper can't even be arsed to finish the paintwork they started, but the inside sure looks nice. Perhaps, with many of the high street's shops being run by people from places like war-torn Afghanistan among other life experiences, this is not surprising. In this case it was quite amusing to see the outside being painted in darkness (with no street light – there has been no proper lighting here since the square renovations started two or three months ago) in order that they could open on the day they'd chosen at the beginning of December – much like the much wealthier Abermarle & Bond (who met their own target a month before they had official permission to).

Can Pride can be tackled at all, as long as south of the railway Deptford High Street is part of New Cross Ward, and the north is part of Evelyn Ward? Presently there is a Divide and Rule democratic status in Deptford and this cannot help it help itself. How can the street have a strong identity when it is administered in this way, in two halves? And where is our Town Manager? (Answer: Cut, a year before The Cuts).

The areas mentioned above are in New Cross Ward, and with its local police stationed in New Cross Gate (as rarely seen as the cops in the north of the street who are based in Surrey Quays), it seems pertinent to mention another area that is sadly lacking in charm, despite the efforts of quite a few individual businesses to breathe life into the area...

Finally, New Cross Road...

In addition to the issues raised by our reader, we were drawn to Brockley Central's recent post regarding the pitiful state of much of the property on New Cross Road. The culprit here is not a faceless anonymous owner but possibly the single largest owner of property in SE14 – Goldsmiths College, who are failing miserably to maintain the many empty buildings they own on the main A2 road and roads off it. The entire area along the main road is a Conservation Zone.

Says Brockley Central guest poster, Isobel, "all the efforts made by the Council, local businesses and community groups to regenerate New Cross are effectively being undermined by this neglect". She's started an e-petition to pressurise Goldsmiths to do something about it. Sign the petition here.

Perhaps "our reader" needs to do the same – start a petition to save our high street?