Thursday, June 20, 2013

Convoys Wharf update: the planning application

Back at the end of May, Crossfields residents and others living locally were sent a letter by Lewisham's Planning Service. This was a "Consultation letter about plans to develop the Convoys Wharf site in Prince Street".

Whilst the need to regenerate this long disused waterfront site is not in question, anyone who cares about the future of Deptford may want to take a closer look at the plans, if they haven't already.

The plans are viewable online or on a table near reception in the Deptford Lounge. You will recognise them by their distinctive branding. It all looks lovely and green and flat. This is just one of the many deceptions in this application. Most of the green areas will be private areas (in black in our illustration).

The application number is DC/13/83358. To view online, click here to go to the list of documents. Worth downloading are Design & access section 2a through to Design & access 4 (8 documents). Further down the list, Environment statement volume 2c has some views you may find interesting.

Local campaign group Deptford Is... have begun to highlight their concerns and hope to expand on these (transport links, heritage, environment, massing and density etc) soon. The official deadline for submitting comments to the Planning Department is 1st July 2013. Responses received after this date will still be considered if received before the application is reported to Committee.

If you are housebound, have any queries you want answered, or want to find out who else has been consulted, please e-mail or phone Emma Talbot on 020 8314 9051.

Please send your comments on the proposal to Emma Talbot, by letter to Planning Service, 5th Floor Laurence House, 1 Catford Road, Catford, London SE6 4SW, or e-mail  Please print your name, do not sign it. 

You may also contact or send your comments to local organisations or your Ward Councillors as well as sending them to Planning. There is also a Convoys Wharf Resident Group made up of concerned locals (mainly from Pepys estate) which is facilitated by the Evelyn Ward Assembly co-ordinator – email to join their mailing list.

This blog will also be making some comments shortly that you may (or may not) find helpful. In the meantime, here are some notes...

The main issues are:

Three towers, one at 48 storeys, the other two at 38. These are competing with towers in London's two financial districts to be among the tallest buildings in London. Why? So that as much profit can be made out of the site as possible.

• The intention is to build 3,500 homes, so apart from the towers, all the buildings surrounding the towers are between 8 and 18 storeys (with some between 3 and 10 storeys on the borders of the site).

• As is happening elsewhere in London, 75% of the units will be sold before they have been built (off-plan) to foreign investors (see this BBC report and this local blogpost).

Only 14% of the 3,500 units will be "affordable". Although this amounts to 500 homes, many will be part-buy part-rent and become increasingly unaffordable through rent increases and high service charges. None will be social housing, and although some will be set at 80% of market rents, this is no way to solve London's housing crisis.

The project is being sold as a "regeneration" package. It's all about 'connections', apparently:

"Cultural and economic links connect the plan with the flourishing cultural and creative industries for which Deptford is already recognised."
Selling the site as "the new Shoreditch" on the back of Deptford's creative industries (which are not flourishing but struggling to survive) is a strategy which has proven to be a disaster elsewhere, driving up rents and driving out locals. How are other "cultures", apart from "the arts", to be catered for?

"Physical connections are made, most notably, through the extension of the High Street directly into the site to link with the new waterfront."
It is not 'notable' to make a physical connection with the High Street. THAT IS WHERE THE STATION IS.

"Connections are made with the site's history."
Celebrated in place names only. Once the site is built, the connections to the site's heritage as a naval dockyard will be forgotten, thanks to a developer-led (and paid for) archaeology that denies the existence of many extant features which will be built over.

The developers state they will offer the following benefits to Deptford:

"The creation of approximately 2,150 new jobs..."
The first phase (a third of the site) is not due to be completed until 2019 – that's six years before any jobs in any sort of service industry will appear. The third phase will not be completed until 2023 (at least), so most of these jobs won't be available for some ten years or more. Around 700-1200 construction jobs will be created over the total construction period. But as locals well know, these jobs are usually taken by East Europeans, despite what assurances are put in place. Even the Council's own contractors MITIE presently employ a great many East Europeans.

The developer envisages the site will be attractive to those working in the Telecommunications, Media and Technology industries – highly skilled and highly paid workers. Some of these sort of jobs may be onsite in the new office spaces – opportunities the developer does not envisage being taken up by locals. The developer also has no intention of using the wharf area to the north of the site – which is protected by the Port of London Authority (PLA) for useage by river business – for anything that might bring in non-McJobs for locals.

"The refurbishment of the Olympia Building to accommodate a range of cultural/leisure and commercial uses."
This building is listed by English Heritage, otherwise the developer would demolish it. They intend for every use made of this building to be profitable to them, with no free attractions or museums for locals. It will become a temple to consumerism and have no connection to its past at all.

"The provision of a spine road running through the site to accommodate a new bus route." There would have to be a new road here anyway to service the waterfront luxury homes and the 1840 parking spaces, so what's the big deal?

"The opening up of the Thames Path and provide a super cycle highway."
They have to do this anyway. And creating a "park" on the present jetty means they can build as close to the river as possible.

"The provision of a river bus service."
The main use for this would be to take the luxury home dwellers to their place of work at Canary Wharf, so that they don't have to go into Deptford to use the train station. "Landmark prestigious art installations" are planned for the public areas, aimed at bringing visitors to spend money in the retail outlets. The inclusion by the developer for the (locally initiated) John Evelyn Study Centre may bring visitors, but will they spend any money here?

A site is marked out for a "new museum" which could be a Deptford Dockyard Museum, but there is no funding for this coming from the developer, and the site in question will have to serve numerous other community needs. The other locally initiated project Build the Lenox, which might also bring visitors and prestige to the site and link it to the World Heritage Centre at Greenwich, is not included in the developer's vision.

"Improvements to highway junctions."
This is not a benefit but a sheer necessity. How else are the 1800+ cars who will have parking spaces on the development going to fit onto Creek Road?

"Community facilities including a new primary school and health clinic."
Do we need the primary school? Charlotte Turner Gardens, owned by Greenwich Council, lies vacant close by.

That's enough for now.

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