When building work finally commences in a couple of months' time on the delayed Cathedral/United House development next to Deptford station (see pic below), one of Deptford's most recent and best loved landmarks, the café known to locals as "the train", will have to move.
The café has been given notice to be off the site by 31st August, but a decision over where it will go must be made within the next week. Whilst Cathedral have offered to help with some of the relocation costs, another option is that they buy the train business and move it to Brighton, where they are 'delivering' an "Innovation Quarter". Meanwhile, the café staff have been given notice, as have the creative business tenants in the arches, who have been offered space in Canning Town.
The train café was originally planned to be moved to sit alongside the new station – the perfect place for it. It appears on this model which was viewed during the 'consultation' (though was missing from the application drawings).
But Network Rail own the land in front of the station and they have said the train café would compromise the franchises they want to put in their arches, eg their corporate partners Costa Coffee. Surely the developers must have known this might be the case when they submitted their plans?
Might the train go here instead, under the Mr & Mrs mural?
No, Lewisham Council says the train is too heavy. The anchor was also considered to be too heavy to go here. Watch out the pavement doesn't cave in next time you walk on it!
Could it perhaps go here, in Douglas Square? Or are there other vested interests vying for this space? If it can't go here, then it's goodbye to the train cafe.
Update 20th June 2013: Still no news on the train's new home, or if it can stay. Some of the displaced artists and creative businesses may relocate to Tidemill, but nothing is confirmed.
Update 29th June: ditto above.
CREATIVE DEPTFORD AND THE DEVELOPERS
The marketing pitch of all developers is that Deptford is a thriving creative community, yet these days a great many of Deptford's creatives are actually homeless. Businesses are being chucked out of Faircharm to make way for luxury apartments, Utrophia's temporary time on the high street is up just as soon as Antic get their planning sorted, and the artists in St Paul's House must also move out at the same time as those in the Deptford Project yard.
Lewisham Council, which enjoys the vast amounts of Section 106 money that comes from these developments to spend in other parts of the borough, also trades on Deptford's creative reputation whilst failing to ensure there is adequate accommodation for the people that created the reputation. The Council have just re-signed the contract for Newbould Guardians to stay at the old Tidemill school – a property that could accommodate a hundred creatives yet only houses about ten, at enormous expense to Lewisham's taxpayers whilst making a tidy profit for a private security firm.
Cathedral plc say on their website: "In summer 2008 we installed a 1960s commuter train carriage into a site next to Deptford High Street train station in south east London. We put it there to kickstart a £42m mixed-use PPP regeneration scheme with the London Borough of Lewisham in partnership with United House...The Deptford Project Café has become a popular place with Deptford locals. Lovingly restored by neighbourhood craftsmen and run by a local group, the café acts as a creative hub for the community and as the focal point for The Deptford Project. It has been featured in media all over the world and was hailed as London’s grooviest new café. Vogue magazine included The Deptford Project Café in their top 50 favourite things in London....We continued our placemaking by opening up the abandoned arches under the carriage ramp and letting them on a temporary basis to local craftspeople. They have built a vibrant community there..."
But now we're chucking them all out!
United House, who call the site Deptford Rise, say "it is a £60m PPP project to include 138 private homes, new public space, live/work units and office space for small, creative organisations. The Deptford Project is already established as a thriving and quirky community initiative where features include a cafe in a disused train carriage, pop-up markets and an outdoor cinema in summer."
So the people who have built the vibrant community, who have helped to create Deptford's reputation as a creative hub, must fuck off so that new creative spaces (which no one will be able to afford) can be built. The creative scene in Deptford is down to two main factors: Goldsmiths College and cheap space. The latter is now only available as a result of temporary spaces created by developers while they thrash out the details of their luxury home developments with Lewisham Planning. The only creatives who can survive the onslaught of the developers in relative security are those who can afford to own their buildings.
There could be a smoother transition from temporary to permanent in these situations, but there is not. What makes an area unique in the first place is disregarded and unsupported when it's time to sell the luxury flats to overseas investors (see Alternative SE4's latest post). The Deptford X visual arts festival only gets support from developers when they are sucking up to Lewisham Planning in the initial stages. Never mind, eh, creative people are a sturdy bunch used to living on the edge in total insecurity, and those who find themselves having to leave are soon replaced by the next batch of plucky graduates, a factor that the developers are relying on. There is no "now", there is only "the future". In the future, all creatives are envisaged as operating solely in the digital world, where space is virtual.
The buzzword for developers and planners is Placemaking. This is originally defined (since the 70s) as capitalising on a local community's assets, inspiration and potential "to create good public spaces that promote health, happiness and well being". There is indeed now much capitalising on the community's assets – in this case, 'Creative Deptford' – in order to drive up the value of new luxury apartments and increase the profits of the developer.
The main driver for the massive Convoys Wharf development is Deptford's "creative" reputation. The fact that the site has enormous historical significance is more or less disregarded since preserving and celebrating that aspect would get in the way of building 3,500 flats (3000 of which are likely to be marketed to foreign investors). Heritage is mainly to be acknowledged in place naming only. In its "Cultural Strategy" the developer states that their plans will make Deptford "the new Shoreditch" whilst conveniently forgetting that that part of the East End is located right next to the wealthy City of London, and hundreds of creatives had to move out before all the new trendy people could move in.
Still, in the time it takes for the Convoys site to be built (some twenty years or more), there may be opportunities for cheapish temporary spaces, but not for some time to come, so this will be little comfort for those caught in the present developer-led transition. Such is the poisoned chalice of regeneration.