Now that locals can no longer make their objections to the application, local campaigners Deptford Is have set up a petition to give a voice to the community so that we can let Boris know that we don't want this.
PLEASE SIGN THIS PETITION AND SHARE THE LINK WITH FRIENDS.
See Deptford Is... and local papers. Also read this week's Private Eye (click on the image below).
Heritage versus housing
Deptford's MP Joan Ruddock, in response to the Boris decision to "call in" the application, has described the site as "a heritage jewel in London's crown". The site is also of international significance, which is why the World Heritage Fund saw fit to include it on their Watch List for 2014-2016.
Boris's glib soundbite to news reporters was that "London needs more housing". Don't be fooled by the notion that London's housing crisis can be solved by the building of 3000 more luxury flats.
Originally, the percentage of "affordable housing" in new developments was set at 50% by Ken Livingstone. But most developers now claim that their sites are not "viable" (= massive profits) unless they deliver affordable housing at below 15%. In the Convoys application it is 14% – an extra 500 units at 80% market rent (still not affordable to the people who keep this city running), bringing the total to an impossibly dense 3,500 units.
It is also feared that, like other major new housing developments, the units will be sold off-plan to foreign investors before going on the market in the UK. Overseas investors currently earn enough from the rise in property values they needn't even bother renting their units out to those who can afford the high rents.
The developers and Boris
It's feared Boris will look favourably on this application, despite the GLA's own reservations to it in their report to Lewisham Planning (in particular from Transport For London).
The developer is Chinese conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa, one of many holding companies owned by the 8th richest man in the world, Li Ka Shing. He also owns major utilities in water and power (ie, UK Power Assets who run much of the National Grid and London's power), fracking (via Husky, causing community uproar in Canada) and telecoms (3G and others – and they're currently being 'investigated' by the EU on their recent purchases of telecoms in Ireland and Italy), as well as major British container ports (see June 2013 post).
Boris Johnson has recently been courting Chinese trade. David Cameron is due to visit China next month "on a trade mission" and Li Ka Shing has been spotted in and out of No.10. Boris is also mates with Rupert Murdoch. (Thanks, Transpontine). Having sold the site to Hutchison Whampoa, News International has a profit share in the sale of the 3000 luxury flats planned for the site.
And this week the PM launched the Regeneration Investment Organisation Advisory Board (RIO), "an inward investment body" with the aim of raising billions of pounds from overseas trading partners to "fund urban regeneration projects". Sky News reports, "Its remit has been borne out of a frustration expressed by many major overseas investors about the bureaucracy and complexity of finalising major deals in the UK". Like Hutchison Whampoa, for instance, who accused Lewisham Planning of making "unrealistic demands" and "unreasonable and unwarranted requests" that would damage their profit margins.
Lungs for the City
The application proposes to build over almost every inch of the historic site, which was founded in 1513 by Henry VIII as the home of shipbuilding for the Royal Navy (the Royal Dockyard that, along with Woolwich dockyard, preceded the grandeur at Greenwich).
To get an idea of the density, have a look round the development at New Capital Quay. That's 1000 flats with a ground space a third of the Convoys site. Imagine that x3. To get an idea of heights, look at the tallest tower at the new Renaissance development in Loampit Vale – that's 24 storeys, half the height of the 48 storey tower proposed at Convoys (the other two being 38).
Considering the latest reports by the No To Silvertown Tunnel campaign, in which it was revealed that pollution levels at the end of Deptford Church Street on Creek Road have been breaching European limits for nitrogen dioxide for more than eight years, his advice is worth remembering more than ever. (Thanks, Deptford Dame).
Especially since Hutchison's plans include parking provision for 2000 cars (all housed in the giant blocks of housing units) that will cause ever greater pollution and congestion on Evelyn Street. The only public transport will be a diversion of the 199 bus and a Thames clipper, putting greater strain on existing services. And don't forget the ten years of construction traffic.
In an ideal world, the entire Convoys site should be planted with trees just to make up for the new IKEA being planned to go on the site the award-winning Sainsbury's eco-building at Greenwich peninsula, which will draw in traffic from miles around to unprecedented levels. (Thanks, 853 blog).
But Hutchisons were arguing over the necessity of widening New King Street to accommodate the bus making a two-way journey.
A people's history
The history of this site is amazing – it features loads of important historical figures (Drake, Raleigh etc), was the launch pad for some fantastic scientific discoveries (Cook, among others), and was built and designed by many celebrated pioneers in engineering and shipbuilding (Rennie, Penn etc), as well as being a place where ordinary people who worked in and around the dockyard have fantastic stories to tell (female shipwrights, black and Asian sailors), that were never recorded by Samuel Pepys who ran the yard for Charles II.
So much of Deptford's history has been buried and ignored (perhaps because of the shame of slavery), it is bursting to come through and speak to us. The site is monumentally multi-cultural – with links all over the world – as much as Deptford is now.
Many of the site's surviving below-ground structures (docks) will be buried under dense 12 storey blocks and 38-48 storey towers. The one remaining above ground structure, the Olympia Shed, will be overshadowed and hidden from view by the buildings closely surrounding it. You'll only be able to glimpse a small part of it from the river. Hutchisons were rejecting English Heritage's demands to open the view up.
The public space provision in the present application is laughable – a thin strip on the riverside and two strips on the sites of an historic dock and slipway, which are only not being built on because they're "protected". They could actually be listed by English Heritage, but not until the full archaeology report made by a commercial arm of the Museum of London which (had to be) commissioned by the developer has been published. It hasn't been published yet, despite the archaeology work being long completed – although not as thoroughly as it could have been (there is, according to Deptford Is, areas of the site yet to be uncovered).
English Heritage have recently listed the remaining walls on the site (including the river walls), which must make it the longest length of listed Thames wall in London. Meanwhile, with no full report, the archaeology of the site is not "fully understood". It would therefore be premature for the Mayor of London to make a decision until this report is published.
Local campaigners have emphasised the heritage of the site and how it can open up a tourism strategy for Lewisham, bringing in visitors from Royal Maritime Greenwich. Unfortunately, the owner of the site is so fixated on the simple formula of selling luxury waterfront residential units that it cannot envision the advantages of owning a site of world heritage – and the capital value that would add to a smaller number of units.
Deptford Is are also advocating that an area on the site designated by the Greater London Authority (GLA) as a "protected wharf" (to be used for river business, very often simply cargo) should be developed as a Maritime Enterprise Zone incorporating boat building and repairs and other associated marine business that is presently lacking in this part of the Thames and which would bring great employment opportunities.
But this is strongly opposed by the developer, who will more than likely lobby the GLA, with Cameron, Osbourne and Johnson's help, to change the designation so that it can build even more luxury flats.
If you care about Deptford, you must sign the petition! This application must be opposed so that a better proposal can come forward – one that combines housing with a full appreciation of the site's heritage.
Update 18 Nov: also see the Deptford Dame's take on the Mayor of London's new role in the process.