This is the same notice as was pinned to the door of the old Job Centre (perhaps even the very same notice), which was squatted at the end of September, just as refurbishment work was about to start on the new pub that is planned for the building. Although a train is not a pub, it seems the same rules apply, and no-one except the squatters can enter the premises. The decking was due to be removed and donated to a garden project, but now cannot be touched since it would deny the squatters access to their new pad. The electricity supply was also due to be cut off, but the squatters say it would be a breach of their human rights to remove their only source of power, which means the cafe (not the developer) may be stuck with a large bill.
No one was in when the site security guard let us into the yard on Saturday to take these photos. The developer's schedule will now be held up until they can get a court possession order. Not that they have seemed to be in any hurry to get started since they got planning permission several months ago.
Meanwhile, another local cafe is about to close, also thanks to redevelopment – the Creekside Cafe on Creekside, part of Faircharm Trading Estate. Their lease is up and there's no point in renewing it, since some time in 2014 building work will begin to turn a thriving employment zone into luxury housing. This will last three years or more and bring great disturbance to Crossfields residents. Unfortunately, a Lewisham Planning Committee agreed earlier this year that Workspace plc cannot make enough profit for its shareholders by simply providing actual workspace.
Creekside Cafe's situation differs from the train cafe in that its owners (Mason's Catering, already a fairly successful catering firm based on Deptford Church Street) knew nothing about Workspace's plans to turn Faircharm Trading Estate into luxury flats and chuck out the businesses that the cafe serves when they took on the tenancy. The train, on the other hand, was initially supported by the developer, who paid for its installation as "meantime use" on the site. In return, Cathedral ingratiated itself into the community with its branding, whilst boasting the cafe's successes as its own. Until, that is, they got their planning permission and wanted rid of it.
The same clever developer did the same last year with the pop-up Mvemnt Café by Greenwich DLR, which was run by Greenwich Co-operative Development Agency, who knew the limits of the project – to cash in on the Olympic pedestrian traffic to Greenwich Park. Perhaps a fine example of "meantime use". Cathedral hailed it as a great success, though we hardly ever saw or met anyone there (since most Olympics punters were herded away from it and all the other Greenwich businesses).
It seems "meantime use" can only work if the business can be easily relocated or closed down. But even then, a planning application can take a long time to come to fruition, and there are often delays in building phases once permission is got, so any business who takes up a "meantime" offer suffers enormous insecurity about when they must move out. In the meantime the business may have become established in the community, sorely missed as a community resource when it's gone, and the business itself left with debts it has no chance of recouping if it cannot easily relocate. And even if they can, like the businesses being chucked out of Faircharm, relationships in the community built up over many years are severed by a move to another borough or town.
Meanwhile, Creekside Cafe has only been around for a relatively short time, but their cheap and tasty food proved popular with and highly convenient for local artists, craftspeople and residents – and those Creekside businesses who haven't yet been forced out by Workspace's new plans for Faircharm.