Monday, May 9, 2016

Creekside construction watch: Faircharm

Work began at Faircharm in November 2015 with demolition of most of the three large buildings on the site. The front facades of two of the original buildings facing Creekside are being kept as a result of advice from Lewisham's Conservation Officer at planning stage. The work was carried out by Ling Demolition under the site management of appointed constructors Bouygues. During this process, the noise and dust were horrendous – buildings vibrated, walls cracked...

The land has since undergone preparation for foundations to be laid – a quieter process onsite, but not on the road, as concrete mixers line up almost daily (see previous post). Meanwhile, here are some episodes from earlier in the year...

The Postbox

Hoardings began to be erected back in August 2015 and soon Creekside's eastern pavement (which borders the site) was lost to pedestrians. The only bit of pavement left was where the fence made allowance for a Royal Mail postbox. Once chock full of mail when serving the former trading estate, since the businesses moved out in 2014 it has remained in use to Crossfields estate residents and surrounding users such as APT and ArtHub Studios as the only postbox in the area within reasonable walking distance.

Site hoardings and parked cars made collection from the postbox impossible

In December 2015, the Post Office closed it. Hardly surprising since the hoardings around it were labelled with stickers saying WARNING - KEEP OUT - DEMOLITION. Some found the closure rather inconvenient – especially elderly residents with mobility problems.

We complained to the Bouygues site manager who had not even noticed the box was closed. He contacted the post office and was told the delivery office manager had visited the box and deemed it unsafe for the drivers to collect. Obviously, the Post Office has a duty of care to look after its workers.

But the real reason – not made clear by the post office, and as we had to point out to Bouygues – was that the hoarding around the box didn't allow enough space to open the post box to retrieve mail. And cars were parking right up close to the hoarding, making it difficult for both posters and post office to even get near the box.

We asked Bouygues to widen the space and stop cars from parking near it – and inform the post office they had done so. But there was a delay in moving the hoarding because Bouygues also wanted to combine this subcontracting with erecting hoarding at Creekside Centre – it was the centre's fault this had not been done, apparently. The box was finally reopened on 27 January, but the busiest time for the postbox – Christmas – had come and gone.

The postbox reopened at the end of January after the site hoarding was opened up.

Non-newsletters, trucks and the Creek...

Friendly correspondence with the Bouygues site manager soon turned into regular nagging as complaints grew. Newsletter updates were promised from Bouygues but were only delivered to the residents directly facing the development despite the work affecting more than half the estate.

Muck shifting vehicles could not get into the site without extensive manoeuvres

The bollards put up by the constructors to stop cars parking next to the postbox turned out to also serve the convenient purpose of facilitating easier access for the trucks entering and exiting the site. Each truck had been having to do a three or four point turn to get into the entrance. In the third week of January, the site entrance was widened. Some trucks are still taking up road space by reversing in; there is no room on the site for such manoeuvres.

Faircharm entrance finally widened

However, HGVs collecting demolition materials had already begun queuing in convoy up the road waiting to get on site – on some days as far as the Birds Nest pub, and many of them waiting longer than 30 minutes.

Dumper trucks queuing in convoy from January, blocking the road and public entrances
They blocked the entrances to APT Gallery and Studios and kept their engines running – in contravention of Rule 123 of the Highway Code. No one from Bouygues told them not to. We involved local councillor Joe Dromey who confirmed that Lewisham did not have the resources to police and enforce the problem and suggested we politely ask the drivers themselves to do this. Bouygues apologised that they didn't know that APT Gallery was a public venue; the message eventually filtered through and a gap was left for the gallery entrance. More recently, however, concrete mixers (whose engines can't be turned off) form the queues. Trucks continue to use the road, spilling loads and spreading dirt.

March 2016: muck trucks queuing all the way to the Birds Nest pub

In November 2015, we'd been assured we'd be told when "lorries will begin to take materials away in bulk" and complained about the queues. The response was that it was not "bulk muckshift" but just a couple of days of taking away crushed materials – at that time, the removal of demolition materials "had not been planned" and we'd be told when the real work started. But we weren't, of course.

The plan was to crush materials on site, whilst some of it was already being moved off the site by the "bin lorries". Wheel washing would be in place to avoid mud on the road, and all vehicles would turn left out of the site (southwards to Deptford Church St), as agreed with Lewisham Planning. The excuse for the fact that some lorries were turning right out of the site was that they had either come to the wrong site, or there was an accident (or too much congestion) at the Bird's Nest roundabout.

In November we asked whether Deptford Creek would be used in the removal of the demolition materials; it was a condition of the developer's planning permission that they carried out a feasibility study on transporting spoil and materials by river, rather than the 80 lorries a day they otherwise planned to have leaving and arriving at the site and clogging up our narrow back road.

As predicted, the developer had wriggled out of the more environmentally clean option of using the Creek – the feasibility study had concluded it was not 'economically viable' as the Creek could only be used "either side of high tide", plus they had to be "5 metres away from the DLR and would only have one place to site barges" – the place where Creekside Discovery Centre muster for their river walks. (Again, Creekside Centre was being blamed). In fact, the rule about being 5 metres from the DLR does not apply to vessels on the Creek, but to structures on land – and the place they can't use is where they have built their compound offices.

February 2016: demolition continues

Asbestos and dust

We also badgered the Site Manager about the dust the demolition was causing, and more worryingly, the removal of asbestos concrete roofing right opposite the estate.

Asbestos removal on the roofs – worker protected but no screens to protect the public
An operative wearing full protective clothing was seen bashing the roof out only yards away from residents' flats. The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) guidelines state that asbestos cement roofing is of medium risk and does not require an enclosure, except "when it is extensive and difficult to remove, resulting in much breakage and debris, or the work is close to occupied or sensitive areas" (p.90 of the HSE's guide).

Our concerns were passed to Ling Demolition who proceeded to carry out air monitoring tests almost immediately. Testing was carried out in close vicinity to the work (on the workers themselves) but not outside the perimeters of the site. However we were assured that "fibre concentrations at the sample locations were within control limits" and "fibre levels will not be greater at locations further afield".

December 2015: dust out of control, coating the surrounding area.

Meanwhile, our concerns about dust (coating the estate, the road, the pavements, Creekside Centre and Ha'Penny Hatch), was put down to excessive wind and a poor supply of water to the site. A 'water suppression system' was fitted to the 'high reach machine' but as a result of our complaints, additional equipment had to be ordered and 'extra water' brought in. Dust continues to be a problem however.

Presumably, Creekside Discovery Centre are satisfied with all these measures, as they have a duty of care to the young people visiting the centre, and would not run their programme if they had any serious concerns. But Wilshaw and Holden House residents who bear the brunt of most of this work have complained that better screening should have been erected to protect them from the dust. More than one resident contacted Lewisham's Environmental Services and got absolutely nowhere with their complaint. Ultimately, Bouygues have a good reputation as a 'considerate builder' to maintain. But it's not looking that good to us.

Cranes arrive...

An April newsletter from Bouygues confirmed that demolition was complete, marking the end of an exceptionally noisy period during which 'groundworkers' had installed 4 'piling mats'. This was followed by the 'groundworkers' casting the substructure works and constructing bases for two tower cranes which were erected at the beginning of April. They join the other two already installed at Kent Wharf – where the same process has been tormenting residents in the north of Crossfields, and presumably all at the Laban.

View from Ha'Penny Hatch, 8 April: the second crane is installed, indicating the building heights

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