Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Convoy's Wharf developer backs Burmese junta

Lewisham council is about to decide on the development plans for Convoy's Wharf as drawn up by the developer Hutchison Whampoa. For more information on the revised plans see the Deptford Dame's post from July 2010. However, since then they have been submitted to Planning and are available to view on the developer's website.

It's the largest development in the area outside the Olympics, 40 acres that will include three tower blocks, the highest of which will be 46 storeys – 20 more than the Seager Distillery tower presently going up on Deptford Broadway, 17 more than the Z building (aka Aragon Tower) and twice the height of Eddystone Tower on Pepys, as tall as the Nat West Tower and a bit shorter than Canary Wharf. Only 25% of the 3,500 residential properties will be so-called 'affordable'. The luxury housing will be gated and there will be 2,300 parking spaces for visitors to the numerous retail and bar outlets. How on earth these cars will find their way down Evelyn Street and Creek Road in rush hour is anybody's guess.

The development will take over ten years to build, and whilst plans for office space have been scaled back, there will now be a hotel, and in the middle of all this, a new primary school.

There are issues around the archaeological and heritage value of the site, and local objectors have proposed alternatives as to how the site might be developed that would serve the community better in terms of employment and educational opportunities, which presently appear to be tiny in terms of skills development for the local population. Some objectors also believe that lip service has been paid to recent archaeological investigations that are nothing short of bogus. It would appear that the Museum of London have been surveying and digging holes in the wrong places.

Hutchison Whampoa, based in Hong Kong, has long been investing in Burma as Hutchison Port Holdings, operating the port terminal at Thilawa, and assisting in the transport of weapons from North Korea to the Burmese military dictatorship. The population live in poverty, thousands of ethnic minorities are persecuted and displaced, and campaigners are jailed as political prisoners (currently 2000+). Aung San Suu Kyi, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, was only recently released in November 2010 after 15 years of house arrest.

Owned overall by the Cheung Kong Group and part of Hong Kong multibillionaire Li Ka-shing's empire, Hutchison Whampoa also own Superdrug, are majority shareholders in the '3' mobile network and have three major UK ports (Felixstowe, Harwich and Thamesport), plus luxury developments in London. They bought the site from News International, but it is believed Mr Murdoch has still got his finger in the pie with a profit share in the finished product (eg, a percentage on the sale of residential units). The plans have not changed that much since Murdoch's Richard Roger's designs were first submitted in outline planning stage to Lewisham.

So anyway, business as usual...after all, our own government was best pals with Mubarak, so Lewisham's unholy partnership with one of the backers of the Burmese junta would appear par for the course.

Lewisham People Before Profit will be protesting against the Convoys Wharf development plans on Saturday 19 February at 11am, between Leeway and Grove Street Deptford, as part of their Carnival Against Cuts. (Crossfields residents will have heard the clarion call via leaflets through their doors). Protests at various venues all over the borough happening at the same time aim to meet up at Catford Town Hall at around 1pm to set off on a march to Lewisham town centre.

If you're not all about marching and banging pots and pans in the street, or are just busy this weekend, but want to know more about this monstrous new town without a heart you might be interested in attending Deptford Community Forum's AGM on Tuesday 22nd February, 6pm, at the Laban, where the subject will surely get an airing. If you're working, email us for more information.

We quite like the idea of the DCF being renamed "The Deptford Society"—if only for a laugh—to be part of the Big Society, like the Blackheath Society. Wine and cheese will be available, naturellement (it's at the Laban, darling) and everyone is welcome...

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