Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Sold down the river...

If you wondered what was going on with those cranes on the other side of Deptford Creek, the above visual is from Cathedral plc's planning application for their development in Norman Road. It's called The Movement. Read on to see how your landscape will change over the next few years (with a focus on the river)...

The Movement application for Norman Road SE10 was submitted to Greenwich Council in 2010. We weren't consulted even though it has a significant impact on our skyline if the cranes are anything to go by, which can be seen from the other side of Deptford.

Proposed buildings are always shown in isolation, renderings rarely show the true impact, and only planners know what's going on elsewhere in the area. On these borders between Lewisham and Greenwich, you may wonder whether there is any collaboration. Historically there is very little.

In the 2011 planning drawings (submitted to Greenwich), The Movement's new towers are set against the backdrop of Creekside Village, as if to say "our towers are quite modest and unobjectionable" compared with what's planned for the area.

Click on the image below of The Movement to see a larger view of what is proposed for Creekside Village EAST that has yet to materialise. It shows a really massive tower to add to the horrendous wall of glass that is already there (Creekside Village West). This would be on the site behind the Laban and straddles the borders of Greenwich and Lewisham.

Hidden behind the tower would be two more towers and another 'wall' style block. Both councils approved the plans in principle for Creekside Village East, but whilst Greenwich signed off on it, Lewisham held out over the Section 106 agreements. One of the pay offs for Lewisham would be a theatre space and extra facilities for Trinity Laban, but there was also a bridge across the Creek proposed that had little design (or practical) merit. Some time has passed since the last revised drawings in 2007 so plans will have to be reviewed, along with the Section 106 aspects. (View the old application here). Apparently, we were consulted – the Community Consultation statement says local residents on Crossfields and Millennium Quay attended a meeting held by Creekside Forum in 2006 (first we've heard about it!). Here's a promotional shot from 2009 that we posted in March 2010:

And below, the view from the bridge on Creek Road in which two of the new towers and the new wall are visible.

And a view from Creekside in which all four new buildings can be seen looming up behind the Laban.

The present view from the Creek:

Very recently, planning permission has gone in again for the footbridge that would cross from the Laban (west side) to Norman Road (east), which the Deptford Dame has written about this month. Update: It is now rumoured that the Laban bridge may be the one aspect of the old application that needs to be completed before the developer (Ampurius Nu Homes) can sell off the Eastern side of the site to another investor. It is thought that the poor bridge design is unlikely to be approved, and the Creekside Village East project may be delayed still further. We hope.

Closer to home, Workspace's Faircharm application uses Creekside Village West to show how modest their tower is in comparison. If the drawing was extended further east, it ought to show also the proposed Creekside Village East super-blocks and The Movement development. But it doesn't.

The drawing tries to show that views are not obscured very much for anyone standing in the road and that there is no loss of light, although everyone in the flats in front of the development on Crossfields will have a radically altered view and loss of light. The developers claim they'll have a better view because they'll be looking out onto a nice development instead of an industrial estate that the developers themselves have allowed to run down.

Meanwhile, the plans for Creekside Village West & East have served to make every other developer's ambitions look modest in comparison. We already have the monolithic new wall separating us from the river that is Galliard Homes' Capital Quay. The density of this development means there will be no light at all to the apartments at its interior.

Further out along the river, there's a new 40-storey tower planned for Surrey Quays (below)...and more towers at Greenwich Peninsula. Perhaps though, slimline towers (Seager Tower?) aren't quite as bad as the the 12+ storey blocks that always seem to surround them. The height, density and massing of the surrounding buildings are what cause loss of light and wind tunnels and make a development even more inhospitable and inhuman.

Back in Deptford, after a long lull (developers ran out of cash, rented out site as film set), building is progressing apace at Paynes & Borthwick Wharf down by the river on Deptford's Watergate Street (Greenwich), where local residents endure work going on six days a week, stationary concrete mixing lorries queue in the street waiting to get onsite, construction workers park anywhere they like (including in front of the Dog n'Bell, preventing beer deliveries) and Twinkle Park is littered with construction workers' drinks cans and fag butts. Here's a model of the development shown in isolation to its surroundings...and as it is on the street behind (with a similar block to Crossfields, Rowley   House, on the left).

Almost right next door is the 40-acre Convoys Wharf (aka The King's Yard). This week we shall see what Farrells have planned for the site since their first engagement with the project last year. It is still likely to be 3500 flats and three very tall towers. Below are two renderings by the previous architects Aedas (2011), followed by Farrell's model, shown in July 2012. Farrells lowered the heights of some of the surrounding blocks and paid lip service to the history of the site, but the density remained, as per the brief of their masters, Chinese conglomerate, Hutchison Whampoa.

Like the architects before them, Farrells insists on talking about the towers at Convoys Wharf as a way of 'landmarking' Deptford as seen from the river and Canary Wharf. Obviously, tall buildings are a way of getting maximum return on a site, and to this day, News International, who sold the site to Hutchison Whampoa, still have a profit share on the luxury flats sold.

At a recent 'public' meeting Workspace also described their proposed luxury residential tower at Faircharm as a way of 'landmarking' Deptford Creek. The change from industrial use (employment) to mixed residential use will apparently fund the renovation of the much reduced business space. Residential use is required, says Workspace's Development Executive, because "Lewisham is a net exporter of employees to jobs in central London". However, not building luxury flats by this riverside, they say in their planning application, would be a "missed opportunity".

The gift that keeps on giving, of course, is public access to the river (or muddy Creek). But at what price?

That brings us to an article called Sold Down The River written by Deyan Sudjic, an architecture journalist writing for The Observer in May 2003. He is now Head of the Design Museum. Here are a couple of extracts:
Change in itself is not the problem. We have gained a lot from London's new relationship with its river. Tate Modern and the London Eye have both created new areas of the city, bustling with life, a healthy mixture of uses, and all the attractions that a view of water can bring. But a lot more of the new Thames is not like that. Large stretches are dominated by a continuous wall of riverside apartment blocks that have driven out everything else, to create a tidy but sterile monoculture. The river has become a thin strip of affluence, existing in a bubble that has nothing to do with life in the rest of the city just a street behind.
Now developers, driven by soaring land values to extract the most out of every inch of riverside, build as close to the river as they can. Whole stretches are now lined with apartment blocks, built to take advantage of the views of the river, but the result is to offer residents spectacular views of all the other ranks of balconies on either side of them, and on the other side of the river, looking back at them. In the process the Thames has been turned into something very much like a very long thin football stadium. 
Read the entire article here.

See also Owen Hathaway's recent article The Shard: Beacon of the left's skyline in The Guardian on 12 February 2013, a little less than ten years later than Sudjic's. Hathaway argues how the Section 106 agreement, by which local authorities are able to bargain some sort of public infrastructure out of developers, has failed spectacularly. Not helped, of course, by the relaxation in planning laws that now allows developers to duck out of any commitments to affordable housing (let alone housing that is actually affordable).

Postscript 28 February

For Crossfields, the immediate problem is Faircharm, where the owners wish to make the most of their land next to a very muddy Creek. Someone told them it was a river. Which it is. Across the way, architects BPTW who own the land across the Creek almost opposite the Laban had planned a tower. They have now modified their ideas. At the southern end of the Creek, Galliard have a hold, but Creek dwellers may be alarmed to hear the rumour that Lewisham College are reconsidering the sale of 'the island' again, a piece of concrete that straddles the Creek and which the Ravensbourne is channeled through to appear on the other side of 'Deptford Bridge' and provide a lovely setting for the Seager development. 

The Movement can't really be considered a riverside development. We mention it because it grows stealthily on our doorstep, and it's particularly relevant because it has displaced an industrial business site (an employment area) which had to be closed a few years ago to make way for it, in the same way Faircharm businesses will be closed down to make way for residential flats. The Movement is also in Greenwich, who don't seem to have any credible planning policy. But, although we haven't examined the respective land ownerships, it doesn't seem much different to Thurston Road, another business site which was sold off and is now being developed to join the towers of the monstrous new Croydon-like development on Loampit Vale. Update 6 March: see also Alternative SE4's news on the stalled Lewisham Gateway development.

Cannon Wharf and Marine Wharf also look to put more stress on the Evelyn Street area. (See  Alternative SE4). Round the corner there is the massive Surrey Canal Road development.
Also see: What is the right way to regenerate in London?


  1. It must be called 'the movement' ironically, surely? 'We are developers and we intend to take a big dump on you'

    1. Only one thing separating The Movement and Faircharm apart from Deptford Creek: Greenwich Pumping Station - the local Sewage Works. It smells lovely in summer! And if Thames Tunnel get their way, Super Sewer Works!

  2. Went to Convoys Wharf exhibition earlier. Doesn't look like anything has changed but maybe I missed something. They've got proper exhibition panels now with weasley words on them and one of the models has got a few bits more of polystyrene on it. If you haven't seen this awfulness please go and look!

  3. If you are brave enough to venture up Deptford Creek in a small boat (so no bridges need lifting) there have already been some insidious changes. Gone is almost all foliage, the plant colonisation of many years, thanks entirely to the Environment Agency's "environmentally sound" river wall repairs. After listening to expert and constructive alternative suggestions from local environmentalists and boat-owners and wasting everyone's time they have stuck entirely to their standard- one size fits all- blueprint.
    But what is more insidious is that this has, bar one tiny exception, occurred entirely in the London borough of Greenwich making it impossible to moor or visit by water. It'll be a bland looking waterspace from your overpriced soulless balcony.