Friday, March 7, 2014

Convoys Wharf update (and the Deptford Sea Shanty)

Local shanty group, the Deptford Shanty Crew, have recorded a special Deptford song that tells the story of how the historic Deptford Royal Dockyard is about to be buried under an uncaring developer's plan to build 3500 luxury flats. Click on the YouTube logo to read the lyrics in full.

The decision on the developer's application is now "in the hands of the London Mayor" and Boris has promised to decide very soon (originally by the end of February, now postponed to the end of March). But it's not looking good for Deptford's heritage or Deptford in general.

Crossfields residents were recently sent a letter from the Greater London Authority (GLA) Planning department, requesting comments on very minor changes to the developer's masterplan. Please don't ignore this letter, but use it as an excuse to object to the scheme in general! A Crossfields resident who has already written an objection has received a reply from the GLA Planners which states:
Thank you for your representations to the Mayor of London with respect to proposed development at the Convoys Wharf site in Deptford. The Mayor has asked me to respond on his behalf. The issues you have raised will be taken into account, and your comments (along with all other representations made on the case), will be made available to the Mayor when he comes to consider the case.

I can confirm that the Mayor is mindful of the historic importance of this site, and is committed to securing a well-designed scheme that would deliver benefits for Deptford, as well as for the rest of London. To this end the Mayor has instructed his GLA officers to work closely with the Council when negotiating on the case - to ensure that local priorities are appropriately considered and addressed as part of the determination of this application.

Planning negotiations associated with this case are currently ongoing, however, the Mayor is currently undertaking public consultation until 20 March 2014 on a number of minor revisions to the scheme. Further information is available on the GLA website here:

In due course the Mayor will hold a public Representation Hearing, before considering the full details of the case, and deciding whether or not to grant permission. Further information, including the date for the hearing, will be made publically available on the GLA website here:
But in reality, there is very little of the "historic importance of the site" that is being saved, and the GLA appear to not be listening fully to either Lewisham Council's recommendations or those of English Heritage and the local heritage projects, Build The Lenox and Sayes Court Garden. The projects are still waiting to meet with the developer and are still marginalised in the plans. The GLA still does not recognise the full potential of the archaeological findings on the site and seem quite happy to let the developer build over and bury forever the significant and recoverable 'below ground' remains.

The 'Representation Hearing' referred to in the GLA letter above will allow only 20 minutes of public representation! So it is important for locals to write to the GLA (or sign the petition) as soon as possible. Email (or and see guidelines from the Deptford Is... campaign here. This needs to be done by 20th March.

The Lenox Project wants to build their ship in the Olympia Shed but the developer still wants the Grade 1 Listed building (the only surviving 'above ground' building) to house boutique shops rather than anything meaningful relating to the building's history (such as shipbuilding!). The project also requires the re-instatement of the old Basin in front of the Olympia building, but this historic body of water is currently re-designed as a small shallow pool incapable of holding boats or ships. The Sayes Court Garden project requires more of the land due to be occupied by giant blocks of flats in order to restore the footprint of John Evelyn's original gardens.

Dame Joan Ruddock, as patron of both local projects, recently wrote to the Deputy Mayor Sir Edward Lister. She is not allowed to converse with Boris himself, in case he becomes prejudiced (even though one of his advisors is Sir Terry Farrell, the developer's architect). Joan said:
Although both projects have gained the support of the developer, neither is being given the opportunity to properly reflect the archaeology and history appropriate to their design. This failure makes both potentially unviable. 

The Lenox has a unique potential to create a tangible link to Deptford's history; to directly connect the Olympia Building to its heritage, and – by recreating a basin in front of the building – to re-establish its historic links to the river. 

Hutchison Whampoa...have proposed limited-term accommodation for the ship [7 years maximum] on the protected wharf [north of the site and reserved for other uses such as cargo handling]. Critical factors to enable the project to thrive are proximity to the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, easy access for visitors, a future legacy for the site that perpetuates its heritage, and a permanent home for the ship and the Dockyard Museum...

The Sayes Court Garden has been developed to expose the John Evelyn heritage, in a collaborative venture with the National Trust...

...We were delighted with Hutchison Whampoa's proposal to expose the archaelogy of the [John Evelyn's] Manor House but their current proposal to 'capture' it within a large block bears no relationship to its historic setting and orientation. This design would divorce the archaeology from the open space which gives it meaning...
Hutchison Whampoa announced a record increase in their profits at the end of March. Due to their increased 'investment' in Europe, their net profits had risen 30%, yet they still insist Convoys Wharf cannot be 'viable' (profit making) if they provide more affordable housing, or make space for more of Deptford's heritage.

So please get writing!
And it's [stamp] sell her off to a big business man
there goes Deptford's dockyard
there goes our history and our land
way off in the hands of the London mayor


  1. Joe, can you post your comment again, we had a glitch?

  2. Sue, no idea what happened there but this is Joe's text:

    A great shanty! Exactly what's going on - unfortunately Boris is very close to the 1% tycoon types who want to add to their vast property empire at the expense of SE London's communities. Enough of gated luxury towers for overseas investors. All that will do is further profit an already bloated group of rich individuals, what we need are long-term job prospects, training opportunities and homes normal people can live in - just like the song says!

  3. My letter to Boris:

    Dear Boris

    I understand that you have undertaken to give or refuse the outline planning permission for the development at Convoy's Wharf, Deptford, by Hutchinson Whampoa, and that you have promised them a decision sometime this month (February 2014. )

    I would first like to say that I feel you cannot make an informed decision of this magnitude in the short time since you called the decision in. If you do in fact make that decision, you will have done the whole of London a complete disservice.

    I implore you to take great care when making this decision as I feel a very important part of London's great history will be lost should you go ahead and grant this permission without having fully understood the potential of this site. It is critical that you listen not only to the local council and campaigners, but also the highly respected bodies of the National Trust and English Heritage.

    It seems obvious to me that the potential of this site is to house not only a substantial quantity of luxury residential dwellings (no doubt to be sold off to overseas investors instead of housing the workers and residents of London), which will appease the developer in terms of returns on their investment. But also, possibly, house two important world class visitor attractions (in the form of John Evelyn's garden and horticulture centre, and the re-building of King Charles' warship, The Lenox), which would benefit not only the local area, the borough and the community, but also London, The UK and the world. It is a site of international importance and it's history cannot be 'honored' by the naming of a few new streets (which as far as I can see is the developers only real concession to 'letting the heritage lead the design').

    I strongly urge you to look at the real reasons this development has had such a contentious planning history - not for reasons of obstreperousness or NIMBY-ism, but genuine valid concern for:

    1. The loss of the rich archeological and social heritage and the potential that it holds to make the site an extraordinary visitor attraction for generations to come, and

    2. The incredible strain the sheer density of the existing proposal would place on the local infrastructure e.g. public transport and roads, both of which are woefully inadequate for such a large scale development.

    Since calling in the planning on this development you are now charged with making a decision that could have ramifications for centuries to come. Will you be the mayor remembered for supporting and helping create a lasting legacy which honors Deptford's extraordinary and important history with the creation of two outstanding visitor attractions, or will you be the mayor remembered for kowtowing to the developers and allowing a monumentally historic area of London to be utterly decimated by the creation of this wholly inappropriate scheme of yet more over-priced luxury apartments, densely packed into an area that could much better serve the area's, and in fact the whole of London's, needs?