Monday, October 27, 2014

Changes to Southeastern train services from Deptford

If you're a commuter you are probably now familiar with the planned changes to Southeastern train services into town. Occasional users may still be in the dark. Although local bloggers (Deptford Dame, 853, West Greenwich and others) have been talking about it for some time now, it can't do much harm to reiterate the changes here.

The first impact will be the loss of services to the centre of town (Charing Cross) in January 2015 – either directly or by changing at London Bridge (because Charing Cross trains will not stop at London Bridge). The second major change will be in August 2016 with the loss of any access to London Bridge (and thus to all other places, such as Gatwick) until 'early' 2018.
12 January 2015 onwards (forever)
•    Southeastern services from New Cross, St. Johns, Deptford, Greenwich, Maze Hill and Westcombe Park stations will no longer operate to and from Charing Cross or Waterloo East, and will instead operate to and from Cannon Street. These diverted services will still call at London Bridge

12 January 2015 to August 2016
•    Southeastern services to and from Charing Cross will not call at London Bridge
•    Southeastern services to and from Cannon Street will continue to call at London Bridge

August 2016 to early 2018 
•    Southeastern services to and from Charing Cross resume calling at London Bridge BUT
•    Southeastern services to and from Cannon Street will not call at London Bridge. Some diversions will take place between Charing Cross and Cannon Street

•    Southeastern services to and from Cannon Street will resume calling at London Bridge

For a full list of services affected by Network Rail's rebuilding of London Bridge (as a result of the Thameslink programme) go to this Transport for London page.

Update 28 Oct:  

There is a campaign to reduce the disruption – see GLUG (Greenwich Line Users Group). Contact them via

Thanks to From the Murky Depths for further clarification on the decimation of our services:
A big issue is 4 trains cut in the evening peak (4-7pm) to Deptford, Greenwich, Maze Hill and Westcombe Park. Three are at the busiest time of 5:30 - 6:30pm. This is around 38 carriages in total, and 30 alone from 5:30-6:30pm.

They say they will extend other services to make it up but the numbers don't seem to add up to maintain capacity at the busiest times. Other trains are already around 8 carriages long, with some 10, and trains cannot be longer than 10 as Woolwich Dockyard along the line has short platforms, and no mitigating action has been taken about it.

"Buy-to-let opportunity in exciting location with growth potential"

There is nothing particularly surprising about the price of this single Deptford Project (aka 'Rise') flat being sold off-plan (before it has been built) by World LTD via At £604 per sq ft, it's a bit pricier than the existing new-build luxury flats in the area (£593 per sq ft at Creekside Village) and after all, there are two properties on the high street presently going for £1m+ (a Grade 2 listed building on Albury St and an architect-designed contemporary building in Mary Anne Gardens).

On the Prime Location website the flat in question appears to be the only one left from this development – the others having been marketed overseas or via Conran Estates as investment opportunities with rental yields of 4.75% earlier in the year. (see our April post).

Our only reason for posting about it now is to share the amusing blurb being used to sell it. As usual, Deptford is "considered 'the new Shoreditch' (where prices are £1,000 per sq ft)" and "has more artists than anywhere in London". It is "an area poised to be a hub for young urban professionals". ...And it's only "6 minutes to London Bridge". No mention of the upcoming changes to the Southeastern train service - see our next post!

Property consultant (and director of 'Properties of the World') Jean Liggett writes:
I visited The Rise in Deptford, and the local area at the beginning of July – it was a gorgeous day and I left the town excited, for buyers, residents and visitors alike.

I took the train from London Bridge and it literally takes just six minutes. The development is right next to the recently rebuilt station and has its own private entrance – the first in London to do so.

It is also only 15 minutes from the City and Canary Wharf on the DLR, which is just six minutes’ walk away.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has earmarked Deptford as one of London’s ‘main opportunity areas’. [ No he hasn't! ] It has huge potential for capital growth and I think you are looking at a 5-year return of around 100% on capital invested in the Deptford Project.

I noticed on my walk that the population is a real mix that includes local business people, artists, students, parents with children, professionals and people from the creative industries.

In my opinion, the area is following the same pattern as Shoreditch did a few years ago – the ‘trendies’ move in first, prices rise, and the professionals follow. There is already a lot of building going on, as well as some recently completed building.

The Deptford Project is about a 10-minute walk from the river with fabulous views of Canary Wharf. A bit further on you can see the Gherkin.

This is an exciting area that until now has been slow to experience the price rises of other parts of London. But with its regeneration underway and its excellent transport links, the area has huge potential for capital growth.
Ironically, the statistics posted in Prime Location's 'Local Info' show a more recognisable picture: 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Crossfields Green part closure as works get underway

An unspecified contractor working for Thames Water will be cordoning off most of the East side of Crossfields Green from tomorrow for eight days. They will be digging two trial trenches, working 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday and 8am to 1pm on Saturdays. It looks like a couple of the parking bays in Coffey Street will be suspended for good measure. This is bad news especially for dog walkers and the first taste of how the Supersewer works will affect us on the estate (though the main works are not until 2016-2020). It's not really clear why these trial holes are necessary though the notification implies it is a follow-on from previous ground investigations work. Nor is it clear precisely where the trenches are being dug, but it seems inevitable that two thirds of the space overlooking Deptford Church Street will be inaccessible while it's going on. 'Sections' of the grass area will be reseeded afterwards. Generous! A detailed map is available at here.


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Crossfields Major Works: Scaffolding debacle

As part of 'Decent Homes Major Works' the external refurbishment of our estate began on 18th August with the erection of scaffolding on Wilshaw House, one of the nine blocks on Crossfields. It was originally scheduled to go up on 28th July (if not before).

The scaffolding company, 1st Scaffolding, were very noisy. Three weeks later they were 'thrown off' the site for breaches in Health & Safety. In that time they had only managed to cover less than half the building. By this Monday, the half erected scaffolding will have been up – unalarmed – for NINE weeks.

No Decent Homes work has taken place on the block during this time, so affected residents have had to tolerate a reduction in light for two months for no reason at all

Lewisham Homes estimate that scaffolding on each block will be up for around 6 months whilst works take place. However, at Tanner's Hill, scaffolding has been up on Deloraine and Heston Houses since February – nearly 8 months. The most recent 'schedules' have Wilshaw House scaffolding commencing yet again on Monday 20th along with its neighbour Holden House.

Where Wilshaw were supposed to be the first block to receive the 'gift' of major works, it appears they will now be the last – without any explanation for the intervening time.

The only information given to Wilshaw residents was contained in a newsletter published by contractors MITIE (a massive out-sourcing company) in late September. It said "We have recently been in discussion with our scaffolding supply chain partners concerning their work practices, in particular their attention to specific details concerning health & safety. Therefore we have now sourced other suppliers to continue in their place." 

In the meantime, the scaffolding has not come down because there is a contractual dispute that has gone into litigation. We're not sure who's involved with the scaffolding company in this – MITIE or Lewisham Homes. The two have become an interchangeable mess of middle and senior managers saying different things. LH have out-sourced to out-sourcers MITIE, but seem to defer to them. Lewisham Homes defer even more so to surveyors Baily Garner, who earn 1.34% on the total cost of the works (last reckoned to be £36m of central government funds across the borough) and have therefore, unsurprisingly, specified unnecessary work that has gone unchallenged by LH.

A different scaffolding company arrived on the estate on 15th September and began work on Farrer House. Before finishing Farrer, they also worked on Browne House which was the first to be completed. Scaffolders are now working on Castell, Frankham and Finch and have been remarkably quiet and efficient. The contrast between the two companies has been huge – and much noted by residents who have hardly noticed the second company's presence whilst they stealthily cover the whole estate in scaffolding.

The noise made by 1st Scaffolding in the first week was so disturbing that some residents complained to the site office. The nuisance noise was from one scaffolder who never stopped talking/shouting and the vehicle they used to hoist their materials. One complaint was met with "That's scaffolders for you" from the MITIE resident liaison officer. That response was so poor that the complaining resident consequently shouted and swore at the scaffolders themselves, resulting in Lewisham Homes raising an Anti-Social Behaviour complaint against her whilst no action was taken against the scaffolders.

The issue of Wilshaw House scaffolding was raised at a meeting on 11th September, convened by Lewisham Homes' Director of Housing to discuss leaseholder's queries on the Schedule of Works. Leaseholders reported that they had heard that morning from their caretaker that the scaffolders had got the push and that new scaffolders were starting work on another block the following Monday.
The regional head of MITIE, Rod Sutherland, replied: "They have not been sacked. I have slowed the works down because of your queries". 

It was then suggested (and laughed about by some senior managers) that the caretaker was indulging in idle gossip. In fact, he had got the information from the MITIE site foreman and it was true. 

As well as shouting continuously onsite, 1st Scaffolding used a diesel hoist to lift poles and planks (the new company uses pulleys). The hoist was run 30 minutes at a time at intervals whilst they unloaded their materials. It appeared to have no silencer on its exhaust and was pumping diesel fumes into residents' homes. Both the shouting and the diesel hoist vehicle were breaking the guidelines outlined by Lewisham Council's Good Practice Guide, which also states that noise monitoring should be undertaken by the contractors (which it obviously wasn't). There was supposed to be a Scaffolding Inspector on site, but it was three weeks before 1st Scaffolding was asked to leave.

No actual work has started anywhere on the estate yet.

Update: Friday 24 October

No news on the Wilshaw House scaffolding which is still up. Work started on Browne on Wednesday.

We've been told there's a set fee for scaffolding. Some residents have asked for reassurances that just because it makes no difference to the cost how long the scaffolding stays up, works should not be delayed or prolonged because of this, and should be managed so that it is up for the minimum amount of time. The reply given was "the documentation presented to MITIE for tendering purposes required them to charge for scaffolding based on its dimensions alone. However scaffolding companies commonly charge based on dimensions, erection charge, dismantling charge and weekly hire charge. Consequently there is an incentive for MITIE to leave the scaffolding in place for the minimum period necessary to complete the works and have it accepted."

There are only a few items for which scaffolding is required – roof works, brick cleaning, brick and masonry repairs, renewing (undamaged) sealant around windows. Even if these are done first, it seems other works (which don't need scaffolding) must be completed before all works can be 'signed off'. On other estates, inadequate work has had to be done again in order to be fully signed off (usually where residents have intervened), and 'snagging' seems to take a long time. So Crossfields residents can expect to remain in the dark (with a 35% loss of light for those on the lower floors) well into the middle of next summer, if not next autumn.

Update: Monday 3 November

Wilshaw House scaffolding has now been half up and unalarmed for 11 weeks with no work taking place.

The TRA was told last Thursday that Lewisham Homes/MITIE are waiting for 1st Scaffolding to get the appropriate certification required in order to either come back and complete the job or take it down. The preference is for them to complete the job  – but only on the balcony sides of the block. Another company will erect the platforms at the back. That way it will take less time than if 1st Scaffolding take down what they've put up and then another company has to re-erect the front as well.

What beggars belief is how long this company has been allowed to operate without appropriate certification (CISRS or CSCS) or membership of any scaffolding associations. We found out weeks ago that 1st Scaffolding did not have NASC membership (the National Access and Scaffolding Federation is the main scaffolding association in the UK). In other words, MITIE/Lewisham Homes do not check.


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Cycle path plans revealed long after work started

We reported on the cycle path improvement works back in July, and now they are almost complete twelve weeks later. Whilst the actual pavement works finished sooner than this and new (red) tarmac was laid at the main entrance to the estate before the end of September, there are still a couple of items to complete – and there appears to be no sign of the project's finishing touches being applied in any hurry.

Railings and gates are yet to be installed to replace those which were removed. Guard rails were also removed from the pavement outside the gate. Some safety conscious residents are now concerned that the new opening, whilst very convenient for cyclists, is dangerous for children who may run excitedly out of the estate and directly into the road.

In July we requested a copy of the plans for this project from both Lewisham (the road is in the borough) and Greenwich (who were doing the work). We finally received these rather belatedly from Lewisham on 23rd September after a reminder. There was no response at all from Greenwich.

The following illustration shows how the entrance was proposed to be modified (click on the image below to enlarge). 

The intention was to "take down and reconstruct pier [pillar] with same bricks and coping stone. Procure and fix new wrought iron gate and hinges". In typical planning cock-up stylee, this drawing was Photoshopped by someone who hadn't actually been anywhere near the proposed area and therefore didn't take into account the fact that the wall on the right – that they suggested should be "reduced in height to relocate existing railing" – is actually supporting a railing on the other side of the wall, which borders the garden area behind the wall and runs alongside the path into the estate (see the photo at the top of this post taken from inside the estate).

Meanwhile, on the plan we were sent (marked "not to be used for construction"), the entrance is shown as being widened on either side to a width of 3 metres:

This would have involved taking down both pillars and re-constructing them wider apart after removing the railings either side of them. Those railings (and low walls they are embedded in) would then have to be cut down in order to fit them back into smaller gaps. And a gate "double in width" 'procured'.

When it actually came to construction, only one pillar was taken down and reconstructed (as per the first illustration), and only one railing needs cutting down and re-installing, albeit a shorter width than in the illustration. A new gate (or pair of gates?) is yet to be 'procured' and fitted. In addition, the grey metal guardrail between pavement and road (the 'baffle') is to be "replaced with 6 metres of new 'visi-rail' panels". How long will it take for all these to be fitted?

Of course, the real completion of the project will be when the signs go up. If the time it took to put up the one-way signs in Deptford High Street after the new paving works is anything to go by, we've a long wait.

Rapman returns

Residents wondering about the flash cars and the noisy, but well-dressed and very polite youths outside Farrer House all day on Thursday will have witnessed the return of Rapman. He was making the third of his Blue Story videos partly set on the estate. You can view the first two episodes on Youtube at link
The video tells the tale of two young people whose friendship goes badly and violently wrong when they find themselves associated with opposing postcode-based gangs. For the purposes of this story Crossfields is the Ghetto and the opponents are from Peckham. Whatever you think of that, the videos and the rap are very polished and the acting is also surprisingly strong. And, of course, the issue is a very live one. But there seems to be some irony in using Crossfields as the location since the actors are clearly not from here but were warmly and excitedly welcomed by pretty much everyone - young and old. I guess that's one comforting thing about our postcode.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Deptford X continues + Fun Palace weekend

Lots happening this weekend in and around Deptford town centre. Exhibitions and open studios continue as part of Deptford X – apologies that we have not had time to pick out the best! It sounds like it's worth visiting both St Nick's and St Paul's churches, just two of the non-gallery spaces where artists are showing their work, but what else is going on?

We popped into the Deptford X HQ on Creekside (next to APT Gallery) earlier to find out what we've been missing. Co-ordinator Caz Underwood told us that Luis Rodriguez's "Dancing Builder" (see the short video above) has been very popular. Rodriguez has been dancing – like no one is watching – at regular intervals (peak travel times) on the roof of the Bird's Nest in full view of passing DLR trains. He's up there right now (singing to himself as well), and tomorrow he can be seen between 8-9am and 4-6pm. You can also watch him at these times on a live stream.

Caz also suggested we go see Jessica Voorsanger's show "It's about the hair" at the temporary gallery space on Brookmill Road. Jessica's large format photographs are self portraits of herself dressed as various celebrities, a project she embarked on after her hair grew back strangely curly following a period of baldness when she was undergoing chemotherapy recently. "Witty but dark" is how Caz describes the work.

There is far too much to see all over Deptford to list here, but to find out what else is going on, head to the HQ to pick up a map. You'll still need to refer to the website to find out about the artists and times and you can also check the map online – which Caz says is more up-to-date. Over the weekend at the HQ, lead artist Bob and Roberta Smith will be finishing his "Vote" painting, and you can try your hand at screen printing. There'll be live music here on Sunday (12-5pm) and banners are being made to carry on "a march" from the HQ to the Job Centre pub at around 5.30pm. Later, there's Fred's Art Quiz at the Dog and Bell (9pm), or if electronic music is your thing, spend the day at Vinyl cafe (2-11pm). Follow Deptford X on Twitter @DeptfordX.

Meanwhile, local theatre folk are taking part in and presenting "a weekend-long celebration of arts, science and culture" as part of the nationwide Fun Palace weekend (also see coverage in The Guardian). Pop-up performances, story-telling, food fights, circus, music – find out what's going on at the information point in the market square next to the Albany – or download the timetable and map.

We noticed this anchor last night and wondered if a new campaign to bring our anchor back had started, but it's part of the Fun Palace weekend... "Deptford's newest street theatre troop" The Red Anchors will be presenting pop-up theatre wherever you see a red anchor – "on the ground, in the trees, on lamp posts and on people" is where things might suddenly happen from midday on Saturday and Sunday...

Incidentally, last year's Deptford Is Forever art project are selling their tattoo-inspired Anchor T-shirts at the Deptford X HQ on Creekside on Saturday and Sunday (Unisex or Ladyfit – scooped neck, capped sleeves – all sizes @£10 with 10% going to Deptford X). Other Deptford X merchandise will be available at reduced prices, including silk screen prints of the festival poster "What is the value of art?" and limited edition signed prints of "Art makes people powerful" by Bob & Roberta Smith.