Saturday, November 4, 2017

Demolition Deptford #4 : Number One Creekside

Another long overdue post...

Back in September, Bluecroft Property (now 'Bluecroft Creekside') held a little-publicised consultation on their plans for Number One Creekside. Attendees could admire a lovely wooden model of their neighbourhood but could only express shock and dismay at the balsa wood representation of the building that Bluecroft intend to construct on the corner of Creekside where it meets Deptford Church Street opposite the Birds Nest.

In a previous post we wrote about how Lewisham Council gifted the developer a strip of green publicly-owned land that runs alongside Deptford Church Street in exchange for a lease on some commercial space in the new building to be run as creative workspace or artists' studios.

Yes, in order to build this monstrosity, we're to lose at least ten mature trees, which help to mitigate the pollution at this stretch of Deptford Church Street, where pollution readings at the roundabout have been as high as 62microns when the EU limit is 40. That is why we're including it in the 'Demolition Deptford' series – it's wanton vandalism of Deptford's green lungs and it's in addition to the 70+ trees that will be lost at Tidemill across the road. As usual it's green space versus housing and employment.

Apart from 'at least 1200sqm of ground floor workspace', the scheme proposes 55-60 new homes. Nothing on the exhibition boards mentioned affordable housing.

The oddly shaped building is made up of two towers joined together by a lower middle area, described as "preserving views between the two and forming a sculpted townscape proposition above a three-storey podium with shared amenity space connecting the two". This indicates that the entire site would have been one huge structure, but for the necessity to "preserve the view" – presumably of St Paul's Cathedral so that it's visible from Point Hill in Greenwich. (That is the usual reason for holes in buildings – such as the one in the ugly Creekside Village building on Creek Road, no doubt masquerading as a 'sculpted townscape').

The gap certainly doesn't seem to be designed to save any sunlight for Frankham House residents as it doesn't line up. Nope, their morning light will be gone, and all their other light removed by the Tidemill development. We'll have to wait for the daylight/sunlight studies in the planning application to see the impact on other residential buildings next to the site, but Cremer and Wilshaw residents will be affected by the building works, Cremer's south facing windows will lose their light and be overlooked, as will the allotments next to Cremer, and the top of Creekside will be impassable during construction.

View from the east – big gap doesn't help Frankham House behind it

As is the case with other monstrosities in the area, the design draws on "the rugged buildings of the industrial mills which remain around Deptford Creek". Actually there is only one mill building remaining  and that's Mumford's Mill on Greenwich High Road. It used to be much needed creative workspace before it was turned into flats, but it's good that the building was preserved for posterity. Yet God knows why dark satanic mills should continue to be referenced – it's hardly appropriate for the 21st century, but planning departments seem to encourage it, using historical precedent to justify developers' profiteering towers blocks, which now seem obliged to have a pitched roof on top.

The area in the 1940s (that's the Bird's Nest in the middle)

Illustration of Hope Wharf, currently going up in Greenwich High Road and overshadowing
Deptford Creek
Number One Creekside encroaching on Deptford Church Street

The north tower next to Cremer House appears to have seven storeys – two taller than Cremer – but we were told the design is still being worked on, and the strangely shaped roof spaces are likely to accommodate another two to three floors of (pent) housing. The southerly tower has nine storeys, with another two/three to be accommodated in the roof area – so potentially 12 storeys towering over the Bird's Nest and Frankham House. The owner of the Bird's Nest was reported as coming away from the consultation in tears. Apart from the nightmare of two to three years of building works, once built, sensitive new residents will most likely make sure this noisy pub is closed down.

Both the developer and Lewisham Planning obviously envisage this carbuncle as a signature building for Deptford Church Street. Coupled with the plans for Tidemill (six storeys to go up opposite this 12 storey tower), the streetscape here is going to change dramatically.

Strangely, the developer's architects also predict a completely new road environment, as they have drawn Deptford Church Street not as a dual carriageway, but as a two-lane road without a central reservation.

View from the north, showing the 5-storey Castell and Cremer Houses on the left

Oh, they said, that's because Lewisham have plans for the road.

Bluecroft had intended to submit a planning application this Autumn and hoped to commence work on the site in summer 2018. Nothing in planning yet, but if they're anything like other developers, they'll submit over Christmas and New Year when everyone's too busy to notice.

Demolition Deptford #3 : Achilles Street

In May 2016, Lewisham Council unveiled its plans to redevelop the Achilles Street area. The Council is proposing to demolish all of the homes and local businesses in order to build high rise, high density housing in partnership with private developers.

Residents of the existing low-rise housing in Achilles Street have got together with the other residents and businesses affected by the re-development proposals to oppose the plans. You can follow their story on the Achilles Street Stop and Listen Campaign website, or see their Facebook page.

Lewisham's proposals can be found here. The options originally presented to residents in the preceding months can be found on page 7. However, the only option now being considered is demolition.

Retain current estate – this would cause no disruption to residents and businesses but would not create any new homes:

Infill & refurbishment – much less disruption, with up to 25 new homes:

Redevelopmentdemolition of all homes and businesses (except The Venue) to build "at least double the number of council homes, other 'affordable housing' and 'quality' student homes" (numbers unspecified):

Funny how any social housing next to a park is seen as ripe for redevelopment. Naturally the scheme includes a tower block that will afford wonderful views across Fordham Park and central London which will undoubtedly be private.

The other 7-storey blocks next to the park are claimed to also have these views, though the drawings show them only having views of each other. Existing residents will have no choice about where they'll be rehoused – it will be in the 7 storey block on the road at the far end of the park, with a lovely view of the railway.

Obviously, campaigners would prefer the 'infill and refurbishment' option, but argue that Lewisham has not spent any money on working up costs and plans for that option.

They say the existing 87 council homes (the Council says there are only 55) are structurally sound and meet the Council's 'Decent Homes' standard, but are suffering from 'managed decline' through a failure of Lewisham Homes to spend on maintenance, repairs and pest control (the Council insists the buildings attract vermin because they're old). The lack of spending on maintenance became highly apparent after a recent FoI request revealed that income for 4 blocks in the last 6 years in rent and service charges totalled £2,601,009, but in the same period only £238,899 has been spent on repairs and maintenance.

Campaigners have drawn up a Fact Sheet to make their case. They argue that the Council's plan to destroy homes, livelihoods and the local community will do nothing to address the shortage of council housing in Lewisham because the vast majority of the new homes (currently estimated to be between 350 to 450) will be private, for sale and rent at market rates. In other words the ratio of social housing to private dwellings in the borough will actually decrease as more of the latter are being built. See the Council's response to the Fact Sheet here.

After several delays (creating enormous insecurity for residents and businesses), the plans are to be presented to Mayor & Cabinet on November 15th.

Demolition Deptford #2 : events on November 5th & 12th

Bonfire Night Event
Sunday 5th November, 4–8pm
Old Tidemill Garden. FREE

For those interested in the ongoing campaign to save Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden and 2-30a Reginald Road (the block of flats next to it), there's an opportunity to enjoy an evening in the garden while it still exists. There'll be food and hot beverages available. Bring along an instrument and/or songs to share for a musical jam around the campfire.

No Social Cleansing in Lewisham Benefit
Sunday 12th November, 6–11pm
Bird's Nest pub. FREE

Since the Tidemill application went through, the Old Tidemill Garden volunteers have been joining up with other campaigners in the area. This event brings them all together in a fundraiser, with the organisers (The Four Fathers) identifying the most pressing issues as:
– Planned destruction of Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden and 2-30a Reginald Road
– Proposed destruction of social housing and shops around Achilles Street in New Cross
– Proposed destruction of green space to build high rise development at No.1 Creekside
– Proposed clearing of boat dwellers on Creek at No.2 Creekside to make way for 'box park' and later development.

On the bill:
Potent Whisper - razor-sharp political spoken word artist
The Four Fathers - militant rock and roots reggae
The Commie Faggots - theatrical singalong politics
Asher Baker - Southwark-based rapper
The Wiz-RD - teenage beatbox poet
Ukadelix - local ukulele group

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Demolition Deptford #1 : Tidemill update

We're long overdue to report what happened at the Planning meeting on 27 September. It was not a good outcome for Deptford. Yes, there will be new 'affordable' homes built, but at the expense of demolition of both valuable green space and a block of homes where none of the tenants want to move.

Before the meeting, protesters made their feelings known with placards, drums and chants outside the town hall. But once inside the council chamber, those who'd never attended a planning meeting before in their life were quite shocked to see what a flimsy relationship Lewisham strategic planning has with any notion of democracy.

For starters, only 6 out of 10 councillors serving on the Strategic Planning Committee were present, just one of them with extensive planning experience (housing overlord and new Mayor Damien Egan's campaign manager Kevin Bonavia). Quite astonishing for a major and controversial application that impacts so much on the area. See here for 'apologies' (sadly, Cllrs Hall and Curran amongst them).

You can read the minutes here, but here's an additional viewpoint:

Speaking against the application in the short time allowed (and with only one week's notice of the meeting) was a small group made up of the campaign co-ordinator from Deptford Neighbourhood Action (DNA), a resident of Frankham House, two residents from Reginald Road, as well as GLA Assembly member for Greenwich & Lewisham, Len Duvall.

Speaking for the applicant were a 4-person team from Family Mosaic, supported by the Council's Strategic Housing team (remember, this is a Council-led scheme).

Not one representative from the development partner, Sherrygreen Homes, who stand to make such a huge profit out of building the scheme, selling off the private housing, was available to speak. The committee was presented with a cuddly, supposedly ethical housing association applicant, with no mention or sign of the hefty and unnecessary price Lewisham will have to pay to see its scheme proceed.

It was quietly revealed that Family Mosaic had ONLY JUST managed to secure the affordable element of the scheme by "merging" with Peabody Housing Association, a process that had started in December 2016 and completed in July 2017 – a cynical move that gave Family Mosaic access to the GLA grant funding it needed to fund the 'affordable' element on this site, without which the scheme would have collapsed. (And which enables Sherrygreen Homes to continue to make well over 20% in profits).

Perhaps unsurprisingly, with the Council's ambitions and reputation riding so much on a scheme that has been planned for ten years or more, there was some heavy mis-direction from the Head of Planning Emma Talbot and also the Chair Amanda De Ryk. For instance, it was implied that work could not go ahead on the sister scheme at Amersham Vale until this application was approved.

The Council's Strategic Housing team claimed they had consulted fully with the tenants of Reginald House and with the Old Tidemill Garden team. Speaking for the garden, the campaigners countered that the Council's position had not changed at all since the deferral last year. The Chair made much of the fact that Len Duvall had chaired the meetings as if to imply everything had operated democratically.

The fact that nothing about those meetings was democratic was not examined. There had been two meetings of note: one in which how the garden team should fuck off somewhere else (but nowhere else could be found); the other in which all the ideas from Tidemill Garden were incorporated into a slim strip of land like a sort of Disney Tidemill on a very small scale.

When the Housing Team claimed a letter had gone out only the previous week to tenants at Reginald Road explaining all the terms of their re-housing on the new site, elderly resident Pauline stood up from the audience with her hand held up to request to speak.

She was told to sit down by the Chair but members of the audience murmured her concerns – she had not received the letter. Councillors fussed over whether letters had been sent as 'signed on delivery'; the Housing Team admitted they had not and there was no proof letters had been sent. Nevertheless, the lie remained, unexamined any further.

Under "standing orders" (in which Councillors who are not members of the committee are allowed to speak) New Cross Councillor Brenda Dacres said that the Amersham Vale development was being "held to ransom" and there was no reason why it could not go ahead while the Tidemill site was reviewed. (Brenda has been supportive of the campaign against demolition of both the garden and Reginald Road homes, and pointed out that the new Tidemill school had no garden and had been using the old garden).

According to the rules, anything that Councillors say "under standing orders" is not supposed to influence the decision "in any capacity". So it would follow that Brenda's support should not influence Councillors.

Meanwhile, Cllr Joe Dromey sneaked into the meeting late (having arranged with the Chair for "standing orders" to be postponed until he got there because he'd been at another meeting), and spoke fully in favour of the development.

Note: As soon as Dromey was elected he was appointed to Mayor & Cabinet (his mum is Harriet Harman, his dad is Jack Dromey). No one in the Mayor & Cabinet seems capable of speaking against Mayor & Cabinet decisions (tho Joe insists he voted against the Millwall CPO). The committee wouldn't be influenced, right?

Dromey hadn't even been there to listen to the residents (his parishioners) speak about how they didn't want their homes demolished and how they hadn't been properly consulted or kept informed of what was going on. He's probably not sure where it is.

It's unfortunate for Deptford that two of its Councillors are part of the elite status quo (Mayor & Cabinet – the other being Paul Maslin) that controls everything in Lewisham, including the constituency Labour Party, and has so little regard for what happens locally.

The Chair (Amanda De Ryk, now known locally as Amanda 3rd Reich) ruled against any question of the committee looking at the possibility of the scheme being redesigned (as requested by Deptford Neighbourhood Action and Cllr Brenda Dacres) or examining the contractual arrangements with Amersham Vale that were supposedly holding up the sister project. Apparently, these nuanced aspects were strictly "not under consideration for this application". Nothing at all, in other words, was relevant for consideration except the improvement in affordable housing – which had only been achieved at the last minute by Family Mosaic doing a deal with Peabody.

It was Cllr Bonavia who swayed the vote, head in hands, pretending to find it a difficult decision to demolish a precious green space and 16 flats (even though his career depends on towing the party line in Lewisham in support of Damien Egan – new housing at any cost). The fact that he'd been told that only one resident in Reginald Road had shown support for their home being demolished seemed to be irrelevant.

Cllrs Suzannah Clark (Labour) and John Coughlin (Green) were the only ones brave enough to vote against. So the application was passed 4 to 2 (or 4 out of 10).

Note: NOTHING from Lewisham Homes on this matter. No defence of its tenants, no comment about how they chose not to use Decent Homes money to refurbish the outside of 2-17 Reginald Road (not that a refurbishment by Lewisham Homes' contractor MITIE would have inspired confidence since everything they did was awful and still in dispute). Happy to unload care of its stock onto Family Mosaic Peabody. Also too excited about being in charge of "infills" on estates in its care to understand what it means for its tenants to become part of a building site.

Ironically, on the very same night Jeremy Corbyn made his closing speech at the Labour conference; here's what he said about Labour's new policies on housing:

"Councils will have to win a ballot of existing tenants and leaseholders before any redevelopment scheme can take place."

Clapped by everyone, but obviously not a policy backed by Lewisham nor any other Labour borough currently engaging in regeneration of its own land and properties by selling off land at cut price and demolishing buildings they could have refurbished.

This led to the left in the local Labour Party tabling a motion (carried overwhelmingly, apparently) to ask Sadiq Khan call in the decision on Tidemill. The GLA have to review the application anyway – the question is whether enough social housing is being achieved, considering how cheaply the new owners are getting the land for (in Tidemill's case, a fraction of what Family Mosaic Peabody have paid for private land elsewhere in Deptford – e.g. Sun Wharf).

See also this new piece in The Independent that includes Reginald Road, questioning why Labour Councils feature so prominently in regeneration schemes where tenants don't get a say. "...they are opposed to giving residents ballots because it doesn't fit in with their paternalistic attitude or their culture of having absolute control. They have a big plan and they won't listen to any alternatives" (Sian Berry). 

Meanwhile, the Tidemill Garden campaigners have also written to the Mayor of London asking him to call it in, appealing to the loss of green space, especially when he has just launched the Greener Cities programme, hoping to make London the first National Park City, and has Tidemill as the first example of good practice.

An update by Old Tidemill Garden is also available here.

Also, all this this is about to happen on a bigger scale at Achilles Street in New Cross, with four blocks and several businesses at stake. Another great idea from Lewisham Planning Central that has no regard for the people living or working in the buildings it appropriates (and demolishes) in its grand plan (that ultimately makes loads of money for a developer).

(Post edited and updated 3 Nov 2017)