Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Proposals for Crossfield open space landscaping

Consultation is currently under way (both in Deptford Lounge and online) on the proposals for reinstatement of the open space on Crossfield St once the Tideway Tunnel shaft construction is finished.

At the moment the public realm is a patchy mix of several separate grassed areas (trees having been chopped down several months ago in preparation for the construction work), the remains of the community garden which never really got off the ground, a dropping off/turning circle in front of the entrance to St Joseph's School with a large paved and bollarded area in the middle of it, and various other bits of grass, pavements, hawthorn hedges and so on. The larger, green open areas are pleasant but the rest is frankly a jumble.

It's going to be way worse than a jumble for the next few years of course, with hundreds of lorry movements, noise, dust, disruption and so on as the shaft for the tunnel is excavated, but eventually the area will be reinstated and Tideway has been consulting with 'local stakeholders' to develop proposals for this work.

The area in question (inside the red dashed lines on the map above) is part of the St Paul's conservation area, which sits in between the Deptford High Street conservation area and the Creekside conservation area. 

In case you were wondering what was here before, helpfully there's an old pre-1945 map on the exhibition boards that are downloadable from the consultation page showing the houses that lined Crossfields St before the bombs fell and the post-war clearance took place.

I wasn't able to go to the consultation in the Deptford Lounge when the staff were there, so I only have the information on the boards to go by. I don't know how fluid or fixed the proposals are, what procedures they still have to go through, or even why the boards have put forward three very different options for the space - which in fact suggests that the 'masterplan' is still very much a work in progress.

If that's the case, then great. Certain aspects of the 'preferred' masterplan are rather disappointing and I would hope to see them improved.

Inevitably there are certain constraints that can't be eliminated - the need for maintenance access to the tunnel shaft, and the presence of some above-ground infrastructure including ventilation shafts will be a permanent legacy. But this still leaves plenty of flexibility to make usable, pleasant spaces. 

First the good stuff. I'm happy to see lots of new trees in the masterplan - let's just hope they make it past the powers that be, and don't have to be eliminated to address 'security' concerns or because they are blocking the vision of the CCTV cameras. The CCTV cameras that are generally worse than useless when it comes to needing evidence of a crime. 

I like the trees that are proposed down the middle of Deptford Church Street - it's an awful road at the moment which is way too wide and consequently when it's not blocked by stationary traffic it is abused by speeding traffic, depending on the time of day. Narrower lanes and a tree-lined central reservation, with wider crossing points, would help reduce traffic speeds.

I also like the proposals to open up the views of the church and access to the churchyard, so that it is more welcoming to the community. The rear gate of the churchyard is kept locked these days, which means I rarely go inside the walls - when it was open I regularly strolled through it. 

One long-term aspiration for pedestrian links in Deptford has been opening up access through the railway viaduct to Resolution Way and Wavelengths, and that's shown on here with the front of the viaduct proposed as a 'dining and events' space. I assume one of the arches would be opened up on this side to accommodate a cafe/bar premises, although there is probably enough space for a purpose-built premises on the land there.

What I find particularly disappointing is the way in which the central green space is criss-crossed by so many footpaths that its 'green' purpose risks being completely eroded and the space turned from a grassy play area to a network of paths with a few bits of green in between. For a start the long footpath that runs parallel to Crossfields St, right through the middle of the green space, seems redundant - surely people would walk down each side of the green if they were passing through, and planting could be used to encourage that? If they are happy to linger, they won't necessarily want to go in a straight line. 

Not only that, retaining highway access and associated parking on both sides of the green space is totally unnecessary in my view. Why not close one side off and claw back more space for greenery and for pedestrians? It seems a retrograde step otherwise.

And how about some greenery at the west end of the street, outside the school? I don't like the fact that it's all been paved rather than greened; seems to suggest that the council has longer term plans for this area than they are willing to admit. 

There are lots and lots of trees but they seem entirely undefended from the vagaries of the drivers dropping their kids off at the school or parking to go to church. We've seen on Frankham St how little respect drivers have for trees, and learned that serious protection is needed, so I hope those lessons learned will come into play.

I think there's a real risk of this space becoming 'over engineered' and turned into something that needs too much maintenance and is ornamental rather than useful. I have the distinct impression of the site being divvied up into packages of land each designed and labelled for a specific use rather than any effort being made to create a pleasant space that is adaptable to a range of uses. 


I do think there is more potential in the alternative options that are included on the boards, although there's no annotation so I'm having to go by the pictures alone. This one seems a lot less formal and structured, and also retains more green space at the west end of the site although there's still too much space given over to vehicles in my opinion.

If you didn't manage to attend the consultation in the library, you can still give feedback online at the survey page here (but only until next Tuesday 23rd May) or presumably you could also send it to the email address that's given on the consultation page.

As to what the next phase of the process is, either in terms of the procedure or the timescale, again I don't have that information. If anyone knows, please leave a comment and I'll follow up.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Sun Wharf proposals - more consultation

As Deptford residents approach consultation saturation point, news of another consultation. Plans to redevelop Sun Wharf (which currently houses Cockpit Arts and Jones Hire) were first announced more than a year ago and I wrote about them at the time.

Apparently these proposals - for 'a mixture of commercial space intended for affordable artist studios, new homes, a new public square, and opening up a new pedestrian route to Deptford Creek - have been developed further and new proposals are now ready to be 'consulted' on again.

Who gave this job to the freelancer who's still chasing payment for their last invoice?

With the existing Cockpit Arts building set to be demolished, the proposals include providing a new purpose built home for the long-established Creekside organisation. Hopefully whoever designs the signage for the new building will be a bit more conscientious with the spell-checking than the person who mocked up the rendering above. Apart from getting the name wrong, looks quite nice and fluffy from this angle. 

Here's a more realistic and helpful overview of the density, taken from the developer's website.

Plans will be on view at the Creekside Discovery Centre on Wednesday 24 May and Thursday 25 May from 4pm - 8pm.

Proposals for Deptford railway bridge lighting installation

Proposals to commission a lighting installation to brighten up the underside of the railway bridge over Deptford High Street have reached the consultation stage.

As part of the high street improvement works artist Peter Freeman has been commissioned to come up with some designs for the site - a stretch of the street that is home to twin telephone boxes and usually only loved by buskers and beggars seeking shelter from the rain.

Three different lighting schemes have been proposed (details can be downloaded here) and all three renderings show them with rainbow lighting although the proposals are for colour changing lights to be programmed based on three different scenarios. The positioning of fixtures and direction of the lighting also varies between the three.

Rainbow bridge: 'rainbow effects with different colour combinations for each month of the year' (I assume this means the same colours just in a different order).

Birthday bridge: 'colour combinations chosen by local residents and school children to honour their own birthdays. The birthday list could also include the birth dates of loved ones and locally famous residents from the past'.

The light loves you Deptford: 'lights on the bridge will be programmed to change colour on significant dates and for international memorial and celebration days, for example turning green on St Patrick’s Day, pink on St Valentines Day and multicoloured on Chinese New Year (not red?). The exact days and colours would be chosen in consultation with local stakeholders.'

The online consultation is open until 26th June and proposals will also be on show at a drop-in session with the artist at Deptford Lounge on 23rd May from 3-7pm.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Public exhibition of design proposals for Crossfield Street open space

Proposals for the reinstatement of Crossfield Street open space after the Tideway Tunnel work has been completed are on show at Deptford Lounge for a week from today Saturday 6 May.

Council officers working on the project and representatives from the design team will be available to answer questions and talk about ideas for the space on Wednesday 10 May from 4-7.30pm and Saturday 13 May, 9.30am-12noon.

Friday, 5 May 2017


Another new restaurant coming soon to Deptford High Street; Marcella is the sister restaurant to Artusi in the peak-hipster Bellenden Road district of Peckham. A road that used to describe itself as being in East Dulwich.

Marcella has been bubbling under for some time, with the former Vietnamese restaurant on the corner of Ffinch St undergoing an extensive refurbishment over many months. I've been following progress impatiently.  Looks like it will finally be opening this month, according to the website.

In earlier days
It describes itself as 'Italian inspired' and if it's anything like the Peckham original, the menu looks interesting and reasonably priced by London standards. I do have a bit of a backlog on the eatery reviews at the moment, but as long as I am able to fight my way past the Guardian/Time Out/Evening Standard restaurant reviewers and journos who according to Twitter are now flocking to Dirty Deptford's streets, I hope to post a review in due course.

If you're popping down to have a peek, don't be fooled by its neighbour. This is not another eatery - it's an estate agent; we've got almost as many new ones of these as we have eateries! They have been a little premature with the gaudy sign as there's no indication it will be ready to open in the immediate future. But if the streetlights should fail at least you'll be able to find your way down the road by the glare of its fluorescent green glow.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Deptford train service levels set to dwindle further

Local transport campaigners are protesting to Southeastern Railway about its failure to honour a commitment to reinstate train services to the frequency the line enjoyed before the Thameslink work at London Bridge began.

The Greenwich Line Users' Group has been examining the proposed timetable changes due to come into force in January next year when trains on this line will finally begin calling at London Bridge station again. According to chair Mike Sparham, despite Southeastern Railway committing to restore services to pre-2015 levels, the service is actually set to be reduced.

When Greenwich line trains resume stopping at London Bridge next January, it will inevitably result in a rise in passenger numbers on these trains, the group believes. But Southeastern has no plans to increase services to address this, and GLUG points out that the Greenwich line absurdly has more frequent off-peak services than it does in peak hours.

"In the height of the evening peak hour, there is one gap in service of 22 minutes (17.28 – 17.50) followed by a further gap in service of 24 minutes (17.50 – 18.14). In the off-peak hours there would be five trains in such a 46-minute period, compared with only three in the peak hour. To add insult to injury, the 17.28 has only six carriages" the letter says.

In 2014, GLUG points out, there were 17 trains leaving London Bridge for Greenwich in the two-hour evening peak from 16.30 to 18.30, with a total of 126 carriages.

In the 2015 timetable, this was reduced to 13 trains and by August 2016 it was reduced even further to just eight trains (from Cannon Street) with only 62 carriages - less than half the number three years ago.

GLUG acknowledges that this decline was accepted as a temporary measure, but stresses that the reasons for the reduction will no longer apply after January.

"In our response on the August 2016 timetable, we sought an assurance that the full peak hour service would be restored...but [proposals suggest] the evening peak service....will still be well below the previous service. There is no increase at all in the morning peak up to London."

The letter repeats a point which is frequently made across this part of southeast London, that the service plans also fail to consider the huge level of development which is under way in the region. Passenger numbers are rising steadily and will continue to do so as the developments planned for Deptford, the Greenwich peninsula and Charlton riverside come to fruition.

However GLUG is well aware that with Southeastern's franchise due to finish at the end of 2018, little is likely to change in the short term.

Speaking of which, the rather bland 'consultation' document about the new franchise is available online if you are interested - consultation open until 23 May. Or maybe you've got some paint to watch dry over the weekend.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Deptford Jack in the Green

Next Monday being the first of May, the Deptford Jack in the Green will be out with the Fowler's Troop on the streets of Deptford and environs.

Traditionally the Jack, musicians and assorted hangers on spend the afternoon visiting half a dozen or so pubs in south east London or sometimes in the City of London, having a drink or two at each one before promenading off to the next one.

The list of pubs and estimated time of arrival (which gets more unreliable the further down the list you go) is usually published ahead of time on the Deptford Jack website - but if you've got no other plans it's probably best to  just pitch up at the Dog & Bell at about midday and tag along.

Arriving at the Ashburnham Arms last May Day

The tradition always takes place strictly on May 1st; since it falls on a bank holiday this year, it's a great opportunity to enjoy this old Deptford custom, albeit one which was revived a few decades ago. It's quite a quirky spectacle too - ten foot of leaves and petals lurching around the streets of the Ashburnham Triangle can be entertaining, especially when accompanied by its costumed, musical and often quite rowdy troop.

The history of the Deptford Jack in the Green is one of a number of May Day traditions covered by Neil Transpontine in his pamphlet May Day in South London, which was published in 2011 and is now available to download from his website

Monday, 17 April 2017

New Cross & Deptford Free Film Festival

One of my favourite annual local events starts this Friday when the New Cross & Deptford Free Film Festival kicks off at the White Hart in New Cross.

I love the fact that you can see a shedload of films for free; they include old classics and firm favourites; and you can watch them indoor or outdoor, powered by cycles, at unusual venues ranging from bars to churches, cafes, schools and shops, as well as at the oldest, purpose-built housing coop in the UK, 

Hell you can even watch them in our own local cinema!

The programme includes a couple of intriguing director Q&As including one presented by the 'Remakesploitation film club' which is a showing of the documentary Remake Remix Rip-Off which 'tells the bizarre history of Turkish remakes of Hollywood films such as The Exorcist, ET, Rambo, Superman, and Star Trek.' Director Cem Kaya will be coming over from Berlin especially for this event and he will introduce the film and hold a Q&A afterwards.

The documentary 'Sewol' tells the story of the Korean ferry that sank in 2014 killing 304 people, most of them schoolchildren. It is still not known why the ferry sank and why no coordinated rescue attempt was mounted. As the relatives of the victims fight for a thorough and independent investigation, they come against an uncaring government and hostile news media. This documentary film tells the story of the Sewol families: their grief, and their efforts to bring improvements in a nation whose democracy is faltering under a corrupt presidency. There will be a Q&A with director Ok-Hee Jeong afterwards.

For something a bit more lighthearted you could try the singalong Sister Act 2 at Little Nan's, or The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert which is being shown at the Brookmill pub and is followed by a disco, what else?

If your bike needs fixing, take it along to Folkestone Gardens on Friday 28th April from 6pm onwards where Lewisham Cyclists will be holding a 'Dr Bike' drop in repair session before the bike-powered showing of Breaking Away starts at 8pm.

It's not all film screenings - on Saturday 29th there's an 'iphonography masterclass' for young people and launch of the 'My Lewisham' challenge at Somerville adventure playground. The masterclass is a ticketed event (although tickets are still free) so booking is essential.

All films are free, it's first come first served, and the festival is run entirely by volunteers - so please give them your whole-hearted support!

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Temporary housing scheme proposed for Deptford

Lewisham Council has put forward a proposal to build 31 temporary homes on a disused playground in Deptford, using a similar scheme of modular construction to that which was trialled in Ladywell.

An update on the council's new homes programme, which is being presented at the council's housing select committee next week suggests that the Deptford scheme would build on the lessons learned from Place/Ladywell and could provide a mix of two and three-bed housing units for people in 'acute housing need' - i.e. currently housed by the council in temporary accommodation such as bed and breakfast. There are 1,800 'households' currently in this situation in Lewisham alone.

At this stage details are outline - a feasibility study has been completed and the next phase will require additional funding from the council so that officers can commission the full design and planning process. The council is hoping to apply for GLA innovation funding to pay for the construction, which is estimated at around £6.5 million. The scheme might also incorporate community and/or commercial space on the ground floor.

The proposal involves modular construction of housing using prefabricated units that are made off site and are designed to stack together. They can subsequently be dismantled and moved elsewhere if necessary, but according to the council report, the intention is to apply for planning permission for the site to be permanently used for temporary accommodation.

The site is currently occupied by a games court which was used by Deptford Green School when it was in its former location, just across the road. Since the school relocated and got new sports facilities, the court has not been maintained and is in a poor state. The gates are being left unlocked to prevent kids scaling the fence to get in. Whatever its condition, the loss of recreation space is something that needs addressing - the report suggests that improvements could be made to the games courts on Evelyn Green, which is very close by.

I went along to have a look at the site and was surprised to find three mature and exotic trees along the strip of land next to the court along Arklow Road. My eye was caught by the beautiful and dramatic flowers on this tree, which I found out via Twitter is a Sophora, probably a type of Kowhai - the Maori name for this species of native New Zealand tree. 

Alongside is a huge eucalyptus with incredibly pungent leaves and another rather less distinctive tree that also looks as if it might be an exotic species. I have no idea how these trees came to be planted on this piece of land - if anyone has any information, please leave a comment as I would love to know!

I note that some trees are shown on the rendering above, but as I know all too well this could just be 'indicative', so I'll be looking keenly at the details of the planning application to check that they are going to be retained.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Report backs the return of the anchor to Deptford High Street

A report into the feasibility of returning the anchor to Deptford High Street has recommended it be returned to the south end of the high street.

The report by consultant BDP was commissioned by the council following continued pressure from Deptford residents and local groups, and the 'Give us back our bloomin' anchor!' petition by Deptford Is Forever/Deptford Society which attracted more than 4,000 signatures.

The cost of returning the anchor - which is currently being stored in a shed in Convoys Wharf - is estimated by the report to be approximately £24k. This would include cleaning the anchor (which  since being put in 'secure' storage now has graffiti on it ) and creating an area of contrasting paving around it to prevent visually-impaired people from walking into it.

The BDP report considers other options for relocating the anchor, including Giffin Square, but concludes that the south end of the high street is the most feasible.

The report comes before the mayor and cabinet meeting next Wednesday. Council officers have recommended agreement to the return of the anchor; they also suggest that crowd funding be used to raise at least some of the cost of doing so.