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.

Monday, 13 March 2017

28 Deptford High Street - no time to lose!

Three years on from the initial proposal that 28 Deptford High Street (the former Law Centre) should be refurbished and made available for 'community use', prospective tenants are being given just a few weeks to put forward business plans and bid to take over the space.

The funding which has been used to refurbish the shop has come via a rather convoluted route from the Outer London Fund money that was awarded for improvements to the south end of the high street five years ago.

Although the high street refurbishment works and repaving were finished some years back, the cost of the work was less than had originally been predicted, and the council applied to redirect the remaining GLA grant money for other uses in Deptford, rather than having to hand it back.

The first proposal was to fund the relocation of the train carriage cafe which was removed when work on the Deptford Project carriage ramp began. (If the train carriage cafe is before your time, just keep your eyes peeled and you'll be sure to see it mentioned in some developer's Deptford-is-so-cool puff piece within a few weeks...)

The option of redeploying the train carriage in Douglas Way next to the Albany was explored, but this fell through and the money was subsequently redirected to 28 Deptford High Street.

The building is owned by Lewisham Council and has been closed for umpteen years now. As well as bringing the ground floor shop unit back into use, the council proposed to convert the upper floors into self-contained flats that could be rented out.

The shop would be let at a peppercorn rent for a set number of years to a tenant who would 'continue the work to animate the high street through a programme of changing offers in the shop'.

That plan was originally mooted in 2014. Since then, the shop has lain empty, despite being advertised for rent in 2015. Enquiries by local artists wanting to use it to display their work during Deptford X were thwarted by council red tape and demands for unreasonable rent, suggesting that the desire to 'animate the high street' was not a serious one.

Fast forward to 2017 and all of a sudden there's a sense of urgency with the council looking for 'social entrepreneurs, community and cultural organisations' to take on a short-term lease in the shop.

Potential bidders are being given just a month to draft and submit expressions of interest - although you don't even get to see inside the shop until ten days before the deadline, and viewings are by appointment on two specific days only.

There's a lot of work to do for the first phase, including business plan, budget, details of tenant team staff, etc and if you get shortlisted, you'll be expected to have your detailed submission ready within 12 days of being notified. There is an unholy urgency going on to get someone in there that belies the past three years' sloth. I very much doubt that community or cultural organisations have the resources to come up with detailed submissions that meet these criteria at the drop of a hat, often being staffed by volunteers who do it in their spare time. Even social entrepreneurs may struggle if they are small organisations that already have a full workload - and will they want to take on another commitment in any case?

It's down to the bidder to suggest what rent they are prepared to pay, so business plans will need to be realistic and thoroughly researched rather than 'back of the fag packet' style.

The expression of interest form states that the council is not looking simply at income - they aren't necessarily going for highest bid. But it's questionable whether they will get a the range of offers they would like, if they are wedded to such a short timescale.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Artist sought for Tideway commission in Deptford

Updated: Don't give up the day job just yet, it seems someone's for the high jump as the first application form significantly overstated the artist's fee. The commission has now been announced on the Tideway Tunnel site with the correct file linked, stating the much more modest artist's fee of £27k. 

A widely-publicised call for artists to design hoardings to go around the Thames Tideway work site on Crossfields Street in Deptford was issued last year. The chosen artist for the commission, submissions for which closed last month, will be working with pupils from St Joseph's RC primary school, which is right next to the site.

But it seems that Tideway is also looking to commission a much more significant piece of work for the site, which will be permanent and could include seating and other public realm improvements, as well as sculptural elements.

The commission is one of a number which are intended to be installed across the whole tideway route, as set out in Tideway's public arts strategy.

According to the invitation:
"The project will enhance an existing public open space adjacent to St Paul’s Church in the centre of Deptford. Key objectives of the public art programme and central to this commission will be to:

  •  Enhance the high quality public spaces and experience of the river for Londoners and visitors 
  •  Stimulate a new sense of pride in and new perception of the tidal River Thames and the wealth of opportunities that it provides 

Proposals and designs are expected to engage audiences in different ways; creating pleasure, celebrating people or places, being provocative, engaging audiences in new ways of experiencing or thinking about a place. 

We welcome applications from artists working in all disciplines, though given the nature of commissions we require prior experience of working at scale and in three dimensions. We especially encourage applications from artists who are based in London Borough of Lewisham or with a good knowledge of the Deptford area."

The only place I was able to find the invitation for the commission, the total fee for which is £47k, was on the website of Lewisham Education Arts Network. There does not seem to be any wider publicity of this commission, a fact I found very odd considering the size of the commission and its significance to Deptford.

Deadline for applications is 2 April 2017 so potential bidders need to get their skates on.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Old Tidemill Garden: Support a better deal for Deptford

If' you're wondering why the redevelopment of the former Tidemill School on Frankham Street still hasn't started yet, you can find out more this Saturday.

The Old Tidemill Garden will be open and will be hosting 'Stand up and support a better deal for Deptford' in collaboration with the campaigners who have been battling against the council and its developers for several years now to try and get a better outcome from the redevelopment of the site. Members of the campaign group will be in the Deptford Lounge from 11am to 3pm to explain the issues and the current situation.

Concerns focus mainly on the demolition of existing social housing, lack of clarity over the 'affordable' element of the new development, the impact on residents in Frankham House and Princess Louise Building, including loss of light, and the loss of green space, mainly the community garden.

I wrote about the development last year; since that time the council claims that it has been working with campaigners to get a better deal for the community. The proposals came before the council's strategic planning committee last December and the committee agreed to defer a decision for the following reasons;

1. for clarification of impacts on neighbouring properties, particularly Frankham House and Princess Louise Building, in respect of daylight and boundary treatments;
2. for re-consideration of the way the proposed open spaces and communal areas would be run, managed and shared in order to compensate for the loss of the former school garden, particularly with regard to their use by children;
3. for justification of the demolition of Reginald House and details on the terms of re- location of residents of Reginald House; and
4. for the net contribution to affordable housing to be clarified.

What has happened since? From what I hear on the grapevine, very little.

The garden is open from 11am to 3pm, via the Reginald Road entrance. If you've not been in before, it's worth a visit and you can help clear and tidy the garden. Tools and gloves provided.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

New Deptford eateries: Dirty Apron

Despite my initial objection to the name, over the few months that Dirty Apron has been open in Deptford Market Yard I've come to love this small but almost perfectly-formed little cafe.

I've visited a few times now, eaten brunch, lunch and dinner, and even dropped in for a takeaway sandwich. The food has never disappointed. 

There's only a few tables so it can be very cosy at times, and although they do their best to address the occasional unexplained draughtiness with fan heaters, it does sometimes suffer from unpredictability in terms of the ambient temperature. 

The evening menu changes on a very regular - perhaps even daily? - basis, which I find pleasing as it means you can go back frequently and always be surprised by something different. There are options for both meat eaters and veggies, and if there's nothing vegan listed, they are happy to whip something up on demand.

They serve a staunch range of breakfasts and brunches including the good old bacon or egg bap, alongside fancier breakfast bap options that add things like avocado, parmesan omelette and chilli jam. There's varieties on the 'full English', not to mention a mean-looking kedgeree, and quite a few fruity/porridge/toast options for those wanting something a bit lighter.

Prices are reasonable for the quality of the food on offer. Some of the specials I've taken advantage of include £5 for coffee and a breakfast bap/ £5 for soup and sandwich. They have already hosted quite a few themed evenings including a vegan night and a Burns Night Supper, with Mussel Mondays (moules frites and a beer for £12) looking set to be a regular thing once a month.

Beer from Deptford's own local Villages Brewery is on sale, and there's a suitably short but varied wine list too. 

With such a tiny kitchen it can sometimes take a while for food to be served, especially if you are unlucky enough to pitch up right behind a large group. But it's great food and it's freshly prepared, so give yourself enough time to be able to enjoy it, is my tip. 

Friday, 10 February 2017

Smart benches in Deptford

The good news; you can now charge your phone for free!

The bad news; you have to sit right next to the traffic while you do so.

Lewisham is one of two boroughs chosen to pilot 'smart benches' which are intended to offer free phone charging, free wifi and the opportunity to find out about local air quality as well as somewhere to sit.

One of the new benches has landed on Brookmill Road, right next to Broadway Fields, so being a nosey bugger, I went along to have a look. 

First impression - not somewhere I'd naturally chose to sit for an extended time while charging my phone, especially at rush hour when traffic backs right up to this point from the lights on the A2. 

That being said, it is right next to a bus stop so might be handy when you've got a long wait.

The panel on the bench offers two ready-installed charging leads which while not particularly flimsy are bound to be a target for vandalism. One has an Apple-type charger plug but my phone did not recognise the device so I wasn't able to use it (not a massive surprise if I'm honest). 

However if you happen to be carrying a USB charging lead with you (I wasn't) there are USB ports on the panel that you can plug straight into, and they also offer wireless charging.

The power comes from solar panels on the totem and according to the bench manufacturer, Strawberry Energy, the design includes batteries so that energy can be stored for days when there is no sunshine (most of the last few!) and at night. 

Wifi access requires creation of an account etc, which would be ok if you were planning to use the free wifi regularly but for a one-off I decided to pass.  

There's also a Strawberry App that allows you to access the information about air quality, noise, temperature which is gathered by sensors in the bench. 

It was obviously as a result of a bit of lateral thinking that the manufacturers came up with the idea that you would be able to donate to Cancer Research via the benches (ah I see now from the press release that it was all about launching in time for World Cancer Day on 4 Feb).

Apparently you can do so by 'simply' tapping your contactless payment card on the bench. I didn't see any kind of hardware on the bench that would enable you to authorise such a payment, so I'm a bit confused about how that is supposed to work. Probably best not to have your wallet in your back pocket when you sit down. 

According to the website there's also some of the benches on Lewisham High Street and one on New Cross Road at the top of Clifton Rise. 

It's something of a double-edged sword. From the point of view of collecting air quality data I can see the logic of putting these benches right next to busy roads, but I'm not sure how attractive that will make them to people wanting to sit for a more than a few minutes to charge their phones. 

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Improvements to Deptford High Street

Lewisham Council has got some funding from Transport for London to pay for improvements to the north end of Deptford High Street and the six-month programme of construction work is set to start next week.

Improvements to the south end of the high street were carried out a few years ago with money from the Mayor of London's Outer London fund, and because this fund had a wider scope, the bid also included money for other improvements such as the shopfronts that were jazzed up, and to support the development of the 'food market' which was such a painful flop.

There's none of that fluffy stuff with the TFL funding that's being used for the north end - it's all got to be tangible stuff that makes the street a more pleasant, and safer place for pedestrians and cyclists in particular. But it's not all about getting rid of trip hazards and putting some seats in - there will be some kind of arty lighting installation under the railway bridge designed by light artist Peter Freeman. There's also going to be a few new trees, although not very many, and some new paving with words carved in it on the approach to St Paul's church.

(click to see a bigger version)

I wrote about the consultation for the plans last year; there's been some changes to the original plans, mostly for the better as far as I'm concerned. They have steered away from blunt (and most likely ineffectual) one-way restriction that was suggested for the section of street between Edward Street and the junction with Evelyn Street, and instead gone for some rather more subtle and probably more effective controls.

There will be a ban on right turns out of the high street into Evelyn Street, and into the high street by Greenwich-bound traffic on Evelyn Street; there will be no left turn out of Frankham Street into Giffin Street to prevent traffic rat-running through before the lights; there will be a ban on lorries of more than 7.5t turning into Giffin Street from Deptford Church Street, and there will be a new chicane on Giffin Street outside the former HSBC Bank with priority to eastbound vehicles.

Footways will be widened with parking bays set into them; consequently the highway will be much narrower which should in theory slow traffic down. If you've lived here any length of time you'll be aware that theory doesn't always apply in Deptford, especially when it comes to the highway code. Let's hope that in this case it might.

The main aims of the work are:
  • Improved wider footways  
  • Connection with future proposed crossing improvements at the junction with Evelyn Street to provide a safe, attractive and direct route between the river and the High Street. 
  • Trees and seating to the Evelyn Street junction. 
  • Creation of a pedestrian and cycle friendly environment that caters for the expected increase in people using the street. 
  • Traffic calming measures. 
  • Improvements to parking provision and improvements for Blue Badge holders. 
  • Introduction of a new taxi rank below the railway bridge to serve the High Street and Deptford Station. 
  • Artistic lighting under the railway bridge. 
  • Enhanced design retention of heritage elements at the St Paul’s and Crossfield St junction.

You can download the details from the council's website here or there are plans on show in the Deptford Lounge at the moment - although I'm not sure how long for.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Smashfest 2017 coming soon!

Deptford's annual family science festival Smashfest UK is back at the Albany this month with a world record-breaking attempt!

This year, things are going to go with a bang!

Unbeknownst to Deptford a supervolcano is bubbling under Lewisham and things are going to get hot! The tectonic plates are shifting, the lava is bubbling, how do we survive?

The team will be building a 5m high cryo-volcano at The Albany Theatre which will erupt, spewing liquid nitrogen at -196℃ all over SE8, and World Record officials will be there to confirm it’s the biggest one the world has ever seen!

Taking place over February half term, Smashfest UK is a BIG adventure for all the family; comedy, music, performance, arts, crafts, science, hands-on engineering, games, activities, experiments…and more!

The aim of the festival is to widen participation in science, technology, engineering and maths through the arts and design, with a special focus on under-served audiences.

And it's free!

Want to know the scientific secrets of Dr Who?

Listen to BBC presenter and author Jon Chase rapping about science?

Or find out all about volcanos?

At the Deptford Lounge 13th-17th February and at the Albany Theatre, Deptford 16th & 17th February

For full listings see

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Deptford bikes

Have you got a bike languishing somewhere that needs fixing so you can ride it?

Maybe you want to learn more about keeping your own bike in shape so you can save money on maintenance?

Or do you just want to meet cycle buddies and find out some of the good routes to ride around the area?

Deptford Folk, the community group representing the users of Folkestone Gardens and Deptford Park, has won a grant from the Community Cycling Fund for London to develop cycling projects and activities in the area.

They are working with Lewisham Cyclists as their delivery partners and right now are planning a programme of rides, bike maintenance training, repair sessions and fun things to do with bikes.

The first event is a series of bike maintenance and repair lessons starting on Thursday 19th February at Ron Hoskins Hall, Childers St, Deptford SE8 5NU.

The lessons start at 7pm and run till 9.30pm. Each class has space for four, and you can attend one or more sessions. They will be run on a donation basis.

Contact Jane on 07826559603 or email to book a place.

19th February: Bike check and cleaning: Removing wheels and tyres: Mending punctures
26th February: Brakes (Rim brakes only)
2nd March: Gears

For more events follow either Deptford Folk or Lewisham Cyclists on Facebook, Twitter or by signing up to mailing lists on their websites.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

More proposals for Creekside redevelopment - public exhibition

As any Deptfordian knows there is plenty of redevelopment already happening in the Creekside conservation area with Faircharm being a major part of the ongoing changes.

Now land at the other end of Creekside is being put forward for redevelopment with a public exhibition planned for Wednesday and Thursday this week. Publicity has been quite scant so I thought I'd share it here for those interested in finding out more.

The exhibition will be showing plans for 'an exciting development proposal' for these two bits of land behind and across the road from the Birds Nest Pub. It includes some of the land to the side of the Birds Nest, where the former pizza bus, (and now also former Wunderlust) are located; the yard behind the pub, some of which is under the DLR viaduct, and the old Medina building across the road at number 3.

John Cierach has teamed up with some new mates who have form in creating shipping-container pop-up developments such as Artworks at Elephant & Castle, so expect to see something along those lines on the plans. The site behind the Birds Nest in particular is limited by the presence of the DLR, with restrictions on how high and close to the piers any buildings - temporary or permanent - can be placed.

But what of Deptford Creek's boating community? There are quite a few residential boats with permanent moorings on this section of the water, and the presence of this community is one of the things that contributes to the unique nature of the Creek's conservation status.

When development comes along it's often these parts of community that suffer the harshest penalties or are under greatest pressure to move on and allow a sanitised, characterless environment to be created. The land could certainly be used more productively than it is now, but I want to know what the landowners intend to do to protect and enhance conditions for long-term residents of the creek.

Public Exhibition:
Wednesday 25th January 12-8pm
Thursday 26th January 10-6pm
3 Creekside, SE8 5SA