Sunday, 10 May 2015

New cafe/bike shop for Deptford High Street

I've never really quite understood the thing about bike shops with cafes - it's a fact that both bikes and coffee play a major part in my life, but other than parking my bike outside a cafe to have a good strong cappuccino, I find myself somewhat stumped.

But I'm clearly a bit old-school on this; they seem to be popping up all over the country and we've got our own coming to Deptford High Street with London Velo set to open at the end of May.

Aside from being a godsend for anyone who wants to have a chat about their fixie while sipping a flat white, it will certainly be a useful addition for those coffee addicts living in Deptford New Town who otherwise have to schlep all the way down to the Waiting Room for their caffeine fix.

The new shop is right next to Tesco on Deptford High Street, a unit which has been empty for some time, so it's great to see it being brought back into use.

As well as coffee and bicycles, London Velo is promising music, food, free wifi! They are being ambitious with their opening hours - till 8pm weekday nights, till 10pm Friday and Saturday and 10 till 6 on Sundays. I wholeheartedly support anyone trying to bring a bit more life to the high street outside of the normal shopping hours, so I'll be delighted if they manage to make this work.

Some may suggest that the opening of London Velo will put the high street in a bit of a hipster clinch, what with skate and BMX shop Curve already established down at the far end. 

I haven't written much about Curve ('Deptford's finest Skate BMX & Clothing shop') since it would mean revealing my shocking ignorance of anything to do with aforementioned sports, but again it's great that an empty shop unit is being used for a small, independent business that adds diversity and attracts more footfall to the high street.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Deptford Food Festival - third time lucky?

Two years ago it was the Deptford Food Court in Douglas Square - a weekly Saturday offering of street food traders and some entertainment, which was intended to be part of the high street re-invigoration and was paid for through the same funding source.

The regenerated high street - look familiar? Thought not.
When the initial buzz wore off and the severe lack of signposting or promotion had traders leaving in droves, it was relaunched a few months later as the Giffin Square Food Fair - a monthly gathering of food traders relocated to the square outside the Deptford Lounge. Similar format, new traders, more visible location but still didn't manage to endure.

But now it's back! Reborn as the Deptford Food Festival! Will this be third time lucky?

Let's hear the hype, such as it is:

The new Deptford Food Festival launches on Saturday 25 April as a weekly street food market in Giffin Square. This weekly culinary event runs from 9am to 5.30pm every Saturday (opposite the Deptford Lounge) and aims to bring together a collection of some of the diverse range of foods that are available throughout Lewisham. 

Some of our best street food traders will be showcasing a range of eclectic street food from across the globe from Ethiopia, Mexico, Poland and Italy. 

Those with a sweeter tooth can satisfy their cravings with French patisserie cakes and American-style cupcakes as they explore all that Deptford Market has to offer, whilst taking in the sounds of south-east London steel pan collective the Endurance Steel Orchestra. So whether you want a lunchtime treat or a take-home Saturday night dinner, come and taste your way through the street food stalls in and around Giffin Square every Saturday. 

Free parking is available in Frankham Street every Saturday after 1.30pm.

Same venue, but now on a weekly basis and a full day's presence required of the stallholders.

Clearly the markets department hasn't let past failures put them off - they are determined that Deptford shall have a foodie market whether it wants one or not!

I can't help but wonder why they keep flogging this idea in Deptford when there seems to be no great demand for it. As George of Manze's pointed out on my post about the Giffin Square Food Fair, Deptford already has plenty of eateries serving a wide range of different ethnic foods - from vegan burgers to meat pies, from jerk pasties to homemade lasagne, and from curry goat rotis to summer rolls. We've even got posh cheese sandwiches this weekend at the Job Centre.

I'm all for a bit of diversity and customer choice, but I'm not convinced that there's sufficient business for traders at the moment. Of course that could all change in the near future as new residential developments such as the Deptford Project become occupied, but at the moment I fear they will just be kicking their heels again.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

New Cross & Deptford Free Film Festival

After a week away from the 'hood I was thrown into a panic this afternoon thinking that I'd missed the start of the awesome New Cross & Deptford Free Film Festival. Hell, I even started making plans to catch up with a couple of films later today and tomorrow.

So I was relieved to discover that I'd only got my dates wrong and the festival doesn't actually start for another five days - kicking off on Friday 24th April with a showing of Saturday Night Fever and a 70's disco at Number 3 Creekside. 

If you haven't got your (free) tickets for the Friday night launch, I'm afraid it's now sold out. But as usual, there are plenty of other great films to choose from at a wide range of venues throughout Deptford and New Cross over the ten-day festival.

Whether you want to sing along to blockbuster Frozen, watch a youthful Gary Kemp in a tank top riding a bike around the Deptford streets, or discuss inequality and corruption with film makers at New Cross Learning, there is something in the programme for you.

As we've come to expect from what's one of my favourite annual events, the range of venues is impressive too - alongside 'standard' cinema venues such as the Deptford Lounge and our own newly-created independent Deptford Cinema, there's the opportunity to watch bike-powered films in Fordham Park and Telegraph Hill, squeeze into the tiny Vinyl record shop in Tanner's Hill, get someone else to cook you dinner while you watch films in Deli X, or see cooperative living first-hand at the inspirational Sanford Housing Co-op, where the programme focuses on films offering alternatives to 'generic capitalism'.

Not-for-profit project The Field in New Cross and St James Hatcham Church are two of the more unusual venues for this year's festival but if you are fond of a bit of wordplay you might prefer to see Paddington, which is showing at the Bear (aka Shaftesbury Christian Centre)....

Some events do require you to book tickets online, but for most you can just show up. And best of all, don't forget it's all FREE!

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Deptford to Woolwich - our changing riverside

Photographer Peter Marshall, who has a lifelong fascination for London's industrial heritage, has just published the fifth in his series of London Docklands books, this one focussing on the riverside between Deptford and Woolwich in the early eighties.

Peter has been taking photos of industrial heritage in London for years, and has recently scanned many of his pictures of the city's former docklands and compiled them into a series of books focussing on different parts of the riverscape.

You can see a preview of the book online, including photos of Convoys Wharf in use, the Master Shipwrights House pre-restoration, and the heavy industry of Deptford power station and the scrap dealers of Stowage and Creek Road.

On his own blog, Peter gives some insight into the technical challenges of scanning old film and the havoc that bugs can wreak on gelatin. There's also another blog entry showing some of the images that didn't get chosen for the book.

This latest book and the others in the series are a great record of the largely-disappeared industrial heritage of east London - and a stark reminder of how rapidly our riverside and docklands have changed in just a few decades. Very little remains and it's only through Peter's picture captions that it's possible to place the vast majority of the locations.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Bike parking in Lewisham - need some near you?

Lewisham Cyclists has shared the following information for anyone who wants to request new bike parking - whether secure on-street parking, if you don't have room inside your own flat for your bike - or new hoops close to shops, a pub or some other place in Lewisham borough where they are needed.

Sheffield stand-type parking

If you want 'Sheffield stand' type parking, for example at your local shopping area, send an email to with the subject line 'Cycle parking request' and a note of the specific location where you would like stands to be installed.

You should receive a response by email indicating when your request is likely to be reviewed for potential implementation.

Bikehangers on Pepys estate

If you are interested in getting a 'Bikehanger' installed in your street to provide secure on-street parking for bikes, please send a request to with 'Bikehanger' in the subject line.

Implementing Bikehangers takes longer than Sheffield stands as there needs to be an identified demand in the general area and prior local consultation is often needed. So if you do want one encourage your neighbours to email as well. There is also a modest annual charge for use of a Bikehanger to cover upkeep and key management.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Deptford Station shop fronts - must try harder

Hot on the heels of my last post praising council planners for the top quality result on the Lord Clyde, I find myself obliged to hand out a few brickbats on something closer to home.

Readers may recall my post last year about the proposed refurbishment of Deptford railway station's arches, questioning the quality of the new shopfronts that were submitted for planning permission. As a listed building in a conservation area - and the first place visitors see when they arrive - it's clear they should set a precedent for quality design on Deptford's high street.

At the time of my previous post, Network Rail started fitting out the historic arches without waiting for the pesky matter of planning permission, and it was not until locals made a right old rumpus that the council stopped contractors from working while due process took place.

New plans were submitted by Network Rail in February, and a report by council planners is recommending them for approval by the planning committee at its meeting next Tuesday.

You would think that after months of consultation with the planning department, Network Rail would have come up with substantial improvements. Unfortunately it seems to be the exact opposite!

Pushing the shop fronts further back into the arch should have enabled an appreciation of the brickwork but this is totally undermined by the redesign of the shop front units into some kind of messy jigsaw puzzle that drains every ounce of joy out of the visual impact.

Quite how Network Rail's 'designers' (having seen those new bridges at New Cross and New Cross Gate I use the term advisedly) and Lewisham's planning officers between them could have devised something so downright ugly and cheap looking is beyond me!

Could a conservation officer really have approved this?

And what was the response of the Amenity Societies Panel, who were presumably asked to comment on it?

I had a read of Network Rail's revised Design & Access Statement accompanying the new planning application; it's very firmly in the camp of 'we did what you told us so you can't say you don't like the result' rather than 'we employed an architect with a good track record in this type of work who was able to create something suited to a listed building in a prominent position'.

As regards the design amendments, the report states: "Network Rail undertook a process of consultation and engagement with Rebecca Lamb, Conservation Officer at Lewisham Council over a period in excess of a year in order to discuss and agree upon the principle of the design, appearance and materials of the development. This process resulted in the submission of these applications. 

A series of amendments were subsequently requested to change the materials and design, moving away from a brushed stainless steel finish and moving more towards a timber effect panelling. Network Rail had reservations about the design, particularly on the use of timber effect panelling, but this was the clear steer provided from the Conservation Officer at the time. 

Since this time, Rebecca Lamb has left the Council and been replaced and with that a different opinion has been provided by Officers on the appropriateness of the agreed design and use of materials. Furthermore, comments were provided through the formal consultation period by parties expressing their concern regarding the design, not least by The Deptford Society."

A shopfront that drains every ounce of joy out of the visual appearance

All very confusing. As far as I'm aware there was no application involving 'a brushed stainless steel finish' but former conservation officer Rebecca Lamb is most definitely being dealt the blame for all the inconvenience and delay caused to Network Rail.

Once Rebecca left - and the tone of the report gives some indication of how the authors felt about her departure (let's say they probably didn't get an invite to her leaving do) - there is no further mention of a conservation officer. Was one involved in the process?

More worryingly the revised design did not go to the Amenity Societies Panel, a group of representatives from around the borough who are given the opportunity to comment on planning applications such as these.

In the report, Network Rail claims it consulted with the Deptford Society. There was indeed a meeting on site - at which no planning officer was present - yet at the meeting, the Network Rail representatives confirmed that they regarded it as an informal chat, not intended to be consultation.

Quite aside from the fact that a cheap-looking, generic shop front design is being recommended for approval for one of Deptford town centre's most historic structures, there are serious concerns about the process that has been followed here.

There is no mention in the officers' report of any input from a conservation officer. Planning policy states that 'consent for works to listed structures will only be given where they relate sensitively to the building's significance and sustain and enhance its significance and integrity'. I strongly challenge whether this requirement has been met.

The report also states that 'officers welcome the simplified approach to the shopfront'. Take a look at the before and after pics again and see whether you agree that the shopfront has indeed been simplified.

The revised plans were only submitted a month ago and there has been no formal consultation period, yet the application is going to committee on Tuesday, recommended for approval. No-one was given the opportunity to comment on these revisions - the officers simply rolled out the report and put it on the committee's agenda.

It's disappointing to say the least - the only hope is that committee members take notice of the poor design and the procedural failings and reject the application in its current form. Passing it would not only damn Deptford's listed building to a mediocre decline, it would send the wrong message to all those local shop owners wanting to 'improve' their shop fronts with this kind of joyless intervention.

Deptford deserves better - will our elected representatives support us on this?

Ask them yourselves if you agree - details of committee members here.

Update: Unfortunately despite a number of last-minute objections and lobbying from local residents, the planning committee followed the recommendation to pass the application. Some conditions were imposed but it seems likely that the final outcome will be pretty uninspiring.  

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

The Lord Clyde

The past months I've been watching the refurb of the Lord Clyde, a rather grand old Victorian pub which remains as the only sign of its era in a sea of 70s maisonettes and tower blocks and boxy 80s cul-de-sac housing. It's been a bad couple of weeks for Lewisham pubs so it's nice to have something good to report.

The building was saved in 2012 when the council refused an application to demolish it and the planning inspectorate subsequently upheld this decision after the developer appealed. The appeal was dismissed and the council's decision upheld, largely on the grounds of the heritage value of the building.
In its former state
The first application was to demolish the old pub and build a three-storey block of seven two-bed flats, on the grounds that the pub contributed little to the community. A campaign by the pub landlord, and support from the clubs that used the gym on the first floor to train local youngsters in boxing skills, proved otherwise. Although it was saved from demolition, the boxing gym closed its doors in 2013 and the pub eventually closed too when it was put up for sale.

A revised application approved last year gave permission for construction of an extension on the rear of the building for use as a gym, and conversion of the upper floors into one two-bed and two one-bed flats. The conditions of approval not only required the ground floor to be retained as a pub, but also put conditions on the type of replacement windows to be used and the external refurb.

Having seen the building going through the refurb process I was initially quite disturbed when the signs disappeared - not only the ones at ground floor level, but also the pub name on top of the building. Happily they have now been replaced/replicated in identical form - even the painted 'Home of the world-famous Malony's Fight Factory' has reappeared over the side doors.

The brown ceramic tiles on the pub facade have been cleaned/repaired/replaced and now shine in the sunshine like warm chocolate, and the replacement/refurbed windows give the place a really smart appeal that was sadly lacking before. Having seen the damage that has been caused to the tiles on the facade of the former Deptford Arms by Paddy Power, it's good to know that there is another way.

I spend a lot of time scrutinising reports by Lewisham Council's planning department and/or decisions by the planning committee and more often than not, the process does not end in applause, but credit where credit is due. On this occasion - and judged purely on appearance at this stage - the outcome seems to be a win and is a welcome reminder that objections can occasionally have an impact. The council's planning officers seem to have kept on the ball in ensuring that conditions were met, and that the quality of materials was up to scratch.

I used to feel depressed when I passed this pub - its peeling paint and dirty exterior made it look like a slow death was the only possible end. Now I have a renewed optimism that it could have a future.

Whether or not my optimism will be rewarded remains to be seen - although the planning application was originally submitted in the name of Safeland PLC, presumably the owner in April 2014, the building went up for auction in July 2014, and I don't know what the outcome was (if anyone does, please add in the comments).

The guide price was just £350k, hence the addition of three flats is likely to pay back the buyer's investment in no time, but it will take a determined and imaginative landlord to make a success of a pub on this site, especially considering that the rent/lease will be a lot higher than before. But not impossible in my opinion - let's hope there's someone out there who's up for it.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Dig this nursery/puzzle organico - organic food shop in New Cross

Not quite in Deptford I know, but a great addition to local food shopping. I've often bemoaned the absence of any kind of health-food shop in Deptford, and the need to go to Greenwich for specific items you can't buy locally. 

Dig this nursery used to be based down the side of the former Hobgoblin pub in New Cross, which was recently done up into a gastropub and renamed the Rose. The eviction of the nursery was part of the refurb.

Happily they have taken a shop unit on Clifton Rise, just between the Venue and Fordham Park, and guessing by the sign, have teamed up with Puzzle Organico which is based in Peckham to supply groceries and other organic food.

So now you can buy plants, flowers, organic food and even second-hand records in this little shop just a short walk from Deptford. They also have a good selection of greetings cards and stock what seems to be a full range of Pukka teas. I would buy the latter just for the packaging but it turns out they are also very tasty and much better than the insipid fruit teas that are often the only herbal drinks on offer.   Quite a few of the things I usually buy in Greenwich are cheaper here, so worth the pleasant walk through the parks.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Smashfest UK kicks off in Deptford

The Albany, the Deptford Lounge and the Stephen Lawrence Centre are venues for a whole host of events for young people taking place during the half term break. Zombies and asteroids feature heavily in the story, which creates a narrative around all the different events.

These events, which start this Saturday, are part of Smashfest UK, a brand new science and arts festival for young people, which is being piloted in Deptford from 14 - 22 February.

The press release says: 'Part sci­fi, part horror and part post-apocalyptic-nightmare, the festival is themed around a gripping story in which an asteroid is on a collision course with Planet Earth and a zombie invasion ensues.

You can follow the story online here. Join in by sending us your own Asteroid Survival Kit list, or sending photos with the #smashfestuk hashtag to @SMASHfestUK on Twitter or Instagram.

Real life visitors will have the chance to plan for Armageddon, whether it’s preparing to go underground at our Survival Supermarket Sweep, singing for your lives at Armageddon Open Mic, simply enjoying your last night on Earth with the End of the World Cabaret, creating a #FRIDGIE for our time capsule; The Peoples’ Ark or taking a trip to the Intergalactic Travel Bureau.'

The Intergalactic Travel Bureau
For details of all these events, and lots more, click here.

SmashfestUK is the first event of its kind, intended to widen participation and build diversity in science, technology, engineering and maths by engaging young people and hard to reach audiences. It is the creation of science TV production company The Refinery, and is partnered by the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, the Wellcome Trust, Middlesex University, and the Royal Observatory Greenwich.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Has TFL finally got the message about Deal's Gateway?

Transport for London has today launched a consultation into further revisions of the major highway junction at Deal's Gateway where Greenwich High Road joins the A2 just east of Deptford Bridge DLR station.

The proposed changes to the highway markings and layout are shown above (and explained in more detail on the consultation site) but the most significant concession is TFL's acceptance that separate green phases are needed for lights controlling traffic from Deal's Gateway and Greenwich High Road. The addition of new pedestrian crossings is also welcomed.

It's now more than four years since the original change that saw the separate green phases being removed after TFL deemed them unnecessary, leading to treacherous conditions for traffic (which includes a large proportion of cyclists) exiting from Deal's Gateway to Greenwich High Road.

A concerted campaign by Lewisham Cyclists - including some hair-raising videos of the conditions - led to some minor changes being implemented, but despite this, no significant change to the signal phasing.

It's great news that they are finally considering bringing the separate phases back, it will make a huge difference to all the traffic that uses this route, not just cyclists.

With changes to the adjacent junction at Deptford Broadway currently under discussion, let's hope they can learn from the experience and pay attention to feedback from user groups such as cyclists and pedestrians so that they can get the improvements right first time round.