Saturday 26 November 2011

Convoys masterplan a 'missed opportunity'

English Heritage has branded Hutchison Whampoa's outline proposals for Convoys Wharf a 'missed opportunity' to create a sense of place with clearer links to the site's heritage.

The assessment came in a letter written by EH archaeology adviser for national planning in London,  Mark Stevenson, who commented on the application in relation to the archaeology of the site.

Although Stevenson welcomed the developer's efforts so far to investigate the buried remains on the site, he reiterated his statement of the importance of the former King's Yard site, both historically and archaeologically, and he said that this information should now be used as an 'inspirational starting point for a celebration of the historic place of Sayes Court and Deptford Dockyard'.

Stevenson wrote:

'It has been an understanding from the first discussions concerning the possible development of this property, that includes the site of Sayes Court and Deptford Royal Dockyard, that the site is of national significance even though the site is covered in concrete and, until recently, large warehouses. The main significance is therefore related to the buried remains. 

The pre-planning application limited archaeological evaluation undertaken in 2000 led to the establishment that the remains of the Storehouse and in particular the Tudor element of the later extended building complex, was of demonstrable national importance. It was designated as a Scheduled Ancient Monument in 2003. 

Archaeology provides a clear opportunity to ensure the development is relevant to the historic context of the site. As a natural response to the national importance associated with the site’s heritage, the aspiration has been to ensure that the ‘sense of place’ that has been temporarily lost particularly through late twentieth century development, can be reattached through the opportunity to regenerate this major historic brownfield site. However, the creation of a ‘sense of place’ cannot be achieved by one or two individual actions; it requires a collaborative approach through the parties involved with the planning process. The Outline planning application is the opportunity to get the distribution of the main elements of buildings and spaces correct so that any future detailed applications for individual parcels can develop further the celebration of the historic significance of the place.'

His letter also underlines the need for the developer to revise its Scheme of Archaeological  Resource Management (SARM) as the excavation work proceeds, to incorporate any additional finds which are discovered.

In the environmental statement submitted as part of the application, for example, Stevenson points out that it is now superceded by finds which have been unearthed during the ongoing excavation: 

'Section 5.2.4, para.2 states that there is no evidence of human activity that predates the sixteenth century. This statement should be seen in the context of ‘at time of going to print’, given that a possible medieval dock and late Iron Age/early Roman features have recently been identified.'

Stevenson recommends that the framework represented within the SARM should be secured by placing a condition on the approval of the documents, such that no development should take place until the applicant has secured the implementation of the management of the historic environment framework SARM in accordance with the English Heritage briefing document 'Our Future Heritage'.  

In addition to the SARM, he also recommends that the public realm considerations are addressed by a S106 agreement, saying: 'In this context would be identification of the range of elements to best reflect the former historic environment within the site'.

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