Sunday 12 January 2014

Update on the GLA's consideration of Convoys Wharf planning application

With signs that a decision on the Convoys Wharf planning application may be made within the next two months, Deptford Is... hopes supporters can find the time to write to the Mayor of London with objections, and to spread the word about our petition. We also need people to write letters to the press and keep up the pressure on the Mayor to make the right decision for Deptford.

Community-led heritage schemes Sayes Court Garden and the Lenox Project have been working hard to try and ensure that the outcome does not eliminate any opportunities for our projects to be successfully incorporated.

December 2013

Just before Christmas, Joan Ruddock MP arranged a meeting with Deputy Mayor of London Sir Edward Lister and the GLA planners to present the case for the Lenox Project and Sayes Court Garden.

The two projects combined forces to lobby for a strong heritage focus at the centre of the site, advancing the idea that ship building would be the 'heart' and the garden the 'lungs' of Deptford's Royal Dockyard, and introducing a central cultural theme that the current masterplan completely lacks.

This involved the Lenox Project agreeing a compromise to push for its second preferred option for the siting of the ship's construction – in the Olympia Shed. The present application has no real vision for the Olympia Shed, and the developer has been adamantly against the use of Lenox's first choice, the Double Dry Dock where the original ship was built.

Using the Olympia Shed to build the Lenox would require the re-opening or reconstruction of the Great Basin in order to launch her, which would result in this space becoming a functioning marine space rather than the tiny shallow mirror pool presently proposed. Such an idea is supported in principle by English Heritage and would involve no alteration to current building layout.

Sayes Court Garden's proposals called for the archaeological remains of John Evelyn's Manor House, currently to be housed within a giant residential block, to stand alone in a new building which would become the John Evelyn Centre (for horticultural study) and be surrounded by gardens. This would become part of a sweep of open space joining the Olympia Shed with what remains of Sayes Court Garden outside the site. This proposal would involve changes to the proposed residential block and for the school to be relocated elsewhere within the site.

Both projects were encouraged by Sir Edward Lister's responses and felt the meeting had been positive. It also seemed as though the planners would be taking their time to arrive at a satisfactory decision and not rushing to fulfil the Mayor's promise to decide on the application before the end of February 2014.

January 2014

Post Christmas, we have learned from Lewisham planners that the GLA seem now to only really be seeking changes to the masterplan that are possible within the original deadline of February, and none of these address the specific requests made by the projects. In fact, quite the contrary.

Instead, GLA planners are asking Hutchison Whampoa to consider moving the proposed primary school (P17) into block P16, to integrate it more into the site as a whole. It would then function as a community space along the lines of the Deptford Lounge, to be shared with the community outside of school hours.

However, the land vacated by the school is not to be given to Sayes Court Garden but instead remain the property of the school and, like the school, only made available for community use outside of school hours.

The Sayes Court Garden team is encouraged that the GLA has asked HW to make revisions to this part of the masterplan, but this needs to be more thoroughly examined, with the full involvement and consultation of the project and its partners, in order that it can realise its full potential.

As they stand, the proposals would make it impossible for Sayes Court Garden to achieve its full potential, particularly in terms of eduation, involvement of national partners and tourism.

With regard to the Lenox Project, it would appear that the GLA planners are giving credence to claims by HW that the slipways under the Olympia structure are not capable of bearing the load of the Lenox under construction. This assumption has not been substantiated by a structural or geotechnical engineer, independent or otherwise.

In addition, HW claims that the reinstatement of the basin poses a 'high archaeological risk'. Although the GLA has asked HW to investigate whether this can be resolved, it seems that the planners are ready to discount this option without imposing sufficiently rigorous scrutiny or commissioning any kind of independent assessment of the claims.

English Heritage supports in principle the idea of using the Olympia Shed and the Great Basin for construction of the Lenox; such support demonstrates it is worth conducting a full survey and we would not be able to accept HW's claims unless this had been done.

Worst of all, the planners have asked HW to produce a new assessment of how the Lenox could be constructed on the protected wharf. This is highly disappointing news since Sir Edward Lister had stated at the pre-Christmas meeting that any decisions about the protected wharf would take "considerably longer than determination of the rest of the site, quite possibly years". The Lenox Project has argued many times that the protected wharf is totally unworkable, not least because HW intends to use it during construction, and the project would not be viable in this location.

Read the Lenox Project's response to this disappointing news on the website.

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