Wednesday 30 November 2011

Evelyn Assembly meeting new date: 14 December

The Evelyn Assembly meeting will now be held on the 14th December at 7pm. We will be there to give a short presentation about our plans, and hope to see you at the meeting.

2000 Community Action Centre
199-201 Grove Street
London SE83PG.

Deptford Dockyard, 1774

Topographic scenic model of the Royal Dockyard at Deptford, London (circa 1774). 

This model is one of a set six commissioned by Lord Sandwich for George III in 1773-74, showing the Royal Dockyards as they were at the time. As with all six of these models (Chatham, Deptford, Portsmouth, Plymouth, Sheerness and Woolwich), ships of various sizes are shown at the different stages of construction ranging from just a keel through to a ship on the slipway ready for launching. These models are also extremely accurate and detailed and illustrate all the different processes, materials and buildings within the dockyards that are required to build and maintain the fighting warship.

Probably the most noticeable feature on this model is the large square building on the waterfront which was known as the Great Storehouse. Apart from building and maintaining the fleet, Deptford was also used as a victualling yard for providing supplies to the warships.

The dockyard at Deptford was founded by Henry VIII in 1513, and by the 1770s was the fourth largest of the royal dockyards. It was here that three of Cook’s ships, the ‘Endeavour’, ‘Resolution’ and ‘Discovery’ were adapted and fitted out for their roles as exploration vessels. After being closed for ten years from 1833, the Dockyard had a brief revival in the middle of the 19th century, but was finally closed down in 1869 when its facilities for constructing wooden warships were no longer required.

Scale: 1:576.
Model courtesy of the National Maritime Museum. Music: British Grenadiers March

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'.

Wednesday 23 November 2011

Responses from the community: Twinkle Park Trust

Twinkle Park Trust has sent the following letter to Lewisham Council regarding the planning application for the Convoys Wharf masterplan. Although Twinkle Park is actually in Greenwich borough, the boundary of the two boroughs runs down Watergate Street – the edge of the Convoys Wharf site is on one side of the road, Twinkle Park and Rowley House are on the other.

"I am writing on behalf of the Twinkle Park Trust to object to proposals contained within the master plan, subject of this planning application.

The plans propose to erect a block of 4–7 storeys high on the north west stretch of Watergate Street directly opposite Twinkle Park, south of this block and directly opposite Rowley House the proposals suggest a block of between 2–4 stories high.

The height of the larger block will completely overshadow Twinkle Park which is surrounded by 100 foot London Plane trees, all with TPO status, a large pond and a publicly recognised park of quality and environmental importance. We are also concerned at the detrimental affect these blocks will have upon Rowley House residents. The entrances to these flats face west and therefore the only direct sunlight received is in the afternoon and evening.

Our concern is that the height of the block proposed immediately adjacent to the Park will cause significant deterioration of natural light and detrimentally affect the health of the park and wild life. This light deterioration will be further enhanced by the proposed 47 storey block close by within the site.

In addition we are also concerned that the consequential change to the water table by such dense building will further adversely affect the Park.

Twinkle Park together with Charlotte Turner Gardens is managed by Twinkle Park Trust, who raised all necessary monies to rebuild the Park and refurbish the Gardens."

Deptford is... in the news again

Our campaign featured in the East London Lines news website last week, with an article drawing attention to the lack of affordable housing being proposed in the current masterplan for Convoys Wharf.

Deptford is.. member Julian Kingston was interviewed for the article, which you can read in full here.

Sunday 20 November 2011

Evelyn Assembly Tuesday 6 December CANCELLED

We have just been told by the organisers that this meeting has been cancelled due to 'circumstances beyond our control'. If you haven't yet had chance to find out about our proposals for Convoys Wharf, or you have questions to which you've been unable to find the answers on this blog, feel free to come along and hear our presentation at the Evelyn Assembly in a couple of weeks.

The meeting takes place at the 2000 Community Action Centre, 199-201 Grove Street, SE8 3PG and is on Tuesday 6 December from 7pm.

What Greenwich is saying

Our neighbouring borough of Greenwich (or should I say the Royal Borough, a title which Deptford would certainly deserve ;-)) has registered the following objection to the planning application for Convoys Wharf:

View from Greenwich Park

"Greenwich Council express concern on the excessive height of the northern part of the proposed development (close to the towers of St Paul’s Cathedral as seen from Greenwich Park) and the detrimental impact it would have on the protected vista from Greenwich Park. The towers of St Paul’s Cathedral are integral to the viewer’s ability to recognise and appreciate the landmark, and the viewing corridor of the protected vista from Greenwich Park incorporates these features. The proposal is therefore contrary to policies D25 and D26 of the Greenwich adopted Unitary Development Plan 2006, and the Revised Supplementary Planning Guidance, London View Management Framework (July 2010). It is further considered that the views of English Heritage and the Mayor of London should be sought."

Friday 18 November 2011

Latest comments from Lewisham's planners

We understand from Lewisham Council's planning department that they are still deeply concerned about the masterplan that is being put forward by Hutchison Whampoa for redevelopment of Convoys Wharf. The fact that they have shared this matter with us is reassuring, and we are happy to note that they are continuing to ask for significant improvements in the masterplan.

What's more, we have learned that Lewisham's mayor, Steve Bullock, intends to hold a public event 'to allow interested parties to present information on the history of the site and share their views on how this could inform and be reflected in proposals'. Joan Ruddock has also voiced a commitment to some kind of public meeting, and both the Mayor and Ms Ruddock have said separately that they will be working together to set something up. We will keep you updated on this as we find out more information.

The planning application will not be brought to committee before the end of the year, and council officers have highlighted three specific concerns which mean that the council is unable to support the current application.

At the heart of the issue, according to Lewisham's planners, is how the heritage assets of the site are reflected in the masterplan and from there will feed into the detailed proposals for the site. Despite repeated requests that the scheme designers demonstrate how the layout of the site responds to the heritage context, planning officers say they still have not seen or heard any convincing arguments in this regard. They say that the layout, massing and specific proposals being put forward are bland and anonymous, and are a long way from representing a sufficient response to the history of the site and its surroundings.

The second issue raised by the planners relates to the type of buildings being proposed for the riverfront. Although the building heights and architectural treatments might be varied, the building type is fixed and is applied along the full length of the waterfront, with no respect for the presence of the historical context. Potentially, Deptford's riverfront could consist of a row of seven residential  buildings ranging from 13 to 17 storeys. 

Thirdly the planners have highlighted that the wide parameters for which the developers are seeking approval are far too uncertain and unacceptable. At the very least, they say, the developers must specify how the floorspace will be distributed between the various buildings that are proposed, rather than simply being specified as a total for each 'parcel' of land.

Similar concerns are also being raised by other bodies (as we have seen in some of the objections printed elsewhere on the blog),  including the GLA, English Heritage, and the Design Council.

Deptford is.. looks forward to working with Lewisham and other interested parties to present alternative proposals to a wider audience at a public event some time soon.

Thursday 17 November 2011

Keep your objections coming!

We were delighted to discover this week that the number of objections to the Convoys Wharf planning application has risen by almost two dozen since our campaign began. According to Lewisham Council's planning information portal, the application has attracted 160 responses – just six of which are in favour. In total, a whopping 154 objections have been lodged against the application.

If you haven't written an objection yet, you still have plenty of time to do so. We understand that the application is not going to be brought before the planning committee for at least two months, offering plenty of opportunity for additional objections to be submitted.   

Don't forget that you can find help and inspiration right here on our website – visit our page here to find out how to write an objection and where to send it. You can also read what other people are saying – whether the experts or just your neighbours – by reading our previous posts here.

We are also thrilled to note that since we launched our campaign just two months ago, our petition has gathered more than 200 signatures.

But we still need more – keep 'em coming folks!

Sunday 13 November 2011

Responses from the community

At the Deptford Presents launch on Friday 4th November, Joan Ruddock spoke of her intention to hear responses from other groups in the area to the Convoys masterplan. Meanwhile, Deptford Is... has been talking to other stakeholders. One such group is Second Wave Youth Arts who are based at The Mission in Creek Road and who have been working with young people in Deptford for over 25 years. We reproduce part of their written objection here:

Young people in Deptford are entitled to enjoy their lives peacefully, creatively and productively. They deserve support and encouragement in fulfilling their potential as positive individuals and critical citizens. But the modern pressures of urban life tend to work against their aspirations, often leaving them uncertain about their role and responsibilities – marginalised or disengaged from local decision-making.

Second Wave has been working closely with colleagues at the University of Greenwich (the School of Architecture, Design & Construction and the School of Education & Training) to identify how young people can become more actively involved in local initiatives and develop their skills as the next generation of community leaders.

We are also working closely with Lewisham Police and the Crime Reduction Service in the borough. In Section 11 of this response, we indicate the willingness of young people at Second Wave to participate in an ongoing process of consultation, design and decision-making with regard to Convoys Wharf. We also seek to emphasize the potential value of their contribution in strengthening community cohesion, reducing social divisions, and increasing neighbourhood safety.

In our view, this site offers a major opportunity to help meet Deptford’s local housing, employment, commercial and recreational needs as a culturally diverse and vibrant community. We recognize significant local development potential for this area in the riverside location, the archaeological and historic heritage, and the growing cultural and economic vibrancy focused around Deptford High Street. On the other hand this is an exceptionally deprived area where we expect the highest priority in the use of scarce local land to be given to overcoming local deficiencies and addressing local needs.   ...The current Convoys Wharf proposal is a predominantly developer-led project attempting to put as much housing as possible on the site – with limited concessions to matching local needs and potential. 

The issues behind the recent riots are multi-dimensional but they cannot be detached from questions of poverty, housing, unemployment, low aspiration, lack of trust, and the widening of social divisions in our community. These factors cannot be ignored in the future development of Convoys Wharf. For example, an extreme lack of social mobility in a deprived area can result in a loss of hope. Problems arise when groups of young people feel alienated or pessimistic about the future of their neighbourhoods and their own prospects for employment.

Second Wave’s approach is a creative one. We work from the first-hand narrative experience of young people: their own perceptions of place and belonging. Our starting-point is to hear from them, in their own words, what their neighbourhood means to them (their own perspectives of urban reality). This offers insight into prevalent factors associated with local streets, estates, post codes: the territorial issues of gang rivalry, intimidation and survival. Our role is to create opportunities for finding a voice as a young person – to question and influence the decision-makers – and the power to challenge the effects of stark socio-economic divisions in their area.

We believe that the interests and concerns of young people need to be taken seriously and formally incorporated into the whole concept of consultation, urban design and future development of this important site. As the next generation of local citizens and community leaders, they are most likely to live with the consequences of these decisions for many years to come.

At Second Wave, we are prepared to support the development of a Convoys Wharf Youth Initiative – to give meaningful and imaginative attention to these concerns (for example, re. the issues of community safety, urban design, youth facilities, training opportunities, apprenticeships, recreation, youth culture, and job creation) through the direct participation of local young people.

What the experts are saying: Tom Turner, landscape architect

Eminent landscape architect, academic and writer, currently working at the University of Greenwich, Tom Turner, was moved to post about Convoy's Wharf on his blog He gave us permission to reproduce his article here.

John Evelyn's garden at Sayes Court and the Convoys Wharf Urban Landscape masterplan

Steen Eiler Rasmussen concluded the second edition of his brilliant book London: the Unique City with these prophetic words: ‘Thus the foolish mistakes of other countries are imported everywhere, and at the end of a few years all cities will be equally ugly and equally devoid of individuality. This is the bitter END’.

So what would he think of the Hutchison Whampoa Master Plan for Convoys Wharf? He would detest it, utterly.

The architects are Aedas, who claim that ‘We provide international expertise with innate knowledge and understanding of local cultures’. Evidently, this expertise does not extend to the local culture of Deptford – unless they think it is the same as the culture of London/England/Europe or the World.

The planning consultants, let it be recorded, are bptw. Their website promises ‘responsible architecture executed with imagination’. Maybe the firm can do this. Maybe the client’s brief made it impossible at Convoys Wharf. Or maybe what the project required was a firm of Urban Landscape Designers, rather than a firm which sees its main business as architecture.

The architecture makes one yearn for the imaginative approach one sees in Dubai. The spatial pattern resembles that of the Ferrier Estate in Kidbrooke, the planting design is what Chris Baines calls ‘a green desert with lollipops’. I am not an admirer of the scheme – and I much regret that John Evelyn’s design for Sayes Court has been cast into what Leon Trotsky called ‘the dustbin of history’.

It is a quotation which gives us a lead into the origins of the Convoys Wharf design. In days gone by it might have graced a Parisian banlieue (like Sarcelles), a suburb of East Berlin – or even Moscow itself.

With specific regard to the Sayes Court Garden, we should remember that (1) Evelyn, beyond doubt, was the greatest English garden theorist of the seventeenth century (2) Evelyn played a key role in introducing Baroque ideas on garden design to London (3) the Convoys Wharf site would never have come into public ownership were it not for the generosity of John Evelyn (4) Sayes Court was very nearly the first property to be saved by the National Trust.

THEREFORE the Convoys Wharf site demands a context-sensitive urban landscape design.

Have you been consulted?

On major redevelopments such as Convoys Wharf, Lewisham Council recommends that the applicant consult with the local community, although there is no statutory requirement for them to do so. However Hutchison Whampoa clearly believe they have done so, having employed Hard Hat Communications to undertake a 'community engagement programme'. They have produced a 58 page document entitled Statement of Community Involvement which was submitted along with the other planning documents.

The document states: "The engagement and consultation programme was undertaken prior to the submission of the outline planning application, with feedback from residents and community organisations helping to inform the final masterplan." 

We wondered what feedback they had received, and how this had been used to inform the final masterplan. The document lists the "Consultation Activity" that took place before the latest application, including meetings and feedback. 

Between 14th November 2009 and 29th January 2010, Stakeholder Meetings were held with: 

• Ray Hall (local architect) and Helen McIntosh (local PR consultant) focussing on an alternative scheme developed by Ray.
• Bill Ellson (Creekside Forum and Convoys Opportunity), with focus on the permeation of the site by public transport and the levels of S106
• Carol Hynes (CEO Cannon Wharf Business Centre) and Mike Forster (MD Translloyd Developments) discussing potential impact on congestion and ensuring that the site was easily accessible.
• Matthew Couper (Deptford X), discussing what opportunities there might be in utilising the site for community arts before any construction or development work began.
• Malcolm Cadman and David Fleming (Pepys Tenants Action Group), focussing on the size of the towers, the protected wharf, the lack of marine based industry around a cruise liner terminal, potential for flooding, the type of employment onsite, the types of apartments, and the quality of the affordable accommodation.
• Lewis Herlitz, Malcom Cadman and Angelo E Silva (Pepys Community Forum), identifying a number of concerns: the towers’ impact on other buildings in the area, the lack of a cruise liner terminal, transport related issues, affordable housing, open space, wharf uses and Deptford as a visitor destination alongside Greenwich.
• Andrew Carmichael (Creative Process), discussing transport and how the Olympia Warehouse might be used.
• Alan Bailey, John Franklin and Ursula Bowyer (Greenwich Society) and Philip Bins (Greenwich Conservation Society), raising issues around the route of the Thames Path to ensure it continued without break along the frontage of the site, the levels of affordable housing, the amount of family-sized apartments, the impact on local views, the amount of open space, archaeological evaluations, and the design of the towers.
• William Richards and Chris Mazeika (Master Shipwrights House), regarding the location of the safeguarded wharf, layout of the masterplan, transport arrangements and the history and heritage of the site.
• James Aldous and Chris Coode (Thames 21 – an environmental charity working with local communities on riverside programmes)
• Christine and Alison Carey (Chris Carey’s Collections), discussing employment space in the designated working wharf
• Joan Ruddock MP, discussing the revised proposals, the response to the public consultation and future timelines.

There were also two 2-day Public Exhibitions in December 2009 and July 2010 (both attended by less than 150 people). This is the distribution area of leaflets and letters informing local residents of the first exhibition:

And of the second exhibition:


The report states: “In addition to the feedback received from the stakeholder meetings, other members of the local community contributed their views via email through the website or by filling out one of the feedback forms, either at the exhibition or by returning via Freepost when received through their letterboxes…The feedback was mixed, with those who opposed the original News International scheme remaining against the revised proposals. However, there were positive comments and a desire from some to see the development move forward. Overall, as many positive comments were received as negative." 

It's interesting to read the detail and find out what the researchers counted as 'positive' comments; in fact many of them were accompanied by a 'but...'. For instance: 

“Broadly welcome it, but want more social housing, less car parking spaces..." 
"Mostly good…Disappointed that there will be a massive tower block." 
"Sounds great for the area but I'm concerned regarding transport...bus routes, car parking..."
"...look forward to seeing how the traffic will be improving in Creek Road because at the moment this road is not wide enough..." 
"Would be nice to see something finally made of this area but slightly too built up for my liking. Deptford is already over-populated and dense. Would like to see more communal park land/areas. Transport wise, an extra tube stop would be useful..." 
"Looks great. Major concerns about the flow of traffic though...An extra tube stop might be useful."
"Hopefully this will bring better transportation links to the area...and how about a tube line."
"...have you considered re-opening the closed school at Charlotte Turner rather than building a whole new facility?..." 
"Glad the site is being redeveloped but...would not want to see a 2-tier Deptford of haves and have nots emerge..."
"I had thought that Lewisham's policy was 50% and not 25% of the scheme is likely to be affordable." 

We strongly disagree with the decision of the researchers to count these as 'positive' comments, with many of them raising the same concerns as the 'negative' comments. Many simply preface their negative comments with a statement that they broadly welcome redevelopment of the site. 'Negative' statements included:

“How much housing is for the locals? Has any thought been given to schools or transport?" 
"No need for tower blocks. Not enough sense and understanding of the history of the area." 
"Towers in the granted outline permission are a serious concern...two or three times the height of any tower blocks in the vicinity (which are in themselves atypical)..."
"Too high"
"Transport is an issue...particularly in terms of increased amount of parking spaces/car traffic." 

There were also complaints that consultation hadn't been well enough publicised and demands for more green space. 

One comment noted that other Hutchison Whampoa developments "are hugely exclusive schemes that have been dropped in on local communities oblivous to the local culture and zeitgeist rather than evolved with them organically."  

Others said: 

"...a private development will not benefit the local area...There will be a massive increase in population and not enough infrastructure to deal with the influx."
"... The heights of the tower blocks will overshadow local residents..."
"Still concerns regarding local infrastructure, local transport under stress already, traffic congestion will become worse, very little benefit to local community."
"The proposed will bring a huge increase in road traffic which will further harm our air quality which is already responsible for over 150 deaths each year in this ward. A 75% proportion of private housing is unconscionable in a housing crisis in a borough with thousands of homeless families. The extremely high density proposed will alter the whole character of the area. This proposal will enrich developers and housing speculators at the expense of local people. The lack of any environmentally sustainable aspects – solar power, wind turbines, local water treatment etc should not be permitted in the 21st century. This shows a complete lack of strategic planning if approved by the council." 

Overall there is very little in this document that commends the present masterplan and none of the points made were taken on board by the developers or incorporated into the amended plans.

Whilst it is clear the level of consultation has been minimal, it's also clear that there is no point at all to any public consultation if the views gathered are disregarded. The answer is simple: this is not consultation, it is a PR exercise designed to ease locals into changes that may not benefit them by giving them the illusion that their views count.

“Public participation in the planning process was and continues to be a subtle form of social control, which proliferates the notion that participants have power over decision-making processes.” Daniel Lobo, Report for Planners on the Urban Politics of Deptford Regeneration, 2011, Bartlett School of Planning, University College London

Friday 11 November 2011

Will our objections be heard?

If you take the time to write and submit an objection to a planning application, you would quite fairly assume that its contents would be read and considered by those who will be making the decision.

Not so, it seems. Your letter will be read by the council planning officer responsible for assessing the case and making a recommendation to the committee, but will not necessarily be seen by the decision-makers themselves unless you have sent a copy to them specifically.

Naturally the planning officers are trained in assessing individual objections and establishing whether each has a basis in law, in which case it will feed into the assessment of the application. However in the case of Convoys Wharf, where so many people feel so strongly about so many aspects of an application, we feel it's important that those making the decisions are aware of the strength of feeling among their electorate.

We strongly advise you to copy your objection to the Councillors involved in making this momentous decision to be sure that they know how you feel. If you have already submitted an objection, simply send a copy to these councillors listed below, who make up the strategic planning committee:

Cllr John Paschoud Chair (Perry Vale, Labour)
Cllr Alan Till (Perry Vale, Labour)
Cllr Abdeslam Amrani, (Catford South, Labour)
Cllr Paul Bell, (Telegraph Hill, Labour)
Cllr Jenny Clutten, (Downham, LibDem)
Cllr Liam Curran (Sydenham, Labour)
Cllr Amanda De Ryk (Blackheath, LibDem)
Cllr Peggy Fitzsimmons (Rushey Green, Labour)
Cllr Alan Hall (Bellingham, Labour)
Cllr Paul Maslin (New Cross, Labour)

Our guidelines for submitting a planning application also mention sending a copy to the mayor and deputy mayor of Lewisham as well as your MP.  

We would also strongly suggest that you send a copy to the Greater London Authority, the London-wide planning authority which is one of the statutory consultees for such large-scale redevelopments in the capital; it's also important for them to be aware of the strength of feeling.

You should send a copy to your assembly member - for Lewisham & Greenwich this is Len Duvall ( - and also to the appropriate officer, Kevin Reid (, who is Principal Programme Manager for Development & Environment.

Sunday 6 November 2011

What the experts are saying: English Heritage

The following letter was submitted to Lewisham Council, and copied to the developer's agent last week (emphasis is ours):

In May 2005 your Council resolved to grant outline planning permission for a scheme of redevelopment that is broadly comparable to that which is now being proposed. As the applicants' planning statement points out, "the current proposals represent essential "fine tuning"" of this earlier scheme which has, "resulted in a "shuffling" of uses and little change to the overall scale of the development".

The development site extends to 16.6 hectares on the south bank of the River Thames approximately 1 kilometre west Greenwich, the heart of which is designated as the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site. It is a site of significant historic importance as it incorporates what remains of Deptford Royal Dockyard. Following his accession to the throne in 1509, King Henry VIII set about expanding what had become recognisable as a standing Royal Navy and, as part of this expansion, he ordered the building of a storehouse at Deptford Dockyard in 1513. By the mid sixteenth century Deptford and Woolwich Dockyards had become the most important dockyards nationally for the construction and repair of warships. This importance waned during the seventeenth century when Chatham and Portsmouth gained pre-eminence and in 1869 the dockyard was closed.

Significant archaeological remains of the dockyard survive including the remains of the Tudor storehouse, a site that was accorded Scheduled Ancient Monument status in 2003. Above ground, the designated heritage assets that survive from the dockyard are relatively few. Three are within the development site: At the centre of the development site stands a building known as the Olympia Warehouse, an iron framed building of c.1846/7 that provided cover for two slips that opened into the central basin of the dockyard; in the south west corner of the site stand a pair of brick piers and stubs of boundary wall that are the remains of a gateway into the dockyard; and along the site's eastern boundary, is a length of high brick wall dating from the eighteenth century.

All are included in the List of buildings of special architectural or historic interest at grade 2. Outside the development site are two buildings that were part of the dockyard, both of are listed at grade 2*. They are adjacent to the north east corner of the development site and are the former Master Shipwright’s House and the former Office Building of the dockyard which date from 1708 and 1720 respectively. Immediately to the north of the development site on the riverside – and also outside its boundaries – are a pair of former warehouse buildings that date from the late eighteenth century which were part of the Royal Victoria Victualing Yard. Converted to residential use in the mid-twentieth century they are listed grade 2.

The development site also includes the site of Sayes Court – the house occupied by the diarist and gardener, John Evelyn – and its celebrated gardens. However, the archaeological investigations carried out so far have not found any significant remains that can be dated to his occupation of the site.

When my former colleague, Paul Calvocoressi, wrote to your Council on 20 October 2003 commenting upon the previous application, he wrote at some length about the failure of that masterplan to relate to the outstanding historic importance of the site and that an analysis of the dockyard's development and its place in the wider history of the area had not been expressed in the creation of a really distinctive sense of place. He pointed out that an understanding of the site's history should have been used as a stimulus to the creative process and that the archaeological evidence, of which a great deal more is now known, ought to have been used to inform what happens above ground.

The key historic features – the double dock, the Olympia building, the basin (and its connection to the river), the Tudor storehouse, the mast ponds and the slips – could all have been used as catalysts to inform a design that retains a legible link with the river and the former activity of the site and create a more unique place than the rectilinear, grid-like planning of the 'fine-tuned' masterplan now before your Council.

English Heritage is particularly disappointed that the opportunity re-engage with the site's outstanding historic significance has not been grasped. Indeed, we can see no compelling reason why the one real attempt that was originally proposed to interpret the site's history in the new development, i.e. the creation of a significant area of public open space that evoked the dockyard basin in front of the Olympia building, has been 'fine-tuned' out of this latest application. In our view, the creation of a tangential link with the river as now proposed is a distant second best relative to the original proposal.

Turning to the wider impacts of the proposal, English Heritage accepts that this is a major development site which is recognised as an opportunity area in the London Plan and that there is a clear policy basis within Lewisham's Core Strategy that recognises Convoys Wharf as being a site that may be appropriate for tall buildings. However, we are not persuaded that there is a compelling justification for three tall building on the site especially when taking account of the visual impact that they will have upon the panorama from Greenwich Park, a panoramic view that is designated as worthy of management in the current draft of The London View Management Framework (LVMF).

We recognise that the LVMF suggests that development on the river edge at Deptford in the foreground and the middle ground of the designated panoramic view from Greenwich Park, "should help reinforce the composition of the existing view" but we consider that the proposal to erect three towers rising to 46, 38 and 32 storeys concentrated in the central area of the site and close to the river edge fails to fit within the prevailing pattern of buildings and spaces and is therefore at variance with the core LVMF Policy 7.12.D.a. Taken with the two existing tall buildings on the nearby Pepys Estate, the net impact is, we believe, the creation of a cluster of tall buildings within this area of the designated panoramic view that competes dis-advantageously with the existing clusters of tall buildings in the City of London and Canary Wharf. It remains our view that any development at Convoys Wharf should relate to the local scale of Deptford and Greenwich and not to the metropolitan scale of the City or Canary Wharf.

We also note that the proposed tall buildings will have an impact, described by the applicants as "moderate, adverse and permanent", upon views from within the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage site and especially from views within – and especially along the northern boundary of – the group of grade 1 listed buildings that comprise the former Greenwich Royal Hospital. We note that in analysing this view the applicants make no reference to the existence of the World Heritage Site and no comment upon whether the proposals have any impact upon its Outstanding Universal Value. We regard this as a significant omission.

Since your Council decided that it was minded to grant outline planning permission for the previous scheme in 2005, there has been an opportunity to re-visit the comprehensive redevelopment of this site and to bring forward a scheme which paid a greater regard to its historic context. English Heritage is disappointed that the applicants have failed to grasp this opportunity and see this current application simply as a fine tuning exercise. Indeed, the one element of the earlier proposals where historic context was positively recognised, i.e. the setting of the Olympia Warehouse, has been omitted from the latest proposals. It is English Heritage's view that the regeneration of Convoys Wharf as now proposed fails to grasp the unique opportunity to create a distinctive sense of place that takes full advantage of the rich historical legacy of the site and its local area.

I should make it clear that the comments and views expressed in this letter relate to the impact that the proposals have upon the wider historic environment in general and the site itself. My colleague Dr Jane Sidell will deal with matters relating to the Scheduled Ancient Monument and any applications for Scheduled Monument Consent that may arise and my colleague Mark Stephenson will deal with matters associated with the wider archaeological issues associated with the proposed development. They will be writing to you separately with their comments upon the application for outline planning permission in due course.

Malcolm Woods
Historic Buildings & Areas Adviser

Alternative vision is launched

Last weekend the Deptford is... campaign launched its alternative vision of the future for the massive Convoys Wharf redevelopment.

This community-led alternative has been put together in response to a planning application, submitted by Hutchison Whampoa, which fails to adequately address the substantial heritage of the site.

More than 100 people visited the exhibition during the two open-house events, including local MP Joan Ruddock, Lewisham councillors, representatives of local residents associations, colleges and institutions, business owners, SE London bloggers, historians, architects and many residents of Deptford.

Visitors on Friday night heard a presentation by shipbuilding historian Richard Endsor and Deptford shipbuilder Julian Kingston on the proposal to bring shipbuilding back to Deptford's former royal dockyard. They propose to build a full-scale replica of the Lenox, one of Charles II's warships which was originally built at the King's Yard in 1678.

Apart from reconnecting Deptford to its maritime history, this project would offer training in traditional crafts and skills, apprenticeships, educational and employment opportunities for local people, as well as creating a tourist attraction to complement neighbouring Royal Greenwich.

The Hermione project, in Rochefort, France, attracts a quarter of a million visitors per year who each pay €15 to see the ship under construction, demonstrating that such a heritage project could be self-sustaining, as well as bringing increased footfall to Deptford town centre, having a hugely beneficial impact on the local economy. 

Archaeologist and researcher Karen Liljenberg and landscape architect Roo Angell spoke about the practicalities and benefits of bringing John Evelyn's influential Sayes Court Gardens back to life on the site, and the significance of this proposal for local and national heritage.

This project has potential as a source of skilled employment, a training facility for apprenticeships and an educational resource for local schools, but also a meaningful focus for socially cohesive activities and events.

Moreover the garden would be a place of delight and beauty for everyone to enjoy, a challenge to the trend which sees access to our exceptional heritage reserved for the wealthier boroughs. Planting the numerous trees and medicinal herbs would bring sorely needed and ever-increasing advantages to health and the local environment, and the garden could become once again the setting for experiments and research.

(Model of Sayes Court Gardens on show at the launch)

Deptford is... also proposes that the reopening of the riverfront walkway should take the opportunity to acknowledge the history of the site by recreating the seven bridges that would originally have crossed the seven openings connecting the dockyard basins and slipways to the river.

This plan, with the Tudor storehouse in the centre and the double dry dock to the left, shows the position of three of the former bridges. Where the docks, basin and mast pond entrances are proven to be of granite and brick construction, sensitive restoration could allow them to be reopened. As well as acknowledging the heritage of the site, these would provide marginal habitat for the River Thames.

Visitors to the exhibition were inspired and enthused by the ideas, with Joan Ruddock declaring publicly that she was totally behind the plans and criticising the current masterplan as having 'no vision'. She called for a select committee at which the proposals could be presented, and at which experts could offer their comments on the ideas, in an attempt to "elevate this in front of those who have the power to make a difference".

Members of Deptford is... spoke to most of the visitors during the exhibition, answering questions and gathering responses to the proposals. Many of those representing businesses and organisations in Deptford strongly supported the ideas, and many had suggestions of how they would be able to contribute to, and benefit from, these schemes. These include giving local students experience in construction and horticultural skills; creating skilled apprenticeships for disadvantaged youth; providing therapeutic and health benefits to the elderly or those with mental health problems; and offering public spaces where communities can connect and grow through formal and informal events.  

In the coming days we'll be publishing greater detail about our ideas, the people behind them and the way that we see them contributing to the success of Convoys Wharf.