Friday 15 November 2013

Petition the Mayor of London to reject Convoys Wharf application

At the end of October, the decision on planning permission for Convoys Wharf was taken out of Lewisham's control when the Mayor of London stepped in at the developer's request (see previous post).

This means local people may no longer make individual objections to the application. Deptford Is... have therefore set up a petition to give a voice to Deptford citizens, their friends and supporters, and to let Boris Johnson and the Greater London Authority (GLA) know the breadth of opposition there is to the current proposals.  
Hutchison Whampoa's plans for the Royal Dockyard will wipe out centuries of maritime and horitcultural history. Britain needs a visionary heritage scheme to transform Deptford and inspire generations.

It is not only Deptford's and London's heritage at stake – the site is of international importance. So enlist the support of your friends overseas and make this a worldwide protest to SAVE THE KING'S YARD!

NB: The battle for Convoys was featured in Private Eye this week (Issue 1353). (Click on the image below)

Friday 1 November 2013

Mayor of London takes over planning control of Convoys

Deptford Is… responds to the news that Boris Johnson has “called-in” Hutchison Whampoa’s outline application...

Recent background

Negotiations between Hutchison Whampoa and Lewisham planners were ongoing with a view to planning recommending the application to the Strategic Planning Committee for a decision in February 2014. Before this, they were hoping to resolve important issues relating to transport, design & heritage, Sayes Court Garden & the Lenox Project, and sustainability.

In July, English Heritage responded to the application and told Lewisham “We remain concerned that the overall scale of development is such that the opportunity to create a distinctive sense of place which responds to the outstanding historic legacy of the site has not been realized.” The link between the Olympia Shed and the river was a crucial one, they said, and the “narrow glimpsed view” that is included in Farrell’s masterplan “fails to make the best opportunity of this prominent and centrally-located heritage asset.”

Consequently, Lewisham's planners wanted a more sensitive approach to the heritage aspects of the site, and were asking for a “heritage response” to be part of the application’s design principles that were to govern future design. Of particular concern was the positioning and heights of the blocks surrounding the Olympia Shed.

The planning department also suggested that some of the proposed blocks should be further subdivided, so that the resulting development would not exceed the maximum parameters of floorspace and land use already agreed. Other issues requiring discussion were road widening to accommodate a new bus route and other highway adaptations for the proposed cycle superhighway, as well as more thorough Design Guidelines to show how different buildings will emerge and how land uses might evolve.

They were also asking for an update on the local heritage projects, and wished to discuss the possibility of extending the area of Sayes Court Garden and re-siting the Lenox Project to the Double Dry Dock (the developer has failed to talk to either project in recent months).

At this point, Hutchison Whampoa threw its toys out of the pram, as if its masterplan was incontrovertable and not subject to planning processes whereby different stakeholders could give their views on it (the application went in rather unexpectedly in April, without any preliminary discussions). Indeed English Heritage did not respond till July, but well within the consultation period that extended till September. The timetable Lewisham gave this application was ample considering the various stakeholders, and time had to be given for planners to discuss the various detailed objections with the applicant.

Director of European operations, Dr Edmond Ho, told planners “we believe the approach you are taking, in not only requesting further changes to the masterplan but even introducing new constraints and unrealistic demands (eg reference to the Lenox being located on the Double Dry Dock, Sayes Court Garden and the New King Street widening becoming a pre-requisite to outline consent), is both unreasonable and unwarranted, given the already tough viability constraints.”

The call-in

Shortly afterwards, Hutchison Whampoa wrote to the Mayor of London requesting he “call in” the application. Bypassing local processes, and citing “delays” and erosion of profits as a basis for his actions, Ho made a pre-emptive request for a premature decision. The Mayor duly called in the planning application on the grounds that the relationship between the developer and Lewisham had irrevocably broken down. And also that, for some strange reason, the planning process would be derailed by local 2014 elections in May; mystifying, considering there is likely to be no overall change in the council as a result.

This move is almost unprecedented; the Mayor would not normally take over an application from a local authority until a decision had been made. Both inside and outside the council it was assumed Lewisham was not going to reject it. Surely Ho would have realised that the decision-making process the GLA must now go through is likely to take longer than Lewisham have been taking? Despite intimations in the report from his officers that it is not feasible, Boris is promising a decision by February.

By involving the Mayor of London, the process will now take place on a much larger stage. The developer’s refusal to engage with stakeholders and accommodate the worldwide importance of the site's heritage will become ever more visible (it is this non-negotiable stance which has held back the development, not the planners). Meanwhile, by approaching London’s Mayor directly, Ho has terminated the democratic planning process and made a mockery of the Localism Act.

He is also perhaps hoping to bypass the final Archaeology report that is yet to be submitted. The report is expected to acknowledge that some 75% of the infrastructure representing 500 years of dynamic development of the Royal Dockyard at Deptford is essentially intact and ready to reinstate for maritime purposes. Or perhaps the final straw for the developer was the World Monuments Fund putting the site on its Watch List?

Lies, damned lies and conflicts of interest

In his letter to Lewisham – which will also have been seen by the Mayor of London and the GLA – Edmond Ho claimed the GLA and Lewisham's Design Panel have endorsed the masterplan and overall development. It is likely, however, that comments from Lewisham's own design panel prompted further questions that the planners put to the developer. Meanwhile, the GLA have responded favourably in so far as the application fulfills the priorities of the London Plan in terms of housing and employment. In fact the GLA has noted that Lewisham has met its housing targets over and above requirements.

For Lewisham the task is far more complex than simply fulfilling the demands of the London Plan. London Assembly Member for Greenwich and Lewisham Len Duvall said: "While the Mayor could have worked with the borough to progress development, as they have done for years, he cannot ignore the real concerns Lewisham was working through in the run up to a decision."  

Lewisham's CEO, Barry Quirk, told Building Design magazine that Lewisham had a realistic and deliverable timescale for determining the application. Lewisham has "significant concerns" about the proposals but they could be resolved "if the applicant is willing". Quirk pointed out that the developer had submitted its plans at too early a stage, cutting short pre-application discussions, and had recently cancelled meetings at which outstanding issues could have been resolved.

Meanwhile Ho’s letter to the planning department also stated that HW had “fully considered points raised by English Heritage”. With a familiar arrogance, HW's response to English Heritage’s comments has been "to explain how the masterplan decisions were reached”. Of course, those decisions were made before EH’s report was submitted, and HW has subsequently refused to alter its plans in order to acknowledge EH’s unambiguous request to reduce the density of the development.

The letter went on to say that HW's architect “Sir Terry Farrell himself also took the time to meet with English Heritage to satisfy the concerns being raised – we understand English Heritage have largely accepted the overall approach being taken”. English Heritage have denied such a meeting took place, whilst Farrells have so far been unable to comment. 

It is also interesting to note that Sir Terry is part of the Mayor’s Design Advisory Group, which plays “a significant role in shaping future developments which fall under the Mayor’s responsibility through his regeneration, planning, housing and land powers.” Sir Terry advises the Mayor on “how to secure the best results on new developments through procurement.” Could this not be viewed as a conflict of interests?

Ho insists that making further changes to the masterplan pushes “the viability of the project to its limits”. The owner of Hutchison Whampoa Properties is Li Ka Shing, the eighth richest billionaire in the world. He made a speculative purchase of the land and as such, assumed the risk for his speculation and, with it, any losses resulting from any and all legal decisions made about the site, its use, or future. It is the responsibility of neither London’s Mayor nor Lewisham Council to mitigate the owner’s risk.

However, Boris’s recent trade visits to China suggest a sympathetic hearing for the Chinese conglomerate, and Boris is also very pally with Rupert Murdoch, as is Li Ka Shing. News International, who sold the site to Hutchison Whampoa, retain a profit share in the sale of the residential units. Murdoch’s blatant disregard for the heritage of the site became apparent when he demolished the 18th century Storehouse (older than the Olympia Shed) in 1984.

We can expect to hear a lot of propaganda about this development’s contribution to solving the London housing crisis, even though 3000 of the 3500 units will be sold off-plan to the many foreign investors who are currently parking their cash, tax-free, in London property and earning enough on their investment to not even need to bother renting it out.

A heritage jewel in London’s crown

Whilst the present owner may hold the freehold, the history, heritage, use and future of this significant Thames site belongs to London, Londoners, the UK and the nations around the world that benefited from the naval and maritime advances that emanated from this site. 

Henry VIII’s Royal Dock at Deptford is now designated as one of the country’s heritage assets at risk – in this case, from insensitive redevelopment. It is the Mayor of London’s role to safeguard London’s heritage – including its value in attracting finance for Lewisham Council. London urgently needs economic growth beyond the financial sector, and a restored heritage site alongside a dynamic, regenerated dock will widen the Thames economy. This is a distinctive and rare opportunity for London’s Mayor to herald London’s world-changing maritime achievements over some 500 years.

Deptford’s MP, Joan Ruddock, has already written to the Mayor to request a meeting, calling the site “an archaeological and heritage jewel in London’s crown.” She said, “I will be trying to persuade the Mayor to recognise the immense heritage value of this site both to local people and the people of London. The development needs to reflect Deptford’s extraordinary past while meeting local needs and fitting into the local environment.”

Meanwhile, in June this year, Boris pledged his support for the Lenox project in answer to a written question from London Assembly member Darren Johnson. He actually agreed that the ship be built at the Double Dry Dock – one of the ideas the developer refuses to agree on. Perhaps Boris will suffer a bout of amnesia when he is reminded of this fact.

So what will Boris do?

The decision to call in the planning decision offers Boris the chance to do two things, which have so far been impossible to reach agreement on.

Firstly, he can use his power and influence to assist the owners to appreciate that they own a very valuable piece of England’s story. The shaping of their development – working with the uniqueness of the site and creating a strong sense of place – can raise the value of the completed development. The highest capital property value in London is at its peak when there is a strong sense of place and history rather than the bland ubiquity of the current Farrell masterplan.

High capital value can still encompass affordable housing in the mix. Boris' relations with the Chinese will have taught him that in China the respect for tradition is as strong as their search for modernity. He has the personal power to broker this change of perspective and to bring the developer into a positive relationship with the inherent values of the site and its story.

Secondly, Boris has the opportunity to create a stunning local success. He is working with a passionate, informed and vocal local community who have shown vision and relentless commitment to participate in shaping the place they live in. He can choose to demand that the owners, together with architects and specialists, including English Heritage, the World Monument Fund and the London Borough of Lewisham, start with a clean slate and remove all the assumptions about this being just any old brownfield site. Boris can then represent his London electorate and instigate a genuine re-masterplanning of the site as an example of how he and the GLA can ensure Deptford and London can be resolutely connected to its past and vibrantly engaged in its future.

Or, Boris can choose to accept the application (and the cash) wholly on the investors’ terms and ignore the decades of public investment in developing a sophisticated planning process.

Come on Boris, help us all to get back on track! Dismiss this masterplan and start again. This site is a benchmark of how we all shape the city of the future. The process will be complex but the result has the potential be a truly multicultural international success.

Tuesday 22 October 2013

"From the ground up...up...up..."; comments on recent press coverage.

The 'new' Farrells masterplan, is not a new masterplan.

The previous Aedas masterplan proposed 3,500 homes, three towers above 32 storeys, 2000+ parking spaces, shops, a hotel, some green space, and a nod to the history of the site.

There is not a single new concept in this masterplan, besides a gesture towards the ideas promoted by Deptford Is...

Masterplanning is a process of visualising, imagining and re-imagining. But this new-old plan is the same number of Lego bricks in the same size tin. 

© BBC London News, 19 October 2013

When Sir Terry Farrell was selected by Hutchison Whampoa to review the failed Aedas masterplan, Sir Terry, in the presence of Hutchison Whampoa’s UK director Edmond Ho, publicly promised the people of Deptford a new masterplan for the site of Henry VIII’s royal dockyard and John Evelyn’s Sayes Court Garden, now Convoy’s Wharf. They would start "from the ground up". What did he mean?

Farrell’s architects recently claimed on BBC London News (above) to have used the character and history of the site to inform their masterplan. But it must be remembered that the quantum of units at 3,500 apartments, the typology of high rise towers of up to 48 storeys rising out of 12 storey blocks with their enclosed private green spaces resting on the top of four storeys of car parking – plus blanket preservation in situ of the historic dockyard structures – were all features of the previous Aedas masterplan (2012) which was unanimously rejected by the local community, English Heritage, Council for British Archaeology, Naval Dockyard Society and Lewisham Planning and a number of London amenity societies.

The Aedas masterplan – the routes and the real green public spaces

Identical to the Aedas master plan, the Farrell’s masterplan again proposes the historic structures such as the GII listed Olympia Building and the Double Dry Dock remain as marooned stand-alone features amongst the Aedas typology of monolithic blocks. So what does this newly promised “from the ground up” Farrell’s masterplan deliver that the rejected Aedas masterplan did not?

The Farrells masterplan – routes and public spaces

Are the extant Tudor routes through the site expressed in the masterplan? Not yet, rather Farrells have opted to import a circulation feature of “one route back” from the river that has never been a feature of this enclosed self-contained site. What the Farrell’s monolithic gesture of “one route back” achieves is a cutting through of the extant Tudor routes, ignoring the historic perpendicular circulation to the river with pedestrian bridges crossing the potential open mouths of the dock, slips, basin and mast ponds – in favour of an imported notion. Rather than the circulation through the site being informed by the site’s own history and character, specific and characteristic to this internationally important historic site, Farrell’s have opted to impose an idea from elsewhere.

The expression of the historic dockyard structures in the Farrell’s masterplan is limited to an indication of a single slipway illustrated as a green space and the dry dock also illustrated as a green space. This decision to landscape these features does not reflect the historic maritime character of the site. Where, in the former dockyard basin for instance, there might be historic tall ships, a marina, a sailing centre, moored restaurant barges or a floating swimming pool, Farrell’s have proposed – exactly as Aedas did – that the basin is rendered as a dull hard landscaped 'town square feature' fronting the proposed Olympia building shopping centre, described by Sir Terry as the "heart" of the site. The question as to how a shopping centre purposefully reflects the history of London's most important maritime and shipbuilding centre remains unanswered.

When Farrell’s publicly claim that the archaeology and historic features have informed their designs to develop a masterplan from the ground up, it appears that in order to achieve three tower blocks of 48, 38 and 38 storeys, surrounded by monumental blocks of 12 storeys, the precise location for the massive extent of piling required to support this masterplan is determined by the ‘archaeology’. What is the effect of this masterplan on the archaeology? According to Museum of London reports, the effect of this masterplan on the archaeology is "severe". Preservation in situ means that the potential harm to the historic dockyard structures will go unmonitored and unnoticed.

Farrells masterplan overlaid on historic dockyard structures and Sayes Court Garden

Sir Terry Farrell talks about the ‘memory’ of the extant historic dockyard structures being ‘reflected’ in the masterplan. Why do we need memory to be reflected when the structures themselves exist and no-one yet knows whether these structures can be revealed because expert assessment has yet to take place? For example, studies need to be carried out to determine whether the yellow stock brick and hardwood slipways can be revealed in the masterplan. As heritage consultants, Alan Baxters Associates have stated the masonry and brick openings in the river wall, such as the masonry Dry Dock entrance, may be sustainable as a revealed structure.

If Farrell’s public promise has any value, we will see more than the currently proposed preservation in situ of the entire historic environment of the dockyard and Sayes Court Garden.

The World Monuments Fund listing

Statement from Dr Jonathan Foyle, Chief Executive of World Monuments Fund Britain:

“Every two years, the World Monuments Watch reminds us the world around us changes faster than ever before. Change is inevitable, but it needs to be carefully managed so that we carry the best of the past into the future, and minimise the destruction of our record as a species. So we invite everyone to join us in supporting the champions of special places that need a helping hand to stay useful and beautiful.

"In 1513 Henry VIII founded the Royal naval Dockyard at Deptford, and the King’s Yard became the foremost Royal dockyard of the Tudor period. Hundreds of warships and trading vessels were built here, including ships for exploration, science and empire. The Mary Rose was harboured in Deptford in 1517, and refitted there in 1523, and the dockyard remained a naval powerhouse for another 350 years. The site also includes John Evelyn’s seventeenth-century garden at Sayes Court, one of the most famous and revolutionary gardens of its time.

"The majority of the area has been concreted over in past decades, but recent excavations have revealed the dockyard’s extensive maritime heritage. Many large structures survive intact below (and in some cases above) ground level. However, the current low-level designation of the site remains unchanged despite this wealth of new archaeological data, and Deptford’s status as a heritage asset remains disproportionate with the survival of the fabric.

"2013 is Deptford’s 500th anniversary, and today the site awaits residential redevelopment. Yet Deptford’s most imminent threat comes from the failure of existing proposals to fully acknowledge and respect the heritage assets that the site has to offer. Incorporating the extensive archaeology and combining this with unique public spaces has the potential to strengthen Deptford’s local identity whilst securing this lost piece of the Thames jigsaw. It would also improve awareness of the little-known existence and overlooked history of the dockyard and gardens on a national stage."

Saturday 12 October 2013

Deptford Royal Dockyard and Sayes Court Garden listed on the 2014 World Monuments Watch

The Deptford Is... team are very pleased to issue the following Press Release this week:

The announcement in New York on 8th October by the World Monuments Fund of their 2014 Watch marks a positive turning of the tide for Henry VIII’s Royal Naval Dockyard and John Evelyn’s Sayes Court Garden in Deptford.

Both sites are under threat from Hong Kong based developer, Hutchison Whampoa, current owner of the majority of the land. HW has submitted plans for 3,500 new homes that will bury the historic landscape largely without trace. Both sites are of international historic significance. WMF Watch list status supports the Deptford Is campaign to build on rather than build over the rich history of the area.

Most people will know the name Deptford, many will know the stories of Sir Francis Drake, Sir Walter Raleigh, Captain James Cook, the Mary Rose, the Golden Hinde, Trinity House, John Evelyn, the Gut-Girls, Erasmus, Samuel Pepys, Czar Peter the Great, Grinling Gibbons, Margaret and Rachel Macmillan, but few will have seen the monumental naval engineering dockyard structures that exist above and below ground or John Evelyn’s garden because since WWII Deptford has been shamelessly stripped of its history.

The royal naval dockyard was the Cape Canaveral of its day, leading the technology of ship building in England. The site of the dockyard served the nation as a military base through five centuries to WWI and WWII. Sayes Court Garden was also a place of innovation, attracting visitors from all over Europe, heralded as the greatest garden of the age. Efforts to save Sayes Court in the 19th Century by Octavia Hill led directly to the formation of the National Trust, based upon the principles of access to open space in our cities.

Deptford is London’s forgotten royal dockyard and Sayes Court is London’s lost garden. Like a missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle in the evolution of London as a port city and England as a maritime power, Deptford is at last being recognised and with access to its heritage can lay claim to the most historic stretch of the London Thames. Hutchison Whampoa’s proposal for preservation in situ (buried beneath residential tower blocks) of both the dockyard and Sayes Court is a wholesale obliteration of the opportunity for access to this world-class heritage. WMF support is critical in helping to make what has remained invisible visible once more.

Today two key projects exist to connect Deptford’s history with the future. Both projects are locally generated and involve major national partners.

Sayes Court Garden envisages the reinterpretation of John Evelyn’s garden, together with an institute of urban horticulture. Sayes Court Garden has support from the National Trust and the Eden Project and has the potential to be both a world-class destination and a rich local resource.

Build the Lenox will provide training, tourism, business and foster local and national pride by constructing a 17th century wooden ship at the centre of a maritime enterprise zone. Build the Lenox already has the backing of London’s Mayor Boris Johnson and has as its patrons TV historian Dan Snow and local MP Dame Joan Ruddock.

The WMF watch-list status will assist the people of Deptford, the local decision makers at Lewisham Council, English Heritage and the GLA to enhance the future of the two sites by creative planning and truly start the master plan “from the ground up” as publicly promised by HW’s architect Sir Terry Farrell in the presence of Edmond Ho, HW’s UK director.

The announcement of WMF support is extremely important and exciting for the future of Deptford. The Dockyard and Sayes Court Garden are Deptford’s equivalent of The Mary Rose or Shakespeare’s Globe. Deptford has an unparalleled vivid history on the London Thames and the WMF watch-list status can help us celebrate a vibrant future. The historic landscape is the starting point. Once the site is formally protected, as all other royal naval dockyards are, the area including Sayes Court Garden will deliver visionary projects bringing jobs, tourism, business, pride in our community and an enhanced sense of place.

Other facts about Deptford Dockyard and Sayes Court Garden:

• Drake was knighted in the presence of Queen Elizabeth I in 1581 on board the Golden Hinde where the ship became a tourist attraction.
• Deptford has built royal ships and royal yachts since the 1400s and put out ships for naval battles including Armada and Trafalgar.
• The first Ark Royal (Ark Raleigh) was built at Deptford. Its master shipwrights were pre-eminent in the royal navy.
• John Evelyn was a commissioner for the building of the Royal Naval Hospital at Greenwich, he proposed an underground transport system for London and the planting of trees to scent and clear the London air.
• Czar Peter the Great of Russia learned shipbuilding at Deptford in 1698 in order to build the Russian navy.
• Captain James Cook hoisted the pennant on board the Endeavour in 1768 prior to his “discovery” of Australia. 

See the World Monument Fund's announcement on their website.

The Royal George at Deptford, showing the launch of the Cambridge by John Cleverley the Elder © NMM

Further comment from Deptford Is...

Just as there is to be no development over the Double Dry Dock, nor should there be development over the Basin, a contemporaneous structure with the dry dock, as well as being the very origin of the dockyard.

The Tudor Dry Dock at Deptford of 1517 is the ancient predecessor of its modern equivalent just as the Tudor Basin is also the very first of its kind in the country. Shipbuilding slipways are evidenced at Deptford as early as 1420 and the present slipways should not therefore be built over. The 17th and 18th century mast ponds complete the dockyard engineering structures, and until independent expert engineering assessment of the future viability of all the above mentioned structures has taken place no permissions should be given for preservation in situ and development over their sites.

Archaeological reports state that the impact of development on these structures of national importance is severe. To the primary dockyard infrastructure may be added the Navy Treasurers House, a former royal residence of the Duke of York, and the Officers Terrace, until the understanding of the evolution of this early palace front terrace is complete.

Deptford Is... also calls for the reinstatement of the pre-1913 Sayes Court Garden to link up with the site of Sayes Court Manor House.

Plan of Sayes Court House and Garden by John Evelyn, 1653 © British Library

Wednesday 25 September 2013

London Open House

The Master Shipwright's House on Deptford's waterfront dates from 1513 and is a regular feature of London Open House. It is sandwiched between the Convoys Wharf site (formerly the King's Yard of which the building was a part) and Paynes & Borthwick Wharf (now a luxury housing development).

Along with plans, maps and photographs of Deptford Dockyard inside the house, there were other attractions in the garden – which overlooks the river – in order to celebrate the founding of the Royal Dockyard exactly 500 years ago.

Build The Lenox had a strong presence, and on Saturday had invited a re-enactment group from the Isle of Wight to come and fire their cannon and muskets and demonstrate their sword skills all day. The cannon could be heard next door at Convoys Wharf (which also had visitors - see below) and across the river.

The Lenox Project invited ship's carver Andy Peters to display his work inside the house. Some enthusiastic visitors kept him talking for a long time.

In celebration of the Quincentenary the Lenox team is selling T-shirts and tote bags to raise funds for their campaign.

In addition, they held a Press Conference on Saturday morning, featuring local actor Jim Conway playing Samuel Pepys, which resulted in BBC News coming down to film and, because of their interest, also a 10-minute spot on BBC London Radio early in the morning before the press conference. The conference was chaired by Ben Willbond and Larry Rickard, the actors from Horrible Histories. See the coverage here. The BBC News item went out on Monday morning and lunchtime, but is unfortunately not archived for viewing now on iPlayer.

Also on show in the garden was a model of John Evelyn's Sayes Court Garden, as part of a presentation by the Sayes Court Garden project.

Local artists Laura X Carlé, Sue Lawes and Hollie Paxton displayed artwork, Willi Richards showed a film about Deptford, and on Saturday evening, Up Projects held an art seminar to examine the part played by artists in regeneration, chaired by artist and educator Rebecca Beinart. That debate requires further discussion, since the Hutchison Whampoa application has a Cultural Strategy attached to it that feeds on Deptford's creative reputation that may not be able to survive the gentrification and high rents that may result from the developer's masterplan.

Meanwhile, next door on Convoys Wharf, developers Hutchison Whampoa also took part in London Open House on Saturday, and erected a marquee inside the historic Olympia Shed. There were a couple of additions to the display boards that were shown in their previous exhibition, and a new model, which showed much more of Deptford than the previous model, making the Convoys site appear much smaller. Spread out like this, the impact of the taller buildings and their surrounding masses was lessened. But not many were fooled.

The 48-storey tower at the front of the development was see-through, so that it almost disappeared in some views. The Olympia Shed was also dwarfed and hidden from many views. One display board invited visitors to suggest uses for the Olympia Shed (because the developers don't have any?). Some visitors were infuriated by the attitude of the developer's team, and returned to the Master Shipwright's House to show their support by purchasing Deptford 500 T-shirts from the Lenox team.

Also on Saturday, Henry VIII, who had been lurking in the gardens of the Master Shipwright's House, took a wander over to the Convoy's site, where he found the Deptford Anchor being stored in the Olympia building. This was Bill Ellson in costume, resuming his role from the local campaign of 2005, Convoys Opportunity, which had presented a viable alternative plan for the site (as a cruise liner terminal) when the previous owner, Rupert Murdoch, was attempting to get planning to build almost as many luxury flats as the present owners.

On Sunday at the House, a highlight was the appearance of the Deptford Dolphins, who took to the water off Watergate steps for a swim in the high tide. They were subsequently invited into the house to wash off the Thames water, and stopped to pose next to Laura X Carlé's giant cardboard anchor.

Abridged from an article on Deptford Is Forever – a new website created for Deptford X Visual Arts Festival 2013. The theme of this year's Deptford X is "Art Makes People Powerful" so Deptford Is Forever is campaigning to bring back the Deptford Anchor and Save the Royal Dockyard.

Thames Festival - 14th & 15th September 2013

Build The Lenox brought their restored cannon to the Blue Ribbon Village on Potter's Fields, as part of the Thames Festival this year. They had a great pitch next to Tower Bridge, but the weekend weather was less than clement.

One of the highlights of the festival was on Sunday when a choir of 600 children sang a repertoire of songs inspired by the maritime history of the Thames, composed and conducted by local Deptford resident and school teacher Jonathan Pix (a great supporter of the Lenox Project and the work of Deptford Is...).

Many children's imaginations were captured by the restored cannon and the cannonball, but most thought Lenox skipper, Julian Kingston – dressed as John Shish master shipwright – was a pirate!

David models the Lenox Project's new merchandise...Go to the Build The Lenox website to order yours!

The Great River Race, 7th September 2013

Build The Lenox took part in the Great River Race earlier in September. The team were not involved in the rowing race itself, but were invited to have a presence at the start and end of the race. The programme for the race had a large centre spread over six pages focusing on the history and future of Deptford Dockyard, with a special feature on the Lenox project.

We have extracted some points from the article by Sylvia Wicks here:
"There are three realistic options for the future of our Royal Docks: replacement with high-rise blocks of flats; preservation as a heritage visitor site linked with Greenwich; or the reinstatement as an interactive heritage visitor site and working boatyard.

"An application to build multiple high-rise blocks of luxury flats has been made to Lewisham Council. If it is approved, the docks will be lost forever. In future, Great River Race coxes might need to manage wind gusting between more tall buildings.

"Maritime Greenwich, a World Heritage Site, is downstream from the Race start....It is The Royal Docks that authenticate Greenwich's historical Maritime significance....

"World Heritage visitors are generally well educated, mostly well informed, and often well travelled...Visitors now want to see the real thing..."
She then goes on to make the case for the Lenox, and for the establishment of a Maritime Enterprise Zone. She makes the point that London needs a substantial, centrally located working boatyard, since only three remain in London.  
"It seems perverse to destroy a restorable, urgently needed dockyard in order to build blocks of flats on a flood plain....Reinstating the Royal Docks as an interactive Heritage attraction with a contemporary working boatyard would show visitors that the maritime facilities developed, and still available, at these Royal Docks over some 500 years, remain appropriate for use today."
To read such advocacy was a great boost to the Lenox team. Meanwhile, at the start of the race on Millwall slip, opposite Convoys Wharf, the Lenox skipper Julian Kingston was interviewed by various film crews in his guise as John Shish, the master shipwright. 

After the last rowers had left the starting point, the Lenox team joined the organisers, VIPs and a Dutch brass band aboard the committee boat which ran along side the rowers. 

Further up river the Lenox team had the opportunity to cheer on the rowers from Deptford's Ahoy Centre, who had several rowing teams taking part.

 A great reception for rowers at Richmond...

More pictures can be found on the Lenox website.

Previously, in August, the Lenox Project took part in the South Bank's Festival of Neighbourhood, as one of the local community groups invited to participate in My Deptford. They were also met with great interest and support at that event. Read more here.

Wednesday 28 August 2013

September events: Build The Lenox and Deptford 500

Saturday 7th September

London’s River Marathon
Featuring the UK Traditional Boat Championship – 21 miles from Docklands to Ham in Surrey – a spectacular boat race up the Thames with 300 crews from all over the globe, as part of the Thames Festival (see below). With fancy dress and charity stunts as well as serious sportsmen and women.

Build the Lenox will be accompanying the VIPs in a support boat and talking more about the project at the finish line. The event programme features a spread on the King’s Yard, its history and the Lenox Project, in celebration of 500 years since the inception of King Henry VIII’s royal naval yard in 1513.

Saturday 14th & Sunday 15th September


A massive celebration which runs for ten days (6th-15th September) featuring river cruises, river relays and races, walks and talks, art exhibitions, plus a spectacular water-borne operatic performance 1513: A Ships’ Opera whose performers include nine ships and HMS Belfast on Saturday evening. Local Year 5 school children will be taking part in a 600-strong kid's choir at The Scoop in More London at 1-2pm on Sunday, in Voyages of Discovery, led by local resident Jonathan Pix.  Download the programme here.
Build the Lenox will have a stand in the Blue Ribbon Village at Potter’s Fields – an ‘interactive zone’ of organisations involved in the history, ecology and industry of the Thames. They’ll be displaying their restored 1620s naval Saker cannon!

Saturday 21st & Sunday 22nd September, 10am-4pm
OPEN HOUSE LONDON – the capital’s greatest architectural showcase

at the Master Shipwright’s House, Watergate St, SE8

featuring Deptford 500

The Master Shipwright’s House is the oldest surviving building from King Henry VIII’s Royal Naval Dockyard, built in 1513 and remodelled in the early 18th century. The house will be celebrating the quincentenary anniversary of the dockyard – Deptford 500 – with some added attractions and talks, as well as displaying plans and images of the dockyard.
Build the Lenox will be joining in the celebrations. They may even fire off the cannon!

Monday 19 August 2013

Ancient mulberry tree in Sayes Court Park threatened by damage.

The ancient mulberry tree in Sayes Court Park on Evelyn Street, believed to have been planted by Peter the Great, has been put at risk by the loss of a large section of its trunk. Two founder members of the Sayes Court Gardens CIC, who are campaigning to have the park restored to its former glory as part of the Convoys Wharf redevelopment, came across the damage when they visited the site last weekend.

One large branch - about a quarter of the tree - has fallen off the prop which was supporting it, and broken fully away from the trunk. The tree is surrounded by a low fence which is supposed to protect it from damage, but visitors to the park climb on the low branches to harvest the mulberries.

The story was reported in the South London Press last week.

Updates: 22 August 2013

Sayes Court – London's Lost Garden
London's Lost Garden has posted about the Mulberry tree, with some interesting details on its history. Author Karen Liljenberg ends her post thus, "If the Deptford High St anchor symbolizes the area’s dockland and maritime past, you could argue that the Sayes Court mulberry tree is an icon of its land-based history. Despite the press headline declaring that the mulberry “faces the chop” and can’t be saved, with some well-deserved tlc, it surely can. Even so, with an eye to the future, and since it is easy to propagate mulberries, Lewisham Council really should see to that this autumn. Oh, and let’s hope they look after any cuttings better than the one planted in the adjoining border that died of neglect recently…"

Grasshoppers and Ghost Gardens
The Secret Garden Project (funded by Up Projects) recently staged some events in Deptford, led by artist Rebecca Beinart, who set out to explore the history and botany of Sue Godfrey Nature Park next to Crossfields Estate on Deptford Church St. The nature park was established in 1984 after a lengthy campaign by local residents, and named after one of those residents, who sadly died in a bicycle accident on Deptford Church Street. Rebecca's project included workshops on making clay medicine bottles to contain herbal remedies made from herbs and plants growing in the nature reserve. But firstly, she took participants on a walk from the food growing project on Crossfields Estate to Pepys Estate to discover "hidden pockets of green" in the area.

After viewing Convoys Wharf through the security gates, the walkers came upon Sayes Court Garden in Grove Street in a very timely fashion to find the Sayes Court Garden team at the 300 year old Mulberry tree, having just discovered its plight. The team explained to the walkers what had happened and what their project is about.

Malcolm Cadman from Pepys Community Forum then spoke about the Convoys Wharf redevelopment before leading the walkers to John Evelyn Community Garden on Pepys Estate, where residents are growing fruit trees and vegetables and honing their gardening skills and knowledge. Their gardening project was begun in 2005. The group were treated to a healthy wholefood feast around the garden's community table, courtesy of the Secret Garden Project, and the Sayes Court Garden team were pleased to find so much support for their project. Presently, they are included in the Hutchison Whampoa masterplan, but not all of their requests have been met. That would involve the developer making some adjustments to their masterplan to make more space for this important heritage scheme.

Sunday 28 July 2013

English Heritage urges reduction in density

English Heritage has urged Lewisham Council to seek further revisions in respect of reducing the maximum levels of development on Convoys Wharf, in its official response to Hutchison Whampoa's latest planning application.

The response has already been highlighted in the specialist press but we thought it would be helpful to publish additional extracts, to demonstrate the full extent of the comments.

The heritage watchdog's official response is formed of two letters; one from historic buildings & areas advisor Richard Parish, and one from archaeology adviser Mark Stevenson. The former addresses the impact of the proposals on the historic built environment, the latter the impact on the archaeology of the site.

In his introduction, Parish underlines the importance of Convoys Wharf: "As the site of Henry VIII's Deptford Royal Dockyard, Convoys Wharf is of major historic significance."

While he acknowledges the desirability of bringing the site back into use (as indeed does Deptford Is..) he says that EH "remains concerned that the overall scale of the development is such that the opportunity to create a distinctive sense of place which responds to local character, and provides an appropriate setting for designated and undesignated heritage assets, is lost."

Settings for historic buildings - a lost opportunity

He continues: "We would urge the council to seek further revisions in respect of reducing the maximum levels of development, particularly in respect of the immediate setting of the grade II listed Olympia Shed, and to seek further measures to safeguard its significance and secure its beneficial use."

Parish also suggests that the council seek further opportunities to reflect the historic character across the site, as well as ensuring that the tall buildings that are proposed 'offer an elegant and attractive addition to the skyline.'

In setting out the significance of the historic environment, Parish explains:

"Deptford Royal Dockyard was founded by Henry VIII in 1513 and by the mid-sixteenth century....alongside Woolwich Dockyard, was the most important naval dockyard in the Country. In terms of designated heritage assets the site reflects the extensive redevelopment of the late C20th which removed many earlier structures.

The surviving designated assets are the grade II Gateway, the centrally located grade II Olympia Building with its distinctive roof form, the scheduled Tudor Storehouse (scheduled ancient monument), the grade II* Master Shipwrights House, and the grade II* Dockyard Offices on the eastern perimeter (now outside the site boundary). The site also encompasses the remains of John Evelyn’s home, the medieval manor of Sayes Court (demolished 1930) and part of the site of its formal garden, from which it draws historic significance.

Investigations have shed considerable light on the evolution of the site, including the extent of remains of Sayes Court and its gardens, the Dry Dock, the Great Basin and Double Dock, and Mast Ponds. The River Wall is also currently under consideration for listing. As such we consider the site to demonstrate extensive historic and evidential value. It must also be considered to hold significant communal values through its association with John Evelyn and garden history, and maritime history and its proximity to the Greenwich WHS. This communal value has manifested itself in the popular movement to build a replica of Henry VIII’s warship the Lenox on the site."

His assessment of Hutchison Whampoa's plans for the site is unambiguous.

"We remain concerned that the overall scale of development is such that the opportunity to create a distinctive sense of place which responds to the outstanding historic legacy of the site has not been realised. "

In regards to the listed Olympia Shed, he says: "Whilst we acknowledge the reduction in height of the surrounding elements, we remain concerned that the proximity and massing of the feature buildings and 14 storey riverside block create a dominating scale around the listed building."

The link between the Olympia Shed and the river is a crucial one, he says, and the 'narrow, glimpsed view' that is included in Farrell's masterplan 'fails to make the best opportunity of this prominent and centrally-located heritage asset'.

'Unconvincing' visualisations

Parish also remains unconvinced by Farrell's proposals for the three tall buildings, and says that their location and arrangement risks creating a 'canyon' effect. Moreover he questions whether the towers will be sufficiently elegant and well-proportioned to contribute beneficially to the skyline.

"As the proposal is in outline and only refers to parameters of height, mass and location, to be undertaken in accordance with design guidelines. We are concerned that this may not result in this being achieved, and we are unconvinced by the visualisations."

In relation to the public realm works, Parish suggests that "further consideration be given to the design and associated landscaping of the school, to reflect the location of the Sayes Court Garden and the proposed Sayes Court Interpretation Centre."

He closes by reiterating that EH has overriding concerns about the proposals, and even goes so far as to say that "the overall scale of the scheme, including the tall buildings, will cause harm to the significance of designated and undesignated heritage assets."

Saturday 6 July 2013

Convoys Wharf transport #2: public transport

One of the strongest arguments against allowing Convoys Wharf to be developed to the density that Hutchison Whampoa is suggesting, is the fact that the public transport accessibility of the site is so poor. 

This situation has not improved with the new masterplan, so many of the comments made in our last assessment still apply. Many of the people living in these new properties will have to travel into London for work on a daily basis, so how will they do this?

Planners measure public transport accessibility by measuring it on the PTAL (Public Transport Accessibility Level) scale. This provides an assessment of how easy it is to get from the site to public transport, and ranges from 1 to 6, with 1 being the lowest rating and 6 the highest. In London a rating of 4 is generally a good level for major developments such as this to aspire to.

The PTAL rating of Convoys Wharf ranges from 1 to 2 across the site, with 2 being the level at the exit on Princes Street. With Hutchison Whampoa's plans for redevelopment, the rating will rise very slightly, but will still be an average of 2 across the site, and 3 closest to Princes St.

The diagram below indicates the transport plans for the site - in simple terms, HW is in discussion with TfL about the possibility of having a pier for the Thames Clipper river bus, and also proposes either a new bus through the site, or the diversion of one of the existing services that go along Evelyn Street, the 199 having been suggested. 

For a Thames Clipper service to call at the site will require the refurbishment of the existing jetty and the construction of a new pier on the jetty. Although TfL has acknowledged the possibility of a new pier at Convoys Wharf, there is no firm commitment to a date other than during phase one, which is five years long. There is also no confirmation of whether the service would be the regular London-bound boats, or just a shuttle boat to Canary Wharf.

In either case, use of the riverbus service is impractical for many people - not only in terms of its restricted capacity, but also because it serves so few destinations and is slow in comparison to other public transport options.

Aside from the bus and boat services, future residents at Convoys Wharf will have to travel somewhat further afield to access trains or DLR services. Naturally Deptford station is the closest train station to the development, and as the transport strategy points out, the station has recently been refurbished. But although the station is now more pleasant to use and easier to access, and the capacity of the station itself may have been increased, there has been no change to the capacity of the actual trains.

The analysis of available capacity on services from Deptford station depends heavily on completion of Crossrail in 2018; this is predicted to reduce the number of people using London-bound trains from Woolwich, and is entirely credible. However there is no reference to the most recent Office of Rail Regulation figures which showed Deptford station experienced 7.1% increase in usage last year, and this is expected to continue as redevelopments continue and residents move into the new properties.

According to the trip generation figures, 258 people from Convoys Wharf will take the train towards London in the morning peak hour between 8am and 9am. This seems a very low figure considering the total population that could number 10,000 or more. But even taking this point aside, the addition of around 44 passengers to each already-overcrowded train is not a pleasant prospect.

Bus services are also likely to suffer - while the transport plan envisages a bus route through the site, there is no firm commitment to a new service as yet, so it could well be an existing route diverted and hence making journeys longer and more overcrowded than they are now. Almost 500 people from the development are estimated will be catching the bus during the morning peak hour, many presumably going towards Underground or Overground services elsewhere.

Meanwhile less than 200 will catch a river bus, although with only four services in the peak hour, that's still an estimated 50 per boat. The boats in the current fleet each have 220 seats.