Saturday 4 May 2013

Convoys Wharf revised masterplan in the news

Convoys Wharf was the focus of several articles in local papers and the architectural press this week, after Hutchison Whampoa and Terry Farrell briefed the press on the new masterplan for the site, the planning application for which is due to be submitted shortly.

At the time of writing, the documents had not yet been made available, but we are assuming that the masterplan that will be submitted is the one that has been shown at previous public open days, which we wrote about on this blog. When the documents are available we will publish our own assessment.

Much of the coverage has been largely cut-and-pasting from the press release, which was presumably sent out by Hutchison Whampoa. 

However the architectural magazine Building Design was critical of the new masterplan, with the magazine's executive editor Ellis Woodman using his leader column to back up some of the issues raised by Deptford Is..   

"Since its closure as a site of industry in 2000, Convoys Wharf in Deptford has proved one of London’s most intractable development conundrums. Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners and Aedas have previously drawn up plans for the 16ha Thames-side site and now Terry Farrell’s office has submitted a third proposal. 

Sadly, it remains no less persuasive than its predecessors. 

The fundamental problem is the developers’ determination to create 3,500 new homes on a site 10km from the centre of London that lacks a tube stop. That is a particular problem given how few of this luxury riverside development’s 9,000 residents will be employed close to home. Deptford is, after all, one of the poorest wards in one of the poorest boroughs in London. 

Quite what the development gives back to the community is also hard to fathom. Once an area providing local employment, it is to be replaced by a dormitory village that lacks the transport network to support it. Instead, what’s needed is a development that recognises the obligations it owes the community."

The Evening Standard, whose architecture critic Kieran Long wrote insightfully about the project in 2011, went to the other extreme, focussing on Terry Farrell's quote that his masterplan was capable of turning Deptford into 'the Shoreditch of south London'. Deptford Is.. finds this concept hard to grasp, and questions the basis of such an assertion.

Leaving aside the question of whether local residents want to live in a 'new Shoreditch', the notion that building a high-density residential development in an area of deprivation will turn one place into another is out of touch with reality. Terry Farrell was supposedly brought in to re-imagine the masterplan and connect it with the site's heritage, using a 'ground-up' approach that respected the history of Deptford and used it to inform a revised proposal. Farrell also said that the development would attract a more affluent class of resident to Deptford. That much is clear, since the prices of apartments are likely to be well above the means of most people living here already, but there is little indication of how this will have a positive impact on Deptford.


  1. Lord Palmerston4 May 2013 at 22:03

    This “development” has a dubious history. The site was in public ownership (M.O.D.) until Rupert Murdoch bought it in the late ’80s for a knockdown price in a sale that was immoral if not illegal in that the site was never offered publicly.
    His remarkably similar development proposals to the present ones were fought all the way to the GLA by the local community. He then took huge profits by selling to Hutchison Whampoa but, nevertheless, retaining a profit-share on every residential unit built on the site. So now this development has to support the profit demands of two multi-national conglomerates. Affordable housing is not even on the agenda !
    If allowed to proceed it will be in isolation from and to the exclusion of the rest of Deptford. The profits from this “billion” pound development will not be likely to pay tax in this country and the luxury waterfront apartments will be marketed in Hong Kong to Chinese investors.
    And yet, it is a site with some of the richest history in London with so much potential for more sympathetic and inclusive development, real employment and truly sustainable design.
    In a feature by architecture critic Kieran Long in the above mentioned insightful mode in the Evening Standard summed up this potential loss of heritage succinctly: ‘When Convoys Wharf has been re-developed, the history of the King’s Yard will lie in a shallow grave underneath shiny apartment blocks and cappuccino bars. Professionals will move into the residential towers, which will probably be named after Drake’s Golden Hinde. And when their dinner party guests ask them where the docks used to be, they will reply: “I don’t know.”’

  2. I fully agree with these comments. The local communities views should be at the forefront of any proposed development of Convoys Wharf. Dr Roger Green, Goldsmiths.

  3. Shoreditch never was - and still isn't - this grim.

  4. Come on, the area can only improve. This is a great scheme.

  5. Yes, the area can only improve. This is not the scheme to do it.

  6. Tell you what, let's leave it as it is: a derelict wasteland cutting off Deptford from the Thames. Who needs housing, employment, shops?

  7. What I believe we need is a community that is proud and open and creative and spacious. This proposal offers little opportunity for that.

    Which ever way you look at it, IT IS JUST TOO BIG.