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.

Wednesday 3 July 2013

Specialist press highlights English Heritage criticism of Convoys scheme

Specialist trade magazine Building Design has highlighted English Heritage's negative response to the revised masterplan for Convoys Wharf.

Under the headline Farrells' Deptford plan criticised by conservationists the story reads:

English Heritage has criticised Farrells’ £1 billion Convoys Wharf masterplan for failing to put the site’s history at the centre of the scheme. 

Developer Hutchison Whampoa wants to build 3,500 homes on a 16.6ha riverside site at Deptford which once housed Henry VIII’s naval dockyard as well as Sayes Court, the 17th century home of diarist and gardener John Evelyn. 

The plans, which include three towers rising to 40 storeys  [note: the towers actually rise to 48 storeys, not 40], were drawn up by Farrells after an earlier Aedas scheme was criticised as “monstrous”. 

Responding to the planning application, English Heritage acknowledged that the new scheme was a significant improvement and praised the developer for carrying out the largest archaeological investigation of an historic dockyard in the world. 

“The scale of work undertaken is a reflection of the importance of the site, the anticipated quality and quantity of archaeology and that the applicant recognised that a detailed understanding was essential in developing a planning application to redevelop this nationally important site,” said EH’s archaeology advisor Mark Stevenson. 

Yet the eight “overarching design principles” listed in the planning application do not include a consideration of the history of the site as an objective. “This would appear to be at odds with the expectation of heritage being a core element of the design approach alluded to in the heritage statement,” said Stevenson who complained recent archaeological discoveries were not incorporated. 

He urged Lewisham council to “seek further opportunities” to reflect the historic character in the design. A proposed Sayes Court interpretation centre should have been used as a design starting point to provide a distinctive character for the “Evelyn Quarter”, he said, recommending the reconfiguration of two buildings to this end. 

“The position and orientation of the Sayes Court sequence of building and associated space is lost within the proposed arrangement of roads and building blocks,” he said. “Also the inclusion of a garden city green strip along the centre of one of the routes in this area as the main landscape reflection of the John Evelyn legacy is on its own a disappointment.” 

He also recommended “serious consideration” be given to the retention of the 16th and 17th remains of the Navy Treasurer’s House. The site, recognised as being of national importance, was also once the subject of a Rogers Stirk Harbour scheme.

The story can be found via this link, although registration is needed to read it.