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."


  1. Praise the Lord for some sense at last.

  2. This is indeed great news that English Heritage have asked Hutchison and the Council to reconsider. Not only could we lose a major opportunity to re-create Deptford as a major source of maritime, tourism and economic importance but also we could end up with the location of one of our greatest sites of historical importance being buried under some crap blocks of flats.