Friday 20 June 2014

Have your say on how £50m is spent! Wed 25th June

Convoys Wharf Community Group have organised a meeting for locals to have a say in how the Section 106 monies to be awarded to Lewisham Council by the developer of Convoys Wharf might be spent.

Wednesday 25 June • 7.30 – 9.30pm • Deptford Lounge

Everyone welcome!

The group has been set up by Pepys Community Forum and the Department of Social, Therapeutic and Community Studies at Goldsmiths College.

Friday 2 May 2014

New pollution survey in South East London

Some members of Deptford Is... took part in a Citizen Science air pollution survey in January and February, along with other local residents and supporters of the Don't Dump On Deptford's Heart campaign. Unfortunately it took two months for the lab to process the results, so we didn't get them back in time to support the oral evidence provided by objectors at the Convoys Wharf hearing at City Hall on March 31st.

Under DEFRA guidelines and with assistance from the Network for Clean Air, we put up diffusion tubes all over Deptford to measure the levels of nitrogen dioxide in the air. At the same time, the No to Silvertown Tunnel campaign put up tubes up across Greenwich borough and parts of Lewisham. The residents both paid for and conducted the survey with additional funding from local charity Deptford First via Joan Ruddock MP.

We have now published the results and the figures are horrifying. Almost every site we monitored is over the EU legal limit of 40µg/m³. Many were double the legal limit.

With so much construction due to take place in the next few years, pollution levels are set to soar and threaten the health of all who live, work and study here. Hundreds more construction vehicles will be using the A200, Deptford Church Street and the A2. But developers in Deptford are in a unique position to use the river to transport spoil and materials, and must be encouraged to do so at all costs.

NO2 levels on the A200 (Creek Road and Evelyn Street) were as high as 74µg/m³. At Deptford Park School the reading was 68µg/m³. The roads that will be used by Convoys construction vehicles are already highly polluted (55µg/m³ at Grove Street and 40µg/m³ at New King Street). The developer must be forced to use the river and do everything within their power to avoid creating even more pollution. Other new construction projects on Evelyn Street and on the Southwark borders should be taken into consideration.

The A2 in Deptford is even worse, with readings of 95, 98 and 110µg/m³ – well over twice the legal limit! Deptford Church Street had readings as high has 84µg/m³ where it meets the A2. If the Thames Tunnel proposal on Deptford Church St goes ahead, the planned partial road closure will cause gridlock. The proposals also include 17,400 lorry movements on Deptford Church Street over three years. Ironically, at Thames Water's originally preferred site by the river at Glashier Street, the pollution level was very low (only 14µg/m³).

Developers on Creekside must be made to use Deptford Creek rather than increase pollution on Creekside and Deptford Church Street. Proposals for 90 HGV movements a day along Creekside at one development will endanger the lives of local residents, and these vehicles will exit Creekside onto Deptford Church Street where the reading was 62µg/m³.

In due course, we plan to combine these figures with local authority data to get a fuller picture of air pollution across the area. The results have also been passed to Lewisham Planners who are in continuing discussions with the GLA and Hutchison Whampoa. The GLA must be made aware of the horrific cummulative impact of all the construction work going on in Deptford to inform their conversations with the developer.

You can see the Deptford results here.  
The Greenwich & Lewisham results are here. 
Both are combined in a map on the No to Silvertown website.

The No to Silvertown campaigners believe that the proposed Silvertown Tunnel will make the problems caused by the Blackwall Tunnel worse rather than better. TfL has predicted a 20% increase in traffic using the tunnel approaches if the tunnel is built, while the Mayor of London has said the capacity will be doubled. Although Deptford's traffic problems are presently exacerbated by whatever goes wrong on the A102, No to Silvertown argue that increasing capacity there can only make matters worse for us.  

Thursday 17 April 2014

21 years of urban change in Deptford

Has the Tide Turned? 'Regeneration' Then and Now
Friday 25th April, 3.30–8pm, Deptford Town Hall Council Chamber

It is almost 21 years since Deptford's most popular history book "Turning The Tide – A History of Everyday Deptford" was published, and this event hopes to explore what has happened in the intervening two decades.

The Centre for Urban and Community Research (CUCR) at Goldsmiths College would like to invite local activists, local organisations, academics, residents, and government officials to this free event where you can share stories of the “regeneration” of Deptford.

The publication coincided with the start of CUCR’s evaluation of the Deptford City Challenge programme which began the now seemingly endless initiatives to 'regenerate' our town (often with negligible benefits for the residents and increasing profits for developers).

The aim is to discuss the recent changes in Deptford, but also to think about the possible futures for the area. The programme includes a seminar on "the changing face of regeneration in London" with several speakers as well as Turning the Tide author Jess Steele (3.30-5.30pm); screenings, sound interventions & "creative responses" + refreshments (5.30-6pm); followed by workshops on subjects such as Arts & Culture, Housing, DIY Deptford and Convoys Wharf (6-8pm).

For more information and to register to take part, please click here.

Wednesday 2 April 2014

Mayor passes application – with conditions

At City Hall on Monday 31st March, the Mayor of London passed the outline planning application for Convoys Wharf after what he called "a marathon session but very, very interesting and educational". It had been hoped he might give more time over the next few days to deliberate the decision, allowing Lewisham Council the opportunity to negotiate better terms, but he returned after half an hour to deliver his judgement in favour of the applicant. He did, however, add two conditions that he thought would assist the two community heritage projects, which he said "have a great deal of merit and are both intrinsically attractive".

Although the developer had only last Friday evening offered the Lenox Project £20k for a feasibility study into the uses of the Olympia building and the Protected Wharf with the proviso that both might be ruled out, one of the Mayor of London's conditions is for a feasibility study with the proviso "that there should be an agreement on the part of the developer to contribute to whichever of these options is the most feasible".

The other condition was for the GLA, Lewisham Council and the developers "to look at the space in the existing park (the council-owned Sayes Court Garden in Grove St) and the wider development, to ensure that there is a viable and deliverable project". So neither project is yet home and dry, but both appear to have the support of the Mayor of London.

Further amendments sought by Lewisham were not forthcoming.

A GLA webcast of the hearing can be viewed here (Mac users may have to download and install an extra bit of software here first). Objector's representations can be found roughly a third of the way through, followed by questions from Boris about halfway through. There is then an intermission followed by Boris's decision at the end. 

Below is a report on the hearing.


Lewisham Council
Sir Steve Bullock said, "if we get it wrong now, we won't have the opportunity again in our lifetime." He argued that the heights around the Olympia building "should be reduced, their siting changed to give it a generous and respectful setting" and noted with regard to Sayes Court Garden and the Lenox Project that "the current proposals do not...provide either the space needed to deliver them or a commitment to ensure that they create an enduring legacy". He said "the risk remains that these community projects will be shut out and the energy and enthusiasm they have generated will be lost". He reiterated the council's concern that TfL's current assessment lacked any detailed traffic modelling, and welcomed the addition of a 'financial review mechanism' (negotiated by Lewisham) that will allow the securing of additional affordable housing as the scheme's 'viability' (profit for the developer) improves. He urged Boris "to take just a little more time to ensure that these issues can be addressed and resolved satisfactorily".

Pepys Community Forum
Malcolm Cadman began by noting that Convoys had historically been a big local employment site but would not now offer any real employment opportunities. The scheme was aimed at foreign investors and there was little affordable housing. The proposed towers were too tall and atypical of the area. He drew attention to the petition published the previous day in The Observer (London skyline statement: 200 towers threaten to destroy city's character) and suggested that the density of the development would make Deptford "super dense".

Pepys Tenants Action Group
Dave Fleming noted the poor consultation with the community on this scheme and how the developer's had failed to engage. He pleaded for less density, especially in light of the additional developments going up in the area.

People Before Profit
Ray Woolford asked that the affordable housing provision be protected so that it doesn't in future end up in the hands of buy-to-let landlords. He requested that the GLA begin Air Quality Monitoring of the area immediately, to be continued throughout the 13 year construction period, and said "London's health must be put before off-shore profit". He wanted all local residents, many of whom are in fuel poverty, to also benefit from the cheaper SELCHP waste transfer energy that the development will use. He wants the applicant to address Lewisham's 55% youth employment and make sure jobs go to real local residents rather than cheap foreign labour getting moved onto the site to live in sheds under the guise of living locally, as happened with the Olympia Park construction.

Local resident on Transport
Echoing Lewisham Council's concerns, Helena Russell said the applicant's research had been "woefully inadequate". Their transport assessment used "outdated information", lacked "robustness", and risked creating a "perfect storm" for our local transport network. Car parking provision is well above that which is acceptable for other developments, the Public Transport Accessibility Levels (PTAL) were poor, hard to improve and inadequately addressed. New residents will resort to driving, creating extra traffic that will undermine bus services – immediate and robust analysis of the local highways should be given the highest priority. Additional factors include no firm commitment to using the river for construction materials, future changes to the Greenwich line train service, and the Mayor's proposed Super Cycle Highway on Evelyn Street.

The Lenox Project CIC
Julian Kingston drew attention to the Great Basin in front of the Olympia building, one of the many buried heritage assets, which he described as "potentially the one remaining dynamic element in front of a static landscape". The architects place the Olympia building at the heart of the development, but the "future uses proposed would not offer a meaningful link to the river, nor engage and educate the local community, nor attract tourism and offer a legacy". The Lenox Project would provide a legacy for the heritage assets, of craftsmanship and training, and for historic shipbuilding. As "living history" the project would draw in visitors to use the retail and restaurants the applicant proposes to build. To encourage shipbuilding, John Evelyn entrusted his land to the Admiralty on condition that a keel should always lie in a slip. The Lenox should be that keel.

Sayes Court Garden CIC
Nic Durston (National Trust) described how the National Trust had formed from their founders attempts to save Sayes Court Garden. The NT fully supports their proposals and requests for flexibility to allow their ambitious plans to be realised. As one of the directors of the community interest project, Bob Bagley reported how their work with the NT, the Eden Project and Harvard University had demonstrated the need for a Centre of Horticulture here "to help us prepare and adapt to the new challenges our city faces in the 21st century". Research conducted by the NT showed that one hectare was required, but the applicant had only been able to offer half of this. The project had put forward a solution which would not impact on the parameters of the masterplan which they hoped the applicant could be flexible enough to adopt.

Dame Joan Ruddock, MP for Deptford
Dame Joan spoke in support of the two community projects and said that years of expertise had gone into designing them, and their presentations today set out what they need to make them a reality. Without them, the Mayor would be asked to approve a development that would  obscure most of the heritage of this site forever. They were not offering "dusty static museums, but living enterprises that honour the past whilst embracing the future".


A representative from the developer's team then spoke on behalf of the applicant Hutchison Whampoa. No one else spoke in support.



Boris also acknowledged Londoners' fears that such schemes, which cause such huge disruption to locals whilst being built, should be to the advantage of Londoners. Who would the homes be aimed at and marketed to? The applicant replied they'd be marketed in the normal way – to Londoners, (and tellingly), "the same as elsewhere". They are working with London & Quadrant to deliver the affordable housing, but "they aren't 100% signed up yet". There is an agreement to use the council's affordability criteria. Sir Steve Bullock explained that if the rental is at 80% the applicant would offer more units, "but that wouldn't help us in terms of the housing need in the borough. With a smaller number, we will have genuinely affordable rents. That doesn't mean that we're happy with the total number. That's why we've asked for a review mechanism." Boris agreed that it would be "absolutely crazy not to come back and have another bite of this".

Johnson noted that there were quite a lot of objections to the "design and massing and height" but the council had not specifically objected on those grounds. Steve Bullock said they were more concerned at this time about reducing heights around the Olympia building. (Lewisham had already negotiated lowering heights on the outskirts of the development).

Later in his summing up, Johnson said, "It's obviously a scheme that's been a very long time in gestation, 13 years nothing much has been happening on that site, you've got a huge housing shortage in London, there's a real crying need to get development done, this has the prospect of three and a half thousand homes and 1500 jobs and I listened very carefully to the representations that were made to me about the height impact, about the architecture, and I listened, obviously, with particular attention to the views of the council and Sir Steve who I very much respect, and clearly I didn't hear passionate objections against the height…certainly not against the principle of development – that is supported, and indeed the quotient of affordable housing was thought by the council to be broadly acceptable in view of the other constraints that the site faces".


Boris noted the objection that the jobs created "wouldn't be the right sort of jobs" which wouldn't go to local people. The applicant replied that it wasn't going to be a major office location, but there would be creative industries, reduced rents for start-ups, plus service industry jobs in the shops, restaurants and hotel. Boris suggested that the Lenox Project would "bring in lots of people". He possibly meant in the form of skilled jobs, but the applicant took this to mean 'visitors' and replied, "That's absolutely right...and we have a strategy for the Olympia Building which is to use the building much more diversely than for the Lenox". There were heckles of "Shops!" from the gallery. The applicant went on, "it's built on the Spitalfields/Covent Garden type model where we can have lots of ad hoc events, destination activites, some cultural facilities...rather than a single use that the Lenox is". There were heckles of "No, it's not!" from the gallery. And "shops!"

Social Cohesion

Boris asked Lewisham Mayor Steve Bullock what he had meant by 'social cohesion'. Sir Steve pointed out that prior to the current ownership, a larger amount of Section 106 monies had been suggested and Lewisham would like to return to that figure. The risk was that the development would be an 'enclave' and more money would enable the council to support a wider range of programmes that would alleviate this. A proper pro-rata amount would be £2m towards a 'community trust' that could be endowed to local projects, but the offer from the applicant was for only £0.25m.

They also wanted a greater contribution towards ensuring jobs went to local people, and the developer was disputing additional payments towards secondary school education. Lewisham's Head Planner John Miller said, "a certain sum is promised but the rest is dependent on 'viability'. Our view is that we currently have a primary school crisis and that will turn into a secondary school crisis, so that money should be assured".

Boris responded, "So you're down on the cohesion fund? Is this where negotiations have faltered? Have you squeezed this lemon dry?" John Miller that they were grateful that the GLA officers had speeded things up, but "we just think there's a little bit more to go". Boris replied, "Right, what about now?". Miller said, "that's fine if you'd like to agree those payments that would be excellent". Boris then replied "Oh I don't think I'm allowed to do that actually. I've been told I can't, regrettably".


Boris had noted: "loss of PTAL, disruption during building – moving vehicles, how much by river? car parking? Too many cars?". He deferred to one of his planners, who agreed "The offer's not that great." But he said there were three ways they could improve on it – with a new route for the existing bus service, a pedestian route to train services and a new pier for river services. He thought it was sufficient. £4m was allocated to local highway improvements. "We're not there now on the modelling but we've got an agreement to work on that". Parking levels are in accordance with the London Plan.

Boris asked again about moving things by river and whether that was 'conditioned in' to which the answer was, "We'll be pressing the applicant to maximise use of the river." Boris brought up Air Quality Monitoring, and the GLA planner agreed this was also factored into the Section 106.

(to be continued...)

Sunday 23 March 2014

Can the Mayor of London make the right decision?

Update: 24th March 2014: The GLA's 'Representation Hearing Report' is published and can be read and downloaded here.

The Mayor of London has announced that the representation hearing for the planning application to redevelop the former Deptford Royal Dockyard at Convoys Wharf will take place on 31st March at 4pm at City Hall. At the hearing there will be a 15 minute period for supporters and objectors to restate their case for and against the planning application in front of the mayor himself. Not long then!

The Mayor has five days from the 31st March to announce his decision if he does not pronounce at the end of this hearing.

Previous to this, Hutchison Whampoa have recently submitted some very minor revisions to its masterplan and the GLA invited comments on them, the deadline for which was 20th March (last Thursday). Only two working day later, on 24th March (this Monday), the GLA officers responsible for assessing the application will publish their report into the application, which will include a recommendation to the Mayor.

The consultation on the revisions was the first invitation from the GLA for those affected by the development to comment. They did not, in other words, invite comments on the application in general, since they are already taking into account the comments received by Lewisham Council back in May-July 2013 after the application was first submitted to them in April.

Perhaps the exceedingly short period between the GLA's deadline for receiving comments on the revisions and publishing their recommendations to the Mayor reflects the generally held opinion that ANY revisions to this application will be welcomed by all concerned.

It seems very unlikely that the Mayor will go against the GLA officers' advice unless he wants to make a particular political point (which he could and should do since almost everything about this application goes against the policies of the London Plan). Based on the correspondence we have read, and a couple of meetings that local projects Build The Lenox and Sayes Court Garden have been present at, we believe that the GLA intends to recommend that the mayor approve the scheme – despite the fact that English Heritage have still to publish a report on the applicant's limited archaeological findings.

Download this local objection that comprehensively reiterates all the reasons why this scheme cannot be allowed to proceed in its present form. It includes points raised by statutory bodies such as English Heritage and the Council for British Archaeology and is informed by Lewisham's planning team, and quotes specific references to the Mayor's own London Plan policies. It outlines just how much of his own vision the Mayor will be ignoring by passing this application. 

Read on below our response to the minor revisions and the Mayor's 'call-in' process.

The revisions

Of course we welcome the revisions, but they are exceedingly minor considering the size of the scheme. (Let's not forget the applicant, Li Ka Shing, is the 8th 20th richest billionaire in the world).

Lewisham Council, having rejected the application but also being a statutory consultant on it in the GLA's hands, seem to have been relatively successful in challenging the developer's notion of 'viability' that allows for a little bit more affordable housing. But it in no way represents a return to the 35% (or possibly more) that would have informed their agreement with the developer that goes back to 2006, to build "up to 3500" units which would have allowed for 1,000 new affordable homes in north Deptford.

The Sayes Court Garden project has managed to get the proposed school (known as 'Plot 17' that was planned to be built over the footprint of John Evelyn's gardens) incorporated into the adjacent residential block (Plot 16), but as yet there is no offer in writing for Sayes Court Garden CIC, and no agreement to let them build their Centre of Urban Horticulture that would make sense of their entire project. An offer of sorts has only just been made by the applicant to the Lenox Project (for a place on the site that is unworkable) just two days before the GLA report is to be published.

Building heights have been lowered by just one floor at the eastern border of the site that overlooks the Master Shipwright's House (which will become a public building in the future), but there is absolutely no concession to reducing heights elsewhere. In fact, this reduction in heights will mean an increase elsewhere.There are no changes to the heights of buildings in front of the Olympia. English Heritage are totally infuriated that the view of the Olympia building remains obscured from the river and overshadowed by tall buildings.

Lewisham have been successful in attempting at this stage of the application to build in some flexibility to the 'parameter plans' for the three tallest buildings on the site that would have otherwise have been set in stone. Lewisham wanted a lot more than this (read their report here). They were particularly concerned about the issues of over capacity on the road and public transport networks that are still to be addressed.

The fact is, hardly anything in this application can be improved unless the developer's insistence on 3,500 flats is sensibly and comprehensively reduced. Since the only reason for this development is as a financial vehicle to make money for investors (foreign or otherwise), there can be little hope of Coalition soundbites about Localism having any basis in reality.

The planning process

The Mayor called in the planning application before Lewisham had made a decision on it. His decision on Convoys will set a precedent for the other schemes he has called in since then, and will also have implications for other sensitive redevelopments in London. The London Assembly has recently questioned the Mayor about his stripping of London boroughs' right to make planning decisions by using his power to 'call-in' large planning applications. He has already called-in five schemes in the past year. In many cases, Johnson has been 'calling-in' applications before the local authority in question has even had a chance to examine them.

Darren Johnson, Chair of the London Assembly, said, "The recent acceleration in the number and speed with which the Mayor is taking over planning decisions from boroughs...puts developers and investors before local democracy". The Assembly's motion listed 11 applications – including Convoys Wharf – and said that on many decisions, the Mayor has ignored legitimate borough concerns about issues such as inappropriate density and very low targets for affordable housing.

The Mayor's call-in essentially puts the decision-making power in the hands of one person, which we feel is incredibly undemocratic and inappropriate for a project of such magnitude and significance. It undermines the government's argument for Localism, and takes the decision-making away from local people.

Not only that, one of the things that has become clear to us during the last few months is that the GLA planning department is not equipped to handle this sort of decision-making. Usually the mayor's planners simply comment on planning applications which are being handled by local authorities. They are rarely called upon to make decisions, particular on schemes of such magnitude, and as a result they appear to be under-resourced and unclear about the process.

We also question whether the procedure is fit for purpose. Since the call-in, only minor revisions have been made (which the developer claimed as 'significant concessions') for which there were only three weeks to comment on. The planners cannot possibly have read and digested any additional submissions, let alone incorporate them into the report they intend to publish within two days of that deadline closing, and the hearing will be held (and the decision made) a week after the report is published. Objectors will have just seven days in which to read the report, digest its implications, and formulate responses before the hearing. This seems to be indecently hasty.

Saturday 22 March 2014

Top John Evelyn scholar backs Sayes Court Garden project

Mark Laird is Senior Lecturer in the History of Landscape Architecture at Harvard University and the foremost authority on John Evelyn. He has recently written to the Mayor of London from Harvard Design School with respect to the Convoys Wharf application and in support of the proposals from Sayes Court Garden CIC:

"It is impossible to overstate the significance of Sayes Court and the history of John Evelyn's life and work at the site that is under threat of irreversible development. Over the past twenty years, I have written three scholarly articles on Evelyn at Sayes Court. My forthcoming book, A Natural History of English Gardening (Yales University Press, Spring 2015) will open with a chapter on his significance as horticultural and technological innovator and as environmental policy maker. His Fumifugium (1661), Sylva (1664) and Acetaria (1699) laid the groundwork for a sustainable London of the 21st century – clear air, tree canopy, and food in the city.

"The Greater London Authority has shown leadership through policy documents (from London Biodiversity Action Plan and East London Green Grid Plan to the March 2012 report, London World Heritage Sites – Guidance on Settings). These documents are in line with the  new UNESCO Recommendation on Historic Urban Landscape (HUL, November 2011), which seeks to integrate 'policies and practices of conservation in the built environment into the wider goals of urban development'. In the Foreword to the March 2012 GLA document, Boris Johnson reiterates the importance of London's built and natural heritage in benefiting 'our economy, culture and quality of life'. Sayes Court is the test case for his claim: 'How we manage this dynamic juxtaposition in ways that respect the past, while welcoming the future, will be a mark of our success in maintaining London as a really world class city'.

"The arguments in the 'Sayes Court Garden Programme and Analysis' report (February 2014) – and especially the modifications to P16 proposed in the 26 February 2014 statement – are built on very solid foundations. As you are aware, the Sayes Court Garden website features my own reconstructions of Evelyns's parterre and grove, which, until the better winter of 1683/4, lay immediately adjacent to his manor house. The archeaological site plan of Stuart Structures may look insignificant, yet the trace of the garden wall on the west side of the important vestiges of the manor house and the trace of the dockyard perimeter wall on the east side are absolutely critical to what I have reconstructed. The proposed P16 block would forever destroy and cover over these traces and vestiges and obliterate the core of Sayes Court – the manor house that was the intellectual home of Evelyn's environmental vision.

"Creating, by the modifications to P16, a new Centre for Urban Horticulture on the archaeological site of the manor house is precisely the accommodation of the old within the new that the Mayor sees as a measure of success and that UNESCO would deem a model for Historic Urban Landscape. The Centre would join other models of 'best practice' from around the world. Using the Evelyn cabinet of curiosity as a starting point for a modular and flexible layout of the garden spaces would unify the geometries of the blocks with the geometries of urban horticulture and forestry, mediciinal gardening, beekeeping and fruit growning, and greening technologies. The opportunity for local communities to benefit from learning about health and nutrition with environmental education at the primary school level makes Evelyn's teachings relevant now and for the future.

"The Royal Horticultural Society and the National Trust have both identified an acute skills shortage in areas that Evelyn would have understood when writing his Directions for the Gardiner at Says-Court in the mid-1680s. A Centre for Urban Horticulture, while training a new generation of local youth as skilled gardeners, could also become a centre of excellence in the fields of landscape urbanism and ecosystems performance. It could advance natural and cultural heritage studies in cooperation with the World Monuments Fund, English Heritage, National Trust, the Council for British Archaeology and the Garden History Society. In this vision for the Centre, the four pillars of sustainable development identified in the UNESCO statements on HUL – economy, ecology, community and cultural resources – are integrated in an appropriately holistic way: [HUL] seeks to increase the sustainability of planning and design interventions by taking into account the existing built [and natural] environment, intangible heritage, cultural diversity, socio-economic and environmental factors along with local community values'.

"The international community of scholars and practitioners is watching the debate over Convoys Wharf and Sayes Court with great interest and some anxiety. Will the GLA's guidance in the debate feature positively in textbooks to come as it has in the past in books devoted to biodiversity and climate-change planning? I, for one, am putting my faith in the Mayor and the GLA to reach the only right decision."

'History guy' Dan Snow defends Deptford Royal Dockyard

At the beginning of February, historian and Lenox Project patron Dan Snow issued a bleak warning that redevelopment plans for Convoys Wharf could wipe out the birthplace of the Royal Navy if approved in their current form.

“There are world famous naval dockyards right across Britain. Some of the finest museums in Europe can be visited in Portsmouth, Chatham and elsewhere, yet the place where it all began, where our maritime destiny took shape, is forgotten, and tragically ignored by the very city it did so much to shape. Deptford is where the Tudors decided to build naval ships to protect their ill-gotten kingdom from other invaders like themselves, and then to exploit the explosion in maritime activity that came with the discovery of sea routes to Asia and the Americas. Deptford is ground zero for the Royal Navy.

"The Lenox Project reconnects Londoners and all of us with a vitally important piece of our heritage. London grew rich because it was a port. Ships built at Deptford protected the trade on which London depended, and forged links between the growing city and the rest of the world. Today London is one of the earth’s most dynamic, outward looking, multi-cultural cities. That story starts at Deptford.

"This project is not just about preserving heritage. It is about creating the kind of international profile and draw that is impossible to replicate anywhere else. A block of flats, a nice looking office block is anonymous. They can be built from Shanghai to Seattle. Building a 17th century warship, on the site of one of the world’s greatest dockyards, a short distance from the beating heart of an international city, that is unique. The multiplier effect of interested people, scholars and tourists would be a major boon to the area, the city and the country.

"People travel across the world to see the Vasa in Stockholm, the Victory, Mary Rose and others in Portsmouth, the Intrepid in New York. This would compete with any of them. The Lenox Project illuminates not just the past but the future too.”

Samuel Pepys speaks to the nation

Samuel Pepys, Secretary to the Royal Navy, held a press conference on 21st September 2013 at the Master Shipwright's House at Deptford Royal Dockyard. He implored the developer to consider more fully the history of the dockyard in the light of their plans to build 3500 luxury homes on the site now known as Convoys Wharf and bury all of the surviving heritage assets under concrete.

The event was chaired by star of BBC TV's Horrible Histories Ben Willbond. The former secretary to the navy and celebrated diarist Pepys vented his anger at the total neglect of one of the most important sites in British history and called on the powers-that-be to permit the restoration of the Kings Yard, Deptford, to allow the building of a full-size, sailing, working replica of The Lenox.

Mr Pepys said: "I wept as a parent at the loss of a child when I returned to Deptford to see what had become of one England's greatest assets. I say to our authorities, 'What terrible loss of memory has afflicted you so?'

"This year is the 500th anniversary of the Royal Dockyard commissioned by Henry Vlll that itself heralded the beginning of England's navy and her pre-eminence as a world sea-power.

"I can think of no more fitting restoration than the building of a warship His Majesty King Charles commissioned me to build as the first of a great fleet. To see the Royal Dockyard buried forever under concrete would be to the everlasting shame of the nation!"

Samuel Pepys is played by Deptford actor Jim Conway. Supporting cast as themselves: Ben Willbond (Horrible Histories), Helena Russell (Secretary, The Lenox Project CIC), Julian Kingston (Director, The Lenox Project CIC) as master shipwright John Shish, and Richard Endsor, author of The Restoration Warship, on which the Lenox project is based.

The press conference was held on the first morning of the London Open House weekend, and was also filmed by BBC News who covered the day but did not air Mr Pepys' erudite speech.

Friday 7 March 2014

'Deptford's Dockyard' shanty by the Deptford Shanty Crew

The Deptford Shanty Crew, which was formed last year, has written and performed a shanty about our campaign and made a video of it. We've included the words below, if you want to sing along.

We'd love to see this shared widely, to get our message out and make more people aware of the campaign and the projects, so please feel free to use the 'share' buttons on You Tube to send to your contacts, post on Facebook, tweet and so on.

And if you want to join the shanty crew (no singing experience necessary, whooping and foot stamping welcome!) find out more on the Lenox website.

And it's [stamp] sell her off to a big business man
There goes Deptford's dockyard
There goes our history and our land
Way off in the hands of the London mayor

They dug up the anchor and took it away
There goes Deptford's dockyard
Would not listen to what the people say
Now it's way off in the hands of the London mayor

Locals wanna build the Lenox again
Right there in Deptford's dockyard
Could pass on their history to the next gen
But it's way off in the hands of the London mayor

Apprentices could learn the trade
Right there in Deptford's dockyard
Our maritime history could be saved
But it's way off in the hands of the London mayor

Open up the gardens for all to see
Right there in Deptford's dockyard
We want Evelyn's vision to be free
But it's way off in the hands of the London mayor

The developers just don't get the plan
There goes Deptford's dockyard
They're gonna flush our project down the pan
They put it in the hands of the London mayor

No jobs and homes for us in their plan
Right there in Deptford's dockyard
Just lots more cash in the developers bank
Now it's way off in the hands of the London mayor

They want to sell more expensive flats
Right there in Deptford's dockyard
But people come first and that is that
And Deptford's history's worth more than cash!

So listen to us and not their dough
It's our Deptford dockyard
Boris give our project a chance to grow
Release it from the hands of the London mayor

Tuesday 25 February 2014

Developer claims of 'significant concessions' on Convoys masterplan questioned by Deptford Is..

An article in Building Design last week had Convoys Wharf developer Hutchison Whampoa claiming to have made 'significant' concessions in its masterplan following a recent meeting with the GLA.

The article, which noted that the determination of the application by the Mayor of London was now delayed according to the original schedule, said:

“We have made further revisions to our masterplan to address issues raised by local groups,” a spokesman for the developer said. “By moving the school, creating new space for a John Evelyn horticultural centre, lowering the height of a building on the boundary adjacent to the listed Shipwright’s House and offering the wharf site for the Lenox project, we have made significant concessions.”

Unfortunately the developer's definition of 'significant' is at odds with our own understanding of the word, and the changes that have been made are either minimal, or in the case of the Lenox project, non-existent. None of the amendments are sufficient to offer real hope or properly support the long-term viability of either of the community-led schemes.

In truth, the situation for the Lenox project, despite Hutchison Whampoa's claim, is unchanged from the first public viewing of Farrell's revised masterplan. At the first public consultation in July 2012, a large ground-level model of the proposed redevelopment incorporated a model of a wooden ship on the protected wharf area. The model was labelled 'The Lenox Project'.

A verbal offer that the Lenox could occupy the protected wharf for '5-7 years' and then depart to somewhere else is still the only indication from Hutchison Whampoa that they have made any attempt to even consider this fantastic project. But as its promoters have made clear numerous times, a temporary presence on the site is entirely contrary to the central ethos of The Lenox Project vision.

Using the Olympia building for the Lenox would not only offer a tangible link to the history of this listed structure, it would provide a long-term future for the building at the heart of the site.

Although Sayes Court Garden CIC has persuaded the developer to make some adaptations to its masterplan, the implications of these changes for the developer are minimal and have been accommodated with no loss of floor space.

But in order for the educational aims of the proposed John Evelyn Urban Horticulture Centre to be achievable, further changes are required, in particular relocating the centre to a stand-alone building located on the site of the former Sayes Court manor house.

This stance is strongly supported by the National Trust and The Garden History Society. But although Sayes Court Garden CIC has demonstrated how such a change could be accommodated without compromising the developer's return or making significant changes to the masterplan, so far such requests have fallen on deaf ears.

After a recent meeting between the developer and its professional advisers, the Greater London Authority planners, deputy mayor Sir Edward Lister and representatives of the local community groups,  the Mayor of London's planners asked Hutchison Whampoa to make formal offers to both community groups as regards their options for a future presence on the site.

We will report back as and when such offers are received by the community groups.

Friday 21 February 2014

Royal Dockyard foundation stone set to return to Deptford

University College London has pledged to return the Tudor foundation stone from the former Royal Dockyard to its home in Deptford.

The stone bears the initials of Henry VIII and his first queen Katherine of Aragon with a marriage knot, and belongs to the original naval storehouse built by the king in 1513 - the scheduled ancient monument whose below-ground remains are due to built over as part of the proposed Convoys Wharf development.

The stone marks the official royal foundation of the dockyard to the service of Henry VIII, when the navy became established; a facility which went on to build ships that sailed the world, defended Britain and discovered new lands.

The stone was rediscovered by Chris Mazeika, a member of Deptford Is.. whose research into the dockyard led him to 1950s drawings of the artefact. It was during a chance visit to the UCL geography department that he glimpsed the stone, which had lain forgotten since being salvaged from the bomb-damaged yard after WWII. 

The university has now pledged to return the stone to its home, after efforts by World Monuments Fund Britain and Dr Negley Harte, honorary fellow and honorary research fellow in history at the university.

Dr Jonathan Foyle, chief executive of WMF Britain said: "The rediscovery of the foundation stone reminds us that this site was the foremost royal dockyard of the Tudor period, and an historic site of national importance at this critical moment when its future is to be decided by the Mayor of London. We hope that UCL's pledge will help to inform the Mayor's decision on the scheme so that the cultural heritage is fully recognised and expressed in any future development."

Saturday 1 February 2014

Royal Dockyard petition tops 1,500 signatures

Support for our alternative vision for the former Royal Dockyard in Deptford continues to grow, with our petition now carrying more than 1,500 signatures, some of them from highly-regarded heritage associations, academics and authors as well as many more from people living, working or running  businesses in Deptford. 

There are also signatures on the petition from supporters as far afield as Australia, the USA, Latvia, and the UAE, showing that the site and its history has vast importance internationally as well as nationally. 

We will be bringing this support to the attention of the Mayor of London, ahead of his determination of the planning application for Convoys Wharf, but if you have not yet signed the petition, there is still time to do so. Supporting comments such as those we have printed below are most helpful, and if you have a particular affiliation which may add weight to your opinion, please include it.

A selection of the comments on our petition which show the high level of support for our proposals:

Dr Ann Coats
Secretary, Naval Dockyards Society
"The Naval Dockyards Society believes that, given the rarity of Tudor, and the non-survival of Stuart naval storehouses, the Great Storehouse, even in its below ground fragmentary state, provides valuable tangible indication of the importance of Deptford Dockyard to Henry VIII and Elizabeth, especially linked to the nearby royal palace at Greenwich. The remains below ground of Tudor, Stuart and Georgian storehouses are fragmentary, but convey a distinctive individual character, intrinsic interest and value to the current community in Deptford and neighbouring boroughs. If that is all we have left, fragments are still important signifiers of cultural heritage which should be valued, as fragments of Tudor castles and Mary Rose are valued.
The below ground remains embody Deptford’s tangible and intangible heritage and ought to give this project a unique character which will distinguish it from many other new developments, inform the overall design and improve its ‘brand’.
Much more can be accomplished to memorialise these below-ground features and make them relevant to today’s residents and visitors than by merely marking their outlines above ground. Footprints should not only be preserved, but integrated."

Professor Mark Laird
Author and historian
"John Evelyn's Sayes Court is among the most important relic sites as cultural and natural heritage. I have written about it on three occasions and my new book, A Natural History of English Gardening, 1650-1800 will bring further attention to its significance as world heritage."

Rob Benbow, Canada
Descendent of Admiral John Benbow
"My ancestor, Admiral John Benbow, was Master Attendant at Deptford in 1696, where he lived at Sayes Court, entertained Peter the Great, Czar of Russia, and sailed from Deptford engaging the enemy for crown and country. We would like to see the history of the Deptford Dockyards preserved, and the plans scaled down to allow the preservation of history. This is the most historical dockyards of the British Royal Navy and should be recognised as such. Please review and adjust the development plans to recognise this importance."

John Kempton
Vice chairman, Medway Queen Preservation Society
"I fully support this petition, and believe that both the development and the Build the Lenox project can work together for the improvement of the area and for the local but also national benefit." 

Justin Reay
Naval historian, and editor of Samuel Pepys' papers at the Bodleian Library
"As a naval historian and art historian, and editor of Samuel Pepys' papers at the Bodleian Library, I am aware of the importance of iconic sites to understanding our shared history. I am sure that the regeneration of the site as proposed by parties to this petition will provide a lasting, meaningful and worthy resource for future generations respecting our maritime, horticultural and artistic history; the proposed development on this site will not significantly add to the social housing stock in London and other sites are available for that."

Andrea Zuvich 
Historian and blogger at The 17th Century Lady
"Deptford's Royal Dockyard is of great historic value and redevelopment would significantly impact this...for the worse. I, as a 17th century historian, urge you to reject plans for redevelopment. We must protect our nation's history and heritage."

Jean Hood
Maritime and naval author
"Deptford should not be degraded and stripped of its rich history, especially its maritime history, to make profits for foreign investors and allow the government to tick boxes re housebuilding figures.  You cannot reclaim history when it is gone, and too much has been lost to the egos and balance sheets of those who know the price of everything and the value of nothing. The first maritime book I wrote was about an East Indiaman built in the late 18th century at Deptford, just one of many merchant and naval ships to come from that area over the centuries - ships that played a global role in the development of trade, defence and offensive warfare. Its human community provided many of the craftsmen who built the ships, the men who manned them and their families who waited anxiously for them, and the wider population who provided the services, from shops to taverns and brothels. Please leave something of maritime London well alone."

Sunday 26 January 2014

Minister recognises the 'incredible importance' of the former Royal Dockyard

Ed Vaizey, minister for culture, communications and creative industries, acknowledged Deptford's heritage and the role it could play in bringing 'significant benefits' for local economies and communities. His comment came in response to Joan Ruddock's statement on Wednesday.

Vaizey also confirmed that he expects English Heritage to report to him next month (February) on the listing application for other parts of the former Royal Dockyard. This report was originally not expected to be ready until later in the year, and concerns had been raised over whether it was appropriate for the mayor to make a decision on the planning application when such a major issue had not been resolved.

In Wednesday's exchange in the Commons, the minister made some very encouraging comments as regards the significance of the site and the immensely important role the heritage could play in the long-term success of the redevelopment.

"I have listened with interest to her (Joan Ruddock's) remarks on the historic importance of Convoys Wharf, and I certainly echo everything she said," Vaizey began.

"I am now in the position... of being fully apprised of this heritage jewel sitting at the heart of our great capital city. At a time when London is once again one of the pre-eminent cities in the world, it is worth our recalling that one of the reasons it is so successful is its rich history and heritage.

"It says in my brief that Convoys Wharf is of historic interest - well, that has to be the understatement of the century. It is incredibly important," he emphasised.

Vaizey was clear on the benefits heritage-led regeneration could bring to local people and businesses: "Focusing on heritage creates significant benefits for local economies and communities. It breathes new life into areas; it is essential to the economic and social revival of our towns and cities."

He also confirmed that the report on whether other parts of the site should be given additional protection was due very shortly - during the exchange making it clear that this would happen in February: "I expect English Heritage to report very soon on whether other parts of the site should be scheduled. I can give [Joan Ruddock] an undertaking this evening that I will consider the report the minute it arrives, and take a decision based on its recommendations in short order."

The minister's recognition of ongoing efforts by local residents and volunteers was unexpected, and appreciated; those involved know just how difficult it is to sustain such a campaign long-term while also trying to earn a living and have a social life. The time scale that the Mayor of London is attempting to impose on the decision-making process magnify this pressure significantly, even for the paid professionals who are involved.

Vaizey said: "I should also acknowledge the work of the volunteers and members of the local community who have brought their imagination and passion to bear in supporting the project. We should bear it in mind that they are supporting it not just for the benefit of their own community, but for the benefit for the whole of London and the whole nation."

His commitment to ensuring that the local community was properly involved was also encouraging: "Finally, let me put myself at the right hon. Lady’s disposal. If she needs me to convene a meeting with the developers, with the Greater London Association, or with anyone else whose views she believes are relevant, I stand ready to assist her in any way that she considers suitable."

Backed by the context of ongoing meetings between the GLA, Lewisham planners and representatives of Deptford Is.., the Lenox Project and Sayes Court Garden, we are cautiously encouraged by the minister's words, in particular his support of the community-led proposals.

Such comments suggest that the true significance of this historic site, and the relevance of the projects being proposed by locals, is slowly becoming apparent to a wider audience. We can only hope that the Mayor of London experiences a similar clarity of vision, and that his response will be driven by proper decision-making considerations rather than an attempt to meet a one-size-fits-all timescale.

Read the full exchange on Hansard via this link.

Wednesday 22 January 2014

Deptford Dockyard and Sayes Court Garden discussed in Parliament

A press release from our local MP: watch the debate on BBC Parliament via Iplayer here.

Dame Joan Ruddock MP has challenged the government to recognise the unique heritage features of the site of Henry VIII’s naval shipyard, otherwise known as Convoys Wharf, Deptford, the subject of a multimillion pound planning application. 

Joan Ruddock said: ‘This development must be led by its heritage. Convoys Wharf with a foot print equivalent to the Southbank covers the site of Henry VIII’s naval shipyard established in 1513. Archaeological surveys have revealed extensive slipways, the great basin and dry dock, the remains of the Tudor storehouse and the foundations of the great diarist John Evelyn’s 17th Century manor house. 

‘This site is one of London’s best kept secrets and also one of its greatest opportunities.’ 

In an adjournment debate today Joan Ruddock told the minister: ‘We want to create a destination that both honours the past and creates a vision of the future that embraces the vibrant and dynamic community that is Deptford’. 

She said: ‘Two locally developed projects would fulfil that ambition and demand incorporation at this stage of the planning process. Sayes Court Garden would create a 21st century garden at the entrance to the development and an Urban Horticulture Centre. 

Building the Lenox would build a replica of the 17th century wooden warship in the grade II listed Olympia building which covers historic slipways.’ 

Sir Terry Farrell’s master plan for the site puts the Olympia at the heart of the development however the plan, while recognising the projects, fails to place them within their historic context. 

Current owners Hutchison Whampoa have asked the GLA to determine their outline planning application. In the debate tonight Joan Ruddock will be appealing to the heritage minister to back the local vision. 

Specifically she will ask the Minister to activate an emergency listing/scheduling procedure based on the available archaeology. This would ensure that Hutchison Whampoa and the GLA proceeded with the full knowledge of the heritage protections on the site and how this should influence design and construction decisions. 

‘Convoys Wharf sits alongside the Greenwich World Heritage site of the Royal Palaces, the National Maritime Museum and Cutty Sark. Hutchison Whampoa have a unique opportunity to create a development with heritage at its heart and for Deptford and its dockyards to once again become a jewel in London’s crown.’

Saturday 18 January 2014

Council recommends rejection of Convoys Wharf application

This week Lewisham Council's strategic planning committee recommended that the Mayor of London reject the outline planning application for Convoys Wharf in its current form.

The council is a statutory consultee in the planning process now that the Mayor of London has called in the application; with many years' experience of considering applications for the site, it's reasonable to conclude that Lewisham planners are also a major source of advice to the GLA about the application.

During this week's meeting, the committee considered - and agreed - a report by the council's planners recommending that the application in its current form should not be approved. The committee also made some amendments to the recommendations to further strengthen the case against certain aspects of the application, and added another clause about the handling of construction waste and material deliveries, and other potential nuisance from construction.

The report explains the site's planning history and in its recommendations, raises issues relating to the proposed scheme that in the council's opinion need further resolution before planning permission should be granted.

The committee was first addressed by local MP Dame Joan Ruddock, who highlighted many of the issues that were raised in the report; in common with many of the other presenters she noted that she had been responding to redevelopment proposals for this site for more than a decade, although the current application was only submitted in April 2013. Representatives of local groups such as the Lenox Project, Sayes Court Garden, Pepys Community Forum and other interested parties were allowed to speak, before the committee deliberated its decision.

The council's report details the responses to the initial application that were received (p23 onwards) including statutory consultees such as English Heritage, TFL and the Environment Agency, as well as local organisations such as the Pepys Community Forum, Greenwich Society, the Greenwich Conservation Group and other interested parties including London City Airport and the Port of London Authority.

The final section of the report (p44 onwards) sets out the main planning considerations and the council's position; many of these comments are then drawn through into the final recommendations. We have reported the main ones below, in the order they appear in the report.

Principle of redevelopment
The report is clear that the council supports the principle of the redevelopment, but raises questions about the development strategy for the site, and the interpretation and acknowledgement of the site's history in the masterplan. 'Certain aspects of the proposed development.. are considered unacceptable in their current form'. 

Safeguarded wharf
The lack of any proposed use for the safeguarded wharf (on the northern boundary of the site) introduces an uncertainty regarding is use, in particular given the proximity of public space and residential properties. The formal process of reducing the protected wharf area also needs clarification.

Employment space
The council wants a commitment to cultural uses (for example the range of projects set out in the Cultural Strategy) secured through the Section 106 agreement for the site; considers that uses across the site should be secured and the non-residential space and employment use be maximised. The report also highlights the Lenox Project as 'an important employment opportunity..with a clear link to the site's history' and recommends that the GLA should actively promote its incorporation into the site.

The lack of affordable housing that the development is offering was raised by many of the objectors, and discussed by councillors as a major issue. Although the application claims 15% of the units will be 'affordable', only 6-7% of these will be for social rent, and in fact one speaker pointed out that when assessed against Lewisham Council's definition of affordability, this falls to zero. The council report questions the robustness of the viability calculations the developer has used to assess what percentage of units should be affordable, and wants it to be reassessed. The committee also wanted a mechanism to allow periodic reassessments during the development period. The report also raises questions about whether the daylight/sunlight impact of the development has been properly assessed.

In a number of key locations, the layout fails to respond appropriately or in a meaningful way to the heritage assets on the site.

The setting of the Olympia Building does not reflect its importance to the site; the council wants the heights of the buildings which surround it to be reduced to a general height of ten storeys. In particular, the two buildings which frame the view from the Olympia Building to the river (P02 and P03) need amending to improve this visual connection. In addition the blocks next to the Master Shipwrights House should be reduced in height to respect this historic building; according to the report this request has already been made to the developer. Another area of concern is Sayes Court Garden and the site of John Evelyn's house, which are also not adequately reflected in the masterplan. The layout should be reassessed and a 'green link' between Sayes Court Garden and the site of the house should be established. The masterplan should also identify a dedicated space to allow for the construction of the Lenox.

Scale and massing
Acceptable building heights need to be fixed at this stage, and the council's report states that the proposed reduction in heights could be accommodated without reducing the overall quantum of development.

Transport, access and movement
The report questions the robustness of the transport assessment for the site, in particular the impact of the development on highway traffic, which it claims has been understated. The suggestion that the full investigation of this could be left until after the application is determined 'raises serious concerns'.

Social infrastructure
The section 106 agreement is planned to include provision of a primary school on the site, but the council also wants a contribution to secondary school provision for the borough. At the meeting the committee also requested that this recommendation be strengthened to cover other social infrastructure such as GP provision.

Environmental impact assessment
The report questions the adequacy of the applicant's Environmental Impact Assessment and whether it complies with the requirements of the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations. It warns that 'any permission could be at risk of legal challenge on such grounds'

The recommendations that the committee approved are on pages 66 and 67 of the report - amendments agreed at the meeting strengthen them further and an additional recommendation relating to a construction code of practice was added.

The official line from GLA officers is still that a decision is intended to be made in February.

Sunday 12 January 2014

Update on the GLA's consideration of Convoys Wharf planning application

With signs that a decision on the Convoys Wharf planning application may be made within the next two months, Deptford Is... hopes supporters can find the time to write to the Mayor of London with objections, and to spread the word about our petition. We also need people to write letters to the press and keep up the pressure on the Mayor to make the right decision for Deptford.

Community-led heritage schemes Sayes Court Garden and the Lenox Project have been working hard to try and ensure that the outcome does not eliminate any opportunities for our projects to be successfully incorporated.

December 2013

Just before Christmas, Joan Ruddock MP arranged a meeting with Deputy Mayor of London Sir Edward Lister and the GLA planners to present the case for the Lenox Project and Sayes Court Garden.

The two projects combined forces to lobby for a strong heritage focus at the centre of the site, advancing the idea that ship building would be the 'heart' and the garden the 'lungs' of Deptford's Royal Dockyard, and introducing a central cultural theme that the current masterplan completely lacks.

This involved the Lenox Project agreeing a compromise to push for its second preferred option for the siting of the ship's construction – in the Olympia Shed. The present application has no real vision for the Olympia Shed, and the developer has been adamantly against the use of Lenox's first choice, the Double Dry Dock where the original ship was built.

Using the Olympia Shed to build the Lenox would require the re-opening or reconstruction of the Great Basin in order to launch her, which would result in this space becoming a functioning marine space rather than the tiny shallow mirror pool presently proposed. Such an idea is supported in principle by English Heritage and would involve no alteration to current building layout.

Sayes Court Garden's proposals called for the archaeological remains of John Evelyn's Manor House, currently to be housed within a giant residential block, to stand alone in a new building which would become the John Evelyn Centre (for horticultural study) and be surrounded by gardens. This would become part of a sweep of open space joining the Olympia Shed with what remains of Sayes Court Garden outside the site. This proposal would involve changes to the proposed residential block and for the school to be relocated elsewhere within the site.

Both projects were encouraged by Sir Edward Lister's responses and felt the meeting had been positive. It also seemed as though the planners would be taking their time to arrive at a satisfactory decision and not rushing to fulfil the Mayor's promise to decide on the application before the end of February 2014.

January 2014

Post Christmas, we have learned from Lewisham planners that the GLA seem now to only really be seeking changes to the masterplan that are possible within the original deadline of February, and none of these address the specific requests made by the projects. In fact, quite the contrary.

Instead, GLA planners are asking Hutchison Whampoa to consider moving the proposed primary school (P17) into block P16, to integrate it more into the site as a whole. It would then function as a community space along the lines of the Deptford Lounge, to be shared with the community outside of school hours.

However, the land vacated by the school is not to be given to Sayes Court Garden but instead remain the property of the school and, like the school, only made available for community use outside of school hours.

The Sayes Court Garden team is encouraged that the GLA has asked HW to make revisions to this part of the masterplan, but this needs to be more thoroughly examined, with the full involvement and consultation of the project and its partners, in order that it can realise its full potential.

As they stand, the proposals would make it impossible for Sayes Court Garden to achieve its full potential, particularly in terms of eduation, involvement of national partners and tourism.

With regard to the Lenox Project, it would appear that the GLA planners are giving credence to claims by HW that the slipways under the Olympia structure are not capable of bearing the load of the Lenox under construction. This assumption has not been substantiated by a structural or geotechnical engineer, independent or otherwise.

In addition, HW claims that the reinstatement of the basin poses a 'high archaeological risk'. Although the GLA has asked HW to investigate whether this can be resolved, it seems that the planners are ready to discount this option without imposing sufficiently rigorous scrutiny or commissioning any kind of independent assessment of the claims.

English Heritage supports in principle the idea of using the Olympia Shed and the Great Basin for construction of the Lenox; such support demonstrates it is worth conducting a full survey and we would not be able to accept HW's claims unless this had been done.

Worst of all, the planners have asked HW to produce a new assessment of how the Lenox could be constructed on the protected wharf. This is highly disappointing news since Sir Edward Lister had stated at the pre-Christmas meeting that any decisions about the protected wharf would take "considerably longer than determination of the rest of the site, quite possibly years". The Lenox Project has argued many times that the protected wharf is totally unworkable, not least because HW intends to use it during construction, and the project would not be viable in this location.

Read the Lenox Project's response to this disappointing news on the website.