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.


  1. Vaizey admits to having listed the perimeter wall - saying it was a privilege to do so. So it was him what done it. Suggest he spends a couple of minutes looking at the map of what he is about to list next time, having managed to hermitcally seal this site by a massive 10ft high brick wall - which he has now listed- a stupid thing to do regardless of its future use.

  2. The river wall is literally the RIVER WALL and wall then links to the basin and dock entrances. Parts of the land based dockyard perimeter wall have been listed since the 1990's. That is a good thing too. The dockyard was described as being like a walled medieval city. How exciting to go inside!