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 http://www.andreazuvich.com/
"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 http://www.jeanhood.co.uk/books.html
"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."