Empty uni buildings “holding back” New Cross

Properties owned by the university have been used as squats, rubbish dumps, and toilets pic: Isobel Williams

The secretary and registrar of Goldsmiths College, Hugh Jones, has apologised over the way some university buildings have been allowed to fall into disrepair in New Cross.

The apology comes in response to a guest post on Brockley Central Blog by local resident Isobel Williams, who has started the ‘Stop the Rot’ campaign to get local people and businesses to pressure the university into action over two badly maintained properties.

In a statement released yesterday, Jones said the university: “tries to be a good neighbour” but “has not been.”

“We’re looking seriously at options for the two properties. We’re a public body so need to take into account the long-term and short-term needs of the College”, Jones continued.

Williams told EastLondonLines that the Victorian terraced property on St. Donatts Road has been empty for four years and squatters have attempted to break in on at least two occasions. Bars have now been used to block the windows and doors.

Williams’ campaign has drawn support from local councillors. Darren Johnson, an ex-Goldsmiths student and  Green Party councillor in Lewisham said: “The college is an iconic presence in New Cross. However, local residents are heartily sick of Goldsmiths’ failure to get its act together on these empty properties. Hopefully people-pressure will now force the college to sit up and take note.”

Other properties owned by the college on St. Donatts Road and New Cross Road are visibly dilapidated and vandalised – an issue that has not gone unnoticed in the New Cross community.

Gill Jones from local business ‘The Allotment’, has expressed frustration at how the college appears to be “holding back” the area.

“Goldsmiths were pleased when we opened because we add something different to the local area – but they are holding the area back themselves by not doing anything with these properties.”

Goldsmiths College has been working on a ten-year master plan since 2009 to improve the college estate and its impact on the local area.

But the developments specified in the plan have not begun, and many residents and local businesses are unaware that such plans exist. In its first year, the plan outlines proposals to: “Consider the possibility of selling properties on St Donatts Road, Lewisham Way and New Cross Road” in order to fund other projects.

Isobel Williams says that three years on, nothing has changed.

“[Goldsmiths] has had several years to decide what to do with these properties, and I fear that we could wait several more years before a decision is made. “

Williams has set up a petition in order to pressure the university to do something about its empty properties in SE14. The petition can be signed online here or by emailing newxpetition@gmail.com. The master plan can be viewed here.

Goldsmiths has asked those with any questions, problems or queries about the properties or the master plan to get in touch by emailing community@gold.ac.uk .

You can let us know your thoughts about what you think should be done using the comments below.

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