Plans for the Convoys Wharf site, Deptford, the largest development site in the Borough of Lewisham, have been resubmitted by “internationally recognised firm of architects” Terry Farrell and Partners.
The firm, known for projects such as the MI6 building at Vauxhall Cross, was invited by developers Hutchison Whampoa to work on a new masterplan after the original designs drawn up by the company Aedas were withdrawn last year. The site was originally marked as ready for redevelopment by the Lewisham Core Strategy. The plans will be considered by the Lewisham Council over the next few months.
The new plans follow a period of consultation with people from the local area. An exhibition and open site day took place in February last year, followed by a further meeting in July, allowing people the opportunity to examine proposals for the masterplan and give feedback. Over 200 people attended, including local MP Joan Ruddock. TFP said that “the masterplan has taken into account comments from local residents and groups.”
The new masterplan proposes to transform the Thames-side derelict site into a “new, vibrant waterfront”. The complex will include 3,500 new homes, three acres of parkland, and 120,000 square feet of retail space. The development hopes to create over 2,000 new jobs for local people, with around £1,million being used for training and employment initiatives.
The plans claim to reflect the need to preserve the heritage of the Royal Shipyard and the architects have carried out the largest ever pre-build archaeological exploration of the dockland to ensure this. This will be achieved alongside the integration of slipways and dry docks. The plans include the restoration of the Grade II listed Olympia building and the first ever Thames “island park” created from a derelict jetty.
“This part of Deptford has an incredible history,” architect Sir Terry Farrell said, “more so than any project I have worked on in my career, and we feel we have a scheme that strikes the right balance between respecting and celebrating the cultural heritage and providing much needed new homes and jobs.”
However, the plans have met some criticism, with the phrase “3,500 new homes of which over 500 will be affordable” being particularly targeted on social networking sites.
The “Deptford is” campaigning group blog, along with authors of other social media community sites, is concerned that regional and local news media organisations are going to do ‘a cut and paste’ job from the developers’ press releases.
“Deptford is” argues that the development project is flawed in there not being a tube station service for what will become a densely populated area. There is a fear that if most of the residents work outside Deptford and Lewisham it will become a dormitory village and the references in an Evening Standard article to Convoys Wharf becoming “a Shoreditch of south London” have increased concerns.
The local blogger “The Deptford Dame” posted an analysis following a consultation in March 2013 arguing that the new design as a response to the objections to the previous plan “seemed to be a question of the emperor’s new clothes, or perhaps even Groundhog Day.”
“Podium parking” on the first two floors of buildings was criticised because it “doesn’t make for a vibrant streetscape – and the retail units that the developer is planning to create as a facade to these above-ground car parks will be serving a questionable demand.”
Another local blogger “Lewisham Campaigner” reported from a consultation meeting in January 2013 that residents in Evelyn ward thought that retaining a tower block of 46 storeys was still too high, that in reality there would be less affordable housing in the development than is being presented, and there was also concern about commercial traffic passing by Deptford school.
“Deptford is” also attended a consultation meeting in March and reported: “many of the objections that we voiced after the public exhibition last year remain unaddressed, in particular those relating to the density and massing of the buildings, and the lack of public transport provision.”
Lewisham Council sees the development as being crucial to the future of this area of the Borough: “The scale of the development would inevitably have wide-ranging impacts on existing infrastructure such as public transport, as well placing new and additional demands on education and health facilities and other local services.”
The council has informed the developers that it wishes to receive new plans that include measures that mitigate: “the likely effect on local roads and existing public transport, as well as on the existing community and new residents and businesses (both during construction and when completed).
The development will include a primary school, doctors’ surgery, renovation of the Grade II listed warehouse, a 360 bedroom hotel, public transport improvements including a river bus service and new/diverted bus routes, and three tall buildings (46, 38 & 32 storeys).
Lewisham and Deptford MP Joan Ruddock says that “We don’t want it to become a millionaire’s waterfront playground and that is why I have been working with developers to not drive out local people and the character.”
The 40 acre site has been derelict for 13 years. It used to be owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News International group.
Lewisham Council has been under continual pressure from campaigners to take into account the needs and views of local people. In 2011 it printed and distributed a consultation leaflet highlighting the fact that the development promised “for the first time in centuries, to enable public access to a major part of Lewisham’s riverfront and provide a direct connection between Deptford High Street and the Thames.”
But the political debate centres on whether Hutchison Whampoa can deliver a plan that makes the “major contribution to meeting Deptford’s need for new homes, employment opportunities and community facilities” being demanded.
Online petitions were set up in 2011 to ensure that the heritage of the site is protected in the new proposals.