Feedback deadline looms for huge Deptford Convoys Wharf development

3,500 homes are set to be built on the derelict riverside site Pic: Joe McCarthy

Deptford residents have just 24 hours to give their final feedback on a sprawling 3,500 home property development on the banks of the Thames – the largest in the borough – before work begins.

Locals are being asked by the council to voice their objections to Convoys Wharf, a 16.6 hectare riverside site seconds walk from Deptford High Street.

Local campaigners are unhappy about the plans by Hong Kong property company Hutchinson Whampoa since they bought the land in 2002. The final plans have been described by MP Vicky Foxcroft as a “total disregard of the need for the existing community.”

The company bought the disused dockland with plans to invest £1bn into the area in the early 2000s. Their original application in 2011 was refused by the Greater London Authority due to issues involving their consideration of the area’s historical significance.

The Deptford dockland was built by Henry VIII in the 1500s and was a significant naval centre for close to 400 years. It is thought that Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Francis Drake and James Cook all sailed from there. It also played a major role in the UK’s print industry, being owned by Rupert Murdoch until 2000.

The area was also home to influential garden theorist John Evelyn who built an “experimental garden” there. Garden historian Tom Turner describes the development as “a really crass example of urban development” with little respect to the history of Sayes Court.

Another application by Hutchison Whampoa was made in January 2014 to Lewisham Council for another similar plan that included a restoration of historic Sayes Court garden and a replica of the 17th century warship Lenox.

The mammoth infrastructural plan was considered to be “strategically significant” for former London mayor and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and he gave the development the green light in April 2014 – bypassing local authority planning consent.

This is why a feedback opportunity has been given to residents, although this is unlikely to create any drastic change to plans.

According to Hutchinson Whampoa the Convoys Wharf development will include:

  • 3,500 new homes include at least 525 new affordable homes
  • New parks – both for the public and residents only
  • A new two-form entry primary school
  • A new river-bus jetty connecting to Canary Wharf and central London
  • A £60m community investment package
  • The potential to create 2,000 new full-time jobs and 1,200 construction jobs.

Many argue that the Convoys Wharf development is unsustainable and unaffordable for the small community of Deptford. Of the 3,500 homes planned, only 525 are designated as ‘affordable housing’.

This is far below Sadiq Khan’s demand in 2016 that developers must build 35% “genuinly affordable” homes. Foxcroft believes that this should be closer to 50% of all new builds in the borough.

In an article she wrote on the house style for dates 27 September, Foxcroft said “Plot 08 is comprised entirely of private accommodation, none larger than two bedrooms. Deptford residents need socially rented, family sized properties of three beds or more.”

The site used to house Henry VIII's shipyard   Pic: Joe McCarthy

The site used to house Henry VIII’s shipyard Pic: Joe McCarthy

Community group Voices For Deptford “urgently object” the development. Instead their aims include;

  • Socially rented housing in every block and phase of the development.
  • Bespoke design specific to Deptford, better for children and young people. We do not want an ‘anywhere in the world’ set of buildings.
  • Build which celebrates Deptford’s rich history rather than obliterates it.
  • A development trust to help oversee the site, led by people living and working locally.

There are also concerns as to whether Deptford public transport is capable of handling such a huge development. The PTAL (Public Transport Accessibility Level) have rated the dockland area as 1A- this is close to being the worst possible rating for accessibility to public transport links.

Local journalist and activist and founder of No Social Cleanse Lewisham Andy Worthington said; “I completely oppose the development, the city is overrun with luxury high rise developments that are not even selling. We’ve already reached the peak of what the market can sustain.”

Worthington added that despite the dockland area being desolate for the past 18 years that he believes it is better than “inappropriate developments that are unaffordable for all ordinary Londoners.”

In contrast, Deptford businesses see a bright future for the new housing. Landlord of The Dog & Bell Séamus O’Neill which sits directly opposite the Deptford Docks says, “Honestly I hope they get on with it. At the moment we’re on the road to nowhere with no passing traffic.”

Hutchinson Whampoa have said; “The application unlocks the planning process for the wider Convoys Wharf site. Convoys Properties Ltd look forward to continuing to work with Lewisham Council and the local community to bring forward further applications for much needed housing and affordable housing for London.”

Lewisham Council have also been contacted about the feedback deadline but are yet to reply.

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