Briant Street, in the ‘Kender Triangle’, is supposed to see the flagship for New Cross regeneration – the scene for a new public realm with housing, a health centre and a library. But work on the building site has ground to a halt as the private developer involved in the project has pulled out.
Capitalism functions (when it does) through a series of bets on the future. In the case of a project like this, investors are betting on being able to sell off private housing for more than it costs to build, and in turn betting that there will be people with the means to buy them. Today all bets are off, with a collapse of confidence in the future. The knock on effect is that regeneration plans for affordable housing and community facilities are under threat, as these have been based on another kind of gamble – that Council-owned land could be sold off for private housing at sufficient value to pay for these plans, or that private developments would generate large capital receipts that could be re-invested in community facilities. These bets too are off.
Meanwhile behind the hoardings on Briant Street there is a strange, almost lunar landscape. Mountains of rubble from the council housing demolished to make way for the new development, a crater-like hole in the ground, and an icy ‘lake’.
Most of the rest of Briant Street is blocks of flats, including the newish Pankhurst Close. There is also a London Electricity Service Station.
At the end of the street, on the corner of New Cross Road, there is another kind of dereliction – a boarded up pub, most recently known as ‘Down the Hatch’.
It’s easy to be depressed by sites like this, when you think of all the wasted potential to meet people’s needs that is represented by empty buildings and building sites. But the skills and resources to turn them into something useful are still here – wasted too at present in the form of laid-off building workers and warehouses full of unsold building materials. We just need to find another way of using them.