Sunday, July 11, 2010

Convoys Wharf - latest plans

This weekend I intended to go to the 'consultation' exhibition for the planned Convoys Wharf development in Deptford. Getting ready to set off on Saturday lunchtime I checked the times and realized that it was actually only open until 2 pm and I was going to miss it. It had also been open on Friday, but less than two full days for the public to see plans that will potentially transform the river front at Deptford is hopelessly inadequate. It was a similar story last December, when an exhibition on the Convoys Wharf site was only open for two days with no outside signage that I could see to inform the local residents who will be most affected that it was happening. On that occasion I did manage to find it after wandering around the site for a while (photos in this post were taken then).

Deptford Dame did manage to make it this weekend, and reports that the plans on display were not very informative. The site of the former Royal Dockyard has most recently been used by News International, but is now owned by Hutchison Whampoa who are proposing to massively redevelop it with 3,500 new homes (only 25% 'affordable') plus office blocks and bars. As DD points out it is proposed that there would be 2,300 car parking spaces which will significantly increase traffic on local roads. What community facilities, if any, will be provided is unclear. There is mention of a school, but if this is dependent on government funding to build it... well, don't hold your breath.

There is little to defend in the present site, an empty expanse of warehouses surrounded by a wall that blocks access to the river. From that point of view some would argue that anything is preferable, but that's hardly a reason to sit back and allow a global property developer to unilaterally impose its vision on this important site. What they have in mind seems to be a kind of identikit high rise office/flats/leisure complex of the kind that can be seen all over the world. How this connects to the needs and wishes of current and future Deptford dwellers, let alone to the history of the site, is another matter.

It's no surprize that a property developer should want to maximise profit by cramming in as much as possible on the site, and to focus the development on an affluent minority who can afford to purchase luxury riverside flats. It would be good for others though to develop alternative visions of how a space like this could be used, no matter how utopian, as a yardstick against which to measure what is being put forward. For instance, when the scheme was first mooted in 2000, Creekside Forum did set up 'Convoys Opportunity' to develop alternative plans for the site. They published a number of proposals, with a main focus on the site being a working wharf, including the idea of developing a Cruise Liner terminal there.

Looking along the river we can see that to a certain extent campaigns by local people have been successful in preventing the riverside becoming entirely corporate - for example in Rotherhithe, Surrey Docks Farm was preserved as well as council housing on the riverfront, while on the South Bank too there is substantial public space (including parks) and Coin Street social housing right by the river (not tucked away in a corner of the site as a concession to planning requirements).


K. said...

The developers do seem hellbent on ignoring the historic assets of the site. I've been blogging for some months to try and raise awareness of the importance and beauty of John Evelyn's gardens, the remains of which mostly lie beneath Convoys Wharf, (rather than the present-day Sayes Court Park).

Now is our last chance to restore the gardens and create a green haven by the river, a real place that people will actually be eager to visit and live near. Plenty of local people I know support this idea.

My blog is at

Brockley Nick said...

I quite liked the cruise liner terminal idea, but I'm not sure it serves as a counterpoint to a development catering to an "affluent minority".

Transpontine said...

Fair point Nick. I think the cruise liner terminal idea reflected a desire to restore Deptford to a working riverside with the jobs it would create, also tapping into the site's history.

Personally I quite favour the notion of creating a 'green haven'.