Deptford Is Changing – Is it for the Better?

Deptford is changing – residents protest

The fact that ‘Deptford is Changing’ is not in dispute. Anita Strasser’s well researched and colourful book looks at today’s Deptford and the people who feel that they are not in control of their own destinies. The people who say that ‘this is not for us’ and feel that the social history, sense of community and cohesiveness of this super diverse part of London are not being recognised.

Deptford is known for being Henry VIII’s Royal Dockyard, the place where Russia’s Peter the Great came to learn shipbuilding and John Evelyn’s Sayes Court, his friend wood carver, Grinling Gibbons and Christopher Marlowe’s murder – he is buried in the historic St Nicholas’ Church in Deptford.

This maritime history led to a ship’s anchor being placed in Deptford High Street in 1988 becoming a famous and much loved symbolic landmark for many local Deptford residents. The book details to extraordinary lengths that campaigners had to go to get the anchor re-instated after Lewisham Council removed the landmark in 2013. Even when the Mayor of Lewisham had agreed to return the landmark a battle ensued with the resistance from the Executive Member at the time, Cllr Alan Smith being described as averse to it being installed in a position where it could actually be seen!

Interestingly, the book raises the prospect of a museum for Deptford and I can see with such a rich and varied history that this would be a very attractive proposition by the River Thames.

The influence of Goldsmith’s College is evident in the area. The Crossfields Estate is famed as the place where a radical arts and music scene that gained Deptford an almost legendary status in the 1970s and 80s. Local bands included Dire Straights, Squeeze, the Fabulous Poodles, The Realists, Electric Bluebirds and Mark Perry and his punk rock band Alternative TV. Members of the band Dire Straits lived on the estate and the band had its first gig in 1977 on the lawn behind Farrer House. A member of the group Squeeze also lived here. This is Deptford’s recent history as well.

Is that Jools Holland on the keyboards? – Alternative TV

Anita Strasser’s book has an admirable aim, to help work for and with Deptford’s diverse community – the very definition of a participatory democracy. It is well worth reading the incredible achievements of some wonderful South East Londoners.

Buy Deptford Is Changing here

Port Of London Call For Convoys Wharf To Open

In a statement following public concern on the construction site, the Port of London Authority has issued a position statement on the controversial, high rise, riverside development in Deptford on the former Henry VIII Royal Dockyard known as Convoys Wharf. The Port of London Authority was created to bring order to the chaos and congestion that prevailed on the Thames as rival wharfs, docks and river users battled for business in the late 1800s.

In the statement the PLA state that they would like to see ‘expeditious progress with reactivation of the wharf’. They are in touch with a number of potential operators.

The PLA support the use of the river to ship construction materials and they expect to be consulted on this.

On Tuesday 9th June and the early hours of Wednesday 10th June 2020, Lewisham Council’s Strategic Planning Committee met to discuss the first phase of the development since Boris Johnson determined the planning application himself at City Hall whilst he was Mayor of London. He held a reprentation hearing on 31st March 2014 to listen to concerns. Cllr Alan Hall was present and he had led the Lewisham Council non executive councillors who had agreed that the use of the river for construction materials and waste from the commencement of the project should be used to manage and mitigate construction impacts.

Surprisingly, Boris Johnson agreed with the Council’s representation that the Build the Lenox Project – a vision to build a replica wooden ship in the historic dockyard – was important. However, he granted the application and passed it back to Lewisham Council to sort out the details of implementing his decision.

“The approach to Sayes Court fails to provide a meaningful green link between the site of the Gardens with the remains of Sayes Court House. The opportunity to link these two historically significant spaces should be fully explored. The Lenox preferred building location is either within the Double Dry Dock or Olympia Warehouse. These options need to be explored further, as does the future use of the Olympia Warehouse and an agreement reached on the deliverability of the double dry dock or Olympia Warehouse as options for constructing the Lenox.”

Lewisham Council’s formal response in 2014 led by Cllr Alan Hall
Promises made to reflect the historic and strategic importance of Deptford

Port of London Authority Statement:

“Convoys Wharf is currently safeguarded by ministerial direction and planning policy protects it for waterborne cargo handling use (policy 7.26 of current Plan – Sl15 of emerging London Plan). As part of the Mayors Safeguarded Wharves Review (2018), the safeguarded wharf boundary for Convoys wharf is recommended to be reduced in size to reflect the extant planning permission for the site (Ref: DC/13/83358). The PLA supported this proposed change, whilst emphasising the requirement for the site owners and partners, including the PLA to expeditiously progress with reactivation of the wharf.

The GLA hearing report (March 2014) on the overall redevelopment strongly features the requirement to reactivate the wharf (which would be located at the western part of the application site) stating the overall redevelopment was acceptable.

And that the location of the Wharf provides a viable, flexible and commercially attractive environment for a range of potential river freight operators. The PLA is aware of interest from several operators about reactivating this as an operational wharf. The PLA wish to work with all stakeholders to achieve this.

We point out the S106 agreement for the overall development requires that “every 6 months commencing no later than 18 months prior to anticipated completion of Phase 1, the owner shall request details of suggested potential wharf operators….using it for waterborne freight handling uses from the PLA, GLA and the Council”. The PLA is keen to ensure this forms a key part of the overall project plan for the Convoys development.

Turning now to the specific recent applications for plots 08 and 15 (both southeast corner of site) and plot 22 which comprises the proposed riverbus terminal. We understand the planning committee discussed all three plots and plots 08 and 22 were approved. Plot 15 has been deferred.

Plot 15

The PLA made representations on this in May 2019.

We emphasised the need for the design to take into account potential impacts (eg noise) of the adjacent wharf (once reactivated) on future occupants of the building. We highlighted the need for the development to progress in line with the Agents of Change principle, set out in para 182 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and policies D12 and Sl15 (water transport) of the emerging London Plan.

The PLA also requested further information regarding use of the river as part of the construction stage. The previously submitted site wide Code of Construction Practice (CoCP) referred to the potential for bulk deliveries and material removal using the Thames. It further stated the client and their consultants would explore river use with all contractors to achieve this. The CoCP stated the volumes of river movements would be determined on a phase by phase basis to confirm river use was economic and viable. The developer committed to investigating for each phase or sub-phase a strategy to maximise river use where reasonably appropriate. It was not clear from the submitted documents for plot 15 whether this process was carried out.

The submitted Remediation Strategy for the application stated the contractor will produce a works specific Construction Phase Environmental Management Plan (CEMP). The PLA emphasised this must include full consideration of using the Thames as part of the construction phase of the development and that this form a condition as part of any planning permission.

The PLA’s position on these matters is unchanged.

Plot 22

The PLA initially raised an objection (Aug 2018) due to the lack of a Navigational Risk Assessment (NRA) in the submitted documents. However following discussions between the PLA and the applicant – including on the need for freight operators to be involved because of the close proximity of the safeguarded wharf to the river bus terminal – the scope of the NRA was agreed. An appropriately worded condition was also agreed. Further issues were also discussed and agreed to be dealt with via condition including on riverside lifesaving equipment.

Plot 08

The PLA raised no in principle objection to the proposals for plot 08 (July 2018). However – as with plot 15 – we emphasised again the importance of using the river during the construction stage of the development.

Deptfords narrow and congested streets by the River Thames

Lewisham Council has clarified some frequently asked questions here:

1.     What arrangements will there be for using the wharf for the the delivery and removal of construction materials and to limit traffic through Deptford’s narrow streets in this area?

This was addressed in the outline approval.  Condition 44 requires the submission of a code of construction practice for each plot or phase and needs to include details of arrangements for the use of the river for construction.

2.     Will there be a proper cycle path along the riverbank and pedestrian footpath? The Thames Path is well loved and a new development is a great opportunity for a proper cycle path as well.

Yes – this was secured in principle in the outline approval

3.     Has the Port of London been involved in the decision making process? What do they say?

Yes – their comments are reported in the committee reports in the P22 officer report at paragraph 6.29

The full text of this paragraph says:

  1. No objection subject to the following issues being managed by condition
  2. The Navigational Risk Assessment (NRA) for the proposed river bus terminal and consultation with freight operators. It would be helpful to confirm that depending on the outcome of the NRA, the final position of the terminal may need to be amended.
  3. Provision of Shoreside Safety Measures
  4. Requirement of further assessments mentioned in the jetty structural assessment (part 2.6 of the assessment)
  5. Ecology statement (Timber fenders) and lighting strategy (sensitive lighting strategy) conditions

4.     Have all the formal conditions of the planning permission granted at City Hall in 2014 been discharged or satisfied?

No – not all are required to be discharged by this point.  The committee reports outline what conditions have been discharged in table 8 in the P22 officer report, table 11 in the P08 officer report and table 10 in the P15 officer report.

5.     What was the final formal agreed decision of the Strategic Planning Committee? I would not wish to misquote or misunderstand this.

Plot P22 was approved subject to additional informatives.  Plot P08 was approved subject to additional conditions/informatives.   An informative note allows the local planning authority to draw an applicant’s attention to other relevant matters – for example the requirement to seek additional consents under other regimes.

Lewisham Council’s Strategic Planning Committee reconvened on Monday, 22nd June at 8pm and approved the remaining application subject to a condition on ‘pepperpotting‘ the affordable housing.

Cllr Paul Bell said that London Affordable Rent was social housing and this has prompted questions in the past.

Here is the exchange of letters between the then, Mayor of Lewisham Sir Steve Bullock and the then, Mayor of London Boris Johnson. This outlined the Lewisham Strategic Planning Committee’s concerns in 2014.

It is interesting to note that Boris Johnson heeded the advice of his officials and refused to meet the Mayor of Lewisham directly on a planning matter he was to determine and referred the representations to his trusted Deputy Mayor, Sir Edward Lister former Leader of Wandsworth Council.

In the news: South London Press





Councillor Alan Hall said he was ‘gobsmacked’ when Millwall FC Chief Executive Steve Kavanagh gave him the thumbs-up to a request for support for a new venture to save and transform the Riverside Youth Club in Deptford.

The Labour Mayoral candidate wrote to Mr Kavanagh to ask Millwall Community Trust to join a partnership between Youth First – Lewisham’s mutual youth service provision – and Lewisham Council.

The partnership bid would have the potential to lever in significant funding from the Football League and the Premier League’s Communities Strategy which would improve, invest and transform the Riverside into a thriving Community Club Hub.

Cllr Alan Hall said: “To be honest, Millwall and I have been a bit of a mutual fan club ever since I and other colleagues opposed the Council’s plans to compulsory purchase the land around the Millwall stadium for the development company Renewal. Chairman John Berylson said that if it went ahead, the club would have to consider moving to another borough where it had more control over its own land and destiny.

“So I was expecting a sympathetic ear and some vague promise for the future but I was gobsmacked when I got a firm yes! This isn’t just some extra money – this fantastic scheme would improve the quality, participation and diversity of the current youth provision.

“As I told Steve, It is no exaggeration to say that this bid could have a significant impact on the lives of young people in Deptford and change them for the better. For that reason, I am prepared to work tirelessly to support this scheme and work closely with MFC to bring it about. Everyone’s a winner in this scheme but the biggest winners are the young people of Deptford.”

Cllr Alan Hall went to the Pepys Estate in Deptford directly after hearing the news from Steve Kavanagh, Millwall FC Chief Executive.

Local residents were overjoyed to hear that real investment in their youth service would happen.

Riverside Youth 2
“Alan, if I was wearing a hat I’d eat it. Thank you Alan. We never get anything round here. They just keep taking from us.”  Carole Deptford resident (Pepys Estate).


The letters from Councillor Alan Hall and Steve Kavanagh, Chief Executive Millwall FC can be read in full here

In the correspondence, Steve Kavanagh says that there is a threat to Millwall FC staying in Lewisham. The BBC have reported this here 

Youth First is Lewisham’s mutual youth service. It is the lead organisation for youth work in Lewisham and provides services like adventure playgrounds and youth centres.

*Newsflash:  Millwall FC have confirmed that their Board of Directors will support this project in The Mercury


Youth First HQ - Bellingham