Tagged: deptford

Are Boris bikes finally coming to Greenwich? The mayor backs it…

London's new hire bikes feature the Dome - even though there are no terminals near North Greenwich

The Dome features on the new London Cycle Hire branding – but you can’t pick up a bike there

The prospect of London’s cycle hire scheme coming to Greenwich came a step closer this morning after mayor Boris Johnson backed a proposal to bring the scheme to the area.

While the ‘Boris bikes’ – formally Santander Cycles after a recent change in sponsor – are a regular sight in Greenwich, it is impossible to hire or dock a bike in the area.

Instead, visitors take bikes from stations close to Island Gardens and take the bikes through the Greenwich Foot Tunnel, or they cycle from docking stations closer to Tower Bridge.

The scheme has largely avoided south-east London – despite poor transport connections, particularly around Walworth, Camberwell and Bermondsey – pushing out instead to east London and more affluent parts of west and south-west London. But Greenwich’s status as a tourist destination could now help bring the scheme to the area.

Asked by Conservative Assembly member (and Tory mayoral hopeful) Andrew Boff if TfL would consider three to five stations in Greenwich, Johnson said he would back an expansion to Greenwich – with a larger number of terminals.

Presumably 45 terminals would be enough to fill the gap between Tower Bridge and Greenwich. The answer’s a surprise as TfL has appeared to have been prioritising filling in gaps in the existing area rather than expanding the service further.

Later, Boff gave credit to Greenwich Tory councillor Matt Clare – probably Woolwich Town Hall’s keenest cyclist – for coming up with the suggestion.

Boff also asked about a wider expansion towards New Cross and Lewisham, and suggested asking Network Rail for money as such a scheme would help mitigate the effect of the Thameslink works at London Bridge. We’ll find out a fuller answer to that in the coming weeks.

Could this actually happen, though? It’s likely to end up in the next mayor’s in-tray, and it’s worth noting that past expansions of the cycle hire scheme have required local boroughs to contribute £2 million each – are Greenwich, Lewisham and Southwark up for that? The bikes are largely used by tourists and more affluent commuters – but that hasn’t stopped Greenwich, which has stepped up its cycling efforts in the past year, giving funding to Thames Clippers. Other boroughs may take different views.

The level of expansion is also worth considering. The hill separating Greenwich from Blackheath could be a natural barrier (although being hilly hasn’t stopped an identical bike hire scheme taking off in Montreal), but the mayor’s involvement in redevelopment schemes in Greenwich Peninsula and Woolwich’s Royal Arsenal could see even further expansion.

Santander’s new branding includes the Millennium Dome, even though it’s impossible to hire or dock a bike there. Incidentally, Green Assembly member Darren Johnson has asked TfL to investigate a walking and cycling connection from the peninsula to Canary Wharf – a connection that would make the extension of the hire scheme to the peninsula a no-brainer.

If the hire scheme is extended, private hire operators could lose out for the visitor market – tourists can hire less cumbersome bikes from Greenwich’s Flightcentre for £4/hr, but recent changes to the hire scheme now mean Boris bikes match that price.

An expansion to Greenwich is by no means a certainty, but it’ll be interesting to watch how this plays out in the weeks and months ahead.

Fix the 53: Petition demands bus runs to Whitehall once again

A 53 to Lambeth North
Back in January, this website noted the sudden cut to bus route 53 caused by roadworks by Westminster Bridge. The service stopped running the full length of its route to Whitehall, depriving many local workers, from cleaners to civil servants, of their usual route to central London.

The diggers have moved away from Bridge Street, but initial dates for the restoration of service in March and then April have been missed. Transport for London blames new works at the Elephant & Castle for continuing to stop the service at Lambeth North. However, no other bus through the Elephant is suffering such a severe cut in service.

Local politicians have been strangely silent on the matter – at least in public – although I do know Woolwich Common’s Labour councillor David Gardner has raised the issue with Transport for London, citing the number of low-paid workers who use the bus.

Now the Charlton Society (declaration of interest: I’m on its committee) has launched a petition to get the route back to is full strength once again. To sign it, visit Change.org.

Whitehall cut – TfL takes temporary axe to route 53

53 at New Cross Gate, 15 January 2015

The 53. Everybody loves the 53. It finds the parts of south-east London other links with the centre of town can’t reach – even if it isn’t allowed too near any fun spots any more (Routemasters ran to Camden until 1988, it last reached Oxford Circus in 2003).

The Plumstead to Whitehall service is also a vital connection for those who can’t or won’t pay expensive rail fares – from London’s army of service workers to those who simply appreciate a door-to-door connection with a view from the window.

It’s these people who’ve borne the brunt of fare rises under the current mayor – up from 90p in 2008 to £1.50 today. And for them, it’s about to get worse still. Travelling on the 53 yesterday, I noticed this message…

“From 17th Jan, route 53 will terminate at Lambeth North.”

Being cut to Lambeth North? From Saturday? No consultation, no notice, no explanation? I fired off a few tweets to see if anyone could work out what was going on.

It turns out things aren’t as bad as the scrolling message would indicate – the cut is a temporary one to facilitate roadworks at Parliament Square. I’m indebted to transport expert Paul Corfield, who passed on this from TfL this morning:

BRIDGE STREET/PARLIAMENT STREET, SW1 ROUTE 53: from 0415 Saturday 17th of January until Sunday 29th March, buses terminate and start at Lambeth Palace due to closure of Bridge Street SW1 for utilities work and carriageway resurfacing.

It’d nice if TfL had given us a bit more warning, of course, and maybe even talked it over with local representatives. At least it’s a temporary cut, but it’s going to be a painful one for many – especially with other connections with central London in turmoil.

But it’s worth watching this like a hawk. London Transport tried to cut the 53 back to the Elephant & Castle in the late 1990s, arguing that the new Jubilee Line extension meant it was no longer needed. I’m sure TfL would love to try that again if it knew it could get away with it. It helped that back then, local MP Nick Raynsford was a regular on the 53, as it provided a near-door to door link from his home to Parliament. In the end, express buses were axed – heaven knows they’d be useful now.

Indeed, the often-packed 53 really needs a modern-day champion. Frequencies were cut when the 453 was introduced in 2003 and haven’t been improved since, with successive mayors concentrating on the other service. The big groups of passengers changing from the 453 to the 53 at Deptford Bridge tell their own story.

So the news isn’t as bad as it first appears. But if you value a bus to central London, it’s certainly worth keeping an eye on.

5.25pm update: Thanks to Neil for sharing the email he had from TfL in the comments below – the curtailment won’t apply overnight, so from midnight to 6am buses will still depart from Whitehall. The arrangements, worryingly, are “until further notice”.

The Guardian’s redundant row over Deptford’s Job Centre pub

There are many terrible things going on in south-east London right now. The rise in the number of people forced to use food banks. People young and old are being forced out of our area because of a lack of affordable housing. Stupidly-priced, ugly speculative housing developments appearing everywhere to line the profits of a select few. The politicians who’ll happily sacrifice communities’ health and well-being to drive new roads though our neighbourhoods, instead of delivering the public transport we sorely need.

But according to The Guardian, the worst thing going on in south-east London right now is the name of a pub.

The Job Centre Deptford, 6 June 2014

The Job Centre opened at the beginning of June. I popped in on its first night – in its first half-hour, as it happened. The staff were still figuring out how to work the tills, a spark was sorting out a final bit of work with the electrics and some brick dust still sat on the tables.

I only planned to pop in for one, but I soon gained good company and stayed for a bit longer. By the time we left, the place was doing a healthy trade – hey, some dancing had even broken out. It had the kind of mixed crowd you’d expect from somewhere in Deptford, with a dog curled up on one of the chairs. It felt like the place had been open for years. This’ll be a hit, I thought.

My only worry was the place had barely been decorated. And from the upstairs gents’ toilets, people in the flats opposite had a view right into the cubicle. Awkward.

Job Centre, Deptford, 6 June 2014

I tweeted a few thoughts about the pub, and somebody asked me if I thought the name was offensive. At first, I had my doubts about the name. The place was a job centre until 2010, and was then was squatted on and off – it looked like it was having a riotous party the day of the royal wedding in 2011. Pub firm Antic agreed to take on the site in January 2013, under the name “The Job Centre”.

Antic had clearly based the pub’s logo on the 70s/80s Job Centre design… but nobody did anything naff like making cocktails named after benefits. There’s a little pin board up where people could advertise local vacancies – but essentially, it’s just a boozer.

The Job Centre, June 6 2014

Maybe I’d have called it the Mercury (after the newspaper once based upstairs), but Antic names its new pubs after the buildings they used to be. (Coming soon: The Woolwich Equitable.) It’s common for new pubs to be called after their buildings’ former uses, and a job centre is part of the urban landscape. And anyway, if they’d called it something else, plenty of locals would have just called it “the old job centre” anyway. If you were looking to piss people off, you’d call it the Moustache and Ukelele.

Effra Social, Brixton, September 2013

Effra Social, Brixton

(Indeed, if there’s an Antic pub I’ve found a teensy bit dodgy, it’s the Effra Social in Brixton – a former Conservative club which is a fine place for a drink, but still has pictures of the old club’s members on the walls. If that was my Tory grandad’s picture left up for the amusement of guffawing drinkers, I’d want to have a few words with the owners.)

Scroll forward five weeks, and the Guardian’s Comment is Free ran this on Wednesday morning from Jane Elliott, “senior lecturer in contemporary literature and culture at King’s College London and a resident of Deptford”.

Guardian Comment is Free

Gentrification? Irony? Behave, it’s a bloody pub, and one whose name has been known for 18 months. Brockley Central has dealt with this piece’s failings better than I could, although it’s worth emphasising this line from Elliott:

“Many of those moving into neighbourhoods such as Deptford – myself included – would prefer not to see themselves as part of the wave of displacement…”

Yeah, right. Some well-paid incomers are more worthy than others, eh?

Anyway, there was some sound and fury on social media, largely generated by people who’d never visted the place, branding the Job Centre some kind of hipster hell. Which it certainly wasn’t the night I visited. Nowhere on Deptford High Street is like that.

Someone at the Guardian didn’t want this to blow over, though. On Wednesday evening, a news story appeared.

Guardian, 9 July 2014

So, five weeks after the pub opened to a packed crowd of locals, it faced a backlash over a name that’d been known for 18 months. Eh? Something smelt fishy about this (and it wasn’t the whiff from the other end of the high street).

Strangely, the story didn’t refer back to the Guardian piece that kicked it all off. Instead, it referred to an “open letter” written by one… Jane Elliott.

Guardian, July 9, 2014

So Jane Elliott is actually from Lewisham People Before Profit, the political party which tried to take over the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign earlier this year.

A nice publicity coup for them. LPBP’s main public face, former Lewisham Conservatives vice-chairman, estate agent and political chameleon Ray Woolford, was understandably delighted.

Ray Woolford, Twitter
Ray Woolford, Twitter
Ray Woolford, Twitter

Funny, though, because back when the Job Centre pub opened, Ray was wishing them luck:


Thanks to tweeter @Chimpman for the screengrab.

So if the whole thing was a publicity stunt from People Before Profit, what about the local outrage? Well, the report didn’t come from a Guardian news reporter, but carried the byline of culture reporter Hannah Ellis-Petersen. I asked her on Twitter if she’d visited the pub, and she didn’t respond.

I wonder, though if she approached the story with an open mind…

Hannah Ellis Petersen on Twitter

It also carried the byline of Helena Horton, the editor of a student newspaper in York. She did answer my questions, saying she interviewed locals “around the area outside the pub”. Like this one:

Guardian, 9 July 2014

How many job centres look like this?

Job Centre, Deptford, 6 JUne 2014

While the Job Centre row is a decent publicity coup for Lewisham People Before Profit, pointing fingers at a pub’s name isn’t going to find people homes they can afford to live in, or jobs that pay a decent wage. Indeed, Woolford appeared to be hoping the pub would close – adding to the dole queue.

The sad thing is that there is a debate to be had about gentrification – from the absurdity of places like Peckham’s “Bellenden Village” enclave to the local politicians who appear to resist nice things in their wards out of fear of attracting middle-class incomers. It’s a debate with many grey areas and one bound to reveal your own personal prejudices.

Maybe we can have a chat about it some day – at the Guardian’s own hipster coffee bar

6pm update: “It’s great to have a new local…” Crosswhatfields’ take on the Job Centre, including the curious case of the Lewisham Council-subsidised supper club…

Postcode plotters eye escape from Deptford to Greenwich

"West Greenwich" sign, Creek Road, Deptford

There’s much to be proud of in Deptford these days. A thriving creative community, one of London’s most distinctive street markets, a rich naval heritage and the feistiest community spirit this side of the Thames. Or, indeed, on their side of Deptford Creek, which is what divides Deptford from its eastern neighbour, Greenwich. I’ve been doing a bit of work alongside the Don’t Dump on Deptford’s Heart campaign lately and been hugely impressed with their tenacity and determination to defend their neighbourhood. What’s not to like?

One oddity, though, is that Deptford has long been split between between two boroughs. In 1900, the parish of Deptford St Paul went to form the Metropolitan Borough of Deptford, while the parish of Deptford St Nicholas became part of the Metropolitan Borough of Greenwich. In the 1960s those boroughs became Lewisham and Greenwich, and in 1994 the boundary was moved slightly to the east, shifting Convoys Wharf – the old royal dockyard – into Lewisham borough.

Despite all this change, the creek has always been the boundary between Deptford, SE8, and Greenwich, SE10. But despite living in a unique and rather special part of London, some residents want out. They want to be considered part of Greenwich.

Deptford petition

They’re clearly confused.

Deptford petition

Sorry chum, the border down Watergate Street is the Lewisham/Greenwich borough boundary. The border goes just past the SE8 delivery office for Royal Mail, funnily enough. Just like it runs down the middle of Blackheath Village, too – and they’re not demanding to be called “Greenwich”.

But who are the culprits? Estate agents, who’ve sold properties in SE8 as being in “Greenwich” for years, and the highways department of Greenwich Council, who stuck a sign outside Sainsbury’s in Deptford a couple of years ago bearing the legend “West Greenwich”. Mind you, it originally said “East Greenwich”, so what do they know?

Deptford petition

And then there are bits that as as wrong as the petitioners’ geography. Greenwich charges a lower rate of council tax than Lewisham – the average Band D in Greenwich is £1,283.91, in Lewisham it’s £1,363.35. I’m not really sure another £1.50 a week on your council tax will have an impact on your house price.

Deptford petition

Another falsehood. Your postcode alone cannot affect your credit score.

Deptford petition

But if you live in Deptford, the nearest town to you would be… Deptford.

Deptford petition

Is that legally possible?

Deptford petition

I live in Charlton. Can I have an SE10 postcode, please? And so on.

Ah-ha! Here’s Dave to put ’em right.

Deptford petition

Of course, we all know postal areas have their quirks – ask residents of SE13 who pay council tax to Greenwich and SE10-dwellers who pay to Lewisham. And Royal Mail almost always refuses these requests anyway. So maybe the ideal solution to this was proposed over two decades ago, when Deptford Power Station was still standing and Greenwich borough extended up Evelyn Street, and the boundaries were being reviewed.

Local Government Boundary Commission Review, 1992

Now you see, if only the boundary commission had taken up Lewisham’s suggestion – our friends wouldn’t be so confused today. As it stands, they’ll just have to move house if they want to live in Greenwich – just like everybody else.

Or they can learn to love Deptford. From the Housewives’ Cash & Carry to the Build The Lenox campaign through London’s newest vinyl record shop/cafe/gallery – I’m sure it won’t take long.

Sunday update: Also worth seeing Transpontine’s take on this.

Convoys Wharf: Deptford in dread after mayor Boris takes charge

Convoys Wharf from Greenwich
It’s a development which will have massive implications for Greenwich, yet there remains surprisingly little concern east of the creek about the enormous plans for Deptford’s Convoys Wharf, which will tower over the views from Greenwich Park and Cutty Sark Gardens (above).

With three enormous towers of 26, 32 and 40 storeys, the plans would change the skyline forever; and by squeezing 3,500 homes onto the site (3,000 likely to be sold abroad, just 12% going to the local community), riverside Deptford would be transformed. Into what, though, nobody quite knows.

Furthermore, this isn’t just any old patch of derelict land – this is the site of the first royal dockyard, founded in 1513, and arguably the beginning of Greenwich’s links with royalty. The site’s now on the World Monuments Fund’s watch list.

So, it was right and proper that Lewisham Council took its time on the scheme. Until Hong Kong-based developer Hutchison Whampoa threw a wobbly and went running to Boris Johnson, that is.

Now the mayor has decided to call in the application himself, taking the decision away from Lewisham Council and putting it in his hands. Considering Johnson’s track record in backing big developers, and his recent trip to China, you could forgive those who think this one of the more whiffy decisions to come out of City Hall.

It’s not as if critics don’t have alternative ideas for the site. Diarist John Evelyn once kept a legendary garden here. Campaigners want the site to include a recreation of Sayes Court Garden. Most excitingly of all, the Build The Lenox project wants to have a visitor attraction here, centred around building a Tudor era warship in the old dockyard.

At the moment the historic dockyard at Deptford has no working links with its wonderful history. Building a ship which was a significant part of the dockyard’s past would regenerate the area and help restore the eminence Deptford once enjoyed. It would also help bridge the maritime cultural gap with Greenwich. For a modest entrance fee, visitors would be able to see the ship being built and some of the traditional skills used to build her. They would experience all this in close proximity to structures that were contemporary to her construction, such as the Master Shipwright’s house and other surviving buildings.

While locals were hoping Lewisham Council could force Hutchison Whampoa to incorporate these ideas into the Convoys development, Johnson’s intervention puts all this at risk.

As well as the Lenox site, there’s also an excellent analysis of the issue at Deptford Is…. Anyone who cares about Greenwich should be caring about this issue too – because the consequences of what happens at Convoys Wharf will be felt far beyond a small corner of riverside Deptford.

Evening Standard damns Deptford to back Convoys Wharf

Evening Standard, 2 May 2013
New plans to redevelop Convoys Wharf in Deptford are about to be submitted to Lewisham Council, so London’s monopoly evening newspaper very kindly copied and pasted one of the developers’ press releases.

Why would London want another Shoreditch, for heaven’s sake?

(Cliche watch: It’s nine years since the Standard called New Cross “the new Hoxton“.)

Anyone on the east side of Deptford Creek who hasn’t been keeping up with the Convoys story should be brushing up on it now. With 46-storey towers looming over the riverfront, and 3,500 new flats – with the only new transport infrastructure being diverted bus and river bus routes – this makes recent plans for Greenwich and Woolwich look like child’s play.

It’ll have a huge impact on the Greenwich town centre heritage site, but the wider effect on the local infrastructure threatens to be even more damaging than some of the other poorly thought-through developments in this area. See the Deptford Dame for more.

But hey, new Shoreditch!

Evening Standard, 2 May 2013

“Not kept pace with those of other riverside areas,” eh? Silly Deptford for being Chelsea Harbour. Well, not yet.

Deptford Is… has much more informed Convoys commentary than I could ever provide, while for imaginative ideas of what to do with the Convoys site, take a look at the Sayes Court Garden project (which wants to recreate John Evelyn’s 17th Century garden) and Build the Lenox – a scheme to get the old dockyard building a ship again. Both ideas aim to build on the tourist appeal of Greenwich, and deserve support.