The Full Horror of the Tideway Super-Sewer Excavations at Deptford Creek and the Clear Need for All Housing Developments, Including Tidemill, to be Stopped

Save Reginald Save Tidemill campaigners photographed wearing gas masks to highlight the environmental costs of the proposed re-development of the old Tidemill school site, including the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden (Photo: Andy Worthington).Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.

 

In Deptford, in south east London, the Save Reginald Save Tidemill campaign that I’m part of is involved in a significant struggle against three aspects of the current housing crisis that are a microcosm of what is happening elsewhere in the capital and across the country, and that cry out for concerted resistance.

The first is the destruction of precious green space for a housing project that could easily be built elsewhere. The second is the destruction of structurally sound council housing, as part of the proposed development, that has no purpose except to do away with genuine social housing, and to replace it with a new form of allegedly affordable social housing that, in fact, is considerably more expensive and offers fewer protections for tenants. The third involves issues of pollution and environmental degradation that are already at crisis pint, and that will only get considerably worse if councils’ and developers’ mania for ‘regeneration’ continues unchecked.

On this third point, the work of campaigners — who have been occupying the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden since August 29, to prevent its destruction — has successfully enabled large numbers of people to understand that the garden (created 20 years ago as a beautiful landscaped garden for the local primary school, and leased to representatives on the local community for the last six years, since the school closed and moved to a new site) is an important bulwark against the horrendous pollution on the nearby A2 and also on Deptford Church Street, a dual carriageway that is one of two main routes to Greenwich and that also provides access to the Rotherhithe Tunnel. Read the rest of this entry »

‘No Social Cleansing in Lewisham’: After Success of Gig in Deptford on Nov. 12, Campaigners Plan to Stage Events in Other Boroughs

No Social Cleansing in Lewisham! A logo for the campaign made by Lilah Francis of the Achilles Street Stop and Listen Campaign.Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.

 

It was hard to move in the legendary music pub The Birds Nest in Deptford on Sunday night. I’d arranged a benefit gig there — also intended as a consciousness-raising event, and an opportunity for all kinds of different campaigners to meet — under the umbrella heading, ‘No Social Cleansing in Lewisham’, and it had proved to be so popular that the place was rammed, with sets from the acclaimed spoken word artist Potent Whisper, my band The Four Fathers, playing punky political rock and roots reggae, the theatrical singalong politics of the Commie Faggots, the talented Southwark-based rapper Asher Baker, Deptford spoken word artist Agman Gora passionately tackling current crises, the massed voices of the Strawberry Thieves Socialist Choir, and the ukulele-wielding women of Ukadelix, with their wonderful vocal harmonies. Check out all my photos here.

I organised the event because I’d become aware that the plague of modern London — social cleansing by, predominantly, Labour boroughs — was starting to make its baleful presence felt in the borough of Lewisham, where I live, in south east London. This is not to say that Lewisham had previously been impervious to this greedy, class-based curse. The monstrous Lewisham Gateway development in the heart of the borough had begun with the destruction of a council estate, the Sundermead Estate, and the council is also currently involved in the long-running destruction of two estates on the border with Greenwich, Heathside and the wonderfully Brutalist Lethbridge Estate (which I’ll need to write about soon, as I can find absolutely no criticism of the estate’s destruction online, and very few photos), as well as demolishing the extraordinary Excalibur Estate of post-war prefabs high in the back streets of Catford.

The Four Fathers playing at 'No Social Cleansing in Lewisham' at the Birds Nest pub in Deptford on November 12, 2017.However, compared to its rapacious neighbour, Southwark, Lewisham is not yet a fully paid-up member of the Premier League of social cleansers. Lewisham’s biggest imminent project is the redevelopment of Convoys Wharf, a historically significant wharf on Deptford’s shoreline. This insulting effort to recreate Dubai at the end of Deptford High Street on the site of Henry VIII’s great dockyard is profoundly disappointing, but it doesn’t involve the destruction of people’s homes, whereas Southwark Council, at the Heygate Estate, working with the Australian-based international property developer Lendlease, has destroyed an estate of 1,034 socially rented homes, replacing them with 2,704 new homes, but with only 82 for social rent, and is currently undertaking similar destruction on the Aylesbury Estate, one of Europe’s biggest council estates, with Notting Hill Homes, a former social housing provider that has eagerly responded to government cuts by becoming an enthusiastic private developer. Read the rest of this entry »

As Boris Johnson Approves Monstrous Convoys Wharf Development, New Campaign Opposes 236 Planned Towers in London

I was rather pleased that I was out of the country when Boris Johnson, London’s Mayor, announced on March 31 that he was approving plans for the development of Convoys Wharf in Deptford, because, in a city overrun with soulless riverside developments, designed almost exclusively for wealthy foreign investors and unaffordable for ordinary Londoners, it is a particularly depressing example, and one that, for me, is close to home, as I live just up the road from Deptford.

The 40-acre riverside site has been vacant since 2000, when it was closed by its last owner, News International, which used it as a dock for importing newsprint, and, since 2002, developers — initially NI itself, and, since 2005, the Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa, which bought the site off NI — have been trying to gain approval for a Dubai-style high-rise residential development on the site, consisting of 3,500 homes, featuring one 48-storey tower, and two 38-storey towers, far higher than anything else on the shoreline for miles around.

Normally, Chinese businessmen with £1bn to spend on luxury housing on London’s riverfront don’t have to wait for years to have their plans accepted, but the problem with Convoys Wharf is that it was and is a place of great historic importance — the site of the first of King Henry VIII’s Royal Dockyards, which was first developed in 1513 to provide ships for England’s rapidly expanding Royal Navy. Read the rest of this entry »

Petition: Tell Boris Johnson Not to Approve the Monstrously Inappropriate Development Plans for Convoys Wharf in Deptford

Please sign the petition on Change.org, asking London’s Mayor, Boris Johnson, not to approve a £1bn plan to turn Henry VIII’s former Royal Dockyard at Convoys Wharf in Deptford into a luxury, high-rise housing development that would be more at home in Dubai.

All over London, housing developments that are unaffordable for the majority of Londoners continue to rise up, and equally unaffordable new projects continue to be approved. Councils are either cash-strapped and desperate, or they are seduced by developers’ promises that their developments will be of benefit to the community at large, even though the entry level for luxury developments is a household income of £72,000, way above the £53,000 that even a couple on the average UK income (£26,500) can afford. When you consider that the median income in the UK is £14,000 (the one that 50 percent of people earn more than, and 50 percent earn less than), it’s easy to see how the entire situation is out of control and is doing nothing for local people, or the majority of hard-working Londoners.

Down the road from where I live in south east London is Deptford, a vibrant but not affluent part of the London Borough of Lewisham, with a huge maritime history. Where Deptford meets the River Thames is the largest potential development site in the borough, Convoys Wharf, a 16.6 hectare (40-acre) site, which most recently was News International’s paper importing plant for printing Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers. Murdoch’s operation closed in 2000, and, since 2002, developers have been trying to gain approval for a massive luxury housing development on the site, featuring 3,500 homes — 3,000 of which will be sold “off-plan” to foreign investors — and including three towers rising to 40 storeys in height. Moreover, just 15 percent of the homes will be what is laughingly described these days as “affordable” (at 80 percent of market rents, these rents are actually unaffordable for most people), and just 4 percent will be for social rent (i.e. genuinely affordable) — that’s just 140 properties out of the total of 3,500. Read the rest of this entry »

Beautiful Dereliction: Photos of the Thames Shoreline by Convoys Wharf, Deptford

From the Thames by Convoys Wharf, a view of Canary WharfArtistic ruins by Convoys WharfThe river wall by Convoys WharfBricks on the shore by Convoys WharfThe pier in the rainPillars and pipes by Convoys Wharf
Chalk pebblesThe road to the riverThe pier by Convoys WharfAragon Tower from the shoreline by Convoys WharfUnderneath the pierThe river wall by Convoys Wharf
A forest of pillarsSand, wall and skyWheelMetalWoodBone
The ladder and the wallThe silent forest of timber and concreteThe river wall looking eastSky, wall and sandOnce a treePillars

Beautiful Dereliction: The Thames Shoreline by Convoys Wharf, Deptford, a set on Flickr.

Regular readers might recall that, three weeks ago, I posted a set of photos of Deptford, the lively, historically important and frequently maligned area of south east London, between Greenwich and Rotherhithe along the River Thames, and also reaching inland up the River Ravensbourne (which is known, as it nears the Thames, as Deptford Creek). The set was entitled, “Deptford: A Life By The River Thames,” and in it I had the opportunity to discuss Convoys Wharf, a vast, derelict riverside site (40 acres, or 16 hectares) of huge historic importance, which, for the last ten years, has seen developers queuing up to turn it into some kind of inappropriate high-rise housing development for bankers and international investors, intended to include over 3,500 new homes for 9,000 people with the money required to buy into a project that is estimated to cost a billion pounds.

In that set, I also included a handful of photos from the shoreline in front of Convoys Wharf, where there is a listed pier, incorporated in the plans for the site, but only to be tarted up as though it were new , and — as has already been proposed — to serve as the location for a ferry to Canary Wharf, where many of those who would live in Convoys Wharf would, presumably, be working. Read the rest of this entry »

Photos of Deptford: A Life By The River Thames

Convoys WharfConvoys Wharf: the protected warehouseTwinkle ParkThe broken pier and the cruise shipPeter the GreatThe cruise ship
Canary Wharf from DeptfordThe cruise ship and the tugHMS OceanHughes House, Deptford GreenDeptford footpathBenbow House, Deptford Green
Benbow Street, Deptford GreenAt the heart of Deptford GreenPaynes & Borthwick WharfCanary Wharf from Paynes & Borthwick WharfPaynes & Borthwick Wharf from the shore in DeptfordCanary Wharf from the shore in Deptford
The green wallAragon Tower from the shore in DeptfordThe Isle of Dogs from the shore in DeptfordAragon Tower and the Thames

Deptford: A Life By The River Thames, a set on Flickr.

In May, when I first conceived of the notion of travelling the whole of London by bike, taking photos to compile a portrait of the city at this troubling time in its history (caught between the Olympics and its role as a harbour for the global rich on the one hand, and on the other subjected to the Tories’ ruinous and ideologically malignant “age of austerity”), the first places I visited were Greenwich and Deptford (or see here), down the hill from my home in Brockley, in south east London.

Greenwich, of course, is internationally renowned, and deservedly so, as it is the home of the Royal Observatory (and the location of the prime meridian), and is also the home of the recently renovated Cutty Sark tea clipper, and the splendid Royal Naval College.

Deptford, in contrast, Greenwich’s westerly neighbour and the site of the former Royal Dockyard, is unknown to many Londoners, and has few obvious attractions beyond its two historically significant churches — the Church of St. Nicholas on Deptford Green, where the playwright Christopher Marlowe is buried, and the Church of St. Paul, located off Deptford High Street. Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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