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 »
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 »
While Tyrants Sleep: Canary Wharf at Night, a set on Flickr.
On November 14, 2012, as I explained in my previous photo set, “Curious Insomnia: A Journey through Deptford and Millwall to Canary Wharf at Night,” I decided, at 1am, to cycle from my home in Brockley, in south east London, down through Deptford and Greenwich, and through the Greenwich Foot Tunnel to the Isle of Dogs, where I cycled through Millwall, via the former docks and South Quay Plaza (and the DLR station) to Canary Wharf, the multi-towered financial centre and underground shopping complex that has been sucking the lifeblood out of the rest of London since it overcame its early wobbles under Margaret Thatcher and John Major, and became a magnet for dodgy unregulated bankers and obsessive materialists during the reign of Tony Blair.
It is, in fact, a place which, as Owen Hatherley explained in an excellent article for the Guardian last year (which I also drew on here), is responsible for “the most spectacular expression of London’s transformation into a city with levels of inequality that previous generations liked to think they’d fought a war to eliminate.” Read the rest of this entry »
At 1 am on November 14, 2012, I decided to take a late night bike ride to Canary Wharf, the modern mutant offspring of the City of London. The City is an ancient lawless zone, but it is now rivalled by the lawlessness of the Docklands project initiated under Margaret Thatcher, which expanded hugely under Tony Blair.
Canary Wharf, which I first photographed here, fascinates and repels me. Its towers, with their horribly ostentatious show of wealth, and their disdain for even vaguely concealing how much money can be made through devious behaviour that ought to be illegal — and in many cases is — are visible from almost everywhere, and are particularly dominant from all over south east London, where I live. However, while the buildings are, in some ways, architecturally impressive, that is not all that calls out across the miles when One Canada Square and its phallic companions are glimpsed from afar. The wealth they display is also meant to intimidate and/or dazzle those mere mortals — the majority of us, in other words — who earn in a lifetime what well-paid bankers take home in a year.
I’ll be analysing Canary Wharf further in the article following this one, which features the photos I took in the heart of Canary Wharf. In contrast, this set features the start of my journey, through Deptford and Greenwich, including Deptford High Street, which stands in total contrast to the wealth and rarefied shopping malls of Canary Wharf (which I photographed here). I then cycled through the Greenwich Foot Tunnel, and took photos in Millwall, and also of Millwall Inner Dock, South Quay DLR station and the mainly residential developments around them, including the Pan Peninsula towers, luxury high-rises that deliberately scorn the ordinary humans below, with their promotional material celebrating those who “inhabit a private universe.”
Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed — and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr (my photos) and YouTube. Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in April 2012, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” a 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, and details about the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and available on DVD here — or here for the US). Also see my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and please also consider joining the new “Close Guantánamo” campaign, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.
Deptford and Rotherhithe on New Year’s Day, a set on Flickr.
On New Year’s Day, from 11.30pm until 1am on the morning of January 2, I decided to take a bike ride around my neighbourhood, in part because I’m almost permanently enthusiastic about cycling and taking photos at night, but even more particularly because I’d taken a late night bike ride down to Greenwich in the early hours of New Year’s Eve that had been so enjoyable that I could hardly wait to do it again.
So just before midnight on January 1, after tidying the house following our annual family Hogmanay party, I set off down the hill from Brockley in south east london, where I live, thinking that I might visit the River Thames in Greenwich (a favourite destination), although after reaching Deptford — one of my favourite haunts — I surprised myself by not travelling to the river, but heading north along Evelyn Street towards Surrey Quays in Rotherhithe, in the London Borough of Southwark. Surrey Quays was created as part of the huge Docklands redevelopment in the 1980s, which forever changed the face of Rotherhithe. This is an area of London that was once full of docks, and although it is a great shame that south London lost almost all its docks and canals in this period, there are places in the Surrey Quays redevelopment area that were wonderfully successful — Russia Dock Woodland, in particular — which feature fleetingly in this set. I also have other photos from summer that show more of the area, which I hope to publish soon.
This is the 71st set in my ongoing project to photograph the whole of London by bike, which I began in May last year. I’ll be away from London’s streets for ten days now, as tomorrow I’m flying to the US for events in New York City and Washington D.C. to mark the 11th anniversary of the opening of the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo, and to call on President Obama to fulfil his promise to close the prison, which he made when he first took office four years ago.
For a change, if you’re interested, have a look at the photos I took in January last year — in New York, in Washington D.C., and in San Francisco and Chicago — and, although the occasion of my visit is a thoroughly depressing affair, I’m looking forward to having the opportunity to talk about the importance of closing Guantánamo, and I’m also looking forward to being reunited with old friends, and taking photos.
Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed — and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Flickr (my photos) and YouTube. Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in April 2012, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” a 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, and details about the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and available on DVD here — or here for the US). Also see my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and please also consider joining the new “Close Guantánamo campaign,” and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.
Christmas in London, 2012, a set on Flickr.
Best wishes for the holiday season to those following my work, or to anyone who has just stumbled across it. This is a selection of Christmas-themed photos that I’ve taken over the last month during my journeys around London, as part of my ongoing project to photograph the whole of London by bike, which I began in May this year.
This is the 69th set of my London photos, and it was fun to go through all the photos I’ve been accumulating from my almost daily journeys, large and small, over the last month, picking out those with a Christmas theme — from locations in north London, in central London and the City, on the Isle of Dogs and at various places in south east London, where I live — including my home in Brockley, and also Blackheath, Camberwell, Deptford, Greenwich, Honor Oak, Lewisham and Rotherhithe. Read the rest of this entry »
South East London At Night: Tunnels, the River and the Surrey Canal, a set on Flickr.
As part of my ongoing project to photograph the whole of London by bike — and specifically as the last part of five photo sets recording various autumnal journeys around my home in Brockley, in south east London — the photos collected here record a journey I made on the evening of November 12, 2012, for around two hours, from 9 to 11 pm. This is the 65th photo set in my project, and see here, here, here and here for the previous four sets.
Beginning at my home in Brockley, I cycled down the hill through Lewisham and the edge of Deptford to Greenwich, and then down to the River Thames at Cutty Sark Gardens, along the Deptford shoreline, past Deptford Green, and on to the derelict site of Convoys Wharf, where there are horrible plans to build a £1 billion mini-city for the rich. I then travelled inland to Evelyn Street, the main road that runs to Surrey Quays. Read the rest of this entry »
Greenwich Early and Late, a set on Flickr.
As part of my ongoing project to photograph the whole of London by bike, this, the 63rd set I’ve posted, contains photos taken in Greenwich, in south east London, in the early morning and after dark, on two recent trips — the first after an epic journey from Limehouse Basin up the Limehouse Cut and the Lea Navigation to the Olympic Park at Stratford and beyond (which I hope to post soon), and the second in the early morning of the following day, after a good friend helped me liberate my bike from where I had left it overnight, when my key snapped off in the lock.
Celebrated in and of its own right, as a maritime centre and a former royal residence — as well as a venue for this year’s Olympic and Paralympic Games — Greenwich is the most significant tourist destination in suburban south east London, with its many attractions — the Cutty Sark, the Royal Park, the Observatory and the Royal Naval College, for example, as well as other attractions like St. Alfege Church and Greenwich Market, a covered market for artists, craftspeople, food vendors and antique sellers, which plays a major role in ensuring that Greenwich is not plagued by a surfeit of the same bland corporate chain stores that have taken over almost ever major population centre in the country. That status, however, is in doubt as the owners are determined to “regenerate” the market, which will only allow corporate raiders to take over and destroy Greenwich’s character. Read the rest of this entry »
When Night Falls: Lewisham, Greenwich and Deptford, a set on Flickr.
This photo set — the 62nd in my ongoing project to photograph London by bike — follows on from the previous set, in which, just a few weeks ago, I recorded a particularly warm and vivid sunset from Hilly Fields, the hill-top park near my home in Brockley, in south east London. After the sun had finally dipped below the horizon for good, I made my way down the hill for a quick circuit of the other areas close to me that are a source of enduring fascination for me — Lewisham, the centre of the borough, and Greenwich and Deptford, both of which meet the River Thames at their northern edge.
With the sky darkening, this was a fascinating journey — through some of Lewisham’s back streets and industrial sites that took on an eerie beauty at night, and then down to Greenwich, where I took photos of some of that famous borough’s celebrated pubs and other sights — including St. Alfege’s Church and the Cuttty Sark by the river — before moving on to Deptford along the path beside the Thames, and a return journey via Deptford High Street, the least corporate high street in London, which was still buzzing with independent life despite the late hour. Read the rest of this entry »
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 »
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