Friday, 20 June 2014

Have your say on how £50m is spent! Wed 25th June

Convoys Wharf Community Group have organised a meeting for locals to have a say in how the Section 106 monies to be awarded to Lewisham Council by the developer of Convoys Wharf might be spent.

Wednesday 25 June • 7.30 – 9.30pm • Deptford Lounge

Everyone welcome!

The group has been set up by Pepys Community Forum and the Department of Social, Therapeutic and Community Studies at Goldsmiths College.


Friday, 2 May 2014

New pollution survey in South East London

Some members of Deptford Is... took part in a Citizen Science air pollution survey in January and February, along with other local residents and supporters of the Don't Dump On Deptford's Heart campaign. Unfortunately it took two months for the lab to process the results, so we didn't get them back in time to support the oral evidence provided by objectors at the Convoys Wharf hearing at City Hall on March 31st.

Under DEFRA guidelines and with assistance from the Network for Clean Air, we put up diffusion tubes all over Deptford to measure the levels of nitrogen dioxide in the air. At the same time, the No to Silvertown Tunnel campaign put up tubes up across Greenwich borough and parts of Lewisham. The residents both paid for and conducted the survey with additional funding from local charity Deptford First via Joan Ruddock MP.

We have now published the results and the figures are horrifying. Almost every site we monitored is over the EU legal limit of 40µg/m³. Many were double the legal limit.



With so much construction due to take place in the next few years, pollution levels are set to soar and threaten the health of all who live, work and study here. Hundreds more construction vehicles will be using the A200, Deptford Church Street and the A2. But developers in Deptford are in a unique position to use the river to transport spoil and materials, and must be encouraged to do so at all costs.

NO2 levels on the A200 (Creek Road and Evelyn Street) were as high as 74µg/m³. At Deptford Park School the reading was 68µg/m³. The roads that will be used by Convoys construction vehicles are already highly polluted (55µg/m³ at Grove Street and 40µg/m³ at New King Street). The developer must be forced to use the river and do everything within their power to avoid creating even more pollution. Other new construction projects on Evelyn Street and on the Southwark borders should be taken into consideration.

The A2 in Deptford is even worse, with readings of 95, 98 and 110µg/m³ – well over twice the legal limit! Deptford Church Street had readings as high has 84µg/m³ where it meets the A2. If the Thames Tunnel proposal on Deptford Church St goes ahead, the planned partial road closure will cause gridlock. The proposals also include 17,400 lorry movements on Deptford Church Street over three years. Ironically, at Thames Water's originally preferred site by the river at Glashier Street, the pollution level was very low (only 14µg/m³).

Developers on Creekside must be made to use Deptford Creek rather than increase pollution on Creekside and Deptford Church Street. Proposals for 90 HGV movements a day along Creekside at one development will endanger the lives of local residents, and these vehicles will exit Creekside onto Deptford Church Street where the reading was 62µg/m³.

In due course, we plan to combine these figures with local authority data to get a fuller picture of air pollution across the area. The results have also been passed to Lewisham Planners who are in continuing discussions with the GLA and Hutchison Whampoa. The GLA must be made aware of the horrific cummulative impact of all the construction work going on in Deptford to inform their conversations with the developer.

You can see the Deptford results here.  
The Greenwich & Lewisham results are here. 
Both are combined in a map on the No to Silvertown website.

The No to Silvertown campaigners believe that the proposed Silvertown Tunnel will make the problems caused by the Blackwall Tunnel worse rather than better. TfL has predicted a 20% increase in traffic using the tunnel approaches if the tunnel is built, while the Mayor of London has said the capacity will be doubled. Although Deptford's traffic problems are presently exacerbated by whatever goes wrong on the A102, No to Silvertown argue that increasing capacity there can only make matters worse for us.  

Thursday, 17 April 2014

21 years of urban change in Deptford

Has the Tide Turned? 'Regeneration' Then and Now
Friday 25th April, 3.30–8pm, Deptford Town Hall Council Chamber

It is almost 21 years since Deptford's most popular history book "Turning The Tide – A History of Everyday Deptford" was published, and this event hopes to explore what has happened in the intervening two decades.

The Centre for Urban and Community Research (CUCR) at Goldsmiths College would like to invite local activists, local organisations, academics, residents, and government officials to this free event where you can share stories of the “regeneration” of Deptford.

The publication coincided with the start of CUCR’s evaluation of the Deptford City Challenge programme which began the now seemingly endless initiatives to 'regenerate' our town (often with negligible benefits for the residents and increasing profits for developers).

The aim is to discuss the recent changes in Deptford, but also to think about the possible futures for the area. The programme includes a seminar on "the changing face of regeneration in London" with several speakers as well as Turning the Tide author Jess Steele (3.30-5.30pm); screenings, sound interventions & "creative responses" + refreshments (5.30-6pm); followed by workshops on subjects such as Arts & Culture, Housing, DIY Deptford and Convoys Wharf (6-8pm).

For more information and to register to take part, please click here.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Mayor passes application – with conditions

At City Hall on Monday 31st March, the Mayor of London passed the outline planning application for Convoys Wharf after what he called "a marathon session but very, very interesting and educational". It had been hoped he might give more time over the next few days to deliberate the decision, allowing Lewisham Council the opportunity to negotiate better terms, but he returned after half an hour to deliver his judgement in favour of the applicant. He did, however, add two conditions that he thought would assist the two community heritage projects, which he said "have a great deal of merit and are both intrinsically attractive".

Although the developer had only last Friday evening offered the Lenox Project £20k for a feasibility study into the uses of the Olympia building and the Protected Wharf with the proviso that both might be ruled out, one of the Mayor of London's conditions is for a feasibility study with the proviso "that there should be an agreement on the part of the developer to contribute to whichever of these options is the most feasible".

The other condition was for the GLA, Lewisham Council and the developers "to look at the space in the existing park (the council-owned Sayes Court Garden in Grove St) and the wider development, to ensure that there is a viable and deliverable project". So neither project is yet home and dry, but both appear to have the support of the Mayor of London.

Further amendments sought by Lewisham were not forthcoming.

A GLA webcast of the hearing can be viewed here (Mac users may have to download and install an extra bit of software here first). Objector's representations can be found roughly a third of the way through, followed by questions from Boris about halfway through. There is then an intermission followed by Boris's decision at the end. 


Below is a report on the hearing.

THE OBJECTORS:

Lewisham Council
Sir Steve Bullock said, "if we get it wrong now, we won't have the opportunity again in our lifetime." He argued that the heights around the Olympia building "should be reduced, their siting changed to give it a generous and respectful setting" and noted with regard to Sayes Court Garden and the Lenox Project that "the current proposals do not...provide either the space needed to deliver them or a commitment to ensure that they create an enduring legacy". He said "the risk remains that these community projects will be shut out and the energy and enthusiasm they have generated will be lost". He reiterated the council's concern that TfL's current assessment lacked any detailed traffic modelling, and welcomed the addition of a 'financial review mechanism' (negotiated by Lewisham) that will allow the securing of additional affordable housing as the scheme's 'viability' (profit for the developer) improves. He urged Boris "to take just a little more time to ensure that these issues can be addressed and resolved satisfactorily".

Pepys Community Forum
Malcolm Cadman began by noting that Convoys had historically been a big local employment site but would not now offer any real employment opportunities. The scheme was aimed at foreign investors and there was little affordable housing. The proposed towers were too tall and atypical of the area. He drew attention to the petition published the previous day in The Observer (London skyline statement: 200 towers threaten to destroy city's character) and suggested that the density of the development would make Deptford "super dense".

Pepys Tenants Action Group
Dave Fleming noted the poor consultation with the community on this scheme and how the developer's had failed to engage. He pleaded for less density, especially in light of the additional developments going up in the area.

People Before Profit
Ray Woolford asked that the affordable housing provision be protected so that it doesn't in future end up in the hands of buy-to-let landlords. He requested that the GLA begin Air Quality Monitoring of the area immediately, to be continued throughout the 13 year construction period, and said "London's health must be put before off-shore profit". He wanted all local residents, many of whom are in fuel poverty, to also benefit from the cheaper SELCHP waste transfer energy that the development will use. He wants the applicant to address Lewisham's 55% youth employment and make sure jobs go to real local residents rather than cheap foreign labour getting moved onto the site to live in sheds under the guise of living locally, as happened with the Olympia Park construction.

Local resident on Transport
Echoing Lewisham Council's concerns, Helena Russell said the applicant's research had been "woefully inadequate". Their transport assessment used "outdated information", lacked "robustness", and risked creating a "perfect storm" for our local transport network. Car parking provision is well above that which is acceptable for other developments, the Public Transport Accessibility Levels (PTAL) were poor, hard to improve and inadequately addressed. New residents will resort to driving, creating extra traffic that will undermine bus services – immediate and robust analysis of the local highways should be given the highest priority. Additional factors include no firm commitment to using the river for construction materials, future changes to the Greenwich line train service, and the Mayor's proposed Super Cycle Highway on Evelyn Street.

The Lenox Project CIC
Julian Kingston drew attention to the Great Basin in front of the Olympia building, one of the many buried heritage assets, which he described as "potentially the one remaining dynamic element in front of a static landscape". The architects place the Olympia building at the heart of the development, but the "future uses proposed would not offer a meaningful link to the river, nor engage and educate the local community, nor attract tourism and offer a legacy". The Lenox Project would provide a legacy for the heritage assets, of craftsmanship and training, and for historic shipbuilding. As "living history" the project would draw in visitors to use the retail and restaurants the applicant proposes to build. To encourage shipbuilding, John Evelyn entrusted his land to the Admiralty on condition that a keel should always lie in a slip. The Lenox should be that keel.

Sayes Court Garden CIC
Nic Durston (National Trust) described how the National Trust had formed from their founders attempts to save Sayes Court Garden. The NT fully supports their proposals and requests for flexibility to allow their ambitious plans to be realised. As one of the directors of the community interest project, Bob Bagley reported how their work with the NT, the Eden Project and Harvard University had demonstrated the need for a Centre of Horticulture here "to help us prepare and adapt to the new challenges our city faces in the 21st century". Research conducted by the NT showed that one hectare was required, but the applicant had only been able to offer half of this. The project had put forward a solution which would not impact on the parameters of the masterplan which they hoped the applicant could be flexible enough to adopt.

Dame Joan Ruddock, MP for Deptford
Dame Joan spoke in support of the two community projects and said that years of expertise had gone into designing them, and their presentations today set out what they need to make them a reality. Without them, the Mayor would be asked to approve a development that would  obscure most of the heritage of this site forever. They were not offering "dusty static museums, but living enterprises that honour the past whilst embracing the future".



SUPPORTERS:

A representative from the developer's team then spoke on behalf of the applicant Hutchison Whampoa. No one else spoke in support.

MAYOR'S QUESTIONS:

Housing

Boris also acknowledged Londoners' fears that such schemes, which cause such huge disruption to locals whilst being built, should be to the advantage of Londoners. Who would the homes be aimed at and marketed to? The applicant replied they'd be marketed in the normal way – to Londoners, (and tellingly), "the same as elsewhere". They are working with London & Quadrant to deliver the affordable housing, but "they aren't 100% signed up yet". There is an agreement to use the council's affordability criteria. Sir Steve Bullock explained that if the rental is at 80% the applicant would offer more units, "but that wouldn't help us in terms of the housing need in the borough. With a smaller number, we will have genuinely affordable rents. That doesn't mean that we're happy with the total number. That's why we've asked for a review mechanism." Boris agreed that it would be "absolutely crazy not to come back and have another bite of this".

Johnson noted that there were quite a lot of objections to the "design and massing and height" but the council had not specifically objected on those grounds. Steve Bullock said they were more concerned at this time about reducing heights around the Olympia building. (Lewisham had already negotiated lowering heights on the outskirts of the development).

Later in his summing up, Johnson said, "It's obviously a scheme that's been a very long time in gestation, 13 years nothing much has been happening on that site, you've got a huge housing shortage in London, there's a real crying need to get development done, this has the prospect of three and a half thousand homes and 1500 jobs and I listened very carefully to the representations that were made to me about the height impact, about the architecture, and I listened, obviously, with particular attention to the views of the council and Sir Steve who I very much respect, and clearly I didn't hear passionate objections against the height…certainly not against the principle of development – that is supported, and indeed the quotient of affordable housing was thought by the council to be broadly acceptable in view of the other constraints that the site faces".

Jobs

Boris noted the objection that the jobs created "wouldn't be the right sort of jobs" which wouldn't go to local people. The applicant replied that it wasn't going to be a major office location, but there would be creative industries, reduced rents for start-ups, plus service industry jobs in the shops, restaurants and hotel. Boris suggested that the Lenox Project would "bring in lots of people". He possibly meant in the form of skilled jobs, but the applicant took this to mean 'visitors' and replied, "That's absolutely right...and we have a strategy for the Olympia Building which is to use the building much more diversely than for the Lenox". There were heckles of "Shops!" from the gallery. The applicant went on, "it's built on the Spitalfields/Covent Garden type model where we can have lots of ad hoc events, destination activites, some cultural facilities...rather than a single use that the Lenox is". There were heckles of "No, it's not!" from the gallery. And "shops!"

Social Cohesion

Boris asked Lewisham Mayor Steve Bullock what he had meant by 'social cohesion'. Sir Steve pointed out that prior to the current ownership, a larger amount of Section 106 monies had been suggested and Lewisham would like to return to that figure. The risk was that the development would be an 'enclave' and more money would enable the council to support a wider range of programmes that would alleviate this. A proper pro-rata amount would be £2m towards a 'community trust' that could be endowed to local projects, but the offer from the applicant was for only £0.25m.

They also wanted a greater contribution towards ensuring jobs went to local people, and the developer was disputing additional payments towards secondary school education. Lewisham's Head Planner John Miller said, "a certain sum is promised but the rest is dependent on 'viability'. Our view is that we currently have a primary school crisis and that will turn into a secondary school crisis, so that money should be assured".

Boris responded, "So you're down on the cohesion fund? Is this where negotiations have faltered? Have you squeezed this lemon dry?" John Miller that they were grateful that the GLA officers had speeded things up, but "we just think there's a little bit more to go". Boris replied, "Right, what about now?". Miller said, "that's fine if you'd like to agree those payments that would be excellent". Boris then replied "Oh I don't think I'm allowed to do that actually. I've been told I can't, regrettably".

Transport

Boris had noted: "loss of PTAL, disruption during building – moving vehicles, how much by river? car parking? Too many cars?". He deferred to one of his planners, who agreed "The offer's not that great." But he said there were three ways they could improve on it – with a new route for the existing bus service, a pedestian route to train services and a new pier for river services. He thought it was sufficient. £4m was allocated to local highway improvements. "We're not there now on the modelling but we've got an agreement to work on that". Parking levels are in accordance with the London Plan.

Boris asked again about moving things by river and whether that was 'conditioned in' to which the answer was, "We'll be pressing the applicant to maximise use of the river." Boris brought up Air Quality Monitoring, and the GLA planner agreed this was also factored into the Section 106.


(to be continued...)














Sunday, 23 March 2014

Can the Mayor of London make the right decision?

Update: 24th March 2014: The GLA's 'Representation Hearing Report' is published and can be read and downloaded here.

The Mayor of London has announced that the representation hearing for the planning application to redevelop the former Deptford Royal Dockyard at Convoys Wharf will take place on 31st March at 4pm at City Hall. At the hearing there will be a 15 minute period for supporters and objectors to restate their case for and against the planning application in front of the mayor himself. Not long then!

The Mayor has five days from the 31st March to announce his decision if he does not pronounce at the end of this hearing.

Previous to this, Hutchison Whampoa have recently submitted some very minor revisions to its masterplan and the GLA invited comments on them, the deadline for which was 20th March (last Thursday). Only two working day later, on 24th March (this Monday), the GLA officers responsible for assessing the application will publish their report into the application, which will include a recommendation to the Mayor.

The consultation on the revisions was the first invitation from the GLA for those affected by the development to comment. They did not, in other words, invite comments on the application in general, since they are already taking into account the comments received by Lewisham Council back in May-July 2013 after the application was first submitted to them in April.

Perhaps the exceedingly short period between the GLA's deadline for receiving comments on the revisions and publishing their recommendations to the Mayor reflects the generally held opinion that ANY revisions to this application will be welcomed by all concerned.

It seems very unlikely that the Mayor will go against the GLA officers' advice unless he wants to make a particular political point (which he could and should do since almost everything about this application goes against the policies of the London Plan). Based on the correspondence we have read, and a couple of meetings that local projects Build The Lenox and Sayes Court Garden have been present at, we believe that the GLA intends to recommend that the mayor approve the scheme – despite the fact that English Heritage have still to publish a report on the applicant's limited archaeological findings.

Download this local objection that comprehensively reiterates all the reasons why this scheme cannot be allowed to proceed in its present form. It includes points raised by statutory bodies such as English Heritage and the Council for British Archaeology and is informed by Lewisham's planning team, and quotes specific references to the Mayor's own London Plan policies. It outlines just how much of his own vision the Mayor will be ignoring by passing this application. 

Read on below our response to the minor revisions and the Mayor's 'call-in' process.

The revisions

Of course we welcome the revisions, but they are exceedingly minor considering the size of the scheme. (Let's not forget the applicant, Li Ka Shing, is the 8th 20th richest billionaire in the world).

Lewisham Council, having rejected the application but also being a statutory consultant on it in the GLA's hands, seem to have been relatively successful in challenging the developer's notion of 'viability' that allows for a little bit more affordable housing. But it in no way represents a return to the 35% (or possibly more) that would have informed their agreement with the developer that goes back to 2006, to build "up to 3500" units which would have allowed for 1,000 new affordable homes in north Deptford.

The Sayes Court Garden project has managed to get the proposed school (known as 'Plot 17' that was planned to be built over the footprint of John Evelyn's gardens) incorporated into the adjacent residential block (Plot 16), but as yet there is no offer in writing for Sayes Court Garden CIC, and no agreement to let them build their Centre of Urban Horticulture that would make sense of their entire project. An offer of sorts has only just been made by the applicant to the Lenox Project (for a place on the site that is unworkable) just two days before the GLA report is to be published.

Building heights have been lowered by just one floor at the eastern border of the site that overlooks the Master Shipwright's House (which will become a public building in the future), but there is absolutely no concession to reducing heights elsewhere. In fact, this reduction in heights will mean an increase elsewhere.There are no changes to the heights of buildings in front of the Olympia. English Heritage are totally infuriated that the view of the Olympia building remains obscured from the river and overshadowed by tall buildings.

Lewisham have been successful in attempting at this stage of the application to build in some flexibility to the 'parameter plans' for the three tallest buildings on the site that would have otherwise have been set in stone. Lewisham wanted a lot more than this (read their report here). They were particularly concerned about the issues of over capacity on the road and public transport networks that are still to be addressed.

The fact is, hardly anything in this application can be improved unless the developer's insistence on 3,500 flats is sensibly and comprehensively reduced. Since the only reason for this development is as a financial vehicle to make money for investors (foreign or otherwise), there can be little hope of Coalition soundbites about Localism having any basis in reality.

The planning process

The Mayor called in the planning application before Lewisham had made a decision on it. His decision on Convoys will set a precedent for the other schemes he has called in since then, and will also have implications for other sensitive redevelopments in London. The London Assembly has recently questioned the Mayor about his stripping of London boroughs' right to make planning decisions by using his power to 'call-in' large planning applications. He has already called-in five schemes in the past year. In many cases, Johnson has been 'calling-in' applications before the local authority in question has even had a chance to examine them.

Darren Johnson, Chair of the London Assembly, said, "The recent acceleration in the number and speed with which the Mayor is taking over planning decisions from boroughs...puts developers and investors before local democracy". The Assembly's motion listed 11 applications – including Convoys Wharf – and said that on many decisions, the Mayor has ignored legitimate borough concerns about issues such as inappropriate density and very low targets for affordable housing.

The Mayor's call-in essentially puts the decision-making power in the hands of one person, which we feel is incredibly undemocratic and inappropriate for a project of such magnitude and significance. It undermines the government's argument for Localism, and takes the decision-making away from local people.

Not only that, one of the things that has become clear to us during the last few months is that the GLA planning department is not equipped to handle this sort of decision-making. Usually the mayor's planners simply comment on planning applications which are being handled by local authorities. They are rarely called upon to make decisions, particular on schemes of such magnitude, and as a result they appear to be under-resourced and unclear about the process.

We also question whether the procedure is fit for purpose. Since the call-in, only minor revisions have been made (which the developer claimed as 'significant concessions') for which there were only three weeks to comment on. The planners cannot possibly have read and digested any additional submissions, let alone incorporate them into the report they intend to publish within two days of that deadline closing, and the hearing will be held (and the decision made) a week after the report is published. Objectors will have just seven days in which to read the report, digest its implications, and formulate responses before the hearing. This seems to be indecently hasty.


Saturday, 22 March 2014

Top John Evelyn scholar backs Sayes Court Garden project

Mark Laird is Senior Lecturer in the History of Landscape Architecture at Harvard University and the foremost authority on John Evelyn. He has recently written to the Mayor of London from Harvard Design School with respect to the Convoys Wharf application and in support of the proposals from Sayes Court Garden CIC:

"It is impossible to overstate the significance of Sayes Court and the history of John Evelyn's life and work at the site that is under threat of irreversible development. Over the past twenty years, I have written three scholarly articles on Evelyn at Sayes Court. My forthcoming book, A Natural History of English Gardening (Yales University Press, Spring 2015) will open with a chapter on his significance as horticultural and technological innovator and as environmental policy maker. His Fumifugium (1661), Sylva (1664) and Acetaria (1699) laid the groundwork for a sustainable London of the 21st century – clear air, tree canopy, and food in the city.

"The Greater London Authority has shown leadership through policy documents (from London Biodiversity Action Plan and East London Green Grid Plan to the March 2012 report, London World Heritage Sites – Guidance on Settings). These documents are in line with the  new UNESCO Recommendation on Historic Urban Landscape (HUL, November 2011), which seeks to integrate 'policies and practices of conservation in the built environment into the wider goals of urban development'. In the Foreword to the March 2012 GLA document, Boris Johnson reiterates the importance of London's built and natural heritage in benefiting 'our economy, culture and quality of life'. Sayes Court is the test case for his claim: 'How we manage this dynamic juxtaposition in ways that respect the past, while welcoming the future, will be a mark of our success in maintaining London as a really world class city'.

"The arguments in the 'Sayes Court Garden Programme and Analysis' report (February 2014) – and especially the modifications to P16 proposed in the 26 February 2014 statement – are built on very solid foundations. As you are aware, the Sayes Court Garden website features my own reconstructions of Evelyns's parterre and grove, which, until the better winter of 1683/4, lay immediately adjacent to his manor house. The archeaological site plan of Stuart Structures may look insignificant, yet the trace of the garden wall on the west side of the important vestiges of the manor house and the trace of the dockyard perimeter wall on the east side are absolutely critical to what I have reconstructed. The proposed P16 block would forever destroy and cover over these traces and vestiges and obliterate the core of Sayes Court – the manor house that was the intellectual home of Evelyn's environmental vision.

"Creating, by the modifications to P16, a new Centre for Urban Horticulture on the archaeological site of the manor house is precisely the accommodation of the old within the new that the Mayor sees as a measure of success and that UNESCO would deem a model for Historic Urban Landscape. The Centre would join other models of 'best practice' from around the world. Using the Evelyn cabinet of curiosity as a starting point for a modular and flexible layout of the garden spaces would unify the geometries of the blocks with the geometries of urban horticulture and forestry, mediciinal gardening, beekeeping and fruit growning, and greening technologies. The opportunity for local communities to benefit from learning about health and nutrition with environmental education at the primary school level makes Evelyn's teachings relevant now and for the future.

"The Royal Horticultural Society and the National Trust have both identified an acute skills shortage in areas that Evelyn would have understood when writing his Directions for the Gardiner at Says-Court in the mid-1680s. A Centre for Urban Horticulture, while training a new generation of local youth as skilled gardeners, could also become a centre of excellence in the fields of landscape urbanism and ecosystems performance. It could advance natural and cultural heritage studies in cooperation with the World Monuments Fund, English Heritage, National Trust, the Council for British Archaeology and the Garden History Society. In this vision for the Centre, the four pillars of sustainable development identified in the UNESCO statements on HUL – economy, ecology, community and cultural resources – are integrated in an appropriately holistic way: [HUL] seeks to increase the sustainability of planning and design interventions by taking into account the existing built [and natural] environment, intangible heritage, cultural diversity, socio-economic and environmental factors along with local community values'.

"The international community of scholars and practitioners is watching the debate over Convoys Wharf and Sayes Court with great interest and some anxiety. Will the GLA's guidance in the debate feature positively in textbooks to come as it has in the past in books devoted to biodiversity and climate-change planning? I, for one, am putting my faith in the Mayor and the GLA to reach the only right decision."

'History guy' Dan Snow defends Deptford Royal Dockyard

At the beginning of February, historian and Lenox Project patron Dan Snow issued a bleak warning that redevelopment plans for Convoys Wharf could wipe out the birthplace of the Royal Navy if approved in their current form.

“There are world famous naval dockyards right across Britain. Some of the finest museums in Europe can be visited in Portsmouth, Chatham and elsewhere, yet the place where it all began, where our maritime destiny took shape, is forgotten, and tragically ignored by the very city it did so much to shape. Deptford is where the Tudors decided to build naval ships to protect their ill-gotten kingdom from other invaders like themselves, and then to exploit the explosion in maritime activity that came with the discovery of sea routes to Asia and the Americas. Deptford is ground zero for the Royal Navy.

"The Lenox Project reconnects Londoners and all of us with a vitally important piece of our heritage. London grew rich because it was a port. Ships built at Deptford protected the trade on which London depended, and forged links between the growing city and the rest of the world. Today London is one of the earth’s most dynamic, outward looking, multi-cultural cities. That story starts at Deptford.

"This project is not just about preserving heritage. It is about creating the kind of international profile and draw that is impossible to replicate anywhere else. A block of flats, a nice looking office block is anonymous. They can be built from Shanghai to Seattle. Building a 17th century warship, on the site of one of the world’s greatest dockyards, a short distance from the beating heart of an international city, that is unique. The multiplier effect of interested people, scholars and tourists would be a major boon to the area, the city and the country.

"People travel across the world to see the Vasa in Stockholm, the Victory, Mary Rose and others in Portsmouth, the Intrepid in New York. This would compete with any of them. The Lenox Project illuminates not just the past but the future too.”