In 2011, plans to redevelop Convoys Wharf were resurrected by Hutchison Whampoa, the new owner of the huge site on the Deptford riverside. An outline planning application to build up to 3,500 residential units on the site, which was the former Royal Dockyard, was under consideration by Lewisham Council.
In September of the same year, a group of local residents who had grave concerns about these plans met for the first time and decided to launch a campaign, under the name Deptford Is..
We held a 'planning objections workshop' in September to explain the developer's plans and help objectors to formulate responses that could be sent to the council.
Our main objection was that the masterplan proposed to obliterate any sign of the site's significant heritage. Although the developers were obliged to retain one building (the Olympia shed) and 'preserve in situ' the underground remains of the Tudor storehouse building and the double dry dock, the proposed layout of the site did not respect the extensive remains of the dockyard structures that we suspected remained on the site just below the surface.
We proposed a number of community-led projects relating to the heritage of the site - both the dockyard and John Evelyn's manor house Sayes Court with its extensive gardens. These schemes, which include the Lenox project and Sayes Court Garden, are intended to offer wide-ranging benefits to the local community, in terms of educational and training opportunities, as well as offering a permanent connection to the history of the Deptford dockyard and the adjoining land.
An extensive archaeological dig on the site revealed that the remains of the former dockyard structures were indeed much more extensive than thought. Many of the slipways and dockyard basins remained largely intact just a few feet below ground level, as the public were able to witness during open days in October 2011 and March 2012 at the site.
At the end of October 2011 we presented our alternative vision at a public meeting and open day at the Master Shipwrights House on Watergate Street. Many of the local community attended the event along with councillors and our MP Joan Ruddock, and the feedback was unanimously positive.
We began to garner support not only from local people, but also from national bodies such as the Naval Dockyards Society, the Council for British Archaeology and the Garden History Society, who wanted to support our alternative vision for the site.
In November 2011, English Heritage branded the proposals for the site 'a missed opportunity' to create a sense of place, particularly in the light of the extensive archaeological remains that had been uncovered.
The same month, Lewisham Council's planning officers revealed their dissatisfaction with the masterplan, and effectively made it clear that the application as it stood would not be recommended for acceptance.
In March 2012 Hutchison Whampoa held a high-profile 'community consultation' day at the Convoys Wharf site, attended by the boss of the company's European division, Edmund Ho, and architect Sir Terry Farrell who had been appointed to develop a new masterplan for the site.
Representatives of Deptford Is.. and the Sayes Court Garden and Lenox projects were invited to present their ideas to the audience; MP Joan Ruddock voiced her support, and Sir Terry Farrell confirmed his commitment to listen to our suggestions and use them to inform his new masterplan.
In July 2012 a public exhibition was held at the Deptford Lounge at which ideas and proposals for the revised masterplan were put forward. We were disappointed at the lack of progress from the previous masterplan, by the fact that the revised proposal was presented on a very extensive 'ground level' model which we felt was deliberately deceptive, and by the poor publicity of the exhibition. You can read our full response in this blog post.