Will Deptford’s Convoys Wharf tower over Greenwich?

Yesterday’s DLR opening came on the network’s 24th birthday – and got me thinking back to how the Isle of Dogs was back in 1987, before it dominated our skyline, and when all Canary Wharf had was an old banana warehouse where TV programmes were made.

Back then, you couldn’t move in Greenwich for the furore over the proposed Canary Wharf development, which would tower over our historic view from Greenwich Park and ruin something which drew in millions from around the world. It was almost the NOGOE of its day. When One Canada Square finally opened, for years it sat alone thanks to the original developers going bust, a big ugly finger raised over our lovely view.

Now there’s a cluster of skyscrapers, it isn’t so bad – and from certain angles, it looks striking and impressive. But I can’t help thinking how much nicer the classic view from Greenwich would be if it simply wasn’t there.

But now Greenwich faces having three more skyscrapers on its doorstep, with plans resubmitted to Lewisham Council for three tower blocks of 40, 32 and 26 storeys at Convoys Wharf, Deptford. The site’s actually slap on the Greenwich/Lewisham border, but has had very little attention this side of the boundary. I wrote about it – and attitudes between Deptford and Greenwich – in December 2009, and since then most of the site has been flattened.

Perhaps these images, published by the Deptford Dame, might make people in SE10 sit up and take a bit more notice of what’s going on in SE8. They’re the renders showing the impact the tower would have on the surrounding area, with three reminding us it’d change many views from Greenwich.

What’s not shown is the impact on Cutty Sark Gardens, or on numerous run-of-the mill vistas in the area. These towers are going to be hard to escape. Already, the view from The Point is dominated by another development just over the boundary, at Deptford’s Seager building – now rebranded by Galliard Homes as the “Distillery Tower Greenwich“. Does it need another one?

There are big objections to this in Deptford, with some arguing this development will just sit behind brick walls and do nothing for the area (see the Royal Arsenal in Woolwich), and others putting forward an alternative vision that respects the site’s past as England’s first royal dockyard. Without Deptford dockyard, Greenwich may not have assumed such regal importance later on.

There’s more at Transpontine and Crosswhatfields, while Deptford Dame has summed up the proposals. Greenwich West‘s local councillors are registering objections to the scheme and would no doubt like to hear from you if you’re on this side of the border. Comments need to be with Lewisham Council by 27 September.

19 comments

  1. I never saw the view without the towers. Too young for that. But looking out now I think Canary Wharf looks great in that vista. It’s another chapter in the long history of London, and it’s one element among many all encapsulated in one view.

    As for the towers there I’m not averse to them there. The population is growing massively, and house building is at an all time low so housing in the inner part of London is needed. I’m concerned as to whether the designs are interesting, attractive, and provide decent housing for people at various income levels with good amenities. I need to look into that more.

  2. Towers are not all the rage. The problem with Canary Wharf and the towers is that it created a community within an older community and a community that doesn’t mix or want to employ the locals except in menial jobs. Much could be said the same of Woolwich Arsenal and of the developments in Deptford.

    Does London really want towers raging in to the sky whilst the people who live there contribute nothing to the local community and avoid shopping and everything else because it isn’t for them

    London is growing but that growth should be carefully planned because thirty to forty years time people will look back and say that Canary Wharf wasn’t how London should have developed.

  3. “contribute nothing to the local community”

    whilst some residents in Deptford may not contribute socially, the services charges in the development I am in is around 1.5k a year. Multiply that by 500 units and we are talking well over half a million pound being put into the local community – some of that may be cleaners, but also gardeners, painters, plumbers, pest controllers, window cleaners etc. Not to mention secondary services such as taxi drivers, takeaways/restaurants.

    Then on top of that we pay council tax – that’s another 500×1,000 to the council to fund local schools, refuse collection and other ‘social’ services.

    So please think before you say that building large modern developments in Deptford leads to no contribution to the area…

  4. Riverside developments in East and South East London have so far been mediocre in design and excluding of the local population. The dockyard is of enormous historical significance (see shipwrightspalace blog) and deserves better than this Dubai-ification. The developers aren’t proposing any improvements to the local infrastructure, roads etc., and if this goes ahead the effects of plonking 3,500 homes, three-quarters of which aren’t ‘affordable’, onto the Deptford riverside will be catastrophic.

  5. @myblog5553,

    Having lived in East London a significant number of years and living in the same borough that houses Canary Wharf these, I am just giving a personal view. These buildings created separate usually gated communities and employed high profile professionals not sourced locally because either the workforce locally isn’t skilled or experienced with the skill requirement. One argument about enterprise zones which CW was, is that they displace jobs to other areas and run rough shod pushing out local communities and pricing them out of the property market. Deprivation still existed deeply within East London side by side with Britain’s own version of Manhatten skyline.

    I don’t doubt you pay a lot in service charges but how much of your money really does benefit local people and the local economy. After all, would you shop in Deptford or Lewisham or do you prefer to shop where you work in One Exchange in the city or at Canary Wharf or somewhere else.

    The real bonus to deprived areas of private tower developments and I have to add some of them are terrible in design and look like pimples on the local landscape is if they lead to town centre redevelopment, new stores and lower unemployment. Evidence of this is scant and the fact remains looking at Deptford it has hardly any bank branches which would benefit you and the community because they are closing as they are not profitable for the banks to remain in business and instead more and more betting shops open a sure sign of deprivation increasing if ever there is one. That was my point.

    The residential buildings I have seen in Deptford are dire – they are horrible in my view

  6. Having lived at The Royal Arsenal I can tell you that the two main reasons for leaving were the distance to walk to the train each day and the quality of high st. People living in this development will feel the same as it’s a bit of walk to the station each day and the types of shops these people will want are not in Deptford.

    However we did shop locally for what we could but the type of pubs and restaurants we liked were simply not in Woolwich. It’s hard to support the local community if the local shops/restaurants/pubs don’t realise they need to lift there game to get the new customers in.

  7. They’ll have the dog and bell though in Deptford the lucky bleeders. You’re right though Scott that there isn’t enough to entice newcomers to Woolwich and places like that to spend much locally with the limited range of decent shops and eateries. My favourite places are those that have poundshops and cheap shops alongside delis so whatever you want at whatever price range you can find. Brighton and Bristol are good for being mixed like that.

  8. some resources to be aware of in in order to ensure that statutory policies and guidelines that we have already paid for are applied to the Convoy’s Wharf development. Let’s take heart from the Betfred victory on Deptford High Street and respond to the development proposals in an informed way that the Lrewisham Planners and the GLA will be duty bound to listen to.

    http://www.helm.org.uk/server/show/nav.19587

    http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/planningandbuilding/pdf/1514132.pdf

    http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/…/maritime-and-naval/maritimeandnaval.pdf

  9. John Shish said…
    It is as well to remember that the odious Murdoch is still lurking in the wings on this one,much though Huchison Whampoa would have you believe otherwise. He has a large profit-share when residential “units” exceed a certain number. This is one reason why the developer is literally cramming the site with housing.
    The other driver of the design becomes plain when you look at photos of the Hong-Kong waterfront,the site owner Mr Li Ka Ching’s home,the similarities are sickening. Rather unfortunate name,Mr Li’s, as I suspect there is a similar sound running through the minds of our Mayor,planning committee,and M.P. K-ching,K-ching,K-ching…all that lovely council tax to fritter and waste, and the bung and sweeteners we may never get to hear about.
    The real sickener though ,bearing in mind his culture, is his complete lack of respect for the ancestors,in this case our ancestors whose marine technology opened up the world. The earliest Royal Dockyard lies recoverable under this site and our muddled toothless quangos (English Heritage) and narrow-minded academics (museum of London) are doing woefully little to protect historic features,many of which are re-usable.Is more “bung” involved here I ask myself?
    Yet again the population of Deptford will be only expected to provide janitorial services,serve fast food and stay out of sight.
    Where’s the creativity,taste,pride,style and basic good design on a comprehensible scale,oh,and that rather unfashionable thing called civic pride Ah,too many egos in the way I fear.

  10. Personally, I see this as good news. It develops a derelict riverfront site, will provide many local construction jobs (even if they aren’t SE London-born – and it’s down to locals to make sure as many as possible are – they will be spending their wages living here), will provide several hundred new and well-paid customers to local services and continues Deptford’s rebirth as an up-and-coming destination.

    London is no longer the city it was 15-20 years ago when it was a tired and dirty also-ran among the world’s metropoli, eclipsed by the likes of Paris, Hong Kong, Singapore etc. London is now one of the premier global cities, matched only by New York, and something we should be acknowledging and maybe even celebrating instead of searching out niggling faults.

    I note the concerns that this may cause ‘island communities’ but is there a viable alternative? Should we instead match like with like and only regenerate run-down neighbourhoods with social/shared ownership developments, restricting upscale developments to existing upscale areas?

  11. Who are these ‘locals’ that people are talking about living in Deptford? The vast majority of people living in Deptford dont do so by choice and they are nearly all “from” somewhere else. These mythical “locals” are either from elsewhere in the UK (im from York) or are from Africa or Asia either way their major identity is not “Deptford”. They are all economic migrants of 1 or 2 generations. If the “locals” were so proud of Deptford maybe they would aspire to gentrification or at least keep it clean and tidy. And by that I dont mean complaining about Lewisham council doing nothing, because thats not really civic pride, more like laziness.

  12. Local people are the ones who live, work, run businesses, shop and go to school nearby, wherever they originated, and who will be affected by any new development particularly a major one like the Convoys Wharf proposal. Deptford has an industrial and naval past and until 1999 Convoys was a working wharf. Half of the site is safeguarded as it is of strategic importance to river transport of cargo, which would otherwise be displaced on to our already congested roads. Apparently its size could fulfil all of London’s surplus aggregate needs but I’m not sure the noise and pollution would be welcome.

    I don’t object to redevelopment on this site at all. It’s been disconnected from the surrounding area for quite some time. Here’s an opportunity to reconnect with its historical past as a royal dockyard (have a look at the excavations http://www.museumoflondonarchaeology.org.uk/News/ConvoysWharf.htm) and working wharf, and provide employment, amenities, and a mix of housing – which don’t exist otherwise – locally for all to enjoy.

    Aside from the aesthetics of this development the housing density at 3,500 residential units means 5-6,000+ extra residents using public transport, roads, adjoining open spaces, GPs and schools. Not all of this is paid for or recouped through council tax, which in any case is only collected after the units are occupied. There are planning obligations in the form of contributions to infrastructure which if honoured should mitigate some of the demands made on the existing area in terms of added traffic, crowded trains and so on.

    Planning obligations could be used to improve the surrounding area including shops and amenities before the development is finished, so the new residents don’t feel the rest of Deptford isn’t up to much and existing residents feel encouraged to use the new shops and facilities. Even street furniture that links one area to another can help. Although it was development on a much smaller scale, a few years ago East Dulwich Road got fancy new bollards and help in the form of grants for shopkeepers to do up their premises.

  13. I think I qualify as a local – I live in Greenwich, my grandfather was born in Evelyn Street and my grandmother in Walworth. I give the development a cautious welcome – I’m all for joining up the Thames Path and bringing in some diversity to the area, it is homogeneously down-at-heel right now. David Porter is right in that a lot of the riverside developments have been mediocre but if you’re bleating about cheap housing you’re not going to get super-fabulous are you?

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