Friday, July 15, 2016

Lewisham loves trees (except when they're in Deptford)

The Council loves trees

At the Mayor and Cabinet meeting on 29th June, there was an enthusiastic response and approval given to a Biodiversity Action Plan entitled 'A Natural Renaissance for Lewisham'. This was number 13 on the agenda and its priorities emphasised already existing Core Strategies, eg protect all open space including Metropolitan Open Land; protect sites of importance for nature conservation; support and promote local biodiversity; require green roofs and walls where appropriate; implement a Street Tree programme, etc etc.

Point 6.4 of the report states, "Street trees play an important role in London's environment, providing multiple physical and aesthetic benefits. London's street trees principle value is to reducing the impact of climate change on the capital. Trees increase shading, and cooling, they improve street environments and reduce noise and dust from road traffic. Crucially, they also mop up carbon emissions."

Point 6.5 points out the challenges of introducing new trees (for instance, where underground utilities get in the way), but despite this "the Council seeks to maintain, protect and increase the number and quality of trees in the borough through various measures". Point 6.7 acknowledges this is sometimes not possible due to new developments, but "the majority of planning applications achieve a positive biodiversity enhancement from onsite interventions that exceed what existed prior to development."

That sounds like they've got a handle on this tree thing, doesn't it. Apparently "Lewisham's trees are part of what makes the borough so green compared to many other parts of London". Yes, maybe in Brockley and leafy Catford (where there is healthy opposition to the redevelopment of the greyhound track). But not in Deptford, where provision of new (mostly luxury) housing at the expense of trees appears to be much more important than a biodiverse environment, even in Council-led proposals. The Tidemill site is an obvious example.

The Council couldn't care less about trees

After the Mayor and Cabinet had all patted themselves on the back for having such a lovely green borough, they moved through Item 14 and on to Item 15: Disposal of Land at Creekside Part 1.

The accompanying report proposed the "disposal" of Council-owned land on Deptford Church Street/Creekside to Bluecroft Creekside Ltd in return for new commercial space in the development to be owned leased by the Council. It sought authority "to declare the site surplus".

The strip of greenery in question backs onto Crossfields Estate, and can presently only be accessed via the estate. It has long been neglected by the Council and is much overgrown, though has in the past been tamed by some young residents who created a BMX run. An abundance of wildlife exists in the thicket of mature trees and overgrown shrubs. The trees line the road on the approach to the roundabout, reducing the noise and dust from the traffic – and mopping up the carbon emissions.

View of the 'surplus' green area from Reginald Road by the Birds Nest roundabout


Click to enlarge
The report mentioned other options (ie selling the land, doing nothing, or buying the Bluecroft site and building on both plots either on its own or with a partner), but advocated the arrangement described above. Apparently everything was consistent with Lewisham's Sustainable Community Strategy 2008-2020:

• Clean Green Liveable – where people live in high quality housing and can care for and enjoy the environment
• Dynamic and prosperous – where people are part of vibrant communities and town centres, well connected to London and beyond

... and with the Council's Community Strategy:

• Strengthening the local economy – gaining resources to regenerate key localities, strengthen employment skills and promote public transport
• Clean, green and liveable – improving environmental management, the cleanliness and care for roads and pavements and promoting a sustainable environment

In addition, the Core Strategy "has the objective to make provision for the completion of an additional 18,165 net new dwellings" [BUT] "This aims to exceed the London Plan target for the borough". [Why?] 

There's nothing in the report that relates specifically to the local residents and people, other than reference to bland policy statements. This is how our lives are shaped – by a remote elite in Catford.

The "commercially sensitive issues around the terms of disposal" were discussed in secret and subsequently approved. Two of the cabinet members backing it are our local councillors, Joe Dromey and Paul Maslin. Perhaps they can explain to their constituents the thinking behind it.

Will the Council's involvement in the Bluecroft scheme help mitigate its potential worst aspects? Could the exchange not have been for accessible social housing instead of commercial space?
Will the commercial space be used to house creative businesses or will it be retail?
Is their control of commercial space in a Council-designated Creative Employment Zone the only way they can ensure that such an employment zone policy is realised (because the other proposed ground floor commercial spaces at the Faircharm and Kent Wharf developments on Creekside will be too expensive for most creative businesses?), ie, will creative space be subsidised?
How much of the Bluecroft development will be genuinely affordable? 
How many more HGVs and cement mixers will be added to our roads?
Does this deal ensure that the development includes an equal amount of green space, ie NO net loss of green space?

No one was aware of the proposal before it came up in Mayor & Cabinet. In their concern for the potential loss of more green space in the area, Deptford Neighbourhood Action (DNA) had previously asked local councillors and officers repeated specific questions about the site but had had no response. The Chair of DNA discovered it was on the agenda at the last minute and attended the meeting, but her request for public consultation fell on deaf ears.

Citing the numerous empty ground floor commercial premises on nearly all the new builds in the area, DNA believe the council will be unlikely to generate ongoing revenue from any commercial space on the site in return for their "gift to Bluecroft". If the Council wants 'planning gain' they'd do better to have accessible social housing there.

Bluecroft could now build up to the boundary of Crossfields, marked by this fence.
Access to the strip via Crossfields
Crossfields Residents Association received a query from officers in charge of the Tidemill redevelopment as to their thoughts on allocating the land to the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden project as a temporary alternative to the school grounds they will soon be forced to vacate. The offer was not made to OTWG however. It is also part of the Creekside Conservation Zone, but as we have seen in the Tidemill development (where conservation assets have been appropriated into Council-led plans), this means very little – a Supplementary Planning Document, which might have protected the zone and its residents, was never drawn up. 

We wrote about Bluecroft in November 2014, when they had just acquired the MOT Centre at No.1 Creekside and planned 150 flats on the tiny site. With this 'gift' from Lewisham, they now have a larger plot to build in – enough to put up a tower. Locals are now worried that adjacent land (the yard behind the Birds Nest and the building next to the MOT Centre, shown in grey in the map below) may also be sold to Bluecroft by its owner (who also owns the Big Red) – creating an even bigger 'opportunity' for Bluecroft.

Bluecroft own the blue bit; the green denotes present green areas; the thick green line indicates the Conservation Zone; the red hatched area on the left shows part of the Tidemill development which wants to use use the green amenity south of Frankham House as a site compound during construction – after which it will be landscaped just as building starts on the opposite side of the dual carriageway, resulting in a net loss of green space.


Locals also worry that the Council will sell off Sue Godfrey Nature Park, an important site of nature conservation opposite the Laban and Bellway Homes' building site – such is the feeling that the Council don't care very much for Deptford and would be happy to see it turn into a concrete jungle like Lewisham Gateway.

Meanwhle, the canyonisation of the Creek continues, from Fairview Homes at Hope Wharf, Bellway Homes at Sun Wharf, Essential Living at Creek bridge, not to mention another Council 'deal' with developer Kitewood at Thanet Wharf etc etc. No trees will be harmed in the building out of these brownfield sites as none presently exist; but all are very dense developments and only a tiny number of new trees might be planted – in line with Lewisham's view that "the majority of planning applications achieve a positive biodiversity enhancement from onsite interventions that exceed what existed prior to development." 

The Council will always say it can do little to mitigate market forces, but this does not excuse reductions in existing green space as a result of projects that they themselves are involved with. Bluecroft approached the Council to acquire the land at Church Street for a mixed use development; the outcome could have been different if the Council was not trying to exceed the requirement for new homes (most of which will not be affordable) by allowing building on every spare inch of space.

Perhaps the Mayor's cabinet should reflect on the work of Sayes Court Garden CIC, the community project that won space on Convoys Wharf (along with The Lenox Project) and which both Mayors (London and Lewisham) supported. The project celebrates John Evelyn, an influential proponent of the idea of planting trees to clean the air, establishing sustainable resources and giving people access to nature and heritage (the origins of the National Trust).

In other words, the ideas contained in Lewisham's Biodiversity Action Plan had their roots in Deptford, but are at odds with what Lewisham wants to see happen here. Why else are they so complicit in getting rid of what little green space we have?

NB Edited 17 July 2016.

Monday, July 11, 2016

No trains from Deptford to London Bridge until January 2018

So much for our "great transport links"...

Just in case you didn't know, no trains from Deptford will stop at London Bridge from Friday 26th August till January 2018.

St Johns, New Cross, Westcombe Park, Maze Hill and Greenwich are also affected by improvements at London Bridge. All trains will go straight to Cannon Street for at least fifteen months, forcing many people into completely altering their journeys to and from work.

And over the August Bank Holiday and until the end of Thursday 1st September, no trains will call at Waterloo East, London Bridge, Charing Cross or Cannon Street.

The Deptford Dame posted about this in July 2013, but go to From The Murky Depths for the latest update on further cuts to the timetables...



Sunday, May 15, 2016

Lascelles' funeral: Friday 27th May

RIP Lascelles Barrington Hoilett
Following our previous post on the passing of dear Crossfields resident, Las, we can now announce the details of his funeral and a celebration of his life.

Funeral:
Friday 27th May 2016
11.30am
Honor Oak Crematorium
Brockley Way
SE4 2LW

Please note: 
The funeral cortege will depart from Castell House on Crossfields at around 10.30am, so residents can pay their respects – especially if they are unable to attend the funeral.

The family requests that rather than buy flowers, donations can be made to Bench Outreach, who often helped Las out. http://benchoutreach.co.uk/

Celebration:
Friday 27th May
1.00–11pm
Birds Nest Pub
32 Deptford Church Street
SE8 4RZ

Following the service at the Crematorium, all who knew Las are invited to the reception at his local – the Birds Nest pub, where all his family and friends can get together and memories can be shared whilst partaking of refreshments. 


Inconsiderate Constructors – living on a building site

Anyone can register with the Considerate Constructors Scheme...but does it mean anything?

Perhaps the problem is a developer wanting to cram so much onto a site that construction is only possible by using areas outside the site to facilitate it.

Either way, the inconvenience caused to any neighbours of a construction site are not considered relevant when making objections to a planning application. Existing residents may be extremely inconvenienced for up to two years without compensation.

The logistics of construction are included in an application, but generally sorted out after planning is granted. A Construction Methodology Statement is also submitted, the detail of which is generic and could apply to any site. Such statements usually include the following nebulous promises:

• Coordinated delivery times and efficient traffic management to prevent queues of traffic accessing the site.

Yeah, right. See previous posts here and here.

Ensuring all plant has sound reduction measures (mufflers, baffles or silencers)

The noise can be relentless, and exceeded reasonable decibel levels on many occasions during demolition at Faircharm. There was and is no sound reduction employed – if there is, it is not enough.

• Utilising construction techniques that minimise the production of noise. 


See above. During demoliton, the machines used to break up concrete caused buildings to shake. Vibrations equivalent to mini earthquakes were felt by residents and those working nearby. Cracks appeared in brickwork. Ornaments fell off shelves.

• Using Acoustic hoarding where necessary.

No Acoustic hoardings have been erected on Creekside to protect residents. Taller hoardings are required to prevent dust as well.

Faircharm, February 2016




Ensure that all materials transported to and from site are in enclosed containers or fully sheeted. Ensuring loads are covered where spoil or demolition material is being removed.

Covered or not, at Kent Wharf back in November 2015, the road looked like this for a whole month before it was cleaned up and wheel washing was finally introduced.

No wheel washing at Kent Wharf

Outside Faircharm, the trucks and cement mixers can't get in or out of the site without driving on the pavement and spreading their loads. Wheel washing as they leave the site makes very little difference.

The road and pavement are almost white with dust. The dust lies several microns deep on all the parked cars and reaches into the communal recesses of Wilshaw and Holden House up as far as the fourth floor. The caretakers have complained that there is ten times as much dust to clean up on communal stairs and walkways.

A car vacates a parking space after a rainy period, revealing the dust it's been concealing.

Residents, local workers and pedestrians are breathing in all that dust. Potholes are growing daily. The wheels of passing trucks kick up the dust when it's dry.

After rain, the street cleaner has to shovel mud. The rubble and dust goes down the drains, potentially blocking them.



During dry periods the works are to be damped down to control the generation of dust.

Faircharm's site manager claimed to have no access to water on site and had to order in “extra tankers” of water to damp down dust. Nevertheless dust is still prevalent and not being dampened.

Asbestos removal took place without full cover. This was reported to Lewisham Environmental Health who took no action and did not even respond. The construction site manager had tests conducted that vindicated the lack of cover, but extreme health worries were engendered among residents and local workers in the meantime. See previous post.

• Provide regular road cleaning using road sweepers or brushes to control dust and mud.


Once in a blue moon...

A bit of sweeping up outside the entrance – last witnessed in March

With so many sites like this in the area, a cash-starved local authority is unable to monitor the work. It is also likely that any Section 106 money clawed from the developer by the Council (in mitigation, to benefit the local neighbourhood) will not be spent around here – if it is, it will probably be used to fix the road that has been thoroughly ruined by construction.



Monday, May 9, 2016

Creekside construction watch: Faircharm

Work began at Faircharm in November 2015 with demolition of most of the three large buildings on the site. The front facades of two of the original buildings facing Creekside are being kept as a result of advice from Lewisham's Conservation Officer at planning stage. The work was carried out by Ling Demolition under the site management of appointed constructors Bouygues. During this process, the noise and dust were horrendous – buildings vibrated, walls cracked...

The land has since undergone preparation for foundations to be laid – a quieter process onsite, but not on the road, as concrete mixers line up almost daily (see previous post). Meanwhile, here are some episodes from earlier in the year...

The Postbox

Hoardings began to be erected back in August 2015 and soon Creekside's eastern pavement (which borders the site) was lost to pedestrians. The only bit of pavement left was where the fence made allowance for a Royal Mail postbox. Once chock full of mail when serving the former trading estate, since the businesses moved out in 2014 it has remained in use to Crossfields estate residents and surrounding users such as APT and ArtHub Studios as the only postbox in the area within reasonable walking distance.

Site hoardings and parked cars made collection from the postbox impossible


In December 2015, the Post Office closed it. Hardly surprising since the hoardings around it were labelled with stickers saying WARNING - KEEP OUT - DEMOLITION. Some found the closure rather inconvenient – especially elderly residents with mobility problems.

We complained to the Bouygues site manager who had not even noticed the box was closed. He contacted the post office and was told the delivery office manager had visited the box and deemed it unsafe for the drivers to collect. Obviously, the Post Office has a duty of care to look after its workers.

But the real reason – not made clear by the post office, and as we had to point out to Bouygues – was that the hoarding around the box didn't allow enough space to open the post box to retrieve mail. And cars were parking right up close to the hoarding, making it difficult for both posters and post office to even get near the box.

We asked Bouygues to widen the space and stop cars from parking near it – and inform the post office they had done so. But there was a delay in moving the hoarding because Bouygues also wanted to combine this subcontracting with erecting hoarding at Creekside Centre – it was the centre's fault this had not been done, apparently. The box was finally reopened on 27 January, but the busiest time for the postbox – Christmas – had come and gone.

The postbox reopened at the end of January after the site hoarding was opened up.


Non-newsletters, trucks and the Creek...

Friendly correspondence with the Bouygues site manager soon turned into regular nagging as complaints grew. Newsletter updates were promised from Bouygues but were only delivered to the residents directly facing the development despite the work affecting more than half the estate.

Muck shifting vehicles could not get into the site without extensive manoeuvres


The bollards put up by the constructors to stop cars parking next to the postbox turned out to also serve the convenient purpose of facilitating easier access for the trucks entering and exiting the site. Each truck had been having to do a three or four point turn to get into the entrance. In the third week of January, the site entrance was widened. Some trucks are still taking up road space by reversing in; there is no room on the site for such manoeuvres.

Faircharm entrance finally widened


However, HGVs collecting demolition materials had already begun queuing in convoy up the road waiting to get on site – on some days as far as the Birds Nest pub, and many of them waiting longer than 30 minutes.

Dumper trucks queuing in convoy from January, blocking the road and public entrances
They blocked the entrances to APT Gallery and Studios and kept their engines running – in contravention of Rule 123 of the Highway Code. No one from Bouygues told them not to. We involved local councillor Joe Dromey who confirmed that Lewisham did not have the resources to police and enforce the problem and suggested we politely ask the drivers themselves to do this. Bouygues apologised that they didn't know that APT Gallery was a public venue; the message eventually filtered through and a gap was left for the gallery entrance. More recently, however, concrete mixers (whose engines can't be turned off) form the queues. Trucks continue to use the road, spilling loads and spreading dirt.

March 2016: muck trucks queuing all the way to the Birds Nest pub


In November 2015, we'd been assured we'd be told when "lorries will begin to take materials away in bulk" and complained about the queues. The response was that it was not "bulk muckshift" but just a couple of days of taking away crushed materials – at that time, the removal of demolition materials "had not been planned" and we'd be told when the real work started. But we weren't, of course.

The plan was to crush materials on site, whilst some of it was already being moved off the site by the "bin lorries". Wheel washing would be in place to avoid mud on the road, and all vehicles would turn left out of the site (southwards to Deptford Church St), as agreed with Lewisham Planning. The excuse for the fact that some lorries were turning right out of the site was that they had either come to the wrong site, or there was an accident (or too much congestion) at the Bird's Nest roundabout.

In November we asked whether Deptford Creek would be used in the removal of the demolition materials; it was a condition of the developer's planning permission that they carried out a feasibility study on transporting spoil and materials by river, rather than the 80 lorries a day they otherwise planned to have leaving and arriving at the site and clogging up our narrow back road.

As predicted, the developer had wriggled out of the more environmentally clean option of using the Creek – the feasibility study had concluded it was not 'economically viable' as the Creek could only be used "either side of high tide", plus they had to be "5 metres away from the DLR and would only have one place to site barges" – the place where Creekside Discovery Centre muster for their river walks. (Again, Creekside Centre was being blamed). In fact, the rule about being 5 metres from the DLR does not apply to vessels on the Creek, but to structures on land – and the place they can't use is where they have built their compound offices.

February 2016: demolition continues


Asbestos and dust

We also badgered the Site Manager about the dust the demolition was causing, and more worryingly, the removal of asbestos concrete roofing right opposite the estate.

Asbestos removal on the roofs – worker protected but no screens to protect the public
An operative wearing full protective clothing was seen bashing the roof out only yards away from residents' flats. The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) guidelines state that asbestos cement roofing is of medium risk and does not require an enclosure, except "when it is extensive and difficult to remove, resulting in much breakage and debris, or the work is close to occupied or sensitive areas" (p.90 of the HSE's guide).

Our concerns were passed to Ling Demolition who proceeded to carry out air monitoring tests almost immediately. Testing was carried out in close vicinity to the work (on the workers themselves) but not outside the perimeters of the site. However we were assured that "fibre concentrations at the sample locations were within control limits" and "fibre levels will not be greater at locations further afield".

December 2015: dust out of control, coating the surrounding area.


Meanwhile, our concerns about dust (coating the estate, the road, the pavements, Creekside Centre and Ha'Penny Hatch), was put down to excessive wind and a poor supply of water to the site. A 'water suppression system' was fitted to the 'high reach machine' but as a result of our complaints, additional equipment had to be ordered and 'extra water' brought in. Dust continues to be a problem however.

Presumably, Creekside Discovery Centre are satisfied with all these measures, as they have a duty of care to the young people visiting the centre, and would not run their programme if they had any serious concerns. But Wilshaw and Holden House residents who bear the brunt of most of this work have complained that better screening should have been erected to protect them from the dust. More than one resident contacted Lewisham's Environmental Services and got absolutely nowhere with their complaint. Ultimately, Bouygues have a good reputation as a 'considerate builder' to maintain. But it's not looking that good to us.

Cranes arrive...

An April newsletter from Bouygues confirmed that demolition was complete, marking the end of an exceptionally noisy period during which 'groundworkers' had installed 4 'piling mats'. This was followed by the 'groundworkers' casting the substructure works and constructing bases for two tower cranes which were erected at the beginning of April. They join the other two already installed at Kent Wharf – where the same process has been tormenting residents in the north of Crossfields, and presumably all at the Laban.

View from Ha'Penny Hatch, 8 April: the second crane is installed, indicating the building heights