Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Deptford Riviera

Hey! What’s this exciting new addition to the groovy arts and cultural scene in Deptford’s Creekside?

Look at this! “Housed in a 1930s warehouse, No.3 Creekside has a café, venue for hire, a micro-brewery and self-contained creative studios.”

Well, there does seem to be something going on at No.3 Creekside, but there's NO micro-brewery or café like they claim! Isn't this like fake news, claiming something exists that doesn't?

But the building does seem to have a few new tenants according to the website (and presumably they really do exist) – such as a fancy coffee roasting outfit who have their own café franchise, a mobile catering company, a company growing and supplying herb boxes (at their 'Deptford farm'), two film companies, a couple of designers, as well as a very recent Goldsmiths MA Fine Art graduate.

The Artworks ‘Community’ is categorised by three headings, “Retail & Lifestyle”, “Food & Drink”, “Business & Enterprise”. Shame there's no "Social Entrepreneur" category, but you can't have everything. The recent Goldsmiths graduate (a conceptual artist) is categorised under ‘Retail & Lifestyle’, which more likely indicates the commercial ambitions of the landlords than those of the artist.

Proposals for this building were first publicly presented in January 2017 (see below), when the coffee company were already in situ. Back then, rents were quoted at a rather pricey £25 per sqft. The larger spaces were to be between £181 and £210 per week, and small windowless rooms that might serve as darkrooms at £75pw. Such commercial rates would not be affordable for most artists or young graduates unless they shared. But perhaps the new tenants have been given an introductory offer.

Gentrified price-hikes aside, it’s all a great improvement on the previous uses in the building, when it was in the sole hands of one of the present owners, John Cierach. He failed again and again to make the building work. But since he sold a half share of No.3 to professional gentrifiers Stow Projects (aka Artworks) the building appears to be functioning usefully, if expensively. about spin!!!

“Across the road, No.2 Creekside, also hosts a café inside an iconic double decker bus and accommodates a unique mix of creative studios inside shipping containers, shepherds huts and boats.”

Oh no it doesn’t! This isn't just spin, it's plain lying!

Dead old bus next to the Bird's Nest pub

Yes, there’s an old bus rusting away next to the Birds Nest pub, but no café.

The “shipping containers, huts and boats housing a unique mix of creative studios” do not exist. The yard across the road is a muddy dumping ground full of John Cierach’s cast-off junk.

Cierach and his new partners have big ideas for the No.2 yard, but at the moment that’s all they are. First they have to get Planning Permission.

But before that, they have to get rid of the boats.

The Creekside Boating Community

A small but well established boating community nestles on the Theatre Arm of Deptford Creek behind The Bird’s Nest pub. Julian Kingston, a boatbuilder by trade, was the first boater to arrive here 30 years ago. Surviving the construction of the DLR, he was joined by more boat dwellers. Around 15 boats now moor here, a mix of barges and smaller craft.

They pay rent for access to their vessels across land from the nearest road (Creekside) to two different riparian landlords. Six are tenants at No.2, the land owned by John Cierach behind the Bird's Nest pub, while the others pay rent to the landlord of No.4 Creekside next to APT Studios.

The community is made up of many different types of people. Some have really good jobs but are not necessarily earning a fortune, others are just starting out and can't afford London rents, whilst some are pensioners. All share a way of life that is quite unique, the hardships of which should not be underestimated. It's not romantic, but up till recently has been a relatively cheaper option than renting or buying on dry land in London. They all pay Council Tax.

The rent they pay to the landowner does not include the mooring alongside the riverwall. Whilst the landlord may own the wall, he can't do anything to it as it's a flood defence governed by the Environment Agency and can't be altered in any way. The boats occupy the river bed, which is the jurisdiction of the Port of London Authority (PLA).

Up until now the boaters have not had to pay any mooring rights (otherwise known as a River Works License) because the PLA do not provide any services here and historically have not classed this part of the Creek as worthy of charge. When construction of the DLR in the late 1990s displaced Julian to the main Creek, the PLA charged him a fee, but ignored charges when he returned to 'Theatre Arm' (or Wharf).

As a long term resident who lived here long before the new owners, Julian, as a boat builder by trade, has maintained use of a bit of the land next to his mooring to keep the tools of his trade in a container as well as space for two vehicles (his work jeep and his wife's car). He also keeps bees here and Creekside Honey is a local secret (often found on sale at Creekside Discovery Centre).

Whilst Julian has laid on his own access to fresh water and power, the other five boats at No.2 access these services via their landlord, though it’s not clear if this is included in the rent, as no one has ever had a proper lease. Rent is paid in a mixture of cash and standing order – mostly the former (so much of it is likely to be off the books).

Read on to find out how this community is now under threat...But beware and make some time, as this is a long story. And read it quick before the lawyers close it down.

A Potted History of the sites

John Cierach bought the yard at No.2 16 years ago with Julian as a sitting tenant. Julian had consent from the previous owners and the DLR to rent a small piece of land beside his mooring to house the tools of his boatbuilding trade and the vehicles necessary for it, underneath the canopy of the DLR span. With Julian's contacts and at Cierach's request, more boaters were attracted to the site to rent moorings at No.2.

Cierach later bought the building at No.3 across the road from the yard. He failed to make a success of No.3 through a series of avoidable blunders and mismanagement. For instance, a Nigerian church occupied the building for 4 years without paying a penny, and when he was rid of them, he paid a chap called Vladimir to clear the asbestos from the building on the cheap instead of getting in the right people to do it properly. Vlad ran off with the cash.

Meanwhile, he turned the yard at No.2 into a coach and car park, then rented it to a roofing company, a scaffolding company, a dodgy carpentry firm, as well as other various parking operations, not to mention caravan dwellers (and all with no onsite toilet).

A couple of years ago he partnered up with Greenwich Market manager, Barney Crockford, in an attempt to realise his larger ambitions for both sites. In a strange episode (which the police took a dim view of), at an unearthly hour Crockford sent some muscle pretending to be bailiffs into No.3 to turf out the creative types who Cierach himself had invited in but had somehow neglected to collect rent from.

Although the yard at No.2 had been working well for a while, things had begun to get strained, and this was the final straw for the remaining businesses there who left soon after.

The only thing to John Cierach's credit was that he also established a very successful restaurant business called The Big Red, a pizzeria housed in an old Routemaster bus next to the Birds Nest pub.

It was so successful that he extended the floor area of the restaurant between the Bird's Nest pub and the Creek by erecting a canopy (unauthorised by the DLR), to include a longer bar and seating area and loos. It was a great place to go, no one had any idea about people trying to sleep on the boats behind. We couldn't see them so therefore they didn't exist.

Also against DLR rules, he installed a trailer for comedy and film events under the DLR structure. The expansion, along with 2am licensing, caused considerable discomfort for the boating residents.

But most oddly, at the height of the venue’s popularity in 2015 – and at around the same time as the other shake-ups – he closed it all down. Staff, suppliers and creditors including HM Revenues & Customs (and apparently himself) were left unpaid to the tune of £250k, according to filings at Companies House for his company Bus2Bar Ltd. (See the Deptford Dame’s post from 2015).

The same company then reappeared under different registration the same year. On less than favourable terms he then rented the space to another restaurant business, Wanderlust, which lasted a year. Accounts for the new Bus2Bar Ltd are now overdue.

New partnerships

Now Cierach has partnered up with Stow Projects, a company owned by Charlie Fulford and his father Bill (aka Professor William Fulford). More on them later.

Two new companies have been formed. ‘Artworks Creekside 2’ is now jointly owned by Meredale Ltd (one of Cierach’s four companies) and Fulford’s new company Stow Creekside. Cierach retains a majority share of this site at No.2. 

‘Artworks Creekside 3’ is owned by another of Cierach’s property companies (Grestar Ltd,  registered as a dormant company) and Stow Creekside, who have a half share in No.3.

Artworks' proposals (January 2017)

So what of the claim to "host a café inside an iconic double decker and accommodate a unique mix of creative studios inside shipping containers, shepherds huts and boats'?

In January 2017, John Cierach & Charlie Fulford announced their plans for No.2 & 3 Creekside in a public exhibition. The presentation was very lo-fi and badly lit, with clumsy typos in the text. The impression created was the opposite of what we’ve come to expect from developers, as if to detract from the fact that these people are already talking to Lewisham Planning about their intentions to eventually build a permanent mixed-use development at No.2 Creekside.

While those long-term ambitions slowly take shape, the new co-owners are in an excellent position to propose a 'meantime' use of the land at No.2, based on their success at Elephant & Castle and previous experience in running market spaces. Their 'aspiration' for Creekside is stated as "an innovative mixed-use and interim project that will bring economic, regeneration and social benefits to Creekside and enhance this established hub providing a really vibrant place." 

At Elephant & Castle they came in after the damage had been done. In this scenario, they are creating the damage itself – though if you didn't know the background, you'd maybe buy into it all without a second thought.

No.3 Creekside with a paint job

There's not much to object to in the proposal for No.3, apart from the high rental costs which will likely cause an increase in rents elsewhere – especially as the area has been defined by the Council as one which has been important for providing low-cost starter units for artists and creative businesses. Not any more. Artworks cynically pre-empt the price rises in the area.

With Workspace's transformation of Faircharm 'Creative Quarter' (mostly housing, only 21 out of 144 'affordable') due to complete probably in Spring 2018 (some slippage), huge price hikes in 'creative' spaces on Creekside are expected that will be complemented by Bellway Homes' Kent Wharf 'creative' spaces also soon to be on the market. Kent Wharf got through planning permission with the promise of creative spaces (on the ground floor where they couldn't put residential because it is subject to flood damage) managed by Second Floor Studios who then found it was financially unsustainable for their extensive arts & crafts client list.

The proposals for the yard at No.2 are even less palatable, unless you've got £20k to plough into your start-up business, as the rent alone is likely to be £10kpa min and will increase. But let's look at the physical environment... Shipping containers will be piled 3-storeys high in a layout that is far less open and welcoming than that at Artworks Elephant (see below). There's a lift at the Elephant site, but no lifts are proposed here.

No.3 Creekside under the DLR

The above illustration shows (1) The Big Red with an illegal canopy, supposedly improving the frontage of the site; (2) Shepherd's huts to provide office space with views of the Creek; (3) "mooring of complementary uses along the wharf to reinforce the historic function of the Creek"; (4) three storeys of 21 containers ; (5) 2 storeys of 8 containers "with views of the Creek" – though four will have their views blocked by (6) which is a large refuse/bin and storage area (right next to present moorings).

The proposed heights will also shroud Creekside in darkness, according to these drawings.

The effect of the containers on Creekside itself

Artworks are keen to  point out how the site is valued in Lewisham’s 2012 Creekside Conservation Area Appraisal. It said,  “…at Theatre Wharf…an improvement to the present boundary and better accessibility to the water edge could re-instate this historic viewpoint onto the Creek” (p.67). This could sound like an endorsement of their plans, but they fail to mention the appraisal also says (in reference to the scaffolders' and roofers' structures that were piled high in the No.2 yard in 2012), “The character of No.2 Creekside is affected by the stacked containers behind the former entrance to the wharf...” (p.68).

Anyway, this is how the two sites are intended to work together – a sort of new Camden market fantasy:

The DLR does not allow permanent structures under their railway span as 24hr access for maintenance is required. Any structures under it have to be on wheels so that they can be easily moved. So Artworks propose mobile shepherd’s huts on the waterfront under the DLR (not shown above), to be rented out as small offices or food/craft outlets.

As previously touched on, the DLR safety rule has been routinely ignored by Cierach – for example, when he built a shelter over the Big Red bus. That canopy appears in a different form in these new plans (the DLR span is not shown), and will no doubt be missing from any future planning submission.

When the DLR sent an enforcement letter to Cierach about the trailer and rubbish he stored under the DLR, he told them it all belonged to his tenants – a Mr Julian Kingston in particular. The DLR then pursued Julian instead whilst Cierach denied all knowledge of the mix up.

This is the trailer he used for the comedy and film nights:

This are his golden balls:

Artworks even featured pictures of Cierach's rubbish on the first board of their consultation exhibit – no doubt to illustrate how much better it would look when their proposals were implemented (after one of their own owners' rubbish was cleared).

Along with the shepherd huts, there are the tables and chairs lining the waterfront, where tenants and visitors can gaze out at the 'historic Creek' over a coffee or falafel wrap provided by one of the many food outlets to be housed in the ground floor containers or the Big Red 'cafe'. Obviously there can be no parking spaces next to the moorings (or anywhere on the site) if a profit is to be made on the waterfront.

Note that in these drawings the tide is in, and the boats sit high in the water. John Cierach describes this as the 'Deptford Riviera'.

For the boaters, this is indeed a lovely south-facing sun trap, but for punters visiting Artworks Creekside 2, what exactly could be the attraction when the tide is out and any boats moored here lie out of sight down in the mud? This is the view from behind the quite substantial river wall:

View of Goldsmiths MFA studios

In the context of architectural heritage, the Lewisham Conservation Area Appraisal said of these Lewisham College buildings in 2012: “The Gibbes Asquith / Skill Centre Island in its present form, makes a negative contribution to the area…” (p.41).

Indeed. Who on earth, other than the lowly boaters, would want to sit here and look at this bit of rubbish architecture? When in late 2016 Goldsmiths College began leasing part of the LESOCO Deptford campus to house their MA Fine Art students, they probably didn't realise there might be some serious gawping going on in the future. Perhaps that's what the attraction will be. "Come on down to Artworks Creekside 2 and gaze at the retro 70s education facilities – you may be lucky enough to spot a future star of the art world!"

The Creekside Conservation Area Appraisal described the site in 2012 as "used by a number of small-scale businesses, while the wharf has become a permanent mooring place for boat residents". The 'permanent' designation was the result of Julian's lobbying to get the mooring recognised as residential in Lewisham's Unitary Development Plan (UDP) in 1996. The CCAA goes on to say, "Although the boats in the Creek are today primarily used as dwellings, they have helped to retain the function and 'flair' of the historic wharves, which were historically lined with barges, and as such they make an important contribution to the character and appearance of the area." (p.41)

Artworks have picked up the historic reference to suit their intentions – they say "the scheme will encourage mooring of complementary uses along the wharf to reinforce the historic function of the Creek".  But it's easy to see how difficult it will be to integrate the 'permanent' residential boating tenants with Artworks' aspirations for the site. At the consultation, Ross Doone of Doone Silver Architects accused the boaters of "residential overload" and described them as people who don't have leases (who's fault is that?), don't pay rent (though most of them do) and moor their boats unsafely. Later on, Charlie Fulford stated "We don't want to get rid of the fact we want more boats".

This is what Artworks envisaged in their exhibition to illustrate their idea of moorings on Theatre Wharf. Doone admitted the image was of 'some place in Birmingham' and it's most likely a canal, with no tides and no mud:

It's easy to speculate how the pretty narrow boats might be vessels they can rent out themselves – as bars or floating hotels / dormitories / stay-vacations that could make them considerably more profit than renting to the present community. Even if in reality the barges would spend twice a day perched on the bottom of the mudbank at low tide.

In addition, they stated their desire to create an entertainment space in the form of a Circus Boat. Charlie's site manager Norman Murray has an alternative career in the theatre and he knows people who'd be perfect for the site (perhaps a base for touring water-borne acrobatic troupe Collectifandthen?). But of course, the barge might also double up as a stage, or even a floating bar. When the tide's in.

This idea manifests in the plans as a barge with two black stripes on it, situated near the Big Red bus. The apparently 'open' area here could provide a space for the audience, although in reality the bus will require a large part of that area for a kitchen, a bar, toilet accommodation and expanded seating areas (as it did before).

Either way, there is no room for the existing boaters in this plan.

View of Theatre Wharf from the seating area outside the Bird's Nest pub

The consultation feedback form asked "Do you support the principle of developing 2 & 3 Creekside in the manner proposed? Yes or No?". This was a trick question, as the two sites are significantly different and should be considered separately.

Using the PLA to instigate social cleansing

Charlie Fulford has a much more business-like approach than Cierach. He's a very charming man, who whilst stating he has no intention of getting rid of the boaters, has cunningly approached the PLA and offered to collect fees for mooring licenses that the PLA have waivered in the past.

The PLA have a standard rate of charges for a Riverworks License (aka mooring license), determined by the length and width of a boat. Without negotiation, the standard charge applied could be the same for the Creek as it is for a luxury mooring at Battersea or Chelsea.

More often than not these days, their fee is collected by the riparian landowner. A license generally costs 25% of whatever rent is charged by the landowner. By agreeing the standard rate for the PLA license, the landlord can therefore set a new and much higher rent for access across their land.

Artworks now intend to charge ‘a fair market rent’ for the boaters to have pedestrian-only access to their moorings via the yard at No.2. No boat owner will have a parking space in Artworks’ new plans.  The new rent is likely to be three times as much as the tenants have previously paid, or twice as much if they had always been paying the PLA top rates for their moorings. Charlie Fulford says the new fees are what a 'willing' riparian owner would expect to get from a 'willing' occupier on the market.

Artworks may have based their ‘market’ rate for access to moorings on charges levied at South Dock (the Thames-side marina at Surrey Quays) rather than the more luxuriously priced river moorings to be found further up river, but a marina is a completely different sort of mooring, and a far less hazardous environment for vessels. At Creekside, the boaters had to dig out their own moorings in the mud (as the boats ultimately rest in the mud at low-tide), and build all their own infrastructure. Owning an older boat presents constant maintenance issues when docked in a wild river – the biggest fear being that the boat sinks or becomes waterlogged.

Historically the boaters here have suffered endless noise and vermin issues from Cierach’s Big Red pizzeria, and constant problems with access and mess in the yard. But even if Artworks resolved these issues by creating a better environment akin to South Dock marina (where visitors are charged £3.60 to enter the site), their intention to open the yard – and the wharf in particular – to the general public from 8am till midnight works against this and will negate any privacy the boating residents have previously enjoyed.

Indeed, Artworks have planned to have a large cage to store all the refuse and furniture from the site right next to Julian's mooring (on the land he presently occupies) so even if he relinquished the land, he and his wife would be subjected to a nightly clearing up operation after the bar & food operations closed, having had to put up with the noise from the buzzing market on their doorstep prior to that.

New market rents and dodgy service charges

At the time of writing, it appears that only Julian has been approached about the proposed new leases and rents. The others will have even less rights than him, having arrived after Cierach bought the land.

When Cierach bought the land in 2001, Julian had a prior agreement in place to rent some of the land adjacent to his berth. He also had a covenant with the DLR to house the tools of his boatbuilding trade and vehicles under the DLR span. Despite this, Cierach tried to get the sellers to evict Julian via the court (the case was thrown out) and then tried to get him to vacate the site on the day of purchase. A standard commercial lease was then drawn up that included the bit of land, but which Cierach constantly badgered Julian to change. The lease was renewed at a higher rent in 2005 but Cierach continued to pester until he terminated the lease in 2009.

To settle things, Julian got an independent valuation of the value of the land he was occupying, which in 2009 was £2k pa. He then offered a 'gentleman's agreement' to pay a further increase in rent whilst still retaining use of the land, which Cierach agreed with witnesses present. Payments in cash or cheque for £6,500pa (inc VAT) continued for two years until Cierach decided to refuse to accept it unless Julian agreed to sign a backdated lease in which he would have to relinquish the use of the land and pay even more in a cash top-up. A stalemate ensued.

Cierach also failed to draw up leases with the other tenants that Julian had introduced to him, but still continued to collect rent from them.

Now Charlie Fulford, as a less than 50% co-owner of No.2 is getting heavy about repayment of all the back rent. He reckons Julian owes around £50k which includes bills for services Julian has never used, as well as interest on the rent that Cierach refused to collect + VAT (where VAT was previously included).

Apart from being asked to pay back rent, the deal now being offered to Julian by 'Artworks Creekside 2' supposedly takes into account his longevity at the site. He’s being asked to sign up to an ‘introductory’ 3 year ‘sub license’ of £6,500 plus 25% PLA fees as well as VAT, which amounts to £9750pa. However, this deal is only available if he agrees to get rid of one of his three boats, allows another boat or barge to be moored alongside his own vessels, and relinquishes all the land beside his mooring.

Without an area to securely park his vehicle and store his specialist high value equipment, he cannot earn a living to pay the rent. Without vehicle access, none of the vessels can be serviced for fuel or other deliveries. Another barge or boat parked alongside his own vessels would require pedestrian access across his boats, but in any case could not be safely anchored due to the vicissitudes of the tidal Creek itself.

After the introductory offer has ended, Julian is invited to sign up to a five-year license at the new ‘market’ rent of £20,400pa (inc VAT and the PLA fees) for pedestrian only access to his mooring and services provided by the landlord – that Julian already provided for himself at his own cost – and a “reasonable service charge” for maintenance of the river wall.

The Environment Agency made full repair to the river wall in 2009 and it should require very little maintenance over the next 20 years, so there is no real justification for making that particular charge. The costs of around £250k+ were met by the EA, but were to be payable by the riparian owner if a profit was being made out of the land (like the liquidated Big Red?) or if the land was sold at a profit (what did Artworks pay for their share of No.2?). Perhaps this new service charge is in anticipation of Cierach, as still majority owner of the site, having to repay that historic debt to the EA.

The PLA have admitted that they would not have been interested in charging mooring rights if Artworks had not approached them. In fact, earlier in the year when the old Minesweeper boat (which moors in the Creek opposite the Laban) caught fire and the collective who run the boat tried to arrange with the PLA on how to proceed with disposal of the wreck, the PLA told them that anything south of Creek Road bridge was not in their jurisdiction.

As a result of Artworks coercing the PLA into charging mooring licenses for an area they had previously knowingly ignored, the residential boat owners at No.4 will also be subjected to increases in rent to accommodate the new charge, even if their own landlord (hopefully) does not see fit to triple their rent for access as well.

In this way, Artworks Creekside seem intent on pricing out the present boat owners, potentially to clear the way for rivercraft that they themselves can bring in and have complete control over, since much wealthier boat owners who could afford the high mooring fees are unlikely to be attracted to the spot until it is completely rebuilt (on both sides) many years hence.

Artworks Elephant

Stow Projects’ big success is Artworks Elephant, a partnership between Stow Artworks Ltd and monster developer Lend Lease (as Lend Lease Elephant & Castle Legacy Ltd).

Talking to tenants at the site we found them blissfully unaware of the background to the site. One of them commented, "It was like derelict, so anything here is an improvement."

The controversial Lend Lease redevelopment of the Heygate Estate at the Elephant has seen 1,034 homes demolished to be replaced by 2,704 but only 82 homes at social rents provided. Southwark Council sold the site for £50m, spent £44m on emptying the estate (dispersing the tenants to outer London and beyond), while leaseholders were offered well under market value and had to relocate outside London altogether. Lend Lease’s estimated gross development value was estimated at £990m (on a dubious viability assessment), and the leading Southwark officers involved are now working for developers.

This controversial act of social cleansing is still going on (the same thing continues on the Aylesbury Estate), whilst it was recently revealed that 100% of the first phase of the new Heygate flats was sold off-plan to investors in Hong Kong two years before being offered for sale in the UK. It's apparently not unusual for first phases to be full of building faults that get corrected in later phases, so it will be the renters who suffer (as both owners and renters of new builds in Deptford, where there was no second phase, can testify).

Corner of the Heygate Estate in 2011 with housing about to be demolished

Artworks arrive 2014 after demolition
With the last tenants and leaseholders gone by 2014, Artworks Elephant established themselves on a corner of the cleared land in a deal with Southwark Council that saw the area’s public library incorporated into the repurposed shipping container complex. The ease with which they did this is probably attributable to the rather useful connections (see below) that they have built up over the years.

Like BoxPark Shoreditch and PopBrixton, Artworks provides temporary "cultural and social" hubs for retail, food and 'creatives' before more permanent redevelopment is approved. Big (or small) property developers look to quirky start-ups to add a buzz to their schemes. Small businesses that used to start up in markets, pop-up shops, or mobile food trucks are seen as ideal for creating a temporary retail cluster and reinvigorating an area. New concepts, one-off ideas and reinvention, especially in food and beverages, are popular with consumers (Lewisham Model Market, anyone?).

But there are many critics of pop-ups. They're generally critiqued for their short-termism and the context in which they appear, whilst architectural and design journals debate the aesthetics of shipping containers in particular, though in some cases their use is justified and works well. But for academics in many fields, a major concern is the continual loss of traditionally democratic public spaces (market places, civic squares, play areas or wild nature areas) to private or corporate interests, the places where pop-ups manifest. Another issue is the 'nexus' of physical public space with the virtual, which acknowledges people are now 'meeting' in a different way, so that architecture becomes 'open-ended, undetermined and lightly programmed' ('Pavillions, Pop-Ups and Parasols'). It's as if we're in-between all the time.

In his 2014 piece for Vice, Fuck Your Pop-Up Shops, Dan Hancox wrote specifically about the Artworks' project at the Heygate when it first appeared. He sees Artworks Elephant's function as "providing a shiny bauble to distract from what the long term project is actually doing", which in the case of the Heygate – and now perhaps Deptford Creekside too – is pure and simple social cleansing.

In a world dominated by spin – typified by Artworks Creekside's website (advertising things as existing that don't yet exist) – Hancox comments, " 'Something new just opened!' is more eye-catching than 'Something continues to be open!' ". He sees the pop-up as serving the needs of late capitalism, injecting coolness and spontaneity into a declining consumer market.

Looking back at the role of the shipping container in globalisation, he sees the containers themselves as perfectly conveying "the direction in which modern capitalism continues to develop: a mass-produced, transitory, transnational, automated, human-erasing beast". Ironic that the biggest developer in Deptford (Hutchison Whampoa at Convoys Wharf) owns nearly all the container ports in the UK and the rest of the world.

To provide a night-time economy (in a place where children used to play football), a trendy entertainment space in the form of 'Lost Rivers Elephant' has been created alongside Artworks Elephant. Artworks don't run it, but they surely helped facilitate it, and in the same way, would like to bless us with a little bit of culture at Creekside too with a Circus Boat.

The blurb for Lost Rivers reads "Constructed from recycled shipping containers this versatile, split level venue is a truly unique place...the venue is raw, has a completely industrial vibe...". Where have we heard that before? Oh yeah, in Artworks' blurb for No.2 Creekside, where they'll "Reinforce the existing artistic, cultural, industrial community of Creekside" – with what Hancox calls the "faux-authentic haunted coffins of industry" – and a bloody circus boat.

On a practical level, the spaces at Elephant & Castle are expensive (£200p/w + bills), so expect the same or more at Creekside. They are freezing in winter and therefore costly to heat (one company we visited in January were leaving the heating on all night) – and equally too damn hot in summer. But Artworks are not short on tenants for their pricey start-up accommodation. Part of that success is good spin.

Wider Strategy for Creekside (south)

In January Artworks said they were waiting to see how their future plans would fit in with what  awas bought by Bluecroft Property in 2014.

No.1 Creekside (opposite No.2 and adjacent to No.3)

Bluecroft's landshare was then increased by Lewisham who gifted them the Council-owned stretch of green space and mature trees that borders Deptford Church Street, in return for control of the ground floor commercial spaces in the new development – to house creative businesses as part of Lewisham's creative arts strategy for Creekside.

This just gives an idea of the scope that Artworks are working within and how by playing a long game they can exploit Lewisham's strategic long term plans for the area.

Background on Stow Projects

Perhaps better known for his academic career as a professor of neuroscience, William Fulford was also a property developer. With his development partner, he started Camden Lock market in 1971. By 1985 the area had become so popular that three other markets had opened nearby.

But as early as 1974, Bill's company Northside Developments began submitting plans to build on and expand the market, but met with opposition from stall holders and craftspeople, locals and Camden Council. They finally got planning permission for a new building in 1981, which opened in 1993. Bill's other son Will was left in charge. In 2012, Northside sold their Camden Lock empire to their financial backers Brockton Capital for an undisclosed amount. In 2014 Brockton sold the site to an Israeli billionaire (once convicted of fraud) whose company Market Tech is based offshore.

Market Tech now own all of the markets as well as other Camden sites, and a massive redevelopment of the area is underway to rehouse the markets into towers of offices and luxury housing that will change the face of Camden.

Meanwhile the Fulfords (Bill and son Charlie) as Stow Projects and in a variety of other guises, have been investing in regeneration to create ‘interim’ uses for land that is due for redevelopment. They have previously set up dormant companies for Deptford Market and Lewisham Gateway, so have had their eye on the area for quite a while.

Charlie Fulford is currently active as director or secretary of 16 property companies. His real estate lawyer is Dermot Rice, who joined controversial luxury property developers Candy & Candy Holdings in 2014 as a director (though he doesn't appear to hold any directorships at the moment). Rice's previous connections with Lend Lease would also have come in handy. This man's career has been spent easing the way for the biggest developers, the kleptocracy and their friends.  


No stranger to litigation, in a recent meeting with Julian and his wife, Rice menaced, "How many court cases would you like?"...

Just as John Cierach has constantly hassled Julian to relinquish his land occupation over the years, Charlie Fulford has now been hassling Julian for a response to his offer. 

Meanwhile, Fulford's site manager Norman Murray has written to another boat owner, Mat, asking to settle the electricity bill and get paid all the back rent Mat supposedly owes. 

Mat has replied to say all the electricity is metred and Cierach knows where the meter is (although the bill was assumed to be part of the rent), whilst also supplying a bank statement showing an up-to-date standing order of rent paid to Cierach.

This is how harassment works. This is how Artworks operates. 

Nowhere to go

The problem is that there’s nowhere for the boaters to go if they can't afford to stay.

Barking Creek is full (and existing tenants are also in dispute over PLA and landlord charges, whilst others are paying a fortune to a private developer). The Medway is filling up and getting more expensive.

Social cleansing is taking place as a consequence of developer greed, and not unlike the hundreds of displaced council tenants and leaseholders of the Heygate Estate and others who have been dispersed outside the capital, the Creekside boating community will also have to leave London and its environs.

Unless, of course, Lewisham Council see fit to protect the rights of these long term residents in some way.

But since the present administration is in favour of demolishing communities (e.g., at Reginald Road and at Achilles Street, supported by New Cross councillors) we're not holding our breath.

Watch out for when your support is needed!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Old Tidemill Garden 20th Anniversary: 22 July 2017, 4-11pm

Campaigners hoping to save the Old Tidemill Garden from demolition and redevelopment are celebrating the garden's 20th birthday this Saturday 22nd July, 4-11pm.

20 years ago a group of local activists, the Deptford Discovery Team, began a project to create a nature garden in the playing fields at Tidemill Primary School. They worked with green space community developers Groundwork to co-ordinate the landscaping and create a nature space for the children at the school, to be shared with other kids and the general public, and all with proper and full consultation with stakeholders. Along with the local community, the company who were building the DLR at the time helped create the moat pond and bridge structure that forms the centrepiece of the garden. Parents at the time were not too keen on the moat idea for obvious reasons (and it always required an adult to supervise); the compromise was a very shallow water feature that still attracts newts and ducks (to this day).

Teachers and volunteers work on the garden moat, 1997

Children work on the garden moat, 1997
Over the years the garden has grown and matured. But Lewisham Council still refer to the Old Tidemill Garden as a "recent project" (referring to its recent meantime use) and disregard its origins as a project approved by themselves to create a valuable community resource for all.

When the school moved out of the old buildings and into Deptford Lounge, guardians were invited in to occupy the building and play areas on a meantime basis. The garden area was looked after by a group of gardeners called Assembly, who took a lease on the grounds and began to run Forest School activities for children and open the space up to locals.

Meanwhile, the Council worked up plans with developer Sherrygreen Homes and housing association Family Mosaic to build 209 new homes on the site – plans that involved demolishing the garden and removing all the mature trees. These plans were submitted to Planning last September, but permission was deferred by the Planning Committee (see our March post).

One of the issues for deferral was the lack of affordable housing (11%), but a year later and just now the GLA has just agreed to award the grant funding necessary for the development to meet the original target of 37%, if not more. While this is good news, there remains a problem with Lewisham's tendency in Deptford to pit the need for it to be seen to be creating more housing against all its grand policies about defending existing green space (which is ever decreasing). With the London tax-payer now subsidising the developer's profits to supply affordable housing (that the developer originally said they would meet the costs of), the case for keeping a mature greenfield site is reduced.

Meanwhile, the layout of the buildings remains unchanged in the plans and the 20 year old community garden still faces demolition. No attempt has been made to revisit the 2016 plans to revise and make room for retention of an existing mature green space. Loosely worded statements from Mayor & Cabinet in June 2017 remain open to interpretation – for instance “That (the developer) will work in collaboration with the community group to decide the design, use and management strategies for all of the public spaces on the site”. If the Council and developer actually meant and did this, they should be looking at reworking their plans to include as much retention of the garden as possible. Alas, they are not. Nothing has changed since the September 2016 application.

Garden moat 2017

Lewisham wants this development so much. It was supposed to pay for the award-winning bling-like Lounge development, selling off public land for private profit. Ironically, thanks to the dubious ambitions of the head teacher, Tidemill School became an Academy as soon as it moved, leaving the Council wondering how much it should charge the school for being there, outside its own local authority jurisdiction (no longer a peppercorn rent, hopefully). Regardless, the new school location has no green space, and has kept coming back to its old playing fields...

Meanwhile Lewisham insists there is replacement of green space like for like, but new (private) residents will have private gardens that take up what should be considered as public green space but which will reduce that space by half. They have even claimed they are increasing public space because the Tidemill green area was not open to the public – yet they have made sure it hasn't been ever since they decanted the school.

Lewisham have been planning this for so long that all the trees on the Tidemill site already don't exist according to a borough tree survey going back 10 years when they first decided to demolish the garden.

Coincidentally, the garden was an achievement that 'belonged' to the previous Mayor, Dave Sullivan. No love lost there (nor by us, as Sullivan went on to be a developer – including the small development Princess Louise House now affected by the Tidemill development – and was a founding member of Renewal, now renowned for its shady dealings at Millwall).

Mayor Dave Sullivan opens Tidemill School's new wildlife garden in 1997,
with Jess Steele OBE (who helped create the Ha'Penny Hatch among other things,
and later went on to save Hastings Pier, among other achievements)

The green space that has existed since the garden was created and planted in 1997 is now mature and gorgeous, but is still considered a brownfield site by the Council. 20 years ago it was a playing field, and prior to that it was a car park, and a bombed out 2WW site before that. The Council, who you'd expect to keep a good archive and also protect community assets, keep getting it wrong. They don't even know what year the anchor was installed – they say 1990 when we know it was 1988.

Lewisham's plan also involves the demolition of an entire Council block. Lewisham Homes tenants and leaseholders will be rehoused in the new development and will become tenants of Family Mosaic housing association with consequent loss of council tenant rights (yet still with the Right To Buy, although the price they'd have to pay would be double). Leaseholders will retain their current value against the greater value of the new property but their service charges will triple. Currently only 3 out of 17 residents are leaseholders and so far only two tenants have supported the demolition (and subsequent rehousing on a building site, whilst living next to one whilst their new homes are built).

The financial aspects of the new funding arrangements were discussed in private when the proposals came up before Mayor & Cabinet this June, considered to be 'commercially sensitive'. When the decision then came before the scrutiny of the Business Panel in early July, Council officers were requested to make the figures available to the public. So far, they still remain a secret and all figures and sensitive detail redactedNot just the financial figures to do with the grant funding and how many affordable homes there will be and what it costs us all, but what the tenants and leaseholders of Reginald House think about being rehoused as well.

Come and celebrate the achievements of the community against all odds! Saturday 22nd July at Tidemill Gardens from 4pm till late.

Click to enlarge

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Celebrating 30 years...Heart n Soul

We'd like to share a good news story. One that has grown out of the community instead of something plonked on us by developers or the Council.

This eye-scream delight has been put up by Heart n Soul, the learning disabled creative arts project that has been operating out of The Albany for the past 30 years.

They're celebrating all summer and painting the bank is just one of the ways they've been having fun and sharing the joy. They got full permission from the owner, who is thankfully not some corporate outfit planning to put in a McDonalds, as many of us suspected, but is local and at some point will move his business here from another location on the high street (clue: Berkeley Square). Mark Williams, the CEO of Heart n Soul thinks it's likely that their decorations will stay up for a while after their festival is finished. We love it.

Check out Heart n Soul and how they've developed their programme and project over the years.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Ha'Penny Hatch Path Threat

Crossfields residents who use the Ha’Penny Hatch Bridge to Greenwich may know that our old friends at Thames Tideway – builders of the £4.2bn super sewer folly – plan to divert the approach to the bridge from the Greenwich side onto a path close to the railway arches.

With the building work now underway it is plain to see that the new route will be a fraction of the width of the old, and surrounded by high concrete walls and sound proofing hoardings.  It seems likely to be deeply unpleasant and too narrow to accommodate cyclists and pedestrians.  Which is, of course, quite a problem when it is in fact an official cycle route (Quietway 1).  

Local campaigners have urged residents to complain to Tideway NOW – before it is too late – to widen the route. Go and take a look for yourselves and email with your views.

UPDATE 14/03/17: STOP THIS !!!! WORK CONTINUES ON RAPE ALLEY !!! This is for 5 years!!!

Email/tweet/message TfL, Tideway and Royal Borough of Greenwich about Rape Alley!!!

Update on Tidemill

We commented extensively on the planning application for the redevelopment of the old Tidemill school site last year in February and April. At the end of September it went before the Strategic Planning Committee. The meeting was massively attended by locals objecting to the plans, and five people as well as Cllr Brenda Dacres spoke comprehensively on all the reasons why planning permission should be refused. The committee also found flaws in the proposals (as briefly reported in the Council's minutes) and decided to defer the decision almost unanimously.

Deferral means the plans are put on hold while clarification on, reconsideration of, and justification for the following issues are sought:

1. The impact on neighbouring properties in respect of daylight and boundary treatments

2. How proposed open spaces and communal areas would be run, managed and shared, and in particular, cater for children in the way the former school garden did

3. Why Reginald House was being demolished and the terms of residents' reallocation

4. The lack of affordable housing being achieved.

This pretty much reflected most of the objectors' concerns, if not all of them – for instance, the demolition of the school caretaker's house wasn't mentioned. In our opinion should be saved as a heritage asset and its retention would prevent overshadowing of any kind on Frankham House.

Ducking and diving

Following the deferral, a meeting was set up in November for the objecting group to meet with the developer Sherrygreen Homes and the architects Pollard Thomas Edwards (PTE). PTE were also responsible for the new Tidemill school and Deptford Lounge, including the residential housing in that complex (and would probably be shocked to learn that its residents refer to their building, which was built by Galliard Homes and is run by L&Q, as The Titanic (as it is sinking) and The Leaky Ship (as, like the library which is currently being repaired, the roof leaks).

By this time, the group had the support of GLA Assembly Member for Greenwich & Lewisham, Len Duvall, who chaired the meeting. The group also hoped to organise a 'charrette' that would involve the community in a collaboration with the Council, developer and architects that would enable the latter to take on board existing local residents' views in order to develop new plans. This model has worked in other places, often producing a beneficial result (read 'profitable') result for the developer.

The campaigners' main aim was to retain the wildlife garden and avoid demolition of buildings. The architects had previously revealed that they had originally been invited by Council officers to produce plans showing 0%–100% retention of the school garden (which the Council has since denied) and that they'd support a charrette if asked to by Council officers.

The Council's brief also included demolishing Reginald House. This was in spite of recent investment in the building between 2008–2012 in the form of a new roof, new wiring, new intercom system, new kitchens and bathrooms and new boilers. It had not, however, benefitted from the external works programmed on other Lewisham Homes estates  (including Crossfields) in 2014 via Decent Homes funding. The original plan ten years ago was to demolish the blocks on Giffin Street and Frankham House as well, and when these other buildings were given a reprieve, Reginald House residents were told there were no plans to demolish their block.

In December and January, Sherrygreen submitted new documents and plans to Lewisham. Nothing much had changed, and most deferral questions remained unanswered. The affordable housing quoient had been reduced from 16.2% to 11%, having been corrected to account for the fact that 13 of the 'new' social rents would be transfers from the already existing Reginald Road tenants.

Information was included on how the decision to demolish Reginald House had been made, but there was no evidence provided that 37% of affordable homes had been contracted for the site, and no information to show how the values of shared ownership units had been worked out. Information requested that would show the chronology and quality of communications between the Council and Reginald House residents was posted to the planning portal but 3 pages of a 5 page document detailing the offer to the three leaseholders were missing. Information on how much rent the leaseholders would have to pay in addition to the equity in their previous homes and what their new service charges would be was missing. Service charges could potentially zoom from around £850 pa with the Council to up to the UK average for new-builds of £2.7k per year.

In addition, 5 out of 7 questions put to the Council by a solicitor on behalf of Reginald House residents have still not been answered, and the Planning Officer had still failed to provide any Council records of the previous refurbishment work done on Reginald Road. In addition, no other space in the area could be found for the gardening group to move to.

At the end of February this year, the group met with the council and developers again, with the latter only prepared to discuss how the group could have an input into the design of the public areas in their plan. Most of the meeting was taken up with the landscape architect's presentation of a veritable bouquet of different designs and numerous sketches that incorporated ideas taken from the existing Tidemill wildlife garden but inserted into much smaller spaces. Mature 20 year old trees would be replaced by 2-3 year old trees.

There were no changes to the building plans, so the right of light issues remained for existing residents in Frankham House, Princess Louise House and those on Reginald Road, but there appeared to be a lot more reassurance for Reginald House residents in terms of what they would get in return for having their homes demolished.

Affordable Housing

The campaigners asked for evidence that 37% of affordable homes had been contractually agreed;
partners Sherrygreen and Family Mosaic had been selected on the basis that they would provide 35% affordable units. The actual build that became fully visible in their September application was only 16.2%. The remainder was to be provided via a Section 106 commitment "to use reasonable endeavours to increase affordable homes on this site to 78 units (37%), subject to the availability of grant funding".

Where was this grant funding going to come from? There were no guarantees there would be any. Yet Deptford Councillor Joe Dromey, who is a privileged Mayor & Cabinet member, continued to boast about the 37%, despite being informed of the reality on several occasions. As we've pointed out before, the 16.2% figure included the 13 social housing tenants who would be transferred. Not a real gain in social rents (5), just an abstract gain in new-build social rents (18). This was finally acknowledged by the developer's subsequent Planning Statement submitted in December, in which they admitted the total was actually only 11%, once they'd factored in the 13 homes already socially rented before they were to be demolished and rehoused. *See update July 2017 at the end of this post.

The group also asked for information to show the shared ownership values – because the three leaseholders at Reginald House would only part-own their new homes which would be worth much more at market value. At the February meeting they were told that they could buy in at 25% of the extra value and not have to pay any rent on the rest. If your 2-bed ex-local authority flat is worth £300k and you can move into a £645k flat and pay no extra rent, who's to argue? Fair compensation for putting up with 3 years building works going on around you – a year of noise and dust whilst they build your new home nearby, then when you move in, another two years of noise and dust while they knock down your old home and build the rest of it. The catch is, as mentioned above, a very significant increase in service charges.

Developer profits

In the Viability Report prepared by Urban Delivery for the Council in Sept 2016, market values for the new homes were based on average house sales in the area in August. They had a 1-bed flat priced at £350k and 2-bed at £475k. This is the problem with Viability reports.

Sherrygreen's Tidemill private flats won't be sold at the 'average' prices that include local old ex-local authority properties. These new-builds will go at whatever the market value for new build luxury flats will be in 2-3 years time. Presently, the average new-build 1-bed flat (eg Timberyard, Greenland Place, Anthology and Kent Wharf, excluding 'penthouses') is £430k, a 2-bed is £645.

This is already an increase of 35% on 2-bed and 25% more for 1-beds on the prices quoted in the Viability report the Council is basing its financial dealings on.

When you compare the average prices given with the prices other new-builds are currently achieving, and factor in the number and variety of units (eg 73 x 2-beds, 18 x 3-bed flats, numerous 1-3 bed maisonettes etc) the developer is likely to achieve private sales of £100m if they were selling them this month. But the Council's consultants, Urban Delivery, reckon it'll be around 25% less than that (£78.74m).

UD said "average private sales would need to rise by 13.25% before the scheme would even break even."  Already, based on UD's unrealistic sales figures, the developer has made a 27% profit on private sales, well beyond the 13.25% needed to break even.

Urban Delivery go on to argue that what with Brexit and all, the poor developer is not likely to achieve the averaged out August sales values *bite fingernails*. But not to worry, as they already have a 20% profit built-in to the overall costs to set against the GDV (Gross Development Value).

Also there's a built-in 6% profit on the small amount of affordable housing to set against the overall 'Net Realisation' of £84.38m. This figure is more likely to be £105.64m based on early 2016 prices, about £21m more already.

Developer costs are also estimated at £84.38m (only £44m of those costs are for construction). While construction costs will rise, these are likely to be over-estimated while private sales values are totally undervalued. But any profit to be made on underestimated sales projections is in addition to a guaranteed 26%.

Land values

The Council's viability consultants Urban Delivery (who have helped Southwark Council achieve unbelievably low levels of affordable housing in favour of Lend Lease at the Elephant) look to be biased towards developers in the sale of the land that belongs to us.

Urban Delivery has suggested Lewisham sell the land to Family Mosaic for a total of £13.5m, which is £4.34m per acre (Tidemill is 3.11acres). This is much less than half of the £9.2m per acre that UD say is the lower figure paid on land in the area. It is also much less than Family Mosaic paid for Sun Wharf on the Creekside riverfront in Feb 2015 – they paid £15.5m, but it is only 0.70 acres, less than a quarter of the size of Tidemill. For the developer Bellway Homes to make any money they have to build densely so they plan to build 280 'dwellings' there.

The consultants acknowledge that larger sites in the area with the benefit of residential planning consent (as Tidemill will have) can range between £9.2m – £13.4m per acre. And that "applying this value range to the subject site would indicate a land value of between £28m to £40m", but they conclude that "for the proposed scheme and site density this is unlikely to be achievable in practice" because Tidemill is not a dense site.

If the land was sold at £28m, with only 209 homes spread over 3.11acres, each dwelling would be worth £134k – rather more than the average plot value of £89,500. UD notes that high density developments were averaging £55-£56k per dwelling – tower block units, with no greenery or garden areas, and aside from premium views in some, mostly offering views of other flats. Quite different from and much less desirable than the landscaped low-rise environment envisaged for Tidemill, which also has great transport links, access to shops, bars and facilities. So Tidemill could easily achieve plot values similar to the £89,500 average, and the land sold for £18.7m – a bit more value for money on a publicly owned asset. Nevertheless, UD suggest a plot value for Tidemill of £64,600 per dwelling – which allows for more subsidised housing (a subsidy paid for by us), but greater profit for the developer.

*Update July 2017: The GLA have now agreed to provide the grant funding necessary to meet the affordable housing target. Figures are redacted in the Mayor & Cabinet's decision papers, so it remains to be seen what sort of deal has been struck and whether the viability assessment will be updated when the application reappears before the Strategic Planning Committee in September 2017, a year after deferral. The garden remains under threat.