On their home page, Bluecroft announce their new land purchase (May 2014, apparently) as a site with "potential for a large residential new build development of circa 150 apartments".
Tom said they specialised in "Affordable Commercial", a mixed use of housing and commercial space – with the affordable emphasis on units for 'creatives' rather than homes that ordinary people can afford. Conscious that he was talking to a local artist, he was keen to show his awareness of the area already being a 'creative and small business environment'. This is also the designation for Creekside given by the Council, though this did little to stop Faircharm Estate owners Workspace cutting its affordable commercial employment space by two thirds in order to build luxury flats by the Creek.
Bluecroft say it will take two to three years to work up suitable plans and they will do their best to consult with their neighbours, since they "are a small company who cannot afford refusals" – in other words, they cannot afford to appeal if planning permission is refused. It is equally true that the Council cannot afford appeals either – there is only so much they can do in the face of aggressive market interests (and practically nothing at all when Boris Johnson steps in and takes planning control from them, eg Convoys Wharf, where the GLA has bent over backwards to give the Hong Kong developer everything it wants). Anyway, just how small can Bluecroft be if they can also boast a £150m project in a secret location in the City?
The north London outfit are also already ensconced in Lewisham – they include Riverdale House next on their list of recent projects. This is a bit odd since Galliard Homes are already actively promoting a whole floor of (15) properties 'off-plan' in this "all private" development (with no 'help to buy'). One way or another, Bluecroft are partnered with some big sharks.
Perhaps they will operate in a similar way to Cathedral plc's Deptford Project. They 'worked with' the Council in its plans for the new station and claim to have 'worked with the community' (the train carriage and low-rent 'creative' spaces in the arches). They certainly threw some money at the area around their site, but where's their investment in Deptford now? Nowhere to be seen. Since they arrived in Deptford, they've acquired large sites in Greenwich. Building on Deptford Project aka Rise was delayed whilst they concentrated on their Greenwich High Road site, and at Morden Wharf on the peninsula they're now pretending to be terribly concerned about the future of the river (and all those terrible high rise luxury developments!).
Then as soon as building started in Deptford they brought in IP Global to sell their properties overseas. See our recent post, and also the Deptford Dame's new post on local reactions to IP Global's marketing strategies. (See the video which provoked protest at the end of this post). It remains to be seen what businesses can exist and survive in the renovated arches, but the busy market and cafe culture depicted in their visuals will be in shade for most of the day.
Will they be offering special rents to social enterprises? Why aren't they doing that now in another part of Deptford – and showing their on-going commitment to the area? As the ex-director of Deptford X Visual Arts festival often noted when trying to raise funding, developers only give money when they are trying to curry favour. Once they have their planning permission, the funding dries up. This year's (late) funder was Anthology – new kids on the block, and making all the right noises and showing themselves to be well cuddly. They only appear 'nice' because they're not as awful as Lend Lease or, indeed, Hutchison Whampoa.
Still, even if Bluecroft intend to pretend to be friendly (quote Tom Mulligan "I come from an artists' background, so I know all about the arts"), it is blindingly obvious that development is their business and they are out to make shitloads of money (as the Deptford Dame coins it). And that is almost preferable to the deception being forged by the wolf-in-sheep's-clothing that is the owner of Number Three Creekside. Mr John Cierach (whose portfolio also includes the yard behind the Bird's Nest and the Big Red Pizza Bus) claims to be creating a "creative hub" for this little corner of Creekside and has tried to convince locals that he is "fully invested in the creative life of the area". Fully invested alright – with his secret plans to buy the Bird's Nest pub and turn it into flats (so far resisted) and his fanciful idea of building flats under the DLR viaduct (nice!).
[Ironically, whilst Cierach's plans to stage weekend late-licensed live music events attracting up to 500 people give nearby long-term residents on Crossfields much cause for concern, a brand new residential development at the MOT-Bluecroft site would be incompatible not only with that, but with the already well-established activities at the Bird's Nest. Venues are often shut down as a result of noise complaints from people who move into new developments knowing full well there is a lively and popular venue nearby – hence this recent e-petition.]
Ultimately, the issue we have with developers is that they are not building the homes that ordinary Londoners can afford. Creating balanced communities is simply not their business; their role in 'regeneration' is totally skewed. Bluecroft Property's plans may include affordable creative business units but they'll probably be the 'micro' kind suitable only for trendy mobile app designers who have been outpriced in Shoreditch. And then only because the Council have asked them to – so that they can continue to attract development money to Lewisham! But Bluecroft are under no obligation to provide any remotely affordable homes. Are they?
"When the artists start coming, that's when you want to get in" Tim Murphy, IP Global.
Er, they're already here, Tim, you knob, and you're pricing them out so they'll all be gone soon.