I was recently around Greenwich and Deptford, and with time to kill, thought I’d have a look at how the new developments are shaping up. I’ll get on to that in a bit, but despite the plethora of new builds bringing thousands of homes and millions in developers cash to councils, adjacent areas such as Greenwich’s council estate by Norman Road still look a mess.
Pleading poverty is no excuse for the state of these areas; the severe mismanagement long predates cuts and Greenwich council has more money coming in from nearby developments, that can be utilised to boost deprived spots, than almost all other councils.
What is it – not giving a damn or not being able to due to chronic and systemic management problems? They either don’t want to turn long-neglected estates and poorer areas into attractive, safe, welcoming spots, or lack the ability to do so. I hope it’s not the former, so Councillors need to be asking real questions of funding priorities (ie don’t siphon it all off to select areas) and Council Officers in charge of departments. For one – the Housing Department need serious questions being asked of their neglect of public spaces. It’s endemic across many, many areas.
But then again Greenwich Council have just launched a new propaganda newspaper at high cost after spending many thousands trying to fight off the closure of the old, despite being in breach of rules. Maybe that shows what they care about most.
Anyway, back to the new builds bringing many new homes, albeit not many very affordable to most. Charters Wharf has almost finished. This is by bptw architects, who were based in a former building on site. They will move back to the site once complete. This is the second stage of this development on Deptford Creek.
The architects have moved to a building at the junction of Norman Road and Greenwich High Road. Just last week a screening option went in to demolish this and rebuild as housing. A block up to 12 storeys and 63 flats. The planning ref is 16/2376/EIA
Back to the Creekside block, and it’s all a bit drab and monotonous across the Creekside facade except parts where the two blocks merge which appear pretty cluttered and messy. A newly created waterside walk is a big boost to the area, but generally it’s a dull addition. when looking at the Creekside frontage.
It’s not too bad though from Norman Road, at least the northern half which is complete. Some decent brick detailing and the balconies don’t protrude too much, giving that tacked on at the last minute feel. Windows and balconies are of good proportion and the double height street frontage is good. However, given the very high cost of retail rents don’t expect many small businesses to be able to afford it. Maybe the majority will be taken over by bptw.
Over the other side of the Creek we see that site preparation for a tower is proceeding. This will be a private rented tower from Essential Living. The river defences look pretty much complete.
Here’s how it will look when complete in around two years.
It’s the green tower that is imminent. The block behind is in Lewisham borough, where recently the council and Trinity Centre agreed to sell land to enable that to proceed.
Public realm again
Back to Greenwich borough, and the mess that is public spaces in council run estates. Yep, an old topic, but inexusable. Finding one bit of street furniture, wall or fence that isn’t falling apart is a challenge. They’ve been told many times of the issues. It’s a lawsuit waiting to happen. Here’s a wall at the very entrance that looks a bit like jenga.
A beautiful welcome for all estate residents and visitors. It’s all so crap. And turn round from this spot and just ahead is New Capital Quay – a huge recent development comprising many hundreds of homes, a Waitrose, Costa, Fullers pub and more. Millions came into Greenwich council from it. Seemingly nothing went on these neglected areas. Then add in Charters Wharf above – same story. And the Essential Living tower two minutes away. All bring in money. None helps locals and long forgotten areas.
This is not usable space. Certainly not welcoming. This could become a nice play area for kids. A place to sit and meet. Instead it’s dead – even in the summer holidays. No kids are playing here. No residents are meeting. And to create a welcoming space where locals and visitors would want to meet or stay would make barely a dent in the cash coming in to the council. At the very least an attractive area would increase civic and community pride and sense of belonging. Some people stop caring if those in charge do.
The estate also exhibits some failed legacy design of trying to enclose areas with large walls. A few selective knocking down of some walls would open the estate up and greatly improve it. For example, lose the wall to the left to open up the site:
That could be an interim measure, as the whole area above needs a big revamp really. But it’s cheap and easy to do, if the will is there. A bit further along Norman Road, opposite the new Charters Wharf blocks, is this apparently pointless bit of wall. Knock it down, plant a tree there and add in some cycle parking:
To knock down would cost very little for a nice gain. Little things, cumulatively, make big differences.
None of this kind of thing is rocket science – there’s examples of similar kind of thing happening everywhere.
Finally, and again just two minutes away, is a development of homes and retail along Creek Road, now called The Gramercy, again by bptw. Not much is visible yet, though completion is expected shortly.
I really like the look of this in renders. Solid proportions. The one part that is visible so far is concerning – the materials used on the top floor are far more drab that shown above. They are a dreary grey.
I’ve uploaded a few more photos to the long-forgotten Flickr page. It can be seen here.