Monday, 28 November 2011

English Heritage say Convoys Wharf development fails to grasp the site’s “historic significance”

English Heritage say Convoys Wharf development fails to grasp the site’s “historic significance”:
Convoys Wharf

Convoys Wharf on the Thames pic: Denna Jones

The development of Convoys Wharf has come under pressure from English Heritage who have criticised plans for failing to take into account the site’s history, adding to concerns held by local residents and Lewisham council.

The 40-acre site in Deptford is the subject of a multi-billion pound regeneration planning application that would transform the area into a complex of high-rise apartment blocks and offices.

But English Heritage conservation feels that the plans, currently under public consultation, ignore the area’s historic features.

In a letter to Lewisham council earlier this month, English Heritage said they were “particularly disappointed that the opportunity to re-engage with the site’s outstanding historic significance has not been grasped.”

They say the importance of the remaining features of the wharf, including the large basin that connects the river and a Victorian warehouse, are sidelined, and that the history of the former Royal Dockyard, built by Henry VII, was not considered in the creative process.

The letter goes on to criticise the “rectilinear, grid-like planning” as well as proposals to include three towers of over thirty storeys, which would obscure the panoramic view from Greenwich Park.

A spokesperson from English Heritage told EastLondonLines: “The form and scale as currently proposed in this application fails to take account of the context and location. The current approach does not offer a legible link with the river and the former activity of the site.

“We believe the development should have a relationship with the local scale of Deptford and Greenwich and not to the metropolitan scale of, for example, the City or Canary Wharf”

These concerns are shared by Lewisham Council’s planning department. In a letter seen by EastLondonLines to Hong Kong-based owners Hutchison Whampoa, the head of planning says that the plans are “not, by a long way, a sufficient response to the history of the site and associated areas of historical significance.”

As previously reported by EastLondonLines, residents have also complained over the lack of affordable housing provided for in the plans.

In the past Lewisham Council have declined to comment as a formal decision is yet to be made on the application. However, this official discontent is likely to bolster the case of local residents and historians who feel that there has been inadequate public involvement in deciding the future of the wharf.

William Richards, owner of the Master Shipwright’s house in Deptford which borders the development, told EastLondonLines that the main problem is that designers are disconnected from the context and history of the site.

Although he disagrees with the current proposal, he believes there is the potential for a modern development to reflect Deptford’s historical assets.

He said: “It is not too late to progress. With good architects and a new process of design, the owners can still produce a more relevant and still profitable scheme by engaging with the historic assets on the site and using the energy of local initiatives to create a really special new quarter for Deptford and London, of which everybody can be proud.”

A petition launched by local blog ‘Deptford Is…’ in opposition to the plans has gathered more than 200 signatures, while over 150 objections have been lodged to the council against the application.

Hutchison Whampoa were contacted but declined to comment.

Additional reporting by Michael Pooler

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