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Sunday 11 July 2010

Response to London's Lost Garden


The model of garden archaeology and restoration that is offered by the work shown in the link above, is one that might lead us to question current methodology, approach, attitude and aspirations in relation to statutory agencies' consideration of Sayes Court Gardens to date. I am not aware of there being much if any considered interest by the statutory agencies in the opportunity this site provides, such as the commissioning of a special study, which surely the site warrants? So if anyone is aware of public agencies expressions of considered interest to date it would be great to hear about it. This is not meant as a cynical criticism of agencies who are publicly charged and publicly funded to enhance and promote heritage but more of an invitation for there to be more openness to, or even to share existing openness to other approaches and assessments with the general public. Despite numerous assertions of community participation there is still a tendency towards hostility to the participation of the "general public", still very much a "top down", "we know best" "what we say goes" attitude towards what is, rightfully, everyone's heritage and cultural capital that everyone holds a stake in. We can however take heart from the publication of PPS5 http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/planningandbuilding/pdf/1514132.pdf in light of which Convoy's Wharf development will serve as a case study of the efficacy and integrity of the agencies who have formulated and define their public stance through the release of such policy. Another model of practice that may be applicable to Convoy's Wharf is the current project for the Hoo peninsula being led by Sarah.Newsome@english-heritage.org.uk. Finally, it would be interesting to know what percentage of Heritage funds are deployed in areas of social deprivation and what the positive benefits of such spending are. Albury street was a very successful scheme of restoration, where some of the houses had been gutted and remained roofless for years. Now all of these buildings are listed grade II*, and providing employment opportunities for young people working on heritage tours of Deptford. http://www.culturesnap.com/ There seems to be no limit to what can be achieved where the creative and political will exists. Perhaps what may help is the independent scrutiny/study by an academic body perhaps one that has a Europe wide experience and perspective (and taste!) and that is also free of the emotion that besets those of us who live and feel that we belong to this extraordinary part of London and that we tend to express in relation to outside perception and attitudes to the place. There was a good study done by Ricky Burdett that was commissioned by Lewisham. It may be a little out of date but there were some very good ideas there and given that it was paid for by Lewisham Borough it ought to still be an active document and therefore "on the table' when it comes to determining this current proposal by Hutchison Whampoa. Enough already!

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