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Monday 26 September 2011

Brief Objections to the Proposed Development of Convoys Wharf: Heritage

Within Hutchison Whampoa's Design Team’s proposals there is no clear strategic vision for the heritage influence or the realisation of its potential contribution to the site. The Design Team has failed to demonstrate design sensitivity to the majority of historic dockyard structures, the basin, mast ponds and slipways. Better solutions can be found based on a heritage led approach, appropriate for an area of archaeological priority and unparalleled historic significance on the London Thames. The Design team is basing its disregard for the history on the suggested condition of the structures alone and whilst this is controversial what I more controversial is the attempt to instill a disaggregated approach to the dockyard as a whole and a wholesale disregard for historic association of eminent architects , engineers and major national figures and nationally significant events.

The Design teams decisions and their proposals currently demonstrate that they have not been guided by specific Government national policy English Heritage on Naval and Maritime sites (EH April 2011), Thames Gateway, London Plan or more recent heritage policy such as PPS5.

A sensitivity to the Tudor dockyard plan, its routes, circulations, access points, its historic open spaces is not apparent in the Design Team’s proposals. An understanding and familiarity of these resources is absent as they have not been utilized by the Design Team to inform their choices and proposals in the location of buildings. These resources should be used to stimulate alternative designs, stimulate dialogue between the new and the old and encourage better solutions than those currently proposed.

Whilst successful design must respond to the market, market forces should never dictate design decisions affecting the historic environment. Fifty years ago, the earliest naval building in the country, Henry VIII’s Great Storehouse of 1513, was demolished for “economic and strategic reasons”. The building that replaced it stood for less than thirty years. Whilst planners need to understand the market and meet its demands, we must ensure that the same mistakes are not repeated by squandering irreplaceable historic resources.

A successful scheme is one that will respond to people’s needs beyond housing and retail. The site is bookended by listed buildings of the Master Shipwright’s House and Payne’s Wharf to the east, the buildings of the Royal Victualling yard to the West and backed up by one of the most significant garden sites in the country, John Evelyn’s Sayes Court Garden. This is the greatest concentration of heritage assets in the borough of Lewisham.
Heritage assets exist across the site, creating the opportunity for the creation of an unparalleled stretch of the Thames Path in London that incorporates the influence of the archaeology and historic assets within the design proposals. The incorporation of the areas of the mast ponds, their entrance gates, of the basin and its entrance gates, of the slipways with their brick and stone entrances have not been utilized to inform the design layout. Whether this is achieved as green space in the form of sunken gardens, or the re-introduction of inland water bodiesas has been achieved at the neighbouring Deptford Wharves site, it is clear that there is no demonstration of any of these possibilities coming to bear within the current proposals.
PPS5 demands that field based assessments are carried out prior to the validation of a proposal. The field-based assessments of some of the most significant historic assets recognized by EH as of national importance in 2003 have not yet been achieved.

London Plan GLA
The GLA has reported that the previous proposals fall short of capitalizing on the heritage resources that the site offers. The GLA recognizes the potential for a series of heritage led responses and heritage spaces across the site. The current proposals concentrate the heritage element at the site of the dry dock alone. Isolating the dry dock in this way may impair the future sustainability of this asset.

Olympia Building
Whilst the Olympia Building is listed, its proposed development erases much of its heritage value and the proposal to build on the basin damages the context, setting and legibility of the listed building.

Sayes Court Garden
Declared an open space in the 2004 development proposals, this key site could fulfill the GLA recommendations and meet PPS5 aspirations for nationally significant historic sites. As a public open space the re-instatement of the garden would contribute to meeting health and environmental policies, especially where the current proposals for green space are limited to the landscaped dry dock.

Dry Dock
The landscaping of the dry dock is an unimaginative response. The Head dock is a vast granite built structure. As a unique feature the Head dock could contribute far more to the distinctive sense of place if it were exposed.

Seven Bridges
The opportunity for the reinstatement of seven bridges across the dock, slipway, basin and mast pond openings to the river should be explored to create an unparalleled stretch of the London Thames Path. The proposed 45ft Thames Path is sufficient width for these bridges to be re-instated.

The basin is the dockyard’s wet dock. Given that the dry dock is protected it makes sense to protect the wet dock. They were first built around the same time c.1517. Both structures were developed through successive centuries, by the eminent engineers of their time. John Rennie designed the basin as it exists now. Both structures were filled in by the late 19th century and they are both major signifiers of the dockyard. To protect only one diminishes both.
If the basin walls are not in a good condition then they should be repaired.

Mast pond
The 17th century mast pond is a unique feature and reported to be in very good condition. Possibilities should be explored to bring it back as an inland body of water or it could become a sunken garden.

Whilst the Design Team’s statements acknowledge the potential contribution of the heritage assets their current proposals do not fulfill these publicly made assertions. To this extent the Design Team’s publicity and recent consultation documentation seriously misleads the public. By engaging local people in the design process and incorporating local people’s knowledge of the site into design proposals, opposition to the scheme will diminish and the chances of the schemes success will be greatly increased.

Deptford is

shipwrightspalace blog is read daily by people like you from all over the world.
If you care about the future of the heritage environment of Henry VIII's former royal naval dockyard at Deptford that has inspired the work of this blog then please go to http://www.deptfordis.org.uk/ and sign the petition. Thankyou

Wednesday 21 September 2011

Reconnecting Deptford with the Royal Dockyard

Get to know the historic dockyard structures that still exist immediately below the modern concrete surface. View the Great Dock, the slipways, the Great Basin and mast ponds via this National Maritime Museum link. You'll find this link to the scale model of the yard built in 1774 for George III very useful if you are intending to join the archaeology day on October 8th. If you believe that these structures should inform the redevelopment and not remain filled in and buried (preservation in situ' beneath new apartments then you must write to Lewisham Planning Department before September 27th 2011. The majority of these structures are in brick and stone. They are massive and monumental engineering structures not fragile archaeological remains. Similar docks at Chatham have been retained to enhance the setting of the development, create a sense of place and mark the history of the site.


Thursday 15 September 2011

For Richer, for Poorer: Advocacy, Participation and Social Justice in the Redevelopment of Convoys Wharf

Official advocacy on behalf of heritage environment in Deptford has been and continues to be extremely poor. This lack of official advocacy pitches communities towards adverse relationships with private developers’ interest in financial capital as against communities’ investment in their cultural and social capital. This scenario of official neglect jeopardizes the enjoyment of positive outcomes for extant communities facing new developments.

Expert disdain for local investment in and appreciation of the heritage environment continues to prevail and compounds hostile relationships with administrative elites. In an area of archaeological priority where the country’s only royal dockyard with its Tudor plan extant comprised of docks, slips basin and mast ponds dating from c.1513 alongside one of the nation’s most significant garden sites at Sayes Court, requires that the official primary goal be the articulation of publicly funded policy specific to that environment.

Policies for the preservation of archaeological remains are a woefully inadequate response to vast industrial naval engineering structures intended to be 'below ground'. Development proposals citing preservation in situ are hostile to direct participative inclusion in the heritage environment. Preservation in situ falls far short of national government aspirations enshrined in PPS5.

Advocacy that gives practical voice to the aspirations of national policy and participative needs of local people can be a most effective engine of social inclusion and should stand as the primary objective in the Planning Strategy of Convoys Wharf. It is precisely the intangible material culture of people’s participative interaction with the heritage environment that should take precedence. A focus on the material environment alone is the reason why many so called community regeneration projects falter and fail.

Whilst this may sound like a new approach the thinking is closely allied to the practice of “joined up thinking” by marrying heritage, health, environmental ecological and planning policy rather than setting these policies at odds with one another and promoting hostile relationships between communities and private developers.

Lewisham Planners decisions for the Convoy’s site has great potential for progressive application, fair treatment and equal access in relation to publicly funded heritage policy. Every other royal dockyard in the country currently enjoys the benefits of publicly funded statutory protection. Should Deptford not receive fair and equal access to these policies and therefore be social excluded from such statutory protection then HRA legislation may apply. Whilst this may seem like an extreme claim, to exclude the local population from participation in its heritage environment is itself a tacit demonstration of hostility towards that community. HRA application to social policy issues, in particular with respect to the built environment, is gaining ground as a legal case study arena. Heritage is increasingly appreciated as a dynamic participative relationship and less as scenarios of ‘preservation in situ’ that preclude the opportunity for participative interaction.

In Deptford, social exclusion from fair and equal access to statutory heritage policy is conspicuous and as such is a political rather than a planning issue. in the case of the development of Convoys Wharf the absolute void of officlal advocacy, or at least a void of any advocacy shared with the community that hosts the heritage environment is a HRA issue.

Failure to implement specifically targeted policy compounds the negative social impacts that result and constitutes a form of direct discrimination. Such maladministration of readily available policy engenders community disempowerment. It is neither civil nor just to blatantly ignore the detrimental impacts of such exclusion. Indeed to ignore such detrimental impacts is to actively promote, systematize and further embed social exclusion in an already socially excluded community.

Heritage officials are perceived as elite, distant and largely middle class with little or no significant interest in the heritage of poorer areas. A comparative audit of expenditure in relation to the scope and significance of the heritage environment of the Tudor Royal Dockyard in comparison with for instance Tudor Hampton Court in an area of prosperity and affluence could prove interesting. Where elite political resolve has been habitually absent, individual and community resolve has grown, matured and mastered an unprecedented confidence.

In the interests of social justice and national obligations in the case of the redevelopment of Henry VIII’s royal dockyard, Lewisham Planners have the opportunity to determine a higher resolve than the seductive rateable values to be harvested from Hutchison Whampoa’s proposals and deliver a fair and equal access to the inherent resources of socio-cultural capital embedded in the heritage environment. The theoretical and illusory notion of “preservation in situ” complicitly denies such fair and equal access.

As a source of inspiration and a demonstration that the immaterial culture of the heritage assets at Deptford, the site of Henry VIII’s royal dockyard has served the nation as a military site through five centuries we are reminded that the European Court of Human Rights has created the right to an equality of arms in legal representation.

The monstrous and greedy Leviathan that is Hutchison Whampoa’s proposal for Henry VIII”S royal dockyard in Deptford will be fought with all the spirit and tenacity that historically characterizes the site that launched ships for the battle of the Spanish Armada, launched countless voyages of discovery of Drake, Frobisher, Cook, Vancouver, and set out ships for Nelson’s battles including Trafalgar.

Saturday 10 September 2011

Sailing, swimming, sunning, sauna, cycling, sculpture at Deptford Basin

It has recently been said that the Great Basin on the Convoys site cannot be opened as it would be a dead space. It seems that the only dead space is in the imagination of the developer and perhaps even Lewisham's own Design Panel, advisors to the Planners. If you don't have any good ideas of your own then why not borrow successful ideas from elsewhere? For starters, there's the swimming barges in Berlin

Or the sauna and swimming club on the lake in Zurich

If all of this is possible elsewhere in Europe then its possible here in Deptford too.

How amazing to be able to spend the day by the water, on the water even, cycling up to and around water based sculptures, taking a swim or a sauna or just enjoying the fresh air and sunshine. Even if its raining, won't such sculptures look even better, especially after an invigorating swim and a relaxing sauna.

So let's not settle for shopping only, so far it seems that's the idea proposed for the Olympia site. Open the Great Basin, re-instate the impressive caisson gate to the river and the bridge across the Basin mouth, install some remarkable international eye-catching sculpture, float the swimming pools and saunas on the water, and be the first to create waterborne Boris bikes.

Create a unique place for Deptford and satisfy heritage policy, health policy, arts and environmental policy in one stroke.

Friday 2 September 2011

Key Heritage Zones at Convoys Wharf

Key Heritage Zones at Convoys Wharf

There are three potential primary, key heritage zones in the Convoys site.

The first potential Key Heritage Zone is in the centre of the site and comprises the area from the existing Sayes Court Park on Grove Street through the remainder of Sayes Court Garden now within the site of Convoys Wharf continuing with the ‘Olympia’ sheds across the Henry VIII’s Great Basin to the riverfront.

The second potential Key Heritage Zone is along the riverfront comprising the potential re-instatement of the openings to the Henry VIII’s double dry dock, the slipways, Henry VIII’s Great Basin, the mast pond and the boathouse slipways.

The third potential Key Heritage Zone comprises the GII Group Value listed perimeter dockyard wall and ancient gateway on Watergate Street through the potential re-instatement Clerk of the Cheque’s Garden passed the protected TPO London Plane trees and culminating with the potential re-opening of the stone-built Head Dock of the double dry dock.

These three key heritage zones combined would provide increased permeability to the development site from surrounding existing communities providing a less hostile stance than the current development proposals allow. Increased legibility of the historic environment can be provided by the critical mass of heritage assets described in the three zones that give the site of Henry VIII's dockyard its unique identity. The realisation of the three heritage zones articulates a ground breaking and world class reading and interpretation of current policy rather than the meagre backwater response indicated in the outline planning proposals recently submitted to Lewisham by Hutchison Whampoa.

Key Heritage Zone 1

The potential to extend the area of the existing park requires the simple act of restitution of part of the remainder of Sayes Court Garden. This re-marriage of the currently divided garden meets the rear elevation of the GII listed ‘Olympia’ sheds, the 1846 slipway covers to the Great Basin. Coherence in planning policy for the historic environment highlights the importance of the setting of listed buildings. What better setting could be afforded to the monumental Great Basin Slipway Covers than that provided by one of the country’s most significant sites of horticultural history to one side and the opening of the original Great Basin to the other? Planning policy for the historic environment also highlights use and stipulates that where possible a building be returned to its original use. The original use may be the optimum use of a building. In order to comment effectively on the development proposals for Convoys Wharf and to ensure that Deptford benefits from the public funds invested in the creation of planning policy and benefits from the funding of the heritage agencies it is vital to familiarize ourselves with PPS5. (See especially HE& and HE9)

Proposed development within the Great Basin substantially harms the significance of the listed slipway covers. By ignoring the potential contribution of the basin as a contemporaneous structure with the double dry dock diminishes the impact and significance of both.

The slipway covers are an appurtenance to the basin. The key element in the evolution of the site is firstly the presence of the basin c.1517, followed by the slipways, and then finally the slipway covers c.1846. The basin is intended to be below ground, this does not make it archaeology. It is a naval and industrial engineering structure with its origins in the Tudor period with re-workings that express developments in naval and civil engineering throughout the Georgian period.

The basin slipway covers do “as it says on the tin” they cover a pair of contemporaneous slipways. The slipways were built to the design of Captain Sir William Thomas Denison of the Royal Engineers in 1845 immediately prior to his dispatch as Governor of Madras. Williams became governor of Van Diemann’s land and Governor of New South Wales Australia where he was responsible for the design of a number of significant civil engineering projects.
The slipways were in use for only twenty-three years before being filled in. As they are beneath the slipway covers no new building has occurred around them and therefore the quality of their condition is likely to be extremely high. In fact it is likely that most of the dockyard structures are in a repairable condition. Archaeology reports have stated clearly that where truncation has occurred its effect has been minimal. Besides, almost all historic buildings require repair and restoration.

The extension of the existing Sayes Court Park into the area of Sayes Court Garden presently within Convoys Wharf also opens the development site up to the area of the Evelyn Estate. A new planting scheme centered on the park could also extend outward to include Grove Street and the Evelyn Estate, making the gesture of a strong link through planting of the existing estate into the new development.

The opening of the Great Basin with its monumental entrance and floating caisson gate is the final link in a rhythm of three elements, Sayes Court Garden, the Olympia sheds and the Great Basin before arriving at the river itself. This scheme wholeheartedly incorporates the estates to the south of the development site of Convoys Wharf, taking advantage of the opportunities to capitalize on linking the green spaces around these blocks with the new Sayes Court Garden.

Historic Significance of Henry VIII’s Great Basin

The Great Basin of 1517 began its life as a medieval pond and it is likely that shipbuilding in Deptford was made possible due to this naturally occurring harbour-like feature. Naval historian Michael Oppenheim has suggested that the existing pool was enlarged to form the structure that became known as the ‘ponde’ or the wet dock. From the time of Edward I, the people of Deptford were recorded as having put out ships for the King. By 1517, the Mary Rose, the Peter Pomegranite, the Great Bark, the Lesser Bark and the Christopher are recorded as riding in the ‘ponde’ at Deptford. In the 17th century John Evelyn describes experiments for a diving bell taking place in the wet dock.
Experiments would appear to have been made from time to time; at all events, here is the record of one of which Evelyn was an eye-witness. On July 19, 1661, he writes: "We tried our Diving-Bell or Engine in the water-dock at Deptford, in which our Curator continued half an hour under water; it was made of cast lead, let down with a strong cable."


Captain James Cook hoisted the pennant on board the Endeavour in the basin:
"Having received my commission, which was dated the 25th of May, 1768, I went on board on the 27th, hoisted the pennant, and took charge of the ship, which then lay in the basin in Deptford-yard. She was fitted for sea with all expedition; and stores and provisions being taken on board, sailed down the river on the 30th of July, and on the 13th of August anchored in Plymouth Sound. While we lay here waiting for a wind, the articles of war and the act of Parliament were read to the ship's company, who were paid two months' wages in advance, and told that they were to expect no additional pay for the performance of the voyage". - Captain James Cook.

These are merely a few of the historic associations of the Great Basin of the royal naval yard. It’s worth repeating that the presence of the basin is probably the reason Henry VIII chose to site his royal dockyard at Deptford, and proudly emblazon the storehouse with his cipher.

This brings us to the second heritage zone.

Key Heritage Zone 2

This is the area of the river wall, the wharf that runs as a ribbon along the riverfront of the site. Here the structures of dock, slips, basin, mast ponds and boathouse are still extant, mostly built of stone and filled in intact c.1895-1950.

These structures could be re-opened and repaired. Although this may sound impossible, the structures referred to are built of stone and brick. The proposal, like that of the extension of Sayes Court Garden is simply for re-instatement. The entrance to the Great Basin built by John Rennie in 1814 is a monumental structure using stone blocks some even larger than 7 feet by 7 feet. The basin slipways are built on a bed of concrete, built up in brick and lined with Carline nose stone. At least one slipway entrance to the river was rebuilt in brick and the slipway to the west of the storehouse was extended in c.1859 to accommodate the frigate Ariadne that was built along the lines of the American ship the Merrimak. Given the date of this final work on this slipway it is likely that stone or brick rather than wood has been used.
These re-instated openings would allow for Seven Bridges to be re-instated along the dockyard river wall creating the most dynamic and historically rich stretch of the Thames Path in London.


This brings us to the third heritage zone

Key Heritage Zone 3

This zone has been determined based on heritage policy that requires the setting of a listed building to be given careful consideration when and where new opportunities arise to improve on poor decisions made in the past that may detrimentally affect the setting. However the same principles, guidelines and policy are not being applied to the listed Olympia sheds.

Leaving Twinkle Park crossing Watergate Street through the impressive dockyard wall you will enter a small green space that once formed the formal garden of the Clerk of the Cheque. Passing under the hundred plus year old protected London Planes trees you will reach the site of the double dry dock. Following the 400ft length of the dock to the river will take you to the Landing Place and Look-out stairs of 1720. These watergate stairs were used by the monarch for ceremonial purposes as depicted in paintings of the launching of ships. These are Deptford’s royal stairs.

The GLA has recommended that a series of significant sites is both desirable and possible within the Convoys Wharf development. To only offer one of these sites, currently only Zone 3 is offered, diminishes the significance of the site as a whole. To attempt to disaggregate the contemporaneous dockyard structures all with a Tudor origin harms the heritage assets of the site and is in direct contravention of the spirit of publicly funded heritage policy.