Popular Posts

Search This Blog

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.


  1. Hear, hear.
    To see how much attention the developers have paid to the site's heritage in 2009, go to the 'background' page (followed by their 'in context' page) on their 2009 site here:

  2. I keep reading your blogs about the senseless plans in Convoys Wharf and I don't really know what I as a resident near by can do. Is there something specific that I should write in my response to the consultation? Is there a more organised response of the community? It would be good to hear from you.

  3. a timely response Yaelliot, watch this blog and other local blogs over the next few days for imminent events and community repsonses related to the development of Convoys Wharf!

  4. Great. I am happy to help with anything required.

  5. Yaelliot see http://deptforddame.blogspot.com/2011/09/convoys-wharf-planning-objections.html

  6. Yaelliot, here's a great one, an incredibly exciting opportunity for the community,


  7. A Well Written and Pertinent Article .

    Social Justice is very Important and to
    Revive Wood Work Skills such as in the
    Building of Wooden Replica Warships will
    Give something Back to Deptford and it's
    Ordinary People given all the Pride and Culture
    that has been Stripped from it Sadly

    The Quality of Life for Ordinary People is a Important Asset