Crossed Bridges

Residents in Deptford and Greenwich, the ‘Friends of Deptford Creek,’ have formed an alliance to help co-ordinate living and working amongst the clustered houseboats and workplaces, to share access to the land resources and promote mooring rights.

Living on the Creek they enjoy relative independence, whilst navigating increasingly unstable environmental, commercial and social conditions. All around them, the struggle for land use, rolls on at a ferocious rate, excluding some and capturing others, in the quest for recognition, acknowledgement and respect.

Upholding rights to access resources, trade and live locally, are long fought battles, sustained against the odds. Increasingly rapid transformation along each side of the Creek is out-gunning the capacity to respond. Finding the energy to resist reckless planning and hold developers to their commitments is left to those people most effected. All are agreed that more independent and widespread DIY monitoring and critical response is required, not least, to gather information to counter commercial assumptions of developers.

Meanwhile, city workers and their families are moving into fresh apartments rising at every corner. Racing costs of domestic rents and restrictions of workspace are contributing to a crisis of identity and insecurity that will continue to oppress homemakers in the area, perpetuating the churn of fortunes many are already experiencing.

Large scale infrastructure projects in progress across London will soon be joined by Thames Tideway sewer overflow construction from Ealing to Becton along the Thames. There are two deep excavations planned for SE8. One at Deptford Church Street and the other at Greenwich Pump Station. Both will contribute massive local disruption for five years or more, whilst offering little in compensation or shelter for those effected.

At a recent meeting of the Deptford and Greenwich Liaison Working Group held at Creekside Discovery Centre, we heard from officials of the Thames water, Tideway and Lewisham council about their commitment to public liaison yet despite it’s detailed project plans, little was presented to ally fears of further sweeping aside of community interest and blank faced consultation processes. The promise here is for full co-operation and clarity, leaving lots of scope to fudge delivery !

Resistance to the rehearsed rhetoric surprised many of the Tideway builders and administrators present. Our Informed requests for detailed data about environmental monitoring already taking place, or any commitment to make such data feeds available were not received well, with only tacit offers of aggregation and post collection reporting on offer.. Let’s have the raw data available, please!

Additional topics to the prepared agenda tried to focus on awareness of how to negotiate for the £2.5 million pound section 106 CIL to benefit local activities (see recent council meeting minutes). However the Greenwich Pump Station excavation doesn’t have an allocation out of this, strange considering how many newly built places there will be disrupted. More on this to come!

The physical links between Greenwich and Lewisham residents are limited to the access to footpaths and bridges crossing Deptford Creek. There are seven public crossings two by road and rail and four by foot. The newest of these a ‘swing’ bridge sits at the mouth of the creek where it tips into the Thames and was completed early in 2015. A lifting bridge at Creek road allows the few larger gravel boats servicing the cement works to pass through. The rail ‘Iron Bridge’ is an industrial heritage monument but which is due a raft of safety improvement measure not least the replacement of the housing and engine lifting equipment with GRP simulations. The Ha’ppeny Hatch just beyond was installed after huge public appeal for a footbridge at this point to provide safer crossing and links Norman Road to Creekside. Environmental designs for a continuation of pedestrian walkways stretching from New Cross Gate to Woolwich were outlined in Borough Plans of the nineties!

Planning consent for 500 ton barges to carry away spoil from the Tideway tunnel dig has been requested to limit the use of road haulage consent, already offered. This would result in 2 transports per tide, instead of 100 trucks a day. For this to be possible, dredging of the middle section of the creek from Iron Bridge to the Creek mouth. The effect of all this will be to destabilize the small community of boats including the Minesweeper cluster of boats opposite Laban Dance. A further consequence will make the study area for Creekside low tide walkers inaccessible. Dredging may well turn up unexpected complications for all those along this stretch, as it’s historical uses have left a noxious sludge residue submerged not far below.

The A2 crosses over the creek at Deptford Bridge where the DLR also spans overhead. A cycle and foot path picks up again in Broadway Fields an open space with basketball courts and opportunities for public socialising, often occupied by small groups playing sport or hanging out and enjoying the rare chance for a view of sky.

A humpback footbridge jumps back over to the path leading south into Brookmill Park and the wide footbridge adjacent to Stephen Lawrence Centre opens out onto Brookmill Road. The Ravensbourne river cuts along the side of the park, in a concrete trench from Lewisham alongside the DLR.

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