Cultural Steering Group

The Convoys Wharf development is on hold

The Convoys Wharf development, with its present applications for Plots 08 and 22 and the application for change of use for the Secret Cinema, is on hold until the role of a Cultural Steering Group (CSG) is resumed and fulfilling all the requirements laid down for it in the Section 106 agreement.

The Secret Cinema application for change of use has brought the CSG into the spotlight.  The role of the CSG is not only to suggest ‘Meanwhile Use’ but also to propose other ways in which the cultural value, design and activities on Convoys Wharf could be enhanced.

Voice 4 Deptford now wants to focus on ways of getting a CSG and a Cultural Strategy that can deliver a development more suited to the special nature of our lovely site on the River Thames.

The Cultural Steering Group and its role

Establishing a Cultural Steering Group (CSG) was a condition of the Section 106 Agreement, a legal document which works in tandem with the Outline Planning Agreement for the development of Convoys Wharf.  It was signed on 10 March 2015.  You can read it in full here.

According to the Section 106 Agreement, the role of the CSG is to ‘assist in advising on the formulation, development and delivery of the Initial Cultural Strategy and updated Cultural Strategies and other cultural commitments of the developer as required’ and to monitor and review implementation of the approved strategies and advise how they could be more effective.

The CSG should have a core group consisting of a minimum of 6 members, one each from CPL, LB Lewisham and at least 4 cultural representatives ‘from other groups, bodies or organisations considered appropriate to the work of the CSG’ and agreed by CPL and LB Lewisham.  The regulations for it say it should meet at least quarterly for the duration of the development.

At the beginning of 2017 Convoys Properties Ltd (CPL), the developer, established a CSG with only 3 local cultural representatives, chosen by themselves and L B Lewisham.  These representatives are Second Wave Youth Arts, Trinity Laban and Goldsmiths (their estates specialist).  It met once.  Participants were shown a presentation of an Initial Cultural Strategy (a document produced by an agency for the developer) and filled out a questionnaire afterwards.  That was the consultation process.  That is all that was heard of the CSG until Voice 4 Deptford looked for it, and a cultural strategy, when we began to examine the details for Plots 08 and 22.

What Voice 4 Deptford are asking for

Voice 4 Deptford want to ensure that:

• the composition of the CSG is widened to include a broader variety of local groups and organisations.

The minimum 6 is too small to be representative of Deptford’s cultural offer – 8 to 12 would be a better number, to allow wider access.  We would like to see V4D sending one representative.  There should be a BME representative, for example.

• local people, art and culture, youth and sports groups, are involved in developing a cultural strategy.

We need a structure that allows the participation of a larger representation of the cultural and heritage groups in and around Deptford.

• the Cultural Strategy Group meets regularly, as laid down by the 106 Agreement, and can advise on the formulation, development and delivery of a cultural strategy for Convoys Wharf.

There must be an on-going conversation between the developers, Lewisham and the CSG.

Cultural Strategy Commitments

The Section 106 Agreement sets out a list of commitments for the cultural strategy. You can see the full list here.

We believe that the most relevant for now are:

1. A ‘meanwhile’ programme that will, among other things, encourage ideas for projects that pro-mote, celebrate and interpret the site’s history; provide a forum for receiving ideas and proposals that appeal to the community; a website to hold the best ideas; actively engaging the participation of local people, schools, business organisations, the cultural sector and other parties.

Consequently Voice 4 Deptford asks for –

a.  A ‘call out’ to the community for ideas and proposals that could be implemented on the site while it is in transition from brownfield to completed development. This requires a structure where anyone can suggest something.

b.  An objective process of selection where all activities being considered for ‘meanwhile use’ are treated equally

c.  A key criterion for judging any possible ‘meanwhile use’ activity is how sensitive it is to the context and proximity of neighbouring properties. It should not cause disruption or distress to local residents through noise or other forms of nuisance.

d.  Social rented housing as ‘meanwhile use’ to be included according to the policy of the draft London Plan. See details here. This is a core requirement for ‘meanwhile use’ from Voice 4 Deptford.

2. To encourage design teams to reference the site’s ecology, history and heritage in their proposals for the design of the buildings

At present the designs for Plot 08 and the proposed jetty building on Plot 22 are ‘anywhere’ designs.  Deptford is not an ‘anywhere’ place.  V4D does not want our promised river access to be given over to a bland piece of developer modernism, in a development no longer relevant to the needs of this time.  Deptford deserves better. We have a heritage of developments with green open space and places for children to play and roam in safety.  We have a strong maritime history and a site which was a forerunner in an understanding of ecology and horticulture that can be applied in this context.

3. A programme of temporary and permanent cultural interventions and education projects on the Jetty Park.

Voice 4 Deptford want CPL to begin the creation of the Jetty Park as promised and not wait till they have finished with their temporary marketing suit on the Jetty.

4. The development of series of cultural projects, to celebrate the key archaeological site and other heritage assets.

The site should be opened up now to the Sayes Court Garden Project and to the Lenox Project to begin their activities as soon as they are ready to do so.

5. To create a Youth Forum to explore ideas of how young people can get involved in their neighbourhood.

The Youth Forum is a key cultural strategy commitment. Engaging the young people through a forum will enable them to engage and put forward their ideas, resulting in a far better cultural input from the people who will be responsible in the future.

6. To work with available historical archives and local experts to develop history and heritage principles to assist the project team and create a commissioning programme.

Deptford’s rich history needs to be part of the culture of the site and local historians engaged in this process

7. Space for start ups, incubators, creative industries offices and studios in Phase 1.

Deptford needs spaces for the creation of meaningful employment and training.

A Community Development Trust for Deptford

In the longer term a Community Development Trust needs to be set up to have the promotion and implementation of the Cultural Strategy as a part of its wider remit and to ensure that the character, needs and wishes of the local community continue to be recognised.  The aim would be to build up something new that is owned and led by our local community.  It should be set up with a variety of incomes streams, including rent from properties, to make it sustainable and enabling it to fulfil its key local benefit role.

The Turning of the Tide

The tide has turned on high towered ‘anywhere’ designed buildings and developments.  The people they are aimed at are tired of the same old architecture and design formats.  There is an acknowledged need for family sized homes that most people can afford in an environment that is conducive to the maintenance and formation of supportive communities.

We believe a new vision is needed for Convoys Wharf, a new design which does justice to the potential of this site.  It could be a world class site and a world heritage site, not just another anonymous development along the river.  The Cultural Strategy is designed to support this process.

With the help of a well chosen, well run and creative Cultural Strategy Group, local people can help to make it happen.

Let’s catch the tide and create a better future for Deptford!