A tale from the riverfront

Funny that the same day I publish something about Convoys Wharf and the arty crowd in Deptford, the South London Press does something about Convoys’ next door neighbours – and the arty crowd as well.

THE South London Press has launched a drive to find the best community arts projects in one of the most dynamic corners of south-east London.

We have joined forces with an exciting initiative called the P&B Cultural Showcase, in a search for groups and individuals who use artistic or creative projects to benefit the communities of Deptford, New Cross and Greenwich.

“Dynamic” – woah! Actually, the P&B Showcase website’s an interesting read, showing off interesting people and projects in and near SE8. But what does P&B stand for? At the end of the story, we find out – “the initiative is supported by developers Lane Castle, who are working on the Paynes & Borthwick Wharves development in Deptford”.

Ah, yes, Paynes and Borthwick Wharves. “Working” isn’t quite the word to describe what Lane Castle’s doing right now. “Sitting” might be a better word.

The development – of 257 flats, a restaurant, commercial space for creative organisations, and performance areas – had a difficult birth. Local campaigners didn’t want it, and an initial decision by Greenwich Council was quashed after it was claimed one of the planning board had an interest in the outcome. Permission was given in 2007, and the bulldozers moved in that summer, flattening the old cold meat store at Borthwick Wharf and gutting listed Paynes Wharf, built as a boiler workshop in 1860.

But by summer 2008, the builders had gone. Work had been stalled because of the recession. The development should have been up and running by now. But 18 months on, Paynes is still a sorry-looking shell, with the little path down to the river blocked.

Obviously, Lane Castle needs to run its business in the best way it can. Abandoning a riverside huge building site and leaving it as a blot on the landscape may well have been a necessary thing to do, although it’s hardly going to curry favour with the wharves’ neighbours. Hence schemes like the P&B Showcase, to remind us all they’re hanging in there. (Oh, and Lane Castle – your website has Paynes as being in “West Greenwich”. You might want to fix that.)

But my issue here is with the South London Press. Why is a newspaper leaping into bed with property developers, especially on a development that’s proved as controversial as this? Surely any decent newspaper which knew its patch would perhaps think: “Oh, why don’t we ask them when they’re going to go back on site and finish the job off?”

Perhaps not, it seems. Was it a commercial deal, or did they just not think to check? Either way, not very clever. After the SLP got a work experience kid to ring up Onionbagblogger Jason Cobb so he could ask where Stockwell was and what a blog was, you do have to wonder what’s going on at the top in its Streatham HQ.

Shame, because there’s some good reporters working at the SLP, which also produces the Mercury. But cosying up to developers and not asking the obvious questions is a little bit puzzling…

One comment

  1. The stuff which has just gone on the Greenwich Industrial History site is not a million miles from this either – I’m not sure exactly where Lungley’s shipyard was but the address was Deptford Green. Sent yesterday by a totally unknown Australian, one Merve.

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