Here are some updates gleaned from conversation at the South Thamesmead group.
Lesnes to Crossness work to improve the route from the old abbey ruins through to the lake is ongoing and the pile of mud and rubble around the lake should be something more pleasing with full access to the route available again by the first week of June.
Park View hub: The ongoing battle to complete this is almost over, and will be considered complete on 18th May – approximately a year late. 16 of the 18 housing units have already been handed over. Of the retail/community space below, space has been given to a supermarket (moving premises from the area behind Park View), an African foods shop, and a chemist (at last! said many). There were plans for a hairdresser at one point but this deal has fallen through. Peabody will use some of the space themselves so they have a presence in this area, although it’s not yet clear how this will work, but they do plan to have parts of the regeneration team based there at times. There may be a cafe space run as a community venture, but details are yet to be confirmed on that front. Many of the people at the meeting asked for an ATM, ideally one that doesn’t charge, even if it could only be available during office hours. The closest free ones are currently down at Abbey Wood station (and some thought they had been removed) or up in Thamesmead town. One of the group members mentioned she had visited one of the newly installed residents and she was astounded at the high quality of the property interior.
Coralline and Evenlode House: Consultation has begun. There are 150 homes affected, of these 7 or 8 are privately owned. The consultation will continue until the end of June. Peabody would ideally see these properties demolished and want to work with the community there to find the best solution for them. They will try to accommodate desires of residents who want to stay in the area or find appropriate homes elsewhere for those who don’t. The private homes will be purchased if possible under a standard purchasing plan which involves an offer of market value plus 7%. In the meantime, residents have complained about security in the area, and drug taking and dealing has been an issue. As a result of this, extra security measures have been put in place in the short term, although many found it frustrating that a part of this involves blocking access from the Binsey Walk area through to Southmere Lake.
These homes have been targeted as they are the buildings in the worst condition. Should demolition go ahead (and that looks highly likely) then it would affect the Pop In Parlour and The Barge Pole as well. Conversations are happening with the owners and users.
These are the only areas currently slated for demolition on top of the rest of Binsey Walk and the old library, which will come down imminently. The work on Southmere Village will continue regardless of the outcome of these talks and consultations. In the long term there will be similar questions raised about the rest of the unusual housing stock around Thamesmead, but that won’t be for some time. When conversation completes in June, it would be a significant while before the continued demolition would happen since the residents need to be rehomed. A lady who was recently rehomed from Binsey Walk spoke up, and confirmed that future residents would be dealt in better than she was, and there would be no fight to ensure that works needed on the property they are moved to were completed before moving.
There will be a Thamesmead Arts Festival in May. Many activities will centre around The Link but it will go beyond. Brickbox will be involved. There will be a fete in May. I will post the flyer we received separately.
As a result of the insistance that better crossing facilities are needed around Lakeside Medical Practise, driven by the group, Peabody have put in the work to ensure that a crossing will be provided. A zebra crossing and widening of the south side of the pavement are on the slate, with the planning permission requests already lodged.
The next part of the meeting turned to the longer term plans for regeneration. There was much frustration in the group when Ellen talked about consultations. So many residents have been through this repeatedly. Cherry pointed out that these endless consultations have used up people’s good will and time for years on end and that in the case of the Southmere area most of the people being consulted are likely to have left by the time it happens – why should they help design something for other people?
Ellen responded that she could understand the frustration, but the previous consultations have never been well recorded. Each time they happened the plans were made on top of them, but fell through for different reasons, and while the plans were evident it wasn’t clear what the resident input had been, and the most recent plans were halted in their tracks because they didn’t seem to meet the requirements of the region.
Ellen points out that this change HAS to happen and it is up to the residents how much they engage. Things will be going ahead, and imminently. The money available now to build with has come from initiatives across London. The money granted has to be spent and within a specified timeline. Peabody has a long history of following through, and more backing than previous people in charge of Thamesmead have had. There will be workshops and consultations – yes again – but there will be change and it will happen soon. There will be longer term plans, with phases announced, sometime after the 3 months of viability planning, but cetainly within 12 months.
There is £82 million to be spent as a result of Thamesmead winning the right to build housing zones for London based on applications from Bexley and Greenwich. Some will be in the Abbey Wood/Harrow Manor Way area and some will be around Plumstead station. 1900 new homes will be provided in the Abbey Wood areas. 25% will be social housing (essentially council houses) and a further 45% will be affordable housing (rental properties offered to people by a strict criteria of their ties to the area at around 80% of market prices) and the rest will be sold to help fund the project. There will be improvements and a “high street” of some sort along Harrow Manor Way, although details of what that means are a bit vague right now.
Southmere Village will be the flagship starter project of all this. There is learning from the Park View hub fiasco to be applied, and also from the refurbishment previously done on some of the tower blocks. There will be an examination of how much life a refurb offers to a building in need of repair or replacement and long term everything is unknown. There may be minimal work needed on existing properties, or they may be flattened. At the moment the plans are nothing but a blank slate.
Teresa Pearce, the local MP, was in attendance, and she asked how Peabody could expect to follow through on their plans if the money was actually in the hands of Bexley and Greenwich councils. Ellen said that they don’t expect to hit many issues on this front as Peabody has a good history and reputation in the field, and they are leading on the project to spend the money which is earmarked for homes and improvement of the public realm. There are a number of contracts to be secured but the work is in progress and will be tightly assessed. The architects already employed to work on the project have a good reputation and one of the two already secured are known landscaping experts.
After South Thamesmead’s plans are made clear and in progress, attention will turn to The Moorings and what can be done there.
Overall, the meeting felt positive. Yes, it’s more waiting, yes the iconic buildings are slated to be changed beyond recognition, but it actually feels like regeneration might happen and the lot of those living in the area may actually improve. Of course, we’ve heard it all before, but maybe Peabody are actually fit for the job. Time will tell…