Thursday 28 March 2002 11.03pm
I'm starting a new thread on this because the earlier one says 'meeting tonight' and might get lost -- apologies Roger.
The meeting was interesting. I'm all for redevelopment of the square -- and I have to say that I think the developers have their hearts in the right place -- but there are huge questions to be answered and, from what I heard from others, many locals have real concerns. Some of them:
a) the plan for a cinema has been scrapped -- and this was about the only thing in the whole development that seemed to have the community genuinely excited. The developers claim no chain is interested; the locals want an arthouse type cinema a la the Ritzy in Brixton anyway. There seems to be no middle ground.
b) there are numerous unanswered questions about parking problems, especially for the traders on Fridays.
c) the buildings are far too high.
Other concerns were raised; and this post of mine is putting things rather simplistically; perhaps someone else who went to the meeting can write out more.
From my point of view, it seems clear that the PUBLIC SPACE the developers keep going on about simply isn't SPACIOUS enough. One of the reasons the market is there is because there is the space for it! Squares surrounded by buildings often end up being rather sterile, soulless places (unless they happen to be parks) -- and I think there is the real threat of this happening here. I think the market needs more space, and that the space itself should be seen from at least one roadside. I'm going to write to the Case Officer at Southwark Council
with this particular point; if you have your own, perhaps you could do the same thing. Here are the details:
Matthew Mason (Case Officer)
, Planning and Regeneration
Chiltern, Portland Street
London SE17 2ES
or go to www.southwark.go.uk/planning
The developers claim the market is dwindling and that it needs new support. It does. But there was a palpable sense in that room that the market is dwindling BECAUSE of the cloud that's been hanging over the traders for the past five years; a cloud that's getting darker and darker. I don't feel particularly hopeful for the fabulous Friday antiques market, I have to say. The developers keep going on about how intrinsic it is to their plans. But they are simply not providing enough open space and the space they are providing is surrounded on all sides by offices, retail outlets, flats and a hotel. If you were an antiques trader here, is this what you'd want?
The market attracts a lot of tourists and revenue to this area. Without it -- i.e. if the square becomes simply like a mall, with a pub, a few shops, some flats, a hotel and a sculpture in the middle, why would any outsider visit? The thing that makes Bermondsey Square
UNIQUE is the market. If the market is squeezed out -- and I really don't think this is the INTENTION of the developers, but I think there is the real possibility it will be the INCLINATION of the traders -- there will be nothing UNIQUE left, and we may as well all pack up and move to Brookside Close.
I can only see one real reason to question this development, and that is the needs and concerns of the traders. And their needs and concerns are paramount if this area is to retain its unique flavour.