Some of the recent threads have caused me to think back to 1983 when I first came down to Bermondsey St and 1985 when we started to look for a place to buy and renovate.
How things have changed. Back then the concerns were mostly about the condition of the pavements and the street lighting. Development in and adjacent to the Bermondsey Street Conservation Area also featured highly.
Sadly the Conservation Area has gone the way of most flesh with its single most important feature (medieaval plot layout/arches/alleyways) erased by the back-lot developments and gates.
Today the debate seems to be about the pros and cons of the latest coffee bar.
It makes me wonder quite when the current development wave will abate and allow the area to settle to its new future. Would anyone like to hazard a guess? 2010? 2020?
I'm inclined to agree but I would say that in amongst all the talk of coffee bars and gastro pubs there is a lot of really useful and important stuff too. Take the discussion of the postal service for instance. There is now some action happening there with Simon Hughes getting involved and all sorts. there was also the heartwarming situation a few weeks back where certain regular contibuters to this site helped out a guy in trouble with bullying at work to a proper resolution. There were so many people that pitched in there.
It's now the first place I come to find out about local issues and though it is easy to get dragged into conversations about where to get the best eggs benedict I think that the content is often of a high and useful quality.
Being that I work in a company where everyone minds their own business and there isn't a lot of jokey chat, I also rely on the forum to keep me human during the day. There is a massive number of people in London, but it doesn't stop the place feeling very lonely sometimes, and this forum is, to a degree, my companion every day.
I',m not sure if there was anything much left of the medieval street pattern to save, after the inroads made by the factories and council estates long before the Conservation Area existed, but the developments that have taken place have generally been to follow the pattern rather than fight against it which is continuing to give a particular and positive character to the area.
But back to your question
I think the current frenzy of apartment building has got several years left to run, and at the end - a bit of a wasteland I fear, 400,000 one and two bed flats, coffee shops, bars, and instant food outlets in TBR to cater for the dinky inhabitants, a high turnover and hence no commitment population, who are forced to move on when they want children/something more than a 70m2 apartment in a lookalike warehouse conversion.
I know that overall there is still a demand for small flats, but the concentration in this area is bad news - are we all to move to Kennington, Dulwich or Camberwell when we trade up.
Iam one of the rare breed who have managed to stay in SE1 once having children. When my children were toddlers I made several friends in shad thames area(one of the few developments at the ime) all of whom had to move out of the area, because there was no family size housing/units available. Some wanted to move out others didn't. 8 to 10 years on and all this building and things still haven't changed. When large developments have come up for planning such as the one on Long lane (other end to tabard tower) I have put forward a case for the council to insist on some larger units but mostly my voice goes un heard. A shame really as people with families make for a more stable commuinity. Often have strong comminity links (take Sarah oconnell for example) and spend more in the local economy.
What I would like is a Development Dept. (or whatever it is called) which actually forces developers to put in the kind of development which we all know makes for a more mixed, interesting, diverse and attractive area. This really isn't rocket science:
- a mix of different housing sizes (see above)
- a wide range of different retail uses
- community facilities
- some low cost flexible commercial space to encourage local entrepreneurs/artists
I have lived in Borough (the North... NOBO?) for 8 years and am sick of hearing Southwark Council talk about creating a diverse and mixed part of town, when what we get is:
- plenty of 1/2 bed gated expensive flats (oh, sorry, loft 'style' flats)
- huge office developments (city overspill?)
- erm, that's it.
BUT, maybe I am wrong to blame the Council - can anyone tell me if they actually have the power to enforce that kind of development or are the planning laws to blame? For years I have been turning Council officers' ears red with accusations of a lack of imagination on their part. Maybe it is a lack of power.
..rant, rant, rant.. I forgot to also say that what I am interested in here is not medieval street patterns but community - which we have in spades at the moment but which will not last ten years of tedious office/huge flat development steamrollering.
Southwark Council's current Unitary Development Plan (UDP) does set standards (Policy H.1.5 relates to dwelling mix). The developments that you are describing don't appear to comply, but did the developers make some sort of contribution to off-site affordable housing, which used to be a common wheeze?
Southwark's draft UDP is subject to a public inquiry, which I think is still in progress (?). The full text is available here
The latest proposals on "dwelling mix" requirements are in separate draft "supplementary planning guidance". They are at section 5.3 (pages 7 and 8 of the pdf) of the residential design standards to be issued with the new UDP.