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Bermondsey Square Development

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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)
Southwark Council, Planning and Regeneration
Chiltern, Portland Street
London SE17 2ES

or go to

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.
Tuesday 2 April 2002 9.41am
For those that wern't listening here , "resident" said on 29 Mar 2002 22:30

I wonder what really goes on in the mind of some of the people who 'stand up for local peoples' rights'. We have no shops, a shortage of decent housing, no leisure centre or activities other than some sub-standard pubs. Doh!

Do you think that Bermondsey is stuck in some kind of timewarp? It is interesting to note that some of the people opposed to the redevelopment of Bermondsey Square are in favour of the London Bridge Spire. Why is this? Big Fish LIttle Pond syndrome springs to mind. The market has only been here since 1948 and originally arose from a cattle market, why not go the whole hog (pardon the pun) and return to the true meaning and have a cattle market and do away with the antiques altogether. Not exactly the kind of thing some of the Johnny come lately's would like near their nice expensive flats is it.
Well, I say:

Way back in 1998, Noel Ashton and Tim Thompson of London Borough of Southwark wrote a 14-page Development Brief which contained all sorts of worthiness about the potential uses for the redeveloped Square. Though a cattle market was not mentioned in that document, the brief did point out that the antiques market operates just one half day a week, leaving considerable scope for other uses.

Interestingly, a French Farmers Market *is* under discussion. Most of the objections to extending market use seem to come from the residents of Mendham House, who are to my certain knowledge, are no Johnny come latelys but True Locals.
Tuesday 2 April 2002 2.32pm

It's sad that it seems to be all or nothing; facilities no market/market no facilities. Yes we do need facilities, a supermarket and some more shops to call our own, but without abandoning the instrinsic character of the area and forcing traders out. I didn't appreciate that the market was so dependent on local trade, I thought it was mainly antique dealers. The fact that it is on Friday is always going to limit leisure seekers.

My biggest fear is not that we won't get an infrastructure, but that we end up with All Bar One , Pizza Hut and all the other souless standardised formats.

I remember a couple of years ago going to Borough Market. I felt so sorry for some of the farm traders because it was so quiet that I bought some stuff to shove in the freezer!

Redevelopment of the fringes of Bermondsey Square and Tower Bridge Road such as the Jam Factory will inevitably impact on the market and passing trade. I can't see how development of the square is the answer. It seems that every valuable square inch is being fought over.

The solution has to be tidying up and improving the square and accommodating other uses or minimal low rise facilities.
Tuesday 2 April 2002 3.38pm
I really don't think we need a supermarket!!
Tuesday 2 April 2002 4.04pm
The re-development does seem to have become a juggernaut. The thing is being planned to death, all with the very finest motives in mind. My summary of the stances is as follows:

1. The market traders want to be left in peace. Toilets which are open at 4am would be nice. A policeman to catch all the pickpockets would be nice. Van parking is absolutely vital for the traders and has been major source of friction for years. Closure of the rat-run through the square would be nice.

2. English Heritage dictums make this Scheduled Ancient Monument very expensive to develop. Basically, they don't want any digging, please.

3. The residents mostly want a modest scale of development that improves the local environment and amenity - a safe tree-lined square that is a focus for local activities. The nearby big apartment blocks need sound-proofing from the noise of the early morning market. Some residents are for and some against markets on other days of the week.

4. The council has woken up to the multi-million pound receipts from the sale of the lease and "planning gain". They have all sorts of baggage to carry around, like their need to provide lots of low-cost homes and their traffic, pollution and eco policies.

5. The developers' profit does not depend on the survival of the market, and they do seem to be trying to fit in with the planning department's wishes (though not the published brief). Remember that the council is their landlord as well as their planning authority. The developers are at risk of being shot to pieces in the cross-fire between the planners and the residents. Poor lambs.

I can't see what is so difficult about improving the square with paving, railings, seats, trees, parking, toilets and maybe an early-opening café or two. A cinema or theatre space would be great. Something to re-connect Bermondsey Street with the shops of Tower Bridge Road. Any other ideas?

I think the antiques market is unique and irreplaceable. I fear the worst for its future.

Plenty has been heard from local locals, but what about SE1 residents who live further afield? What do you want out of the re-development?
Tuesday 2 April 2002 6.19pm
So where do you do your food shopping then?
Wednesday 3 April 2002 8.10am
Well for a start we already have a Tesco and Safeway in a very short distance, a Sainsbury's I believe being built on Tooley Street. Would have thought that was enough!
Wednesday 3 April 2002 9.25am
Tesco is a little too far to walk, which is what I would prefer to do and I had my wheel stolen when I cycled there. The produce is poor and the level of stock, especially salad/vegetables and bread after work hours unpredictable. Areas of empty shelves is commonplace. I often find food that is gone off or the pack damaged on the shelf. After several purchases I also wouldn't touch their standard ready made range. Wine isn't up to much either. The staff are unhelpful and apathetic on a good day, working there seems to interefere with their social life. I have often been approached by beggars and drunkards while I'm unloading my shopping wanting to take my trolley. I don't feel particularly safe in the outskirts of the car park. Its not where I want to spend my hard earned cash.

As for Safeways, I went there when I first moved here and was so depressed by the experience I never went back.

Sainsbury's on Tooley Street, now that is good news.
Wednesday 3 April 2002 11.05am
You should be aware that according to the developers there WILL NOT be a supermarket in the Bermondsey Square redevelopment, so it's not going to solve that problem anyway.
Wednesday 3 April 2002 11.14am
Glad to hear it!!
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