Regeneration, right or wrong

Cor blimey, there have been some hoary old class cliches flying around in the comments threads lately - it's like a war's broken out between the westside Morlocks and the eastside Eloi. We've also learned that:

  • City workers just want somewhere to stash their Bentleys during the week.
  • Bookies attract the 'wrong' sort, that 'we' don't want around here.
  • All mummies are yummy and do nothing all day but fret over the quality of sun dried tomatoes on offer locally.
  • The East London Line is like the Railroad Companies of the old west, bringing civilisation to the frontiers of London - but at what price?!
This article is a bit late to the party, as the arguments have possibly already played themselves out in other thread, but we thought we'd give the regeneration debate a proper home.
There are a few consistent strands of criticism, running throughout:

1. It's all a lie perpetrated by property-speculating fantasists, desperate to talk up the area.

Admittedly, we don't get these comments so often these days, but since we began writing in February, new cafes have opened, the Wickham's been revamped, Tesco's moved in, several major new apartment developments have begun and a deli's been announced. That alone would constitute significant regeneration, but there's plenty of other stuff bubbling under at the moment too, from businesses looking to set-up shop in the area, to developers eyeing local sites.

On this basis, we reject Gary's assertion that we should all be grateful that a bookie has deigned to show an interest in the area.

2. Regeneration means the destruction of everything that Brockley people hold dear

We don't get this argument. There are some things we all seem to hold dear about Brockley. Leafy streets, attractive housing, good transport, cherished institutions like Moonbows, lively arts scene, nice parks and a sense of community. None of that is under threat.

What is under threat are the semi-functional high-street and dysfunctional Brockley Cross district (complete with empty properties that blight the west side).

Brockley is a highly diverse area, home to a mix of rich and poor, black and white. If any of these communities were threatened with being marginalised, then that would, in our view, be the "wrong" kind of regeneration. But we don't see the risk of that happening. People who point to East Dulwich or Greenwich (which are both lovely) and worry that Brockley could soon end up gentrified like them overlook the fact that they have always been middle-class enclaves. Brockley can expect to be charmingly rough-around-the-edges for a long time to come.

Even the fried chicken shops and bookies can probably look forward to long and happy lives(unlike their customers).

3. Regeneration means hordes of braying financiers descending on Brockley, buying up Moonbow Jakes with their bonuses and selling it to Starbucks for twice the price.

The "sense of community" argument seems a particularly selfish one and seems to boil down to "they are not like us, therefore we don't want them." But the people who are moving in to the area are generally young, aspirational and have moved to the area because they're attracted by the same kinds of things that drew people here in the past. They just happen to work in financial services, like a growing proportion of London's population.

If they were chino, deck-shoe and Fat Face-wearing wallies, they'd move to Fulham, giving them easy access to the Home Counties at the weekend.
If you live in zone 2 London, within easy reach of two of the most important financial districts on earth, then having a few people in financial services as your neighbours seems to be a risk you have to accept.
For the record, Brockley Central doesn't work in the City, but 'some of our best friends' are bankers. They're normal people, who like "community" stuff too.

4. It's middle class hypocrisy to move in to an area because it's cheap and then hope for it to become nice as well

This argument is firstly based on the flawed assumption that people who want regeneration are all newcomers who could just as easily move to Blackheath if they wanted that kind of thing. But many who want change have lived here for years, have no prospect of moving or are renting and therefore have no financial stake in regeneration.
But even discounting that, the argument seems more profoundly flawed: it suggests the "victims" of regeneration are those who don't live here and might, at some point in the future, be priced out of the area. We don't think it's hypocritical for people who do live here to want to see their area improve at the expense of those who don't live here but might want to at some point.
If, in years to come, Brockley becomes impossibly desirable and expensive, our descendants will have to colonise some other part of London - like Plumstead. And so it goes...

58 comments:

Kate said...

Minor quibble - an ex-colleague of mine grew up in East Dulwich and told me that it used to be much more down-at-heel, and it has changed radically. She said it was very different from Dulwich 'proper', which WAS always a well-off area.

Brockley Nick said...

Gah, I knew that was a hostage to fortune. I'm not as au fait with Dulwich as I should be, so I concede that point. But it's definitely true of Greenwich.

Hugh said...

Nick, your point 4 above is something of a straw man version of my original post, which observed merely that newcomers in search of nice property on the cheap should put a sock in it if their contribution to the locale amounts to repeating, to anyone who will listen, how lovely it would be if Clapham-type delis began springing up on Brockley's high street, and how unsightly they find the MOT garage. People wanting change should do more than talk; they should take steps to bring it about.

That was the point. Mere talk is what others call 'chattering', as you'll understand.

Brockley Nick said...

Hugh, you accused people who wanted rid of MOT garages of wanting their cake and eating it. I take issue with that.

As for talk being worthless - regeneration of the sort most of us want happens because small businesses decide to set up in a given area. And why do they choose a particular area? Because they believe there is a market for their product or service. Thus, people demonstrating a market demand for stuff like shops, restaurants or bars by commenting on sites like these does actually make a difference.

In terms of my own contribution, I hope that the blog is of some value. I work in PR so, like lawyers, have very little in terms of practical skills that I can contribute to the local community. The blog was my attempt to "do" something.

Hugh said...

We take issue with different things in that case. I don't mind people wanting the area to improve - I think we all want that. I'm expressing irritation with people who move in then whine that Waitrose haven't opened a corner shop. I don't think we're really at odds.

Well done for saying you're in PR and defending 'talking about it' in the same breath!

Anonymous said...

Oh Meow....

Brockley Nick - just wanted to say great blog - thanks for doing your bit for the community!

Hugh - love your posts – keep them coming - they keep the site lively, interesting and controversial even if I don’t always agree ;-)

Brockley Nick said...

I'd like to echo the last comment about Hugh's posts.

Anonymous said...

regeneration is right - obviously!

Hugh said...

Thanks Nick and the same to you - this whole site is excellent.

Anonymous said...

Wow - I agree entirely with the main blog, and very articulately put might I add!
I do think that if we had one nice bar/pub in Brockley (like th Honor Oak or something) people would be a lot more content with the place.

Vikki said...

Agree with most of Nick’s post and am also loving Hugh’s comments – keep them coming!

Just like to say that although I favour Nick’s view of what Brockley regeneration should mean, I’m a bit anti-East Dulwich and Greenwich-ing of Brockley – I don’t want to have only cafes, bars and boutiques on my doorstep.

What I’d like to encourage is good and useful local businesses – for example the picture framers on Loampit Hill is a great local shop and the tailor’s on the row of shops by Tyrwhitt Road is great for alterations. And both the Londis and Taylor’s Food and Wine are good convenience stores. I wouldn’t want to sacrifice places like that for more cafes and bars. Plus we already have Meze Mangal on our side which is all the restaurants you need.

In terms of practical stuff well there has been mention of a good local bakery on this blog – I’d be in favour of that. Maybe the Farmer’s Market could come to Hilly Fields every Saturday. We could try and find a buyer for The Talbot who would make it a great, simple, local boozer – there’s no need to make it a gastro pub. In fact, if you just got rid of that objectionable Arsenal fan it would instantly become a better pub…. What would be the best use of the empty Homeview store – what can our community really support?

Finally there’s no reason why the cafes and bars on Brockley Road can’t continue to exist with the odd fried chicken shop or white goods outlet or even the odd betting shop… Though I agree we don’t need anymore. I imagine that, much like on the Lewisham Way side, there’s plenty of space for new businesses without getting rid of the old – for example the derelict fruit and veg shop on the corner of Tyrwhitt and Lewisham Way and now the empty shop a few doors down that used to be a pharmacy.

Vikki said...

I meant to say that I live on Tyrwhitt but the Lewisham Way end - hence my focus on that side of Brockley.

Lawrence said...

Well. I've been following this blog for a little while now as I'm moving into the area in the very near future, from .... dare I mention it .... East Dulwich. There you go. I like East Dulwich with it's deli's etc but it can get a bit much. I also like a good traditional pub for a drink, getting fried chcken and even having an occasional flutter. I have a car that needs servicing and MOTing and firmly believe in the community and shopping local idea. While not from Brockley, I'm looking forward to being part of it - long may we reign!

Lawrence

leenewham said...

I totally agree with SeƱor Nick. I like Highs posts too, it's always good to have someone to disagree with!

Anonymous said...

take a drink in Weatherspoons, then one in Moonbow Jakes, you will clearly see a 'them and us,' if you go bar hoping in camberwell tonight you may be mistaken for thinking you were in South Africa a couple of decades ago.
My lesbian bar would not display such a divide. Straight, gay, black white and maybe even Caroline ( Thatcher??) would be welcome

Anonymous said...

Good to see some passionate blogs on here. I agree with the anon Lesbian bar women though, maybe Adolf Caroline though, maggie has lightened up in recent years - Since I was on here Sunday there has been a good few comments on what we can do to improve the retail places other than screama bout the dirty ones we dont like. Not knocking this blog but actions being stronger and all that.................. PS THIS IS GARY the system is telling me my pass word is incorect will check my hotmail. Maybe too many cans of special down corals

gary said...

test

gary said...

AH! the username wants the email add! back on track.

Anonymous said...

Nothing to do with brockley. but has anyone heard the new KanYe West album it is a masterpiece

Anonymous said...

Is that some kind of wierd, blatant viral marketing campaign for kanye west? Wtf?

Andy Pandy Pudding & Pie said...

Speaking of 'Regeneration' and 'Community initatives' - I'm leafleting my road on the Dark Side of Brockley (west of station) to see if people want to start a Neighbourhood Watch Scheme - So if you receive a leaflet from me in the not too distant future then let me know your thoughts!

Mel said...

Just come back from weatherspoons and had a good meal. OK so I may not go there on a first date, or to celebrate my birthday, but I had a decent feed and a pint for under £6. Before you all slag it off, have you tried the food there recently?? When weatherspoons chain first started it was crap, but tonight the chicken was tender and chips crisp. While I am all up for coops and a good smoke. I am no veggie so the bland, stoddgy expensive stuff along with the stuck up students who serve you in toads mouth doesnt tick my box.

andy pandy pudding & pie said...

I agree, I was so disappointed the last time I went to Toads Mouth Too - The way the waitresses seamingly chat and drink with their mates whilst occasionally remembering they are supposed to be serving customers from the other side of the counter.

I actually complained to the owner who replied 'its a local establishment so what do you expect'.

Well... lets start with professionalism maybe...

Anonymous said...

Hey Mel your my type of girl.
Never been a fan of the toad place tried it a good few times and also found the service shite & the food nothing to write home about.( reminded my of student dinner parties)
The best place near here for breakfast is masons down the road by ladywell road, they do breaky until 3pm at the weekends, not that cheap but big servings taste A1 with cheerful staff ( promise i dont work there!) come to that KanYe's Graduation is a great albulm and maybe relevant to this site ( he loves a bit of class war stuff) I am also a Nick so will think of a blog name

TelegraphJogger said...

Interestingly, people on the East Dulwich forum are starting to seriously rue the gentrification of their area. I've got a few friends in that area who've really noticed how new businesses such as Foxtons and White Stuff have increasingly priced the useful shops (Glaziers, Tyre repairers, florists, cheap barbers) out of existence. The demographics of the community have changed massively - what was once quite a diverse community with a large West Indian and Irish population has become increasingly the place for 30something Claphamites to migrate to when they're at the spawning stage. Hence the Stepford Wives effect of Crock wearing yummu mummies in giant convoys of Bugaboos on any given weekday. Something is undoubtedly lost as "gastro-pub"ification takes place. And these days it's increasingly hard to tell ED apart from Northcote Road in Clapham. The arrival of rugger bugger's favourite outfitters White Stuff seems to confirm that suspicion. What's astonishing is the speed at which it's all happened.. so perhaps a slight cautionary for us Brockley folk who want to retain its individual character.

Mel said...

Ooooooh!!! mary me telegraphjogging man. Went to a pary once in Clapham junction came home and I wanted to die

Mel said...

Sorry telegraph man - wed or marry me even! Its late! I will learn to splell and jog for you though

Mel said...

Only just joined the blog and already feel excluded by your poll. I have been here before monbows, the toads shit,& the barge, have had my spells of unemployment but am an admin temp at the moment. Not a mummy so cant be yummy. Could pretend to use the excuse that i am spiritual/artist/creative type but too old to do that bollocks. So what box do I tick. i think you should include 'other' at least.

Brockley Nick said...

Mel, you can join the it, pr, etc gang with me.

Hugh said...

I must say I had a Sunday morning full English at TM2 a few months ago and was served rubbish. It remains the case that my other half does the best food in London. It's a pity she ever wants to go out to eat, although we're both keen on visiting the Anchor & Hope on The Cut - has anyone been?

John S said...

Morning Brockers. I love this site - it's the best local newspaper I never had!

Really interested to hear people's opinions of the TM2 above. I'm quite new to the area (less than a year - no, I don't work in finance...) and had been told it was a bit of an institution, so I went along the other week for a slap-up breakfast. Was slightly disappointed. Quality of the food was good, if not cheap. The main disappointment was the service - which seems to be a regular point on this thread. Now I don't like tomatoes. My mate doesn't like beans. In most places you'd be able to remove one of these items and replace it with something else. Say, a nice juicy mushroom or some lovely artery-clogging fried bread. Here they would not alter the items included in the breakfast. Not only that but they wouldn't even REMOVE an item! Apparently it was too complicated for their chef, who would get in a muddle, the poor lamb. We therefore were FORCED to have certain things we really didn't want on our plates. Remarkable. Won't go back.

Man, if I had the first idea about how to set up a small business like a bakery or a decent bar (the Lewisham end) I'd do it - if the posts on this blog are anything to go by there is a large demand for these things.

'Nasty' Hugh - sounds like your other half can give Ramsay et al a run for their money - maybe she should set somewhere up?

Kanye West may be critically lauded but he's a bit of a hypocritical d*ck really. Then again, which of us aren't.

Oh yeah and regeneration, bring it on.

Sarah said...

Hugh, the Anchor and Hope is great but get there early if you can – seating’s first-come first-served.

Toad’s Mouth’s meze plates are overpriced and have nothing on Meze Mangal. The waiters are sometimes a bit too cool for school but it’s still my favourite place in Brockley for coffee and cake – if only the Broca had a garden…

I’m all for regeneration if it means filling up empty shops and giving Brockleyites (what are we called?) an alternative to gambling our days away and flirting with heart disease by night. Less keen if it means we end up with a clone town centre in the Clapham mould (although realistically this seems unlikely).

Someone started a thread on here about a community co-operative shop – sounded utopian and could provide the community with the focus that people seem to feel is lacking – does anyone know anything about setting this sort of thing up? Bet there are grants available…

spincat said...

TM2 is great but not (this is just my opinion, but well tested) for breakfast. Go for coffee, tea, lunch, dinner and a drink but not breakfast.
For cooked breakfast I go to the Big Plate or McLarens = down my end of SE4 - or the Cafe Blanca if I want more of a coffee, mint tea, panini and sheesh sheesh type of thing.

Anonymous said...

There was a community co-operative shop called the Brockley Bean (next door to where the Broca is now). You could knit your own yoghurt there, but it was a long time ago.....
As for TM2 (or the Frog's Gob as its otherwise known) I gave up going there as I was fed up being witness to the owners' humiliation of the staff.

Hugh said...

Lest anyone think I don't do my bit for the community, I tried convincing a younger brother of mine that he should set up in the coffee trade near St John's (sorry, St Johns) or Brockley station. He got as far as deciding the former wouldn't work and never got as far as checking out the latter, despite living in Brockley for about a year (shortly thereafter Broca and the Brockley station outlet opened). I also tentatively suggested he train as a baker and bring a bit of de Gustibus to the area, but he went to Ealing to be a tree surgeon instead.

Anonymous said...

Apologies for the anonymity: I'm posting from a place which doesn't like blogs and so am using TOR.

Interesting debate. I've been reading BC since early days (oh so many months ago), but think this debate brings together all the key themes so far:

- Well done, Brockley Nick! Excellent blog.
- It would be nice if we had (deli/bar/gastropub/gallery)
- We hope Brockley keeps its character, and doesn't get commercialised
- All talk and no action makes Jack a dull, house-price-caring, middle class boy
- I hear Penge is a lovely place, but I've never been, etc.

I've no idea about how to encourage more people to visit Penge. But if people are serious about encouraging the "right" type of shop - which essentially seems to mean not part of a chain - in Brockley, then perhaps we should put our money where our mouths are.

£100 each from 100 people a year - or £50 from 200, etc - to subsidise rent would make a big difference to a start-up sole trader shop. The contributors could invite proposals and then decide on the best business (butcher, baker, candlestick maker, etc).

If we're right about what this area needs, then we might even make the money back at some point. If we're wrong, then at least we'll benefit for a period. And think about the effects on our house prices...

Hugh said...

Interesting idea but where else in London do residents subsidise local businesses? And I don't mean the Tube.

More realistically, if this blog is at all representative, there must be a few people out there who would consider setting up a bakery, deli or whatever they think would succeed.

I prefer to talk about it, myself.

Kirsty said...

I used to go to the Brockley Bean as a kid! It seemed like such a magical place where you could get yogurt raisins and salt and vinegar crisps that donated money to hedgehog charities...
Does anyone remember the paintings that were on the wall outside? I think it was a kite and some balloons.
Oh yeah, and death to anyone that desires a gastropub. People that want such a thing don't belong here.

spincat said...

Subsidising a local business/amenity is not unknown. It happens in some rural areas and i know of a sponsored theatre. It is a very interesting idea and I suspect something that will happen more and more. Not that I have got any money - could sponsor a cup and saucer maybe

leenewham said...

I'd like a gastropub and I belong here.

Hugh said...

I don't know what Kirsty means by 'belong here', but I'd also like a gastropub.

Must dash - catching a helicopter from Hilly Fields.

Anonymous said...

Ditto re Kirsty's daft fatwa on those desiring gastropubs.

If by gastropub, she means a nice local pub with atmosphere which serves decent contemporary food, then I suspect most/many Brockley residents would (a) want one and (b) still feel they "belong".

Hopefully, you can still qualify as "belonging" without remembering the "brockley bean" (which sounds like an appalling place).

spincat said...

What is a gastropub exactly?
The very name is off-putting, (the 'gastro' bit, not the pub bit) but have no objection to anything new as long as it doesn't replace somewhere like Blythe Hill Tavern

Kirsty said...

Gastropubs are featureless, poncy holes for people to magniloquently bang on about organic food, ciabatta and balsamic vinegar; they're for the people that crave an M&S or a Waitrose on every street.

Brockley Nick said...

I thought they were just for people who wanted something to eat other than chips, when they went to the pub.

leenewham said...

A 'gastropub' is a British term for a public house ("pub") which specializes in high-quality food a step above the more basic "pub grub which in london means that a pub buys frozen 'ready meals' from a central supplier and heaths them up in the oven/microwave. Nearly all pubs serve the same food. I love a scampi and chips lik ethe next man, but sometimes I want something different.

Also, a gastropub means that your feet dont stick to the carpet and the toilets dont smell like a back alley in Deptford.

I'm not sure why that is poncy, I am sure some gastropubs are, but if you don't like it, dont go.

Simple isnt it?

spincat said...

In my day we were happy with a stale cheese roll, or maybe a pickled egg or bag of pork scratchings...

Hugh said...

I always suspected I might be poncy.

Maggie said...

I think like with many things gastropubs can be great when there aren't too many of them and when they don't suddenly - despite being supposedly so innovative and dedicated to interesting ingredients - all become the same. There are some gastropubs you walk into and think 'oh god, this feels like part of a chain - a rustic-looking sibling of All Bar One'. Others have a more homely, genuine feel.

I also admire gastropubs that try to retain and indeed revitalise the original characteristics of the pub they move into. I hate it when they change a historical pub name, for instance.

Anyway, it would be great to have one or two in the area which people could go to if they liked the food and atmosphere!

paul said...

There is, in fact, a gastro-pub in Brockley...well kind of. The Honor Oak. Formerly the St Germains. It is on Brockley Road, close to many other streets with Brockley in the title.

A fine Sunday lunch can be had, for a price.

paul said...

TM2 - such an eccentric place. It has has eccentric owners and the staff, well they are eccentric too.

The food in the evenings is fine, particularly the excellent pies and their desserts are to die for. The cost is not excessive. £12 for three courses is well worth it.

The daytime menu is different and I agree with some of the remarks by other contributors, it is pricey for what it is.

Service. Well, they have their good days and their bad days. Mostly it is pretty bad. Forgetful students with a theatrical bent ain't going to win them any awards. As for the management - well, there is no shortage of emotional energy flying around.

It it an 'art cafe' and they have an artistic temperment. At the weekends, they are rushed off their feet and the pressure shows. But the place itself, with its little rooms, conservatory and garden is delightful. It is twee and a safe, friendly place for gentle folk. Brockley doesn't have many places that are twee.

Those in search of a honest to goodness Sarf Lundon boozer can go next door to the Barge. Where the ever cheery Wetherspoons staff will reheat the readymeals that came in the weekly delivery from Peters frozen foods. You can sit amidst some of most rumbunctious characters in Brockley. Who will engage you in merry banter about the prowess of the teams that grace the back pages of the red tops. Then entertain you with disturbing tales of their pugilistic enterprises while fixing you with a beady stare and progressively sinister demeanor. Moderated only by the communitas that comes from a shared appreciation of sport. You had better know when to cheer.

There are two Brockleys that are close by, but they keep a respectful distance from each other. Quite different cultures. You pay your money, you make your choice. Each provides a social focus appealing to a different type of person.

Brockley could do with more places to relax during the day and the evening. The alternative is for it to be a dormitory. That, I think, would be a bit of a shame.

ElijahBailey said...

I'll never eat at TM2 after seeing the way the manager treats his staff. Humilitaing employees in front of customers is bullying and bang out of order.

Anonymous said...

I'm moving to Brockley soon...well Malpas Road to be precise, near-ish Luxmore Gardens...is this Brockley or more New Cross/St Johns?

What attracted me to Brockley was it's proximity to the City and it's open spaces and fairly decent nurseries/schooling by all accounts (so we've been told by friends).

The property in the area looks great too, we have friends here and you seem to get good value for money (does such a thing exist in London) in comparison to other Zone 2 places.

Me and the missus and our young child to be want to stay in London but didn't want to pay the over-exubarant prices to stay in Brixton Hill or anywhere in South West London for that matter. We currently live in Brixton Hill and are going to be trading a 2 bed conversion flat for a 2 bed period house.

Anyway, getting to the point of what I'm babbling on about, this site looks great and has been a great source of information for us.

Long may it continue, I really enjoy reading the threads on here.

Monkeyboy said...

Ahhhh.... Malpas Road. That's where I live, I like to think of it nestling if the clevage of the conservation area - with its arse over hanging Brockley Cross.

Have you checked out the boners Bird's Dress Agency next to the chippy? Never seen anyone buy stuff there but handy if you want to buy a second hand pith helmet.

Paul, the barber will sort out your hair related issues. Ask him about his old assistant who got his hand caught in the till " ...that bastard will never work in Brockley again!..."

Harsh words, perhaps some summary justice from the neighbourhood watch is required?

Monkeyboy said...

Boners? I mean bonkers....

Pete said...

RE: Gastropubs

Good to see that inverted snobbery is alive and well in Brockley.

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with gastropubs. I think of them less as pubs and more as restaurants where you can sit and have a pint of beer, usually on the site of an old (conventional) pub.

Surely there is room in Brockley for pub which serves good food? Or should food and boozing be separated at all times? (Unless the food is pork scratchings or the drink is a fine wine from Bordeaux?)

spincat said...

I don't think it was the idea of having a pub which sells booze and food that worried people - it issimply that (well, as far as I am concerned) in other parts of south east London some nice old places have turned into rather characterless pubs, serving faux-trendy food. Not every change has been for the worse, of course.

I personally can't see that kind of thing happening in Brockley - there is lots of room for all kinds of new places to develop. However, I do understand why some peopel are wary. If soemthing is really good you don't want it replaced with something more formulaic.

PS: the pork scratchings comment - sorry my sense of humour is a bit feeble!

Anonymous said...

end of tenancy cleaning Let’s begin with the walls. Most of the people neglect them and think that by some reason they never get dirty. Actually exactly the walls accumulate most of the cigarette build-ups and therefore they are the main reason your house to be so difficult to be deodorized. If you want to forget about cigarette stains, you should mix a spot of trisodium phosphate (TSP) with some hot water. Use pair of gloves and goggles to protect your skin and eyes and scrub carefully the walls. end of tenancy cleaning London

Brockley Central Label Cloud