Brockley to the West End the easy way?


Worried that the East London Line might eat in to overland services to London Bridge? Wondering how the narrow platforms and footbridges of Brockley station will cope with the massive increase in passenger numbers forecast by TfL? The best way to bypass all of these commuter worries is to go by bike.

We have cycled in to London for work, on-and-off, for about 10 years. The combined effect of the congestion charge, increased bus and cycle lane provision and the fact that global warming has turned spring in to summer, means that the experience has become a lot more pleasant in recent years. The vast increase in cyclist numbers on London's streets also means that you no longer feel a lonely pariah in a world of motorists.

Safety is, of course, still a massive concern, and the anti-cyclist diatribes to be found in the papers or on talk radio these days have helped to create a climate in which motorists often treat cyclists with contempt, but on a sunny day, cycling to work can feel like a pleasure, rather than a chore.

Brockley Central's bike is due to be dusted off for the summer and we decided that there had to be a better way in to town than the route we used last year - involving pot-holed routes through New Cross and Deptford High Street (whoever voted that as London's best shopping street was a patronising wally) and then up towards Rotherhithe and Bermondsey, before crossing the river at Waterloo, to get to the West End.

We found this alternative on a great website called Bikely, which describes a route of around 12km from Brockley Station to Soho. It's designed to minimise the traffic levels you'll encounter (which, in our view is more important than distance) and takes you through Peckham, Burgess Park and over the river at Millbank. We plan to try it next week but would be interested to know if any readers have alternative routes they'd like to suggest:

http://www.bikely.com/maps/bike-path/Brockley-to-Soho

Cycling links:

The Brockley property market

The Brockley Central Interview

Brockley Central has received some comments accusing it of being a transparent attempt to boost house prices in the area. That's something of a grand ambition for a community website and we weren't aware that London house prices needed much of a boost at the moment, but it did prompt us to find out about the local property market to gain a better insight in to how the area is changing.

We spoke to Phil Sonenthal, the owner of Rocodell's, one of the the best-known local estate agents and Andy Moran, Manager of the Brockley branch of James Johnston, an agency specialising in South East London, which opened in the area relatively recently.

The picture that emerged was fairly consistent, with both agents agreeing that there is a strong buzz about Brockley, driven by the East London Line extension, with the prediction that the optimism about Brockley will continue for a long time to come:

How busy is the local property market at the moment?

Phil - Busy, but not as busy as it has been.

Andy - 2007 has been very busy so far.

Is there a buzz about Brockley in the market?

Phil - Brockley is 4th on the hot spot list of London places to live and in the last five years, property prices have doubled - sometimes more.

Andy - Absolutely. We moved to Brockley because we were well established in Greenwich and Blackheath and we saw this area as a natural progression for us. The East London Line has created interest, but people are now looking at Brockley and realising that, even without it, there are lots of transport options, with good overland connections from Brockley, Crofton Park, St. John's and even the DLR at Deptford and the services at New Cross are within easy reach for many.

Are there many houses for sale at the moment?

Phil - Supply has definitely picked up in the last 6 months.

Andy - Supply is relatively tight still, but it depends what areas of Brockley you're talking about. The majority of properties in the conservation areas are flats - typically two bedrooms. However, on the other side of Brockley or up in Crofton Park, there are some fantastic homes

What are the most popular areas of Brockley at the moment?

Phil - Any two bedroom flat in the Conservation Area is always highly sought after.

Andy - Of course, the Conservation Area is beautiful. However, we are finding that many residents looking for something bigger than a flat are looking at the other side of Brockley because they don't want to leave the area and there is some fantastic housing stock on that side.

What kind of buyers are you seeing at the moment?

Phil - Brockley has always attracted a wide variety of buyers and that hasn't changed.

Andy - Singles and couples, mostly. Typically, they work in the city or Canary Wharf.

What do you think makes Brockley a popular area for buyers?

Phil - Lovely period properties in zone 2 are a huge draw and Brockley is still good value by London standards, even though prices have risen fast.

Andy - Transport is definitely the big draw.

What impact will the East London Line have?

Phil - A huge one!

Andy - It's already having a big impact and that will only increase as we approach opening.

What puts people off buying in Brockley?

Phil - People who want shops and restaurants will still head for East Dulwich or Greenwich at the moment.

Andy - The high street is changing but still has a long way to go!


Brockley Central's home is not for sale.


For further information, visit:

http://www.jamesjohnston.com

http://www.rocodells.co.uk/site/

Fire on Upper Brockley Road - update

As has already been widely reported (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/london/6543765.stm), on April 10th, a fire engulfed a house on Upper Brockley Road, killing one man and forcing the temporaty closure of the adjoining garage.

Police cordoned-off the site for nearly two weeks as builders made the buildings safe and the site was investigated. The police confirmed that arson is suspected as a possible cause of the fire and that the man killed was homeless and had been sleeping at the otherwise-disused house.

The house was badly damaged and remains surrounded by scaffolding as substantial rennovation will be required.

New gallery planned for Brockley

Previous articles about the development of new apartments and shops for Brockley Cross (dubbed 'the Tea Factory') have referred to the possibility of a new gallery being created as part of the development.

Brockley Central is indebted to Councillor Dean Walton for providing a copy of the Section 106 agreement, which provides more details about the plan.

Section 106 agreements are essentially the price that councils extract from developers for granting planning permission for their projects. In this case, the Council have attempted to support the local arts scene by securing a new gallery in one of the commercial units that the Tea Factory will include.

With the project not due for completion until next year, there are still relatively few details, however, the s106 document states that:

  • Unit 2 of the street-level shops will be used to create a new Gallery
  • The nominated gallery occupier will be selected by the Council
  • The gallery will operate for two years, rent free
  • After this two year period, the gallery operator will have first option to continue in the unit, on commercial terms

Done right, the gallery could serve as a permanent focus for Brockley's artistic community and provide the sort of "destination" for visitors that a number of contributors to this blog have been calling for.

The Talbot - update from Vikki


[With thanks to Jonathan for the photo]

Vikki posted this information about The Talbot on a separate thread, but it takes the story several steps further and therefore deserves a thread of its own. She wrote:

I've now had a couple of responses from Punch about The Talbot that may be of interest to people.

First response was roughly along these lines -

Agree that it is badly in need of a facelift.

They are looking to develop the pub by redecorating inside and out and also introducing food.

The current two bar operation will stay intact allowing for a bar and lounge.

The plan for illuminated signage is just bringing the current outside lighting and signs up to date.

Basically they are looking to keep a 'community pub' but presenting a better offer of food and drinks which seems to be what the community is looking for.

The improved outdoor area is a response to the need for such a facility so people can eat and drink "al Fresco" weather permitting and the need to provide outdoor facilities for smokers who won't be able to smoke inside after July.

The pub is owned by Punch but leased to someone who runs their own business on the premises. Clearly the pub needs the support of its local residents and should aim to supply them with the sort of facility they need. Therefore the best line of approach would be to talk to the landlord and ask him about his plans.

At present they don't have a start date for the works.

And then second response is from Michelle Matonti, the Business Relationship Office, who is happy to be contacted by local residents on 07770 584703.

There are no immediate plans to undertake the investment at The Talbot as they are currently carrying out essential structural works to the property and will need to complete these prior to revising what was initially proposed and subsequently submitted for planning permission.

Due to these works the overall scope of the scheme will need to be reduced to a financially agreeable level. They hope to be able to give their designers the budget that will be left by the end of next week.

They are glad that the Honor Oak has been mentioned in positive terms and they will endeavour to deliver a similar feel, albeit at a vastly reduced budget.

The comments from Punch are broadly in-line with the hopes expressed by people on this site (and others, such as Andrew Brown's), with the Honor Oak seemingly a popular precedent. The lack of commitment on timing is disappointing, but in line with what we'd already been told.

Brockley Cross update


Luke sent me some additional information about this development at Brockley Cross: Four New Shops For Brockley Cross

The design for the rennovation is bolder than I had expected and will be unlike anything that currently exists in the area, although it perhaps has some similarities with Will Alsop's designs for Peckham Library and Goldsmiths College (if that isn't a stretch too far).

The WorldArchitectureNews.com report also claims that:

"The corner commercial unit will be a café, with the largest unit let to the council rent free for two years for use as a gallery to encourage local artists, as part of the section 106 Agreement."

With completion due next year, we will hopefully hear from the Council whether the Section 106 agreement is due to be implemented as planned.

WorldArchitectureNews article

Blog update

The Brockley Central blog took a two-week break over Easter, but thanks to all the people who've posted comments on the site. In the absence of fresh postings, the site has remained lively and it currently averages 55 unique visits a day, with traffic on an upward trend. This is testament to the passion and support of local people and the blogging community - and occasionally testament to the passion of the people of Plumstead...

Over the coming weeks, the blog will focus on a range of developments and issues, including sport and health, famers markets, the fire on Upper Brockley Road, and some familiar subjects, such as the Wickham, the Talbot, the Common, BrockleyMAX and the various shops, cafes and apartments in development at the moment. However, if anyone has any other suggestions, please feel free to email me.

It's probably also worth reiterating the purpose of this blog, following a few recent comments. Firstly, it is a celebration of Brockley - a place which I, and nearly everyone who contributes to this site, enjoy living in and want to see get even better. It is designed to help promote the work of groups such as the Brockley Cross Action Group, BrockleyMAX who are doing great work for Brockley. However, it is not intended to whitewash the aspects of local life that still leave something to be desired and it will continue to cover those stories too.

Secondly, it's a place for local people (and people interested in the area) to share news and information about Brockley and to act as a guide to local life. Occasionally, this will include issues that affect everyone in Lewisham, or indeed London - such as the future of the East London Line and mainline services to London. In that respect, it will hopefully come to reflect the interests of the people that use the site.

The Talbot: an update, of sorts

John-Paul has succeeded where so many of us have failed and has managed to make contact (albeit indirectly) with Punch Taverns regarding the plans for The Talbot.

In response to his enquiries, their PR agency has issued the following release:

A Punch Taverns spokesperson said: "We have been granted planning permission to refurbish the Talbot, which is due to take place later this year.

"We will be installing a kitchen area so that traditional pub meals can be served, but the pub will retain its classic style which has been enjoyed by customers for many years

"The existing beer garden will also be improved, including a new sheltered area in preparation for the smoking ban.

"In the meantime, the pub will remain open and we hope to keep any disruption to a minimum when the refurbishment work begins."

So, we know that they've got planning permission and that the makeover will not be dramatic but that it will indeed aim to serve food. However, there are few other details, particularly on timings - because these are still to be confirmed.

However, they were genuinely helpful and have agreed to be interviewed for the website about the pub's future at a later date (hopefully not too much later) when they have a clearer picture about the specifications. In the mean time, they have read the comments posted on this site and are aware of the strength of feeling around the subject.

Eating out: nominate the best of Brockley

There's already been a lot of discussion in other threads about the quality of food to be found in Brockley. It's been pointed out that the area's best places are scattered over quite a wide area so this post is dedicated to collecting people's recommendations for eating out.

Here are mine - an admittedly predictable quartet:

Ecosium - a brilliant addition to the area. Friendly staff, delicious and simple north-african inspired menu, great when the sunshine's through the open windows out front and a fish tank which keeps kids occupied for hours. Still a little underappreciated.

Just Thai Thai - perhaps a controversial choice, given the enduring popularity of Smile's Cafe, but I think JTT is the winner - if only on the basis of the fact that, if you eat there in winter, you don't have to endure icy gales coming in every time someone opens the door.

Moonbow Jakes - forget the coffee, the food's much better. Great lunch menu.

Toad's Mouth Too - Massive portions, good range and cheery, if sometimes ditzy waiters. Great people-watching if you're on your own but not so good for big groups (or pushchairs), thanks to the tiny rooms and tables.

Wickham Arms under new management

I've had an email from John, who says that the Wickham Arms, on Upper Brockley Road has new management, as from today.

The owner has apparently indicated that he's interested in hearing from locals what the future direction of the pub should be, but is yet to be convinced that Brockley has the right catchment area to generate a loyal customer base that would justify major investment in the pub.

With the necessary caveats about not wanting to lose the live music nights on Thursday nights, I think this is potentially great news. This would be my Wickham wishlist:

1. The most important change wouldn't cost a thing - just make sure the bar staff look a bit more happy to see people

2. Try and encourage more use of the front garden, facing out on to Upper Brockley Road - Brockley lacks a little pavement culture and this would be perfect spot to sit out on a sunny day, enjoying a pint, but for some reason, no-one ever seems to be out there

3. Modernise the decor a bit - doesn't need a massive overhaul - just make it look less tired. How about finding a way to get a bit more natural light in there during the day?

4. As John's already suggested - introduce a wider choice of beers and wines

5. Keep the music nights and maybe run a few more things like pub-quizzes to encourage a local clientele

Public art commission announced for Brockley

The search for Brockley's answer to Anthony Gormley has begun.

The Brockley Cross Action Group (BXAG) has produced the details of its public art competition to create a centrpiece for Phase Two of the Brockley Common project. The total commission price is likely to be between £20,000 and £40,000, although fund-raising is still underway.

In a competition document published this weekend, the BXAG explains:

"As part of phase 2 the group would like to commission a significant piece of public art which would occupy a strategic position on the site and indeed in the Brockley Cross area. It will be visible from the main Brockley Road, to passengers passing through the station and using the main public footbridge and also, depending on its height, glimpsed by passengers passing through on trains on both the low and high level lines."

"In order to select an artist to create, build and install the works a public competition is being launched with a first stage closing date of the 30th April 2007. Artists with local connections are particularly encouraged to participate."

The aims of the commission are simple:

  • to celebrate and mark the past and current history and diversity of the community of Brockley
  • to enliven and give meaning to this new shared space, thereby contributing to it becoming a loved and accepted place for all the community
The site lies close to the source of the original well and stream feeding the farms and hamlet of Brockley. A canal also ran through the site until it was filled in and the railway line cut through. A fascinating history of the area is currently being researched by Chris Woods which amongst other things has identified a fallen standing stone very close to the site, now possibly under platform 1. The research paper is available on the Brockley Cross website (www.brockley.com/bcag/ go to brockley common page, download history).

The £350,000 Phase Two development will open up the site and create an attractive new gateway to Brockley from the station, through new landscaping and pedestrian access. A planning application is due to be submitted in the summer. Preparatory works have just been completed. The art commission will be funded separately but the chosen artist will be asked to work alongside the Brockley Common team to integrate the two:

"The project was initiated by BXAG, who now work closely with Lewisham Council, which is the accountable body for the whole project. W are looking for the artwork to be fully integrated with the overall scheme and a close working relationship will be important with the chosen landscape architect as well as the Brockley Commoners (local steering group) and a wider Partnership group chaired by Joan Ruddock, MP and the key players (Network Rail, Southern Rail, John Stainer School, Lewisham Council and the BXAG.

"We are looking for an artist experienced in public art design and installation who will not only inspire the steering group, but also the whole of Brockley. We set few boundaries as to what might be created. We invite a bold, but deliverable and safe installation that will make its mark and fit in well with the overall design direction. We believe it should have height, but probably not more than 5m, combine with water and both be excitingly lit by night and interact well with light during the day."

The Competition Process

The competition is in three stages. These dates are not fixed in stone and the BXAG reserves the right to extend the deadlines at short notice.

Stage 1 (deadline 30th April) invites all those interested to send in a short letter of interest to the group. This should be no more than two sides A4 and clearly show evidence of previous public art commissions relevant to this project, together with your working methods. Unfortunately any CDs or other material will be non-returnable.

Stage 2 (May/June) we will invite a shortlist of 3 candidates to work up their ideas and proposals in detail. This will include a model or 3D illustration, a risk assessment, outline costs and timetable for implementation. All short-listed candidates will be offered a small honorarium of £350 each.

Stage 3 (July/August) will be a public vote to decide between the 3 short-listed candidates via our website and in the local cafés and pubs.

All Stage 1 submissions should be clearly addressed to:

Jill Connell
Brockley Common Arts Commission
27 Prendrell Road
London
SE4 2PB

Enquiries should be sent to:

jill@martinconnell.co.uk

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