Art-less

Brockley Central has been very excited about the prospects for a new community art gallery at Brockley Cross. Run by charity Tea Leaf Arts, it will serve as a centre for the local artistic community, a venue for new kinds of events and installations and an expression of Brockley's vibrant community.

However, as the Tea Factory slowly emerges from its scaffold coccoon to reveal a handsome new building, the gallery is still a distant prospect.

During the planning process for the Tea Factory, the Council negotiated with the developer to ensure that, for the first two years of its new life, the Tea Factory would have to give one of the commercial units to the community, at zero cost, to be used as a new gallery. If, after those two years, the gallery was able to run on commercial terms, they will have first refusal on the site. This made sense for a host of reasons...

Firstly, the Tea Factory owners win because this deal was secured as part of the Section 106 agreement, which is the price councils are able to extract from large-scale developers - it's payment in kind, rather than in cash.

Secondly, the ground floor units had to be commercial (rather than residential) anyway and the new development on the west side of the station has proved that these kinds of units, in areas of low footfall, with few other shops around, are hard to shift. By giving away one unit, the developers ensure that they have a nice gallery instead of an empty window - all the better to attract residential buyers and help secure more commercial tennants. The Tea Factory is due to house a new cafe, and there's no-doubt the management would have been attracted by the prospect of having a gallery for a neighbour.

Thirdly, for the Council, it's a much-needed gesture towards regenerating Brockley Cross, but the burden of effort to make it a reality is handed over to the local community and Creative Lewisham.

However, when we recently contacted the community team behind the new gallery for an update, we were shocked. While the Tea Factory is due for completion this month, the gallery has no opening date - in fact, its future is still in doubt.

Instead of a functioning commercial space, the developer is planning to deliver the gallery owners an empty shell, without basic requirements like electricity, heating, lighting, plumbing and even windows. By doing so, the developer will fulfil his agreement under the terms of the Section 106, but leave the gallery team with a £14,000 funding gap.

The gallery team have finalised their plans for the space and are frantically trying to raise funds from other sources, but it is an unexpected mountain they have to climb and, even if they are successful, it is likely to take time before they are in a position to get the Gallery up and running. There are no further funds available from the Council's Section 106 budget to support the project.

We don't understand how the Council could have negotiated a deal which effectively leaves a community group having to pay the fit-out costs for a commercial developer, particularly since, after two years, it becomes the developer's again, to profit from.

In our view, the Council must take more responsibility for this problem than it appears to have done so far. They must intervene by playing an active role in identifying new funding - not just pointing the group in the direction of various funds the group can apply for but actually finding funds within the Council budget, to clear up the mess they've made. After all, if the Gallery doesn't happen then the Council have effectively negotiated zero value from the Tea Factory's redevelopment.

Despite several years of consultation by the Council about the regeneration of Brockley Cross, the Tea Factory is the only meaningful development to have come to fruition. It would be a travesty if their one success story was marred for the want of a small amount of money.

55 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nick -Does this qualify as a disaster or are you still reserving the right to use that word for Tsunamis and earthquakes?

Monkeyboy said...

The public sector often lacks the commercial nous to spot things like this. It's bound to cost much more to retrofit services after completion rather than getting the developers contractors to add it to their scope. I should imagine the developers will give a high quote because they don't want the hassle - but no windows? really? now that IS taking the piss!

It shouldn't come to this but sounds like Lottery Fund candidate?

Looks like my skyline of London made out of egg cartons will have to be displayed elsewhere.

Brockley Nick said...

Cor blimey, how long have you been waiting to reignite that semantic disagreement!? ;)

I think the word I used was travesty.

Has the graffiti been cleaned off?

Anonymous said...

tick follows tock, follows tick....... he watches and he waits..... Sorry - couldn't resist. It's a bummer though no doubt about it. I find it all a bit depressing - (and by that I don't mean I'm actually depressed) - just a bit hacked off by it all.

and please don't tell me what your definition of bummer is...

Anonymous said...

I don't think it's gone yet no.

Amanda said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Danja said...

Council muppets.

andy pandy pudding & pie said...

This is rather frustrating but I am not surprised at all. The council do not act as the best agent for new enterprises, most of the talent has gone to the big four.

I stil have faith that the gallery will go ahead. If you want my advice, they should not spend any many on the faciliaties such as installation as this will go to the developer.

Either buy their own elec. units ( useful for exhibitions as you can take them away) or even get lamps were customers pay to turn them on to light up certain displays. Not only will this will earn brownie points for being environmentally aware, but the developer will not profit.

I just sit and prey that the new gallery owners have taken on board my previous post when I said they need to operate it like a business or they will suffer...

...just like the council has now.

APP&P Troll said...

Oh, I forgot to mention - I prefer 'The Tea Gallery' to the suggested name.

Anonymous said...

Newcomer here (living inside the conservation area dontchaknow) ... where/what is the tea factory?

andy pandy pudding & pie said...

Oh, another suggestion - could we not use money from the localities budget? Brockley and Telegraph hill each have £10k, thats quite alot of money - and its from the council too!

APP&P Troll said...

Bah, conservation area.

Anonymous said...

Andy wrote,

"get lamps were customers pay to turn them on to light up certain displays."

I just Sharted.

tressillian james said...

Surely this was not the spirit of the agreement with the council - and surely the council could pressure the developer to come up with the rest of the money needed - if they chose to.

Presumably the developer does not want to alienate the council - as they may wish to develop other areas in the future.

I also believe some local pressure (letters to the developer?) could do the trick.

jon s said...

Sad but not unexpected, but rest assured monkeyboy the private sector can be just as daft. Although local councils are particularly bad. Maybe mayor Boris can headhunt a tier 1 sourcing expert to set up a division in London. Just please don't pick someone from PA, a law firm or one of the big 4 firms.

One solution could be to tap into (and strengthen) the local community. A QS/builder/chippie/plumber/sparky could create a list of what is needed (bill of quantities), then a group of marketeers could tap up local businesses for the materials, and on a single day labour could come and assemble it, followed by a piss up and barbecue of course.

A skinhead rocker in Australia "Angry Anderson" has been doing this for years. see this link: http://www.dunnlewisfoundation.org.au/

andy pandy pudding & pie said...

Jon S, that is a good idea. My firm allows me to work for 2 days free of charge to a registered charity each year. I'd be happy to help.

andy pandy pudding & pie said...

Does anyone have the developers contact details, preferably an email?

If anyone could devise a good template letter to send, that could be useful to post on here.

Monkeyboy said...

Actually Jon you're correct. Working for a private contractor I can testify that we often get stung because we don't have the time or inclination to read the small print. Although you'd think that 'no windows' would stand out.

Ho hum...

jon s said...

Monkeyboy,

I think I know who you work for, one of the LU PFIs. I did strategic review of you, so know all about how badly your contracts are structured. I was particularly impressed by the fact that there are multiple contracts from the same supplier, no service level agreements and services were bought from your main competitior........

Anonymous said...

Hmmmm, so local businesses will be asked to bail out a fiasco made by the local council and contrived by a developer/landlord. Many local businesses complain bitterly about their commercial landlords rent hikes and the council is not known for their sympathetic attitude to smaller businesses.

That would be a hard sell indeed.

An alternative would be to name and shame, it sounds pretty scandalous to me. The whole two year deal was pretty unviable from the start.

Unless someone can come up with an artistic use for an empty shell with no windows?

Mayby if it just had electricity, something could be done cheaply.

Or should it simply be abandoned? Is this is what the developer wants? It would be nice to know what the developer and the council think about this sorry state of affairs.

Monkeyboy said...

Jon, why do you think I sound so depressed? Mind you Balfour Beatty and Bombardier are now central to the ELL extension so there not bad companies per se but yes the PPP contract and structure of the supply chain was horrendous and doomed to failure - mind you LUL knew what it was going to be and signed up for it so not blameless. But in a few weeks we'll be run by TfL, or rather the raft of consultants that constitute TfL, so I'm sure things will be back on programme (can you sniff the cynacism?)

But we digress, hope the gallery gets sorted.

jon s said...

Anon, erm no.........

A bill of quantities lists all materials needed, plumbing, electrical, windows, etc. Local hardware stores are asked if they want to provide anything, and the PR arm of larger hardware shops are approached with the same.

The only sell you need is an analysis of the potential revenue from the publicity surrounding the donation of materials.

All labour is provided by local volunteers on the day, lead by a local builder/qs, etc.

It costs a company very little and gets them lots of free publicity.

Bea said...

Are all the flats sold yet? Couldn't future / new owners complain to the developers that they don't want an empty shell on the ground floor with no windows as it will damage the prestige of the building they are moving into?

Brockley Nick said...

@Bea - no they aren't - there is a show flat currently viewable. And yes, you'd have thought the developer would much rather show off a building with a gallery in it than an empty shell.

Headhunter said...

Anon 12 May 2008 22:24 - The tea Factory is right by the twin roundabouts by Brockley station - the building with the scaffolding/graffitti.

I'm a bit confused by this. So once the building is completely finished and people begin moving in, the ground floor level of their new home will basically be a shell with no windows, power, plaster on the walls?

That's just asking for it - the local yobs and vandals will be using it as a public toilet/graffitti spot in no time. I'd be pretty annoyed if I had just spent a load of money on a new flat there!

Pete said...

Well if someone does pay to have it fitted out I hope at the end of the 2 years they have the good sense to rip out the windows, electricity and other services so that the tw@ts who own it don't benefit.

Danja said...

Given the absence of windows, the security issue might force them into exhibitions like, say, 'Tramp Gallery' - a two year performance art open space exhibition exploring the raw natural inner artistic expression of the urban dispossessed to the entryist juxtaposition of the middle class City invader.

Anonymous said...

HH - they would board it up neatly and paint the shuttering - you often see it on new developments.

I don't think you can rip out the improvements after the lease ends (not my area, though).

kt said...

HH i'm sure that there will be ugly hoardings up to keep out the local rif-raf.

I'm more than a little dismayed by the consensus on here that council employees are malicious and/or incompetant. If you all are so much cleverer, why don't you work there, and sort it all out for us? Could it be, the pay is lower than what you get? The prestige, non-existant? Your work would be perennially under-resourced, and under public (and political) scrutiny? Well, who winds up working there then? I work for a national public body, and my colleagues are bright, resourceful, people doing their best in a very complicated, run-by-committee organisation that does itself few favours. Its not easy to achieve results but most people here do try their level best.

I'm not in any way defending what happened with the section 106 in this case, but just blaming the big bad council does a diservice to everyone in public service. its not glamorous and as individuals, we work damn hard under difficult conditions. The discussion on here re: council tree officers is a case in point.

As far as the situation with the gallery -- yes, the council probably should have had a better look at the fine print. But running a charitable enterprise these days does mean more than sitting on your back-side and waiting for people to hand you money. It was incumbent on the council to find competant and experienced people to run the gallery enterprise, people with solid knowledge of non-profit resourcing and management, and it seems that instead, they have found some committed and well-meaning, probably very good artists.

Pete said...

You can't pin this on the artists kt. They didn't sign the contract with the developer that outlined its responsibilities. That was the council's job.

The council could probably argue that they knew all about this and that it is fairly standard. I really don't know.

Brockley Nick said...

@kt - I agree with you. Mistakes happen in both the public and private sectors. Councils have many good people working for them.

However, personally I will be a lot more forgiving of the mistake if there is evidence that the Council is now working hard to put it right. From the initial conversations I have had, I am yet to see any evidence that that is so. There is still time to sort it out, but where is the leadership?

As for charities having to work hard... the Tea Leaf Arts has, as far as I can see, been working very hard. But they weren't aware of this problem from the outset and it is a massive setback.

Anonymous said...

kt - why should you see this disappointment as directed at all those in Public service, that is a fair portion of the working population.

This is a specific local issue and I see both the private developer and the public authority contributed to this sorry state of affairs.

APP&P Troll said...

In all fairness, mine was a sweeping generalisation but I'm a troll so i can do that!

Ed said...

Saw my flat and the show flat on Saturday; apparently only a few weeks before people will be able to move in... Disappointed to hear that the gallery seems to have been set up to fail, DPS Property are the developers.

Tressillian Troll said...

Andy - just adding troll behind your name doesn't mean you get away with it...

APP&P Troll said...

Why not? trolls do not have to justify themselves...

...do they?

fabhat bgg said...

You trolls want to be careful - someone might put billy goat gruff behind their name, and then you'll be in trouble...

Brockley Jon said...

While we're slating the Tea Factory developers, I love the absolute absence of good ol' Dukes Conveniance Store on the promotional images. It's like it never existed. It was there in the planning application drawings, but now it's gone! And the alloy wheel place at the back. Brilliant.

APP&P Troll said...

The developers contact details are:

0208 408 6787
info@dpsproperty.com

Feel free to tell them what you think.

NSFR said...

@Jon

The road looks much more sedate to!

Headhunter said...

Talking of art, does anyone know if Open Studios is happening this year? The website still show information about Open Studios 2007. I hope so, I really enjoyed wandering around the area last year, I even bought a couple of things. Also quite fun to see the artists houses - some of them have some pretty amazing pads in the conservation area.

Sian said...

As some of you already known, I'm the chair of trustees for Tea Leaf Arts, the charity set up to run the gallery.

It's interesting to read all the comments: unfortunately I don't have time reply to all the points made but I'll do the best I can

@Amanda: we decided to set up a charity precisely to apply for funding, including lottery grant money, etc. Currently we've raised £3000, and we're still waiting to hear regarding another £12500. As Nick says, the council have helpfully pointed towards funds we can apply for, but haven't yet given us any money themselves. They also turned down the funding application for Brockley Max this year.

@APP&P: Although we are registered as a charity, the main revenue stream will be through a trading subsidary and this subsidary will run the artists co-operative as a business. As you can probably imagine, this takes time to set up. We haven't yet seen the lease, but we hope there will be some leeway with regardins to recouping the fit out costs, should we decide to move premises or wind the charity up at the end of the 2 year lease.

In terms of the £10k communities fund, I'm attending the Brockley Assembly tonight to find out what the situation is, and it would be great to have some local support!

@Anon: To excuse the developer, he is at the end of the day a businessman. Yes, he has got a very good deal, but the council allowed him to provide the unit under the s106 as a shell. No wonder he jumped at the chance. I suspect letters to the council will be more effective but, despite trying to track down the right person to speak to several times, I still don't have a name. Do feel free to make your thoughts know to everyone involved, though.

@HH There will be shutters on the window, but yes, no glass. At least the unit should be secure.


Will post more soon!
Cheers
Sian

Anonymous said...

Q: What do you do if theres a problem in Brockley?

A: Blame the Council.

APP&P Troll said...

Sian, you may want to try the head of the planning committee? I'm not sure if this was a genuine mistake or a compromise for a making a deal.

Anonymous said...

Q: What does the council do when it lets down its residents.
A: Blame the 'system', underfunding, and or basically anything and everything else bar their own inefficiency.

The buck stops with Lewisham council - Creative Lewisham Agency, take ownership, help Tea Leaf Arts to overcome this impasse and then you will get the credit that you seem to believe you are due.

Anonymous said...

I think letters need to written and councillors need to be involved. Is it common for these 106 agreements to be manipulated on this way. As it stands the developer meets their obligation and will inherit a lot of the fitting out costs when they get the property back after a couple of years.
If the agreement was negotiated more equitably they should have paid for this up front. Instead funding has to be raised and part of this will an indirect subsidy to the developer. I am sure this was not the original intention.

Anonymous said...

does the Tealeaf project have to be in that building? Maybe the funds could be spent on one of the many empty commercial properties in the area which may require far less money spent because they already have such fripperies as electricity and windows.

Sian said...

And to continue...

@KT: I agree it was up to the council to find "competent and experienced people to run the gallery enterprise, people with solid knowledge of non-profit resourcing and management."

What happened in reality was that they asked Creative Lewisham Agency to find somebody to run the gallery. CLA held a meeting, advertised on here last November, and it was up to the people who stepped forward then to take on the job of managing the project. I was one of them. I'm not an artist, nor do I have a business background, but there were only a limited amount of us who put our hands up to get involved.

The section 106 was signed back in 2006, so somebody at the council has known about this project for 2 years. We’ve known about it for 6m.

We have had help from certain organizations and people within the council. CLA have been great at helping us to get off the ground and indeed have given us a small amount of money to kick the project off with. Carmel at Lewisham Arts has also been a fount of knowledge. However, there does seem to be a lack of joined-up thinking: the planning department have not been easy to deal with so far – the impression I get from them is that as far as they are concerned their job is done – and the only funding we’ve been eligible to apply for has come from the Small Grants Fund.

This isn’t about about pointing fingers, but instead trying to find a way to move forward. Of course not everyone is going to be as enthusiastic about the project as we are, but the more doors that close, the less enthusiastic we become.

@Anon: Tea Leaf Arts is based in the Tea Factory as the space is rent and rate free for 2 years. We certainly don’t have the money to pay for commercial rent at the moment, and we’re unsure whether we will be able to afford it in 2 years when the lease is up. We’ll just have to see what happens.

JPM said...

Does anyone know the developer's name?

Anonymous said...

you seems surprised that a developer has pulled the wool over your naive eyes and left you with a problem, goodness gracious, thats what they're all about. Apply that same thinking to any other development thats planned to happen in the SE of London, multiply it by the size of the development, and you have your template.

get real people, developers develop things to make money, if it so happens that by chance they fulfill something thats public spirited then thats luck.

But my experience of the Brockley open studios, with a very few exceptions, makes me feel glad that brockley 'artists' cannot further expose the public to their 'artworks' anyway.

Sian said...

Co-operative membership forms are now available for Tea Leaf Arts - if you want to get hold of one, you can email me at sianknight @ gmail.com, or pick one up from The Broca.

neanderthal d said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
neanderthal d said...

@ jpm

DPS Property Holdings Limited

http://www.dpsproperty.com/

Anonymous said...

This case tends to suggest Lewisham is not really on top of Section 106 issues.

This report makes some interesting recommendations concerning the involvement of councillors and the community.

http://www.london.gov.uk/assembly/reports/plansd.jsp

JPM said...

The devolper hasn't 'pulled the wool'over anyone's eyes.

When I spoke to them they claimed that all the units have electricity and water (etc) in them. It's only the cafe that is fitted with gas.

The gallery will, naturally, have to decide where it sites lights from the junction box - and I see no reason why it shouldn't find the money for it, nor why this should cost £10k.

Perhaps it should rename itself WannitAllOnaPlateArts. (Catchy.)

Brockley Central Label Cloud

Click one of the labels below to see all posts on that subject. The bigger the label, the more posts there are!