In 2010, everything changed and nothing did.
The May elections redrew the electoral map of Lewisham and in doing so, reinforced the status quo.In Lewisham, Councillors of every colour were swept away by Labour’s red sea. Those (like BC) who thought it anomaly caused by the local elections coinciding with the general election were proved wrong when an early Ladywell by-election returned a Labour Councillor. We can now have any Councillor we like, so long as they’re red.
In Brockley, the opening of the East London Line (heralded by Oyster’s arrival in January) radically transformed our transport options, blessing us with new routes, a much fuller timetable and less full trains. Everyone loved it and that was the end of that debate.
The ELL helped to accelerate the rejuvenation of Brockley as the crowds disembarking the trains got bigger and younger. The influx of new residents helped to fuel Brockley’s DIY culture, with pop-up restaurants, harvests and living-room gigs joining the calendar of local events and established events like the Brockley MAX and the Christmas markets enjoying their best-ever years.
But what the ELL didn’t do was convince a wave of new small businesses to open in the area this year. Although we heard from a few entrepreneurs planning to give the area a go, the only new business that opened near the station was Bohemia Hair. Instead, Ladywell high street made most of the running, with the opening of En Gedi Designs and El’s Kitchen. Other businesses made incremental changes, like the Brockley Mess’ new gallery, the Broca’s new children’s playroom and the Royal Albert's touch-up.
On Brockley Road, 2010 was a lost year. The revolution never came. The promised renovation of La Lanterna ground to a halt as the parade it sits on rotted. The plans for the holistic centre were iced and a makeshift second-hand furniture shop moved in. Further up the road, we learned of even more ambitious plans to turn St Cyprien’s Church in to a restaurant. Perhaps next year will be different…
We also said goodbye to the Shop on the Hill, Sweney’s Café and Aladdin’s Cave in Crofton Park. Ladywell’s art deco adhesives factory vanished and the last shop in Upper Brockley Road was given permission to be converted in to flats.
Hilly Fields secured a mobile café and plans were announced to create a permanent facility – with Pistachios revealed to be in the running. The Rivoli, whose future has been under threat for the lifetime of this blog, found a new lease of life in 2010 playing host to the Kings of Leon and countless film crews, as well as securing its own chat show.
Most of the positive changes were driven by the public and voluntary sectors, from the new playgrounds in Hilly Fields and Blythe Hill to the improvements in Ladywell Village, the Hill Station in Telegraph Hill and the new community garden in Breakspears Road. The Brockley Common project finally came to fruition, dragged over the finish line this summer by the Brockley Cross Action Group, Transition Brockley and some mosaic makers after the private contractors originally appointed to do the job washed their hands of it.
Local sport got a big boost with the development of a cricket square in Hilly Fields and the tortuous approval of the Telegraph Hill skate park. Up the road, plans were approved to renovate Forest Hill Pool.
When they weren’t burning down, the area’s schools were being redeveloped. Lewisham finally convinced BrocSoc to drop their opposition to the redevelopment of Gordonbrock, but only after the threat of legal action caused significant delays to the project. Prendergast Hilly Fields College and Brockley Primary both unveiled their own public consultations, hoping to avoid the pitfalls that Gordonbrock encountered.
And at last, Lewisham Council began to turn its attention to the state of the public realm in the area. Street trees were planted in large numbers, the front of the Tea Factory was repaved, the railings removed along Brockley Road and Mantle Road’s pavement was widened. Even better, public consultations were launched about plans to remodel Coulgate Street and Brockley Cross and positive noises were made about the Ladywell Village Improvement Group’s masterplan.
While both of the Brockley proposals represent progress, they also represent missed opportunities – neither going far enough to address the problems or to realise potential. Again – these developments represented change or inertia, depending upon your point of view.
In crime, transport and regeneration, the picture was mixed too.
While crime continued to fall overall, Brockley nonetheless experienced waves of burglaries and serious violence including a serious stabbing and shootings in Brockley Cross, culminating in the death of a man on Howson Road.
The DLR expansion opened on time, the Jubilee Line upgrade didn’t. We got funding for Thameslink and the new station at London Bridge and confirmation of funding for Crossrail and a new interchange with the ELL at Whitechapel, but a small delay to the reopening of Blackfriars and a major blow to the hope of securing an ELL station at Surrey Canal.
Two of Lewisham borough’s biggest construction projects - Loampit Vale and The Distillery - shot up, while construction work at Bridge House on Mantle Road fell behind but trundled on. We heard positive noises about Convoys Wharf and Goldsmiths revealed its ideas for New Cross, but plans for Lewisham Gateway got no further than the creation of two taxpayer-funded grass hummocks next to Lewisham shopping centre.
The most unambiguous change this year was to the tone of political debate in Lewisham. Since May, barely a week has gone past without a story about cuts, protests or strikes – from library marches to Goldsmiths sit-ins and Catford demos.
Against this backdrop, it seems unlikely that 2011 will include as many positive, publicly-led developments. Like George Osborne, we have to cross our fingers that the private sector will step-in to fill the void. As the year draws to a close, organisations with deep pockets like Sainsbury’s and MacDonald Egan hinted that they may do that, while social enterprises may offer the best hope of keeping our libraries open.
If the new spirit of enterprise doesn’t materialise, Brockley Central will have a lot of space to fill in 2011.
What were your highlights and low ebbs this year?