Guest post: Goldsmiths - stop the high street rot

New Cross resident Isobel Williams writes:

Goldsmiths bestrides New Cross like a colossus.  It must surely be the single largest owner of property in SE14.  Which would be all well and good, if it maintained it properly.  Or at all, in fact.

I live in St Donatts Rd, and right next door to me is a terraced Victorian house, a 4 bedroom family home, like mine, but owned by Goldsmiths.  For the past 4 years or so it's been boarded up and gradually falling to bits.  The front garden has become a rubbish dump and a tramps’ toilet.  Two attempts have been made by squatters to break into it.  Local residents have written, phoned, emailed Goldsmiths about this but the College rarely bother responding.

The other week I was talking to Gill in The Allotment about the old Goodyear tyre shop opposite the New Cross Inn on New Cross Rd.  Gill tells me the property, and the ones next to it, are great retail spaces, but they’re in such bad repair no one in their right mind would take them on.  The whole eyesore of a parade is owned by Goldsmiths.

I contacted Assembly member Darren Johnson, who kindly ooked into it for me.  Turns out the College have no plans to either sell or renovate any of these properties.  All the efforts made by the Council, local businesses like Gill's and community groups to regenerate New Cross are effectively being undermined by this neglect.  Not to mention the scandal of a potential family home such as the one next door to me being left unoccupied.  So I’ve started a petition to put to the Council next month, asking them to pressurise Goldsmiths to do something about its empty properties in SE14.

In the coming days hard copies will hopefully be popping up in shops in the area (notably The Allotment, of course) but if you can’t wait, please sign the e-petition.  http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/petition-to-lewisham-council-new-cross-properties/   And if you want to contact me, email me on newxpetition@gmail.com.

82 comments:

Anonymous said...

Contact the Empty Homes Agency, they'd be very interested to hear about this.
http://www.emptyhomes.com/

Anonymous said...

I graduated Goldsmiths the summer just gone and nothing changed with these types of places. It's incredulous considering the uni's current money woes that such buildings are just left to rot away when they could easily be making in rent money.

Example: http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?q=New+Cross+Rd,+London+SE14,+UK&hl=en&ll=51.47564,-0.032801&spn=0.005379,0.009645&sll=53.800651,-4.064941&sspn=20.982131,39.506836&oq=new+cross&hnear=New+Cross+Rd,+London+SE14,+United+Kingdom&t=m&z=17&layer=c&cbll=51.47564,-0.032801&panoid=PH3qjK1VJJJZTh6E7uscLQ&cbp=12,283.89,,0,5.31

I don't know who owns this place but the first two years I'd walk past this almost daily amazed that someone would rather let such a big home go to waste than at least profit off it.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to know if anyone else has info, I heard the parade where Cafe Crema is was left to rot by Goldsmiths after a reputed planning spat with LBL who refused permission to let them develop it as offices.

Anonymous said...

Signed. They would likely need to spend first to generate rental incomes so maybe they need to be forced to sell.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous 12:58 - Pretty sure there's a new build there now... seem to remember seeing something when walking down that way recently.

St Donatts Neighbour! said...

Anon 12.58 yes that house has been done up, and new build put in the garden.

Agree totally with the original post - especially with new businesses opening up in the last few months, there must be potential income for the College but there would be initial costs to get the retail space in some kind of decent order.

Perhaps we should lobby our councillors to look at getting a Compulsory Purchase Order??? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compulsory_purchase_order

Imagine they take a lot of time & money however so may not be the best solution.

A bit of local noise-making first!

Isobel Williams said...

Just to clarify, 38 St Donatts Rd has NOT been redeveloped, it is still boarded up. I live next door. Thanks to everyone who has signed the petition so far.

Anonymous said...

It's rather surprising that they leave them to rot when they've so recently built two entirely new buildings.
Wouldn't it suggest that money isn't really the problem?

St Donatts neighbour said...

Sorry for confusion, comment was referring to the example that anon posted at 12.58 which anon at 13.18 thought had been done up - which it has - but it's not 38 St Donatts!

Anonymous said...

As Anon graduate said, it's incredible the college is doing this when it could raise income. Perhaps they wish to develop the sites commercially & are engaged in a stand off with the council...

Anonymous said...

It does seem to be the case that public organisations can be as poor stewards of property as the worst of the private sector.

They should be compelled to sell or renovate. The Maudsley Hospital in Camberwell is another example.

Ben said...

The once blackened Venue looks nice now it has been sandblasted, even the outside of the Marquis has been done up and made the area look nicer. So far so good...

...come on Goldsmiths pull your finger out, that house and the parade of shops need to be sold off to someone who can do something with them!

Nothing worse than a lazy landlord who dominates a small area.

TM said...

Anyone know how many nights a week the Venue is open?
Two?
Three?
More?

Danja said...

I think they have plans to renovate them, but don't have the funding. I think they have structural problems (a load of temporary looking bracing has been added fairly recently - as in the last couple of years or so - on the end wall facing the New Cross House).

The only planning application for that parade was 2001, for conversion to (Goldsmiths') offices above, and that was granted, but has now expired.

They get a mention in the Goldmsith's masterplan, IIRC.

I've never been in them, but Prangsta, Cafe Crema (and Rubbish & Nasty) are proper New Cross scenery, so I wouldn't want them swept away.

Anonymous said...

TM

Not sure but great if you're after a cheesy cheap club night. Crowd is quite young and they all seem to be from Kent. Cover bands are a good laugh!

Anonymous said...

@Danja
It wasn't as recent as 2001 but soome years before when that parade housed Cross Currants health food shop.

Tressilliana said...

Public sector bodies get government money for specific purposes and can't use money from one pot to do work that by law has to be funded from another pot. This is, I assume, what has caused the long delay with renovating these Goldsmith's properties and the houses owned by the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust round the corner from Denmark Hill. Anon will be pleased to hear that these are now being renovated, so presumably the government finally came up with the money for SLaM to do this.

It is a stupid way of funding public work, but it's not entirely or even mainly the fault of the public bodies concerned.

Caroline Cullen said...

So glad that someone is highlighting this issue. It will hopefully lead to awareness of the other empty units in new cross. There has been pockets of good work, like the improved shopfronts at the Old Kent Road end. But then in the case of an education centre near us, not much effort at all and they unearthed a beautiful old sign which someone apparently "stole".

The Allotment looks great, as does the London Particular and lots of other shops have done well too. We have the new Dig This nursery which looks good and the boulangerie too have expanded and have a lovely new front. Yip stores is a great addition too. A lot of the pubs have painted and the library still being open is great.

It would be great to attract a charity shop to the area, I think it would do really well as there isn't one that near, only Deptford. How would we attract one to open?!

Anonymous said...

@Caroline Cullen
Persuade the landlord that they get reduced business rates, that's why most charity shops are where they are.

Anonymous said...

There is a bank and a bookshop currently within Goldsmiths. If they moved to the empty parade of shops both students and local people could use them.

How about it Goldsmiths?

Surely a good idea.

Caroline said...

I did not know that, useful- Anon.

Bookshop and bank moved out there would be amazing, a free cash point on the main road would be brilliant!

Anonymous said...

oops spoke too soon
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-16692556

Lou Baker said...

There are people who aspire to open charity shops? Urgh.

And, seriously, what is Darren Johnson going to do?

Throw sandals at them? Encourage them to grow facial hair? Tell them to grow radishes in the middle of the A2?

In all of human history there has never been a problem
a Green has been able to solve.

No, the problem is Goldsmiths pinko tradition. Of course you're going to have premises fit for tramps and squatters when that's the market your establishment aims at.

NAT said...

Attaboy Lou You Tell 'em.

Those Greeny Pinkos

Sue said...

I think I would pay good money to see a Lou Baker - Darren Johnson head to head debate! Maybe at the St Andrews Centre? Surely this could draw a few people short of entertainment on a Monday evening?

Though I'm sure Lou must be correct in asserting that Greens have never, in the whole history of mankind ever solved any problem. I mean, when someone says something with such conviction, you've got to believe them, haven't you?!

NAT said...

Would St. Andrews be big enough?

How 'bout it Lou?

Anonymous said...

there is nothing stopping u using the bookshop. Its the ony decent one round here. i use it all the time. And the cashpoint

Mb said...

I'm sure Lou was complaining about unpleasant bile from other posters. I must have imagined it.

Mb said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning–Kruger_effect

Just saying.

Lou Baker said...

@ mb

The post I complained about had someone ranting about children. This is wrong because you can't help being a child - any more than you can help being gay, disabled or black.

Of course you can help being Green. Like religion and pinkoism it is a lifestyle choice.

Now I don't doubt Greens are nice people. A bit too smelly and pro-caravan for my liking but nice enough. The problem is with their policies.

I am very concerned for the environment. I care for it greatly and have a very green (small g) outlook. But I don't go in for all the communal socialist bile that the Greens (big g) add with it. That's where they're wrong - along, of course, with their barking idealism.

But they're harmless enough - and great news for the duffle coat industry.

Mb said...

A calm, sober explanation. Thanks.

oryx said...

I can't understand why, even in this market, Goldsmiths don't sell empty residential properties which have become an eyesore.

I can't think of anything in public funding rules etc. which would prevent them from doing so.

Common sense would dictate: empty property sold to buyer = renovated homes plus income for Goldsmiths.

Whoever suggested the Empty Homes Agency - that's a good idea.

shipwright's palace said...

Do Goldsmiths still run courses in Regenration/Community participation in urban renewal. In the 90's Goldsmith's evaluated the Deptford City Challenge Scheme of regeneration. How amusing.

Vesta Curry said...

Lou. Bile. Pot. Kettle. Black.

Anonymous said...

Pinkoism?

Has someone coined a neologism?

Scurries off the lookup on Wikipedia...

...Alabama governor George Wallace often railed at "the left-wing pinko press" and at "pseudo-pinko-intellectuals...

Sounds like a fair description.

Anonymous said...

C'mon move the bank and bookshop to the empty parade of shops Goldsmiths...you know you want to..

Tamsin said...

Might be worth all those concerned also expressing their feelings to Joan Ruddock. They might not get a reply (per earlier complaints about lack of response on other threads) but it would give some power to her elbow in the six-monthly meetings she has pulling together the bodies that impact on New Cross which Goldsmiths attend and where the state of these shops has been on the agenda for years.

Anonymous said...

I was at a green party brainstorm session (their idea and terminology, not mine) once. I asked the crowd to raise their arms if they had any ideas. None of them could manage it.

Anonymous said...

Just googled govenor George Wallace, you're right. He does sound like a fair description of Lou. A bombastic cretin who lacks the self awareness of how ludicrous he sounds.

st doughnut said...

thank you for posting. I live next door to 80 st Donatts road. This was lived in by the caretaker of Goldsmiths until he retired a few years ago. Squatters moved in soon after he left. They were ok and kept the place nice, did the garden etc. When their eviction notice was posted on their door I contacted the housing department at the college to ask what they would do with the place once it was empty. I got no response despite writing and calling on more than one occasion. After the first lot were evicted things got much worse. 8 very aggressive and rude guys moved in. They completely trashed the place, burning most of the interior in the garden, playing guitar (badly) at full volume at 4 am, drug dealings ......... When their eviction time came up I demanded that Goldsmiths install an alarm and board the place up properly or I would start legal proceedings. Shortly after they complied with this the building work started for their new swanky media Building. So there was then 18months of further chaos/bad communication/false promises and more threats of litigation....
Now I am an external examiner myself and have nothing against progress, in particular in education but The College simply take the *$@%. New Cross is partially Ghettoized as a result of their mismanagement. Look at the stretch of building from the Old Haberdasher to the gates of the college. Filthy and ill kempt. What about the old Depford Town Hall? This is not to mention all of the other empty buildings they own. A good friend of mine thought about buying the house next door and doing it up, he was told the house was "on the market" but despite repeated attempts could not even find the right person to ask. I could go on......

Tamsin said...

Complain to Joan Ruddock, at length, she is your MP and does have a channel of communication with them.

Anonymous said...

Is there anyway of finding out what buildings Goldsmiths own in new cross and working out how many are left empty? perhaps freedom of information request. Best get the facts to strengthen arguments for them to take action on empty buildings.

Anonymous said...

Contact Empty Homes as suggested, they will collect information provided by you and pass it on to the council. This includes commercial.

Contact the New Cross Assembly - one of the ward priorities is to improve community facilities and shops.

There is information on the council website about empty shops and properties and what you can do, and links to the Empty Homes site.

Thank you for bringing this to attention Isobel.

ApplesAndPears said...

Though NatWest has now left the college, the ATM is still there and is free for anyone to wander in and use within college opening hour. Bookshop still there.

About 5 years ago Goldsmiths were trying evict Prangsta (a very successful fancy dress shop that does lots of high-profile work). This was successfully protested.

The place that was linked to by the second commenter used to be occupied by a rather unusual lady who took to screaming in the middle of the road. I imagine she may now have been taken into care or to the worms. In that case, I imagine Goldsmiths aren't the culprits.

Isobel Williams said...

Thanks very much for all the interesting and encouraging comments and signatures (70 on the e-petition so far, several pages on paper). I've registered number 38 on emptyhomes.com, and the Joan Ruddock suggestion is a good one. I didn't know about number 80, St Doughnut, that's terrible. Over the next couple of weeks I'm hoping to collect plenty of signatures (physically as well as online) so any suggestions as to spreading the word (or even if you'd be prepared to collect some signatures?) would be very welcome. I'm not yet plugged into the local groups (lived here 10 years, for shame!) so please don't assume I know anyone!!

Lou Baker said...

Why would you complain to Joan Ruddock?

I've written to her 3 times. She's never replied to me. Numerous other people on here have similar experiences.

You might as well write to a marrow. The outcome will be the same.

Anonymous said...

You could try posting her a picture of somebody else's penis Lou.

Tamsin said...

You might not get answers but you are giving her evidence and a weight of argument to use on your behalf in a matter that she is already in a very slow dialogue with Goldsmiths about.

A local network to feed into would be the New Cross People's Library. A good place to gather petition signatures as well.

There's also James Holland of the New Cross Community Council - who are pulling people together on 25h February and this could be one of the prime issues to raise.

--------------------------------
We have provisionally arranged the first New Cross Get Together (or Forum / Community Conference / General Assembly / Action Caucus / Parliament... we can decide what to call it when we meet! ) for the afternoon of Sat 25th Feb, where we will be coming together to discuss a range of elements of the broad question 'What Does New Cross Need?'. The format is to have two sets of 3 or 4 parallel discussions and each followed by short feedback to the whole group. Each session will start with a brief overview of what's already happening, then discussion of what's missing and planning actions to address this). The event will conclude with food and a social. We will also have information stalls.
-------------------------------

Lou Baker said...

@tamsin

Not good enough. She is paid handsomely to
do a job - represent people in this area.

The key part of that is dealing with constituents. Yet she just seems to ignore correspondence. I am not alone in saying this - it is a frequent criticism on here.

I'm afraid Ms Ruddock has safe seat syndrome.

Tamsin said...

I'm not defending Joan Ruddock's lack of response to those constituents who contact her by e-mail - indeed I refer to it in my earlier post on this thread. But to pester her to pester Goldsmiths is a valid strategy on this issue since there are these regular meetings when she is face to face with them and their property management - or lack of it - is an agenda item.

Sue said...

@Lou Baker: I've always had a response to any letters/e-mails I've sent to Joan Ruddock - are you being exceptionally rude/patronising in your letters to her, perhaps?! And surely prompt response to correspondence would generally be more down to efficient support staff than any particular effort on the part of MPs anyway?

Lou Baker said...

@sue

Not at all. I've not been rude or patronising at all. I've just never had a response. And maybe it is a failure of her support staff - but she's the boss and is the one accountable to us.

As I've said plenty of people on here have raised the same issue - including many who disagree with me on many things. On this we're united.

Anonymous said...

If I was an MP I wouldn't respond to nimbys either

Isobel Williams said...

Interestingly enough, there is someone tidying up the front garden of 38 St Donatts this morning!

patrick1971 said...

I've always had replies from Joan Ruddock too, even when it's just been those pre-written postcards people like Friends of the Earth and CND send out.

"the six-monthly meetings she has pulling together the bodies that impact on New Cross which Goldsmiths attend and where the state of these shops has been on the agenda for years"

If these shops have been on the agenda of this body "for years", doesn't it suggest that this body is not especially effective in solving the issue?

I do wonder what Goldsmiths's (is that the right apostrophe usage?) plans are. They must either have some, but not the money to carry them out, or have none and the properties just sit there because they're no one's responsibility.

Good luck Isabel, it would be great to capitalise on the new energy in New Cross and sort this situation out.

Pedant Overlord said...

Goldsmiths's (is that the right apostrophe usage?)

Only if you are Gollum. The s after the apostrophe is only used if it is there when spoken.

Tressilliana said...

Prepare for a shock, Pedant Overlord. Goldsmiths decided some years ago to dispense with its apostrophe altogether. Just one of many signs that the end of the world is nigh.

NAT said...

The Apostrophe. Also made redundant by Barclays, Mothers Pride, Citizens Advice and Birmingham City Council.

TM said...

And today's quiz question:

We have both Lloyd's and Lloyds, but which does what ?

NAT said...

Is this a bonus question?

Tamsin said...

Like the Gollum reference, Pedant Overlord. A nice way to remember it.

It's computers wot dunnit - search engines and addresses can't cope with apostrophes. Arguably Goldsmiths can be used adjectivally. Does the Haberdashers Estate when talking of New Cross history have an apostrophe or not. Is it the specifically an estate belonging to a bevy of Haberdashers - or is it simply used like an adjective to distinguish it from the Poor oF Croydon Estate, the Tyrwhitt-Drake Estate etc.?

Anonymous said...

Nice old pics of Sir Garrad and Lady Tyrwhitt Drake in the current Kent Messenger.

mb said...

banking and insurance (origioanlly shipping) not sure which is which. Prize?

TM again said...

Half right you have them in the wrong order.

The prize is a chance to enter the Talbot Quiz tomorrow at 8.30pm for only £2.......

Pedant Overlord said...

Some of my underlings may be shocked, but I am unmoved.

Indeed the apostrophe they dropped had become rather misleading as there are no Goldsmiths who now possess the College.

This does not alter the fact that Goldsmiths' plans still requires one as the plans belong to it, whatever it choses to call itself.

Isobel Williams said...

Thanks patrick1971, I do hope that we can guilt them into doing something.

Tamsin said...

But I would genuinely appreciate a response on the question of what is preferred with "Haberdashers Estate" - editing a book where it crops up quite a lot.

Crofton Cath said...

I've emailed Joan Ruddock 3 times in the last year and a half - have received a promptish response every time. Do you think you should check the address Lou?

Have signed the petition - thanks for raising this.

Anonymous said...

TM - What about Lloyds pharmacy?

TM again said...

Good point. I was always a Boots fan myself and they don't have one either.......an apostrophe that is.

Pedant Overlord said...

I guess it was the Haberdashers' Company's estate to start with in the sense that they built it, but to them I think it was just another section of the Hatcham Manor Estate. What do the plaques say?

In the end it's just a name, and you really need a more highly-strung pedant to sweat the details with you.

Tamsin said...

"The Haberdashers' Aske's Boys' School's pavilion's roof needs repair." Apostrophate that without blinking!
But thanks for the input. My fellow editor who will be looking through things later will at least ensure we've been consistent.

TheOracle said...

Joan Ruddock responded to my letters - and was very helpful. I think the problem is so few people write in to praise when it goes right than those who write when it goes wrong.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised Johnson didn't throw a sickie.

Anonymous said...

Good work. I've signed the petition. I've known New Cross since 1998 (and now live here), and these buildings have been in a similar state all that time. There's a housing shortage, and Goldsmiths is displaying a complete lack of corporate responsibility in this respect. The rooms above these shops could be turned into decent flats. I only recently cottoned on to the fact that Goldsmiths is responsible for these properties - ReynA, New Cross House, The Haberdashers, Allotment...have opened recently. The area has shown potential, but Goldsmiths is forcing dereliction on New Cross.

Brian Lymbery said...

Response to blog re ” Goldsmiths - stop the high Street rot”


I live in St Donatts Road and I am an independent member of Goldsmiths Council, the governing body of the College. Over two years ago the Council approved a strategic master plan for the college estate with the emphasis on the main campus and on improving facilities for students. The Estates Department has been working to implement this plan as resources allow. One point in the plan was a recognition of the need to take action over unused properties, such as the houses in St Donatts Road, which are outside the main campus.

We had a Council meeting on Tuesday night and I spoke to the Warden about Isobel Williams’ blog and the many comments that followed. I understand that the college is giving serious and urgent consideration to the disposal of unused properties which are isolated from the main campus. I think that this is the right thing to do and it would bring benefits not only to local communities but to the college as well.

I think the future for the terrace of buildings between the New Cross House and the Town Hall is more problematic. They are part of the main campus but the problem boils down to the fire regulations requirements and an acute lack of money in these uncertain times for universities.

Incidentally I applied to join Goldsmiths Council, unpaid, in response to a press advertisement some three years ago. Minutes of Council meetings are publicly available on the College website (on the main menu click about us/official/committees or http://www.gold.ac.uk/committees/minutes).

Isobel Williams said...

Thanks Brian. It's really nice to get some information. One of the biggest frustrations has been Goldsmiths' reluctance to respond to direct queries on this.

Incidentally I applied to join the Goldsmiths Council a couple years ago but was turned down. I don't have any issue with goldsmiths as an institution at all. I've always been happy to live near to a university which contributes such a lot to the unique atmosphere in New Cross. But equally I know that perfectly good properties shouldn't be left to rot. And it's extremely depressing having one next door.

Anonymous said...

I agree that the Goldsmiths owned houses need to be done up, sold or rented out to families or students as leaving them like this is disgusting. Lets hope the petition gets the ball rolling.

I started Goldsmiths in 1999 and when working for the student union I remember discussions about Waterstones, Natwest etc moving out of the Goldsmiths main building and being relocated to the row of shops discussed (Rubbish Nasty, Prangsta, Cafe Crema) and using the upstairs space as offices. At the time the college were struggling to evict the squatters who have since gone due to the fire brigade deeming the building unsafe. Now it seem's that the repairs needed come at a huge cost as the problem has been left far too long.

New Cross needs unique shops like Prangsta and there needs to be a stop to large chains such as Subway, Sainsbury's and Tesco. Such stores make New Cross just a faceless place to pass through when the wide diversity of cultures and creativeness of the area should be highlighted.

I just hope Goldsmiths resolve this problem with some care and thought to the area and that they don't just sell to some corporate giant.

mary kirk said...

just listened to you and yours radio 4 - Hugh Jones response inaccurate and misleading - I've telephoned repeatedly re. no 38 ST. Donatt's - rubbish/loose guttering causing damage - and sent letters to the warden too - I witnessed the squatters breaking in at 2 am and alerted Goldsmiths' - all very distressing - but main point now is not to let Goldsmiths' just sell on to property developers who would in turn profit - after years of having all the disadvantages, surely Goldsmiths' should be commpelled to renovate now and keep all properties in a good state of repair with a view to usage FOR BENEFIT TO THE COMMUNITY - commercial properties at a reduced rent to local small business ventures, and residential properties at reasonable rental rates - surely some postgraduate students/lecturers could do with a decent place to rent during term time?????? And Joan Ruddock does reply to concerns of constituents and think she should be contacted - I'll do if everyone else too busy

mary kirk said...

just listened to you and yours radio 4 - Hugh Jones response inaccurate and misleading - I've telephoned repeatedly re. no 38 ST. Donatt's - rubbish/loose guttering causing damage - and sent letters to the warden too - I witnessed the squatters breaking in at 2 am and alerted Goldsmiths' - all very distressing - but main point now is not to let Goldsmiths' just sell on to property developers who would in turn profit - after years of having all the disadvantages, surely Goldsmiths' should be commpelled to renovate now and keep all properties in a good state of repair with a view to usage FOR BENEFIT TO THE COMMUNITY - commercial properties at a reduced rent to local small business ventures, and residential properties at reasonable rental rates - surely some postgraduate students/lecturers could do with a decent place to rent during term time?????? And Joan Ruddock does reply to concerns of constituents and think she should be contacted - I'll do if everyone else too busy

Anonymous said...

Both houses owned by Goldsmiths in St Donatts Road just went up for sale.

Peri said...

well done isobel
maybe things are finally on the go through our efforts

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