Gary King: I remember sitting up there, blood on my knuckles, beer down my shirt, sick on my shoes and seeing the orange glow of a new dawn break and knowing in my heart life would never feel this good again. And you know what? It never did. 
- The World's End

Any year in which the local schools improve, the local hospital is saved from a downgrade, a sparkling new swimming pool and gym opens down the road, extra public transport capacity is added, a Brockley brewery is born and the Muppets come to town has to be considered a good one.

There were also plenty of new arrivals, from useful mundanities like the new local Sainsbury’s to exotica like the Malaysian Deli, a new art venue called Number 57, a French patisserie in Ladywell, Nan’s cocktail bar and disco in Deptford and two great new cafes in New Cross - Chinwag and Number 178. Meze Mangal grew and tidied up its front garden while Gulen’s at last seemed to hit upon a popular format. Goldsmiths began a programme of investment in its New Cross estate with a couple of small projects, including improving its main entrance and opening a recording studio and record shop.

However, 2013 also reminded us how fragile the area’s recent high street renaissance remains - the loss of Deptford's sturdy anchor was an apt metaphor for a period of upheaval. Local jewel Sounds Around has never fully recovered from the sad death of Dave Hunter, award-winning El’s Kitchen closed due to the strain it was putting on its founder’s health and the Deptford Project was forced to relocate without a new home to go to. The massively protracted Ladywell roadworks nearly put local shops out of business, while the improved Brockley Cross is much better for pedestrians and residents, but did little to turn around the fortunes of that benighted parade.

We were also forced to contemplate a dry future as Jam Circus, The Ladywell Tavern, The Honor Oak, Albertines, The Catford Bridge Tavern and even the Brockley Jack closed at various points throughout the year. By the end of the year, all except Albertines were refurbished and reopened or found new investment, but Brockley’s capacity to serve booze remains well behind its population’s potential to drink it.

The pipeline for 2014 looks strong, with a new café planned for Ladywell Fields, a new microbrewery bar due to open in Crofton Park, a sourdough pizza restaurant due to take over the Old Bank in Honor Oak and a new takeaway in New Cross from a precocious piscine protégé promised. Curzon are even interested in opening a cinema on the site of the old Ladywell pool. We said this last year, but it now looks a certainty – next year should also see the return of long-lost Thai café Smiles.

Until new capacity is added to Brockley’s town centre, the scope for further new arrivals is extremely limited, but this year saw important strides made in this respect. Firstly, 180 Brockley Road, which will create new units next to the Brockley Barge, won approval and the incumbents moved out, to pave the way for redevelopment. Secondly, on the other side of Brockley station, the developers of Mantle Road plots are competing like Bolognese tower builders, with each new building outdoing the last for its ugliness. The silver lining (aside from the new homes created) is that collectively, the west side developments will add to the local retail options.

The real story of 2013 was not commercial though. Two other themes defined this year. The first was residential. As London’s housing market began to heat up again, this area found itself in the inner core that accelerated more quickly than outer suburbs. The results were rapidly rising prices, bidding wars and a slew of new housing projects as the business clusters to which Brockley is best-connected (London Bridge, Shoreditch, Canary Wharf and Blackfriars) all continued to expand dramatically and commuters looked south east.

Lewisham is among the six boroughs that will accommodate 60% of the new homes built in the city over the next decade and that began to show this year: Another large slug of central Lewisham’s redevelopment began, the Brockley Police Station and the Welsh Church were put up for auction, land in Ladywell once earmarked for travellers was reallocated as a site for ‘build-it-yourself’ homes, Waitrose moved in to a new scheme in Deptford as other big projects in SE8 moved forward, a new plan was developed for Catford as the Dog Track project commenced and Boris called in the Convoy’s Wharf scheme so that its future can be resolved one way or another. Only Lewisham Gateway proved heroically inert. Local schools scrambled to catch-up with demand for places, with two primaries gaining approval for expansion.

In Brockley, developers came up with ideas for every spare scrap of land, while the live/work development Dragonfly Place opened and tenants began to move in, including a handful of good local businesses, creating a new enterprise cluster.

The second theme of 2013 was communal. Many of the biggest and best stories of the year were driven by collective action. Most dramatically, campaigners fought-off plans to downgrade Lewisham Hospital, not once but twice. In Brockley, residents spearheaded campaigns to prevent more night flights into Heathrow and to find new uses for the area’s red phone boxes. Brockley Central readers clubbed together to pay for new nets for the Hilly Fields tennis courts and helped save Mo Pho from having to surrender its name to Big Pho. Pop-ups and new events run by local entrepreneurs – one of the defining features of 2012 – continued to proliferate.

The last 12 months have shown that rapid population change needn’t undermine the area’s sense of community, which is lucky, because the rate of change is not slowing.


Michael Shaeffer said...

I'm really surprised you haven't mentioned the re-opening of the Ivyhouse in your review of the year. The story even straddles your main themes - being saved from residential development by a well organised and effective community group. It's such a unique project and a real gem of a pub with excellent beer, open fires and live music on many days. I was there last Sunday and enjoyed a truly brilliant big band.

Brockley Banker said...

Nice summary, if not a little rose tinted... Brockley is a great place but not without problems, but i guess mentioning those wouldn't be in keeping with this page.

That said, i appreciate the work and effort that clearly goes into keeping this page/and us up-to-date with what is happening locally.

Thanks, Happy holidays.

Brockley Nick said...

re: rose tint, yes perhaps. However, I'd be the first to admit there are all sorts of things that could be better - it's just a review of the year is about the direction of travel. So for example, the schools almost all achieved significant improvements, but that not to say that they are all brilliant. I tried to point out some of the things that got worse - such as the loss of shops / pubs, some crappy architecture around Brockley Station, etc.

Mervyn said...

A very good summary of the past year Nick, well done. Thanks for all the work you put in to maintain the community spirit, it doesn't go un-noticed. Here's to 2014 and a hope that you'll have a great deal more positive aspects to reflect on this time next year.

Gentrification said...

The Guardian today predicts further house price raises in the South East of London


Brockley Nick said...

It's a Knight Frank prediction and they are talking about South East England, rather than London.

Dex said...

Any more info on Smiles? Looks like there's some work underway at the moment, but this could be another false dawn... Looking forward to being able to pick up beer from Brockley Brewery, then have some Thai food!

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