2016

This blessed plot, this Brockley
In 2016, thanks to Brexit, Trump, Corbyn coupsfloods and sink holes, a new strain of apocalypticism gripped the Brockley imagination. But however much we wished to live in interesting times, Brockley was not Mordor. It was Hobbiton.

A broken window at Donde Tapas in Honor Oak provoked a flurry of fearful tweets by locals who worried that it represented the first shot in a xenophobic war, but war never came. Instead Brockley's shop fronts became canvasses that celebrated the area's multi-ethnic character during this year's street art festival. SE4 is now inked up, but our knuckles read love, not hate.

While peace picnickers braced themselves for a fascist tsunami, our kids opted to organise street-tidying initiatives rather than join the Hitler Youth.

Local anti-gentrifiers leapt on any available evidence of an impending yuppie holocaust but somehow missed the incident in which a man called the police because a local cafe had served him lemon and ginger tea instead of lemongrass. Instead, they accidentally targeted an innovative social housing project.

So the end of the world was one of the things that did not happen this year - but here are some of the things that did:

Clustering

Several new developments were completed this year, each of which helped clusters of local businesses build critical mass.

PLACE Ladywell is a new incubator for local entrepreneurs, which now houses delis, cafes and shops. Deptford Market Yard has injected twelve new independent businesses directly into the town centre, including bars, hairdressers, cheese-grillers and fashion labels. On a smaller scale, 180 Brockley Road and the accompanying improvements to Coulgate Street helped to create a coherent town centre for Brockley town centre, adding another supermarket, an estate agent, an architect and (soon) a restaurant to the mix.

Rebirth

Although these large developments have created more commercial space, there is still relatively little available space for new businesses, which means that the high street has become a zero sum game - for new places to open, old ones must make way. Thankfully, the market is buoyant and most places don't stay closed for long.

Departing businesses like Pat-a-cakes, Bohemia Hair and Degustation were rapidly replaced by Fred's cafe, House of Hair and Salthouse Bottles while failing businesses gave way to thriving ones like Waterintobeer and Brickfields. Noak came and went and came back again. Convenience store and local institution Dukes finally closed and may prove to be the outlier - it's hard to imagine anything replacing it, but Brockley Cross has proved me wrong before.

But the real story was the rebirth of our local pubs. No fewer than eight local pubs were refurbished this year: In St John's, The Brookmill reopened as an outstanding gastro pub. In New Cross the Five Bells and the White Hart pulled out of their death spirals. On Tanners Hill the Royal Standard was converted from a hostel bar to a public house. On Lewisham Way, The Old Haberdasher became The Fat Walrus and gained a marquee. The Chandos, the Ladywell Tavern and the New Cross House all got impressive makeovers.

The resilience of the Brockley pub scene is why Lewisham Council should resist any attempt to convert the Ravensbourne Arms or Albertines into residential properties and why Enterprise Inns, the owners of the Wickham Arms, need to invest in that pub or sell it to someone who will.

Impossible Dreams

Greater Brockley found inventive ways to check several items off BCers wishlist in 2016.

Not only did Brockley get its first real bar, which wouldn't look out of place in Dalston or Brixton, but Goldsmiths gave us a cinema, a book shop and a Bestival spin-off, while in lieu of a Brockley gym, we got a Brockley Cross Fitology Hub.

Lewisham surprised everyone by birthing a gallery and cafe inside an old water tank before Goldsmiths does something similar on a much grander scale next year. And a local entrepreneur brought the London Design Festival to South East London for the first time.

Railroading 

London Bridge Station's fancy new concourse opened just in time for Southern to give up completely on the idea of running a train service. You can now connect to Charing Cross, but only if the trains haven't been sabotaged by the wrong sort of sunlight or boiling water.

If you can overlook the angry crowds at London Bridge, it's been a great year for Brockley trains. TfL improved the East London Line's late night service and revealed a plan to take our trains out of the incompetent hands of Southern and Southeastern, and reopen the higher-level platform to serve a new orbital train route. Crofton Park campaigners also successfully fought for more frequent morning services.

High rise

In 2016, the scale of Lewisham town centre's planned transformation became clear. Not only did three new towers join the Lewisham cluster, but a raft of planned new high rise buildings were unveiled. Matalan will be replaced by seven new towers, while hundreds of new homes will be built on the land next to Tesco.

This news was replicated in Deptford, where work has finally begun at Convoys Wharf and two major new Deptford Creek projects were announced.

With the borough experiencing the fastest house price rises in London, this pattern of development is likely to continue for years to come, whether you like it or not.

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