The wider world: London Bridge, New Cross, Deptford and beyond...

The Atrium, New Cross. Copyright: Weston Williamson

Part of an occasional series of articles in which we try to write about something other than pubs and delis in the immediate vicinity…

Occasionally, while making our way through the backside of Surrey Quays on our journey to work, we reflect that South East London has its flaws and that, however nice Brockley is, it is also nearby some pretty awful spots.

Here though are some reasons to be cheerful about our wider surroundings:

The Elephant & Castle
£1.5 billion regeneration scheme that involves demolishing large numbers of buildings and replacing them with a high-quality, mixed-use scheme over 170 acres. It will reclaim the area, currently dominated by a roundabout system, for pedestrians. Construction on several of the new parts of the scheme is already underway.

Why is it important?
An important shot in the arm for South East London’s pride and reputation.

The Southwark Cycle Bridge , Rotherhithe
A project by Sustrans, to create a new river crossing for cycles and pedestrians, near the Rotherhithe tunnel. Awaiting results of feasibility study and still a hope that it could be completed in time for the Olympics.

Why is it important?

It will make cycling journeys from South East London to Canary Wharf much quicker and more enjoyable. No one of sound mind would go through the Rotherhithe tunnel willingly.

London Bridge Quarter
The centrepiece of this development will be the EU’s tallest building, London Bridge Tower, a building that will include office space, apartments a hotel and viewing galleries for the public. Demolition of the ugly brown building that currently stands in its place is already underway and it’s financing is nearly finalised. Completion looks likely for 2012-13.

Why is it important?

Together with More London, the development will bring thousands of new jobs to London Bridge, making London Bridge an even more important transport hub and business destination and putting Brockley 8 minutes away from one of Britain’s finest new buildings, with views of the capital from the 72nd floor.

Creekside village, Deptford

The Deptford site is currently being cleared, to make way for a new ‘creative village’, that will offer a new theatre space, artist workshops, apartments and retail. It will also have the benefit of integrating the Laban Centre with its surroundings more effectively.

Why is it important?
We don’t know too much about the merits of this one, but that stretch of riverside is currently a tragic waste and the plans do promise new public spaces, that will open up the waterways and create a new destination within walking distance for many in SE4.

Potters Fields, London Bridge

A recently opened park by Tower Bridge, albeit one still surrounded by building work.

Why is it important?

It adds another dimension to the South Bank river walk.

The Atrium, New Cross

One of many new residential developments in New Cross, reflecting new confidence in the area. Due for completion in 2009.

Why is it important?
We’d argue that New Cross is more important to Brockley than Lewisham town centre and, thanks to Goldsmiths and rail connections; the areas are more closely linked.


Anonymous said...

I think i disagree with the comment that New Cross is arguably more important to Brockley than Lewisham town centre. Despite all its flaws Lewisham has quite a lot going on and the regeneration will only improve whats on offer.

Hopefully once all these developments take place SE will no longer be the poorer cousin of SW...

Brockley Nick said...

re: Lewisham v New Cross - it's totally subjective of course but I made that claim based on the fact that the transport links are better, the nightlife is better, Goldsmiths contributes a lot to local life (economically and culturally) and I think of New Cross and Brockley as blurring in to one another in a way that Lewisham doesn't. But I agree that Lewisham has a lot going for it and the Gateway redevelopment is incredibly important to SE4.

Anonymous said...

I agree with New Cross being more closely linked to Brockley. As Nick says, the transport links are better, plus the main roads of each are effectively linked by one straight stretch of road. The cultures are similar and becoming more so as New Cross and Deptford see more developments aimed at young professionals.

In fact, the Atrium will be almost directly opposite the sister pub of Jam Circus, the Royal Albert and I'm sure they'll be happy to welcome the new set of potential customers (and their wallets).

Personally, I never spent any time in New Cross in my first 21 years, but in the last 2 I have found myself hopping down on a regular basis, be it for a quick drink, a night out or even for shopping (as well as the big name stores there are a few good second hand shops plus plenty of places for fresh meat, fish & veg).

Anonymous said...

....and Deptford market is worth a nose around for weird and wonderful things. Is that where you mean? Most of the stuff is not great quality although if you want HUGE pants it's the place to go. I bought a big bag of cashews for peanuts.... forgive the pun.

loads of butchers as well, although some are a bit rubish with piles of cheap chicken in the window. Did go to a Halal butcher when my usual...erm christian? ran out of Lamb shoulder, the chap boned and rolled it like a pro and you could'nt tell from the taste what religion the sheep followed.

Anonymous said...

I guess you are right about the transport links and nightlife.

I dont know why but i always gravitate towards Lewisham for shopping though. Perhaps i'd better check out New Cross then.

In the 2 years i have lived in Brockley my only experience of New Cross has been falling out of the Venue at 4am with my friends and queuing for burgers and chips while my mates negotiate the fare with an illegal taxi...pure class!

creepylesbo said...

Lewisham has better shopping than New Cross too.
As for the London Bridge tower - I'm a little concerned that they won't address the horrendously high winds that the current tower produces down St Thomas Street and making the tower bigger could just make it worse.

Brockley Nick said...

@CL - what do you mean please? What tower are they making bigger?

Anonymous said...

I don't really think there is an answer to which is more important - it is always going to be a subjective thing depending on where in SE4 you live and what habits you have built up.

Brockley Jon said...

Lewisham is the big parent town of all the other smaller towns, that's the way I see it. A hub. Lewisham is the best round here for shopping (bar Bromley which is looking a little too far afield) but it is rubbish for nightlife, and pretty baron of creativity too, whereas New X has loads of music, lots of art, random shops (i.e. Rubbish n Nasty), and hence is a lot closer in atmosphere to Brockley.

Nick, is the Rotherhithe tunnel actually open for cyclists? I can imagine it's not nice, though better than the Blackwall, which would be suicide :-O

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure these are reasons to be cheerful. Creekside Village and the cycle bridge are both really positive developments, but I don't think the others are.

The Elephant and Castle development is killing off one of South London's most vibrant estates, the Heygate, and will mean the end of the many small traders based at the shopping centre, including those who serve the Latin American community, who have made a section of the mall their own.

London Bridge Quarter includes the Shard (presumably the tower creepy lesbo means) which is hated by many of the people who will be living in its shadows.

The Atrium will continue the gentrification of NX and Deptford, displacing the residents who make it a happening area by driving up prices. It is all 1- and 2-bed apts, so no families, almost all commuting professionals who will move on to leafier pastures when they reach a certain age, contributing little to the area apart from the money they spend in Antic Ltd's overpriced pubs. Most of them will be bought to let.

This is not "regeneration"; it is economic cleansing: replacing whole communities with richer folk.

But I agree that NX is more important to SE4 than Lewisham is: I never go into Lewisham if I can help it, and I live at the Lewishamy end of Greater Brockley.

Anonymous said...

I go to both - I think arguing of which is more relevant or important is waste of time (says she doing it!)as so subjective

Brockley Nick said...

Bob, I have to admit I am not familiar with the charms of the Heygate Estate, so am happy to take your word on that, but nonetheless, E&C is completely disfunctional as an area currently. There will no-doubt be some downsides of change, but are you seriously saying the net effect will be negative? I'd like to see the evidence for that, other than some moany NIMBYs.

As for the Shard, it means knocking down one office block (which is a complete monstrosity and offers nothing but road ramps and ugly fencing at street level) and replacing it with a masterwork by Renzo Piano, that will be accessible to the general public. I'm not sure which neighbours are unhappy about that, but the area is mostly surrounded by other office buildings, a hospital and a railway station. Speaking as a former resident of the area, I would have welcomed it with open arms. As for downdraft (wind) the problem should be greatly reduced by the new tower (architects and engineers have got a lot better at solving those problems).

New Cross, yes, I'm sure there's a risk that the scenario you depict could happen. On the other hand, it may help to bring new people in who are young, socially responsible, enthusiastic about the area and willing to support local businesses. Surely, it's a question of balance? Where would you like young people with jobs in central London to live? Ross has already ruled out Catford!

Anonymous said...

Brockley and especially New Cross got a mention in the Evening Standard property section again. Stating the bleeding obvious that it's great value considering it's location and properties prices will go up when the ELL re-opens. Have to take into account that it's a free supplement paid for by estate agent and property developer adverts, think it's said that every part of London is 'up and comming' over the years. Couldn't argue with it's conclusions though.

It's not on line yet but will be in a day or so I'm sure.

Anonymous said...

BobFromBrockley, I'm sorry if you think that our company's pubs are a negative addition to the area. Of course, I disagree - both Jam Circus and Royal Albert opened before Brockley's gentrification had really kicked in (no delis or art gallery co-operatives at the time!) We offered what was not readily available in either area - good food and drink in comfortable pubs.

We might not be cheap but nor do I think we are overly-expensive. Antic is a company of only eight pubs, we don't enjoy the same discount rates from suppliers as the big chains and brewery-tied pubs. While we do a healthy trade we certainly do not make eye-watering profit.

Sorry if I sound defensive, but I think of Jam Circus as MY baby - although owned by a limited company, to all intents and purposes we are given license to operate as if Jam Circus were an independent concern. I'm not sure if you noticed we were part of a larger company by clicking on my link, but if so I am pleased - Antic has intentionally grouped its pubs on a central web site so as to show people what the company is doing. It is refreshingly honest about its ambitions to add more sites in other areas, all with their own individual character.

Defense over!

Brockley Nick said...

Richard, thanks for playing such an active role in the debate on these pages, it's really appreciated.

Anonymous said...

The way to keep this part of london unchanged is to stop new transport links, discourage investemnt in new housing stock and generally keep a lid on any kind off aspirational thought. Keep it poor in other words.

We live in one of the most vibrant cities on earth. Jobs change, areas fall into and out of favour, the skin colour changes, the language evolves. Some good stuff happens, some not so good. I love it personally.

We could try and preserve things, turn London into some kind of theme park perhaps? kind of like that awful Poundbury place that Prince Charles created - his idea of an idylic country village.

I just rambling now, I'm off....ciao...

Brockley Jon said...

Richard, for what it's worth, The Royal Albert is one of my favourite pubs not just in the local area but in London full stop. It's a great place with nice staff, and a welcoming atmosphere. I know there are still a few who pine for the old Paradise Bar, and sure, it's a shame to lose these old haunts, but I say you've done a great job.

Anonymous said...

Jon, thank you very much, although I can't take the credit for the Royal Albert as I don't work there.

I never went to the Paradise Bar, although it helps to tell most cab drivers that's where you're heading as they still don't seem familiar with the Royal Albert.

At the moment The Amersham Arms have reclaimed a lot of the student drinkers, but the Royal Albert is establishing itself among the post-student crowd. I can only see it getting busier and busier this yeat. They are fortunate to have a head chef who wouldn't be out of place in a top restaurant - he trained as a pastry chef, so his desserts are always changing and beautifully made.

I have actually helped out a couple of times in the Royal Albert and it's a nice crowd they get in, certainly more mixed than Brockley's.

Somebody mentioned the market - yes, I did in part mean that, although the best butcher, who gets a lot of credit on this blog, is Wellbeloved. As for the fishmongers, it's a matter of choosing carefully! I'm not sure which one the Royal Alber uses, but whereas I have seen some shops with lovely fresh fish, I have seen others shamelessly displaying 'fresh' fish on a couple of cubes of ice, with greying eyes.

Anonymous said...

Apologies for slagging of Antic. I was in an angry mood when I posted here. I think the Jam Circus is a positive step from the violent drunken middle aged white people I used to see staggering out of the Alpah Club, a place I was too nervous to go into. The Paradise had its ups and downs and the Albert is at least as nice as the Paradise at its best. I think Antic have a pretty good model.

In fact, one of the things I really like about the Jam Circus is that you find different sorts of folk there, old SE4 and new SE4 together. Last time I was there (at the weekend), there were some multiracial yout talking Sarf London patwah at the next table, and next to them a nice bourgeois bohemian couple surfing the internet while their toddler did a puzzle.

So I don't want to preserve old South London in aspic. There's plenty about these neighbourhoods due for a change. (Heygate, for example, was vibrant, but it is also a very grim landscape; some people didn't want to move, others couldn't wait.)

What I worry about is that we will lose the opportunities for different sorts of residents to come together, as the gentrification process brings more and more pricey gastropubs and intimidating bars, which the new residents go to and the old ones don't.

And I worry that the majority of the newcomers are NOT socially responsible types who are committed to the area (as all you Brockley Central folks clearly are!) but living here for a few years, renting their "luxury" apartments here because it has convenient commuting links and is good value for money. I worry that most of them spend very little in the area apart from in the bars and so don't contribute much to the local economy. (How many of One SE8's residents spend money at Deptford market?)

And because no family housing is being built, those newcomers who DO want to make a longer term life in the area are forced somewhere down the line when the time comes they need to expand.


On London Bridge, to be honest I don't know much, so I'll partially withdraw what I said. I worked around Tabard and Leathermarket estates a few years back when the plans for the Shard were first unveiled, and lots of the residents I spoke to were resentful. At that time, they were coping with the rebranding of their area from West Bermondsey to "Borough" and the springing up of all sorts of places they couldn't afford to go into.


Elephant and Castle: yes the area is dysfunctional in planning terms but I love the shopping centre. Am I the only person fond of it? I haven't followed the changing plans that closely, so I don't know if they have plans for the businesses in the shopping centre, but I wonder what will happen to all the Latin American shops there. I will particularly miss the little Colombian cafe upstairs.

Anonymous said...

p.s. that's Alpha not Alaph

Brockley Nick said...

I always associated the E&C shopping centre with a massive Iceland store but there were some interesting shops too, true enough.

And I agree that it would be great to see more family homes being built, but that doesn't make all apartment blocks evil - we also need density, to provide homes without paving over every inch. SE London's open spaces are one of its best qualities, in my opinion. I think the Atrium looks like one of the better developments around.

Anonymous said...

The E&C shopping centre - yes, I love it too : but only really in recent years, now the chain stores have moved out and it has become little Columbia.

Transpontine said...

Well I know this isn't 'E&C Central' but since you mentioned it I too have to come to the defence of the E&C shopping centre, which due to proximity to my work, I go in more or less every day - unlike most of its critics. Whatever else replaces it we can pretty sure it won't include an excellent second hand bookshop, a Columbian cafe, and a place where I can eat a big plate of mixed vegetarian curry for £2. Yes the area could be a lot better, but is it really 'disfunctional'. At present thousands of people on low incomes can live within ten minutes of central London. Will that be the same in 10 years time?

silburnl said...

Richard said "Somebody mentioned the market - yes, I did in part mean that, although the best butcher, who gets a lot of credit on this blog, is Wellbeloved."

I just want to second that sentiment. Wellbeloved is our local (a recent St Johns-ite, me) and I go there for a Sunday joint whenever I can. It's excellent meat and great value.

I'm not so keen on the sausages he does (the quality's fine, I just prefer a herbier mixture), but his pies are great. I often grab one to eat in the hand while I check out the market.

He also has a good selection of jarred pickles and condiments.


Ploomie said...

Having walked through New Cross gate every day I really cant see any merit in the place at all apart from when the walpole originally opened, and the new pub opposite the atrium which at least looks like an improvement on a horrible 1970's building.

Some of the shops are derelict or look it, as are some houses. It really does look run down.

It will be years before 'Lewisham 2000' finally happens, if at all.

Deptford certainly has something going for it, especially it's close proximilty to Greenwich. But it still has a lot of council estates, although it's market is great for cheap and varied food from all over the globe.

For shopping i'd rather avoid Lewisham where some friends were mugged and another had a purse stolen despite having a huge (and very ugly) police station (but where are the actual police?).

Brockley stands out against most of these places as a place to actually live, with good housing stock, relitively reasonable prices in comparison to others and a village vibe is starting to happen...just as I am moving to Sydenham!

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