Previously, in Brockley: 2009 in review

In some ways, 2009 was a period of recovery for Brockley, with new businesses filling the gaps left by recession in 2008. However, it’s better described as a period of renewal. The Orchard and The Talbot were dramatic improvements on the businesses they replaced while the entrepreneurs behind the Brockley Mess and Browns of Brockley brought fresh enthusiasm and ideas to the area. The exceptional Jam Circus continued to set the standard by which all new businesses are judged.

This confidence and enthusiasm was mirrored by established local institutions, which expanded, diversified and experimented, marketing themselves to the local community with increasing vigour. From Tank Gallery’s life drawing classes, the Tea Leaf Arts team’s advent windows and Geddes’ charity challenge to the Broca’s new chill-out area and Magi’s expanded premises, the area burst with optimism and ideas.

The spirit of enterprise wasn’t confined to our high streets. From locally-produced honey to children’s comedy classes and start-up arts and crafts fairs, Brockley Central struggled to keep track of all the new ideas. On Remembrance Day, the former owner of Moonbow Jakes pulled off a spectacular ceremony in Brockley and Ladywell Cemetery, which underlined the wealth of local creative talent.

Nothing captured the feeling of renewal better than the resurgent Brockley MAX festival, which came back from a quiet 2008 with its biggest and best year yet. Brockley Central played its own small part in 2009 and the Ladywell Tavern felt the full force of the BC Army – as did The Talbot, later in the year.

But if there was one force more implacable than the BC Army it was that of Brockley’s children. Earlier in the year, a bitter battle was fought over whether Manor Avenue should get a new children’s nursery. While sympathising with many of the opposition’s points, the one line of argument we hotly disputed was the suggestion that there wasn’t much local demand. As parents who struggled to get their kid in to a school a stone’s throw from our house, we knew how many kids live locally. Then the Brockley Mess opened and the argument was settled. Whatever you think of the standard of local parenting is irrelevant – the area is teeming with young families and this is something that local businesses need to be prepared for – if you still doubt it, ask the guys at Geddes how many children’s haircuts they do these days.

Although the year's biggest disappointment was the shambolic, protracted botch-job performed on Brockley Common, 2009 saw encouraging progress on all of the major projects which promise to reshape the area for the better.

Brockley Cross finally reached the top of the Council’s to-do list and got measured up for a new look, while the Council agreed to consult with local people early in the new year about what shape the development should take.

The Hilly Fields Users Group secured national funding that will provide some of the money it needs for its wonderful plans for a new playground, while Brockley Central learned that the Council is seriously considering the possibility of replacing the depressing toilet block with a new café. Meanwhile, Lewisham Council bagged £2m from the LDA to complete the improvements to Ladywell Fields.

The developers behind Martins Yard presented the results of their public consultation to the Council, suggesting that the project is back on track.

The East London Line remained on-course to open in early 2010, with the first test voyage of the new trains taking place in October. Phase two of the East London Line, which will run to Clapham Junction, was also given the go-ahead this year. A campaign supported by Lewisham Council to include a new station at Surrey Canal looks like it will be successful. Unfortunately, improvements to Brockley Station, to accompany the ELL opening were deferred by TfL until 2015, although Cllr Johnson is campaigning to have this decision reversed.

The excitement surrounding the arrival of the tube in Brockley was tarnished when Southern revealed changes to the timetable which resulted in cuts to evening services and the end of direct trains to Charing X. A ridiculous bout of buck-passing between the DfT, TfL and Southern ensued. Crofton Park Station users also learned that TfL regarded earlier plans to create a new route which would have served their station as having no practical or economic merit.

In Deptford, the Convoys Wharf redevelopment that many had assumed dead-in-the-water resurfaced with new backers and a largely-unchanged master plan. Another moribund scheme sprang to life in even more dramatic fashion, with builders adding the sixth storey to the Distillery Apartments by the end of the year. Deptford’s status as one of London’s most important centres for the arts was celebrated by the New York Times and ridiculed by the Daily Mail, suggesting the area was doing something right - the launch of the Deptford Arts Map proved it.

Visitors to Lewisham in 2009 were again greeted by boarded-up windows on the journey from the station to Lewisham shopping centre, a place even Burger King has abandoned. But Lewisham Market continued to provide hope that the area has a vibrant future while behind the scenes, a range of major proposals – most importantly the Loampit Vale masterplan – suggest that the inertia will be overcome at last. The heritage listing of Lewisham Bridge school threw the Council’s education plans in to chaos, while Lewisham College learned that the funding it had been promised to help it relocate from Brockley to Deptford was cancelled.

From small shops to billion pound infrastructure projects, 2009 was a year in which Brockley made steady and positive progress. The summary above, dear reader, isn't even the half of it. Excitingly, the stories that trickled through in the final days of the year – from a new restaurant to a place in the tea factory where you’ll actually be able to get a cup of tea – suggests that 2010 will continue the trend.

Happy New Year.