The Faircharm Creative Quarter

The Faircharm Creative Quarter is the planned redevelopment of Faircharm Estate in Deptford Creek by specialist business premises developers Workspace. The application is for:

The remodelling, repair, restoration and conversion of two existing buildings (A and C) to provide new commercial uses (4031 sqm of Use Class B1) with associated plant, servicing and storage. Demolition of Building B and the construction of four new buildings ranging from 6 to 12 storeys to provide 148 residential units (62 x one-bed, 69 x two bed and 17 x 3 bed), and new commercial uses (703 sqm of Use Class B1) together with new open space, landscaping, car and cycle parking at Faircharm Trading Estate, Creekside, SE8 3DX.

Workspace submitted their plans in December and the Council is due to reach its verdict in March. If it goes ahead, the commercial properties will be reclassified to B1 (offices), preventing the site from being used by some of the industrial businesses currently working on site. Employment on-site would more than double from 139 to 339, but only if the development is a success.

The authors of the Crossfields blog are highly critical of the proposal, publishing a long list of objections here.

While BC broadly disagrees with their points about the form and aesthetics, their criticism of the plan on the basis that it will force out many of the existing businesses on site is valid. They argue:

[Who will occupy the Creative Quarter?] Not artists, not crafts people, not the much heralded Based Upon (who work in bronze), not Shultz & Wiramu (who dye fabrics for theatre and film), not the sculptors, not the recording studio, not the artists collectives, the printers and publishers, not the fabricators of film props, not the businesses who need more than an office space.

They worry too that the site will fail to attract the businesses its supposed to appeal to, while driving out the incumbents. And although Workspace has a track record of developing for and attracting small businesses (unlike Galliard, which clearly has little interest in the commercial potential of Seager Distillery), it's a pity that more can't be done to accommodate some of these businesses.

The issue can't really be (as suggested) that home buyers won't want to buy next to workshop space because of the noise that they produce. Deptford is a wonderful place, but the sort of person who'd consider buying there is not in search of peace and quiet. Deptford Creek isn't competing with Barnes. More likely, the reason to change the use class is that Workspace can make more money from office space than from letting out large amounts of floorspace for workshop uses. There's a reason the incumbent businesses chose Deptford in the first place - because space was cheap. Any regeneration inevitably means space becomes more valuable. So while BC welcomes this scheme, we'd like to know whether more space could be preserved for (low cost) workshops, even if this comes at the expense of - for example - affordable housing, in order to make the scheme commercially viable.

If Faircharm goes ahead, it will undoubtedly change the character of this little part of Deptford. It would be a shame if what works about the existing site is lost in an attempt to attract more employment to the borough.