Local people flock to “Peckham Vision”

The Peckham Society News, Spring 2006, No. 103

On 21 January the Peckham Society through �Peckham Vision� arranged a historical event and meeting about the future of Peckham town centre. The venue was innovative as it was held in a CIP (Copeland Industrial Park) building which in the 19th century was a factory for making sports goods including cricket bats made from willow grown in Suffolk. This site is enclosed by Rye Lane, Bournemouth Road, Copeland Road and the Moncrieff railway viaduct.

Peckham Vision is a consortium of local residents, artists and businesses who want to raise awareness of the issues relating to central Peckham and stimulate an informed discussion. The Peckham Society is taking an active part. The significance of the site is that at the UDP (Unitary Development Plan) meetings last year it was discovered that Tfl (Transport for London) was to demolish all the buildings on this triangular site and build a huge tram maintenance depot and terminal. The site owners and owners of the Rye Lane shops knew nothing of this plan. The aims of this event and meeting were to make accessible to the public the information about central Peckham and in turn to inform the public and residents about the vision we have for central Peckham acquired during the UDP inquiry. The event also aimed to help inspire the public and residents with the vision the Peckham Society and others have for central Peckham which includes the designation of a conservation area.

An hour before the meeting, conducted tours were made to the top of the 5-storey building to see the splendid view over Peckham, and indeed the whole of central London. The beauty of Peckham Rye station, designed by Charles William Driver in 1865 was clear from above. The Peckham Society, through the Rye Lane and Station Action Group, have been instrumental in securing agreement to open up the bricked up windows of the large old waiting room. The Peckham Society�s aim, now agreed by Southwark Council and Southern Rail, is to open up the piazza, in front of the station by demolition of the 20th century buildings in the forecourt. The Peckham Society is trying for the second time to have this handsome station listed; two others designed by Charles Driver already are.

The line of the Peckham High Street buildings with several 17th century wood framed buildings can be seen from the roof, bisected by Peckham Hill Street. This is the core of the proposed conservation area, including the west side of Peckham Hill Street and 200 metres of Peckham High Street either side of the end of Peckham Hill Street. Southwards it will link with the Rye Lane West conservation area ending at Heaton Road. The conservation area would protect buildings from demolition and improve the standards and design of any new developments. Looking south over the site the tall Wandle building of 40 flats is nearing completion. This was built despite Tfl putting a hold on any new developments and could sabotage their plans for the tram depot. Just beyond the Wandle building on the corner of Rye Lane and Bournemouth Road is the Macniven and Cameron site (60-100 proposed apartments and renovated retail) which has gone to appeal with the planning department, because the first application was turned down. Additional to these homes being lost, about 600 people work in businesses and nine churches successfully worship and act as a community focus on the site.
Simultaneously with the roof tours, an exhibition of illustrated boards showed the proposed conservation area, views and maps of the site and one of the possible routes in Peckham of the Camden to Peckham tramway and proposed maintenance depot. In the one map of the tram route we have, the tram will pass through central Peckham and zig-zag its way to go beneath the Consort Road railway bridge and turn at a severe angle into the site which would also have the terminus tramway platforms. It is anticipated that one tram will pass under the bridge every two minutes. There were hand-outs of information from the Cross River Partnership (CRP) who represent the four boroughs through which the tram will pass. The exhibition hall was enlivened by a simultaneous art exhibition which added colour, from the artists working on the site. Two film documentary students from Goldsmiths College filmed the proceedings to record an illustration of community groups in action. All expectations of numbers were exceeded; the estimate was that over 200 people were present, so most had to stand. Those attending were requested to write down their contact details and leave comments and questions on post-it slips. Tea and coffee were freely available during the afternoon.

The meeting, beginning after the viewing, was chaired by the chair of the Peckham Society and co-ordinated by Eileen Conn.� The presentations were short and focussed so there was adequate time for questions. Sarah Beuden and David Ware put forward the Council�s view on the planning process for the Peckham Area Action Plan (PAAP) where the tram and depot would play a significant role. Tfl and the Council came under much criticism from the assembled gathering because of the lack of information given to the public. Eileen Conn spoke about the residents� perspectives on town centre issues and how essential it was that the local people had enough information to think about them before formal discussions began. Benedict O�Looney and Steven Robb of the Peckham Society presented an excellent pictorial view of central Peckham illustrating the proposed conservation area and historic buildings at risk. Adam Khan, a local resident and architect, showed an urban designer�s view of the site, illustrating its flexibility and adaptability � just what Peckham needs for the future. We had intended at this point to focus on the wall displays but the audience was too packed to circulate. Instead we introduced topics suggested from the floor and discussed them. Representation at the meeting was far ranging with people from all over Peckham and included ward councillors, members of sister organisations who care for the environment and the local Greater London Assembly representative Val Shawcross.

The main conclusions were that the Council had to engage the local residents in their proposals and in turn listen to them to find mutually acceptable solutions. Andy Simmons, a local ward councillor, summed up the meeting rather well and made the most telling remark that the Council knew of the scale of the tram depot proposals two years ago, but he didn�t know until last summer. The adverse consequences to jobs, homes, traffic, shopping, church worship and historic buildings needs to be addressed. The tram is proposed to run in 2016 at the earliest; this could create planning blight for a decade. Good information on all these issues needs to be available to enable informed discussions between people who live and work in Peckham.

Peter Frost

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