Green light for high-rise housing scheme would 'obliterate' birthplace of Royal Navy
Published by Jon Land for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Communities, Local Government
Green light for high-rise housing scheme will 'obliterate' birthplace of Royal Navy
The Mayor of London will next week decide the fate of an historic London dockyard - said to be the birthplace of the Royal Navy - when he rules on a major development project.
If approved by Boris Johnson, the £1 billion Convoys Wharf scheme will see 3,500 new homes built in towers up to 40-storeys high and the creation of 2,000 new jobs.
But its developers, Hong Kong company Hutchison Whampoa, have faced huge opposition from local campaigners, politicians and TV historians over their failure to include a contingency plan to preserve Deptford Dockyard, described by Lewisham MP Joan Ruddock as "London's best kept secret", and neighbouring Sayes Court Garden.
The dockyard, which celebrates its 501st anniversay this year, was built during Henry VIII's reign and for centuries played a key role in the country's maritime affairs. When England’s world power relied upon its navy, Deptford was at the heart of boat construction, exploration and royal might. It was the site where Sir Francis Drake was knighted by Queen Elizabeth I and where Sir Walter Raleigh is reputed to have laid down his cloak to prevent the Queen muddying her shoes.
Sayes Court has inspired has some of the most important innovations in the history of horticulture and landscape of the last 360 years. John Evelyn set out his famous garden in 1653, using it to test experimental new designs and horticultural techniques in conjunction with his founding role at the Royal Society. It was the attempt to secure this historic site as a public park in the late 19th Century which led to the formation of the National Trust. Unfortunately the Trust did not acquire Sayes Court, and only a small portion of the park remains - the rest, including the site of the manor house, now falls within the boundary of Convoys Wharf.
Ahead of the mayor's decision, the Council for British Archaeology (CBA) is calling for development plans to respect and integrate the surviving remains of the Dockyard in a proposal, in keeping with the scale and significance of the site.
CBA Director, Dr Mike Heyworth MBE said: “Deptford Dockyard has great heritage significance but today it lies almost forgotten, the poor relation of Greenwich further down the river which is by contrast a World Heritage Site. Yet without Deptford, Greenwich would not exist, and the physical remains at Deptford are extensive and significant.
"Deptford needs development to regenerate the area. No-one is suggesting that the site of the dockyard does not have development potential. But we should fully understand the significance of the dockyard and its complete history and reflect this in the development proposals: using this potential as a catalyst for the regeneration.
"Current proposals all but obliterate the dockyard and the chance to develop a narrative which integrates its crucial role in our maritime history will be missed."