8 May 2009
The 'Future Peckham' debate is welcomed, yet how radical is the thinking behind it?
In a borough that appears obsessed with regeneration and an area that in recent years has seen its fair share of public investment, you wonder what major changes will come from this hefty 54 page document.
Fifteen storey tower blocks, the redevelopment of the Aylesham Centre and more housing can be seen as radical or just pretty bog standard regeneration. It is hardly visionary. Understandably, the council officers are at pains to point out that everything suggested in the document is just a guideline to galvanize public debate, that these are not proposals.
But, to get the ball rolling you need something amazing to get everyone talking about it. In the short run there could be a backlash from some sectors of the local community talking about 'barmy planners' who are 'missing what is really needed in the area'. But surely it would be worth it, if the public really got involved - even if it was as a backlash? Regeneration at the moment has of course been hit by the credit crunch, as it is dependent on selling property on the private market.
But while housing is absolutely crucial to the future of all regeneration projects, this debate is focusing rightly on whether Peckham can become commercially a success story.
There are obvious comparisons, with Borough Market in the north of the borough acting as a pinnacle of what can be achieved. Again, it must be noted that the success of transforming London's oldest wholesale fruit and veg market into a farmers market to rival the Boqueria in Barcelona was not down to council planners but visionaries from the board of trustees running it. And voila! Borough Market is at the centre of the whole transformation of the area. It is a major pulling force for new residents and businesses.
Now, how could that be transferred to Peckham, deeper into south London and lacking the transport links essential to all successful shopping areas? Obviously, all our dreams could come true if the Cross River Tram was brought in. Unfortunately, that major plan has been hard hit with the funding stopped. But, now is the time to work on what we currently have and then radically transform it. Peckham Rye is a hotch potch of African shops and stalls, why not take it further and make it the African Brick Lane?
Cheaper, I'd say, then fifteen storey tower blocks. But if it is to work, would it mean something truly radical taking place in Southwark? The planners and visionaries of the market would have to take control away from the council's Southwark Property department and to choose the right mix of African food, arts and craft to prevent the constant doubling up of the same, often uninspiring businesses.
They would then have to have the power to do the same in the surrounding streets to the market to ensure the right balance for residents and visitors alike.
RAILTON ROAD SE24,
Leasehold, For Sale
TEA TRADE WHARF SE1, £1,295,000 , For Sale
TOWER BRIDGE WHARF E1W, £550 , per week, For Sale
PROVIDENCE SQUARE SE1, £1,600,000 , For Sale