2 March 2011
The ongoing plans to transform Peckham Town Centre will be up for discussion this month at a meeting in one of the area’s success stories – the Bussey Building in Rye Lane.
The former factory, which used to supply cricket bats to the England team, has been transformed into a cultural hub with the likes of artist Micky Smith opening a gallery, cafe-cum-film studio in it.
This small scheme might not be known to everyone is Southwark, but it is part of a piecemeal grass roots campaign of local people determined to create a better future for Peckham.
Eileen Conn from Peckham Town Centre Forum is part of a band of people trying to bring those with roles to play in the future prosperity of the area together and better co-ordinate what is needed.
The forum, with the help of the council’s Cleaner, Greener, Safer fund, has among other projects changed a bricked up waiting room in Rye Lane Station into a venue that will soon be fit for use.
The restoration of the Victorian waiting room is according to Conn a prime example of what can be achieved when active local residents alongside those with a commercial interest in the area manage to get council officers to do their job properly.
In the present climate of major council cutbacks there is obviously less funding available from Southwark to transform town centres – but Conn told the ‘News’ this week: “I am sure the council are seriously disappointed that they can’t fund a job inside the council to come up with a plan for Peckham.
However, I am not sure that is what is needed. We just need those with current job roles in the council, in the police or not being paid at all to have a flexible, informed approach to what Peckham town centre needs today, tomorrow, next week, next month, next year and into the future.”
A hefty 54 page ‘Future Peckham’ document produced by the council last year formed the basis of the Peckham and Nunhead Action Plan. However, there are no concrete proposals on the table yet and officers are unlikely to have any until next year at least, when they get to the submission stage.
The meeting being held at the Chronic Love Foundation Cafe in the Bussey Building at 113 Rye Lane on Thursday March 17 is part of the second stage of three in their action plan. This stage involves a consultation this spring to come up with preferred options. Last year, during the first stage entitled ‘issues and options’ a myriad of radical changes in the area were listed, including the relocation of the cinema, the creation of three fifteen storey buildings for new homes and the redevelopment of the Aylesham centre and Rye Lane to produce a vibrant shopping environment.
Peckham has already undergone a huge regeneration in the 1990s, when £64 million (and £150 million in other funding) was given to the area, predominately to transform housing in the north.
As well as transforming the notorious estates, some of the legacy from that money is the new Peckham Square and the iconic library within its boundaries.
Although housing is included in the new ‘options’, the emphasis is now placed more on shopping and transport links in the area. Peckham was dealt a hefty blow when the Cross River Tram was dropped from the immediate transport plans by Mayor Boris Johnson, although officers involved in ‘Future Peckham’ have insisted on maintaining a route for it in case it can be placed back on the agenda.
Other radical plans include better use of the area next to the former Woolworths store, which could see the cinema move to the Lidl site in Bellenden Road, and the creation of a new market area.
However, since the start of ‘Future Peckham’ process, the businesses that have opened up in empty shop units have not given much hope of getting the right mix on the high street.
The former Woolworths store has been replaced by 99p store and Sport Direct; The Hope the last remaining pub in Rye Lane was replaced by Paddy Power bookmakers despite a strong local campaign to stop it; and Poundland is opening next Thursday in Lord Harris of Peckham’s former Carpet Right store in Rye Lane.
The work of people like Eileen Conn and the Peckham Town Centre Forum is having more success in upgrading the area, although their frustration at getting a co-ordinated plan together from the council and other major stakeholders is very clear. “I think that meeting on March 17 could be very good, but we need be realistic.
A low cost solution is possible, but it takes everyone who has a responsibility to improve the town centre to work together and not get caught up in bureaucracy. There are major development sites in Peckham, but there are daily problems that are not being addressed like the fact that for weeks now the roads have been dug up, which is not helping businesses at all.”
The forum is also campaigning to get a clear plan on what vision is wanted for shop fronts in the town centre to advise businesses as they independently do up their stores.
Conn said she was working on a Clean and Paint project as well, where she hoped to raise funds to allow shops front above the ground floor to be spruced up: “We are identifying the buildings bit by bit that need it, to hold on to the huge historic assets we have in Peckham,” she said.
The meeting, entitled ‘Enterprising Peckham – town centre event’ starts at 5pm.
For more details and to let them know you are attending, call 020 7525 5471 or email:
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