Objecting to Convoys Wharf Planning Application – Plot 08 Reserved Matters

Plot 08 at Convoys Wharf has received outline planning permission and an application has been submitted for full permission. The current application deals with  ‘reserved matters‘, which normally include the five points listed below.  Objectors should address these issues rather than the development principle which has been approved.

My comments on the 5 points are in red text, below

  1. appearance – aspects of a building or place which affect the way it looks, including the exterior of the development. The appearance of the Convoys Wharf development is very disappointing (as discussed in the above link). It is not related to the historic character of Deptford. They are standard blocks which could be anywhere in the world. The applicants have researched Deptford’s heritage but have have then ignored it.
  2. means of access – covers accessibility for all routes to and within the site, as well as the way they link up to other roads and pathways outside the site. Far too much of the space within the Convoys Wharf site boundary has been allocated to vehicular traffic. Instead, the development should have been planned as a bicycle-first estate. There is a strong case for a bike bridge crossing the Thames immediately north of Convoys Wharf and residents should be provided with excellent cycle infrastructure. The aim should be for  most local trips to be by bike, including Safe Routes to School for parents and children. Longer trips should be done by cycling to local stations and there should be car clubs for such vehicular use as is necessary. 
  3. landscaping – the improvement or protection of the amenities of the site and the area and the surrounding area, this could include planting trees or hedges as a screen. The submitted design for Plot 08 at Convoys Wharf has far too many unvegetated horizontal and vertical surfaces. Convoys Wharf is part of John Evelyn’s former estate and came into dockyard use through his public-spiritedness. He was the most important British garden theorist of the seventeenth century. This provides an enhanced case for adopting an ambitious landscape policy for Convoys Wharf. The roofs should be roof gardens. The balconies should be large enough to serve as private green space. As many walls as possible should be living walls. There should be as much vegetation in the public open spaces as possible. The site should have excellent greenways.
  4. layout – includes buildings, routes and open spaces within the development and the way they are laid out in relations to buildings and spaces outside the development. The layout of Convoys Wharf has too many similarities with Deptford Creek Village and is likely to become another example of a bad landscape:architecture relationship. The streets at Convoys Wharf should be green streets and garden streets. The proposed open spaces should be assessed and the designs should follow established principles. 
  5. scale – includes information on the size of the development, including the height, width and length of each proposed building. See above comments on the appearance and layout of Convoys Wharf. In essence, the blocks are too blocky. Instead, they should make a welcome contribution to London’s skyline and riverscape. 
Posted in skyline policy, urban design

Barbican housing landscape architecture review

‘The landscape architecture of the Barbican housing development in London is very good and very badconclude Robert Holden and Tom Turner.

Posted in housing, landscape architecture

Convoys Wharf planning application for Plot 08

Convoys Wharf in the 17th century and in the 19th century, compared with the Hutchinson Whampoa ‘Block plan’ for the 21st century

In 2011,  I reviewed the Hutchison Whampoa Master Plan for Convoys wharf. A modified version of the plan, scarcely improved, received planning permission in 2014 and an application for the first phase has now been submitted. My reasons for urging Lewisham Borough Council to reject the plan are as follows:

  1. The design team has researched the history of Deptford. But they have made very little use of the information in the design process. The above drawing shows the site (1) left, in the seventeenth century (with Evelyn’s map and with his garden in colour), (2) centre, in the nineteenth century, with the Royal Dockyard north of Evelyn’s garden and with traditional Deptford streets of terrace houses with private gardens south of Evelyn’s garden), (3) right, as proposed by the developers with a grid of superblocks separated by boulevards.
  2. The over-arching point is that Convoys Wharf is not just any old bit of derelict land awaiting re-development. It is a historic site of great importance. The land once belonged to the leading English garden theorist of the seventeenth century. John Evelyn used his own estate to experiment and advance the art and the science of gardening. He let some of the land become a naval dock because he cared about maritime affairs as much as he cared about gardens. Dame Joan Ruddock (MP for Lewisham, Deptford) described Convoys Wharf as ‘one of London’s best kept secrets and one of its greatest opportunities’. She said the site could ‘offer an amazing place for locals, new residents and visitors alike’ (22 January 2014, Hansard, Volume 574). The developers have ignored this great opportunity, except for retaining the listed buildings they could not demolish – and using maritime names for marketing purposes.
  3. Evelyn’s intellectual legacy should to inspire an urban landscape design approach which advances this art and practice.
  4. The architectural and landscape design of Plot 08 has an ‘anywhere’ quality: the blocks could be anywhere in the world, including Hong Kong. Apart from the site plan, which extends to Greenland Dock, Greenwich and the Isle of Dogs, there is very little context information on the drawings. It is an off-the-shelf anywhere design. It is not a context-sensitive site-specific design for a great historic site in Deptford.
  5. The balconies on the blocks are thoughtlessly insulting. They appear to have been designed as decorations to relieve the tedious boredom of the block facades. Instead, the balconies should be designed as social space and cultivation space for the residents. The high residential density of the development makes it impossible to follow the local tradition (of terrace housing in Deptford and elsewhere in London) of giving each house a private garden. But giving each resident a ‘garden in the air’ balcony is possible and should be done. Instead, the application drawings show small glazed ‘ledges’ suitable for little more than hanging washing and storing bicycles.
  6. Much more design work, and information, is required for the green roofs. Like the balconies, the roofs should be planned and designed as social space and cultivation space. The area should be a community skypark for residents.
  7. As a contribution to flood prevention, more effort on the design of the roofspace would make it possible for much of the rainwater to be stored, used and evapo-transpirated (so that it does not have to be taken off site in underground drains).
  8. It is good that the blocks have shops with street frontages at ground level and the street trees are welcome. But the design of the street spaces is crude, bland and people-unfriendly.
  9. The overall design of the Plot 08 blocks requires much more vegetation: (1) at street level (2) on the courtyard podium (3) on balconies (4) on walls (5) on roofs. This is required as contributions (1) to sustainability (2) to biodiversity (3) to mitigating climate change (4) to the grand objective of making a Greener Deptford and a Greener London.
  10. Lewisham Council should reject the current application and to require the developers to comply with Policy G5, Urban greening, in Chapter 8 of the 2017 Draft London Plan (see below)

GLA Policy 05 (on Urban Greening) should be applied, rigorously, to the detailed design of Plot 08 on Convoy’s Wharf

Posted in housing, landscape architecture, urban design

Edward Hutchison watercolours

Following his brilliant book on Drawing for Landscape Architecture: Sketch to Screen to Site, Edward Hutchison has opened an even more dazzling exhibition of watercolour painting – at Bankside Gallery 48 Hopton Street London SE1 9JH, by Tate Modern Exhibition 4th – 22nd July.

SOIL by Edward Hutchison

The drawings show how good landscapes are designed and built. The paintings show the qualities of which designers dream.  Above all they show luminosity. The paintings are classified under five headings: Soil, Plants, Travel, Nine Elms London and Abstract.

For me, the Soil paintings are the most surprising and most welcome. As the artist states, the paintings ‘portray the microscopic dynamics present in soils’. It is a little understood and hardly-seen world, of great complexity and great importance to life on earth – and the landscape architecture profession. Its luminosity normally resides in our imaginative faculties, which, unaided, are inadequate to the task.

NINE ELMS by Edward Hutchison

The section on Nine Elms also appeals to my artistic and professional interests. With notable tact, Edward  writes that ‘One concern has been the poor quality of cavernous open spaces resulting from such high rise buildings developed on individual plots. However there is a certain transient beauty created during the the transformation of old to new London’.  Simon Jenkins’ statement that ‘I do not love the ugliness now being scattered at random along the banks of the Thames or the squalor of London’s skyline’ appeals to the brain, rather than the eye or heart. Edward’s analysis is all the more astute for its visual quality. The developer’s would have done well to ask his professional advice on how to give London’s riverscape the living luminosity of vibrant landscapes. Cosmetic ‘landscaping’, whether at ground level or roof level, is an insult to London and will injure the developers’ profit. They should also have

The group of Abstract paintings, in the final section of the catalogue, exemplify the luminous compositional ideas that should guide urban landscape architecture. Instead, London’s skyline is being developed in an official policy vacuum. The capital lacks a skyline policy and lacks an agreed set of principles on which policies could be based. The misnamed ‘Riverlight’ development in Nine Elms illustrates the problem.  Though the buildings have more luminescence than their peers, the blocks are spaced like tombstones in descending size order. Instead, buildings should converse with each other and with the environment, generating light and creating elegant outdoor space to surpass the squares of Georgian London.

Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners ‘Riverlight’ (with possible source of inspiration)

UNTITLED 2. Abstract composition by Edward Hutchison.

Posted in skyline policy, urban design

Cambridge Guided Busway & Cycleway Benefit Cost Analysis

Cambridge requires a study to compare the costs and benefits of  cycleway networks with those of guided busway networks. Generally:

    • Transport planners favour busways and do not to treat cycling is a serious mass transit mode.
    • Landscape architects believe that when integrated with rail for longer trips, investment in cycleway networks is cheaper, healthier, more reliable and more sustainable than investment in busway networks.

James Palmer (Mayor of Cambridge and Peterborough Combined Authority), was  right to call for an evidence-based approach to transport planning and right to halt work on the Guided Busway. The Authority has a wonderful opportunity to obtain the necessary evidence.  The Busway + Cycleway 2.4 mile section between Cambridge Station and Trumpington Park & Ride could have been designed and built as a controlled experiment. The routes are the same length; they were built at the same time; the environmental conditions are identical; all the necessary data is available to  the Combined Authority. This section does not include the expensive bridge to Addenbrookes. The systematic assessment should include:

  • Construction costs
  • Maintenance costs
  • Usage
  • Journey times
  • Externalities (affects on health, obesity, noise, air pollution, climate change etc)

The analysis is crucial to Cambridge’s transport strategy.  But instead of a research study,  Steer Davies Gleave were asked to produce a report (Greater Cambridge Mass Transit Options Assessment, January 2018, proposes an underground busway, described as a metro). The report did not include cycling as a transit option. This was a mistake and it should be rectified. Cycling needs to be integrated with other transport modes for long journeys. But the other modes cannot function efficiently without the bicycle and should be planned so that cycling is the fastest mode for trips of less than 5-10 miles.

‘Cycling is mass transit and must be treated as such’ (Running out of road Investing in cycling in Cambridge, Milton Keynes and Oxford A report produced for the National Infrastructure Commission, 2018)

SEE ALSO: Cambridge greenway cycleway planning, review by Tom Turner.

‘The track of the Cambridge Guided Busway appears to be ugly, expensive, decrepit and hazardous. So, obviously, its costs and benefits should be fully researched before a penny is spent on a new guided busway’ (Tom Turner, quote from the above video)


Posted in cycleways

The history of cycle network infrastructure planning in London

There have been three four main phases in London Cycle Network Planning

1930s: segregated cycle lanes beside new arterial roads

Leslie Hore-Belisha was an innovative Minister of Transport, remembered for introducing pedestrian crossings, a 30 MPH speed limit in built up areas and, in 1934,  for opening London’s first segregated cycle track (as shown in the above video). Though intended to make cycling safe and convenient, the track was bitterly opposed by the Cyclists’ Touring Club. Its objection was that they might be restricted to cycle tracks and banned from riding on general roads. Apart from this folly, my impression is that the 1934 track, on the Western Avenue section of the A40 between Hanger Lane and Greenford Road, was not intensively used. Judging from what is now a shared cycle-pedestrian path, the problems are that it the adjoining road traffic is very heavy and that the track does not follow a desire line for green transport modes.
The principle of building cycle tracks where it was convenient to do so, rather than where they would be convenient to users, continued in the post-1946 New Towns, with cycle tracks built near distributor roads. When they attracted few users road engineers saw this as evidence that a ‘good’ road made cycling an obsolete transport mode. The real problem was that for most journeys cycling on the distributor roads was quicker and more convenient than cycling on the segregated tracks.

1980s: London Cycle Network, using signage and backstreets

London saw a fresh approach to bicycle transportation in the 1980s. It was supported by the London Cycling Campaign and Ken Livingstone (as Leader of the Greater London Council from 1981-86). The idea, which looked good on the plan, was to create links between London Borough town centres. It was called the London Cycle Network LCN) and the problems with it were:

  1. most of the links between town centres were  recommended routes on backstreets and most of them were slower than cycling on main roads. Because they had more junctions they tended to be more dangerous than cycling on main roads
  2. some of the links were origin-to-destination desire lines. Most were not.
  3. the physical work of facilitating the recommended routes was signposting and, in places, painting white lines on roads. Neither the signs nor the painting was sufficient for cyclists to follow the routes
  4. the small expenditure on real cycle infrastructure went on advance stop lines and occasional facilities at road junctions

The London Cycle Network LCN survives as a name, an acronym and a paint job but finding a plan of the network on the web is almost impossible: the only drawing I have of it is the one I drew myself c1990.

I think of LCN as a fraud.  With a few short exceptions, it was a network of suggested routes. It was not an infrastructure network of  segregated/protected cycle lanes. Most of the ‘cycling facilities’ were signposts. London Cycle Network Route 2, for example, is a crazy idea for cycling from Greenwich to Westminster on backstreets. As well as being impossible to follow using the signposts, it is slower and more dangerous than doing the same journey on main roads, because the back streets have so many junctions.

On the diagram, below, the black lines show the ‘network’ and the red line shows the kind of route that was signposted on backstreets.

London Cycle Network

Basically, the 1980s ‘London Cycle Network’ was a fraud. It was an exercise in signposting backstreet routes, not in the creation of useful cycle infrastructure.

The principles of the London Cycle Network were also used for LCN+ and for the  Quietway programme (which was better funded than its predecessors)

Phase 1 Cycle Superhighways

London’s first ‘blue paint’ cycle superhighway was opened in 2010. There were some segregated sections but most of the money went on painting blue cycle lanes on existing roads. They were not a bad thing but nor were they a good thing.

Phase 1 of Boris Johnson’s cycle superhighway programme was just a paint job

Phase 2 Cycle Superhighways

London’s first segregated cycle superhighway was opened in 2016 and was the city’s first immediately-popular example of high-quality, purpose-built cycle infrastructure. The East-West Cycle Superhighway was one of several Central London routes but was not part of a London-wide Cycle Network Plan.

Phase 2 of the Boris Johnson cycle superhighway programme provided high-quality origin-destination links but was not part of a London-wide cycle infrastructure network plan embracing both leisure and commuting objectives



Posted in cycleways, London cycle network

Kipling’s Recessional & the Stop Killing Cyclists 2013 TfL Die-in

In church, a recessional is a hymn or piece of music accompanying the withdrawal of the clergy and choir from the chancel to the vestry, at the close of a service. The term is also used for the music after a marriage and Rudyard Kipling’s great poem Recessional (1897) is the source of the words ‘lest we forget’ in Anzac Day remembrance ceremonies for the dead of two world wars.
British people saw Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, for which the poem was written, as an occasion to reflect on imperial glory.  There is something of this in Kipling’s poem but, even more, it is a warning against hubris, a reminder that all glories pass and a foresight of what was about to happen to Britain’s Empire in the 20th century. It may be for this reason that Stop Killing Cyclists die-ins make me think of Kipling’s poem. When the history of the internal combustion engine’s wrecking of London streets comes to be written, the evening of 29th November 2013 will be seen as a turning point. The lament and remembrance took place outside Transport for London’s Blackfriars Road HQ.

The 4th line in the 4th stanza of Recessional, in italics below, is often interpreted as a slur and, a century later, would be more acceptable with a reference to Less Developed Countries eg Or LDCs without the Law—  since at least half the planet believes in the rule of Law.

If, drunk with sight of power, we loose
Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe,
Such boastings as the Gentiles use,
Or lesser breeds without the Law
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

As the below illustration shows, the protesters are the actors – while TfL staff look down on them from above.

Stop Killing Cyclists TfL Die-in 29th November 2013

Posted in landscape architecture

Lecture on London Cycle Network Planning

Lecture by Tom Turner on 23rd April 2018, the LI London Branch
The Landscape Urbanism Design Method should be applied to the problem of giving London the Cycleway Network it deserves:

  • for getting from A-to-B, the aim should be to make bike trips faster than all other kinds of road trip
  • to complement the ‘superhighway’ cycle commuting network TfL began planning since 2014, London should plan a network of leisure cycle routes
  • wherever possible, cycleways should be planned as greenways:

Highway engineers, transport planners and landscape architects should work together. Together, they can give London a multi-purpose cycleway network, serving transport, leisure, environmental, ecological and landscape objectives. Here is a good example of how not to design a cycleway

Context-insensitive cycleway design (image courtesy Wikipedia)

The 18 cycling videos mentioned in the lecture can be found from this link. The other videos mentioned can be found below:

Greenway definition

History of landscape architecture

Landscape urbanism design method

Greenway/Cycleway planning in Cambridge

Greenways in Central London

Posted in cycleways, landscape architecture, landscape urbanism, London cycle network

Playing chess on the Stockwell Street University of Greenwich roof garden

Chess challenge on the Stockwell Street Roof Garden in Greenwich

Does London have a better place for a game of chess than the University of Greenwich’s Stockwell Street roof garden? If so, please tell me about it. While smelling the sweet scents of spring flowers, you can pick mint, gaze at a part of Le Notre’s design for Greenwich Park and catch up on your plant idents. And if you want more of London to be like this, find a good landscape architect!

Playing chess with a view of Le Notre’s design for Greenwich Park – there is a plan for the grass parterre with his own handwriting


Posted in green roofs, landscape architecture

Rewilding in Britain

Examples of Rewilding Britain

Re-wilding Ideas of re-wilding have been around for some decades, indeed the concept under other labels has been around for upto a century, for instance, the project to back breed the Auroch. Indeed Heck cattle are an attempt dating back to the 1920s. The term was first coined by the US conservationist activist David Foreman in the 1980s.

Current enthusiasm for re-wilding in Europe began with the Dutch project in the 1980s to create a savanna grassland and wetlands on the last large polder to be reclaimed, Zuidelijke Flevoland. This became the 56km2 Oostvaarderplassen, and in 1989 just three decades after being reclaimed it was given Ramsar status.

In Britain there are now a whole series of rewilding projects. They are of two types, either reintroducing a particular species, often an apex species but also including insect reintroductions such that in 1984 of the Large Blue Butterfly (Maculinea arion). The larvae initially feed on the flower-heads of Wild Thyme (Thymus polytrichus) but after three week they feed on Myrmica red ant grubs for the rest of their larval cycle.

But more typical are the reintroductions of predators, and large mammals, such the beaver following its reintroduction since 2009 in the Knapdale Forest in Agyle. There is also a small trial in Devon, on the River Otter, by the Devon Wildllife Trust. Then there is Scottish Wildcat Action efforts to counter hybridisation of this threatened species. Successful bird reintroductions include Red Kites often now seen on the M40 through the Chiltern, the Crane to the Lakenheath and Hickling, the Ospey to Rutland Water, to the Lake District and to Wales.

Larger landscape re-wilding
However, larger landscape re-wilding projects in the UK involve whole stretches of countryside similar to the Dutch example. There are a number of wetland and marshland projects (e.g. The Great Fen, Cambridgeshore and Dingle Marshes in Sufflolk. So that they have become almost commonplace.

But more challenging are lowland agricultural landscapes such as the 1,400 ha Knepp Castle Estate West Sussex (which includes a Repton Park). The estate is heavy clay and formerly unprofitable dairy pasture and arable land, which since 2001 has been allowed to develop under the advice of ecologist Frans Vera (who was also involved in the Oostvaarderplassen). This has happened naturally under a grazing ecology with Tamworth pigs, English longhorn cattle, red and fallow deer, and Exmoor ponies. This has led to a whole series of species developments including plants, and invertebrates, birds and small mammals.

The Pumlumon Project, Ymddiriedolaeth Natur Maldwyn
A much larger project is that in mid-Wales, run by the Montgomery Wildlife Trust embracing 40,000 ha of the Cambrian Mountains around Plumlumon. Since 2007 the Trust has been pursuing the following aims:

Element 1 Carbon Storage
Peatlands are the UK’s biggest store of carbon. Like many upland areas, Pumlumon holds vast reserves of peat. In the 1950s and 60s, much of it was drained in a largely unsuccessful attempt to improve grazing, so releasing large amounts of stored carbon into the atmosphere. Hnee, reduce these emissions by blocking the drainage ditches. As the bogs become wet again the mosses start to grow, absorbing carbon each summer and locking it away as new peat. At the same time, the existing stores of peat are protected from further erosion, and species marginalised by the original drainage can return.

Element 2 Reconnecting Habitat
Climate change means plants and animals trapped in a fragmented landscape which need green corridors to migrate. Climate change may shift the natural range of some species northwards by more than 250km and/or nearly 300m higher in altitude. After ice ages, plants and animals migrated along natural corridors. But in today’s fragmented landscapes many species will be trapped in habitats which can no longer support them. Hence the needs to provide corridors linking lowland and upland habitat.

Element 3: Storing flood water
At least three million people depend on water which falls as rain in the Pumlumon Project area: the Severn and Wye headwaters are here.
Given the direct link between upland land management and the severity of lowland flooding; strategic tree planting, restoring hedgerows, fencing out watercourses and reducing stocking levels all help to increase the permeability of upland soils, reducing rapid run-off during heavy rain.
The Pumlumon Project area consists of more than 3,700ha of hydrologically active habitats, including wet heath, raised bog, blanket mire, valley mire, and wet woodland.

Element 4: Bringing back wildlife
Just some of the species benefitting from the Pumlumon Project include Ospeys, Red Grouse, Hen Harrier, Black Darter dragonflies and Round Leaved Sundew

Element 5: Changing grazing patterns
Ecologically sensitive grazing doesn’t just enhance the landscape and restore wildlife; it can be more profitable for farmers. Reduction of stocking densities and using cattle instead of sheep, at moderate intensities, and at the appropriate time of year can increase the range of plant species in the turf and the cattle hooves can help break up soil pans.

Element 6: Recreating habitats
Even where large areas of strategically important habitat have been lost, we can put them back. It just takes time The plan is to create a network of wetlands, woodland and species-rich grassland, connected by a latticework of rivers, streams, hedgerows and grass verges.

Element 7: Developing Green Tourism
Underpinning the Pumlumon Project is a simple expectation: a healthy, diverse, wildlife-rich landscape attracts visitors
Including walking, kayaking, mountain biking and wildlife watching. This widens the economy for the local community.

Element 8: Involving communities
The ultimate measure of success is whether local people share these aims and support this project. George Monbiot’s re-wilding writings have made him unpopular in mid-Wales because he directly attacked sheep farming which is a bastion of Welsh-speaking culture, you need to work with the community and support the community.

The IUCN World Database on Protected Areas reports 15% of the earth’s land area is protected. However, the E.O.Wilson, the father of sociobiology, argues 50% of our land area should be wilderness. Meanwhile we are losing wilderness areas.

Posted in landscape planning