Thursday, July 3, 2008

Southwark News: The Future of Rotherhithe

Southwark News / Southwark Weekender

An interesting double-page spread in our local newspaper the Southwark News has just featured an interview with senior council officer Tim Thompson, and looks at many aspects of plans for Rotherhithe including the Downtown site and the Surrey Dock Farm.

The term "regeneration" is one of those words which benefits from close consideration - it sounds so positive but can be a disguise for the inauguration of money spinning projects which may regenerate the local government's coffers but can have a far from happy effect on the community itself. It is therefore good to be able to have a chance to review what is being said, proposed and planned.

How will regeneration bosses change the area?

In the first in a series of features looking at the borough’s regeneration, the ‘News’ speaks to senior council officer Tim Thompson

THE MAN at the helm of the Canada Water regeneration scheme says he would like the redevelopment to encompass the whole of Rotherhithe - to address what he called ‘some fundamentally dysfunctional areas’.

Tim Thompson, the council's point man for massive regeneration efforts in both Canada Water and Bermondsey Spa, revealed his hopes during a wide ranging interview where he raised the spectre of the possible destruction of Surrey Docks City Farm, took a controversial swipe at a major local land owner, and revealed he would have "serious doubts" about Fisher Athletic's ability to sustain a 10,000 seat stadium.

The question constantly asked by local residents - just how big is the scheme going to grow? - took well over an hour to answer, with Mr. Thompson eventually concluding: "Well, I hope it is [the whole peninsular] because there are some fundamentally dysfunctional areas that we can address if we do consider it in the round and that is what we're trying to do."

Throughout the interview, Mr. Thompson lifted the lid on radical council thinking that could dramatically reshape the area over the next fifteen years, by potentially demolishing local landmarks such as the Hawkstone Estate and Seven Islands Leisure Centre and building new infrastructure including a revolutionary pedestrian and cycle bridge, that would give the area an above ground link to economic giant Canary Wharf for the first time in its history.

Here's a taster from later on in the interview when Mr Thompson speaks about the Downtown site and the Surrey Docks Farm (which doesn't leave me feeling exactly warm and cosy inside, but I guess you have to make up your own mind):

Bearing in mind the largely private and residential ownership of the Rotherhithe river frontage, what council land could be used to fulfil his objective?

"We own the Surrey Docks Farm", he says. "That's a great local resource but what would people think if you said: 'We want to take the farm away and we want to build a wharf there'? I think you can imagine there would be hue and cry about that. But what's the bigger picture?"

Asked whether he thought the area would benefit more from a new jetty or a City Farm he replies: "Open question. I think you know the answer to it though. But making that decision and getting to a decision making point having consulted with people would be incredibly difficult."

Moving around the peninsular, Mr. Thompson says he is confident that the marathon row over plans to develop the 'Downtown' site of Surrey Docks Health Centre will be sorted "one way or the other" before the end of this year.

See the above page for the full story.


Dr Plokta said...

I certainly agree that Rotherhithe could do with another jetty. But Surrey Docks Farm is only 1/3 of a mile from Greenland Pier, so it would be pretty pointless to put one there. We need one somewhere along the north side of the peninsula, between the Hilton and Kings Stairs Gardens.

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't a free ferry service be better value and sooner implemented than a "revolutionary pedestrian and cycle bridge"?