Convoys sign-off delayed to 2015; no progress for Lenox

The deadline for signing the Convoys Wharf Section 106 agreement has been extended for a fifth time, with a new date of 9 January being set.

Since planning permission is not deemed to be granted until this agreement is signed, this also delays the start of the Lenox Project feasibility study. In their application, the GLA planners said that the extra time was required to continue discussions over the review mechanism for the amount of affordable housing that the redevelopment will provide, and to allow comments on the draft agreement from the two community groups – The Lenox Project CIC and Sayes Court Garden CIC – to be considered.

We welcome this statement and trust that we will see our extensive comments reflected in the wording of the final agreement. We have expanded our previous comments in response to the latest documents, but many of the fundamental issues that we raised before have not been addressed. As a result we are not confident that we will see any real change.

The last time we met with the GLA, Lewisham Council and Hutchison Whampoa to discuss the terms of the agreement that relate to the Lenox Project was in August. At the time we gave detailed feedback on those clauses that were of concern to us, on the understanding that it would be taken into account.

It was not until 14 November that we were issued with a copy of the draft planning condition and a revised draft of the section 106 agreement, and we were given a week to submit comments – very short notice for a community group in which most volunteers work full time. We did manage to meet the deadline, and hope the new target completion date will provide time for our comments to be properly considered.

Unfortunately past experience suggests that further changes may not be forthcoming and we will be left with conditions that render the project infeasible.

The conditions currently being proposed are no better than those on offer before outline planning permission was granted on 31 March 2014. Despite eight months of negotiations between the GLA, Lewisham Council, developer and the Lenox Project team, there has been no appreciable progress towards a set of conditions that would support the wider aims of the project or its long term viability.

• Mayor pledges support for The Lenox Project, but only after a site has been selected.

The Mayor has expressed his support for The Lenox Project, subject to the most feasible site being selected. But neither of the sites on offer would be feasible on the terms proposed in the draft Section 106 agreement, so we are left with a classic ‘Catch 22′ scenario.

• No offer of promised long term educational, training, research and employment opportunities for Deptford or a permanent museum and berth for the Lenox.

Fundamentally, the lease terms on the sites that are being offered do not recognise the long-term aims of the project, and could even prevent us from applying to the Heritage Lottery Fund.

As previously reported, the Mayor has expressly excluded the double dry dock from the study, even though it could be the most feasible. The lease terms offered for the Olympia Building at market rates or the Safeguarded Wharf at a peppercorn rent only last for 10 years. But the project is not just about building the Lenox; we want to ensure a long term legacy for the Royal Dockyard by providing educational, training, research and employment opportunities, a permanent museum and berth for the Lenox, coupled with ongoing historic ship building and restoration.

• Section 106 community project clauses contain conditions which only offer short term occupancy of a site for up to 10 years.

There are no provisions which promote a permanent location for the project. All the terms rely on renewal of a short term lease under conditions biased towards the owner. The Heritage Lottery Fund, in particular, will not usually support a project with a lease of less than 15 years. The lease terms pre-empt the outcome of the proposed feasibility study and contradict the original planning condition made by the Mayor. The conditions also work against the need to get the project started as soon as possible; the only locations on offer are in the second and third phases of the development.

Phasing of the project: phase one shown in yellow, phase two in pink and phase three in blue. The developer proposes to include the Safeguarded Wharf (brown) in phase two.

Phasing of the project: phase one shown in yellow, phase two in pink and phase three in blue. The developer proposes to include the Safeguarded Wharf (brown) in phase two.

The current wording of the documents rules out early occupancy of the Olympia Building. What’s more, we have only been offered half of the building, which provides sufficient space to build the ship, but not enough to realise the wider project aims, and no provision for launching the ship or a home berth.

The constraints currently in place on the Safeguarded Wharf mean that we would not be able to occupy it without approval from the Secretary of State, something which is not guaranteed. Hence the project could be delayed indefinitely if the Safeguarded Wharf were selected as the most feasible site, pending this approval. There are also competing planning interests which need to be resolved before it can be considered as a viable location for the project. The restriction on uses for this site expressly excludes the processing of timber –  a procedure that is fundamental to construction of a seventeenth century sailing ship.

The planning conditions do not require the developer to accommodate the Lenox Project on the Convoys Wharf redevelopment site, so the success or failure of the project relies on the wording of the Section 106 agreement. Whichever site is chosen, access could be restricted by the developer; either by delaying the information submitted to discharge planning conditions or delaying provision of the infrastructure needed to start the project.

The agreement requires the developer to approve the Lenox Project business plan in conjunction with Lewisham Council. We have argued that the developer is not a disinterested party and that approval should rest with Lewisham Council alone, who should consult the developer on any matters that affect their development.

The odds of achieving a successful outcome to the feasibility study under the current terms are stacked against us. We will continue to lobby the Mayor to intervene by asking his officers to amend the Section 106 conditions to support the project and its wider aims for the benefit of the local community and London as a whole. We make no secret of the fact that we aim to provide a centre of excellence with an international reputation. We just need others to take an equally imaginative approach.

If you share our concerns, please write to the Mayor atboris.johnson@london.gov.uk.

Urgent: the Lenox Project needs your help!

In the eight months since Boris Johnson made a feasibility study into the Lenox Project a condition of the Convoys Wharf redevelopment, our small team has been working tirelessly to try and ensure that the legal agreements being drawn up will give our project the best chance of success.

These include the Section 106 agreement, which sets out the payments the developer must make to counteract the impact of the development on the local community, and the scope of the feasibility study that will be carried out.

We have attended meetings with the Greater London Authority, Lewisham Council and the developer; we have written many letters, compiled and submitted additional information and commented on draft documents, making clear our concerns about certain crucial aspects of the Section 106 agreement and the feasibility study scope.

Throughout we have expressed our concern that due process is not being followed and that the drafting of the documents is being driven by the applicant, rather than the planning authority.

After all this time we have lost any confidence that the process is being conducted fairly, transparently, or with true impartiality, and so we took the decision to engage a solicitor to investigate the matter on our behalf and advise us of possible options.

But seeking legal advice costs money.

Since establishing the Lenox Project Community Interest Company we have existed on our personal funds, the generosity of occasional donors, and the money from those fund-raising efforts that we have had time to run alongside the more essential campaigning and lobbying.

Almost all of the money that has been raised through merchandise sales and donations has been spent on printing flyers, posters, our Vision document and other marketing materials as well as general administration fees. Once we have an agreed site for the project we will be able to draw on funding from the developer and make our own applications to funding bodies such as the Heritage Lottery Fund. But in the meantime we have to continue our fund-raising efforts.

Our legal advisers Richard Buxton Environmental & Public Law have kindly agreed to work on a reduced hourly rate, but even in these circumstances, we now owe around £1,500.

We desperately need help from our supporters to cover these costs. We know that this is not the best time of year to be asking people for money, but every little counts! 

How can you help? 


  • buy our merchandise! You can buy a Lenox tote bag at Ralph’s Greengrocers, 77 Deptford High Street with all the money going direct to the Lenox Project. If you can’t get to Deptford, contact us on buildthelenox@gmail.com or go to http://www.buildthelenox.org/contact/ for details of how to buy online. We also still have a limited number of Deptford 500 T-shirts for sale.
  • organise a fundraiser for us! Can you organise a cake or craft sale, an auction or a christmas collection on our behalf? We can provide Lenox Project flyers or posters, and we can promote the event through our website, blog or email newsletter if you give us at least a week’s notice. We will also acknowledge your contribution through our website and social media.
  • tell your friends! Please share our website and Facebook page with your friends and colleagues, we need to reach as many people as we can at this time.
  • do you know of any local businesses or organisations that have charity funds we can apply for? Please let us know via buildthelenox@gmail.com

If you have any other suggestions we would love to hear them!

Lenox Core Team A (BW) LR

Most importantly, thank you from the core team at the Lenox Project for your help and support so far. We will continue to fight for as long as we can for what we believe is a worthwhile cause. We are continually heartened by the feedback we get from our supporters all around the world; it means a lot to us.

Mayor turns down request to widen feasibility study

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has rejected a request that the site of the Double Dry Dock be considered as a potential location for construction of the Lenox, as part of the feasibility study that is planned. This study was made a condition of the outline planning permission granted for Convoys Wharf in March.

At the same time, he has granted his planning officers at the GLA a third extension of the deadline for agreeing the Section 106 agreement for the site with developer Hutchison Whampoa. The deadline has now been extended to October 31st.

Article 300914 Image 01

Convoys Wharf with the Olympia Shed on the left; the site of the Double Dry Dock is to the extreme right of the photograph.

Since the hearing in March, the Lenox Project team has attended a number of meetings with Greater London Authority and Lewisham Council planning officers, as well as representatives of the developer, Hutchison Whampoa, to discuss aspects of the Convoys Wharf section 106 agreement which relate to the project. Until the agreement is signed, the planning approval will not be validated.

The approval included an obligation for the developer to fund a study to determine the most feasible location for the Lenox Project on the site; this obligation also states that the study should be concluded as soon as possible.

However requests by the Lenox Project CIC for the feasibility study to consider the Double Dry Dock site have been rejected by the Mayor. This is potentially the most feasible site for the project and our preferred choice, being the location where the Lenox was originally built. The site has strong associations with the adjacent Master Shipwright’s House, the only above-ground building of the former Royal Dockyard that survives.

Article 300914 Image 02MR

Above: The Double Dry Dock and Master Shipwright’s House: Extract from an aerial view commissioned by the Navy Board (National Maritime Museum)

The Lenox Project questions the validity of a feasibility study that assesses only two locations and ignores what could arguably be the most feasible.

At the hearing in March, the Mayor of London did not stipulate in the planning condition how many sites should be included in the study, only that the study should determine the most feasible site. The developer has argued that only the Safeguarded Wharf and Olympia Shed should be included in the study, and this view is being supported by Greater London Authority planning officers. This position is unchanged from that which the developer was adopting before the mayoral hearing. 

However Lewisham Council has consistently advocated including the Double Dry Dock and the council recently wrote to Boris Johnson in support of our request to include it in the study. The Mayor received letters from Lewisham Deptford MP and Lenox Project patron Dame Joan Ruddock, Lewisham Deputy Mayor Alan Smith, a number of other Lewisham councillors and three GLA assembly members, all supporting our request.

In his response, the Mayor of London cited advice from his planning officers that the dock ‘no longer constitutes a functional piece of civil engineering’. This is strongly challenged by the Lenox team on the basis that the majority of the dock was excluded from the investigations carried out by Museum of London Archaeology. The small area which was excavated revealed a substantial stone-built structure in very good condition.

Article 300914 Image 03

The Great Dock: Photograph from Museum of London Archaeology Evaluation Report April 2010

We believe the aim of the study should be to choose the most viable location for the project and not the most convenient one for the developer.

The terms offered by the developer for use of the two sites currently proposed in the study, coupled with their availability in relation to the development construction programme, would delay the start of the project for anything from 8 to 12 years.

This could seriously undermine the project’s viability and it is for this reason that we want the Double Dry Dock to be included. We believe it is the only option that will enable the project to begin at the earliest opportunity.

The Lenox Project team intends to use the additional time offered by the deadline extension to continue lobbying for three sites to be included in the study and for the terms proposed for use of all of the sites to be modified to provide the best chance of success for the project.

WMF study day at the Master Shipwright’s House

If you missed the chance to visit Deptford’s Master Shipwrights House on Open House weekend, or you want to learn more about the history of the dockyard and its significance, the World Monuments Fund is hosting a study day at the house on Wednesday 15th October. Supporters of the Lenox Project and other local community groups can benefit from the reduced rate.

IMG_0939

Deptford Dockyard & The National Maritime Museum, Greenwich
Wednesday 15 October, 9.45am – 4.30pm

Deptford Dockyard was included in the 2014 World Monuments Watch due to the outstanding global significance of the site, both historically and archaeologically, and the threat of unsympathetic development.

In 1513 Henry VIII founded the Royal naval Dockyard at Deptford,and the King’s Yard became the foremost Royal dockyard of the Tudor period. Hundreds of warships and trading vessels were built here, including ships for exploration, science and empire.

The Mary Rose was launched from Deptford in 1517, and the dockyard remained a naval powerhouse for another 350 years. The history of Deptford as the lost piece of the Thames jigsaw will be explored in the comfort of the Master Shipwright’s House which sits alongside this threatened site and an afternoon trip to the archives of the National Maritime.

Tickets: £50 Members of Deptford Community groups, £60 non-members.

Bookings can be made on the WMF website.

Price includes a hearty lunch and refreshments throughout, and admissions are included in the cost. Will include some walking between sites and only suitable for those who are physically able. Please advise of dietary requirements in advance.

Visit the Master Shipwright’s House for Open House weekend

MSH.1

 

On Saturday 20th September the doors of the Master Shipwright’s House will once again be opened to the public for Open House weekend, offering a rare chance to explore this little sliver of Deptford history.

The Master Shipwright’s House is sandwiched between the watergate next to Paynes & Borthwick Wharf, and the Convoys Wharf site on the former Deptford Royal Dockyard. When activity at the dockyard was at its height, master shipwright John Shish would oversee construction of vessels in the Double Dry Dock – including the Lenox – from this very house.

The building has been meticulously restored and it offers a unique view of the river from its exclusive Thames frontage.

The Lenox Project CIC will be there with our restored Saker cannon, and we will be happy to update you with the latest news on our project and answer any questions you may have.

Saturday 20th September, 10am-5pm. The garden and selected rooms will be open to visitors.

In SE8 and environs you can also visit Deptford Green School, Deptford Lounge, Fordham Park, Lewisham Arthouse, Rachel McMillan Nursery, Seager Distillery Tower (great views in the right weather!), the Stephen Lawrence Centre, and Trinity Laban Building as well as many of the historic buildings in Greenwich. Full details on the website.

Great fun at Party in the Park!

pitp

Thanks to everyone who came along to meet us at Party in the Park on Saturday – it was great to see our long-time supporters and to have the chance to meet so many new faces too. We had fun explaining the project to those who didn’t know about it, and were thrilled by the enthusiasm of everyone we met!

pitp_kidsOur young fans loved seeing the cannon and learning about where it was found, how we restored it, and how it would have been fired in the days when it was employed on a ship similar to the Lenox.

pitp_kids2

Our director, boat builder Julian Kingston, dressed up in costume as Deptford’s master shipwright John Shish, whose skills and foresight in noting down the full details of the design and construction of the original Lenox will allow us to replicate the ship exactly.

pitp_ladylute

We were lucky enough to meet some very interesting and entertaining people – as well as all those local residents who love the idea of seeing a replica ship built in Deptford, we met some with a more direct interest in the project and the period, including a blacksmith, a carpenter and lute player Stephanie Feeney who is giving us a brief serenade in the photo above.

If you missed us at the Party in the Park, do come along to the Master Shipwright’s House in Deptford next Saturday, where we’ll be hosting Open House London from 10am till 5pm.

The Lenox Project at Party in the Park

10550887_256960417827366_9127855946958742989_n

The Lenox Project will be taking part in the Party in the Park in Fordham Park on 13th September – do come along and meet us, we would love to update you on what’s been happening this year.

We’ll have our restored 17th century cannon with us – come along and have a look at it and find out a bit about its recent history – and you can support us by buying one of our lovely tote bags for just £5!

1239966_631851053521756_1854178085_n

Party In the Park is an event organised by various community groups in the area around Fordham Park. It’s a community event for all ages, with family events, arts and crafts, stalls, spoken word, as well as local bands and acts for all tastes from disco to reggae, punk rock, soul and folk.

There will be food stalls, a beer tent, bric-a-brac for sale, new and vintage book stalls with many rare and first edition books at very low prices, plus games and competitions with lots of prizes. Plus stalls from local community groups like Millwall Football Club, the Lewisham Labour Party, New Cross Commoners, Save Lewisham Hospital, Grow Wild, and local housing co-operatives.

Saturday 14th September, from 12-8pm

Fordham Park, New Cross

For more information and full details of the line-up, visit http://pitpnxd.co.uk/home

Shtandart welcomes the Lenox team at the Tall Ships Festival

The Shtandart moored at Woolwich. Photo: David Graham

The Shtandart moored at Woolwich. Photo: David Graham

The Lenox team made an early visit to the Tall Ships Festival in Greenwich. A special focus of the visit was the Russian frigate Shtandart moored at Woolwich Arsenal Pier, a modern replica of a ship built by Tsar Peter the Great and one of almost 50 sailing ships visiting Greenwich.

The original Shtandart was just over a third the size of the Lenox and was the first flagship of the Imperial Russian Navy, built by Dutch shipwright Vybe Aleksandr Menshikov under the direct supervision of the Tsar. It was in commission until 1727, when it was broken up following damage during a refit. The Empress of Russia, Catherine I, ordered a replacement to be built, but this was not realised until a group of sailing enthusiasts embarked upon a project in 1994.

The new Shtandart is a remarkable achievement, having been built without the benefit of surviving historical plans. The replica has furnishings and decorative carvings copied from the original ship, as well as working cannons, but she also meets modern safety standards, although accommodation for the crew is extremely tight, but not as cramped as it would have been in the original. The original crew numbered between 120 and 150, whilst the modern crew consists of 30 trainees and 10 officers.

Shtandart @ Woolwich Lenox Project Visit LR-740

Left to right: Captain Vladimir Martus, David Graham and Julian Kingston

Lenox Project director Julian Kingston and our architectural advisor David Graham secured a private visit to the ship on Friday morning before she opened to the public, and met with the captain, Vladimir Martus, whose expertise combines that of naval architect, master shipwright and builder of the ship. We were given a warm welcome, learning first-hand the full story behind her construction sixteen years ago, and were also able to give him a detailed summary of our plans for the Lenox.

Built in 1703, the Shtandart was a contemporary of the Lenox, which was built in 1678 but remained in commission until 1756. The connection goes much further, in that the Tsar learnt about the latest in shipbuilding technology at his visit to the Royal Dockyard at Deptford in 1698, where the Lenox was the first of thirty similar ships to be built, making the Shtandart one of the first Russian ships to benefit from his visit.

The Shtandart's ornately carved bow. The carved figures are based on crew members.

The Shtandart’s ornately carved bow. The carved figures are based on crew members. Photo: David Graham

The Shtandart was constructed by a small team almost entirely by hand on wasteland outside St Petersburg. They were allowed to fell trees in the nearby forest that Peter the Great had planted for the construction of ships over 300 years previously. The only concession to modern technology was the occasional use of a chainsaw, and later her twin engines and navigation equipment. She has been successfully cruising northern waters since and regularly joins races and regattas, providing the young crew from St Petersburg with the unique experience of learning to sail a piece of history.

The Shtandart's upper gun deck with working cannons. Photo: David Graham

The Shtandart’s upper gun deck with working cannons. Photo: David Graham

Vladimir gave Julian and David much in the way of useful advice and strongly supports what the Lenox team are trying to do. We aim to maintain links with the Shtandart project and one day may see her visiting Deptford alongside the Lenox. We extend our best wishes to the Captain and crew for fair winds and calm seas.

www.shtandart.ru

Tall ships at Greenwich

Tall ships at Woolwich. Photo: David Graham

Tall ships at Woolwich. Photo: David Graham

The Tall Ships Festival opens in Greenwich on Friday 5th September and runs till Tuesday 9th. As part of the Falmouth–Royal Greenwich Tall Ships Regatta, around 50 ships set sail from Falmouth today in a race to arrive at Greenwich during the week where they will berth at various locations along the river at Greenwich and Canary Wharf. The festival includes both free and ticketed events, fireworks, outdoor performances and live music plus the opportunity to board the ships or cruise on the river. More information at www.royalgreenwich.gov.uk.

The Tall Ships’ Races are organised by Sail Training International, an international association of national sail training organisations devoted to promoting “the education and development of young people of all nationalities, religions and social backgrounds, through sail training.” It is the Lenox Project’s aim to provide such training once the Lenox is built, so we are naturally excited about the arrival of the ‘tall ships’ so close to home, and encouraged by public enthusiasm for such spectacle and endeavour.

Greenwich is busy gearing up for the festival, including one of our staunchest local supporters, Lush Designs (at 8 College Approach SE10 9HY). They have just launched a new design for their homeware range which features the Lenox at Convoys Wharf!

Lush Designs-big ships-740px

Meanwhile, the Lenox team are still involved in negotiations with the GLA and the developers to agree the full scope of the Feasibility Study, which forms part of the developer’s Section 106 Obligations, to determine the appropriate home for the Lenox on the development site. Also under discussion are the terms and wording of the legal clauses of the Community Project Obligations in the overall Section 106 agreement. The intricate detail and sensitivity of these negotiations is such that it has been difficult to keep our supporters updated, for which we apologise! The date for the Section 106 agreement to be signed has twice been delayed by the GLA and is now scheduled for the end of September.