Tall ships at Greenwich

www.pla.co.uk/Events/Tall-Ships-Regatta-Greenwich

www.pla.co.uk/Events/Tall-Ships-Regatta-Greenwich

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!

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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.

Nunhead cemetery open day – 17 May

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Our restored Saker cannon on show last year at Twinkle Park

Some of our team will be at the Nunhead Cemetery open day this weekend – do come along and say hello if you are in the area, although it’s probably worth making a special trip if you’ve never been to this wonderful Victorian burial ground before!

As well as the opportunity to see our restored Saker cannon and catch up with the news from the Lenox Project, there will be other community stalls, tours of the cemetery and the crypt, and food and drink for sale at the cafe.

The open day runs from 11am to 5pm: more information, including directions, at the Friends of Nunhead Cemetery website.

Boris passes Convoys outline planning application

Lenox Project 6-740At City Hall yesterday, Boris Johnson gave his consent to the developer to go ahead with their proposal. The good news is that he imposed two extra conditions, one of which was a feasibility study into the possible locations for construction of the Lenox on the site. We are awaiting the official notification of the decision so that we can fully assess the implications and we will keep you updated when we can.

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Boris concluded the 3-hour hearing with the following statement:

“I am minded therefore to give consent, subject however to agreement of the 106 which must contain two provisions. I’ve been very impressed tonight by the arguments that have been made by the MP Dame Joan and by others who have made a strong case in favour of two schemes that seem to me who have a great deal of merit and are both intrinsically attractive, the idea of the Sayes Court Gardens horticultural venture and The Lenox Project.

“And so with two provisions that must be in the 106 are: that my officials should get together with Lewisham and the developers and to look at this space in Sayes Court Gardens and indeed around the development in general that has been identified to come up with a secure, viable and deliverable project. That’s the first provision. I’ve mentioned SCG haven’t I? I’ve mentioned the existing park …. to look  at the space in the existing park and the wider development to ensure that there is a viable and deliverable project.

“Second condition. I’m delighted that the developers, whom I warmly congratulate on their scheme by the way, I’m delighted that they have agreed to fund a feasibility study into the Lenox project and I would like that one of the provisions that we will include in the 106 is that this feasibility study should be concluded as soon as possible to produce clear options and that there should be an agreement on the part of the developer to contribute to whichever of these options is the most feasible. And with those two provisions in my 106, I therefore give consent to this proposal.”

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section.psdThe hearing is available as a webcast on the GLA website here (Mac users will have to download a QuickTime add-on).

Date set for Convoys Wharf planning application hearing

The Mayor of London has announced that the representation hearing for the planning application to redevelop the former Deptford royal dockyard at Convoys Wharf will take place on 31 March at 4pm at City Hall.

The procedure at the hearing is governed by guidelines which can be read via this link and is an opportunity for supporters and objectors to restate their case for and against the planning application in front of the mayor himself.

If he does not announce his decision at the end of the hearing, the Mayor has five days in which to do so.

Seven days ahead of the hearing, the GLA officers responsible for assessing the application will publish their report into the application, which will include a recommendation to the Mayor. It seems very unlikely that the Mayor will go against their advice unless he wants to make a particular political point.

Based on the correspondence we have read, and the meetings we have been present at, we believe that the GLA intends to recommend that the mayor approve the scheme.

The applicant Hutchison Whampoa has recently submitted some revisions to its masterplan, and these are currently being consulted on with the deadline for comments set as 20 March 2014. Although we welcome the revisions, we do not believe that they go far enough and we still have deep reservations about the failure of the masterplan to adequately reflect the significant shipbuilding, naval and horticultural heritage of the site.

Comments from the Council for British Archaeology and English Heritage support this view.

The CBA wrote to the GLA last week to reiterate its objections to the plans on grounds of ‘harm to the heritage assets’ and a failure to address key aspects of the National Planning Policy Framework.

Likewise English Heritage commented on the revisions, saying it remained concerned that ‘the opportunity to reflect local character and significant history are not reflected in the the submitted proposals’.

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The Lenox Project CIC also finds it deeply disappointing that the developer seems unable to appreciate the potential of the two heritage-led community projects – The Lenox Project and Sayes Court Garden – to create a vibrant, sustainable heart for the redeveloped site. Under Hutchison Whampoa’s proposals for the site, neither project is being offered the right conditions to flourish, despite these involving relatively minor adjustments to the plans.

We are encouraged by Hutchison Whampoa’s offer to lease space on the protected wharf at a peppercorn rent to the Lenox Project, indicating that our proposal is finally being given the serious consideration it merits. See their offer (12th March 2014): CCE00001 HW letter.

At the same time, we believe that if this support is truly sincere, the developer will understand our request for an independent assessment of the potential construction sites for the ship, in order to establish the most feasible location on the former dockyard site.

We regard the protected wharf as the least suitable of the options, and are unwilling to accept this offer due to the unacceptable risk it poses for the construction of the ship, and the lack of any legacy at the site.

Read the GLA letter to Hutchison Whampoa (17th Feb 2014) which sets out the GLA’s position (this was copied to the Lenox Project, rather than addressed directly to us): GLA position following meeting of 07.02.2014

Here is The Lenox Project’s initial response to the GLA position (26th Feb 2014): GLA Position Response Lenox Project Illustrated

The Lenox in the Olympia shed; heart of Convoys Wharf

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One of the things that keeps our project team going is our vision for the heart of the former Royal Dockyard – seeing ships being built and repaired in the Olympia Shed once more. The idea of a revitalised site with the Lenox being built in the former ship-building shed, and a restored basin in front hosting visiting tall ships, is what we hope will one day become a reality. Visitors will come to see the construction of a 17th century vessel; local apprentices will be trained in new skills that will help them start on a creative career, and the former Royal Dockyard will be brought to life by an activity that makes a direct connection between its past and its future.

Our new renderings showing the Lenox being built in the Olympia Shed enable us to finally begin to visualise how ship building could bring a dynamic and creative element right into the heart of this development.

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Our intention is to see craft workshops, a Deptford-focused maritime museum, facilities for education and training and many other facilities housed in and around what will be a vibrant centre for the site.

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Dan Snow speaks out on Royal Dockyard threat

The Lenox Project patron and historian Dan Snow has issued a bleak warning that redevelopment plans for Convoys Wharf in Deptford could wipe out the birthplace of the Royal Navy if approved in their current form.

With the Mayor of London expected to make a decision on the planning application for the site in the coming weeks, Mr Snow cautioned that the British Navy’s ‘ground zero’ would be lost under an anonymous development of flats and office blocks, and added that Deptford deserved greater recognition on a scale of that given to Portsmouth or Chatham. Its proximity to the heart of London made an even stronger case for the site’s unique potential, he said.

dan snow“There are world famous naval dockyards right across Britain. Some of the finest museums in Europe can be visited in Portsmouth, Chatham and elsewhere, yet the place where it all began, where our maritime destiny took shape, is forgotten, and tragically ignored by the very city it did so much to shape.

“Deptford is where the Tudors decided to build naval ships to protect their ill-gotten kingdom from other invaders like themselves, and then to exploit the explosion in maritime activity that came with the discovery of sea routes to Asia and the Americas.

Deptford is ground zero for the Royal Navy.

“The Build the Lenox project reconnects Londoners and all of us with a vitally important piece of our heritage. London grew rich because it was a port. Ships built at Deptford protected the trade on which London depended, and forged links between the growing city and the rest of the world. Today London is one of the earth’s most dynamic, outward looking, multi-cultural cities. That story starts at Deptford.

“This project is not just about preserving heritage. It is about creating the kind of international profile and draw that is impossible to replicate anywhere else. A block of flats, a nice looking office block is anonymous. They can be built from Shanghai to Seattle. Building a 17th century warship, on the site of one of the world’s greatest dockyards, a short distance from the beating heart of an international city, that is unique. The multiplier effect of interested people, scholars and tourists would be a major boon to the area, the city and the country.

“People travel across the world to see the Vasa in Stockholm, the Victory, Mary Rose and others in Portsmouth, the Intrepid in New York; this would compete with any of them. The Lenox project illuminates not just the past but the future too.”

Culture minister welcomes the Lenox project

A busy week in which Lenox Project patron Dame Joan Ruddock spoke to Culture Minister Ed Vaizey in the House of Commons, and the Lenox team met with GLA planners to discuss the technical challenges of building the ship in the Olympia Shed.

house of commonsMs Ruddock secured an ‘adjournment debate’ with the Under Secretary of State for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries on Wednesday, in which she described the history of the Royal Dockyard and introduced the local heritage projects, Lenox and Sayes Court Garden.

Mr Vaizey, who, in order to respond to her request had taken advice from English Heritage, warmly received her presentation. He considered the proposals put forward by Sayes Court Garden “potentially attractive” and “better reflects the historic relationship”. He agreed that English Heritage’s request for the developer to alter their masterplan (remove some residential blocks to give more space to the project) should be noted.

He described the Lenox Project as “exciting”, but asked for some clarification. “Obviously, if the scheme is viable and it is possible to secure a long-term reuse of the listed building, and if the impact on the archaeology and the historic fabric is likely to be minimal, English Heritage could, in principle, support it, but I understand that the developer thinks that it would be impossible to rebuild the basin without destroying the archaeology.”

Ms Ruddock replied, “we understand that it would be able to approve some treatment of the basin that would not be harmful in any way and would meet our purposes.” She invited the Minister to examine the issue in more detail, which he agreed to do.

He then acknowledged Ms Ruddock’s commitment, and also that of the “volunteers and members of the local community who have brought their imagination and passion to bear in supporting the project. We should bear it in mind that they are supporting it not just for the benefit of their own community, but for the benefit for the whole of London and the whole nation.”

He concluded that he was ready to assist Ms Ruddock in any way she considers suitable.

The full transcript is available here.

Meanwhile, the Lenox team has been putting together evidence to demonstrate that the  Olympia Shed is big enough to house the construction of the ship. Plans and technical details have been prepared by the team in response to the developer’s claims that the Lenox is too large and heavy for this location.

It is clear that more extensive archaeology is required to establish the extent and condition of the slipways that remain, along with a full structural survey of the building, but such investigations would be necessary whatever use the building is put to.

Given the strong case for using the shed for its intended purpose, and the overwhelming support for the Lenox Project from the local community, academics, heritage bodies and other interested parties, we believe it would be premature in the extreme to dismiss the idea without exploring it fully. Even if obstacles arise, we know that the will exists to overcome them.

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Disappointing news to start the year

Before Christmas, the Lenox Project joined its sister project Sayes Court Garden in a meeting at City Hall with Sir Edward Lister, Deputy Mayor of London. The meeting was organised by Lenox Project patron Dame Joan Ruddock and attended by the GLA’s planners.

The Lenox team agreed to adopt its second option for the siting of the ship’s construction – in the Olympia Shed – in order to present a joint vision for a cultural ‘Heart and Lungs’ heritage focus at the centre of the site.

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This would require the original Great Basin to be reinstated – a proposal which English Heritage fully supports in principle – to create a functional marine space rather than the small, shallow ‘mirror’ pool proposed by the developer.

The Sayes Court Garden project proposed a stand-alone building to house the archaeological remains of John Evelyn’s Manor House (instead of being incorporated into a large residential block as on the current masterplan) and the extension of the garden space to link the Olympia building with the area of Sayes Court Garden remaining on the western boundary of the site.

The ideas were well received, but since this meeting there has been little progress, and we have now learned, as the new year begins, that the GLA planners are pursuing a contrary course with the developer.

Hutchison Whampoa claims that the slipways under the Olympia Shed are not capable of bearing the load of the Lenox under construction – a claim that has not been substantiated by a structural or geotechnical engineer, independent or otherwise. In addition, HW warns that the reinstatement of the basin poses a ‘high archaeological risk’, which the GLA have questioned but without requesting any independent assessment. Instead they have asked Hutchison Whampoa to report on the likely archaeological risks and issues, and the engineering challenges associated with the use of the Olympia shed and the reinstatement of the basin.

However more worryingly, they have asked the developer to produce a new assessment of how the Lenox could be constructed on the protected wharf – even though we have repeatedly explained that this is simply not an option we are prepared to consider. We have therefore written to the planners to reinforce our case:

“There are many practical issues with this location that we have already gone to great lengths to explain in writing to Hutchison Whampoa and Farrell’s. However we believe the most fundamental barrier to reaching any meaningful conclusion from HW’s ‘re-examination’ of this option, is the fact that we have never been invited to engage in any meaningful discussion with the developer over the detail of the project, nor has HW exhibited any real understanding of its ethos.

Given the applicant’s scant understanding of our plans, we contend that any opinion proffered by HW as to the practicalities or viability of constructing Lenox in any of the named locations would be unreliable, to say the least.

Another issue raised by the proposed use of the protected wharf is that in our recent meeting at City Hall, Sir Edward Lister stated that any decisions around the protected wharf would take “considerably longer than determination of the rest of the site, quite possibly years”.

We have already closely examined the viability of the developer’s proposal for use of the protected wharf, which is time-limited to five years and includes the expectation of the ship’s permanent departure once launched. We provided a detailed report of the difficulties to the developer, and subsequently to yourself.

The profitability and success of the Lenox Project, which includes its ability to provide training, education, jobs, and an appreciation of our heritage for all, depends on it being easily accessible to the public. Other uses for the protected wharf being proposed by the developer, GLA, and PLA would preclude this, even in the most beneficial circumstances.

The ship both under construction and afloat would be the focal point of a centre of excellence which would include specialist workshops, a Deptford-centric maritime museum space, along with conference and catering areas. Lenox will complement local attractions such as the National Maritime Museum and Cutty Sark and being such a natural fit with its World Heritage neighbour would command significant visitor numbers. If the Lenox was built in the Olympia Shed next to a restored Great Basin we believe this would be a realistic prospect.

Worldwide academic support for the project is extensive, but is dependent on the project’s evaluation and exploration of original methods. Most fundamental of these is her construction on a slipway such as the two remaining in the Olympia Shed.

A slipway also guarantees the continuation of training and employment programmes after the launch of Lenox as it enables re-fit or repair of other traditional vessels; again, not an option on the protected wharf for vessels of this size.

Our team is as keen and enthusiastic as ever and anxious to get started. If we have a deal we can start to raise meaningful funds and take on the challenges such a project will bring. However if all that is open to us is the protected wharf, then we feel our skills, time and effort will be better used elsewhere.”

We are also writing to the Mayor of London and his planners to formally state our disappointment at the extent to which two community-led heritage schemes – the Lenox Project and Sayes Court Garden – have been involved in the process, and our concern at the haste with which the decision-making process is being progressed.