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

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.

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

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.

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.

GLA 01

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.”

Lenox Project Illustrated-7_740

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

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.


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.

Heart & Lungs @ Convoys Wharf A3:Layout 1

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.

Build the Lenox on BBC Radio London

It has been a very busy few weeks for the Lenox Project, and we’ve got lots of things to share with you, including press coverage and progress on the project.

Last Saturday morning, ahead of Open House weekend, the Lenox Project secretary Helena Russell was interviewed on BBC Radio London, and it’s available to listen to on iplayer until the end of the week.

The link is here – – and it should take you right to the interview, otherwise you can scroll to 2 hours 15 minutes for the start. It’s only available through a regular web browser, not on tablet or iphone apps.

Top historian applauds Lenox project

Painting of The Lenox by Richard Endsor ©2013

Painting of The Lenox by Richard Endsor ©2013

Today, an article in (the official website of BBC History Magazine) quotes Andrew Lambert, professor of Naval History at King’s College London, as welcoming our project. He said, “I have long held a view that the biggest problem we face with history and heritage is that they are static. We need an opportunity to actually watch people making these things. It will mean that over the course of time people will come back, because they will want to see what has happened since they were last there. Having sailed on a replica of Captain Cook’s Endeavour there’s nothing better than the opportunity to sail on a real ship, doing real work. You learn so much more.”

Prof Lambert said the replica will enable historians to better understand the workings of a warship. “It’s about the environment of the ship and how the ship worked. For example, it’s very difficult to fit that many people into the ship – how did they do it? How did they keep everyone fit and healthy, how did they provide food? Are they operating as one team or, as I have long suspected, working as teams of teams?

“Lenox is steeped in the history of this country and she took part in fights that saved the nation. It really is a wonderful opportunity for anyone who is interested in this period to get to grips with the difficult working environment, and it will help us to understand what important people sailors are in the creation of our national history.”

Read the article by Emma McFarnon in full here.

Diary dates: Build the Lenox September events

Saturday 7th September
London’s River Marathon

Featuring the UK Traditional Boat Championship – 21 miles from Docklands to Ham in Surrey – a spectacular boat race up the Thames with 300 crews from all over the globe. With fancy dress and charity stunts as well as serious sportsmen and women.
The Lenox team will be accompanying the VIPs in a support boat and talking more about the project at the finish line. The event programme features a spread on the King’s Yard, its history and the Lenox Project, in celebration of 500 years since the inception of King Henry VIII’s royal naval yard in 1513.

Saturday 14th & Sunday 15th September
A massive celebration which runs for ten days (6th-15th September) featuring river cruises, river relays and races, walks and talks, art exhibitions, plus a spectacular water-borne operatic performance 1513: A Ships’ Opera whose performers include nine ships and HMS Belfast on Saturday evening. Download the programme here.
Build the Lenox will have a stand in the Blue Ribbon Village at Potter’s Fields – an ‘interactive zone’ of organisations involved in the history, ecology and industry of the Thames. We’ll be displaying our restored 1620s naval Saker cannon!

Saturday 21st & Sunday 22nd September, from 10am
OPEN HOUSE LONDON – the capital’s greatest architectural showcase
at the Master Shipwright’s House, Watergate St, SE8
featuring Deptford 500
The Master Shipwright’s House is the oldest surviving building from King Henry VIII’s Royal Naval Dockyard, built in 1513 and remodelled in the early 18th century. The house will be celebrating the quincentenary anniversary of the dockyard – Deptford 500 – with some added attractions and talks, as well as displaying plans and images of the dockyard.
Build the Lenox will be joining in the celebrations.

Deptford 500

My Deptford festival at the South Bank

Build the Lenox project was one of the local community groups from Deptford that were invited to participate in the recent ‘My Deptford’ neighbourhood weekend at the South Bank Centre in central London.

Although we sadly weren’t able to take the cannon into the first floor exhibition area in the Festival Hall, we made very effective use of our new banner to provide an impressive backdrop to the stall.


The ‘ideas market’ played host to other local groups such as APT, Deptford X and Second Wave Arts, and generated interest among South East Londoners who had come specially to attend the event, as well as some of the visitors from around the world who pass through the Festival Hall every day.


The event spaces and ballroom also hosted an exhibition of art from local artists, a replica of the High Street’s famous anchor in cardboard, and a full weekend programme of performances, music, poetry and other events from our many talented neighbours in SE8.