New Southwark Plan

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New Southwark Plan

As residents of Herne Hill since 1987 and working in the Bath Factory Estate for the last 20 years we feel it is important that the existing nature of the Bath Factory Estate be clarified.  It would appear that there has been a certain amount of misinformation concerning the area, as highlighted at the recent consultation in the Baptist Church on April 19th 2017.

The many small and entrepreneurial businesses currently occupying the site range from mechanics to craftspeople, artists, artisans, community led groups and initiatives.  Indeed there is a strong communal sense here, with 'businesses' often interacting and sharing skills and expertise on singular projects.  

Our business is not traditional in the sense of being retail or indeed standardised commercial, we are artists, Members of The Royal British Society of Sculptors and Chelsea Arts Club, therefore requiring a suitable studio in which to create our work.  The nature of our practice does not sit alongside residential density or retail establishments but our longevity in the unit speaks for itself and the acceptance and generosity of the area.  Our unit backs onto the gardens along Stradella Road and faces the back gardens of Croxted Road.

There are currently only two unoccupied units on the site, however enquiries about unit space availability are frequent as more and more sites of this nature have been 'developed' and many small concerns have lost their premises.  Most of these enquiries have been from members of the artistic community. 

We are all aware that the estate and the parade of retail units on Norwood Road requires investment as they have been sorely neglected by Dulwich Estates, Network Rail and May Investments Ltd [who hold the lease to the arch units]  however this should not encourage or necessitate demolition or extensive redevelopment.  There are valid concerns about refuse collection and fly-tipping, which is a constant issue.  These concerns have solutions at a local level and should not be presented as a reason for redevelopment.

A regeneration involving residential accommodation on the upper floors of a newly created run of retail units along Norwood Road would have a most detrimental effect on accessibility for current businesses many of whom, including ourselves, work 7 days a week.

This is one of the last areas of diverse and creative small enterprises and as such should be valued, encouraged and viewed not as a pariah but rather as a tremendous community asset.

I thought that everyone was

I thought that everyone was behind you?  How is that not the case?

Hi Lizzy, Yes, the support to

Hi Lizzy, Yes, the support to save independent enterprise is there and from the Baptist Church meeting a unanimous declaration that neither traders or residents want to see a development that exceeds two stories in height.  One of our major concerns however, is about the reclassification of the arch units to A1 usage, so retail etc from the current light industrial categories, which of course will force out the majority of current enterprises.  We should know more when the council planners hold another public meeting in the autumn, where they'll be presenting a more formal proposal. 

Independent Traders & Artisans are welcome

Hello DnA Factory

Like you, I've lived in Herne Hill some time. Independent traders and artisans have always been and will continue to be welcome in Herne Hill. I wasn't able to attend the presentation meeting. Did you go? Wont existing tenants be offered the units on a first refusal basis similar to the current Network Rail Station Square refit? My expectation is that its something that could be negotiated when going through planning. I can't see Landlords or Southwark Council wanting to turn away current businesses.

'regeneration involving residential accommodation on the upper floors of a newly created run of retail units along Norwood Road would have a most detrimental effect on accessibility'

I have a couple questions on what you've said above.

Was it suggested that the current Norwood Road retail units be demolished and rebuilt or the current units remain in place and extended 1 floor upwards for housing? I've not read anything anywhere about demolition.

How will housing above retail units on Norwood Road cause a detrimental effect on accessibility?

Hi there,  Yes we attended

Hi there,  Yes we attended the presentation meeting, there will be another in the autumn where a more formal proposal will be put forward by the council, for discussion.  They aim to have a completed plan by spring of 2018.

With regard to the first refusal being offered to existing tenants in the event of arch unit refurbishment, the most obvious problems associated with this are : 1. Relocation for the time taken with refurbishment resulting in a dislocation of service. 2. Actual duration of refurbishment [subject case being the Station Square development]. 3. New contracts and increased rents upon return. 4. Reclassification of use, ie. upgraded property class.  All these points can often make it financially unviable for small traders to return.

At the meeting it was indeed suggested that the run of shops could be demolished and new retail units with residential above could be built. The detrimental affect, certainly for the adjacent arch units will be accessibility of use.  At the moment all the traders on BFE have 24 hour, 7 days access.  Residential property, so close in proximity to these units will naturally truncate these terms of use with issues of noise, for example.  The one good result with regards to the recent meeting was a unanimous vote against any development greater than two stories [inclusive of the retail units] this from traders, residents and trader/residents.

I would agree with everything

I would agree with everything the DNA Factory said above. I was also at the planning meeting and the general perception among residents seemed to be that the Bath Factory Estate is a scruffy underused space that would be much better off turned into flats and shops. It's true that it's scruffy but it is absolutely not underused. It's full of small businesses that can afford the rent because it's a bit scruffy and that can operate because there is no housing immediately nearby.

I'm a member of the South London Makerspace which is a social community workshop in one of the arches directly behind Costcutter. It is an amazing space built entirely by volunteers that provides 24 hour access to workshop space and tools, and is the home of a wonderful community of makers, craftspeople and hackers. Anyone can join and we have an open evening every Wednesday from 7:30 where anyone who wants to find out more is welcomed and given a tour. If the other arches were re-classified for retail use and flats were added to the buildings on Norwood Road, we would likely be unable to afford the rent and we would certainly get complaints from residents about noise and activity during the night. A lot of members use the space late into the night after finishing day jobs. The brilliant non-profit organic vegetable scheme Local Greens also occupy one of the arches, they moved in after having to leave their last premises because of complaints from local residents about night time deliveries.  

London needs places exactly like the Bath Factory Estate where people can come together and create jobs and communities. The flytipping near the gate is horrible but please don't think that's all there is to it or that turning the estate into flats and smart shops is the way forward. It would be a great loss if the nature of the estate was to change.

Also to respond to iHeron's

Also to respond to iHeron's questions above - the meeting was about agreeing planning principles specific to the Bath Factory Estate, should the owners (Network Rail & the Dulwich Estate) decide to apply for permission to redevelop it, rather than to discuss an existing application.

The issues under consideration included reclassifying the arches from light inductrial use to retail, granting permission to develop along Norwood Road, and deciding what height development might be permitted. There seemed to be a presupposition that adding residential space would be a good thing but for the current occupiers of the arches that would mean basically us all being evicted. Hence our dismay, because there really aren't many places like this left in London and they're so important to so many people. To anyone curious about what goes on in the estate, please do come along to one of our open evenings at the South London Makerspace.

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