Friday, March 7, 2014

Richard MacVicar 'MAC' - In His Own Words

I was born in Southhampton on 5 August 1947. Although I was born in England I have always considered myself to be Welsh, in that my father’s side of the family migrated to Wales from the West Coast of Scotland sometime during the late 1870’s and I was brought up in Wales with a Scottish surname.

My parents moved to Wales when I was about 2, to live with my grandparents in Pontypridd. (Pronounced Pont-uh-Preeth). They’d met in London where my father was studying medicine and my mum, who was from Accrington, had qualified as a nurse at Guy’s.

They met at Moorfields hospital so my identity is very much London – Welsh and London is where I’ve chosen to live for almost all my adult life, starting off as that great Welsh export – a teacher.
When I was about 4(‘ish), my parents moved to Cardiff where my father got a job as a G.P in the NHS in Rhiwbina in the north suburbs of Cardiff. By any comparison / standard I had a really good childhood – parents reasonably well off, living on the edge of a city – fields, woods and stream about 200 yards up the road, loads of friends my own age – I was part of the post war “bulge”, but this had a minor downside in that there was not enough junior/secondary school places – Rhydypenau (Reed-uh-pen-ay) Junior School, was the only Junior school in the area. It had an intake of well over 200 in my year (40 to a class, 2 up 2 down individual promotion, relegation). We were all packed into prefabricated wooden boxes with a coal burning stove in the corner, 40 desks and a teacher with a cane. They needed them, given the sort of discipline they were expected to impose in the classroom. Hitting children with weapons was considered to be a legitimate educational technique back then. This sort of worked for me, in that I managed to scrape through the 11+ and get a place at Cathays (Kat-haze) High School, which despite my reservations at the time was the best grammar school in Cardiff, only 33 to a class and talented teachers. There was a great variety of after school activities – choir, orchestra, drama society, film club, really good sports teams and a big sixth form.  We were a privileged group of young people, probably the luckiest of our generation – we had opportunities not given to the 80% of kids who went to secondary moderns, not just in education but as a start in life. With all the great advantages of grammar school education, I chose to take part in the non-academic ones and played hockey for the Welsh Schools, violin in the Cardiff Schools Orchestra etc and really enjoyed my time when I was doing ‘A’ Levels, but didn’t get very good results. So…..

I first came to South East London in 1966/67 to “study” at Thames Polytechnic. Didn’t do much studying and I’m afraid the swinging ‘60s swung past me. As far as I was concerned it didn’t really happen in South East London.  I played a lot of sport as a student, hockey and cricket mostly. I was in the Wales under 22 Hockey Squad – The selectors didn’t think I was good enough for the team. I disagreed, we would have been a much more social side with me in it – beer is an essential part of any athlete’s carbohydrate intake and essential for team bonding. Selectors didn’t see it that way.
With the work I did, I managed to scramble a 3rd Class Hons. BSC. (ECON) in Economic and Social History, which was a surprise to myself and my lecturers. So I was stuck with the problem of what to do with my degree – just like students today, only I had more choice than them. The graduate market wasn’t flooded like it is now. My answer to this problem was to do almost nothing in a career sense – Labourer in the steel works, in Cardiff which was an education in itself – how to survive for 9 months in a work environment which actively discouraged work. Other jobs included delivery driver, sale’s rep, labourer on building sites.

After 2 years of this, I got a phone call from my good friend. Rod Waters, asking me if I wanted a job teaching History at Strand School, Brixton. Strand was an odd place – one of the last surviving all boys grammar Schools in 1973 – a complete anachronism within ILEA politically dominated by Labour. The staff structure was odd too, with half under 35yrs and half over 55yrs – with one teacher in the middle – a really interesting bunch of characters. The school closed in 1976.

Having taught at Strand for 2½ years, I thought I’d learn how to do it properly and got a place at London University Institute of Education when Strand closed. I didn’t really learn too much but had a great year off with an adult students grant and all the fees paid – not like today when a Postgraduate Certificate in Education will cost a small fortune.

I didn’t entirely waste my times at LUIE because another friend from the pub asked me if I wanted a job in Further Education – in Woolwich College. So I took it. All my most successful job interviews took place with a pint of beer in my hand.

At the end of the PGCE year, I was offered a summer job at Deptford Adventure Playground (DAP) – again friend in the pub. Quite a long summer job – 1977–2012 (35 years). The whole process of providing activities for young people – giving them new experiences, skills, games, advice. Information etc was exciting, fun and changed with the different people – staff and young people – so it kept me interested for so long.

I still kept teaching in Further Education part-time until 1996, at Woolwich College, Bexley College and Lewisham College, which supplemented the lousy money paid in Youth Work.
1999 – Vietnamese Youth Project
A community worker in the Vietnamese Community asked me if I could run a Deptford Vietnamese Youth Project at DAP. This time not a job offer in a pub, but I really enjoyed it and made some very good friends.

Voluntary Sector – I always believed in the voluntary sector, the fact small voluntary sector organizations can respond quickly to many of the problems of society and are not encumbered to needless bureaucrats I found this attractive. Noah’s Ark is a good example – started in the early ‘70s by a predecessor of mine at DAP, who realized that the local young people needed somewhere to take a break from urban London throughout the year. Richard and Liz Wilkinson (Also people I met in the pub) developed it into a 1st class residential centre with the help of trustees like myself, who believed they can make beneficial differences to young people’s lives. I joined the board of directors in 1980 and thoroughly enjoyed my association with the project.

Deptford Vietnamese Project – is another example of a Voluntary Sector Project set up quickly to respond to local need. The Vietnamese community in Deptford expanded in the 1980’s and by the late ‘90s there were no projects, which specifically targeted them, so some Vietnamese community leaders asked me to coordinate a scheme for Vietnamese young people at DAP on the days we would normally be closed. I raised some funding from Deptford Youth Forum in 1999 and other sources and off we went.  The idea was to give the Vietnamese young people a space and activities of their own and to help them integrate with the wider community. It was successful, until 2005 when Lewisham pulled the plug on the funding. An example of doing business with people you don’t drink with.

Deptford Youth Forum – Had a bright beginning, but a less then fortunate end. Took over Windsor Castle on Deptford High Street and developed it as a recognised youth centre. Again – meetings in pubs.

Twinkle Park Trust – I was a committee member

Fireworks – Shows at Blackheath, DAP and Honor Oak Adventure Playgound. Always did fireworks at DAP for local area. Honor Oak’s show caused train cancellation in 1998. I was lucky enough to work with some of the UK’s top companies, Millennium Pyrotechnics, Le Maitte, Kimbolton, Emergency Exit Arts and London Pyrotechnics and to use my experience to organise community events. It’s a pity that the Health and Safety discovered us after 10 years, so we had to stop. All good things come to an end.

Mac wrote the above a few weeks ago for Billy Jenkins (who conducted Mac's funeral on 6 March 2014)
Richard MacVicar 5 August 1947 - 12 February 2104. R.I.P.
Links etc

Moorfields Eye Hospital

Rhydypenau Junior School

Cathays High School

Thames Polytechnic was formed in 1969 by the merger of three departments of Hammersmith College of Art and Building, Architecture, Landscape Architecture and Surveying with Woolwich Polytechnic. It became the University of Greenwich in 1992.

Strand School

ILEA (Inner London Education Authority)

LUIE (Institute of Education, University of London)

Woolwich College (amalgamated in 1998 with Greenwich Community College)

Noah's Ark Children's Venture (Macaroni Wood)

Twinkle Park Trust   

Sunday, March 2, 2014

McMillan Herb Garden on the Radio

On Monday 2nd March 2014 Resonance FM have a one hour programme about the Herb Garden. 

Leanne Bower from Resonance FM writes "The McMillan Educational Herb Garden (to use its official title) is an oasis of calm in the ever increasing urban sprawl of Deptford, SE8. It is run by volunteers and provides workshops and horticultural education to local school children and adults alike. In the summer months, it is also a venue for acoustic performances and poetry. In this programme, Dave Suich interviews some of the organisers and volunteers in the garden and plays some of the recordings from the live events that have taken place there. Production by Stephen Elwell for Shopping Trolley Promotions and Leanne Bower for Resonance FM". 

The show is due to be broadcast on Monday 3rd March at 20:00. It will be repeated on Tuesday 4th March at 09:00. Listeners in London can tune in on 104.4FM, or online anywhere on

McMillan Herb Garden website:
and Facebook Page

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Little Howard's Guide To Deptford

As a rather nifty way of plugging his show at the Albany on Sunday Howard Read has uploaded the above video to YouTube.

Little Howard has discovered the pencil that drew him. But, on the other end of this magical pencil of life is the eraser of death, and a dark force is at large determined to rub the cheeky chap out for good. And, as if that wasn’t enough, Big Howard has had a real-life baby who is getting a little too much attention! Can Little Howard escape his supernatural nemesis? How will he get rid of this pesky new arrival? Who knows … but there will be danger, drama and a lot of laughs on the way.

Little Howard and the Magic Pencil of Life and Death
Albany, Douglas Way, SE8 4AG
DATES & TIMES: Sunday 2 March 2014, 3pm
PROMOTIONS Family Ticket £22

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Richard MacVicar - MAC - Funeral Details

Mac's funeral will take place at Honor Oak Crematorium (map below) at 1.45pm on Thursday 6th March 2014. The funeral will be conducted by Billy Jenkins, who many will remember from Pete Pope's funeral. Everybody welcome. No flowers.

Ruth Quach has set up a tribute page on facebook simply called Mac

Many comments have also been made on Noah's Ark Children's Venture's facebook page

View Larger Map

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Richard MacVicar 1947 - 2014

Richard MacVicar 'MAC' who ran the Deptford Adventure Playground in Prince Street until his retirement in the summer of 2012, died this morning. His brother and sister were with him at the end. The world has lost a good guy. RIP Mac.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Joy of SE8

Reverend Casy were formed in late 2009 in New Cross. They have played at Cafe crema, New Cross Inn, Goldsmiths and the Bird's Nest as well as further afield in Nunhead, Camden, Hackney, Whitstable, Canterbury and Leigh-on-Sea. 

No gigs scheduled at the moment, but if you like their Facebook page  you will be the first to know of any bookings. 

Their album Strike Like Lighting is available on iTunes and at various other places

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Deptford Challenge Trust Small Grants Fund 2014

FUNDING WORKSHOP - Thursday 6 February - Deptford Lounge
Deptford Challenge Trust Small Grants Fund 2014

If you are a Deptford or Lewisham-based voluntary group, charity, not-for-profit organisation or social enterprise and are looking for funding to do a project within the Deptford community, please come along to this workshop to find out more about the fund. The fund is aimed at addressing: crime & anti-social behaviour, provision for older people, unemployment, healthy lifestyles and provision for young people. There will be a chance to discuss your project and gain advice on completing your application.

You can apply for up to £5,000 for up to 1 year, and further information is available on The London Community Foundation’s website:

Date:                     Thu 6th Feb 2014
Time:                     6.30pm-8pm
Venue:                  Deptford Lounge, 9 Giffin Street London SE8 4RJ, Room 4

Please contact Donna Yay at The London Community Foundation on 020 7582 5117 or for more information.

Donna Yay / Programme and Relationships Manager

The London Community Foundation
Unit 7 Piano House
9 Brighton Terrace

Main office telephone 0207 582 5117
Fax 0207 582 4020

Registered Charity 1091263 | Company Number 4383269

Friday, January 24, 2014

Video - House of Commons debate re Convoys Wharf

Adjournment debate in the House of Commons regarding the national heritage significance of Convoys Wharf, Deptford. A full transcript of the debate is here.
    Get Adobe Flash player

Thursday, January 23, 2014

House of Commons: Convoys Wharf

 Dame Joan Ruddock MP made an excellent speech yesterday outlining the historic significance of Convoys Wharf. The wharf is currently the subject of an application for outline planning permission made by site owners Hutchison Whampoa, but if Joan had directly raised planning issues then she would have been curtly referred to the Mayor of London (Boris Johnson) who is due to decide whether planning permission should be granted. By concentrating on heritage matters she was able to elicit a response from the government. By putting forward a factual, unembellished, unexaggerated description of the site and its importance she was able to elicit what is, in the circumstances, a very positive response from the government.
Full text of the debate:
Convoys Wharf, Deptford

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Mr Evennett.)
6:54 pm

Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford, Labour)

I am extremely grateful to you, Mr Speaker, for granting me this Adjournment debate. My purpose in calling it is to share with the House one of London’s best kept secrets and one of its greatest opportunities.

Fifteen years ago, representatives of News International contacted me to announce the closure of Convoys Wharf. I met them on site, going down a narrow street in Deptford through an industrial gate set in high fences. I came upon a huge area of concrete peppered with massive sheds stretching to the waterfront. It was a vast, forlorn, windy expanse with a footprint similar to the whole of the south bank. My immediate fear was that the site was destined for millionaires’ housing, a gated community cut off from the rest of Deptford that would continue the hundreds of years of local people’s exclusion from their own Thames waterfront. Then I discovered that Convoys Wharf was the site of Henry VIII’s naval shipyard and the home of the great diarist John Evelyn. I sensed that this would be an historic battle, and so it has been, as I, with local people and Lewisham council planners led by John Miller, have sought recognition of the site’s supreme importance and of the imperative to secure a development appropriate to its unique heritage.

Let me outline the historical record, which I have taken—often verbatim—from the Museum of London archaeology report. The record goes back to the Domesday Book and the manor of Grenviz, the present-day Deptford. In the late 12th century, the manor passed to the de Says family, who named it Sayes court. The mediaeval manor house of Sayes court, which was constructed of wood, was certainly in existence in 1405.

Deptford increasingly felt the influence of Greenwich palace. It was given a great boost when Henry VIII decided to found a royal dockyard there. Lambarde wrote of Deptford:

“This towne was of none estimation at all until King Henrie the eighth advised (for the better preservation of the Royal fleete) to erect a storehouse, and to create certaine officers there”.

This Tudor storehouse was the nucleus of the shipyard. Erected in 1513, it survived in part until 1952. The great dock was probably built at this time, and the old pond at Deptford strand was adapted as a basin to accommodate ships in 1517. In 1581, Sir Francis Drake’s ship the Golden Hind was lodged in a specially constructed brick dock, becoming one of London’s very first tourist attractions. For 400 years, Deptford was the powerhouse of England’s navy. Local boat builder Julian Kingston has recorded:

“Hundreds of warships and countless trading vessels were built or refitted here including ships for exploration, science and empire. It was the ‘Cape Canaveral’ of its day and is associated with the great mariners of the time, such as Drake, Rayleigh and Cook”.

In 1653, John Evelyn took up residence in Sayes court. He modernised the house and laid out its vast gardens. He began with an orchard of 300 mixed fruit trees, and went on to create groves of elm and of walnut trees, a huge holly hedge, plots for melons, pears and beans, as well as a moated island for raspberries and asparagus, beehives and a carp pond. It was here that Evelyn carried out his planting trials, which formed the basis of his famous treatise “Sylva, or A Discourse of Forest-Trees”.

That other illustrious diarist Samuel Pepys recorded two visits to John Evelyn’s gardens in 1665. He saw

“a hive of bees, so as being hived in glass you may see the bees making their honey and combs mighty pleasantly”,

and Evelyn

“showed me his gardens, which are for variety of evergreens, and hedge of holly, the finest things I ever saw in my life.”

Samuel Pepys had major business at the dockyard, having been put in charge of Charles II’s great “thirty shipbuilding programme” in 1677. The Lenox, to which I will refer later, was the first of the ships to be built. In 1708, Master Shipwright Joseph Allin built a house on the site, and it remains intact today. It was bought in 1998 by William Richards and Chris Mazeika who are continuously restoring it. As shipbuilding developed, the slipways became vast structures of brick, concrete and timber and were then provided with cover buildings, an example of which is the Olympia.

The Olympia was constructed from 1844 to 1846 and remains on site today.

Let me return to Sayes court. When John Evelyn moved out in 1694, it was rented to, among others, Tsar Peter the Great, who came to Deptford to study shipbuilding. He is reported to have trashed the house and garden during his wild parties. Specifically, he drove a wheelbarrow through the famous hedge. Sayes court changed ownership a number of times and became absorbed into the dockyard expansion of 1830.

In 1869, William John Evelyn, who was a descendant of the original John Evelyn, bought back part of the site. His attempts to preserve the park and museum for the public led him to contact Octavia Hill. Realising that there was no existing legal form that could secure such protection, Hill set about establishing the organisation that was to become the National Trust. Seventeen years later, the gardens were given to the public, only to face their final demise in 1914, when they were leased as a horse transport reserve depot. The gardens were built over and the house was used by the War Office. The last elements of Sayes court manor house were demolished at some time around 1930. It was the Ministry of Defence that eventually sold the site now known as Convoys Wharf to News International in 1979.

In 1952 a debate ensued over the demolition of the Tudor storehouse. It was not listed, despite the existence of a Tudor arch that was 10 feet high and 6 feet wide and a foundation stone bearing the inscription,

“Henricus Rex annus Christi 1513”.

Twenty thousand Tudor bricks were disposed of—some, we believe, to help rebuild the buildings at Hampton Court—and the arch and stone were given to University College London, where they are housed today in the computing department. After a successful campaign by the community group, “Deptford Is”, UCL has agreed to return the artefacts. The campaign has now turned its attention to the clock that was part of the 18th-century storehouse, which currently resides in the car park of the Thamesmead shopping centre.

That is the extraordinary history of Convoys Wharf, which is now the subject of an outline planning application that has been handed to the Greater London authority by the current owners, Hutchison Whampoa. Over the past 13 years, we have struggled to persuade the various developers, architects and master planners to understand the huge responsibility that they have to honour the site’s heritage. Sadly, we have not been helped by the lack of interest from English Heritage.

In 1999, Alan Howarth conducted a ministerial review of royal dockyards to upgrade listing and scheduling. Deptford dockyard was omitted because it was believed at the time that the only structures of value were the Olympia and the Master Shipwright’s house. An application was submitted locally in 2002, which resulted in the scheduling of the undercroft of the 1513 Tudor storehouse a year later. In 2009, another application was submitted by local people to list the docks, slips, basin and mast ponds. English Heritage recommended not to list. There were many errors in the report and the decision was contested. English Heritage withdrew its recommendation. The Council for British Archaeology and the Naval Dockyards Society, supported by local historians, requested that the case be reopened in 2012. Again English Heritage recommended not to list. The Council for British Archaeology then initiated a freedom of information inquiry, which revealed errors and obfuscation resulting in further exchanges. Last year English Heritage recommended the statutory protection of the dockyard wharf wall and the upgrading of the Master Shipwright’s house. Many features remain without protection and await consideration of the final archaeological survey. I am, however, pleased to report that relations with English Heritage have much improved.

Given the GLA’s wish to determine next month, will the Minister activate an emergency listing and scheduling procedure based on the available archaeology? That would ensure that Hutchinson Whampoa and the GLA proceeded with the full knowledge of the heritage protections on the site and how they should influence design and construction decisions. That brings me to the most exciting part of this 21st-century saga. As developers’ plans have come forward, so too have local aspirations. We want to create a destination that both honours the past and creates a vision of the future that embraces the vibrant and dynamic community that is Deptford. Two projects would fulfil that ambition and demand incorporation at this stage of the planning process.

The Sayes Court Garden project, developed by Roo Angell and Bob Bagley and their architect David Kohn, seeks to create a new garden and a centre for urban horticulture. In their own words:

“The remarkable history of Sayes Court is filled with bold ideas which understood that contact with nature is an essential part of healthy urban life. Sayes Court Garden is a project inspired by this history of innovation. Combining stimulating design with a programme which brings together all stages of education, from primary schools and practical training to the latest research, Sayes Court is a garden for the 21st century.”

A comprehensive archaeological survey has revealed the traces of early walls found below an 18th-century building on the site of Sayes court, and nearby garden walls have been confidently reconciled with map evidence of Evelyn’s home. Hutchison Whampoa has recognised the value of these remains and plans to make them viewable. It has also embraced the Sayes court garden project, but in their plan the new buildings will obliterate much of the original garden site and isolate the proposed centre. English Heritage shares our view that the centre for urban horticulture should respond to the archaeology and be set within an open space. Does the Minister support this view?

The second project, led by Julian Kingston, proposes to build a replica of the great 17th-century wooden ship, the Lenox. The Lenox would be built using modern techniques and enable apprentices to be trained in modern transferable skills. The project also intends to encompass research and training in heritage crafts. Once again, Hutchison Whampoa has recognised the groundswell of support for the Lenox project, but failed to place it appropriately in its plans.

The massive Grade II listed Olympia building, which is 75 metres by 62 metres and 17 metres high, sits at the heart of Convoys Wharf and covers the recently excavated slips on which 19th-century ships were built. Internally, the building boasts wrought iron tied-arch roofs, two of the only seven remaining structures to survive nationally. It is the perfect location for the Lenox project and a host of supporting cultural activities.

In front of the Olympia building is the site of the great basin. Restored or rebuilt, this would provide a means of launching a completed replica ship into the Thames and could replace the water body that the owners currently plan to site elsewhere. Will the Minister confirm that English Heritage has no objection to these plans for the Olympia building and great basin? Will he also acknowledge that the experts believe that proper consideration of the heritage assets will necessitate changes to the master plan?

Finally, let me try to describe the overall development. Yes, it will provide hundreds of luxury waterfront dwellings in very high towers to which many have objections, and many issues will have to be debated and determined at later stages of the planning application about the massing and transport, but the site could also offer an amazing place for locals, new residents and visitors alike. The development would be approached through the extensive Sayes court garden, leading to the horticultural centre and the Olympia building with its myriad activities, and on to the water basin leading to the Thames. It would be a place of which everyone in Deptford could be proud, a place that would sit alongside the world heritage sites that are Greenwich, the Cutty Sark and the National Maritime Museum, a place offering green lungs and riverside walks in the heart of the inner city, a place giving new hope to young people of training and jobs and to enterprising local artists and entrepreneurs. It would be not just for the people of Deptford and Lewisham, but for London and those way beyond this great city. Once again, Deptford and its dockyards could become a jewel in London’s crown.

7:12 pm

Edward Vaizey (The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport; Wantage, Conservative)

I am grateful for the opportunity to reply to the right hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Dame Joan Ruddock), whom I congratulate on calling this important debate. I have listened with interest to her remarks on the historic importance of Convoys Wharf, and I certainly echo everything she said.

Convoys Wharf has been one of London’s best-kept secrets. I am not sure how far I should go in revealing my ignorance, but I am pleased that I am now in the position, thanks to her, of being full apprised of this heritage jewel sitting at the heart of our great capital city. At a time when London is once again one of the pre-eminent cities in the world, it is worth our recalling that one of the reasons it is so successful is its rich history and heritage. It says in my brief that Convoys Wharf is of historic interest—well, that has to be the understatement of the century. It is incredibly important. Henry VIII founded his dockyard there, Elizabeth I knighted Francis Drake there and John Evelyn’s house is there—Mr Speaker, you and I will recall the importance that John Evelyn played in our university life, as the diarist of the Cherwell newspaper.

The Master Shipwright’s house and the former dockyard office buildings are grade II* listed, which means that they are more than of special interest, and the Olympia building is grade II listed. We have scheduled as an ancient monument the remains of the Tudor naval storehouse, and more recently, in November, I was privileged to have the opportunity to list the dockyard river wall. And of course there might be further archaeological interest on the site, which is why English Heritage, my statutory adviser on the historic environment, is considering an interim archaeological report to see if anything substantial remains of the original Tudor dockyard.

On a wider point, it is important to say that heritage sits at the heart of many regeneration schemes. The most recent success is King’s Cross station and St Pancras, which is a great example of a Victorian station brought back to life. I was amazed and heartened to hear the other day that the French transport Minister had described St Pancras as the most beautiful railway station in Europe. It is important to put that on the record in the British Parliament.

Focusing on heritage is, as the right hon. Lady points out, not only important for our history—I am passionate, as she is, about heritage—but creates significant benefits for local economies and communities. It breathes new life into areas; it is essential to the economic and social revival of our towns and cities.

I was talking specifically about Convoys Wharf and I mentioned the archaeological report that English Heritage is carrying out for me. In a sense, that answers the first question put to me. The right hon. Lady asked whether I would activate an emergency listing or scheduling procedure. I expect English Heritage to report very soon on whether other parts of the site should be scheduled. I can give her an undertaking this evening that I will consider the report the minute it arrives, and take a decision based on its recommendations in short order.

Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford, Labour)

I am extremely grateful to the Minister for his remarks so far. I was told, however, that the report and relevant information and advice would not be finalised until the end of this year. That was, of
course, a great concern because we are in a period in which the outline planning application could be determined as quickly as next month.

Edward Vaizey (The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport; Wantage, Conservative)

That is interesting. I was unaware that the right hon. Lady had been told that. My understanding is that I can expect to receive the report in February. If that is wrong, I will write to the right hon. Lady, but judging from certain nods I am being given, I am pretty certain that that is the case. I will let the right hon. Lady know as soon as possible if that is incorrect.

Having set out the importance of heritage, it is also obviously important that London has redevelopment. Convoys Wharf is the largest redevelopment area in inner London. I cannot really comment on the specific proposals, particularly when I might be asked to consider further elements of the site for scheduling or listing. Echoing what the right hon. Lady said, I can say that English Heritage has been involved in discussions about the site for more than 10 years and is now fully engaged in the process. It has identified potential heritage significance and it will, in its statutory planning role, provide expert advice to the authorities on aspects of the proposals.

It is important to remember that, in preparing development plans and determining requests for planning permission, planning authorities, including the Mayor, need to have regard to the national planning policy framework, including its policies on conserving and enhancing the historic environment. Those policies look to control potentially harmful changes, seeking instead to deliver positive improvements in quality. The NPPF promotes quality in our built environment and balances conservation of the best of our past with support for innovative new design. With that in mind, schedule areas and listed buildings can be given the adequate protection they deserve from both the developer and planners. It is worth pointing out that listing does not amount to a preservation order. The listed building consent regime is built on the philosophy that the best way of securing the upkeep of historic buildings is to keep them in active use.

That brings me back to the proposals that the right hon. Lady has told us about today. Let me comment on some of the specific questions she put to me. She asked about the centre for urban horticulture and whether it should respond to the archaeology and be set within an open space. My understanding is that English Heritage considers that the proposed orientation of the blocks does not best reflect the archaeology in respect of the relationship of Sayes court to its garden landscape. It believes that the remains of Sayes court and its garden landscape would be better reflected by making the relationship more legible. The concept of a centre for urban horticulture, incorporating and presenting the remains of Sayes court, is a potentially attractive one—one that better reflects the historic relationship. I believe it is important to note the views of English Heritage in that regard.

The right hon. Lady talked about the exciting Lenox proposal to rebuild one of Charles II’s ships within the Olympia—according to its plans, but obviously not to rebuild it with the original material—and to restore or rebuild the great basin in front of it. Because it has not seen the plans for the scheme, English Heritage cannot comment on it specifically. 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.

The right hon. Lady asked me whether I would acknowledge that the experts believe that proper consideration of the heritage assets should lead to changes in the master plan. I fear that, technically, I must duck that question, as it is clearly for the developers to take into account any listings and scheduling.

Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford, Labour)

There is an issue about whether the basin might be renovated, or whether a new basin might be built within it. There is confusion over whether English Heritage thinks one thing or the other, but 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. I wonder whether I might invite the Minister to examine that issue further, and then write to me.

Edward Vaizey (The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport; Wantage, Conservative)

I will certainly seek clarification from English Heritage in regard to its understanding of what is proposed and of what may be possible, and also in regard to its attitude in principle. However, the overriding principle, which I think we all understand, is that the archaeology must not be damaged in any way.

I recognise the commitment that the right hon. Lady has shown to this project over many years in order to ensure that the architectural heritage was preserved and that we could work towards a better solution. I should also acknowledge the work 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.

Finally, let me put myself at the right hon. Lady’s disposal. If she needs me to convene a meeting with the developers, with the Greater London Association, or with anyone else whose views she believes are relevant, I stand ready to assist her in any way that she considers suitable.

Question put and agreed to.

House adjourned.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Commons to debate Convoys Wharf heritage issues

Joan Ruddock MP has secured an adjournment debate in the House of Commons on Wednesday 22 January 2014 to discuss the 'Relevance of national heritage issues in the development of Convoys Wharf, Deptford.'

The debate, which will be held at the end of Wednesday's business (probably at about 7.00pm) will last about half-an-hour. Joan Ruddock will speak and a Minister, presumeably a junior minister from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport will reply. Joan will not have a right of response to the minister, but will be able to intervene in the Minister's speech if the Minister is willing to give way.

As related by the Deptford Dame the London Borough of Lewisham's Strategic Planning Committee resolved last night, Thursday 16 Jan 2014, that the Mayor of London (Boris) be advised that the current proposals for Convoys Wharf should not be approved. The first two reasons given being the relationship with Historic Buildings and Spaces.

They Work for You, Upcoming business, Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Adjournment debates