South China Post: Deptford Resisting the Convoys Wharf development
Residents in southeast London have mounted a campaign against plans by Cheung Kong (Holdings) to redevelop a 16-hectare site at Convoys Wharf in Deptford into a mixed high-rise residential and commercial complex.

The move threatens to stall the Hong Kong developer's ambitions to expand its British portfolio.

Cheung Kong and its ports-to-telecoms arm, Hutchison Whampoa, bought the site in May from Rupert Murdoch's News International, the publishing arm of News Corp, for $1.46 billion.

The site was formerly a newsprint and forest products port but has not been used since 2000.

Community activists have been fighting to preserve the site as a commercial waterway by pushing for the development of a cruise liner terminal. They did not rule out taking legal action to challenge Cheung Kong's redevelopment proposal, casting uncertainty over the project.

Bill Ellson, chairman of Creekside Forum, a 300-member community group representing housing associations, businesses and churches, said: "Convoys Wharf is the last remaining site in inner London that has the necessary depth for ocean-going vessels to moor. Once lost to residential development, it will be lost forever.

"Another problem for the redevelopment proposal is there will be too much high-density housing for local services to cope with."

Under News International's master plan, designed by Richard Rogers Partnership, the Convoys Wharf site would be transformed into a luxury residential riverside development of three 26- to 40-storey high-rise towers with 3,500 apartments. It would include 73,000 square metres of office space, about 7,000 square metres of retail space and 23,320 square metres of community facilities.

About half of the Convoys Wharf site is protected by a "safeguarding order" for freight wharfage. Mr Ellson said the proposed mixed development would be in breach of London mayor Ken Livingstone's London Plan, which states that river-related use has to be given priority for any wharf redevelopment.

Planning authority London Borough of Lewisham believed the redevelopment would bring major benefits to Deptford as a whole. The authority had already given approval for the master plan. It will issue a grant of planning permission if Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott does not call in the application for ministerial decision. No timetable has been set.

Mr Ellson said the group was corresponding with the Government Office for London, which will advise the deputy prime minister on whether the matter should be called in. He said that should Mr Prescott fail to call it in, or should the Lewisham Council give permission for the project to go ahead, the group would seek a judicial review in the High Court.

"No safeguarded wharf has been lost without a public inquiry, albeit the drastic reduction at Convoys is being portrayed as reconfiguration," Mr Ellson said.

"This euphemistic approach would not impress a High Court judge, but the precedent of public inquiries over the loss of two or three smaller wharves would."

The group would hold a demonstration on Tuesday against the redevelopment, Mr Ellson said.

However, a source at Richard Rogers Partnership pointed out that a water-based waste recycling plant, a boat-repair yard and a riverboat service were included in its design and these would satisfy the safeguarding order.

Officials from Cheung Kong and the Lewisham Council were not available for comment.

Founded by Henry VIII in 1513 to build ships for the Royal Navy, Convoys Wharf was a major dockyard for centuries. The proposed redevelopment site, one of the biggest in greater London, is part of the government's plan to revitalise the docklands.

"Residential redevelopments for docklands in London have relatively better business potential than anywhere else," said Fiona Sadek, associate director with Colliers International in Britain.

"However, there are always pressure groups against redevelopment schemes, especially those by the Thames. It would be better to work with them, rather than alienate them."

She said the redevelopment could take longer if it became embroiled in a legal row.
More stories:
Londonist: Deptford Clergy Get All Territorial
Transpontine: Save the Hood ("No, not a reference to Respect's hilarious "stop the Hoodie Ban" demo at Elephant and Castle, but a plea to save one of South East London's finest community pubs.")
News Shopper: Residents fight the development
News of Delaware County: Deptford bus driver

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