Details of the proposed Piazza Square

Buildings to be removed in the Blackheath Square Piazza proposal

Buildings to be removed in the Blackheath Square Piazza proposal

Following the fuss on the previous post about the plans to develop the car park behind the library, I thought I’d try and take a look at the proposals.  Four times I’ve tried to get into the Blackheath Halls, and every single time they were closed!  I’ve finally managed, and thought I’d put the photos and captions up here, so that more people can see them.  They don’t appear to be on the Blackheath Society’s website, which is unfortunate, as it seems to have led some commenters to suspect a “stitch up”.

I’m putting the photos up here, as I think they have public benefit.  If the copyright holders want them removed, I will take them down.

The proposals seem to have many good points, but it is such a shame that they aren’t pushing ahead for the original plan – to cover a large proportion of the railway next to the chip shop and turn it into a large, pedestrian only space.  It would have been brilliant.  I can understand the concerns that have been raised about new buildings – the site is “underused”, as they describe it (I’m still not sure I agree with that concept – the trains certainly aren’t “underused” in the mornings – increasing population density has many knock-on effects).

In the end, it seems that the proposals have a sense of a “pact with the devil” about them – property developers are good at pushing for what they want, whereas local societies (even effective ones, such as Blackheath’s) will never be a match for their professional bargaining skills.  What they need is do find a wealthy local benefactor, who would fund the original plans, and suggest naming the square after him/her…  Ferrari Square? :)

They’ve asked for comments on the proposals – so please do give them, firstly to their email address blackheath.soc@lineone.net and also here if you have time to do both.  If anyone knows anything about the area (B) “owned by a family trust”, I’d be interested – it seems a very discreet way of writing about the ownership of the land.

Anyway – here’s the best I could do with my blurry camera-phone:

History of the site:

The site where Blackheath Village Library now stands was from 1863 until 1845 occupied by a much larger building – the 1,000 seat Methodist church with 120ft tower and a Sunday school to the north.  In 1945 a WW2 bomb destroyed the church and many surrounding buildings.

1920s map of how the carpark area looked

Ordnance Survey plan of about 1920 showing the Methodist church and Sunday school.

In 1961 the present “library block” filled the gap, but from several points of view filled it unsatisfactorily.  At two storeys, it is dwarfed by the neighbouring Barclays Bank, stylistically it is weak and unappealing.

In development terms, the building and the private and public car parks behind it represent a gross under-use of a key site in the heart of the Village.

To the north and east of the site, houses which had been damaged beyond repair at the western ends of Wemyss Road, and Blackheath Grove were replaced by five and four storey blocks of flats in the 1950s.  These were joined in the 1990s by a four storey block “The Point”, with basement car parking on the site of the former Express Dairy bottling plant.

Proposals:

The idea of a “piazza” in the heart of Blackheath Village sprang from public consultation on the Blackheath Society’s 2001 proposals for improving the Village.  Our initial ideas were ambitious: a huge raft over the railway stretching from the bridge to the post office, paid for by accompanying development.  But the amount of development needed to pay for such a raft would have dwarfed existing buildings.

What we are now suggesting – our “Plan B” – is more modest but in many ways better.  It demolishes the present library block and substitutes a new development, set further back and partly on the site of the existing public car park.  It would be taller than the existing building but comparable in height to its neighbours Barclays Bank and the Grove House flats.

The Blackheath Society would not, of course, undertake the development.  Our role is to show what is possible, likely to receive planning permission, and acceptable to Blackheath people.  We would then, with the owners of the site – Lewisham Council and a family trust – seek a developer or development partner to carry the scheme forward.

Ownership of the land on the proposed Blackheath Square Piazza

The current proposal focuses on the public cark park (A) owned by Lewisham council, and the library block and its private car park (B) owned by a family trust. Part of Blackheath Grove (C) would be incorporated into the new square.

Railway wall plan

Despite the acknowledged costs and difficulties of building over the railway cutting, we believe that a good case can be made for a small, prefabricated, lightweight pedestrian deck by the chip shop. Together with a ramped footpath down towards the Post Office, the deck would ease pedestrian movement between the Village and the Square. The could be combined with the redevelopment of the chip shop to provide a three-storey (unreadable - #### ###) building fronting the deck. The existing parapet wall would be partially removed to give access and a clearer view through to the square.

Initial design for Blackheath Square Piazza

Initial ideas looked at a wider area including the yard to the north and the railway cutting to the south. The illustration shows how buildings and a deck over the railway could have looked.

Blackheath Square piazza railway cutting

Photo showing the railway area, part of which would be covered.

A dissenting view of the plans for the square in Blackheath

A dissenting view of the plans for the square in Blackheath

Another plan of the area

Another plan of the area, hopelessly blurry, sorry...

The exhibition at the Blackheath Halls

The exhibition at the Blackheath Halls

An artist's impression of how the Blackheath Square could look

Where is the post office?!

The idea of a “piazza” in the heart of Blackheath Village sprang from public consultation on the Blackheath Society’s

2001 proposals for improving the Village.  Our initial ideas were ambitious: a huge raft over the railway stretching

from the bridge to the post office, paid for by accompanying development.  But the amount of development needed

to pay for such a raft would have dwarfed existing buildings.

What we are now suggesting – our “Plan B” – is more modest but in many ways better.  It demolishes the present

library block and substitutes a new development, set further back and partly on the site of the existing public car

park.  It would be taller than the existing building but comparable in height to its neighbours Barclays Bank and the

Grove House flats.

The Blackheath Society would not, of course, undertake the development.  Our role is to show what is possible, likely

to receive planning permission, and acceptable to Blackheath people.  We would then, with the owners of the site –

Lewisham Council and a family trust – seek a developer or development partner to carry the scheme forward.

plan caption:
The current proposal focuses on the public cark park (A) owned by Lewisham council, and the library block and its

private car park (B) owned by a family trust.  Part of Blackheath Grove (C) would be incorporated into the new

square.

wall plan:
Despite the acknowledged costs and difficulties of building over the railway cutting, we believe that a good case can

be made for a small, prefabricated, lightweight pedestrian deck by the chip shop.  Together with a ramped foothpath

down towards the Post Office, the deck would ease pedestrian movement between the Village and the Square.  The

could be combined with the redevelopment of the chip shop to provide a three-storey #### ### building fronting

the deck.  The existing parapet wall would be partially removed to give access and a clearer view through to the

square.

nice plan

Initial ideas looked at a wider area including the yard to the north and the railway cutting to the south.  The

illustration shows how buildings and a deck over the railway could have looked.

History of the site:
The site where Blackheath Village Library now stands was from 1863 until 1845 occupied by a much larger building –

the 1,000 seat Methodist church with 120ft tower and a Sunday school to the north.  In 1945 a WW2 bomb destroyed

the church and many surrounding buildings.

In 1961 the present “library block” filled the gap, but from several points of view filled it unsatisfactorily.  At two

storeys, it is dwarfed by the neighbouring Barclays Bank, stylistically it is weak and unappealing.

In development terms, the buidling and the private and public car parks behind it represent a gross under-use of a

key site in the heart of the Village.

To the north and east of the site, houses which had been damaged beyond repair at the western ends of Wemyss

Road, and Blackheath Grove were replaced by five and four storey blocks of flats in the 1950s.  These were joined in

the 1990s by a four storey block “The Point”, with basement car parking on the site of the former Express Dairy

bottling plant.

OSplan:
Ordnance Survey plan of about 1920 showing the Methodist church and Sunday school.

19 Comments

Filed under architecture, blackheath, photography

19 responses to “Details of the proposed Piazza Square

  1. streetfieldmews

    It’s the first I’ve heard about this I have to say. Despite it’s lack of architectural merit, the Library is an important centre for lots of people, as is the PO (which is a nice building!). It would be a shame to lose one or both, even temporarily. Hard to see what they are really planning, but thanks for putting it up. Could be good for the Village if done right.

  2. john dawson

    Everyone knows that idealised architect drawings have very little credibility.
    The pedestrians shown dawdling in the pretty picture would be mown down by cars coming in and out of the car park, Post Office vans and the dozens of motorists who did not realise that Blackheath Grove was a cul de sac. (Believe me this happens, despite the signposts). Add to this mix the residents and the many BHA permit holders that use this street as parking for quick shopping and you would soon realise that a piazza in this configuration just would not work.
    In retrospect the original plan looks gorgeous!

    • Chris Nelson

      yes – the drawings commissioned by the Blackheath Society to promote Selwyn Court V2 are in some ways more a fiction than idealised. For example, a mature tree is shown to the front of the block whereas none grows there. In fact, a mature tree will have to be felled to accomodate the new library building.

  3. First I’ve heard of this – thanks for keeping us informed, Bugle! I tend to agree with john dawson. The original plan looks and sounds like it has merit. This second one? I’m not so sure.

    And by how much would the carpark be reduced? I know parking lots aren’t popular but they bring people into the village who may not come if they can’t find somewhere to park… and that’s not good for the village, either.

    • Chris Nelson

      re the carpark – the current pay car park has thirty places with a very high turnover. The average stay seems to be about 30 minutes. There are also 4 free disabled spaces and 20 private places behind the library, restaurant & hairdressers. The proposed development will have 30 places. The mix of private, disabled and pay has not been announced. That’s a 40% reduction in places whilst the new block will have 40 households and an unspecified number of commercial premises plus a new all singing, all dancing library (if Lewisham Council can afford to staff it more than three days a week) some of whose users will arive by car. The households will not be given residents permits but presumably they will have visitors & tradesman with vehicles and of course the new commercial premises will also have deliveries, customers, etc. So a large increase in demand for parking and a 40% reduction in the current capacity. I leave you draw your own conclusions.

  4. EnglishRose

    I’m appalled by the current proposals. The Village has a very special character which I fear would be totally destroyed by an ugly, ill-conceived and overcrowded development. Plan A looks far better; despite the Society’s comments it doesn’t seem to dwarf surrounding buildings and looks to be in keeping with the surrounding architecture. If funding is an issue, perhaps they could investigate some sort of link with the proposed Olympic development in the park (which I also hate…..but which I suspect is going to go ahead anyway!)?

  5. bottom line is we should oppose the watered down inferior plan B version – and support Plan A – if we need extra monies what about something from the National Lottery or someother source . Blackheath deserves top quality not second rate design .

  6. Anonymous

    Lewisham has been trying to get shot of the library for years, Royal Mail is desperate to move out of the sorting office and Post Office counters wants an in-store franchise handled by an outfit like Martins. The first sniff of potential redevelopment and they will disappear.

    PS: the family trust may be related to either a 999-year lease for the former church or the pre-library occupier – a plumbing merchant. A Land Registry search (£4) would reveal all.

    PPS: I hope that BlackSoc has studied ground conditions as part of its economic appraisal. The water table is very close to the surface, as this is a former river course [see old maps for open water further down the railway line]. Work on the neighbouring posh flats which replaced the engineering works [which had replaced the old Express Dairy] was disrupted by flooding and required piling that nearly reached Australia.

  7. Alice

    Hi I know it’s off topic but did you know that the Blackwall Tunnel Southbound will be closed from 9pm (except Saturdays) for 3 years from 7th Feb. Here’s the Facebook group link

    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=270432323947&ref=nf

  8. Dan

    I’ve just been to the facebook action group page above. They need more members … Start spreading the word…

  9. Olly Knight

    Just came back from Blackheath Library after raiding their 20p book sale. Turns out they’re not closing for three months for a refurb. Greenwich Library is though.

  10. Blackheathen

    As you may have read me say before, a member of the Blackheath Society said that most people would like to place a bomb on Selwyn Court due to its ugliness. I said they were excellent mansion flats built at a time when structures were sound and that they had a charm, Poirot-era style etc. Fell on deaf ears. Typically, he and the rest of the weirdo’s who have descended on my home town have objected to an exciting world event, Olympics, coming to the park. Really odd.

    Typically also, they now want a uniform, characterless place where the little Thai place etc. is. I know it’s a mess now but that’s called character. Maybe the plans remind these people of their roots. Birmingham? Milton Keynes? Don’t know but please go home and leave us alone to enjoy Blackheath because it is Blackheath or fall in love with it as it is and stop thinking the grass is greener if we this or that.

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  16. I just designed an alternative (because I am an idealisic architect, and traditional thinking) to librarys place because I can´t understand why and how this 2-storey-box could have been errected – and now I read about the existing plans! How far are they gone? Can anyone help with information?
    (architectura.tradition@yahoo.co.uk) Thank you

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