Better Blackheath Village

Blackheath Society have published their Better Blackheath Village Project (pdf). Here’s a quick run down of the winners and losers:

Saints:
India Jane (pleasing shopfront apparently.. I say a displeasing lack of DVDs)
Pizza Express Restaurantisation, but loved by most.

Sinners:
BLOODY FOXTONS (And their poxy illuminated signs.)
Costcutter (Ugly Fascias).
Montpelier Coffee (illegal A frames? Not top of my list, but fair enough…)
The universally hated bus lane.
The Crown: No Jumbrellas please.
Locale: Society is annoyed about the planning permission. (Never mind the food).
Lewisham Council: Still handing out late night licenses willy nilly.
Network Rail: Want to build crap flats next to the station instead of getting the trains to run on time. Blackheath Society rightly unimpressed.
Library Square: The vultures are still circling. Nobody is prepared to admit who the vultures belong to.
Library block: Still very much in favour of knocking down the old library and building something else there it seems. How about another library?
Post Office: Society not totally averse to the idea of closing the sorting office. With it will come crappy opening hours for picking up undelivered mail.

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22 Comments

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22 responses to “Better Blackheath Village

  1. Heart of the village resident

    Yes, an interesting document – not least for local residents who disagree with the Society’s description of their neighbourhood as “the least attractive part of the Village” and who strongly opposed the Society’s 2010 Library Square proposals.

    As predicted, the Society and its management committee’s developer friends haven’t let the closure of the library lessen their ambitions vis-a-vis the Blackheath Grove sites. Perhaps the library closure has even encouraged them – who knows?

    Residents of the The Point on Wemyss Road may be alarmed to learn that the Society has extended its 2010 Library Square proposal to include the land adjacent to their homes. If the “Library Block” mentioned in the document includes Hexts and the Thai restaurant (as per the 2010 proposal) then their proprietors and customers will be losers too. Users of the public toilets are losers – the Society wants the toilets to be turned into car parking spaces as part of the redevelopment. By the way, you didn’t include the chip shop as a sinner – the Society wants it demolished.

    All Folies de Grandeur perhaps but you do have to admire the Society’s management committee’s spirit for coming out fighting after its recent costly defeat at the hands of the NIMBY festival organisers.

    • Anonymous

      See section 4.22:
      “It perhaps needs repeating that the Society has no ambition to develop the site. If and when a developer comes forward with a scheme, the Society would make the same objective appraisal as for any other major scheme.”

      As for “developer friends”. I would welcome further details. As far as I know, BlackSoc is a sworn enemy of developers I have encountered in three decades as another “Heart of the Village” resident.
      The point is that this is a potential site for a village square of some kind if the tracks could be rafted over but will require some kind of commercial input to pay for transformation. It is beter to suggest ideas in advance [with input from locals] rather than wait for someone to sweep in now the library owners’ rent has dried up and cram in another scheme like The Point with no thought of creating new public space.

      • Heart of the Village Resident

        I’m not sure you’re correct in describing the Society as “the sworn enemy of developers”. The Society seems rather keen to see the development of various sites in Blackheath Village. The Society’s document presents several what it terms “Development Opportunities” as follows (1) demolishing the sorting office garage in Blackheath Grove to be replaced by housing (2) demolishing the old library, Hext’s and the Thai restaurant to make way for redevelopment of the site plus adjoining council owned carpark plus an unspecified area around The Point (3) demolishing the fish shop to make way for the development of a three storey building (4) development of the small BMI carpark adjacent to number 9 Independents Road (5) building an additional storey to 11-17 Tranquil Vale.

        Mark Watts, who was at the time the managing director and majority shareholder of property developer Ceder Rydal Ltd played a leading role in the 2010 Library Square proposals. According to LBL, Mark Watts was acting for the Blackheath Society and he conducted negotiations with LBL over the development of the council-owned car park and library sites. That is not to suggest that Cedar Rydal Ltd or any person involved in the scheme expected to gain financially from their involvement.

        Furthermore, it’s difficult for many people to see how the Society’s own proposal would be subject to the “same objective appraisal as for any other major scheme” particularly when it has worked with officers of the council and politicians to develop the scheme.

        Incidentally, the “rafting over” of the railway did not form part of the 2010 Library Square scheme – it was abandoned the previous year in favour of two six storey blocks seriously “crammed-in” to the library and council-owned carpark sites.

        Thus, far from being the “sworn enemy of developers” the Society seems keen to provide them with opportunities to ply their trade in Blackheath Village and has involved itself in preparing a “development brief” for property developers and indeed makes no secret of that (see its 2009 annual report where it reports on progress of the Library Square Scheme).

        Local people, ie. those living in the vicinity of the 2010 scheme, were not consulted – unless you call a poorly publicised exhibition held on weekdays and closing before most people get home from work consultation. To be fair to the Society, it has asked a local residents’ group to comment on its most recent proposals. However, the fact that the strong local opposition to its 2010 proposal was not mentioned in the document is not encouraging.

        It may also be worth noting that, in 2010 at the Society’s AGM, its recent acquisition – The Blackheath Preservation Trust – was described as its property development arm (property development is not allowed under the Society’s objects but BPT is).

        Finally, I think you’re also mistaken in saying that the owner of the site is no longer receiving rent from LBL for the old library building. LBL must continue paying rent on the site until and if the lease is reassigned.

    • Blackheath Bird

      “All Folies de Grandeur perhaps but you do have to admire the Society’s management committee’s spirit for coming out fighting after its recent costly defeat at the hands of the NIMBY festival organisers.”

      Well put, Resident. The Society’s latest Newsletter has a hilariously smug defence of the recent court case. They (almost!) seem to claim they actually saved their members £70K since the Magistrates only ordered payment of £84K in costs rather than the full £150K. The Society blames NIMBY for prolonging proceedings by providing new information which, as far as one can gather, NIMBY would have been more than happy to provide out of court.

      But onward and upward. The Society doesn’t actually own any of the buildings mentioned in the Better Blackheath document and even they can’t force demolition of something they don’t like. The main problem with the chip shop is in fact the smell – not mentioned in the report, but enough to send you rushing past without pausing to admire India Jane’s pleasant, if somewhat pastiche, shopfront.

      As for the “Library” block, Lewisham council is in the process of assigning the lease on the former library to a private prep school so redevelopment seems unlikely for the foreseeable future. For the moment, the most shameful eyesore in the Village is the sight of thousands of unused, unreachable books mouldering away in the former library in full view of passers-by. Maybe Mr Bugle can provide a picture.

  2. An interesting document (FTR I don’t live in Blackheath).

    As someone who passes through, get rid of the bloody bus lane. Useless.

    Heart of the village resident has a good point about the foplk who actually live in the village, as I was reading the Society’s proposals for the library area I did think, do the Society members live there? I get the impression they don’t.

    These societies often rub me up the wrong way with some of their (unintentional?) snobbery.

    Their disdain about the chip shop and description of Costcutters as ‘visually illiterate’ almost make me want to go and spend money in both to ensure their continued existence as thorns in the Society’s side!

  3. Someone who actually lives in the village

    The document accurately reflects the snobbery of the Blackheath Society and the fact that their members don’t actually live in the heart of the village. They have no reason to shop at Costcutters or eat fish and chips with the commoners, so of course they are happy to demolish these buildings and replace them with private developments from which they will profit. They are not representative of the residents of the area at all. It is time for the corruption at the heart of the Blackheath Society to be exposed.

    • What evidence have you got that they don’t live in Blackheath? They’re not proposing knocking down Costcutter! They’re complaining about the signage being a little ugly… And it is!

    • Anonymous

      Please provide evidence for this “corruption at the heart of the village”.

      Many BlackSoc members live in the village. In fact, they are some of its most active members because, unlike strollers, shoppers, feeders and passing-through commuters they are impacted 24/7 by issues such as crime, graffiti, traffic congestion and plans for unsuitable development.

      Many also shop at Cost Cutters but still wince at something allowed to creep through the planning system and blot a historic site. Plenty here have complained about the far less damaging Foxton’s sign without being accused of “corruption”.

      As for the chip shop, I despair that anyone anyone would want to pay through the nose for that vile stuff. I jump on a bus to Something Fishy in Lewisham for my taste of heaven.

      • thepirateking

        Excuse me, but the Blackheath chip shop does the best proper chips in SELondon!

      • Sam TR

        They may do the best chips, but the fish selection is dire. I went in there, for the first time, 2 weeks ago on a Friday at 7pm. One piece of haddock left and a a few cod. It looked like they have been there for some time. When I asked if they can cook something fresh they looked at me as if I had asked them to go and catch something in Hastings and bring it back. I left empty handied so didnt have the opportunity to sample those chips. No plans to return. Having said that it’s obviously popular so I hope it stays.

  4. Paul L

    Why don’t the Blackheath Society just be quiet! Who cares what businesses they like or dislike. What good are such petty comments going to do for anyone? PR is certainly not their strong point that’s for sure

    • That’s really not why I linked to the document. I think it’s great that they put pressure on local shops to maintain the overall consistent look to the area. They are a good part of the reason that the place looks so well managed when compared to other places nearby. I’m sorry if you misunderstood my post!

  5. ‘The universally hated bus lane’ as a cyclist and a moped rider I love the bus lane – it was awful when it was open to all traffic again.

  6. Blackheath Bird

    Anonymous: The library owners’ rent has by no means “dried up”. While the premises remain empty, LBL are continuing to pay around £6K a month in rent, plus insurance and utilities (and business rates – or are libraries exempt?) Only this week LBL paid the next quarterly rent instalment and will have to continue doing so for many years unless the lease can be reassigned. We’re talking at least £80K a year all told.

    LBL turned down the opportunity to rent out the first floor of the building to a firm of solicitors, a move which might conceivably have helped save the library itself. Lewisham ratepayers now wait to see if the lease can be reassigned, either to a prep school or another tenant, on terms which are more advantageous than the present unsatisfactory arrangement.

  7. jenty

    Seriouisly unimpressed with the Blackheath chippy’s chips – flabby and unappetising on the 2 occasions I’ve bought them.

    • Anonymous

      Thank goodness. I thought I must have been living in a parallel world to Pirate King. I kept returning to the village chippy in the hope that I MUST get decent fries some time. After a couple of years, I gave up and started catching the bus outside to Lewisham or the Standard instead. Unfortunately Something Fishy is not open in the evenings.

  8. Nearly local

    The best proper chips in SE London? You must be limited in where you have tried chips in London. Far better places are: Something fishy (as already mentioned) in Lewisham and the Standard Fish bar just off the Blackheath standard. The times I have gone to the Blackheath village one, they have been old, soggy, greasy and had loads of those hard little shards in them which are inedible.

  9. Trog

    The last time I went into the chippy I opined that it was probably the most expensive in London. The gentleman behind the counter just smiled and shrugged. Paying through the nose would be ok if the quality justified the price but, sadly, it doesn’t.

  10. Bennett

    Blackheath Society may be happy to have the sorting office closed as:
    1) most of them are retired so they can take delivery of parcels 24/7
    2) they will probably profit directly from any developments on the site

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