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 email@example.com 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Photo showing the railway area, part of which would be covered.
A dissenting view of the plans for the square in Blackheath
Another plan of the area, hopelessly blurry, sorry...
The exhibition at the Blackheath Halls
Where is the post office?!