‘Area A’ was designated by the Council as a Neighbourhood Planning area in August 2014. The area is broadly bounded by the London Bridge Railway Viaduct along St Thomas St and Crucifx Lane, Tower Bridge Rd, Borough High St and Gt Dover St. This area has been adopted as ‘Old Bermondsey (Village)’ by the local Neighbourhood Forum, OBVNF.
This large area does not lend itself to a single vision as it has distinct identities in different parts. Rather, it can be broken into two themes: (a) The Bermondsey St Conservation area and its immediate surroundings – predominantly commercial, but with a significant number of residential buildings intertwined; (b) the complex of residential Estates mainly built between 1900 and 1950.
Both areas have strong identities worthy of preservation and cultivation. The Neighbourhood Forum aims to generate planning policies with the involvement of local people that build on their existing identities, ensuring that new developments do not turn their backs on the areas’ history, architectural wealth or previous generations of residents.
(a)Bermondsey St Conservation Area and surroundings.
This area has become a popular destination for its restaurants and bars, and, to a lesser and diminishing extent, its specialist shops. Also important to the character of the area is the wealth of small independent businesses who are keen to locate their offices here. These mainly operate in the creative industries and it is important to their culture and identity that they have working environments that separate them from the big-business culture that prevails north of the railway viaduct. The area was formerly dominated by industrial buildings – mostly warehouses which, once converted, are the perfect expression of this identity. The area is also a desirable and expensive residential neighbourhood with former warehouses also being very desirable as residential conversions.
OBVNF believes planning policy in this area should:
- Encourage the preservation of the many worthy existing elements of the built environment and open spaces.
- Maintain and expand the thinking that drove the creation of the conservation area in 1972.
- Protect and foster the area’s desirability and accessibility to smaller, independent and creative businesses.
- In Bermondsey St itself and its side roads and courtyards resist over-saturation with restaurants, particularly chains, squeezing out other high-street activities.
- Resist high-rise, high-density and very high-value residential development aimed at overseas and ‘pied-a-terre’ buyers who contribute nothing to the community.
The housing estates surrounding (a), being the dominant building type in the remainder of the designated area, are also of distinct identity. These were the product of a strong ideological commitment to what what we now call social housing. The Metropolitan Association for Improving the Dwellings of the Industrial Classes was founded in 1841. The Housing of the Working Classes Act (known as the ‘housing charter’) was passed in 1890. The Borough of Bermondsey, as it was then pursued, this social ideal on a very large scale, particularly between the wars and immediately post war. The estates in this area therefore represent an exceptional example of a political and planning ethos of its day. Official recognition of this initiative led to Bermondsey (as a borough) being chosen to represent Britain at the 1935 International Housing Congress in Prague. The Estates collectively should be regarded as heritage assets.
Policy initiatives being developed by the Forum are focus on:
- Ensuring that the estates are not seen as opportunities for large scale population displacement to be replaced with profitably low-quality private sector redevelopment.
- Promoting awareness, appreciation and enhancement of the estates and realisation of the potential of their under-utilised gardens and public spaces.
- Ensuring that any increased housing density is achieved by way of high-quality infill developments that respect the existing estates and facilitate their improvement, rather than wholesale clearances.
OBVNF meetings are open to everyone.
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