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BERMONDSEY VILLAGE ACTION GROUP

INFORMATION OFFICE Cllr Peter John Leader of the Council Southwark Council 160-162 Tooley Street SE1 2TU

BVAG
14 CRUCIFX LANE LONDON

SE1 3JW

BVAG.NET

1 December 2011

Dear Peter, As you may be aware, BVAG has been running a petition* calling on Southwark Council, the GLA and Network Rail to save the two major local railway heritage assets under threat, namely the SER office in Tooley St. and the St Thomas St. flank wall of the listed Driver train shed. We gave you some photoshop images to demonstrate how readily both buildings can be adapted to provide the entrances to the proposed new station concourse whilst almost entirely preserving the important contribution they make to their respective streetscapes. BVAG volunteers have now spoken to over a thousand people on the streets around the threatened buildings and hundreds more have signed our petition online. It is very obvious from this extensive sample of local opinion that the Network Rail proposals for demolition have very little support. The overwhelming majority of people we have spoken to are appalled at Network Rails anachronistic disregard of our architectural heritage. I have also done some research of my own and have found nothing to contradict my belief that you and your Council stand to claim second place only to Henry VIII for destruction of our local architectural heritage if Network Rail are given the go-ahead.** Henry of course sealed the fate of the celebrated Bermondsey Abbey c.1537. Reservations expressed in relation to the London Bridge proposals do of course extend well beyond the unnecessary destruction of two fine Victorian Buildings. The plans are hugely compromised from the outset by the decision to preserve the London Dungeon in its present location. This obviously necessitates the crippling compromise of building a station around a tacky tourist attraction. It creates a major impediment to smooth pedestrian flows, forces the centre of gravity of the station so far to the East as to make it more Tower Bridge than London Bridge and necessitates the closure of two important connecting streets under the viaduct (Stainer and Weston). In turn these road closures have generated considerable anxiety about how traffic will be handled in the future. The present sketchy proposals of which we are aware are widely regarded as unworkable.

Email: admin@bvag.net

Tel: 020 7378 0088

Opening hours: Wednesday - Friday : 12.30pm - 5.30pm.

I assume the decision not to displace the London Dungeon was made on financial grounds and the architects have been made to work around this major obstacle to design coherence. On this point, has Southwark Council asked Network Rail to quantify the cost of relocating the London Dungeon and thereby releasing the potential for a much more coherent design? Another frequently expressed dissatisfaction with the current proposals is the decision to provide only ribbon platform shelters, leaving commuters open to the elements. In this respect the new design is a step backwards from the Victorian solution of providing passengers with full weather protection in the form of a complete (and splendid at that) canopy. And these people want to rip down the Victorians work! For the purpose of our representations we have taken as a given the compromised design that follows from the station working around the London Dungeon. We therefore focus on the quite unnecessary loss of two important heritage assets within the broad parameters of the present proposals. In August BVAG assembled a group of heritage-minded delegates to attend a presentation from Network Rail at Grimshaws offices. The main purpose was to be acquainted with the Network Rail rationale for demolition of the SER offices and the Driver shed wall. Most people we have spoken to accept that Network Rail not having set out to respect it from the outset the cast iron columns and the canopy of the shed cannot be elegantly incorporated into the current proposals. The justification offered for the demolition of the SER offices and the St Thomas St flank wall of the train shed was feeble in the extreme. In relation to the SER offices some facile arguments were trotted out: First, as to the greater assertiveness they felt entitled to with a new glass entrance that would be obscured from public appreciation by the presence the SER offices. Secondly, they agued that rail passengers emerging from the station needed an outdoor orientation space hence the SER office must go to make way for a much wider pavement. When none of our party were remotely impressed they threw in a half-baked terrorist-threat argument. As far as we are aware they are still proposing this absurd justification as if a would-be car bomber will not be able to navigate himself around to the St Thomas St entrance, which has no such stand-off distance proposed. The justification for demolition of the flank wall to the main shed in St Thomas St was even more absurd: They have to get the escalators in during construction they said. Not surprisingly, they refused to expand on this by giving the dimensions that need to be accommodated. Given that an enormous amount of the viaduct has already been cut away inside the flank wall and single-tier arched faade along St Thomas St (immediately adjacent to the car park requisitioned for their plant and materials) it is not surprising that they did not want this argument scrutinised.

Email: admin@bvag.net

Tel: 020 7378 0088

Opening hours: Wednesday - Friday : 12.30pm - 5.30pm.

The polychromatic single tier arches along Crucifix Lane and St Thomas St were recently listed (on application from BVAG) against an argument from Network Rail that they were of no significance. These arches seamlessly integrate with the double-tiered flank wall and combine with it to create a unique and highly imposing streetscape. The shed wall offers a mitigating visual transition from the and finely detailed single-tiered arches to the massive and monolithic Shard. Whilst at the Grimshaw office we were shown a traditional 3d model of the new station proposal. This made abundantly clear that the existing flank wall could very easily serve as the boundary wall for the new station, just as it does at present. We asked Network Rail to allow us to photograph their model so that we could demonstrate our point all the more clearly. In line with their general policy of not allowing alternative proposals to come forward, or meaningful scrutiny of theirs, they refused. The idea that the monumental arched wall of Charles Driver, with its extravagant embrace of Victorian materials and craftsmanship should be replaced by a budget, pastiche arched faade of no architectural integrity is quite bewildering. It would stand for future generations as a paradigm of architectural philistinism. Most of the large number of people we have consulted so far have serious reservations about the severe design limitations imposed on the plans for London Bridge as a result of Network Rails decision to incorporate the London Dungeon at the heart of the new station. If, as we suspect, there is insufficient will to resist this particular mistake in the brief, we at least urge the Council and the GLA to show a responsible attitude to local heritage and force Network Rail to accommodate the two important heritage structures under threat. It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that the present application has been shaped very largely by budget constraints and also a good measure of laziness. It would obviously involve a lot more hard work and expense to relocate the London Dungeon, to provide a full canopy for passengers and to carefully restore heritage assets. There was more than a glimmer of acknowledgement of these unwelcome constraints among the Grimshaw staff when we met them in August. Since August one thing of possible significance has changed: Central Government has changed course on infrastructural spending now proposing to boost it to stimulate the economy. Network Rail would have a very good case to go back for enough additional money to do a proper job of London Bridge. Your Council should give them no choice. Yours sincerely

Russell Gray cc Boris Johnson. Mayor of London, GLA David Higgins, CEO, Network Rail Gordon Adams, Senior Planner, Southwark Council
Email: admin@bvag.net Tel: 020 7378 0088 Opening hours: Wednesday - Friday : 12.30pm - 5.30pm.

* I enclose copies of our first two thousand signatures including those who have signed up online. ** I have excluded the Luftwaffe from this league table as acts of war seem tangibly different from administrative decisions (made in the name of the perpetrators subjects). P.S. Please accept from BVAG a souvenir T-shirt. It may become a collectors item if the buildings go. I hope you will not regard it as an improper inducement.

Email: admin@bvag.net

Tel: 020 7378 0088

Opening hours: Wednesday - Friday : 12.30pm - 5.30pm.

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