A Multi-Storey Story…

It was fabulous news for Peckham-ites and other Southwark residents alike, to hear that the Council had extended leases to the tenants of the Peckham Multi Storey Car Park (PMS), and had taken the building off its list of proposed development sites in the New Southwark Plan (NSP).

This is the building that houses the iconic independent cinema Peckhamplex – one of the cheapest in London. 

It is home to Frank’s Café – a spot that draws visitors from all over London.

Last but not least it plays host to Bold Tendencies, the famous arts project which has transformed its car park home through an annual commissioning programme of visual art, classical music (hosting Steve Reich for the BBC Proms in 2016), poetry and literature and pioneering architectural commissions – the list goes on!

In addition, Peckham Levels will open shortly providing 100s of jobs, much needed studios, and public leisure, entertainment and meeting spaces in the remaining levels of the former car park.  

Southwark council, understandably, were quick to draw attention to the good news when they released this statement.

But why no mention of the massive efforts of the local community, and the huge response to the Council consultation of those residents and users of the Town Centre to secure this kind of outcome? 

Southwark News have been much more forthcoming on this, having reported on numerous occasions over recent years on the hard work of the local community to get the Council to take the right decision and properly review all potential uses of the building rather than straightforward redevelopment.

It reports the news as a “Victory for Local Campaigners” – quite a contrast from the council’s offering.

So, has this decision resolved the issue, and addressed the concerns of local people once and for all? It would appear not, because: 

  • The Council still hasn’t undertaken the review of future potential uses for the building as recommended by the Planning Inspector when he examined the Peckham and Nunhead Area Action Plan 4 years ago. The current decisions extend what were temporary proposals initially suggested by campaigners, but conceivably might these not be the right ones; no matter how popular they might be?  
  • As the Southwark News report says, local residents have submitted proposals to the Council for the building to be deemed an Asset of Community Value (ACV); and given the Council’s decisions will this now be a formality? 
  • Frank’s Rooftop Bar might have one of the most enviable skyline views in London, and be lauded for this in every London food and drink guide; but to what degree will this be compromised if proposals to build a tall building of 20 storeys or more remains part of the Aylesham Centre redevelopment plan right in front of it? 

Campaigners will continue to be vigilant until the details of the decision, and its implications, are openly and transparently communicated to local people. After all; having succeeded back in 2014 to have the PMS taken off the Area Action Plan by the Inspector pending a proper review, it was a surprise to see it appear in the draft NSP when no such review had taken place. 

So, whilst many, quite rightly, celebrate the news that PeckhamPlex and Frank’s and the other tenants will be there for years to come; others wonder why it was in the NSP at all, and cause local communities so much work to get it removed again.

What price real consultation and engagement?    

If you want to find out about how the local community was involved in saving this wonderful asset click here.

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