Protecting Peckham’s Rooftop View
I was leaving my yoga class recently, when I spied a sign on a nearby wall.
“Save Peckham’s Rooftop View!” it declared.
Oh, for fuck’s sake, I thought.
It’s a story anyone who has lived in London has heard before. London is ever-expanding and it seems there is a need to keep up with this. Across the city, buildings – often with historical significance are being threatened. To what end? So developers can flatten out the sites to put office buildings or “apartments” in their place.
The problem with developers is – they’re short sighted. And I hate to say it – they’re often foreign. What do they care about the history and general vibe of a city, so long as they’re making money?
Take the Carlton Tavern in Maida Vale. The 94 year old building was bulldozed by a Israeli owned company, who wanted to build flats on the site.
The pub was being considered for heritage listing at the time. Yet, despite a change in law, the company went ahead with its destruction. They were then ordered to rebuild the building – brick by brick. A nice afterthought, but the damage had already been done.
Among the more horrible aspects of London’s history is Mitre Square in Aldgate. It was once the site of the cloister of the Holy Trinity Priory – demolished by Henry VIII during the 16th Century. These days it’s better known for being where the body of Jack the Ripper’s fourth victim Catherine Eddowes was found.
Jack the Ripper enthusiasts were aghast when told that the buildings around the famous site were being razed to make way for what will be known as One Mitre Square – a 19-story office building. Another little bit of London’s history bites the dust.
And what of Soho? It was once hailed as being one of, if not the trendiest part of London. For decades it was an entertainment district – a destination for sex, drugs, rock and roll. It was a bohemian haven and it was interesting.
Now, you walk around Soho and what do you see? Up-market restaurants, trendy office spaces and increasingly – housing. The area has been developed for the kind of people who move to Soho for its swanky postcode only to complain about the noise coming from the nightclubs. The clubs shut down and take the soul of the area with them.
My fella has worked in Soho for the last ten years and often laments over the changes that have taken place in the area.
“There used to be the best fish and chips place. It was always busy, but they put up the rent until they were forced to close.” He sighed as I gently patted his back. “Plus there’s hardly any sex shops left in Porn Alley these days.”
The Future of the Multi-Storey Car Park
I wonder why progress looks so much like destruction.
– John Steinbeck
However, this story is not about Soho, which if we’re going to be brutally honest, is a bit of a lost cause. It’s about Peckham.
Where not only the view is under threat… the multi-storey car park itself has seen its fair share of ordeals.
The space was intended to serve as a creative space in London, with one company known as Bold Home proposed turning the space into 800 studios so artists across London would have space to create.
There is no doubt that in time the multi-storey car park will meet the same fate as many creative spaces before it… It will fall into the hands of developers and become just another building full of “luxury” flats, as the surrounding area its rapidly gentrified around it.
The Importance of Protecting Peckham’s Rooftop View
Have you been to Peckham before? It’s rad. It was the first place in London that I was drawn to – wandering the streets there, I felt I’d found my home. I lived there for six months and there was so much I liked about it. Even now, I’m not too far away – a mere 20 minute bike ride. I still spend a pleasing portion of my week there.
Gentrification in Peckham has sadly started. Rent is expensive London-wide and it was one of those areas that was slightly cheaper than others. As the south becomes a more desirable place to live, house prices rise.
It’s happening all over London. It’s happening all over the developed world.
However, Peckham is currently crystalised in a wonderful, balanced moment of time. Once an area that was a little bit rough, a little bit dingy – it’s been revitalised, for all the right reasons.
Places such as the Bussey Building that were once left rotting have been utilised – turned into bike-making workshops, yoga studios, creative thinking spaces. You can find the odd Israeli vegan restaurant among the friend chicken shop. There’s not a Pret, Costa or Starbucks in sight.
And you can’t forget Frank’s Café, which boasts views that look out over the entire city. You can do yoga up the top of the carpark, or watch movies under the stars in the summertime. At night, the building is a three storey nightclub, which pulsates with people who dance like no one is watching until the early hours of the morning.
Peckham is important because it represents what London was – still is. London is human history. It is culture, colour and chaos. It is theatre. It is art. It is a place for original thinking. It is a place for creativity.
There is no other city in the world like London. Some people would give anything to live out their lives here. Eight million of us are lucky enough to be living that dream.
And it’s up to us to keep it intact.
If you’re interested in protecting Peckham’s rooftop view you can sign the petition, and/or follow the Facebook group for updates. I thoroughly recommend you visit Frank’s Café in the summertime, to soak up the view before it is lost to us forever.