On redevelopment

Oh, I’m back… had a little blip for 24 hours there, apologies to anyone who was inconvenienced by this.

I want to address briefly* the comments made in my earlier post, So fresh and so clean, about renewal in Camberwell.

Next year will mark 10 years since I first moved to Camberwell. When I came here (April 1, 1995) there were absolutely no pubs worth going into. The best (of a very bad bunch) was The Grove, so whenever going out we used to there — and really, that was only because of the lack of competition.

First decent bar to open in the area was probably The Sun & Doves, which opened in ’96 or ’97, I believe. Shortly after that came The Funky Munky. What is now The Castle first became Pacific, then Babushka, then The Lounge (I think) before becoming the pub it is today. All three of those places were pubs you would go out of your way to avoid in ’95.

The landmarks of the area at the time were Tadim, Sophocles, Seymour Bros. and The Hermit’s Cave — all of which still exist, almost unchanged, to this day — and the drunks and drug addicts on Camberwell Green and in the churchyard, a problem which seems to have been greatly cleared up.

While Camberwell is greatly changed from 10 years ago, it has also kept a very specific identity. It’s a student area; you only have to see the difference in the bars between now and the summer to realise that. It’s never going to be as busy or coveted as Clapham — at least, not while there’s no tube line there.

I hope the Grove Lane development won’t change it’s character too much; although I haven’t seen the plans yet, I don’t think it will. Having said that, if it turns out to be a 20-storey gleaming glass and steel construct, I’ll be gutted.

But the area does need some renewal; not gentrification, but redevelopment. Look at Peckham; the area at the junction of Peckham Road and Peckham Rye has been opened up by some judicious use of redevelopment, but it can hardly be accused of being gentrified.

And remember, the best and surest way of keeping the spirit of Camberwell alive is to support it’s independent shops. Don’t buy your bread and groceries at Somerfield, buy them at Sophocles and Cruson; drink in the pubs which aren’t part of a chain; buy your coffee at Tadim, your sandwiches at Seymour Bros., your electrical stuff at Duraty. Keep Camberwell alive by helping local business.

*Or, not so briefly.

Author: Peter

Long-time resident of Camberwell, author of this blog since July 2004.

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