Unshaved and unwashed

Yesterday’s FT had an article about Camberwell in its House & Home section.

Camberwell suffered badly at the hands of the planners and by the mid 1970s things were so bad that Charles McKean used the area as an example of inner-city blight in his 1977 book Fight Blight. He berated the local council for decades of poor planning decisions, poor traffic management and poor strategy. “It is as though the self-respect of the community had finally crumbled after all these combined assaults, like a man ceasing to shave or wash himself.”

Author: Peter

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

10 thoughts on “Unshaved and unwashed”

  1. Southwark and Lambeth councils have a lot to answer for — I get the impression that they simply allowed wildly speculative projects that were made for profit rather than for idealistic social need to get completely out of hand — It’s very interesting to note that the very worst examples of poor Camberwell Architecture were built after Camberwell Borough Council was amalgamated into Southwark in the mid 60’s — There is a very good book called Ian Nairn’s London — penguin 1966 — it’s very rare to find but absolutely superb and he comments on many of the new developments in Camberwell at the time with alarming Nostradamus-like perception

  2. Taking the long view, I think it is right that you’ll see the 20th century hasn’t been kind to Camberwell. Its glory years in the 18th and 19th centuries (and before) were undone by 100 years of neglect. At the time, each decision wasn’t seen in terms of a trend – but looking back you see how loss of transport, loss of Borough status and many other seemingly small, isolated decisions collectively led to a century of neglect.

    Now in the 21st century, Southwark urban planners will tell you there is ‘no pressing need’ for any attention in Camberwell. Every other area in the Borough (without exception) is benefiting from massive public and/or private investment. We are cursed by the ’20 year plan’ syndrome and have been for too long. That is, when pressed on what planners have in mind for our issues, they fob it off as ‘not pressing but in the 20 year plan’. Of course, that means that by the time 20 years roll around, a new set of people and priorities mean we’re forgotten. A new generation may ask and again, they are fobbed off by the 20 year plan excuse. So far, we’ve been waiting on results from the 20 year plan for nearly 100 years.

    In reply to a question on this very subject, Paul Evans the Director of Southwark Regeneration (their word for planning generally) explained the Borough’s view of Camberwell to me this way:

    • So far the emphasis there [Camberwell] has mainly been on smaller social and economic interventions – which are not always seen as “regeneration” but form part of our overall strategy.
    • We do not lightly begin major physical development projects such as those at the Elephant and I think we would need to be persuaded that this approach was appropriate in Camberwell
    • The development pressure is much stronger in the north of the Borough and we are therefore able to steer more private action to help produce wider outcomes. There is much less private action in the middle of the borough.
    • We do keep the broader picture in Camberwell under review and I expect that the new Executive will take stock of the position

  3. TD — Maybe we need to run some independent M.P’s at the next election, advocating the reformation of the old Camberwell Borough Council!!! — It’s a long shot but would probably get quite a lot of support in Peckham and East Dulwich and at least get people talking to each other and co-operating even if the goal is highly umlikely…Non?

  4. By the way, Robert Teed, the journalist for the FT article, lives in Camberwell.

    Make the Forum say and do common sense things — all the sort of observational stuff that’s been put on this blog since Peter started it and what have you got?

    Irrefutable strength in numbers, a position where we can demand that people like Paul Evans (not heard of him before) justify their stance when it is not defensible — ibid 20 year plan innit.

    Almost ten years ago Southwark’s then head of Regeneration and Environment told me that it would be naive to even BEGIN to think about a tube in Camberwell for at least another thirty five years.

    They don’t live with it, they don’t have to put up with it, they all talk Bollocks about our manor, we all take it on the cheek, decade after decade, and think there’s nothing we can do about it. Well that’s not true; WE CAN MAKE IT CHANGE. Make them eat their words I say.

    There’s NO POINT standing to be a local councillor or MP unless you have a party political reason to do so — this is not party political — this is about US — the people who live breathe eat sleep and do everything else here. We know what we need, we know most of the solutions — we’ve been ignored too long. We can do a lot about it NOW: Common sense is very potent because it is doable.

    Our existing councillors and MP’s will listen to us aslong as we have a coherent vision and voice.

    Speak out.

  5. Mark — It might be an idea to try and get Robert Teed involved in the se5 forum in some way — he could prove very useful indeed…

  6. Robert Teed is a photojournalist, I find on the web, who did that Kitchen Voices, Still Lives show at the Geoffrey Museum a while ago about folks’ lives and their domestic backdrops. This is right up our street, so to speak.

  7. Sorry Dagmar I stop because if I didn’t I’m sure I’d be certified.

    Bumped into Robert this evening at The George Canning. He was there for the pub quiz but footie took on all comers and walked away with the pot.

    Robert’s a good person, what should we ask him to do for us?

  8. 17th April 2007. Peckham SE15 2PU .…Join Peckham Vision like me (founded by Eileen Conn) if not already done so…we are actively examining the plan ( inc route/s) to put a tram from Elephant via Burgess Park to Peckham town centre where they want to put a vast 5 acre tram depot and sub-station!

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