This post is to address some issues raised in the comments of the last one, and to raise a few new ones, hopefully.
There’s an attachment to this area that I haven’t seen in a lot of other London areas; the mix of different cultures that gives it an edge, the large numbers of students that keep it lively, the small independent shops that make you feel like it has a personality, the variety of bars that mean there’s always one to suit your mood.
But yes, it needs investment. The communal areas are poor, for the most part; the leisure centre is in pieces, the Green is unkempt and attracts drinkers, the range of shopping is poor, there is no cinema, arts centre or equivalent social space.
But how do we want it to develop? Do we want it to become the archetypal modern high street, indistinguishable from its neighbour? Or do we want it to keep the character that keeps us all talking on here?
OK, I framed that question negatively, so I’m sure you can see which side I fall on. But I don’t want to have the choice between Subway or Benjy’s when I want a sandwich; I want the choice between Seymour Bros. and Tadim. When I go to a bar, I don’t want to go to All Bar One or a Wetherspoons; I want to go to the Sun & Doves or the Castle. I want to have an area where I can go out for a meal at night; an area where my range of choice doesn’t come down to a pub or an Indian.
I’m not an idealist; I want to see the Mary Datchelor school site redeveloped — I just don’t want to see it redeveloped by someone who tries to cram in as many flats as possible and bugger the consequences. I know that fast food joints are popular — but if that’s all we have, no-one will ever want to try opening a deli because they won’t be able to compete on price. And I like the Phoenix and looking forward to the food at the Dark Horse, even though they’re chain-owned.
Camberwell will never be like East Dulwich (thank god, some might say), but there’s also no reason it has to become like Kilburn (if you don’t know it, you don’t know how lucky you are). We can have development without dropping our trousers and bending over for whoever offers us the cash.
What it comes down to in the end, though, is us. If we have a Tapas bar that serves healthy food at decent prices, we have to eat there; if we have a bookstore that doesn’t just sell to the community but also encourages the community to read, we have to buy our books there even though Amazon can sell them for a few quid cheaper; and if we don’t want to see the main street become a bazaar of fried food shops (with the attendant litter they bring), we have to start getting involved in providing an alternative.
OK, comments are open; do your worst.