Plans for a new cultural venue at The Blue – including a three-screen cinema – have been announced by Southwark Council and Really Local Group.

Councillors went public on the plans at the South Bermondsey Ward Forum on Monday night.

The new venue in the former Thorowgoods store will be an all-day community space with a three-screen cinema, coffee shop, bar, informal co-working spaces and a food and craft hall.

Ticket prices are intended to be affordable: £6.50 to watch a film and £13 for live events.

Preston Benson, founder of Really Local Group, said: “We are very excited to enhance the cultural infrastructure offer in a borough with an established craft and music heritage.

“Working with Southwark Council, we hope to be able to curate a new ‘cultural quarter’ for the town and secure collaboration opportunities with local independent businesses, artisans and traders.”

South Bermondsey councillor Leo Pollak, who is Southwark’s cabinet member for new homes, great estates and social regeneration, said: “After years of working to improving the mix of shops and stalls at the Blue, and intervening on the sale of Thorowgoods, we are hugely proud to have secured a three screen cinema, community events and exhibition space and an affordable food market showing the best of local producers.

“We were greatly impressed by Really Local Group’s approach, and I’m confident this will become a major new arts centre for the north of the borough, and a game-changer for the Blue.

“This not only underscores our commitment to healthy thriving high streets across the borough, but the importance of municipal interventions high streets that need a ‘curatorial’ steer while getting the tone balance and affordability right. Bring on the Summer of 2021!”

The Thorowgoods scheme is subject to approval by Southwark’s cabinet and the grant of planning permission.

The new cultural hub will bring life to the marketplace which is being refurbished using funds from the Mayor of London’s Good Growth Fund. Plans for the marketplace revamp will be on show on Saturday 7 March.

As a local business with its founding roots in Rotherhithe, Thames Clippers is supporting Rotherhithe Illuminated! – a community-led legacy lighting scheme – with a donation whilst also urging other local organisations and residents to donate if they can.

In commemoration of Rotherhithe’s key role in the Mayflower story – Rotherhithe Illuminated! will shine a new light on this historic part of London, illuminating elements of five historic buildings.

When lit, the spire of St Mary’s church and the chimneys of Thames Tunnel Mills and Brunel’s Engine House will be visible from Tower Bridge, London Bridge and from across the river in Wapping.

People travelling along the river on-board Thames Clippers boats at night will be able to enjoy the installation, increasing community and cultural awareness.

2020 marks the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower’s voyage to the new world. The Mayflower was captained by  local resident, Master Christopher Jones,  and Rotherhithe was also the ship’s home port.

Whilst organisations like Thames Clippers and Port of London Authority (PLA) have already contributed significantly towards the £95,000 overall cost of the project, £35,000 is still needed to complete the project, for which a public JustGiving page has been set up.

Bermondsey’s Compass secondary school could finally move in to its own purpose-built building in 2023 – eight years later than planned – after a development agreement was signed with developer Grosvenor.

The Compass free school currently occupies part of the old Scott Lidgett / Southwark College building in Keetons Road.

Doug Lewis, chair of the Compass School Trust, gave an update at Friday’s City Hall hearing regarding the wider Biscuit Factory planning application.

He said: “We signed the development agreement yesterday [Thursday] so we believe we have a cast iron guarantee that the school will be built.

“As I hope you’re aware, the decision was very recently taken that the school will be built with funds provided by the Department for Education.

“They are responsible for sourcing the tenders using the expertise acquired elsewhere.

“We are as confident as we can be – having signed my life away for an 800-page document that I confess to not having read comprehensively …

“When we were given approval to open it was on the basis that the Department for Education owned the site and were buying it from Lewisham College, and that we would move into a new school in 2015.

“So it won’t surprise you to know that the target date is now eight years later and we have paid considerable attention to securing confidence that this thing will actually happen on the date that is forecast in this new arrangement, and which is in the development agreement that I signed on behalf of the school yesterday.”

Plans to build more than 1,500 new homes on the site of the former Peek Freans biscuit factory in Bermondsey – in buildings of up to 35 storeys – have been given the green light after London’s deputy mayor overturned Southwark Council’s decision to block the scheme.

Grosvenor, the property firm owned by the Duke of Westminster, bought the Biscuit Factory and the former Southwark College site in 2013.

Its planning application for a build-to-rent development on the 5.4 hectare site was rejected by Southwark planning committee in February 2019, before the case was ‘taken over‘ by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan.

A public hearing was convened at City Hall on Friday morning, with the final decision placed in the hands of deputy mayor Jules Pipe.

Jules Pipe said: “The site has the potential to deliver more than 1,500 new homes in an area of London with a high demand for affordable housing, close to transport links and central London.

“It will also provide new facilities for a secondary school which is currently housed in dated buildings.

“Overall, it would make a significant contribution towards the regeneration of this part of Bermondsey. Having considered all the evidence available to me, I have decided to approve this application.”

The hearing was told by GLA planning officer Justine Mahanga that revisions to the scheme in the past year had overcome all of Southwark’s reasons for turning it down.

A key change is the revision of the affordable housing offer from 27.5 to 35 per cent – representing an additional 160 affordable homes.

Grosvenor has also increased the height of the proposed buildings, with the tallest now 35 storeys compared to 28 storeys in the proposal rejected by Southwark.

Senior Southwark planning officer Yvonne Lewis addressed the deputy mayor to argue that while the changes were welcome, they didn’t go far enough to meet the council’s concerns on design or on the affordability of the housing.

South Bermondsey Labour councillor Leo Pollak spoke to “recognise and applaud” the most recent changes, but warning that the scheme still had the potential to exacerbate economic divides either side of the railway line.

In his remarks North Bermondsey Lib Dem councillor Hamish McCallum criticised the tall buildings proposed by Grosvenor which he described as “wildly out of step with the local context” and warned that even the affordable homes would be out of reach to many of his constituents.

Jerry Flynn of the 35 Per Cent Campaign questioned the lack of detail in the public domain about how the tenancies for the affordable housing would be managed and renewed, whilst Harpreet Aujla of Southwark Law Centre suggested that given the scale of Grosvenor’s expected profits from the scheme, it was reasonable to expect them to comply with policy on affordable housing in every detail.

Speakers in favour of the development included local fishmonger Russell Dryden of the Blue Bermondsey BID, who –  after sharing childhood memories of scrounging broken biscuits from Peek Freans – said that “the proposed development will complement and align with our aspirations” for The Blue.

Douglas Lewis, chair of the Compass School – which will gain a new building as part of the scheme – said: “We fully support this application and encourage you to approve it”. 

Shannon Donovan of Bermondsey Community Kitchen added: “”These homes will provide an influx of residents who can use The Blue for their local spending.”

Sheila Taylor, chair of Cherry Garden Tenants’ and Residents’ Association, said she had been “deeply disappointed” by Southwark’s refusal of Grosvenor’s planning application and welcomed Mayor’s intervention and the tweaks to the scheme that have happened since.

She said that the Biscuit Factory in its current state represented an “empty hole” in the middle of Bermondsey.

The final speaker to address the hearing was Simon Harding-Roots of Grosvenor who stressed his company’s long-term commitment to Bermondsey and that his scheme would “breathe new life into this brownfield site” 

He said that Grosvenor had taken care to ensure its plans would integrate well with Bermondsey’s existing communities, with “no fenced-off areas, no gated communities” and “five acres of space open to the public” including a rooftop terrace.

The City of London Corporation’s charitable funding arm, City Bridge Trust, kickstarted the year by making £5 million in grants to help tackle disadvantage in the capital.

SE16’s own Bede House Association is one of the beneficiaries, receiving £260,000 for a project breaking cycles of domestic violence through counselling and legal advice.

Dhruv Patel, Chairman of the City of London Corporation’s City Bridge Trust Committee, said:“London’s charities are working hard to fight inequality and disadvantage, improving lives, boosting employment, and reducing isolation.

“We want to help build a capital city where everyone can thrive.

“Nearly one third of Londoners are living in poverty, and over one million of those live in a working family.

“Together we aim to consign these statistics to the history books.”

City Bridge Trust is the funding arm of the City of London Corporation’s charity, Bridge House Estates. It is London’s biggest independent grant giver, making grants of £20 million a year to tackle disadvantage across the capital. The Trust has awarded around 8,000 grants totalling over £400 million since it first began in 1995. It helps achieve the City Corporation’s aim of changing the lives of hundreds of thousands of Londoners.

More than 8000 sugar cubes eliminated in convenience store healthy food pilot  

Two Bermondsey shops are among five independent convenience stores in Southwark which have increased the healthy options available to consumers as part of a pilot scheme.

The Good Food Retail Plan is a pilot funded by the Greater London Authority, Sustain and Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity to ensure that more Londoners have access to healthy, affordable food.

As part of the project the shop owners were supported to identify opportunities for increasing the healthy options available in their store. This could range from repositioning items, using different recipes to carrying new healthy lines of food and drinks.  

The scheme recognises that convenience stores play a vital role in their local communities as many customers use them on a daily basis to top up their food shopping.

The pilot stores all represent different types of store from the smaller neighbourhood store to the larger independent supermarket. Across all stores, regardless of square-footage, all store managers demonstrated that healthy changes could be made. 

The shops involved in the pilot are:

  • Nisa Local, Southwark Park Road 
  • St James Supermarket, Southwark Park Road 
  • Church News, New Church Road
  • Turkish Food Stores, Lordship Lane 
  • Nisa Day One, Camberwell Church Street

Across the fives stores over 50 new healthy lines have been introduced as well as selling more single fruits as healthy snacks. Nisa Local in Bermondsey switched to a no sugar slush puppie recipe resulting in a saving of approximately 80,000 calories from sales between July and September, equivalent to over 8,000 sugar cubes. Following the introduction of three new lines, wholemeal bread now makes up 20 per cent of bakery sales at the same store.

These stores are run by independent retailers who purchase their stock from their local cash and carry. They choose their range based on what they think their customers demand is rather than necessarily on whether the products are healthy. 

Cllr Evelyn Akoto, cabinet member for community safety and public health, said: “It is really fantastic to see the commitment from these five shop owners to make a difference in the health of our residents. These shops exemplify how small changes can have a big impact on the choices people make.

“The role that local shops play in the lives of our residents cannot be underestimated and it’s so important that as much as possible there are healthy options available. These shop owners have proven that our residents do want healthy options and I hope other store owners will follow their lead.”

Ali, owner of Nisa Local Southwark Park Road said: “I eat quite healthily myself and I’m quite passionate about [healthy eating]. I wanted to get involved; it’s something I believe in as well. A lot of kids come here after schools so we wanted to offer them healthier things to eat so we put single pieces of fruit at the front that people can just take and go, non- salted nuts, sugar free drinks things like that. According to our sales data all these things that we’ve introduced into the store are selling, there’s a market for people that are more health conscious and want to eat healthy.”

Transport for London commissioner Mike Brown has given an update on plans for an upgraded ferry service between Rotherhithe and Canary Wharf to replace the abandoned proposed for a walking and cycling bridge.

Mr Brown was questioned by Conservative London Assembly member Keith Prince at a meeting of the City Hall transport committee.

Asked about the cost of the ferry link, Mr Brown said: “Well, I don’t have the exact figure at the moment.

“And the reason for that is that this is in the early stages, we’re looking at what land purchases may be required and where those land purchases will be – particularly on the south side of the river.

“We’re also exploring what sort of technology might be applied and what the market could deliver in terms of the greenest possible ferry.

“It’s quite challenging because these there aren’t – when you look around the world – easily deliverable green ferries at the moment, so we might have to consider whether we at least explore the the options for some hybrid ferries in this regard.

“So there is a sort of headline number allocated to the ferry in the business plan, but it’s very much at a working level and just for some of the early stages of exploration of this.

“My imperative is to get on with this as quickly as I can, notwithstanding some of the challenges with the land purchase, and with some of the other commercial issues.

“It’s pleasing to see that we have got, good support, for example, from Canary Wharf on the north side. It I’m sure we’ll get on and deliver this and it will be a great boost for access across the river at that location.”

Pressed by Mr Prince as to when passengers might be able to use the ferry, Mr Brown said: “Well, again, that’s depends on the technology. And I’m not trying to be evasive here.

“It genuinely is a discussion that we’re having ourselves with the supply chain, with potential manufacturers – with potential operators as well actually – is how quickly we can do it.

“So I’ve pushed my team … very hard on on pinning them down to a date.

“But what I don’t want to do is give an artificially optimistic date here that can’t be delivered because we haven’t done all the groundwork yet.

“There is more work to do before I can categorically tell you that.”

Plans to extend the Santander Cycles hire scheme to Bermondsey and Rotherhithe along the route of Cycleway 4 have moved a step closer as the first locations for new docking stations have been revealed.

Planning applications for docking stations have been submitted to Southwark Council for the following locations:

Southwark’s cabinet agreed its planned approach to cycle hire expansion last October.

Local residents are being invited to show their support for a project to create a seven-metre artwork from parts of the ‘red crane’ or scotch derrick that used to stand on the riverside near Odessa Street.

Local blacksmith Kevin Boys rescued some of the parts of the crane when it was dismantled to make way for a new housing development.

The developer, Hollybrook Homes, has part-funded the artwork project and built a plinth for the sculpture on the Thames Path – but more cash is needed to complete the project.

The Rotherhithe Red Crane is now on crowdfunding site SpaceHive where it will compete with other projects for a share of funding from the Mayor of London, as well as backing from local people and businesses.

The scheme will soon be open for pledges from the public, but you can already register your support.

You can also follow @BuildCrane on Twitter.

As the 400th anniversary year of the Mayflower sailing from Rotherhithe gets under way, there’s another chance for local groups to apply for funds to support related projects.

The Southwark Mayflower 400 Grants Fund – set up by Southwark Council, British Land and United St Saviour’s Charity – has a budget of £25,000 for its third round of grants.

Applications for this round close on 31 January. More details here.