Former car park saved by campaign

An artist’s impression of what the Peckham Levels development could look like

BY TOBY PORTER
toby@slpmedia.co.uk

The future of London’s most creative car park has been secured after a campaign to save it.

Peckham’s multi-storey car park in Rye Lane, which is due to become home to cultural hub Peckham Levels in December, has been saved from destruction after a decision by Southwark council.

Town hall officials had highlighted the building as ripe for development, in a planning blueprint for the area, the New Southwark Plan (NSP).

But a sustained campaign by locals has led council leaders to agree to hand it over to its current users for the forseeable future.

The plan to remove it from the NSP now looks likely to be rubber-stamped at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

Planning blueprints tend to be revised once every 20 years – so the building looks to be safe from demolition for at least a decade.

The council has been working closely with Bold Tendencies, the Peckhamplex Cinema and the team behind the soon-to-open Peckham Levels, to significantly extend their leases, which will ensure the former multi-storey car park remains a bustling, busy and sustainable part of the town centre and a London-wide cultural venue. Peckham Vision co-ordinator Eileen Conn said: “These businesses provide hundreds of jobs, and much-loved social and entertainment activities for thousands of people. This is a resounding success for sustained local community action. It follows Peckham Vision’s five-year campaign involving thousands of local people seeking a more informed decision about the future of this site.

“Peckham Vision would like to thank everyone who supported our campaign for a review of the council’s plan to demolish the building and redevelop the site.

“So to everyone who bought a T-shirt, tote bag, tea towel or card, sent an email, attended a meeting, leafleted, posted their views in a web discussion, shared posts, tweeted, took photos, studied planning
documents, told their friends, dropped into our shop, or some of many other actions, thank you. It all counted.”

Bold Tendencies said: “Southwark council has worked a miracle. We are lucky to have had the opportunity to develop our commissioning programme across visual art, architecture and classical music over the past 10 years. This news only encourages us to do more work, to do it better and to reach more people in the borough and beyond.”

Lodewijk van den Belt, site director at Peckham Levels, said: “Turning this multi-storey car park into a creative and cultural hub for Peckham and Southwark is proof that collaboration and creativity can deliver tangible results and opportunities.”

John Reiss, chairman at Peckhamplex, said: “Peckhamplex is delighted that the long time uncertainty over redevelopment of the multi-storey former car park has been postponed for at least 20 years. This will allow the directors to consider investment in the multiplex to enhance the offering to our loyal customers.”

Cllr Mark Williams, cabinet member for regeneration and new homes at Southwark council, said: “As an unused car park we thought this site had more potential through re-development. However following extensive consultation with local residents and recognising the fantastic work carried out by Bold Tendencies and Peckhamplex, and with the exciting new project at Peckham Levels, we have decided to secure the future of this site in its current form for the longer term.”

Over the past 10 years, Bold Tendencies – together with its partner projects The Multi-Story Orchestra and Frank’s Cafe – has attracted over 1.5 million visitors to its annual summer project at its rooftop home.

Bold Tendencies animates its commissioning programme and the site for schools, families and the neighbourhood through standalone education and community programmes that take culture and civic values seriously. This summer 365 primary school age children participated in My Museum, an art and project space which trains young people to curate and take the lead in their own learning, and since 2014 120 young people have been part of the Bold Art Trainee Programme.

Bold Tendencies will aim to continue to deliver excellence in its summertime commissioning programme, widen its attending audiences, in particular into Peckham and across Southwark, and remaster the site, working with some of the most significant emerging and established architects to design and commission new facilities and services on-site, bolting onto the existing fabric of the building and bringing into use of aspects of the site year round.

Peckham Levels, designed by Carl Turner Architects, is due to open the public on  December 8. It will have 50 studio spaces for artists, makers and small businesses, a number of co-working and workshop spaces, event venues and independent food, drink and retail business spaces.

Ten of the studios will be let at subsidised rents to support emerging talent from the local area, and event and meeting spaces in the building will be available at low community rates at least 25 per cent of the time, offering a new venue for community events, local meetings and charity fundraising.

The NSP will be debated by Southwark’s cabinet on Tuesday and by the Greater London Assembly on November 29. It then has to be approved by the government’s planning inspectorate.