Lewisham Council recently consulted the local community to share their ideas for the future of Deptford High Street.  The St Johns Society responsed as follows:


We of the St Johns Society, would like to add to the consultation, because Deptford High street is a unique resource for residents and visitors.

If London is to invent viable post-carbon lifestyles for itself Lewisham will need to consider implementing a ‘diversity-of-diversities’ policy.

Deptford High Street currently boasts a unique diversity of retail services run by local people. This is a reason that people across London are attracted here to use the businesses.

This is importantly different from the current diversity of high street brands where diversity is ample, but much lower.

This is a necessary aspect of Deptford High Street’s convivial character.

Experience has shown that increasing the range of giant corporates can lead to a significant reduction in local diversity.

The buying power of a large commercial concern means that smaller retailers cannot compete on price for the items that both offer. When the smaller retailer goes out of business, the additional items are lost. Indeed predatory pricing is a known tactic to remove competitors and is hard to counter as it is hard to prove. LBL must we aware of occasions where this is probably happening.

It is better to have a community resource, run locally to be able to respond to the local needs, than to have a flagship on the street.

Retaining the requisite diversities must be the focus of any changes, ignoring temptations to welcome more commercially lucrative chains, which will eventually lead to our loss of the high street’s unique character.

Improving air quality in the High Street is necessary, and especially so, if we are encouraging the occupation of spaces on and just off the street. This be achieved by raising awareness of the health hazards caused by toxic fumes from cars. There seems to be virtually no awareness of this issue, judging by the high proportion of vehicle owners who sit in, or leave their cars idling, and who have no clue that the Council can fine them £80 for doing this. Traffic Wardens could be asked to help, here.

Unfortunately, the wholesale littering of Deptford High Street with plastic bags is so deeply ingrained in the trading culture that it might be hard to eradicate. But it is worth trying, given the seriousness of the global plastics problem and the fact that wading in rubbish does not make anybody feel good. Indeed, it shares a sense of low-self-esteem that may even encourage the proliferation of poor quality tagging and graffiti onto shopfronts. We see this as an opportunity rather than a problem. Perhaps we could turn this into a resource for local small industry.

We would urge the development of strategies to further the occupation of empty premises or empty upper stories as part of densification, helping security with over-looking.

It is well known that inviting the local creative industries to participate at affordable costs is probably the cheapest starter for urban renewal (Lewisham has understood this at least since 2000 when it pioneered its ‘Creative Lewisham Agency’).

We would also welcome opportunities to add trees, green spaces or other living plants. This may be in the spaces associated with the street eg Deptford Market yard.


Yours faithfully


The St John’s Society