Don't bury Deptford Dockyard's history under development, plead campaigners
When Deptford Dockyard was named alongside Venice on the World Monuments Fund's watchlist for 2014 it raised eyebrows from those unaware of its prestigious history.
But not among a group who are determined to protect the area - once Henry VIII's Royal Naval Dockyard - from a developer which has submitted plans for 3,500 new homes, including a 48-storey skyscraper.
Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa is behind the plans for Convoys Wharf, which it says offers a "major opportunity to regenerate Deptford" and "open up this key area of riverside for the first time in generations".
It sounds good, but conservationists have their concerns. Deptford's history is as rich as neighbouring Greenwich - a Unesco World Heritage site - but you have to look beyond the surface grime.
Jon Wright from the Deptford Is... group, leading the campaign, said: "Part of the problem of Deptford is the perceived invisibility to everybody.
"That's clear from the interest the WMF announcement has created. People are saying 'I didn't know it had that history'.
"Fragmented remains exist but there's much beneath the surface that survived. If that was visible, people would really be able to see the history."
It was London's first royal dockyard, and is celebrating its 500th anniversary this year.
Along with Woolwich and Greenwich it was the backbone of Britain's naval dominance.
Ships were built there for 350 years and it served for a time as naval headquarters. But its location and shallow river along with the end of the Napoleonic Wars saw it fall into disuse after 1830. However, during its time it was associated with mariners such as Sir Francis Drake, Sir Walter Raleigh and Captain James Cook.
Many of the structures were covered in concrete after the Second World War and conservationists now fear they will be lost forever with the Convoys Wharf scheme.
Jon said: "We feel strongly the planning application isn't looking after what we already know about what has survived in the place. The resistance has been about that and trying to get a better deal.
"The precedent for 48-storey buildings is on the other side of the river. It will affect the views of the World Heritage Site in Greenwich. The development will have a greatly detrimental impact on what exists underground."
Roo Angell of the Sayes Court Gardens Community Interest Company, representing the parkland, which is also on the WMF watchlist, said she wasn't protesting against development of the now largely barren site, she just wanted to see history respected.
She said: "Of course developers need to make the most profit they can but what they do needs to be in the context of what's best for the area."
Jon added: "It should be done for the benefit of local people, the developers and for future generations. What's been proposed on the last three occasions doesn't do that.
"And that's a shame because there's a scheme to redevelop the dockyard - it's just this isn't it."
The dockyard was proposed for the watch by the Council for British Architecture.
Claire Price of the CBA said: "We're not saying development for this area is a bad thing but that development needs to be right for the area.
"The history here is being ignored and there's an opportunity to make this a unique place and take into account the historic location and using that as a catalyst for the development."
Hutchison Whampoa commissioned an archeological survey two years ago but it has yet to be published in full.
Jon said: "How can you decide your planning application if you don't know all the basics. This has all been done the wrong way."
A Hutchison Whampoa spokesman said: "The results of these investigations were published in interim form in 2013 and were included in the Environmental Statement and the Heritage Strategy and submitted as key elements of the April 2013 outline planning application.
"A post excavation assessment report was prepared in May 2013 by Museum of London Archaeology as a milestone to full publication."
Regarding the area being put on the WMF watchlist, the spokesman said: "HW and its team have fully evaluated the site's rich history and the 2013 masterplan has allowed the history and heritage of the site to inform the layouts of spaces and buildings."
Lewisham Council is due to decide on the outline planning application early next year.