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Any Bermondsey Spa Regeneration newbies out there?

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Thursday 18 August 2011 1.56pm

My partner and I moved from Clapham to Bermondsey Spa a few months ago because we were really drawn to the Southwark/Hyde masterplan, and we're now very happy residents on Spa Road.

Nestled between two listed buildings and with ready-mature trees, Spa Road was attractive to us right from the word go. During our first visit to the area, I loved the walk from the tube station, past The Gregorian and through the pretty churchyard, with the Dragonfly apartments in the background. The tidied-up railway arches felt new yet full of history, as the Spa Station photo-feature on the wall clearly documents. And of course, to the west of the development, Bermondsey Square and Bermondsey Street are only a short walk away, past that charming row of 18th century houses. A friend visited recently and I couldn't resist "showing off" the Saturday farmers' market, and she was most envious. ;)

One of the reasons why I sold my property in Clapham North is that the area has developed a relentless party boy/girl vibe in recent years. It attracts wave upon wave of 20somethings (a lot of Aussies, Kiwis and South Africans) who only spend a few years in the country before moving on, creating a very transient rental-ghetto feel. The 20somethings there tend to drink a lot on Clapham High Street, party a lot, so the feeling (especially on weekends) is one of a fraternity or sorority house. There is a lot of late night parties, litter, vomit on the pavement, pissing in the front gardens of the terraced properties nearest the high street - you get the picture.

My partner and I were looking for a change of scene - a place that was urban (because we're city mice at heart) and still had a high proportion of owner-occupation - people who are going to STAY, and be part of a community. It boiled down to "a tale of two regenerations" - Elephant & Castle v Bermondsey Spa, and in the end - because of the awards this area and Bermondsey Square have won, and because ALL our friends said choose Bermondsey over E&C, we ended up here. I'm happy to report that my development has a good mix of nationalities, races and ages, and I've seen some young children, which to me is always a good sign. Also, three summer months have passed and so far - no late night parties, no drunken yelling etc. :)

I'm very excited about the possible Shard effect on this area. I do hope that it generates employment for locals, especially the younger generation, and that the area as a whole benefits without its original, historic charm being lost.

Any other Bermondsey Spa newbies out there? How are you finding it so far?
Friday 19 August 2011 10.22pm
Hi Joe L,

Welcome to SE1. I have to say, your post sounds a lot like marketing garb for the Bermondsey Spa developers. Did they give you a discount on your new flat? ;-)

If not, hope you enjoy living in the best area of London. I'd be a little more sceptical of the Shard and what's supposed to bring, though. Why is the relentless march to glassy skyscrapers always a good thing? Especially in an area where it is SO out of place and symbolises the high-rise finance world elite not half a mile from areas where some families struggle to put food on the table tomorrow. Just came across this for greater depth:

I don't at all intend to offend you - just food for thought with regard to your new community. And I hope you find lots of good new friends here.
Saturday 20 August 2011 12.01am
That Jonathan Jones piece might be fine as an unsupported polemical rant if it didn't come from a Guardian art critic and former jurist for, wait for it, the Turner Prize.

Isn't art often said to be all about perspective? His perspective in that case is wholly and solely Hampstead. Clearly he's never sat for instance outside the Miller pub on Snowsfields, from which angle Guy's old tower can seem at least the Shard's equal in height.

And what other modern construction brought him here? "On the Tate Modern bridge the other day I stopped, transfixed." Clearly not someone who's often seen in SE1....
Saturday 20 August 2011 8.21am
Thanks for the posts above. I was beginning to think that because Spa Road falls into SE16 (albeit just one street east of SE1), I was being snubbed! ;) Haha, on re-reading my original post, I suppose it does seem a bit like marketing drivel. So let me Balance it out a bit with a few observations:
- There's been one murder since we moved in - at the bus stop near Bermondsey tube - a few weeks ago.
- Also, a 14yo was stabbed on a south Bermondsey estate just this week.
(But when you come from the SW2/4/9 triangular convergence point like my partner and I do, you're not too fazed by reports of incidents like these.)
- And - more trivial of course - it remains to be seen how the ground level commercial units on Spa Road will fill up (especially at the Bolanachi Apartments). I still can't find a drycleaner!

I will readily acknowledge that it will take more time before we can assess the overall success of the B Spa regeneration. I'm particularly monitoring the Grange Gardens development, which is very near us but crucially falls into the inner edge of SE1. It's being marketed heavily, glossily, on the appeal of postcode and city view, but nothing can detract from its immediate environs, amidst which it is currently looking very incongruous. Walking past it the other day after the recent riots, I had this apocalyptic imagining of what might happen on that street if there is strife driven by deep social divisions. Put it another way - the way that eye-wateringly priced luxury apartment development sticks out at the moment, it would practically light up with a sign that says "TARGET".

Here's the link their marketing site -
There's a bit at the end of the uber slick video which shows a ground level jazz lounge - which I find hysterical because anyone walking along that stretch at it currently looks at the moment would think - "yeah right". But perhaps I'm under-estimating the potential power of regeneration.

Finally, I confess I'm a shameless lover of the Shard. I enjoy catching a glimpse of it every day walking home down Spa Road from St James Churchyard. I like the way you can't see it from some streets in SE1, yet it suddenly looms into view when you turn a corner. There's something about that experience that reminds me of being in some parts of New York.

I have this idea that for the Shard's "launch" next year, a team of architects. town planners and weather experts should get together to use the Shard as a gigantic sun dial during the summer solstice. e.g. "at precisely 9.13am, the shadow of the shard when viewed from above will point directly at the Tate Modern..." Do you think it'll work?? ;)
Saturday 20 August 2011 2.30pm
Joe - you certainly weren't being snubbed! Glad you thought it sounded a bit marketing-ish too ;-)

I think using the Shard as a sun dial would work nicely. It would give it some sort of function other than compensating for the developers', er, inadequecies elsewhere. Perhaps that was immature, but I can't help it. I'm not comfortable with these huge, speculative multi-million pound buildings when such pressing and basic needs are so close by. I don't care who the author of that Guardian piece is: I agree with his points and my perspective is not from Hampstead.

As for dry cleaners, Joe, there's a few around Shad Thames. And this website might be able to help you find more. London-se1 is brilliant - and that's not even marketing-speak :)
Tuesday 23 August 2011 1.09pm
You don't need to be an art critic of the Turner Prize to be a critic of the location of the Shard. It does overwhelm St Thomas's Street and it does tower over every other building within miles, including the beautiful Tower Bridge and St Paul's Cathedral. What is the point of even mentioning Guys Tower - it is obviously horrible, and was built in an era when they didn't know any better. It's not an okay excuse to stick another too-high building up in the same area, just because one already exists there. I love beautiful buildings new or old, short or tall, but they should be in context with the environment and the Shard is not.
In any case it is about wealth not community, as are most of the endless building projects from Bermondsey to Waterloo - who else can afford the apartments at, for example, Bankside which blot the view of the Tate?
This invasion of the area is even infecting old Rotherhithe with the landlords wanting to push out Sands Films, an employer of local people and community resource, in order to redevelop the old building into apartments and possibly a Tesco - God help us.

Thank goodness for the haven that is the Buddhist Centre at the Spa, offering quiet and an opportunity for contemplation away from the constant construction noise.
Tuesday 23 August 2011 1.23pm
The shard is awesome. I'm literately some'd with awe looking at it. It's a huge boon for SE1 and is bringing attention, investment and money.

Hope you're happy at the Spa, thought about it myself before opting for the Elephant.
Tuesday 23 August 2011 1.47pm
Loving "the Spa" ;)... and loving the Shard. But even as a Shard-lover, I thought the Guardian piece was thought-provoking, so much so that I posted the link on my Facebook page and got lots of friends arguing about it.

The money-minded property-owner side of me wants to see it succeed because I'm curious how many £20m glass penthouses it takes to move Southwark up the Rightmove property league from 18/32 to.. well.. whatever. It might even help push the unsold units left at the top of the Strata.

But my left-of-centre sensibilities mean that I'm simultaneously repulsed by myself for even thinking of property league tables if it means sod all to the people in the borough who, as AdamES puts it, struggle to put food on the table on a day to day basis.
Tuesday 23 August 2011 1.49pm
Oh, and thanks for the drycleaning lead, Adam. :)
Tuesday 23 August 2011 3.45pm
Joe L - Sorry for this, I feel a rant coming on!

I would always say that as architecture the Shard is not that startling, just the scale Ė itís a big pointy building, admittedly a very big, very pointy building.

For people in the area itís a strong landmark of what was a growing economy Ė and now a landmark of the Qatari economy who are still financing it but to many of the people around the middle and the east of the borough itís as distant asÖ well Qatar. At a time when financial institutions rampantly speculate their way into huge debts and then tell the most disenfranchised part of society that itís their responsibility to pay for it in any significant way, the idea of putting a multi-million pound skyscraper right in their faces to show how little money there is left in the system is one that fills me with disgust.

At the moment, thereís an increase in fuel costs of up to 20% for domestic customers. Food prices have increased too, particularly staples and generally low cost items. There has been no significant increase in benefit levels to Balance this for some time. Iím not even talking about those who are out of work, just claiming benefits. Iím talking about those who provide the environment we live and work in now. Many of those on the lowest incomes cleaning and servicing the places we work for minimum wage who often relied on additional top up to ensure they could survive. I imagine life for them has gone from manageable to intolerable very quickly.

I also was wondering about how the regeneration would improve property prices and facilities in our local area and was likewise rather disgusted with myself for being so avaricious. I live here and if I choose to move I hope it wonít be to escape here but to find somewhere similarly suitable. I worry that the financial divisions that exist at the moment wonít likewise lead to people with money and property trying to escape them, leaving people with the least connection to education, communication and facilities to try to campaign for them. And I would wish them luck because theyíll need it!

I can only hope for some redress to the system or there'll be more and more strife.
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