‘Gateway’: Corporate Language of Control

Preferred Plan by Network RailThe area surrounding Peckham Rye Station, set for redevelopment by Network Rail and Southwark Council, has been dubbed the ‘Gateway‘. Their intention to cash in on Peckham’s recent prosperities endangers the independent, artisan businesses within the arches and the 1930’s building surrounding the station. In January, the plans were revealed detailing commercial and retail units, and seven-story’s worth of luxury accommodation. While community efforts to halt the construction are bubbling, with council meetings being called and the local distribution of flyers, it is still important to note the strategic use of limiting language by various bodies of power and not to adopt such terms ourselves, or face being pigeonholed.

gatewaydefinitionA simple Google search produces interesting definitions for the term ‘Gateway’ – “a place regarded as giving access to another place” and “a device used to connect two different networks”. In the context of the station, the overground links and rail services certainly do give immediate access to central Peckham and all of the available industries around Rye Lane. However, by defining the area as such, limits it to being perceived only as a port of access and undermines it as an attraction in itself.

The Gateway AreaPeckham Vision illustrates (above) the locations of various creative and cultural businesses on the station redevelopment plan. Similarly, our previous blogs have tried to highlight how the Peckham ‘Gateway Area’ is in fact a place full of creative enterprises, long-standing businesses and new, independent initiatives such as bars and breweries, galleries and studios. All of which are contributing to a gradual increase in footfall and popularity of Peckham, which is attracting people from all over town. Yet the plans have chosen to ignore Blenheim Court, Blenheim Road, Dovedale Court, Holly Grove and the Station Arcade as an area of increasing enterprise and local economic advantage. Instead, the whole area has been reduced to an entry and exit point for central London commuters who will take up the unaffordable housing, and the gentrified twenty-somethings flocking to Frank’s of a summer’s eve. All of the connotations point away from existing residents, business owners and the local community who actually use, live and breathe the space every day.

The use of the term, as can be seen in the statistics above, began to peak around the 1980’s – a stark correlation with the Thatcher era and large-scale, government-funded programmes for urban redevelopment. The Thames Gateway project, of the same name, is a perfect example.

thames_gateway_470x168This was a Thatcher regeneration investment to turn brownfield land into 160,000 new homes, rejuvenate towns and create 180,000 new jobs along the Thames estuary, from east London, through Kent and as far as Southend-on-Sea and the Isle of Sheppey in Essex. The sheer size of the development meant that the entire region was looked upon not as individual, bottom-up improvements spanning three counties and 16 local government districts, but as a singular overhaul of general degradation. It was former conservative deputy Prime Minister, Michael Heseltine who defined the area as a ‘Gateway’ during a helicopter tour of east London in 1979, and in doing so reduced the home of over 3 million people to “a place regarded as giving access to another place“.

Similarly, last year’s Tower Hamlets Whitechapel Vision Masterplan aimed at the regeneration of the area to transform it “into a key destination for London“, uses the the word again. From page 8 of the ‘vision’:

The creation of “entrance gateways” will help to improve first impressions, create a sense of arrival and define Whitechapel as a place and destination in its own right. This can be achieved through high quality buildings and public realm improvements at these gateway junctions.

Despite the complete disregard that Whitechapel is a already a place of interest for many Londoners, the onus on developing the area alongside new Crossrail networks for the enjoyment of newcomer’s “first impressions”, without recognition for the people that already live and work there, just stands to show where the loyalties of our councils lie. The grandiose over-expenditure on the part of Network Rail for amenities already available in Peckham, such as bars, galleries and artisan studios, reeks of this outmoded, 80’s planning.

The same generalisations can be said for things like the Gateway Drug Theory, which suggests that drugs such as alcohol and cannabis create a pathway into harder drugs, addiction and crime. Various sporadic experiments have supported and refuted the hypothesis, but all-in-all, the term used is limiting and sees populations as a generalised whole, detracting credit from the rational, decision-making individual.

this is not a gateway

Organisation, This Is Not A Gateway, was formed to create a platform for people who care about the future of our streets to discuss, debate and critique the ever-changing urban policy of cities and towns. They argue that all too often, decisions regarding vast redevelopment of urban areas are isolated to a small population of upper-middle class, white men that will likely never step foot on the soil they homogenise. In describing the choice of name for the organisation, they put it perfectly:

There is no beginning or end of a city, there is no place of entry and exit, there is no entrance that can be opened, there are no gateway texts, no gateway knowledges. In choosing to recognise ‘gateways’ we give others the ability to create boundaries, borders and limitations to our lives.

The historical use of ‘Gateway’ has always been about management. It reduces and simplifies places and people so that they can be effectively herded and categorised, which establishes control.

EileenClaridgeNetworkRailEileen Claridge, the sarcastic Network Rail representative instructed to attend the January 18th ‘public consultation’ meeting, who kindly stated that corporation was “not a charity”, is the terrifying example of this control tactic. In Network Rail’s 2012 winter newsletter, Eileen was interviewed about her new position as one of eight “asset development surveyors who look after enhancement projects for Network Rail Commercial Estate”:

What does your job entail?

We identify and develop potential new income for commercial estates.


What are the challenges?

We’re tasked with raising the company’s income
by finding brand new opportunities.


What would you be doing if it weren’t this job?

I’d quite like to be a mounted policeman!

I can only draw comparisons to the Peterloo Massacre of 1819 at Eileen’s closing statement.


Please feel free to leave your comments below.

Get in touch if you would like to contribute to our film about the Peckham Rye Station and Gateway Area Redevelopment Project. Just email: production@spectacle.co.uk

See Peckham for more blogs and information.
Or visit PlanA, our general blog on urbanism, planning and architecture.

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A small triumph for Peckham at the Community Council Meeting

Ruth Kennedy discusses the deputationThe Peckham and Nunhead Community Council Meeting at Harris Academy Peckham on Wednesday 12th February saw Peckham residents and local business owners gather to discuss, directly with Southwark councilors, the plans for Peckham Rye Station.

A crowd beginning to gather for the Community Council Meeting, Wed 11 Feb

The chair announced the deputation that had been devised by local Peckham people, including Eileen Conn of Peckham Vision.

Chair of Peckham & Nunhead Community Council Meeting

Ruth Kennedy, a Peckham resident for over 20 years, read the Deptuation Statement to the room. It outlined the lack of communication between Southwark Council, the GLA and Network Rail, and the subsequent lack of consultation with local people regarding the developing plans. It emphasised the threat the plans pose for the local economy, in particular the cultural quarter, and disputed the size and scale of the primarily residential block developments surrounding the station. The lack of basic priorities that the public had asked for, specifically public toilets and the open square, were also brought to Southwark’s attention.

Ruth Kennedy delivers the deputation to Southwark CouncilRuth concluded by asking two questions:

Please can we meet to co-construct a process of meaningful ongoing collaboration, that will see this development through to a fantastic transformation for Peckham?

Can we begin the next phase with the curation of a robust, creative workshop, involving all three partners and the community, so everyone is hearing the same messages, and is engaged in collaborative problem-solving together?

A long applause for the deputation!…which received tumultuous applause.

Cllr Fiona Colley agrees with the issues raised in the deputation

Councillor Fiona Colley (pictured) thanked those involved for devising the deputation and enthusiastically agreed to both points. She announced that a meeting between Southwark Council and Network Rail would be taking place next week in order to discuss the plans and that the speed of the development was controlled by a deadline for the Spring 2016 GLA fund of £5million, which in order to be completed, a planning application would need to be submitted by next week. Therefore, Colley has arranged to meet with the GLA to seek an extension of the deadline.

Local Peckham resident BarryShe agreed that the issue of public toilets needed to be addressed and apologised for the way the subject was handled at the January 18th Public Consultation meeting. With regards to the threat to industry as a result of the redevelopment, Colley was wholeheartedly behind protection of these businesses and incorporation of them into new plans so they are not priced out. As such, she announced that Southwark Council would not be using compulsory purchase orders for this project and that betting shops and payday lenders would be excluded from the area. She also said that the plans for Dovedale Court demonstrated a real “lack of vision” and clarity, and that Network Rail did indeed only give generic answers to question of potential rent prices at the last meeting.

Peckham residents and business owners deliver the deputation

However, the issue of the seven-storey, residential buildings proposed around the station were keenly glossed over. Colley agreed that she saw little reason for the 30’s building to be torn down and that the height and density of the residential blocks should be discussed further with Network Rail, but she did not oppose their existence.

Peckham & Nunhead Community Council Meeting

Among the victories that Peckham has won here, we are in danger of compromising on other aspects of the redevelopment that also pose a real threat to the carefully balanced ecosystem of Peckham Rye. It certainly suits Southwark Council to shift blame to Network Rail, yet we must remember that all parties were aware of the scale of the redevelopment plans.

Nick Dolezal agrees with deputation

Please feel free to leave your comments below in answer to these questions or any other statements throughout the blog.

Get in touch if you would like to contribute to our film about the Peckham Rye Station and Gateway Area Redevelopment Project. Just email production@spectacle.co.uk

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Community meets the Council – Wed 12th Feb to discuss the future of Peckham

If you are concerned about the plans for Peckham Rye Station and how they affect the arches, surrounding areas and businesses (see our earlier blogs for information), please attend the

Peckham and Nunhead Community Council Meeting
on Wednesday 12th February,
at 7:00pm,
Harris Academy Peckham, 112 Peckham Road, SE15 5DZ
with Southwark councilors.

Peckham Rye Station and the surrounding area is under threat of total redevelopment by Southwark Coucil, the GLA and most of all, Network Rail.

The local and popular initiative to open up the square has lead to a monstrous scheme that is now only set to see private profit and greatly increased rents. It is so important that as many people as possible attend to show the council that Peckham community is unhappy with the plans. Please forward the downloadable flyer onto others that may be interested.


The many contradictions in GLA funding proposals for Peckham Rye Station

Discussion at the public consultation event for Peckham Rye Station & Gateway Areas

In 2012, the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, made available funds from The Greater London Authority (GLA), designed for the regeneration of some of the capital’s boroughs and £177 million was set aside for generally “boosting local high streets, delivering growth and new jobs and improving lives”. Within this budget a £70 million Regeneration Fund was put into action following the 2011 Summer Riots, presumably in an attempt at ‘damage-control’ of the worst affected areas. Peckham came under this title. The borough of Southwark was awarded £5.2 million by the GLA fund for the purpose of the redevelopment of Peckham Rye Station and the Gateway Area, for “new and improved commercial/retail spaces respectively and nearly 100 new jobs“.

The GLA has a very specific policy on transparency and openness, its guidelines on the subject can be found here. They aim to provide information as to how they operate, publish decisions and governance arrangements, and free up the data that they hold. However, a very specific document – the Agreement for the Provision of Funding Relating to the London Borough of Southwark Gateway to Peckham Project between GLA and The Mayor and Burgesses of the London borough of Southwark – was unpublished and untraceable. Eileen Conn, of Peckham Vision, administered a Freedom of Information request to Southwark Council in early August 2013 for the document. She received only a redacted hard copy with print so small that much of the document was illegible. Southwark Council gave the excuse that the 74 page PDF document was too large to be sent via email (questionable in itself). On the 4th October 2013, Eileen issued another request for a digital version, which was only fulfilled on the final day of the statuary 20 day target. The full PDF can be found lurking suspiciously in the GLA disclosure log; very much not accessible or transparent. The whole scenario contradicts their intended policy “to help Londoners hold us to account”.

The Agreement embodies some interesting project objectives regarding the purpose of the redevelopment plan and the aims the Mayor’s fund intends to achieve; dated, signed and sealed by Executive Director of Resources, Martin Clarke, himself. The objectives are detailed and discussed below:

Rye Lane Station (1880)

“Increase accessibility to the town centre by improving Peckham Rye station and reinstating a high quality public realm which incorporates active uses and reconnects the station with the high street”

This objective refers to the plans for the square to be reintroduced in front of Peckham Rye station, as it was in 1880. The initial plans, drawn up by Network Rail in response to a campaign by Peckham Vision, were well received and the subject of much excitement for members of the community. Despite much recent contention surrounding the expansion of the project to other areas (see our blog reporting on the public consultation meeting), the plans for a public realm (page 8) reconnecting the station with Rye Lane remain a singularly, positive aspect of the Gateway Project.

The second aim however…

“Draw new visitors to the high street to deliver economic benefits to local business including increased retail activity and footfall by providing high quality accommodation for active uses and evening economic activity”

In fact, increased retail activity and footfall has already been observed in Peckham over the last year, it being described as London’s newest “hotspot“, and people are already drawn to the area from all over town for various reasons (see our previous blog on the matter). This apparent need to fix things that are not broken is a commonality of the Agreement and Network Rail’s plans on the whole.

The description of the project activities on page 26 also details how the railway arches will be “transformed” for galleries and studios, which will support the local economy and create new jobs. The fact that all of this money is being spent on spaces that are already occupied in the trades they are trying to attract suggests either there is dishonesty or stupidity at play.

Regardless, no economic benefits will be felt by the local businesses of the Gateway Area, who are all being evicted from their premises to be replaced by “high quality accommodation”. This inevitable increase in rental value will only benefit Network Rail and will attract only the likes of Costa and M&S, who can afford such spaces. This type of corporate industry will eventually destroy the rest of Rye Lane’s independent, family-run business economy by jacking up Peckham’s rent prices, as was sadly seen in Borough Market and Clapham.

Preferred Plan by Network Rail

“Creating new jobs in the town centre”

Despite that fact that numerous current jobs are to be lost on account of these plans, new jobs will indeed be made available. However, the types of jobs created will not be ones open to much progression: ‘McJobs’. By putting in retail and commercial spaces,employment opportunities in the area are limited to shop assistants, baristas and cashiers etc. Yet the jobs lost are already ones with potential for real growth and career prospects for members of the community. Apprentices, graduates and interns alike, have passed through and beyond the Arches of Peckham, yet the new businesses are likely to flatten inspiration and aspiration.

“Bring diverse communities together to enjoy and connect with their high street and the town centre, providing a focus for community uses, socializing and events”

It is almost as if the person that wrote this objective has never even stepped foot on soil south or east of Harvey Nichs, let alone in Peckham. It is a struggle to imagine how much closer ‘diverse communities’ can be brought than as they stand on Rye Lane; Khans is largely run by Pakistanis, Afro-Caribbean barbers and hairdressers line the streets, Il Giardinio on Blenheim Grove is owned by Sardinians, and there are Irish butchers and Irish-run Canavan’s Pool Club, to name a few.

As Peckham Vision have demonstrated in their hotspot map below, many of the creative enterprises in the town centre rely on an interconnected, relationship-based infrastructure, that could not be restored by relocation. A fact that seems to be entirely overlooked by Network Rail, and one that can apparently be magically created by GLA through the use of “milestones”.


“Continue engagement with the local community and bringing out what is unique about Peckham, creating character and vibrancy, and restoring and celebrating some of the high street’s historic character”

What is unique about Peckham, as discussed here, is not the same type of uniqueness that can be seen in the ‘Shorditchification of London‘. Artisan businesses have been nurtured for decades; character and vibrancy have long since been instated here. It makes no sense that a huge corporation could ever hope to instil such qualities in a place.

The emphasis and importance of appearance resonates throughout the paper, the GLA even cite evidence of correlations of quality street design and increased retail rents! These Mary Portas-style rejuvenation ideas can be observed under the ‘Town Centre Design Guide’, which proposes it will “encourage all owners of buildings in the town centre to improve the design of their shop fronts and building frontages” (page 27). Similarly, the discussion in Schedule 5 (page 45) of the “perception of crime” in the area, without factual investigation or crime statistics, and as a reason for the urban planning decisions, bases yet more on weight on aesthetics, rather than actual economic success.

“Attract private sector investment to key development sites in Peckham’s town centre and raise aspirations for design quality in the town centre, setting the standard for future developments and public realm projects.”

Attracting private sector investment into Peckham provides absolutely no community or local economic benefits whatsoever. As stated before, the only beneficiaries will be Network Rail who are hoping to improve upon their £6.2 billion revenue (2013). It also entirely contradicts all the previous statements of intent. What makes Peckham unique is it’s sprawling diversity, it’s independent, local business culture, and it’s recent creative economic boom. By inviting big-wig investors to lay their hands on unarguably the best sites in Peckham, it will become yet another mono-cultural section of London – destroyed from the inside out.

The small and medium-sized enterprises (SME’s) and cultural industries that make up Peckham’s existing economy – not limited to the Gateway Area, but the whole of the town centre – are dependent on low rents. By incurring vast expenditures on redevelopment projects, a revenue can only be brought back through increased rents, forcing out anyone currently residing in Peckham because of the lower prices.

A similar redevelopment struggle was seen at Twickenham Station a couple of years ago. Sadly, not enough could be done to save it in the anticipation for the 2015 Rugby World Cup, but there is still hope for Peckham yet. The entire plan must be rejected, because a compromise on any of the factors will mean a huge community and local industry sacrifice.

Discussion at the public consultation event for Peckham Rye Station & Gateway Areas

The questions intended to be raised here are:

Should the GLA fund, which is partly subsidised by council tax, be funding a project that will only financially benefit a huge corporation, Network Rail?

Not only that, but should the GLA be financing a project that is likely to severely damage much of the independent, local economy as it is?

Additionally, was the GLA in breach of its own transparency and openness policy in not providing the Agreement document, and only providing an online PDF version after 4 months and two Freedom of Information requests?


Please feel free to leave your comments below in answer to these questions or any other statements throughout the blog.

Get in touch if you would like to contribute to our film about the Peckham Rye Station and Gateway Area Redevelopment Project. Just email production@spectacle.co.uk

See Peckham for more blogs and information.
Or visit PlanA, our general blog on urbanism, planning and architecture.

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