I recently met Paul and Jerry, two elderly gentlemen, in Rough & Ready, the café on Evelyn Street run by DAGE (Deptford Action Group for the Elderly). Paul and Jerry have been friends for a long time and regularly meet up for a coffee and a sandwich in different cafes. While I was waiting to speak to Sharon, the business owner, I asked Paul and Jerry if they would tell me about their experience of Deptford and their views on what is currently happening in the area.
Jerry has lived in Deptford since 1980; he lives in a council flat near Abinger Grove, near Childers Street. He got decanted from Limberg House on Longshore on the Pepys Estate (next to where Aragon Tower now stands) in 2002 and was moved into the 2-bedroom council flat where he is now. “Although as an old age pensioner you don’t have to pay for a spare bedroom, when the bedroom tax came in, I was told I’d be moved to a one-bedroom flat”, he says, “but they soon realised that there are none available, so I was able to stay.” But Jerry might have to move again. As his place is very near the Anthology Deptford Foundry development, he worries that he might be evicted and moved on again to make way for more luxury flats.
Childers Street before development started
Paul is the leaseholder of a former council flat nearby, and wonders where the council tax goes. “Being a leaseholder”, he says, “I pay a fortune for a caretaker and maintenance services, but nothing gets done.” Paul has been to a couple of meetings with the council and he doesn’t understand where this money goes. “The council seems to have enough money to put towards private developments, but the old stock gets neglected. I’ve complained to the council many times, but you never hear back from them and nothing gets done. The council just blames the government but they have more money than they say I can tell you, I know.”
Both Paul and Jerry say that there is a serious lack of facilities. “With large numbers of people coming into the area and no new facilities such as doctor’s surgeries, the local population is not serviced. You wait for ages to see a doctor now.” However, in terms of existing services, Paul has nothing but good things to say about Lewisham hospital for example. He had his cancer treatment there and whilst he had private cover from his firm he chose to stay on the NHS as it was so good. “There is no better hospital”, he says, “but it’s the only one in this growing area and they are threatening to close it! We’re just numbers on a piece of paper, it’s just about money.”
Both agree that changes have got to happen in Deptford but that what is happening “is not for the likes of us”. “Let them build new flats if they have to, but don’t have them all for sale! Locals are priced out.”
Paul and Jerry like trying out the new cafes part of the new developments, but often they find that they cannot afford them. “There’s a new café not far from where I [Jerry] live, we went in to try it. It’s huge and really posh. We asked if they do toasted sandwiches, they said no; then we saw giant sausage rolls there and asked if they can heat them up, they said no. So we ordered two coffees, which were tiny with not much in them, and 2 of those sausage rolls and it came to £14! We can’t afford that! We’re old age pensioners! I [Jerry] wanted to pay with cash but they said card only. I don’t have a card! Luckily Paul had his card with him. What would we have done otherwise? We couldn’t have paid. These places are only for people in those flats, they’re not for us.” Paul and Jerry had a similar experience when going to one of the new cafes under the railway arches. “2 coffees, a sandwich and a muffin cost us £12.50 – it’s too much, we can’t afford that!”
They used to go to the train café: “It had a wheelchair accessible ramp and toilet, it was reasonably priced, it was lovely. It cost a fortune to bring it here with the tracks and everything else. They said they would bring it back after it was taken away, but it’s not coming back.* Same with the anchor, it was ours and then it was taken away. We are given promises but nothing ever happens, and Deptford’s history is being erased and ignored. The anchor is just a little example of what goes on, but it’s little things like that that are being taken away. The local population is simply not consulted or considered.”
Finally, Paul and Jerry talk about the new cycling route through Deptford. “This proposal for the new cycling route we got through the door the other day – they’re planning to move bus stops and make changes to where you can turn with your car. Evelyn Street is one of the busiest roads in the area and is one of the major routes to the centre, and there is already too much traffic and with these changes the roads will be even more congested. Why don’t they consider locals? Moving a pedestrian crossing or a bus stop further away from the shop where you can top up your Oyster can have a huge impact on the elderly and people with walking difficulties.”
After an hour or so, Paul and Jerry had to leave. I thanked them for their insightful comments and I hope I’ll meet them again some time soon.
*it has since emerged that the anchor is coming back. For more information please see: http://deptforddame.blogspot.co.uk/2017/12/the-anchor-cometh.html