This project started life as a walk in March 2013. My curiosity about the Greenwich Peninsula was aroused through the experience of walking through a series of contrasting environments; old derelict industrial buildings in the west, the corporate, commodified space of the O2 area in the north; a housing development in the south east, and in the middle, a series of roads circling areas of rubble awaiting development. It was hard to gain any sense of coherency about the area which encouraged me to begin some research.
The Greenwich Peninsula provides a fascinating case study in which to investigate discourses about sustainable development. Within the short space of 150 years, the Peninsula has transformed from marshland to heavy industry, stagnated into dereliction, undergone decontamination and is currently experiencing significant regeneration to create a new, mixed use urban quarter. Following the Brundtland Report (1987) and the Rio Summit (1992) when climate change and discourses about sustainability became dominant global themes, Greenwich Peninsula was identified as land suitable for regeneration, utilising sustainable development practices. It was presented as an opportunity to create a new, mixed use urban quarter, capable of meeting a variety of housing needs for Londoners, thus creating sustainable communities.
Greenwich Millennium Village, which sits at the southern end of the site, was the first millennium community to be created under the Millennium Communities Programme. The ‘village’ was heralded as a flagship sustainable development that would serve as a template for a well-designed, twenty-first century, socially inclusive, mixed community. It was envisaged that the construction of the village would meet an 80% reduction in energy consumption, 30% reduction in water usage, together with reductions in waste. Building materials included cedar wood from sustainable forests and aluminium because it lasts and can be recycled. An ecology park and a small lake were included into the design for the village. Original plans for the site envisaged a reduction in the use of cars.
Employing an immersive walking practice, ‘Walking the Greenwich Peninsula’ takes a critical look at the landscape and questions whether sustainable development practices have been achieved.
As a photographer, my method of critically engaging with the urban landscape is to walk which allows me a sensory approach to experiencing the world thereby enabling me to become receptive to everything around me. My initial encounters with Woolwich arose whilst walking the Thames Path when my eyes were drawn to some unexpected scenes that visually drew my attention. From landscaped gardens followed by a set of sculptures together with the sounds of building works, my first encounter with the town was followed by a 7 month investigation into the regeneration and gentrification of a previously industrial area.
Woolwich has a rich military and industrial history associated with munitions manufacturing which through the regeneration of the exclusive Royal Arsenal Riverside development, maintains its presence via the placement of historical cannons, street names using military terminology and a museum and heritage centre that allow for a re-enactment of the past. The area is marketed suggesting an exciting riverside address, although I have to admit that throughout my 7 months of working in the area, I have yet to produce one photo that resembles excitement. Indeed, my encounters with this space have been quite the reverse, with a notable lack of people engaging with the urban space. This exclusive development with a number of gated communities serves to exclude rather than include, highlighting social inequality thus reflecting who should or should not be visible.
Across a busy main road, the Woolwich town centre developments have been significant. Tesco have invested to create a mixed use scheme that is being marketed by Woolwich Central to encourage young professionals to enjoy a ‘contemporary haven’, whilst being assured of good connections to the city. These attractive spaces, inviting a leisurely stroll to the shops whilst the TV screen displays news and market reports, suggest a world away from an area that according to the Woolwich Town Centre Masterplan, ‘features some of the most deprived neighbourhoods in London’. Woolwich Riverside and Woolwich Common wards (under the Royal Borough of Greenwich) for instance, experience ‘extreme deprivation’ and are within the ‘bottom 5% for London’ with significant child poverty levels.
Whilst these developments have been taking place, Greenwich has signed a contract to demolish three council estates and replace them with 975 new homes for the open market, 375 homes for affordable rent and 150 shared ownership homes.
On the riverside meanwhile, a new development of exclusive tower blocks are being created … in whose image is the city made and whose interests are being served?
 Woolwichcentral.com, (2014). The Apartments | Woolwich Central – A new skyline apartment development in Woolwich, London, UK. [online] Available at: http://www.woolwichcentral.com/the-apartments/ [Accessed 28 Dec. 2014].
 Woolwich Town Centre Masterplan SPD (Chapters 6-11), April 2012 Allies and Morrison Urban Practitioners & Royal Borough of Greenwich, pp. 66-79 [online] Available at http://www.royalgreenwich.gov.uk/downloads/download/432/woolwich_riverside_masterplan [Accessed 14 August 2013].
 Trust for London, and New Policy Institute, (2014). London's Poverty Profile - Greenwich. [online]. Available at: http://www.londonspovertyprofile.org.uk/indicators/boroughs/greenwich/ [Accessed 28 Dec. 2014].
Deptford: A Town in Transition
This set of photos investigate the changing urban landscape in Deptford, South East London, representing my interest in urban regeneration, gentrification, local history and the anticipation of changing identities within the urban space. The project is not complete and I envisage a slow, continuation of the work over the next few years as changes in Deptford take place. My practice is embedded in walking which, with its sensory approach to the environment, allows me to experience life on the street, thus enabling a critical engagement with the urban landscape. I have talked to market traders and their customers, local residents on the Pepys Estate, and whenever photographing, engaged in conversations.
The title, ‘A Town in Transition’ has been chosen to reflect the fluidity of the landscape in terms of planning, architecture and the identities of people who occupy the space. My research has revealed an area rich in history whose wealth was associated with the docks. A combination of socio-economic decline and severe bombing during the Second World War, resulted in two eras of regeneration; the first, during the 1960s/70s, attempted to create modernist and utopian social housing, whilst the second and current regeneration, reverses some of the previous planning policies, and concentrates on the creation of exclusive riverside developments in conjunction with the gentrification of the town centre.
One of the key themes addressed through my photography is that of the urban space as a ‘palimpsest’, in which elements of different historical eras become superimposed upon each other, revealing the influence of different identities and cultures on the landscape. Awareness of the palimpsest, encourages me to consider the layers of the city that shape our urban experience, noticing that we don’t totally erase what has occurred before. Deptford’s distant and more recent past is revealed throughout the town and riverside area, so for example, my attention was drawn to its cobbled streets and elegant architecture, suggesting an era of prosperity, juxtaposed against pound shops, pawnbrokers and betting shops, reflecting the current economic climate. Through my visual project I have attempted to convey some of these juxtapositions.
Spatial inequalities are important to this work, underlining the polarisation of wealth between some of the new developments, contrasted against the day to day activities within the town centre and market area. Some of the new regenerated spaces, with their clean lines and transparent facades have an illusory feel to them despite their visual transparency and contrast sharply with the vibrancy of the town centre.
My work in Deptford continues slowly. I am following the riverside development at Convoys Wharf and intend to document changes within the town centre, particularly with regard to the new developments currently being marketed to overseas investors and city workers as suitable for their needs, whilst erasing the identities of those who currently occupy the space.