Some wonderful plans have recently being unveiled for the restoration of Peckham rye station which I’m sure every Peckhamite welcomes. The main bus station also deserves some “restoration” of sorts. It’s too late for the wonderful 1951 Wallis, Gilbert and Partners designed bus garage to have a restorative make over, having been demolished to extend what was then Safeway (currently Morrisons) in 1995. It’s quite interesting at the time the Peckham bus garage was being demolished another Wallis, Gilbert and Partners designed building the Aslaka factory just up the road in the same Borough, at Bermondsey was being converted into “luxary flats”. It’s never too late to dispose of the desperate and drab Peckham bus station or should that be Safeways bus station. It fails on every level, the bus shelters are too small to accommodate all those waiting for buses at busy periods, if it rains you’re screwd. The cabin for the drivers from the outside looks awful, depressing and small, and having peeked inside when doors are left ajar on hot days, it doesn’t look that much better inside. The minuscule windows insure a dark and dreary interior. Any pederstrians walking along Peckham high street on the bus station side have to engage in a dueling dance of death with the exiting and entering buses. This is the central bus hub for Peckham, if Southwark council are serious about a rebrand of Peckham, this is a key area. What if those who came to see Peckham library also came to see a spectacular bus station? Look at Arup Associates Vauxhall cross, Every time I’ve used this I’ve noted how much more inspiring and more importantly user friendly it is then the current Peckham debacle.
“My friends, Welcome to Fantasy Island.” Well, more like welcome to the geodesic dome covered Peckham Botanical Gardens to be located on Choumert Grove car park. Looking like something from a retro-future exhibition, geodesic domes were popularised by the American polymath Buckminster Fuller. His strong environmental credentials have ensured geodesic structures are the structure of choice for “alternative” communities and now for Peckham! Ok the botanical gardens under a dome, has a lot to do with the 1970’s film Silent running and of course the Eden project. This section of Southwark already boasts the wonderful Chumleigh Gardens in Burgess Park (currently undergoing renovation) and the assortment of gardens at Peckham Rye, but has no botanical “hot house” which Peckham botanical gardens could become. It could house a variety of tropical plant species, as well as a butterfly house. All in the name of conservation of course, with gift shops and cafés only a secondary consequence.
Turning Choumert grove car park into botanical gardens will of course be an inconvenience to the drivers that use it. Having sidelined cyclists in a previous posting with the suggestion the main cycle route through Peckham should be scrapped and the canal returned; it’s the drivers turn! Pedestrians and public transport users should not worry; I’ll be spreading the love real soon. The future of the Choumert grove car park is by no means secure. The possibility of redevelopment is high, which will probably take the form of a building on the site. This also raises question as to why the multi story car park is being underused for its main purpose of parking cars. Also the Belleden retail car park remains ( at Lidl) and also the Morrisons car park. A corner of constant summer would shift some of the general misery and drabness of winter. In a perverse reverse of Joni Mitchell’s Big yellow taxi future Peckhamites would declare “They brought back paradise and dug up a parking lot” How’s that for environmental credentials! Although further study of the song in particular the line “Took all the trees, put ’em in a tree museum /And charged the people a dollar and a half just to see ’em” could be interpreted as a critique of such botanical garden schemes – Bloody hippies!