Denyer Associates, 1979/81

In the late 1970s, Bermondsey was in terminal decline. Caught between the flight of light industry away from London and the determination of a left-wing Council to retain light industry, buildings lay empty, rotting.

Southwark Council made a well meaning attempt to reverse the area's decline by establishing three Industrial Improvement Areas: Union Street; Bermondsey Street and Vogan's Mill. Southwark Council commissioned Denyer Associates, a town planning consultancy, to consider Bermondsey Street with a view to regenerating the area.

Denyer Associates' work centred on Bermondsey St focussing on the extent of the then Bermondsey Street Conservation Area. It is worth noting that the Bermondsey St Conservation Area (est 1971) was unique in Southwark in that it encompassed a range of built structures dating from the early 1700s. Denyer Associates started by analysing the street pattern, layout and use:

Denyer Project areas
Historic form of
Bermondsey St
Defined areas of
Bermondsey St
The Alleyway pattern

Of the four diagrams, the 'Street and Alleyway Pattern' is the most interesting. In 1979, when Denyer Associates were considering the street, the medieval alleyway pattern was still present and available to pedestrians. Since 1979 this feature of the street has all but been obliterated by infill and gated developments.

As part of their work, Denyer Associates created a set of drawings, at 1:50 scale, of the street elevations on Bermondsey St from Druid St to Bermondsey Sq as well as parts of Tanner St, Morocco St and Whites Grounds. The drawings were located in an attic in Islington in 1991 and may become part of the Museum of London's archive.

Bermondsey St - west elevation montage

Southwark's Industrial Areas Improvement scheme was a failure as it sought to oppose the movement of light industry away from urban settings. At the same time, the left-wing Council opposed the demand for office development, seeing it as out of character for an area so long associated with blue-collar manual labour. This viewpoint was directly responsible for the decay of the north of the borough, a decay which was only reversed by a change in planning policy which allowed the widespread residential colonisation of the area from 1994 onward. Unfortunately, in the period '79 - '94 many adventurous individuals, primarily from the arts and creative communites, who wanted to live and work in the area were discouraged by strictures of local planning regulations. This led, in the longer term, to larger scale developments which, ultimately, have eroded the village character of Bermondsey St.