21 Webber Street History FINAL PDF 1 Mar 14.pdf

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When I moved to Cathedrals Ward in 1990 after living in many different parts of London, I felt
an intense connection with the area. It took me several years to realise that its strong sense
of community reminded me of my childhood growing up in Newcastle upon Tyne. It is
therefore quite ironic that the comment I hear most often when asked where I live is,
“Waterloo? Really? I didn’t think anyone actually lived there.”
I love living in Southwark and am constantly surprised by how many of its buildings of
obvious architectural and historic note are unresearched and unprotected. I am not antidevelopment and I accept that London is a city of ever-changing needs; that said, the nature
of the extensive regeneration in Cathedrals Ward in the last 15 years – focusing on new build
hotels, office space, student accommodation and premium-priced luxury flats – has led to the
loss of a number of period buildings and a steady erosion of the mixed urban communities
that make this part of London so unique. If Cathedrals Ward is to have any chance of
remaining a place of visible architectural and social heritage and where people from all walks
of life can continue to afford to live, the balance between new and existing builds needs to be
urgently redressed.
In 2010 a much-loved former Victorian warehouse in the Valentine Place townscape close to
where I live was suddenly and unexpectedly demolished over a period of just a few days. Its
loss caused a huge outburst of local feeling and ever since I have found myself barely able
to walk past the remaining gap site without feeling an incredible sense of sadness. So when
a further building in the townscape - the former Edwardian bakery and printworks at No. 21
Webber Street - also came under threat of demolition in 2011, I became part of a group of
residents and local business owners who mounted an intensive campaign to save the
building. We were supported in our efforts by leading experts in architecture and history and
by local councillors, and the outcome of all this hard work was the creation of the Valentine
Place Conservation Area in 2012.
It is often assumed by the general public that conservation area status provides protection
for buildings. In reality, however, demolition and/or major redevelopment can and do occur:
all that is required is planning approval from the local council. Three remaining buildings of
scale in the Valentine Place townscape are owned by the same company which demolished
the former Victorian warehouse on the site in 2010, and the submission of a planning
application for a major redevelopment of these buildings is expected any day now. The aim


© Barbara Grehs, 2013-2014. All rights reserved.