Copeland Park and Bussey Building has been an active site of industrial and commercial business dating back to Victorian times, but it wasn’t always a given that the buildings would be protected.

Back in 2005, Eileen Conn, a local resident, discovered plans that would demolish the whole Copeland Park site and more to be turned into a tram depot. She arranged a public meeting and together with the owners of Copeland Park in 2006 began an intense 3-year campaign to build a case to save the site. This led to the formation of community group Peckham Vision. Eventually they managed to prove to TfL that they could no longer overlook the site’s potential, and Copeland Park and Bussey Building was saved.

Since then, Peckham Vision has gone on to dispute a number of developments including the building of tall housing blocks around the station and the pulling down of the Peckham Multi Storey; the home to Bold Tendencies, Franks and Peckham Levels.

We caught up with the Peckham Vision team about the history and future of their community group.

Who is the team behind Peckham Vision?

There are 5 of us in the core team – Eileen Conn, Corinne Turner, Clyde Watson, Paula Orr, and Grace Essex. We are all volunteers and between us we do all the backroom work in addition to our other activities which include full time jobs. There are many others over the last 15 years who have helped out, and currently several others help out for specific tasks.

When did it start and how did it all begin?

In 2004 Eileen found references to a Council plan to demolish all the buildings from the rail bridge in Rye Lane to Brayards Road, and everything between Bournemouth Road and Consort Road; about 5-6 acres. This was to develop the land as a depot for a tram planned to go between Peckham and Camden through Waterloo. Investigating the site and the issues, Eileen met Jon Wilson and some of the artists who had studios on the site. Eileen arranged with Jon two public meetings in the Bussey Building in January and March 2006 and Peckham Vision grew out of those interactions.

Can you tell us a bit about your campaign to save the Bussey Building?

The campaign was about the whole of the Copeland Park site and also the land opposite up to Brayards Road. From 2005 we had to work non-stop alongside the detailed planning process with much campaigning to stimulate community responses and appearances at Council meetings with deputations and petitions and much letter writing. In spite of all that, the Council still decided in 2007 to designate this site for the tram depot in the Southwark Plan. But we went on publicising the potential for the site, spreading the news about new businesses and activities, using our campaign’s growing email list. One of the new businesses was CLF Art Café. CLF located in the Bussey Building in early 2007 when Eileen met Mickey Smith and encouraged him to look at the potential of the Bussey Building.

By 2008 Transport for London had to review the plans for the tram depot, and they could no longer pretend that the site had no potential because we had publicised it so widely. They produced a report showing that the site was the wrong one for the tram depot and that the depot could be located somewhere else. The report can be found here. So the blight on the site was lifted and from then it could begin to develop into what it is today – a destination for visitors from far and wide as well as a much loved place for local people. The campaign to save the Bussey and Copeland Park was followed by work to highlight inappropriate plans for the town centre. Notable successes have been the restoration of the Old Waiting Room in Peckham Rye station, the saving of business spaces and the prevention of new tall housing blocks around the station, and the saving of the Peckham Multi Storey and the businesses in there.

Do you feel Peckham is faced with new challenges in recent years?

The mad rush for redevelopment, describing it as ‘regeneration’, and cramming more housing with smaller flats; many unaffordable; continues to affect Peckham as well as other parts of the borough. The enormous increase in property prices and rent rises for small businesses as well as housing is a huge challenge. Several factors have combined to make this escalate. The ‘commodification’ of land which is rampant throughout London as a ‘safe’ global financial investment has come on top of more local factors including the coming of the Overgound adding new travel links to the significant links already through Peckham Rye station and the multitude of bus routes.

Peckham being voted two years running in 2018 and 2019 as the 11th ‘coolest neighbourhood in the world’ in the Time Out annual survey, probably adds to the pressure. This is a challenge, as a key part of Peckham’s attractiveness is its many layered social character, with people from around the UK and the globe from different social and economic backgrounds finding a home here. How can we protect this when the prices for living and doing business here are escalating?

We are working with people across the borough in the Southwark Planning Network (SPN), which Peckham Vision coordinates. The SPN helps local people to support each other across the borough by sharing information and skills and giving each other moral support. We are all facing significant challenges in our neighbourhoods through the relentless redevelopment of land and property across London.

What are the current issues in Peckham?

There continues to be many important issues for the development of Peckham town centre in a way which gives the right value to its architectural and social history as well as the wellbeing of the current community here. We would highlight these three issues at the moment.

Blackpool Road redevelopment plans

The Council are proposing that the whole area between Brayards Road, Consort Road and Copeland Road to the east of Rye Lane should be allocated for redevelopment.

Currently on the site are the Old Mill Building which has significant heritage value, Buildbase the only remaining builders and DIY supplier in Peckham, and the bus garage for bus routes coming through Peckham. There are important questions about whether this is the right plan for the site which we are hoping can be discussed at the public hearings of the New Southwark Plan. These will take place probably from May during the summer of 2020. Anyone with an interest in this should email us to make contact as we are putting together a local response to submit as evidence at the hearings.

Aylesham Centre redevelopment

This is a redevelopment of the largest site in Peckham town centre and will include a redesign of the bus station currently on Peckham High Street.

The plan is to integrate it into the whole site. This hopefully will be a big improvement for bus passengers and the shopping centre. Another aspect of the original plan that may not be so welcome is the tall tower of over 20 storeys with what could only be mostly unaffordable flats. A building of that height also would ruin the uninterrupted views of central London currently available from the important view from Central Rye Lane – ie from the Bussey, from 133 Rye Lane and from the Peckham Multi Storey with Franks Café and Peckham Levels.

Climate Change

The recent emergence of Extinction Rebellion (XR) has drawn public attention world wide to the seriousness of the climate change issues. Peckham Vision has for some time been drawing attention to the negative effect that demolition and redevelopment has on the climate because of the carbon emissions from construction work. So any demolition of reusable buildings is doubly unjustified. It destroys neighbourhoods and contributes seriously to climate change. Peckham Vision has teamed up with Southwark XR to work together on these issues across Southwark.

Any one who would like more info about any of these and how to get involved please email us at

How can people get involved with Peckham Vision?

Please follow @peckhamvision on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and join our email list. Through being connected in that way people can support any campaigns we have or receive information about issues that we publicise affecting Peckham and neighbouring areas. People are free to attend pop-up events we organise in Peckham Vision’s community shop in Holdrons Arcade, or in Peckham Vision’s community studio in the Bussey Building. If you want to get more involved then we would like to hear from you and we can explore with you the many opportunities there are to take part and to help. Please email to join the mail list and to ask about opportunities to help and take part.

When is your next event?

Our next community open studio is on Sunday 19th January in our second floor studio on Yellow Stairs in the Bussey Building. We will be open from midday 12pm to 5pm for people to drop-in at any time. We are very pleased that having our studio in this wonderful historic building (and the community shop in Holdrons Arcade) is a legacy from our work with the Wilson family on the campaign to stop the demolition of the site. It is amazing to reflect back on the last 15 years and see what has evolved in the Bussey and Copeland Park as the centre of a new cultural hub in Central Rye Lane since those early fraught exhausting campaigning days.

This studio is where much of the backroom work happens, and material from our exhibitions is displayed. At the open day, people can enjoy a cup of tea and homemade cake over a chat about Peckham, what’s happening and what local people can do to influence this. We also have some sewing and weaving machines to explore how hand making and crafting skills are still important in our way of life today. We hope many now working on the Copeland site will take this chance to come and say hello, as well as other locals and visitors from further away.

What piece of advice would you give to people who care about communities and historical buildings?

In Southwark we will in the next year or so have a Council Heritage Local List which will be an official way to record all local buildings and spaces that have local value through social history or architectural characteristics that deserve protection from demolition or redevelopment. This is a great opportunity for people who care about communities or historical buildings to identify what they think needs protection and get it on to the list for nomination when the process starts. Peckham Vision is working with the Peckham Heritage Partnership to develop such a list for this area and would encourage anyone interested in getting involved in this to get in touch with us through email

In addition, we encourage anyone interested in living in a healthy sustainable community, to join a local group that works to help neighbours get to know each other, and takes action for the benefit of the local community. A great way to do this is to join the local group organising a street party for your own street in the summer and join the growing street party movement. Millions of us are now doing that in the summer and it is a great way to get to know who lives in your own street. Such good relationships are the bedrock of successful community action.

Follow Peckham Vision on Instagram, Twitter, Website, or send them an email.