The beautification of Bellenden

A once-reviled corner of Peckham has gone arty . . . and boomed. Christopher Middleton marvels at a triumph of rebranding 12 Oct 2002
Five years ago, Bellenden didn't exist. It was just the bit of Peckham you went through when you were taking a short cut to Dulwich. Now, though, in the best traditions of gentrification, this hitherto unidentified splodge of Victorian houses has been given not only a new face, but - for the first time ever - a name.
It all began in 1997, when Southwark Council discovered that one in every three homeowners in the area was on means-tested benefit - and duly declared that the run-down streets between Peckham Rye and East Dulwich railway stations should henceforth be known as the Bellenden Renewal Area (the main parade of shops stands on Bellenden Road).
House exteriors were cleaned up, brickwork and front garden walls repaired - sometimes whole streets at a time (at a cost of about £1.8 million per year). And it wasn't just council tenants who benefited; owner-occupiers got grants for up to 75 per cent of the work (average pay-out £20,000). But the one single initiative which at a stroke added thousands of pounds to house values was the decision to order new street furniture not from the brochures of municipal bollard manufacturers - but out of the imaginations of local artists. Read Telegraph