Woolwich is a step closer to getting on the Crossrail map, as Greenwich Council and Berkeley Homes have now pencilled in a deal on how its station will be paid for.
Transport for London’s board will consider the deal at a meeting this Thursday. Crossrail, due to begin service in 2018, will link Maidenhead and Heathrow Airport in the west with Paddington, the West End, the City, Canary Wharf and Abbey Wood.
Berkeley Homes has already paid £25m for the station box – essentially, the hole in the ground – to be built.
But even though the box was completed in February, a deal between Greenwich, Berkeley Homes, TfL and the Government to find the £100m needed to fit out the the station hadn’t been. Neither TfL nor the Government were willing to add to the costs of Crossrail, while Berkeley had been reluctant to pay any more towards the station, despite the huge profits it is likely to make out of its Royal Arsenal development.
Now TfL board papers reveal:
“Following extensive negotiations a package for the overall capital cost of the works has now been agreed in principle.
“This sees significant contributions from the Royal Borough of Greenwich and Berkeley Homes, supplementing existing TfL and CRL budgets, to meet the overall capital cost of the works.
“The detailed terms of funding agreements with these parties are currently being finalised and are expected to be concluded by the end of June 2013.”
The outline deal follows Greenwich Council granting Berkeley planning permission for 21-storey tower blocks in the Royal Arsenal last month, while its chairman Tony Pidgeley recently joined Boris Johnson on a trip to the Middle East.
The details are currently confidential, and it remains to be seen how Greenwich will raise the funds to pay for its contribution.
With the four-year-old DLR extension to Woolwich nearly overwhelmed by demand, the council will rightly see the deal as a triumph – originally the Crossrail link was to pass under Woolwich without stopping, until lobbying from leader Chris Roberts and MP Nick Raynsford forced a rethink.
But as always, the devil’s in the detail. While Greenwich is sitting on large cash reserves, it is believed the council is unwilling to use those to pay for the station, which could lead to other parts of the borough losing out so Woolwich can gain. Watch this space…
(Thanks to the anonymous tipster who alerted me to this story.)
City Hall officials have been asked to investigate the handling of Greenwich Council’s botched £11.5m redevelopment of the Greenwich and Woolwich Foot Tunnels, where work has been stalled for over a year.
Greenwich & Lewisham assembly member Len Duvall has referred the matter to auditors at the Greater London Authority to establish what went wrong with the project, which had been funded by the Government’s Homes & Communities Agency (HCA) before being switched to City Hall last year.
It’s emerged an HCA official signed off the project after a site visit in March 2011, handing the project over to Greenwich Council the following month, on the understanding work would be finished by September 2011.
The HCA stopped scrutinising the project after the site visit, and the matter was not looked at again until City Hall took over the HCA’s work in London in April 2012. Now Duvall has asked the authority’s audit panel and district auditor to investigate. The London Assembly’s budget and performance committee has also been asked to look at the issue.
Duvall’s move comes after campaigning from Greenwich Cyclists on the issue.
Both Greenwich and Woolwich foot tunnels remain in a poor state after the collapse of the project in late 2011, at around the time cabinet member Denise Hyland was blaming the problems at both tunnels on “hidden structures” which didn’t actually exist.
The council itself, which sacked the three contractors in charge of the job, admitted in October 2012 that there was “an unacceptable and deteriorating environment for users” in the tunnels.
Last November, it emerged Greenwich Council had previously told the HCA the work had been completed – even though that simply wasn’t the case, and that should have been clear on any site visit.
Indeed, when the Woolwich Foot Tunnel reopened in December 2011 after at least a 15-month closure, the poor state of the tunnel demonstrated the difficulty the project was in. When Greenwich’s lifts reopened in early 2012, lights were failing and lifts kept breaking.
In a letter to Duvall seen by this website, the GLA’s Housing and Land executive director David Lunts says “the project remains a concern for the GLA”, and says it is now in “regular dialogue” with the council as it struggles to complete the project.
No work has taken place at either tunnel for over a year, with no new contractors appointed to finish the job. Woolwich Foot Tunnel remains without lifts, Greenwich had new lifts fitted but they have been plagued by breakdowns.
Greenwich Council commissioned an independent report from John Willmoth into the fiasco six months ago. After completing a report into the council’s handling of big projects in general, he has yet to report back on the foot tunnels issue.
11.20am update: Len Duvall has told this site:
“What took place over the work on the foot tunnels work should not have happened.
Greenwich are learning from this experience internally and I look forward to the publication of the second of John Wilmoth’s independent reports examining what happened in this case more closely.
My intervention is to make the GLA take its responsibilities seriously, not just ‘shrug their shoulders’ when public money from bodies that have since become part of the GLA is involved. There are lessons for us to learn at the GLA and I hope that Greenwich Council are equally keen to ensure that events like this don’t occur in the future. Most importantly Greenwich need to press on with the completion of the works – monitored closely by the GLA – to ensure that both foot tunnels are accessible to everyone.”
The propaganda battle from City Hall and Greenwich Council over the Silvertown Tunnel has gone up a notch again, after the Transport for London consultation reported, surprise, surprise, “continued support for new river crossings in east London“.
Of course, a dodgy survey proves very little. You can offer children a year’s supply of sweets and they’ll take it, but if you warn them their teeth will fall out you might get a different response. In a similar way, you can tell people building a new road will make their journeys easier and they’ll believe it – particularly if you don’t tell them the evidence proves building new roads simply generates more traffic, add to existing high levels of pollution, and will simply add to congestion elsewhere.
Indeed, the leading question which kicked off the consultation gives the game away – “how many times a week do you cross the river by road?” 32% of Greenwich borough residents who answered the consultation said they crossed it four or more times each week – which strikes me as unrepresentatively high.
That said, the 373-strong petition against Silvertown features heavily in the round-up of responses to the consultation, though oddly doesn’t feature in TfL’s report to the mayor – a beautiful example of officials telling their bosses just what they wat to hear. There’s no mention of Greenwich’s Bridge The Gap campaign, an attempt to rig the consultation, except in quotations from the Silvertown petition.
What is striking, though, is Greenwich Council’s desperation to see this crock built – despite anger within the Labour party which supposedly controls it – with leader Chris Roberts declaring: “We stand ready to assist Transport for London in the work necessary to bring these crossings to the next stage of development.”
Greenwich’s neighbours, though, aren’t so excited. Here’s the views of other boroughs, as taken from the consultation.
Barking and Dagenham Council expressed “serious reservations regarding the current proposals. The Council remain concerned that Silvertown tunnel will draw additional vehicles and ‘clog up the local road network’”.
Southwark Council were “concerned that they may be potentially negative traffic impacts from the Silvertown tunnel” and “cannot support the current proposals.”
Lewisham Council:”has concerns that traffic impacts will result from Silvertown tunnel, particularly on the A2 and South Circular, and requests details of modelling of any proposed mitigation measures. “
Hackney Council were “concerned about the potential highway impacts of increased traffic on the approaches to the Silvertown tunnel”
Redbridge Council “raised concerns with how the Silvertown tunnel’s northbound connected with the existing highway network.”
All the above are Labour councils, except Redbridge, which is run by a Tory/Lib Dem coalition.
These fears would impact the most on Greenwich itself, yet they are barely mentioned in Greenwich’s full response. Even Newham’s support for Silvertown was “subject to concerns over additional traffic impacts in the borough and in particular, around Canning Town and Royal Docks”. No such caveats in Greenwich’s response.
Indeed, if you look at the businesses that line up in favour of Silvertown, the you can see just who’s really influencing Greenwich Council’s line.
Berkeley Homes Ltd – “Strongly supports new crossings at Silvertown and Gallions Reach.” (Greenwich Council’s development partners at Kidbrooke Village, Royal Arsenal developers)
Cathedral Group – “Fully supports the proposed Silvertown tunnel.” (Property developer which owns Morden Wharf on the Greenwich Peninsula).
AEG – “Strongly supports Silvertown tunnel which will provide a much needed relief to the area, support AEG’s next development phases on the Greenwich Peninsula and stimulate growth.” (Owner of the O2.)
Quintain – “Strongly supports the proposals, in particular for the Silvertown tunnel.” (Greenwich Peninsula developer whose projects include the socially-cleansed Peninsula Quays site.)
A further report will come from TfL this summer, so expect our elected representatives to be issuing more propaganda and campaigning on behalf of
the people of Greenwich property developers.
But there’ll also be more from the No To Silvertown Tunnel campaign – if you want to get involved, feel free to drop me a line. Watch this space…
853 exclusive: Greenwich Council is canvassing arts groups on holding a new comedy festival to replace the Greenwich Comedy Festival, which has moved to Spitalfields.
The GCF will now be known as the Brick Lane Comedy Festival after switching to Allen Gardens, next to the old Shoreditch Tube station.
The organisation which runs the Old Royal Naval College, the Greenwich Foundation, decided it wanted to concentrate on smaller events and no longer wanted to play host to the GCF’s large marquee; however, organisers are planning to run events in Greenwich later in the year.
Greenwich Comedy Festival also lost its funding from Greenwich Council (it got £15,000 in 2010) – it’s not known whether Tower Hamlets is funding the new Brick Lane event, although its logo appears on publicity for it.
But now Greenwich Council has asked arts groups if they are interested in holding a replacement event. An email sent to various organisation reads:
The Royal Greenwich Comedy Festival will provide an exciting and distinctive offer. We are looking for an outstanding organisation or individual to curate, develop and deliver a programme of innovative and high quality Comedy events in Royal Greenwich.
The Royal Greenwich Comedy Festival will include a diverse range of Comedy programmed in July or September 2013.
The Key Aims of the programme will be to:
- deliver a high quality sustainable comedy festival offering a mix of free and ticketed entertainment for members of the public
- contribute to the economic development of the borough by developing awareness of `brand Royal Greenwich’, boosting tourism and generating inward investment
- maximise benefit to local businesses and the visitor economy
- maximise benefit for the local creative economy
In addition the events will make a strong statement about Royal Greenwich:
- as a place for high quality arts, venues and cultural activities
- as a place of heritage unrivalled elsewhere
- as a place where interesting things happen in unusual place
For full details, fee and contract terms please see the information pack.
I haven’t been able to get confirmation of whether the council is funding the planned festival. That said, just saying “brand Royal Greenwich” on stage might attract a few giggles…
One thing that the GCF’s withdrawal from Greenwich highlighted to me is just how poor Greenwich’s day-to-day arts scene actually is. It’s all very well having big showpiece events in the Naval College grounds, but what legacy does the GCF leave, especially since it was getting council funding?
Admittedly, Greenwich does have (the fairly pricey) Up The Creek, but there’s very few venues regularly putting on music or comedy in the town centre – I can only think of the Lord Hood and Oliver’s jazz bar for anything worthwhile in terms of music (plus the Pelton Arms in east Greenwich), although the Greenwich Tavern – recently freed from the clutches of Inc Group – is showing signs of imagination (incidentally, the The Greenwich Series tonight is worth a look).
Plus, obviously, there’s much more to the borough than Greenwich – in the 80s the Woolwich Tramshed was a famous comedy venue, but Comedy on the Common has been trooping on in Plumstead for a few years now without much recognition. In short, it does seem odd to have concentrated all that effort on a one-off event in the north-west corner of a large borough. Maybe whoever takes on the Royal Greenwich Comedy Festival will change things. Should be interesting to watch.
New plans to redevelop Convoys Wharf in Deptford are about to be submitted to Lewisham Council, so London’s monopoly evening newspaper very kindly copied and pasted one of the developers’ press releases.
Why would London want another Shoreditch, for heaven’s sake?
(Cliche watch: It’s nine years since the Standard called New Cross “the new Hoxton“.)
Anyone on the east side of Deptford Creek who hasn’t been keeping up with the Convoys story should be brushing up on it now. With 46-storey towers looming over the riverfront, and 3,500 new flats – with the only new transport infrastructure being diverted bus and river bus routes – this makes recent plans for Greenwich and Woolwich look like child’s play.
It’ll have a huge impact on the Greenwich town centre heritage site, but the wider effect on the local infrastructure threatens to be even more damaging than some of the other poorly thought-through developments in this area. See the Deptford Dame for more.
But hey, new Shoreditch!
“Not kept pace with those of other riverside areas,” eh? Silly Deptford for being Chelsea Harbour. Well, not yet.
Deptford Is… has much more informed Convoys commentary than I could ever provide, while for imaginative ideas of what to do with the Convoys site, take a look at the Sayes Court Garden project (which wants to recreate John Evelyn’s 17th Century garden) and Build the Lenox – a scheme to get the old dockyard building a ship again. Both ideas aim to build on the tourist appeal of Greenwich, and deserve support.
9.20am on Wednesday morning, and the residents of Greenwich Millennium Village wait in large numbers for a bus to take them one stop to North Greenwich station, to save eight minutes’ stroll through a park on a gorgeous spring day. For many, it would be quicker, or more pleasant, to walk. So why don’t they?
If you Google “Greenwich Millennium Village” and “sustainable”, you get 5,550 results. So what on earth went wrong? Are people just lazy, or is it the poor design of the streets on the messed-up Greenwich Peninsula?
I had a look round the Greenwich Square development (formerly the Heart of East Greenwich scheme, before that Greenwich District Hospital) last week – well, I had a look at the exhibition, anyway.
To be honest, once you’ve seen one exhibition for a new housing development, you’ve seen them all, and this didn’t feel much different, down to the Zero 7 soundtrack playing on a TV in a show flat. And, yeah, the website‘s a horror – “perfectly positioned between Greenwich Village [sic] and the Greenwich Peninsula, Greenwich Square’s location provides the best of both worlds”. Pass the bucket.
But this is what developers do. And the exhibition, in its office on Vanburgh Hill, does at least give the chance to get an idea of just what’s going to happen to the hospital site.
The shell of the first building is already looming over Woolwich Road, and the rest of it is looking equally… big. The new council leisure centre (to replace the Arches), library (to replace East Greenwich Library), health centre (to replace what’s left of the hospital building) and council service centre (like the ones in Woolwich and Eltham) will sit on the central square from which the development gets its name, while there’ll be a good number of retail units too. Full details of what’s planned are here.
Indeed, work’s under way now on excavating the basement for the gym – although you can only see that work from high up.
To be honest, the developers could come in and press crisp fivers into everyone’s hands and still find this a tough sell to jaded locals. Planning permission for this was given years ago, so the appearance of the huge shell on Woolwich Road has come a bit of a rude shock.
Pair that off with the fact that east Greenwich has already been battered by some spectacularly poor developments – often with retail units that have simply never been used – and it’s easy to be cynical. Doubly so when you remember the council’s commissioned a swimming pool that’s smaller than the one it’ll replace at the Arches, insisting serious swimmers can schlep to Eltham instead (or rather, use Lewisham’s new Glass Mill pool).
But what struck me is just how much this scheme is likely to change east Greenwich, possibly shifting its centre of gravity slightly east. My biggest fear – will the new retail units work when shops on Trafalgar Road already struggle? Six hundred new homes would suggest they’ll do alright – but there could be big changes fanning out through east Greenwich over the coming years. Better to be warned than not – but then many people are still unaware the council plans to sell off the Arches and the old library.
Hopefully, the developers will be wise to this, and talk to (and listen to) local people, and not confuse this with “talking to the council”. With the development including several new buildings and one new street, perhaps asking people for names would be a start. I don’t know whether “Greenwich Square” is fixed as a name, but come on, even “Vanburgh Square” would be better for the development at the foot of Vanburgh Hill.
With the Greenwich Wharf scheme wiping out wharf names such as Piper’s, Granite and Lovell’s, it’d be nice to see east Greenwich’s heritage recognised somewhere before it all goes. So if you had the chance to name four new blocks of homes and a street, what would you call them?