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news, views and issues around Greenwich, Charlton, Blackheath and Woolwich, south-east London – what you won't read in Greenwich Time

Archive for February 2011

On Blackheath festival: Greenwich councillors object

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Six Greenwich councillors have joined forces to object to September’s planned On Blackheath music festival going ahead.

The two Conservative and four Labour representatives, from Blackheath Westcombe and Greenwich West wards, are sending a submission to Bromley Magistrates Court in support of action being taken by the Blackheath Society, which says the event will cause “substantial noise and nuisance”.

On Blackheath is due to attract 25,000 people each day over the weekend of 10 and 11 September, with organisers planning to put on a bill of new and left-field acts.

Lewisham Council’s licensing panel approved the event last October, but the society has taken the issue to magistrates, appealling to members for funds to help pay for their legal costs. One bone of contention is that Greenwich was not consulted by Lewisham over the original application for the festival, whose site at Hare and Billet Road is close to the boundary between the two boroughs.

Two councillors, Labour’s Maureen O’Mara and Conservative Geoff Brighty, are planning to attend the hearing, which begins on Thursday.

Earlier this month one of the festival’s organisers, Chislehurst-based businessman Tom Wates, told this website the event could bring up to £1m of custom for local firms.

Written by Darryl

28 February, 2011 at 1:37 pm

Greenwich gyratory – Transport for London’s not happy

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News from West Greenwich CARA, the residents’ group fighting plans to pedestrianise Greenwich town centre by creating a gyratory to the west of it via Greenwich High Road, Norman Road and Creek Road. The scheme is dependent on £2.4m of money from Transport for London – “local implementation plan” funds which each of the capital’s 32 boroughs bid for each year. This money has survived City Hall’s cost cutting, and has contributed to schemes like the redevelopment of Woolwich’s General Gordon Square (£1.4m from TfL), and the installation of electric car charging points (£20,000).

However, these schemes need TfL’s backing to get its money – and what’s not in favour at City Hall is gyratories. Last year, the New Cross one-way system was the latest to be taken apart, returning New Cross Road and Queen’s Road to two way traffic.

So this was TfL’s response to Greenwich’s plans to create a new gyratory, according to CARA

TfL cannot approve the scheme as currently proposed, as we have significant concerns about its impact on bus passengers and operations, as well as other matters such as the performance of the network, safety, severance and urban realm.

The point about buses should have been obvious to Greenwich Council and its contractor, Hyder Consulting. Buses on routes 180, 199 and 386 will face long diversions heading north – with the 199 unable to serve Greenwich town centre – while routes 129 and 286 will have nowhere to terminate. It’s not clear whether “the network” is the bus network or the road network, but it’s pretty clear that TfL thinks the scheme, as it stands, is a crock.

Even more worryingly, if Greenwich Council/ Hyder Consulting can’t come up with a scheme TfL approves of by June, that £2.4m will simply be allocated elsewhere in London. (At a time when Greenwich is trying to boost cycling, just think of what £2.4m could have done there…)

Indeed, contrary to local Labour councillor Matt Pennycook’s promises that the council will listen to local concerns, CARA members claim they have been deliberately obstructed, with chief exective Mary Ney deciding that pedestrianising the borough’s best-known town centre is not a “key decision”, making it harder for residents to scrutinise decision-making. This is a story I’ve neglected in recent months, but I hope to return to it soon, because it’s a sorry example of how poorly Greenwich Council interacts with those who pay for it.

Good news or crime porn? Why Greenwich Time exists

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“We are tightening up the rules on council publicity, so that taxpayers’ money cannot be wasted on town hall Pravdas – the likes of Labour’s Greenwich Time and East End Life – which have been unfairly putting the squeeze on independent local papers.” – Eric Pickles, Conservative Home, 24 February.

Greenwich Time is dismal propaganda – in that, the communities secretary is right. But its existence has as much to do with market failure as the desire of Greenwich Council to control the news agenda. The owners of the two freesheets which claim to serve the borough are doing a good enough job of strangling their titles without any help from anyone else.

Exhibit A – this week’s Greenwich Time, and this week’s Greenwich edition of the News Shopper.

On your left, a cheery photo of Plumstead boy Tinie Tempah doing good at the Brit Awards alongside (potentially) good news about a local rail project. On your right, a grisly story (bought from elsewhere) about a murder in Charlton that happened nine months ago but has only just gone to trial. I expect the News Shopper isn’t hoping for an interview with the poor victim’s family once the trial is over.

Which is the most appealling front page, the good news or the gruesome crime porn?

It’s worth pointing out that the lead stories on pages 2, 3 and 7 of the News Shopper are also about murders or murder inquiries, in Downham, Sydenham and Catford, none of which are in the borough of Greenwich, but appear in a paper with “Greenwich Borough News Shopper” on its masthead. Clearly if it bleeds in Lewisham or Greenwich, it leads. There’s a letter inside from Lewisham’s deputy mayor complaining about Nationwide’s branch closures – but only referring to those in Lewisham and Catford. It’s easy to see why Greenwich’s leadership might want to redress the balance a little, both in terms of positive reporting and in coverage relevant to their borough.

Incidentally, despite the company being hugely profitable, the News Shopper’s parent group, Newsquest, is today asking staff to volunteer for redundancy across its London titles.

But what about Greenwich borough’s other newspaper, the Mercury?

Exhibit B: The Greenwich edition of the Mercury.

The front of the Mercury – an ad for a BMW dealer. Not as appealing as a beaming Tinie Tempah.

Those who haven’t tossed the paper in the bin, though, will get what’s probably the week’s most important story in Greenwich borough, the GPs who will be taking over the area’s £500m health budget under government reforms. The story is also in Greenwich Time, but isn’t in the News Shopper at all.

But the wraparound ad makes the paper look cheap and nasty – even though the reporting in it far, far outstrips its rivals. Media commentators like Roy Greenslade fawn all over Mercury owner Sir Ray Tindle for his supposed commitment to local journalism, but he’s done nothing of the sort in south London, where the Mercury publishes what’s effectively a single edition across three boroughs, save for differing front pages (hence no mention of the Lewisham cuts row in the Greenwich edition) and the odd inner page. In reality he’s killing the Mercury by allowing it to look so cheap and crap, and by running it on a shoestring.

As for distribution, I haven’t had a regular delivery of the Mercury or the News Shopper in about eight or nine years. I picked up the Mercury while in Blackheath Village Library (a Lewisham borough library with a pile of Greenwich borough papers, so no news of that library’s closure…) yesterday. There was a great untouched pile of News Shoppers in the lobby of a mate’s block of flats last night, so I nabbed one.

Meanwhile, I get Greenwich Time most weeks (in fact, me and my upstairs neighbour get three copies between the two of us – lucky us).

So, propaganda aside… can you really blame Greenwich Council for having its own weekly paper, if this is the state of the printed media in its borough?

Spin off Greenwich Time, keep it and reform it, even, but on this evidence, it’s not just Greenwich Council who are the only irresponsible newspaper publishers around here.

Council cuts: Can you help Plumstead Make Merry?

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The Plumstead Make Merry festival, which takes place each June on Plumstead Common, is under threat of cancellation this year after losing its £2,000 grant from Greenwich Council.

The Make Merry has been running for 33 years and is billed as a celebration of Plumstead’s history and diversity, and depends on the council’s small handout and a few local sponsors. Without that council money, its future is in the balance.

I’m hoping to grab a chat with one of the organisers at some point soon, but a committee member tells me: “We are currently scrambling round trying to beg, borrow and steal anything we can that will allow us to put on some kind of event.”

So, before anything else, can you help the Make Merry gang make merry this summer?

This is what they’re short of:

- Two marquees - “one small (3mx3m or bigger), one big (last year’s one was 20’x40′, it doesn’t need to be quite as big but that’s a guide)”

- PA system“last year’s was 12 kw. For health and safety (lost child and ‘help there’s a fire’ announcements) we have to have something about as powerful.”

- Electricity generator (they currently have an estimate of £120 for one)

- Some staging, or an alternative

- Fire extinguishers.

The cut to Plumstead Make Merry does seem to continue a policy where Greenwich Council has prioritised high-profile events over small community events.

The Make Merry will also feature on the In The Meantime podcast next week – but for now, if you can help, then I’m sure they’d appreciate an e-mail – details are on their website.

Written by Darryl

23 February, 2011 at 2:22 pm

Tempah tantrum – it’s the ‘save Greenwich Time’ campaign

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This week’s edition of Greenwich Council’s weekly newspaper Greenwich Time thumped onto my doormat this morning – bearing the urgent news that Tinie Tempah, Plumstead’s finest musical export since Shampoo, won two Brit Awards last week. Marvellous.

But inside there’s the first stirrings of a campaign. Yes, the paper that “campaigns for a greater Greenwich” is now campaigning for its future. Eric Pickles’ new rules could “spell the end of GT features like Charlton Athletic match reports in a move to ensure councils just publicise stories relating to council functions”.

Despite the weakness of the borough’s local media, it’s debatable whether I need the council to tell me how crap the Addicks were on Saturday (I saw it for myself, thanks), and while “local boy done good” stories are true local paper staples, it’s a bit cheeky of the council to jump on the Tinie Tempah bandwagon by using an agency photo of him at the Brits together with a half-arsed review of an event everyone will have already read about in other papers or on the web. No interview with the ex-Abbey Wood School pupil? What’s the point?

Council leader Chris Roberts puts the case for keeping one of Britain’s two council weeklies succinctly – using the argument the council’s always used, that by attracting third party advertising – and competing with the local freesheets – the paper effectively pays for itself.

“Greenwich Time provides the council with a cheap and effective way to communicate with residents and keep them informed about local services.

The cost of Greenwich Time is a moot point – many council staff will deal with the paper as part of their jobs dealing with other matters. For example, GT’s overseen by the council’s communications department. Is the, say, 15 hours a week someone might spend on GT as part of a wider job accounted for? What about the council’s legal department – if an in-house lawyer has to spend two hours a week checking each issue through, is that accounted for? It’s also well known that each issue of Greenwich Time is checked by one Chris Roberts before it gets signed off. How much of his £62,800 allowance goes on him sitting in his office overseeing what’s effectively his own propaganda?

“The council is also required by law to advertise issues like planning applications and changes to traffic schemes. If these were placed in other main local papers it would increase costs by about £1m a year. This is equivalent to a council tax increase of about one per cent yet the other local papers still wouldn’t provide the borough-wide coverage that Greenwich Time does.”

If public notices are such an issue, then why not strike a deal with the Mercury or the News Shopper? Or explore a different model, as is happening in Thurrock or Lambeth? As for coverage, the only “borough-wide coverage” Greenwich Time offers is in distribution, not in editorial, where stories which are inconvenient for the council are missed out altogether.

“Greenwich Council has always supported local newspaper groups, who have been paid to print our paper and at times have delivered it as well.”

This is misleading, since it has nothing to do with the situation now. Greenwich Time’s printing is contracted to Trinity Mirror, which sold the Mercury to Tindle Newspapers in August 2007, nine months before the current weekly incarnation of Greenwich Time was launched. As for deliveries – it is currently delivered by a specialist firm called Letterbox Distribution – which is why it reaches far more homes than other newspapers.

So what’s in this week’s GT which proves it does such a good job in informing the people of the borough of what their council is up to?

Well, on cuts, there’s nothing. Not a word, apart from a passing reference in the “save GT” story.

On the go-ahead for Woolwich Crossrail, it makes the front page, but neglects to mention that while private sector funding for the shell of the station is secure, cash for actually fitting it out is to be confirmed. Berkeley Homes boss Rob Perrins said in the government statement confirming this, which somehow did not make it into Greenwich Time’s story: “There is still much to do to raise funds to ensure it is fully fitted out as an operational station at no net cost to the public purse. I have every hope that this can be achieved.”

And on the closure of the Greenwich Foot Tunnel?

The tunnel did actually reopen at 1pm this afternoon, after a 19-day closure which had gone unreported by the weekly’s two previous editions. The tunnel saga provides a perfect example of how Greenwich Time presents only the news the council wants people to read.

As the only paper with “borough-wide coverage” (thanks to Tindle and Newsquest not delivering the Mercury or the News Shopper properly), it gives the council free reign to promote only its own viewpoint with little in the way for any opposing opinions. That’s a dangerous situation, for despite the success this site and others have had lately (and moves to open up council meetings to the likes of me), our reach is still small compared to the council-backed juggernaut that thunders through the Greenwich news agenda each week.

Still, I imagine the next stage in this will be a page full of grateful GT readers complimenting it on TV listings, match reports, and being cheerier than its rival papers, with maybe a token grumble to make it look balanced. Of course, if the local newspaper owners raised their game, and invested in editorial and distribution, maybe we wouldn’t be in this situation after all. Instead, we’re still lumbered with a propaganda paper and bluster from a government minister. Greenwich Time won’t be going away just yet.

Written by Darryl

23 February, 2011 at 1:40 pm

Blackheath – where a boundary became the cuts frontline

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Hundreds of book-lovers lost their local library last week – but didn’t have a say in the decisions that led up to it. One side-effect of Lewisham Council’s library cuts is that hundreds of Greenwich borough residents have lost out thanks to the decision to shut the doors on Blackheath Village Library – run by Lewisham, but sat right on the borough border. The map above was in the documents prepared for Lewisham’s cabinet members, showing where the library’s users live. Greenwich council tax payers make up 48% of Blackheath Village Library’s users, but have lost out in a process where they will have had very little input, and didn’t vote for the mayor making the decision.

The sums were always stacked against the library, sadly. It was the second-most expensive in Lewisham borough to run, thanks to a costly lease that it could prove tricky for the council to get out of even though it has now decided to close it from May. Its restricted opening hours means it costs £73/ hour to run – a stonking great sum as it is, but presumably an easy cut when half of that is funding the reading habits of people who aren’t even paying council tax to you.

Many of those borrowers will lose an alternative later this year when Greenwich closes the Ferrier Library. There’s still no word on the future of Greenwich borough’s other lending outlets.

Blackheath Village is leafy and nice, but being on a border means a double dose of cutbacks. Of course, it’d be lovely if Lewisham and Greenwich could work together. You know, they’re both Labour councils, showing the mature alternative to the national administration by, oh, falling out over some fireworks.

In Lewisham, the procedure’s been relatively open… but have been met with big protests, including hundreds banging pots and pans in the rain on Saturday. In Greenwich, the process has been anything but open, keeping the public in the dark. This means public protest largely limited to council staff fearing for their jobs, with 80 or so people protesting in Woolwich the other weekend.

But while Lewisham went for the libraries first, Greenwich decided to slash funding for voluntary groups and other community bodies. Among them is another organisation in a building right on the borough border – Blackheath Halls. Its community programmes depend on £65,000 a year from Lewisham, which lasts until September, and £70,000 from Greenwich, which lasts until April. Greenwich has proposed to cut its grant altogether.

The British Theatre Guide’s Gill Stoker asked community and education officer Rose Ballantyne what effect the loss of Greenwich’s grant would have on its community programmes.

“Either the whole programme will fold, or we will need to take a more commercial view of everything we promote and have to considerably increase our charges both for tickets and subscriptions to community projects. This may mean that local people won’t be able to afford them.”

So Blackheath Halls bosses will be trooping down to Woolwich Town Hall tonight to plead their case. They’ll have 15 minutes to convince councillors of the worth of their work at a behind-closed-doors meeting.

They won’t be alone. Over the next three nights (and again on 1 March) all kinds of organisations – children’s services, domestic violence help groups, legal services, groups for the elderly and arts groups – will be pleading with councillors for a slice of a vastly-reduced budget.

Many of those groups’ concerns seem a long way from swish Blackheath Village. But it’s there where the cuts are being noticed first, with a doomed library and an arts venue getting set to fight for its life. Sooner or later, positions may be reversed, and Lewisham could be looking at voluntary groups and Greenwich may be chopping libraries. But this is where we are now, with a government cutting and boroughs squabbling. If the villagers of Blackheath are crying out now, heaven knows what pain’s about to hit their neighbours.

Written by Darryl

21 February, 2011 at 7:00 am

Life’s a beach – here comes the Peninsula Festival

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What’s all this about, then?

With backing from Greenwich Council, and hoping to attract some big name sponsors, there’s plans for a three-month-long festival each summer – for the next 15 years – on the Greenwich peninsula. From what I’ve seen, it’s a festival in the loosest sense, using various bits of land on the peninsula.

The most eye-catching idea is to build a beach at Delta Wharf – the land on the west of the peninsula immediately south of the Dome that currently looks a bit like a lunar landscape (not quite right – see update below) after the warehouses there were demolished a couple of years back.

Other plans include an “upmarket campsite” for 4,000 tourists (it can get windy up there, you know…), tall ships travelling between Woolwich and central London, and a live performance area. Beyond all that – it’s all a bit unclear. The aim is to attract up to 20,000 people each day.

The whole thing is meant to tie in with the Greenwich Festivals series that the council’s been pushing for the past couple of years as part of a policy of supporting big, headline-grabbing arts and entertainment events. Looking around the area now, it seems a bit far-fetched – particularly as that area’s as remote as it was pre-Dome, with heavy lorries thundering up and down the pothole-scarred last leg of Tunnel Avenue.

But remember there’ll be a cruise terminal a few hundred yards south of there next summer with housing and hotel developments to come; plus the huge hotel planned for the west side of the Dome site, just to the north, so the area is changing. Who knows, they might even re-open the whole riverside path within that 15 years.

Indeed, if you looked up the firm behind it on LinkedIn, you’d think it was under way already…

Curious. There’s talk of big corporate sponsors, which is interesting as I’m wondering where the money’s coming from at a time of cutbacks. I’m sure more will appear in a council newspaper near you soon, or you can sign up for updates on its website.

UPDATE 9:30PM: Here’s a couple of photos of Delta Wharf, the site of the proposed beach:

This is the land immediately to the south – which is what I had in mind with the “lunar landscape” comment – showing just how bad access is between here and the rest of Greenwich.

There’s a lot of work to be done…

Written by Darryl

20 February, 2011 at 12:45 pm

Blackheath’s festival organisers speak out

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Blackheath could get its own music festival in September if these three men get their way.

Tom Wates, Terry Felgate and Alex Wicks want to stage On Blackheath over the weekend of 10/11 September. Lewisham Council gave them permission last October – but the Blackheath Society is challenging the decision through the courts. Magistrates in Bromley will decide next month. Earlier this week, I spoke to the trio about their plans for the heath.

“If everyone spends £20, that’s £1m into the local area in two days – and that doesn’t happen very often.” For local businessmen Tom Wates and Alex Wicks, putting on a festival on Blackheath has been a long-held dream. “Everyone in Lewisham was really for it,” says Tom, who adds he spent two years talking to the council about holding a festival. “It’s something everyone thought was missing from the area, and they were pleased an outsider had come in with the idea.”

Their plan is for a two separate days of music on the area of Blackheath between the Territorial Army base at Holly Hedge House and Shooters Hill Road, with 25,000 people each day getting to see two stages of music. Hare & Billet Road would be closed for the weekend, and the TA building would be used for logistics to save space. Tom used to teach at Colfe’s school in Lee and now runs a business in Chislehurst designing school interiors and seating. Alex was brought up in Lewisham and works in sports event marketing. The third member of the team was introduced to them by a mutual friend – Greenwich-based Terry Felgate, who lives just off the heath, was involved in putting on Blur’s Hyde Park reunion shows and started out booking gigs at Goldsmiths College in the 1980s.

Together, they’re convinced On Blackheath will be something south-east London can be proud of.

“We’ve always seen the heath as an opportunity,” says Terry. “We want to establish a successful event that will benefit this area, and I think we can. Those events exist in parks elsewhere in London, like Clapham Common and Victoria Park. It’d be nice to have an event here, and the audience is here.”

But what kind of audience are they going for?

“Look at Latitude in Suffolk, that’s very much the sort of theme we’re loking at,” says Terry. “Left-field artists – things like Elbow, Mumford & Sons, Florence and the Machine – and then acts that are coming through – Noah and the Whale, Foals – that 6 Music side of things.”

“We wanted to back that up with a wider experience so it doesn’t feel like a mini-version of some other event, quite often you’ll go to festival and it’s the same food as the others. What we’d like to do is bring in as much from Greenwich and Blackheath as we can, so we’d have, say, beer from Meantime brewery.”

The festival won planning permission from Lewisham in October, with the backing of four out of six members of a planning licensing board. “We were thrilled,” recalls Tom. “It was a fascinating hearing, very thorough, and there’s a 28 day period after that where objectors can appeal. The Blackheath Society appealed on the last day of those four weeks. But we have to crack on and organise it, so if the hearing goes in our favour, all we have to do is push the button.”

The resulting bad feeling has left the trio feeling a bit sheepish about the tongue-in-cheek name of their company – NIMBY Events – but Tom wants locals to hear their case.

“The first thing I’d like to say to them is ‘give us a chance’. We’re getting arguments that there’ll be hoodies coming up from Deptford or people will be leaving excrement in gardens.

“A lawyer at the hearing, who’s 50-odd, said every time he goes to a gig he wants to piss in someone’s garden afterwards. Well, clearly he doesn’t do that, and we think people of the age we want to attract are a little bit more mature. There’s lots of serious arguments about health and safety, but we’ve surrounded ourselves with experts in security and sound to answer their questions and more at every single point.”

If it gets the green light, On Blackheath won’t be the first big gathering on that part of the heath, as Tom recalls.

“Sometimes we hear, ‘they’re not going to be like those nice people from the climate camp.’ That was an illegal event, but now it’s ‘what a nice thing that was for the area’, because it helped local business and was good for the area.

“This is something that is legal, and we’re doing everything to ensure it’s a safe event that people can be proud of, and will be on the calendar like the fireworks which people look forward to every year.”

Terry continues: “I’d ask people not to be scaremongered – I hear people are saying it’ll be like Glastonbury on our doorstep. Well, Glastonbury’s 200,000 people camping over five days.

“There seems to be a misconception of what this is about – it’ll be two separate events with no camping. These events run in other areas – like Clapham Common has the Ben and Jerry’s event – and there’s no issue with people trying to camp. There’ll be a maximum of 25k each day, and having spoken to all those involved, including the police, they don’t see an issue with that.

“These fears that there’ll be riots and it’ll be out of control are unsubstantiated. A mystery’s been blown up – ‘who are these people?’ – well, just ask us.”

Greenwich Council did object to the event – the borough boundary lies a few feet to the north of the proposed festival site – although Tom feels that was because “Lewisham didn’t ask them their opinions”.

“The Blackheath Society have called up Greenwich’s policies on holding events, and they’re different from Lewisham’s,” he adds. “But they’re different councils, and we’re on Lewisham’s side of the heath. But we’re keeping out of all that, we’re doing what we’re asked to do and leaving the boroughs to it.”

Festival-goers will be encouraged to leave their cars at home, and Terry hopes On Blackheath will help change the perception that it is set in a hard-to-reach area. “It’s not. It always surprises people it’s 7 minutes from London Bridge. There’s so many ways of getting here now. I think the O2’s changed that. The site’s a 10 minute walk from Lewisham and Greenwich stations. People will be encouraged to come there, not via Blackheath station.”

But before any festival goer marches up Lewisham Hill, the trio will have to prove their case in a two-day hearing at Bromley Magistrates court from 3 March. In the meantime, a debate still rages about the festival. Whatever the decision, the huge costs of the appeal – with the Blackheath Society appealling for money through its members – mean the debate may well go on for a long time while afterwards.

Anybody who wants updates on the plans for On Blackheath can sign up via onblackheath.com.

Written by Darryl

18 February, 2011 at 10:09 am

Greenwich Foot Tunnel is now officially closed

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(If you’ve come here via a search engine, you should find the current foot tunnel status here.)

853 exclusive: Greenwich Council has officially closed Greenwich Foot Tunnel to the public following a series of lift failures, leaving pedestrians and cyclists to pay for detours.

The tunnel to the Isle of Dogs is undergoing major renovation works, along with its sister crossing at Woolwich, which are due to be completed by April.

But with the stairs taken out of service in September, users have had to rely on increasingly unreliable lifts, which now appear to have broken down altogether. The Woolwich tunnel closed in November because of problems with the stairs while the lifts were being replaced, and is not due to reopen until March.

Greenwich tunnel users are now greeted with a public notice stating the tunnel was formally closed to the public from 4 February “because of the likelihood of danger to the public (and the need to carry out emergency lift repair works)” for 21 days, or until the work is completed.

Pedestrians can use the DLR between Cutty Sark and Island Gardens, but cyclists either have to pay to use the Thames Clippers boat service to Masthouse Terrace Pier – if it is running – or take a detour via Tower Bridge, Rotherhithe Tunnel or Woolwich Ferry.

Despite this notice being dated 4 February, no announcement has been made about it on the Greenwich Council website since then, nor has it appeared in its weekly newspaper, Greenwich Time. The council has been using its Twitter feed to give day-to-day updates on the tunnel’s status without referring to any closure order.

The last update to the council’s telephone information line (020 8853 2988) was on Monday, and merely states that both tunnels are closed without giving a planned reopening date.

To make matters worse, work is now running behind schedule. Work on the stairwells at the Greenwich tunnel was meant to be finished in January to enable the lifts, themselves only installed in 1992, to be replaced.

The lack of information on the tunnel closure has been criticised by local Labour MP Nick Raynsford as well as Ken Livingstone’s running-mate for the London mayoralty, Val Shawcross.

Liberal Democrat Assembly member Caroline Pidgeon wrote to Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts last week about the unreliable service in the foot tunnel.

“The foot tunnel is an absolutely key component in the London cycle and pedestrian network… the closure of the tunnel has a significant effect on people’s ability to cross the river,”
she said in the letter.

“Many people are angry that the tunnel has been closed with no warning because this often compels people to use more dangerous routes, such as the Rotherhithe Tunnel, and gives people no time or warning to plan alternative, safer routes to their destination.”

6.45PM UPDATE: Greenwich Council did not respond to a request for comment sent to them early on Thursday morning. However, its Twitter feed confirmed the story was true, in a roundabout way:

The “end of next week” is, coincidentally, at the end of the 21-day closure period for the tunnel. The council’s foot tunnels web page has also been changed, although users have to scroll down to discover news of the tunnel closures.

10AM FRIDAY UPDATE: London Assembly member Caroline Pidgeon has attacked Greenwich Council’s “incompetence” in its handling of the closures, while a letter from council leader Chris Roberts refusing to answer questions on the foot tunnel revamp has also emerged. More at The Scoop. Docklands 24 has also followed the story up (and linked back to me, which is lovely of them.)

2:15PM FRIDAY UPDATE:
Greenwich Council has released this statement: “Greenwich Council is carrying out a major investment programme to renew the Greenwich and Woolwich foot tunnels, which are around 100 years old.

“The work was planned in consultation with cyclists, traders and tunnel users and a schedule of work was put in place to enable pedestrians and cyclists to use the lifts while the stairs are being renewed, and vice versa. Alternative means of crossing the river were put in place for all but a few hours each week.

“Regrettably, the Council has now had to take the decision to close the Greenwich Foot Tunnel temporarily while refurbishment work on the stairs is completed.

“Greenwich Council apologises for the inconvenience caused to users. We wish to stress that this is very much a temporary situation with the newly refurbished stairs expected to reopen by the end of February.”

More stories and comment on Greenwich and Woolwich foot tunnels.

Great developer rebrandings, number 2: ‘Greenwich Creekside’

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We’ve been next door to here before. In Deptford, of course. For the hard of thinking, a creek divides Deptford and Greenwich. The clue is written in red on the street sign in front of the hoarding.

The neighbours have noticed this already, of course.

Not surprising that Foxtons would claim otherwise, though…

Written by Darryl

16 February, 2011 at 1:08 pm

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