Archive for April 2011
Kicking back with an even bigger sound system: Upper Brockley Road, Brockley.
(Click on the image to hear it. Sound system was just to the left of the picture. See Brockley Central for more.)
The lesson learned from the Friday off? Kids love a royal wedding, adults like a booze-up. Seems healthy.
Terrible night’s sleep last night. Images of Huw Edwards, people in sleeping bags… and this story. I’ll be off for a bit…
London’s Royal Wedding shelters have opened for business this afternoon, with less than 24 hours to the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton at Westminster Abbey.
The two largest shelters, in Clapham and Stockwell, were once used as protection from air-raids during World War II. Now they will be at the heart of network of locations where Londoners can escape from a tidal wave of sycophantic coverage of the royal nuptials.
Disused Tube stations at Aldwych and Charing Cross (Jubilee Line) will be brought back into use, while emergency government stores of banjos, ukeleles, and Guardian Yearbooks have been opened up to keep shelterers amused.
The last United Nations airlift of level-headed citizens is due to leave Biggin Hill Airport any moment now, leaving many remaining Londoners terrified of losing their marbles in the face of seeing fellow citizens act like children over people they will never meet.
A spokesman for mayor Boris Johnson said: “These shelters are incapable of picking up radio or TV, and there is no internet access whatsoever. Londoners who are having nightmares about Huw Edwards, or those who seeking to avoid people complaining about it on Twitter, can come and join us any time between now and Saturday.
“One shelter, at Goodge Street, will be opening later than the others, so we can paint it blue as part of a sponsorship package with Barclays.”
Local councils are pitching in, too – Greenwich Council will open up a special room beneath Woolwich Town Hall, which has already proved resistant to media coverage in tests this week. Back copies of Greenwich Time are reportedly being used to add extra thickness to the walls. Spokespeople were unavailable for comment.
In Lewisham, elected mayor Steve Bullock has advised residents to head to their nearest closed library – except the ones that have become bookmakers – if they begin to feel nauseous.
First in the queue at the Clapham shelter was a man in tears after he failed to get a ticket on Thursday’s last boat out of Harwich to the Hook of Holland.
“It’s terrible,” he said, shaking. “I can’t even go to the pub to drown my sorrows without seeing badly-rendered Union Jacks. The last straw was reading something about the wedding dress on the Guardian website. I just want to live my life in peace. I mean, I could escape to B&Q but that’ll be full up by 10am.
“Here, we can hide from everything and maybe even have a good sing-song. It’s either that or going out and getting smashed and sleeping through Friday.”
Sadly for him, though, he then collapsed sobbing after accidentally catching a glimpse of an Evening Standard.
“It’s what the shelters are there for, to save people from Bedlam,” the mayor’s spokesman added. “For some though, it could be too late.”
853 exclusive: Greenwich Council is going ahead with plans to hold a “mayor-making” ceremony at the Old Royal Naval College’s Painted Hall against the wishes of its incoming mayor, and despite cutting £48m from its budget for this year.
Last year’s event at the prestigious Greenwich venue cost £30,000 to stage, angering residents protesting against cuts to council services. Most other councils hold the ceremony at their town halls instead of hiring outside venues.
Funding for youth and children’s services has been targeted, while a host of voluntary groups have lost their funding altogether and staff warned of possible redundancy. Greenwich has stopped funding the Blackheath fireworks display, while allotment and parking charges have rocketed.
Children at a Charlton primary school cited the cost of the mayor-making party in posters they made to try to save the animal centre in Maryon Wilson Park, which faces losing £34,000 in funding.
Even incoming mayor Jim Gillman has objected to the ceremony taking place, with his wife Janet – a Charlton councillor – telling a local residents’ meeting that the ceremony “has a touch of ‘let them eat cake’ in these times.” London Labour MEP Mary Honeyball praised Cllr Gillman for objecting to the event, using Twitter to say he was “leading by example”.
But despite Cllr Gillman’s objections, invitations have been sent out by current mayor Barbara Barwick for a ceremony on 25 May. Council leader Chris Roberts – who is due to give a speech at the event – is believed to have made the decision alone to go ahead with the ceremony.
“Looking around Greenwich there is much to be proud of. The physical regeneration of our community continues apace, while there are many developments in our economic, social and community life,” the invite reads.
Conservative opposition leader Spencer Drury said the ceremony is “purely an opportunity for the Labour leadership to sell its view of what is happening in Greenwich”.
“I view the whole ceremony as an expensive vanity project and it should be returned to the Town Hall where it would be cheaper to run and in my opinion, would represent the life of the borough just as well as the Painted Hall.”
Last year, council deputy leader Peter Brooks referred to the council’s overall budget cut when he said there were “65 million reasons” not to spend £37,000 on the Blackheath fireworks ceremony it jointly held with Lewisham Council. He said there was “strict control over all expenditure”, and the cost was “equivalent to a job and a bit”.
Greenwich Council has not yet responded to a request for comment on this story.
3:45PM UPDATE: Still no response from Greenwich Council. But former Liberal Democrat councillor Paul Webbewood has said: “While the amount of money involved is fairly small in the overall scale of things, it amazes me that the council is persisting with this luxury, invitation-only event when so much else is being cut. It really is a case of the Labour council acting in the interests of the few and not the many.”
Mr Webbewood asked a question at the last Greenwich Council meeting about the possibility of a ceremony, to which deputy leader Peter Brooks replied:
“The inauguration of the mayor is an important event in the civic life of the borough, enabling the council and its new mayor to meet the increasing number of key stakeholders in our community.
Many of these are critical to the social cohesion and economic success of Greenwich, including leaders of all our faith communities, volunteers and local associations as well as businesses investing millions of pounds in our borough to create jobs and economic prosperity.
The council is very mindful of the need to secure value for money and will always endeavour to do this. However this is the only occasion in the calendar year when all stakeholders are brought together – for the very reasons of cost that Mr Webbewood articulates.
That this is done on the occasion which marks the inauguration of the First Citizen of Greenwich – a determinedly non-political event – seems the most prudent occasion on which to do it.”
An increasing number of key stakeholders, eh? Can’t move for them. Conservative deputy leader Nigel Fletcher, who also comments below, has said his group “proposed a small Town Hall Inauguration, then a public celebration, sponsored to be cost-neutral”. More reaction as it comes in.
6:35PM UPDATE: Still no response from Greenwich Council. However, Tim Anderson, chair of the Friends of Maryon and Maryon Wilson Parks, said:
“It is very hard to understand why the council should opt to go ahead with an expensive mayoral ceremony when other council services such as the Maryon Wilson Animal Park in Charlton face closure in April 2012.
The Animal Park is greatly appreciated by thousands of people, especially children and families. The campaign petition to save the Animal Care Centre in Maryon Wilson Park, has reached over 4,500 signatures and is likely to reach 10,000 signatures by the end of this year.
Prioritising expenditure on its own ceremonies that could be made available for front line and community services must send out the wrong message to people who are facing losing their jobs or to organisations who face Council cuts.”
WEDNESDAY 11:45AM UPDATE: Still no response from Greenwich Council. But Paul Callanan, of anti-cuts group Greenwich Save Our Services, condemned the council’s plans.
“It’s absolutely disgraceful that while working class people face the biggest attacks on jobs and services seen in generations and are being told to tighten our belts, the council chooses to spend our money on a party. This shows just how far out of touch with reality this council is.”
WEDNESDAY 6:15PM UPDATE: Still no response from Greenwich Council. But the Green Party’s Arthur Hayles, who stood as a parliamentary candidate in Eltham last year, said:
“Even if there were no programme of cuts to Greenwich Council services, the use of an expensive venue for a council ceremony should be avoided in favour of using every penny for the welfare of the people of Greenwich.”
With the weather looking good for Easter weekend, it’s come just in time.
A rock garden has also been built along the path – something else for the occupiers of the new homes to look out upon.
This now means the only section of Thames Path closed between Deptford Creek and the Thames Barrier is the stretch at Lovells Wharf, where the path has been routed past a sales office belonging to estate agents ‘King Sturge, and where London and Regional Properties is showing no signs of planning to restore the pathway it destroyed.
One other little bit of Thames Path news – Ballast Quay, where the Cutty Sark pub is, is now two way for cyclists only. Personally, I prefer to avoid the cobbles and ride direct along Banning Street and Old Woolwich Road, but scenic cyclists can now follow the river in both directions if they want to.
6:45PM UPDATE: One word of warning, though – don’t go expecting a sit down next to the Dome, where the Homes & Communities Agency has decided that while Greenwich Peninsula is “a place where you can”, it’s certainly not a place where it’ll bother emptying litter bins on its stretch of the path. Carrier bags are courtesy of the brand new Tesco Express. That’ll look lovely come Easter Monday…
Keep an eye out for this fella over Easter – fundraiser Lloyd Scott is crawling along the marathon route raising funds for Action For Kids.
I just bumped into him on Woolwich Road, Charlton, and he’ll be spending Easter navigating his way through Greenwich, Deptford and Rotherhithe at a pace of a mile a day. You can see more on his blog.
Typically, I got to Crooms Hill about 20 minutes too late to peer down the hole that opened up this morning, and I arrived just in time to see workmen finish the job of filling it in. By the time you read this, it’s likely to have had a fresh layer of tarmac applied to it.
The hole’s just where the conduit from Greenwich Park to Hyde Vale runs (The Greenwich Phantom has a map). With the speed at which it is being filled in, it’s clear that this isn’t being seen as a big worry – unlike the collapse at Blackheath Hill just over nine years ago, which resulted in the demolition of part of a housing estate.
It’s pretty well-known that Greenwich is riddled with underground tunnels and other subterranean oddities – and one of the complaints of the anti-Olympics lobby has been that gaps could open up in Greenwich Park during the equestrian events next summer. Whether this hole in the hill proves anything, though, is another question.
The big displays around the Dome were showing off a new big brand last night. Stella Artois has joined the venue’s sponsors. An appropriate choice considering the O2 has the highest level of alcohol-related crime in Greenwich borough, according to statistics issued by the council earlier this year. See you in A&E.
One thing this corner of SE London has lacked has been online forums, which partly explains why local blogs have done so well around here. Actually, 853 was nearly launched as a forum, but then I decided managing one was too much like hard work and started another blog instead. Well, all that’s changed in the past couple of weeks, with the launch of two new forums. When I get around to rearranging the list on the right-hand side, I’ll give them a permanent link, but until then…
First up is South East Central, a side project from this blog’s occasional collaborators at Brockley Central. As you’d expect, it’s focusing its efforts on the Brockley/ Deptford/ Lewisham areas, but its sights are wider than that, and you can discuss just what it means to be from the beautiful south-east to your heart’s content. Definitely one to watch for the future. Here’s me on shut pubs.
Also looking promising is the Blackheath Forum. I’m a bit concerned about its plans to go into “invite-only” mode in the future, though – apparently it’s a method to beat spammers, but as far as I’m aware, the messageboard system it uses is pretty much spam-proof anyway. Hopefully it’ll stay open to all, because “closed” forums, usually used by residents of new developments to escape the derision of outsiders, don’t really give off a welcoming impression. Look, someone’s been nice about me. (Update – see comments below for a revision of the invite-only policy. Hurrah!)
I don’t often mention Abbey Wood here, but I should also point you in the direction of the Abbey Wood Forum, whose creator wrote to me ages ago but I managed to lose his e-mail. Take a look at this bizarre yarn about Bexley Council, who are clearly sensitive to criticism…
While I’m here, I’m thinking of opening up 853‘s pages in a few weeks to some guest posts – I’ll be elsewhere for a bit so it’s either that or I stick up some episodes of Danger Mouse to keep the page views up.
So if there’s anything about life in south-east London that bugs you, or makes you want to cheer, and it’s legal, decent, and doesn’t pick on an individual or promote any party politics, then I’d love to hear about it.
Greenwich Council might have approved the Olympic test events in Greenwich Park last week – the News Shopper’s Mark Chandler has done a great job in summing a fiddly issue up – but another decision taken at Thursday’s planning meeting shows how perilous planning around London 2012 can be.
Also on the agenda was a tower which will provide access to the Cutty Sark when it reopens. To quote one of the councillors on the panel, the design presented to the board was “hideous” – looking like it had come from an industrial site. It’s actually meant to evoke what a dockyard looks like. Unfortunately, it will also be sited on the narrower King William Walk/naval college side of the ship, where it will blight views from a street full of Georgian houses.
Papers presented to the planning board said the ship was due to reopen later this year. After all, that’s what the hoardings surrounding the Cutty Sark are still saying. This information was wrong – the Cutty Sark Trust website now says the the ship will reopen in spring 2012. Local councillor David Grant pointed this out to the meeting, slipping in a dig that the new viewing structure beneath the ship will look “like a B&Q greenhouse”.
Asked why the access point had to be the King William Walk side of Cutty Sark Gardens, rather than the wider foot tunnel side, councillors were told it was because of “plant” – essentially, the need to have a disabled toilet. But the Cutty Sark Trust could have worked with the council to find a solution to this, rather than presenting the planning board with a fait accompli After all, Greenwich is paying £3m of our money towards their scheme – where’s our say in what’s going on there?
Any delay to the plans, the board was told by the trust’s representatives, could delay the Cutty Sark’s re-opening by up to a year – missing the all-important July 2012 deadline.
The councillors weren’t happy. Labour’s Hayley Fletcher: “This is hideous and out of proportion. We’ve got to live with this for years to come.” Conservative Dermot Poston: “I can’t believe it’s got this far.” Labour’s Denise Hyland: “It’s too big, I don’t know why we have to have toilets there…it goes against my better judgement in terms of aesthetics.”
So with a 2012-shaped gun to their heads, the planning board approved the tower by five votes to two on the proviso that the design presented to them was not the final one.
But this episode – and the latest delay to the scheme – is just a small example of what a shambles the Cutty Sark redevelopment is turning out to be. The Heritage Lottery Fund has stumped up £23m, the government’s chipped in £3m, and the GLA’s paid £1m towards a project that’s lurched around since the fire of 2007, and whose adminstrators don’t seem interested in involving the local community.
With so much public money at stake, hopefully when the job is done there’ll be a full investigation into just why it’s taken so long, and why Greenwich Council is being bounced into risky decisions like this.
There is no better day to be in this part of London – and the weather couldn’t have been much better for it. More at The Charlton Champion.