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

Archive for May 2011

The last days of the Ferrier Estate

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Thanks to Nick at South East Central for the heads-up.

A few weeks ago I came across demolition work at the Ferrier on a Sunday afternoon – huge great chunks of concrete coming down with sickening thumps. They’re not hanging around in knocking it down.

Written by Darryl

12 May, 2011 at 9:00 am

Greenwich Time – LOL

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One thing that made me chuckle about the Southeastern Olympic trains fiasco was Greenwich Council’s initial reluctance to kick up a fuss in public.

853 reader Chris Ferguson, who writes a blog called Abstractnoise, wrote a piece for its weekly newspaper Greenwich Time. But it got spiked. According to him, it had scrapped the whole piece because it mentioned “a blog”.

According to Greenwich Time’s assistant editor Peter Cordwell, in a reply copied into Greenwich Council’s head of press:

“I think it would have had more of a chance if the blog entry had not been mentioned because not everyone is into blogs (they say there are lots about GT, including personal ones about me, but I’ve never seen any of them). Perhaps if you made your points again without the blog reference, we could consider it again.”

I wonder if that’s the same Peter Cordwell, ex editor of the Mercury, who commented in typically witty, yet punchy fashion on the On Blackheath festival post here?

Now, I’m not quite sure if the council’s propaganda paper has heard of sub-editors but in case they haven’t, they’re a wonderful breed who can go through copy and take out references to things they don’t like. (Indeed, I can sub-edit like a dream and am presently looking for work. Ahem.)

So, with Greenwich Time’s readership presumed to be so clueless about modern internet trends, a piece of genuine interest was spiked because of the word “blog” – I wonder how the strapline “LOLfest” managed to creep into this week’s copy?

(Unless, of course, Up the Creek is putting on a show about blokes from the 1970s called Lawrence, mind.)

What’s more important to Greenwich Time? Bringing council tax payers news of things that might affect them, or making silly gestures to get at those who criticise it? I don’t think anyone can even pretend it’s not a propaganda paper after this little episode. And we’re paying for it.

Written by Darryl

11 May, 2011 at 2:11 pm

Southeastern’s Olympic train cuts: What’s happening now

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A few days have passed, a few things have happened. Here’s a round-up of what’s happening as watchdogs, councils and passengers try to fight off the planned cuts by Southeastern during next summer’s Olympics

What London Travelwatch is doing: It has objected, calling the proposed cuts “unacceptable”, adding: “Travellers will find these proposals extremely confusing and they could create as many problems as they seek to overcome.”

What Greenwich Council is doing: It has objected, with cabinet member Cllr Denise Hyland saying they “show a lack of understanding of the importance of tourism to the economy of the borough”. Something is likely to appear in its weekly Greenwich Time next week.

What Lewisham Council is doing: A spokesperson told 853: “Lewisham has responded to the current consultation and has expressed concerns that proposed reduction to the Deptford train service will result in severe overcrowding for existing passengers.”

What have local “stakeholders” said? The Charlton Rail Users Group has objected. So has the Westcombe Society (consulted because its patch borders Maze Hill and Westcombe Park stations). As far as I’m aware, no other group has been contacted – or has made public their response.

What has Southeastern said? Well…

Southeastern’s head of communications (the same department which doesn’t deal with blogs), Jon Hay Campbell, was at the Charlton Rail Users Group meeting on Monday. “We are meeting the Olympic Delivery Authority and the Department for Transport to see what can be done. We’ll be letting them know that this is what our customers said.”

Of course, as was pointed out to him several times, Southeastern didn’t ask its customers, it asked “stakeholders”.

Southeastern has consistently tried to pin the blame on the Olympic Delivery Authority, saying it is obliged to do as the ODA says thanks to a clause in its franchise (17KB PDF).

But London Travelwatch’s Tim Bellenger, who was also at the meeting, said he had heard from other train companies who had been approached by the Olympic Delivery Authority to change their services, but had responded with their own proposals. Indeed, Jon Hay Campbell even said Southeastern had already changed some of its proposals to guarantee better services in Kent – but could not say why Southeastern was not as proactive about protecting its south-east London services.

There were also calls for the Olympic Delivery Authority’s methodology to be challenged – one of its claims is that there would not be capacity to run bus services from Charlton station to the O2/Dome/North Greenwich Arena for Olympic events. Clearly, we must have all dreamt up the Millennium Transit bus shuttle to the Dome in 2000 – and the demolition work which went into creating the interchange there.

Another representative at the meeting was the transport planner for the O2 – who seemed as much in the dark about Southeastern’s proposals as anyone else there, despite working at an Olympic venue.

Finally, some press coverage… in the News Shopper and The Wharf. Only a month after the proposals were first revealed on this blog.

So that’s how things stand. Well done to those who put pressure on councillors and others to act – see Abstractnoise for more – we now await the outcome of all this, which we are due to find out by July.

One little moral to come out of this story, though – it may be worth combining with other train users at your station to set up a users’ group so you find out about these things. If Charlton residents hadn’t done that last year, we wouldn’t have found out – and these proposals would not have been made public.

While we live in a world where “stakeholders” are deemed to be more valuable than real human beings, it may be worth playing their game. Don’t assume other people will do things for you…

Written by Darryl

11 May, 2011 at 1:11 pm

Greenwich outside Time Out’s city limits

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Over the royal wedding holiday weekend, Time Out offered free downloads of its city guide applications. I’ve got a trip coming up, and generally I find TO’s guides to be the best of the lot, so I downloaded a few – including the London one, out of curiosity.

Sat on my sofa at home in Charlton, I had a play with the London guide. Despite nestling in cosy zone 3, the app kept telling me I was “outside the city limits” – even though there were still attractions within walking distance*. I consulted its map, and saw that Charlton was, indeed, outside these arbitary “city limits”.

I could understand it for a largely residential area that is largely off the mainstream tourist trail, but what about Charlton’s more glamorous neighbour?

So off I went to check out the view and the crowds at the top of the hill in Greenwich Park.

Surely one of the most famous views in London – and one that will be beamed around the world next summer – would be on the map?

No, it wasn’t.

I should make clear that Greenwich’s attractions (and, indeed, Charlton’s – well, The Valley and the Thames Barrier) are included in the guide itself. But the map manages to leave off most of south-east London, and east London too.

Want to explore the Docklands or the Olympic Park? You won’t find them here… which in the latter case, is a bit sad considering Time Out is the official travel guide publisher for London 2012.

So where does this map show, then?

So that’s all the way out to Kew in the west, but no further east than Bermondsey – and while north London attractions like the Freud Museum get a look-in, Greenwich’s wealth of sights are shut out of the map, along with other south London things to see like the Horniman Museum.

With the Olympics, new transport links and the continuing growth of the Docklands helping shift perceptions of London eastwards, it seems a shame Time Out’s app is stuck firmly in the old days of looking west and north – particularly for a company associating itself with London 2012.

(*including, brilliantly, the Diana, Princess of Wales memorial fountain in Hyde Park – whose entry is confused with that for the Princess of Wales pub on Blackheath.)

Written by Darryl

9 May, 2011 at 12:30 pm

London 2012’s local PR falls off the rails

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A couple of years ago, when the London 2012 organisers were trying to sell their vision of Greenwich Park to local people, I suggested to a LOCOG representative that it open up a shop in Greenwich Market.

People would be able to see what was planned, have a point of contact with Olympic organisers, and LOCOG would be able to sell 2012 souvenirs to passing tourists. The whole thing would feel like less of an imposition, and everyone would feel a bit happier.

This was not possible, the LOCOG rep told me – the company simply didn’t have the money for fripperies like a shop in Greenwich.

So when I entered the Olympic ticket lottery last week, it was a was a surprise to see there are now official London 2012 shops at Heathrow Terminal 5, St Pancras International, Paddington Station and inside John Lewis at Oxford Circus.

My column in Snipe (in all good venues very soon) this month deals with the failure of London 2012 to communicate properly with the people who have to, and will have to, live their lives around construction sites and huge crowds.

It deals with failings on both side of the river, but it’s been inspired by a few weeks of watching events around this area.

Woolwich Common still looks like “a battleship”, blocked off by forbidding grey hoardings and with no indication to locals that this will be the site of the Olympic shooting events. Indeed, I understand Greenwich Council was unaware that the closure of the London Cycle Network route across the common was about to take place – believing that Circular Way would only be closed occasionally. Cyclists now have to mix it at the main traffic lights on the South Circular Road instead.

In Greenwich Park, LOCOG is still being blamed for an “information vacuum” which is allowing rumours and worries to spread. That criticism, by the way, came at the test events planning meeting from Gordon Baker, chairman of the Westcombe Society – the man who banned journalists from a LOCOG briefing for amenity society members in 2009. Even those lucky enough to be on the inside with LOCOG are getting hacked off with them.

Greenwich Council hasn’t helped itself, of course – it could have insisted on stronger community links instead of a secretive “societies consultative group” when it gave LOCOG planning permission last year. But as I mentioned last month while talking about the Cutty Sark, councillors now face a 2012-shaped gun to their heads – kick up a fuss, and they risk being accused of ruining the Olympic project.

The kerfuffle over the plans to cut train services through Greenwich is another prime example – this genuinely caught even Greenwich Council by surprise. Yet the responses from Southeastern that have been sent to Chris Ferguson, writer of another local blog, Abstractnoise, are hair-raising – basically, blaming the Olympic Delivery Authority. It all looks like another “screw you” from Olympics organisers to their neighbours.

Yet all this could be avoided by having proper engagement with local people and local media; providing regular, public bulletins on what is going on; and by remembering that we’re meant to be proud to live next door to Olympic venues – not resentful because we’re being kept in the dark. Did you know LOCOG are holding “drop-in sessions” in Greenwich Park from 12-14 May? Well, you do now. I only found it out from the website of NOGOE, the anti-equestrian lobby.

Londoners are a stubborn bunch and don’t like being left in the dark. We’ve less than 14 months left, but if LOCOG and the ODA don’t get their act together quickly, cut the arrogance and start listening, they may end up with a very nasty surprise on their hands next summer.

PS. As for Greenwich Council, Chris Ferguson tells me that he offered to write something for Greenwich Time on the Olympic rail cuts issue. The council’s weekly newspaper refused to print it “because of a reference to a blog”. Why would Greenwich Council’s weekly newspaper put its disagreements with “a blog” ahead of informing local people about major issues?

Southeastern hushes up its planned Olympic cuts

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Southeastern has published a new page on its website about its plans for London 2012. Well, I say “new”, but something’s been up there since last October. Except the date has changed, and it’s been pushed to the top of its website’s “news” section. Must be new stuff, then.

So what does it have to say about its plans to cut services on the Greenwich line during the Olympics? Well… nothing. There’s a line about there being no extra trains, except late at night…

But what about the impact on daily commuters? Not a bean about plans to close one station and reduce services through five others…

Indeed, no need to bother your pretty heads with all this, because the “stakeholders” are being consulted instead of you…

So you don’t need to worry. But with the “consultation” closing on Friday, perhaps you should. If you haven’t already, consider dropping your local councillor (Greenwich / Lewisham) or MP a line about these proposals for local train services during the Olympics.

normal service Olympics service
Deptford 6 trains/hour 2 trains/hour
Maze Hill 6 trains/hour not known no Kent-bound trains 06.13-12.13
no London-bound trains 12.15-21.45
Westcombe Park 6 trains/hour 2 trains/hour
Charlton 8 trains/hour not known No Charing X services via Lewisham
Woolwich Dockyard 6 trains/hour Station closed
Kidbrooke 6 trains/hour 4 trains/hour No trains to Dartford

Here’s the map shown to a meeting of users’ groups last month… (click to enlarge)

… and here’s the whole Powerpoint presentation. (7.2MB download, link now fixed)

After all, it’s your councillors and your MP who are supposed to be representing you in this “consultation”. So if you feel strongly, drop them a line. And if you’ve done that already, I’d love to hear what they told you.

Written by Darryl

4 May, 2011 at 1:28 pm

DLR extensions – has Eltham missed the train?

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Take a look at London Reconnections, for there’s an interesting post about possible extensions to the Docklands Light Railway. When the ribbon is finally cut on the Stratford International extension (delayed, apparently, because of thefts to cabling), it’ll be the first time in 24 years that there’s been no plans for an extension to the network.

Since it opened in 1987, lines to Bank, Beckton, Lewisham, Woolwich Arsenal and Stratford International have come off the drawing board and into reality – but after Boris Johnson canned a scheme to extend it to Dagenham, that production line has ground to a halt. Anyhow, TfL’s released a map to show that it hasn’t given up on expanding the network just yet.

Here’s the map as it affects south-east London. Can you see what’s missing?

Yes, it’s a line to Eltham. Remember that?

Greenwich Council unveilved a feasibility study early in 2010, through its Eltham Regeneration Agency arm, with a final report due in May 2010.

Political rivals smelled a £75,000 PR stunt ahead of the general election, with Labour MP Clive Efford defending a marginal constituency which would benefit from such a rail link.

Since then, the trail’s gone cold. The Greenwich Council website still claims a report would be due “in summer 2010″. It’s almost summer 2011, and nothing’s been produced. There’s been no mention of the extension proposals at ERA meetings since March 2010.

The report is being produced by Hyder Consulting – the firm whose proposals to pedestrianise Greenwich Town Centre were shelved after an outcry from residents and Transport for London. In March 2010, Hyder’s Ed Humphrys told an ERA meeting about the practical challenges of building an extension to the railway. Maybe he was trying to warn them off the project?

Another speaker at the meeting was William McKee, chairman of Tilfen Land – which owns much of Thamesmead and has local London Assembly member Len Duvall as a non-executive director. (McKee himself chairs Boris Johnson’s Outer London Commission.) He warned that TfL’s budget was about to be cut, and it was more interested with extending the DLR north of the Thames.

Since those warnings, nothing. I submitted a Freedom of Information Act request in January, and was told the report was yet to be completed, although it was hoped that it would be completed “shortly”. Three months on, there’s been no news. The next ERA meeting is on 24 May, but with the release of TfL’s map, it may now be too late for any plans to bring the DLR to Eltham.

Cracking the problem of Eltham’s ropey public transport links is an issue that’s occupied local politicians for a few years. I’m surprised the idea of extending the DLR from Lewisham wasn’t considered – but Greenwich politicians of all parties seem concerned with creating north-south links within their borough, not east-west links outside (even though Lewisham station is actually only a few hundred yards from the borough’s western border).

Hyder’s first proposal would arguably depend on a Silvertown bridge being built. But that’s now discounted thanks to Boris’s cable car leading to plans for a third Blackwall tunnel instead, which mayoral rival Ken Livingstone says he is now opposed to.

Even if you managed to stick the DLR in a tunnel – and frankly, that’d provide a rollercoaster ride through Silvertown – a second underground station on the peninsula would be expensive, to say the least. Furthermore, I’m not sure how one would tunnel “past Charlton” without getting in the way of the existing 162-year-old Charlton-Blackheath railway tunnel. A tunnel from Woolwich, meanwhile, also seems phenomenally costly, risks digging up Woolwich Common, and just how would you run a line through Kidbrooke or the Well Hall Road? Maybe they really do have the DLR mixed up with trams.

But how else would you do it? The Green Party talked up an extension of the Jubilee Line from North Greenwich some time back – but that’s a non-runner, because the tunnels there point in the wrong direction, and splitting the line would halve the service to Stratford.

You could include Eltham on a Bakerloo Line extension or a London Overground extension – but both would cost serious money, and turn Greenwich councillors’ hair white because they’d link to Lewisham and not other parts of Greenwich borough.

Which leads us into blue sky thinking. The return of trams? Another cable car? Maybe a monorail…

The citizens of Eltham got an extension to the 132 bus to North Greenwich a couple of years back. It’ll be the best they’ll get for a while. For now, we’ll have to wait and see what this report actually says. But it really does feel like as far extensions to the DLR are concerned, Eltham may well have missed the train.

Ladywell, Catford and Forest Hill haven’t, though – and Brockley Central’s discussing the idea of the DLR heading to that part of town. (How would they get it across the A20 at Lewisham, I wonder?)

I’ve asked Greenwich Council for a response to TfL’s map, and will update this post when it gets back to me.

6:15PM UPDATE: No response from Greenwich Council so far.

Content thief alert – London Tribune

A quick heads-up for anyone else involved in London blogging – a new website is nicking content from London sites without asking permission. My content has been pulled threatening an enquiry over where to send the invoice, but it’d also nicked content from Londonist, London Reconnections, BBC London and others.

A whole range of posts were swiftly pulled this lunchtime, but you can see if your site has been affected by looking at its Twitter feed. (Which has now been pulled.)

Using other people’s work without permission is not syndication, it is theft, and will be pursued as such.

Content thieving is practised most often by the dreadful MyVillage stable of sites, although in the case of its dire Southwark offering, it’s led to some funny results with it now “syndicating” posts about life in Essex

Written by Darryl

3 May, 2011 at 12:25 pm

Posted in housekeeping

Deptford’s Jack in the Green marks May Day in Greenwich

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Morris dancing, beer and revels came to Greenwich yesterday to mark May Day, when the Fowlers Troop Jack in the Green arrived.

I wish I’d taken my video camera along, but I hope these photos provide a flavour. It’s a shame the dancing and the crowds had to compete with the traffic on Royal Hill – but then the spontaneity of it all and holding up normal life for a short while is what it’s all about…

7:45PM UPDATE: I thought it was from the same people who revived the Horn Fair parade to Charlton a couple of years ago – thanks Sarah in the comments below for correcting me. There’s clearly more people into dancing and parading in SE London than I first believed!

Written by Darryl

2 May, 2011 at 2:25 pm

On Blackheath update: The court battle drags on

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I’ve neglected this over the past few weeks, so here’s an update on what’s happening with the On Blackheath festival.

A court hearing took place four weeks ago… and the magistrates still haven’t heard from all the witnesses. So the case resumes yet again on 16 May, and it’s believed a further day in court may yet be needed.

All this means that even if the Blackheath Society loses its appeal against Lewisham Council, there’s a chance the festival may not go ahead as planned on 10/11 September.

I’ve been in touch with the organisers and they tell me that they’re still planning a 2011 festival, and if time runs out and they get approval they will simply switch to a 2012 festival instead. (The Paralympics may mean the same weekend is unavailable next year, mind…)

In the meantime, On Blackheath’s organisers are planning to put some more information on their website, and are also looking at putting some smaller shows on at Blackheath Halls – which has staged a few gigs in the past, and could do with extra income after Greenwich Council scrapped its grant to the venue.

But the whole thing has opened a huge can of worms which neither the organisers, Lewisham Council, nor even the objectors could have foreseen. Lewisham Council is now reviewing its policy on events in its parks following the row.

Consider the people who live around Blackheath. Similar festivals take place on Clapham Common and in Victoria Park without too many problems. But the people who live close to those open spaces are younger and are more likely to be familiar with urban festivals – visit Clapham Common on a sunny day and take a look around you – while residents around Blackheath are generally older and not as interested, no matter how keen those who live in the wider area may be.

Hence the outright hostility – and to an extent, a complete unwillingness to listen to any argument for a festival. One furious man stormed out of a public meeting held in March, branding the organisers “capitalist ponces” and demanding the right to “play bongo drums” on their windowsills. Whatever the organisers say, a large proportion of the immediate neighbours of the festival believe the area will be invaded by pissed-up kids swigging White Lightning out of Tesco bags – and are unlikely to accept that anything different will happen.

How did this happen, though? The problem lies in the consultation process for holding such events. Councils aren’t obliged to do letter drops on licensing issues, like they have to do on planning issues. So all many locals saw was a single notice attached to a lamp post at the end of Hare and Billet Road last autumn, applying for a licence, and giving a bare outline of what was planned. “I’m not a dog walker or a Blackheath Society member, I didn’t see the sign,” one resident told a local assembly meeting last month. Meanwhile, Greenwich councillors are aggrieved they were not involved in the process on an event right on the borough boundary.

The organisers thought they were doing it by the book – and they were right. But now even they realise that the consultation process wasn’t up to scratch for such a big event.

Hence Lewisham belatedly realising it needs to get its act into gear and actually develop some policies for what to do. There’s complications relating to Lewisham Council’s contract with Glendale to manage its parks – there’s a 10% shortfall in Glendale‘s contract which it can make up by charging organisers to hold events such as On Blackheath. That contract lasts to 2020.

There’s specific issues regarding the legal status of Blackheath, which differs on each side of the Shooters Hill Road. (Contrary to popular belief, it’s not a common but manorial waste – owned by the Earl of Dartmouth (Lewisham) and the Queen (Greenwich.)) Lewisham believes it needs ministerial approval before part of its side of the heath can be enclosed; although this hasn’t stopped the London Marathon and Zippo’s Circus from sealing off bits of it in recent weeks.

So having stumbled into a legal minefield, it’s easy to see why On Blackheath may not make its debut until 2012 – even if the magistrates find in its favour. But with the Greenwich Summer Sessions, the Peninsula Festival promising outdoor shows, possibly On Blackheath – next summer could be a great one for live music in this part of the world.

Incidentally, the Blackheath Society’s friends in the Westcombe Society have objected to this year’s Greenwich Summer Sessions licence – a Greenwich licensing meeting next week will consider an objection on the grounds that the bands will be too loud and on too late.

UPDATE MONDAY 2:30PM: According to a Blackheath Bugle commenter, a festival on Blackheath will result in the uprooting of lamp posts. In fact, it’s “inevitable”. Ho-hum.

UPDATE MONDAY 6:15PM: There could also be a concert in Greenwich Park in August 2012 if one leading Greenwich councillor gets his way….

Written by Darryl

1 May, 2011 at 9:00 am


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