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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 January 2012

Get Ahead Of The Games leaves Greenwich travellers behind

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So lots of publicity for the Get Ahead Of The Games website launched on Monday detailing exactly where in London the transport network will be a little bit sticky during the Olympics. Apparently we’re now due “a multi-media advertising campaign [to] communicate directly with the travelling public, offering tips, travel information and advice on how to reduce, reroute, retime or remode their journeys”. Nice.

But something’s missing. Sure, Boris has managed to get his cable car on the map above… but why does this campaign only use the Tube map, and not the full rail and Tube map? Where’s the information about Southeastern’s service cuts and how to get around those? It’s as if this campaign has been drawn up by the Evening Standard or Time Out, not authorities that are supposed to be responsible for all of London.

Let’s be frank here, for all this blog’s general excitement about the Olympics, the Greenwich area is going to take a big hit in terms of transport disruption – probably the biggest outside the Olympic Park. It’s not going to be the end of the world, but it will be a bit of a pain in the bum. Yet somehow, between TfL, the mayor’s office, LOCOG, the government and the Olympic Delivery Authority, there’s very little interest in communicating the disruption that faces us during the summer.

It’s all very well warning that Covent Garden will be busy because people will want to go to the theatre (hold the front page!) but what about someone wanting to take a train from a half-closed Maze Hill, or a disrupted Deptford? There’s nothing here for them. Why are they less important than those who use Fulham Broadway? (“Exceptionally busy on 28 and 29 July,” apparently.)

Over recent months, it seems that the mainline network in London is the forgotten part of the Olympics transport jigsaw – those I’ve spoken to at LOCOG haven’t really seemed alert to Southeastern’s cuts through Greenwich, and the lack of information for mainline travellers just seem to compound the impression that nobody’s taking an overall view of the situation. Poor show.

Written by Darryl

31 January, 2012 at 7:30 am

Ssssh… is this Greenwich’s best place to park a bike?

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I feel like I’m tempting fate horribly here, but what the heck. A change of routine here at 853 Towers has seen me get back into the commuting life once again. But now I can do something I couldn’t do last time I was regularly chugging across the capital. I can take the bike some of the way, and save myself a few quid.

Back in November 2010, I bemoaned the lack of places to park a bike at North Greenwich station. For years, one set of crappy stands full of half-nicked cycles proved an uninspiring invitation to get onto two wheels. So, while I cursed the lousy bus journey or simply took the mainline train instead, there wasn’t really much of an incentive to get a bike and do something about it.

But as I created that post, the ground was already being whipped away from beneath my feet. A slew of new racks appeared outside Ravensbourne college, while outside the TfL building at Pier Walk another set appeared. Suddenly, cycling to North Greenwich seemed, well, doable.

And so it’s proved. With a favourable wind and kind traffic, I can race down to North Greenwich in about 11/12 minutes, half the time it’d take by bus and a third of the walking time. I can gawp at the Greenwich Millennium Village residents who still wait in huge numbers for a bus to go one stop (after 10 years, I still don’t know why) before swerving around their more sensible neighbours walking down one of London’s daftest cycle lanes, the one that looks more like a pavement than a pavement.

Coming home, I can ride along the Thames, listening to the river lap against the shore. It’s the best of all worlds and a reason why this part of London is frankly amazing.

Obviously when it chucks down with rain, and the Jubilee Line implodes, I’ll have a different view. But in the meantime, it’s £20/month off a travelcard and keeps me well away from Southeastern.

As for the cycle parking – over a year on, very few people seem to have cottoned on to the extra space. The Ravensbourne racks are well-used by their students and under the watchful eye of the O2’s guards, but hardly anyone else seems to use them. As for the TfL racks, which have CCTV cameras on, a grand total of no bikes at all were parked there at 9.10am yesterday.

By accident, without any deliberate planning, the area around North Greenwich station may have become SE10’s best place to park a bike. Fairly safe, plenty of security, plenty of spaces. Better than the guarded National Maritime Museum racks, better than the post outside the Pelton Arms with a camera trained on it. All by accident.

Now, if someone actually planned some decent cycle parking up there, imagine how good it could be!

Written by Darryl

24 January, 2012 at 8:00 am

27 weeks to go: Find out more about Olympic traffic plans

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Today marks 27 weeks until the opening ceremony of the London Olympics, and it’s been a busy few days for the preparations. Mind you, I mistook yesterday’s security drill on the Thames for the usual police and army din over these parts and forgot to wander down for a peek…

There’s also been one of the Games’ biggest test events so far at the Dome O2 North Greenwich Arena, with the Visa International Gymnastics tournament ending on Wednesday. If you were around North Greenwich over the past couple of weeks, you can’t have failed to have missed hordes of London Prepares volunteers and the athletes and trainers themselves milling around. It’s a taste of things to come in the summer.

Lewisham Council’s also confirmed its plans for the live site at Blackheath Village I’ve mentioned here in passing a couple of times – although naturally it’s prompted a spectacular outbreak of moaning that’s worth getting the popcorn in for.

(Here’s a true fact: in 1999, I seriously considered buying a flat above the Taste of Raj in Blackheath Village, which is right opposite the proposed live site. For the first time, I’ve had a pang of regret that I didn’t buy that place – although I imagine 12 years of several flights of stairs, the smell of Raj and the noise from weekend pissheads might be a heavy price to pay for having a big screen on my doorstep for three weeks.)

Anyway, this ramble is just to alert you that there’s some public exhibitions taking place today, tomorrow, and next week about the traffic plans for both Woolwich Barracks and “North Greenwich Arena” during the Games. Today from noon-6.30pm and tomorrow from 10am-4pm, LOCOG staff will be at General Gordon Place, Woolwich, to explain what’s happening near there; and on Friday 27th (noon-8pm) and Saturday 28th (10am-4pm) they’ll be at Ravensbourne college to explain what’s happening around the Dome.

Details should also appear at www.london2012.com/accessandparking although there’s not a lot there as I type. I’ll have more here (or at the Charlton Champion) later, hopefully.

Written by Darryl

20 January, 2012 at 6:00 am

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Bookies eye up Lewisham’s old Nationwide branch

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Since Nationwide Building Society shut its inner south-east London branches last May, its former premises have remained empty.

But after the building society that’s “on your side” abandoned us last year, one of its former offices could be about to find a depressingly predictable new use. Yup, another bookmakers.

Corals has applied to turn the old Lewisham Nationwide into a new betting shop – the planning application has closed, but the licensing application is still active (for details, contact Lewisham Council). It’s hardly as if Lewisham High Street needs a new bookies – a Paddy Power and William Hill sit side by side just a few yards away, with a Joe Jennings a little further up. After events in Deptford, it’ll be interesting to see what they decide.

Nationwide’s decision has meant shopping streets starting 2012 with shut-down shops – over the past few weeks I’ve seen no signs of activity at their Greenwich, Blackheath, Woolwich, Catford and Peckham branches other than “to let” signs. If you know anything different, please feel free to share it.

Footnote: While on money-related matters, some readers may have seen ads for loan sharks Wonga appear on this website, particularly on mobile phones. I hoped WordPress had better standards than that. I’ve just upgraded to an ad-free package so hopefully they should no longer appear.

Written by Darryl

16 January, 2012 at 12:10 pm

Silvertown tunnel: Boris sacrifices Greenwich to win votes in Bexley

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Where the tunnel will emerge - next to Boris's cable car, under construction

Well, you know there’s an election coming when the incumbent gets ready to put his hand in his pocket. (Well, it’s our pockets, but you know what I’m saying.) Finally, Boris Johnson has shown his cards about a third Blackwall Tunnel – the “Silvertown link” between the Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Docks. He says it’ll be built by 2022 at a cost of £700 million.

That’s £700 million more than has ever been given to south-east London’s public transport system over the past decade. Readers unlucky enough to have been here for a while will know my point of view on this – I wrote something in 2009 on why trying to squeeze more traffic up and down the A102 is crazy.

So, for a moment, all I need to do is repeat myself.

Worryingly, [a TfL report] backs more work on the Silvertown Link – a proposal for either a bridge or a tunnel which would run from Edmund Halley Way (between the Dome and the David Beckham Academy). Land is already safeguarded for such a scheme.

The Silvertown Link would be a disaster for Greenwich – merely giving people more reasons to drive up the A102, creating more congestion and pollution. How could you build a third crossing on the peninsula (after the two Blackwall Tunnels) without expanding the 40-year-old dual carriageway that struggles with the two that are there already? It’s insane, and threatens to blight the lives of hundreds of people in Greenwich and Blackheath. It’s bad enough they have motorways at the bottom of their gardens – the last thing they need is the threat of that motorway expanding.

Boris Johnson has long backed the Silvertown Link – and it’s the Labour party in Greenwich borough’s dirty little secret too; Eltham MP Clive Efford is keen on the idea of sending more traffic through neighbouring Greenwich. But nobody seems to have thought about asking the people of Greenwich and Blackheath whose homes and livelihoods would be threatened.

If you live in Greenwich, Charlton or Blackheath – you should be thinking of acting now to make sure the Silvertown Link, the laziest and most damaging idea of them all, never happens.

But there’s more. East Greenwich is already one of the most polluted areas of London – emissions at the Woolwich Road Flyover and Trafalgar Road already exceed safe limits. Things aren’t too bright over in Canning Town either. A new tunnel will only make things worse.

How on earth will the tip of the Greenwich Peninsula be regenerated if it’s cut off by a road tunnel? How is traffic meant to get into and out of the O2 if its access roads are given over to a hole in the ground? The strip of parkland that stretches up the centre of the peninsula – intended to be a “car-free zone” just 12 years ago – won’t be very pleasant if there’s traffic roaring out of the end of it.

New roads will mean more traffic. So how will the A2, which is only two lanes in each direction through Eltham, cope with the extra traffic when it struggles during the rush hour as it is? This just moves a bottleneck three miles further south. The A102 was at a standstill southbound at 8pm last night because of an accident at the Sun-in-the-Sands roundabout. Can you imagine how big the queue would be if two tunnels fed into this road, instead of one?

Building a third crossing at the Blackwall Tunnel doesn’t provide anyone with an alternative route if you still have to go up the same road to get there.

There’s also going to be nothing in a tunnel for cyclists. Cycling mayor? Nah, I don’t think so.

So, I hear you cry – we need a new crossing because I can’t get my car across the Thames! Well, the more sensible place to build one – if you think we need a new river crossing at all – would be at Thamesmead. But the old Thames Gateway Bridge scheme was scrapped, partly because of political pressure in Bexley, partly because the road network leading up to Thamesmead isn’t up to much. The main route from Bexleyheath through to Abbey Wood, for example, isn’t much more than a side road.

That said, this hasn’t stopped Boris planning a ferry at the same site – possibly taking over from the Woolwich Ferry, which conveys hundreds of heavy lorries across the Thames each day.

Most of the pressure to build a new crossing comes from car drivers in areas like the borough of Bexley, and other suburbs. If Bexley wants a bridge, perhaps it should learn to live with the consequences and have it in its own back yard. A bridge at Thamesmead would at least provide the flexibility to include other modes of transport – extensions of east London’s mainlines, the Overground or even the Hammersmith & City Line from Barking to connect with Crossrail at Abbey Wood, for example. Granted, Greenwich Council harbours dreams of running the DLR through Boris’s tunnel towards Eltham – but where trains would run from hasn’t been made clear yet.

So, with Tory mayor Boris Johnson and Labour Greenwich Council backing a tunnel – along with Eltham Labour MP Clive Efford – who’s going to oppose it? Last year, Ken Livingstone – who’d planned a bridge at the site – said a tunnel would be “mad”. Will the real Labour line on this please step forward?

Long-time readers of this site will also be aware that I stood as a Green Party candidate in council elections in 2010. Frustratingly, I couldn’t persuade the local party to take the threat of a third Blackwall Tunnel up as an issue. But they were very proud of the fact that they played a part in the public inquiry which helped kill off the original Thames Gateway Bridge scheme. Several years on from that, and with Boris now threatening east Greenwich, I wonder if they shot themselves in the foot by opposing the lesser of the two evils?

Anyhow, I think this is Boris sacrificing Greenwich’s air quality and quality of life to win over votes in the suburbs, instead of investing in a proper transport network. In 2008 he ran on a policy of scrapping the Thames Gateway Bridge, targeted at residents in Bexley, and in 2012 he wants to give them that bridge, but in our back yard instead. It’s time we moved to stop him.

Whatever you think, I’d be interested in your views.

Written by Darryl

12 January, 2012 at 5:37 pm

News Shopper stirs Stephen Lawrence innuendo

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Thank you to everyone who’s been in touch with kind words about my piece on the Stephen Lawrence verdict. I was in two minds about whether or not to write it, because of the emotions it stirs, but it was an event that needed marking. My personal connection with Stephen was very, very limited – but I think Bob From Bromley expressed it right. “Although I can’t claim any ownership of this tragedy, I feel as if I have lived closely with Stephen’s death this past eighteen years.”

While people across this country and beyond will have welcomed the news of Gary Dobson and David Norris’s conviction, it’s here in south-east London that the sense of relief was felt the most. The case has cast a long shadow over this area, and one aspect of life under that was the number of people who simply refused to believe that a young black man could be innocent of any crime.

I remember people telling me I didn’t know “the truth” about the case, and hearing dog ends of rumours about drug dealing, rapes, anything that would somehow absolve Stephen’s killers of the racism they were filmed bragging about by a police undercover surveillance camera.

As Mr Justice Treacy told two of Stephen Lawrence’s murderers a week ago:

A totally innocent 18 year old youth on the threshold of a promising life was brutally cut down in the street in front of eye witnesses by a racist thuggish gang. You were both members of that gang… This crime was committed for no other reason than racial hatred. You did not know Stephen Lawrence or Duwayne Brooks. Neither of them had done anything to harm, threaten or offend you in any way, apart from being black and making their way peaceably to the bus-stop on their way home.

With that, 19 years of malicious lies about Stephen Lawrence and Duwayne Brooks should have been extinguished forever. Incredibly, the News Shopper has decided to perpetuate them.

Duwayne Brooks, who now serves his community as a Lewisham councillor, was interviewed on Radio 4’s Today programme yesterday. The Shopper used Press Association copy to run a story on it…

Now, you’d think a “local” newspaper would probably not bother running comments beneath the story – after all, the paper’s website is already a magnet for nutters, and moderating such a thread would be more trouble than it was worth.

Instead, the News Shopper, based out in distant Petts Wood, decided it was open season.

A black man walking through Eltham? Three layers of clothing? Asking for it, obviously. It then gets worse, with one person posting a list of the charges the police had tried to pin on Duwayne in the years following Stephen’s death, before asking…

If all this stuff isn’t racist, it’s certainly defamatory. It’s pretty much identical to the bile you’ll find on neo-Nazi websites. But it’s all fine at the News Shopper. Once local newspapers felt a duty of care to communities, and they championed those communities. In south-east London, those days are long gone, and we’re stuck with the News Shopper stirring things from the safety of far-off Orpington, where they’ll never have to live the consequences of the rubbish its website prints.

Hey, at least there’s some source material for the next lazy “Eltham still racist” piece from a national.

We’ve been here before, of course. In August 2010 the News Shopper rewarded an anti-gay rant with a “star letter” prize, while a couple of months back it tried to whip up hysteria about Staffordshire Bull Terriers. We know it likes to turn a blind eye to lunatic comments in news stories, under the belief that it makes people return to their website. (It’s the way the Daily Telegraph runs its website, with once-respected hacks reduced to the status of dancing bears for all sorts of unpleasant nutters.)

But when it comes to leaving racist and defamatory comments in a news story that’s been live all through Monday, that really can’t be an innocent slip-up. This has to have been a conscious decision to keep on stirring the innuendo, purely to boost traffic to the News Shopper website.

We have to accept that we don’t live in a perfect world. But we live in one where those who spread hate are increasingly marginalised. Sadly, though, it seems the racists still have a friend in the News Shopper.

1.30pm update The News Shopper has now deleted the comments from its website. Greenwich and Lewisham reporter Mark Chandler, however, seems to think there’s nothing wrong with his newspaper publishing racist and defamatory innuendo. (McNae’s is the media law bible.)

Written by Darryl

10 January, 2012 at 8:15 am

Greenwich Council’s Pravda reveals royal borough crest

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So, here’s the new crest for the shiny new Royal Borough of Greenwich (coming February 3) – what do you reckon? I don’t think they’ve done a bad job, although I can’t help chuckling at the retention of the borough’s motto “we govern by serving”, when “do as you’re bloody told” would be more accurate.

A guide to what it all means is on the front of this week’s soaraway Greenwich Time, which also carries a letter about dog shit and how council leader Chris Roberts paid a “moving” tribute to Stephen Lawrence’s parents. Beautiful stuff.

There’s also more stuff from Roberts about 2012 in the centre spread, and a bit marked “what YOU think!” which is actually filled with “key stakeholders” that you’ve never heard of.

Still, you’ll be glad to know the borough’s written press is scrutinising the council as closely as ever, with a News Shopper reporter gaining a byline for cutting and pasting 14 paragraphs of quotes from the Dear Leader (see original press release) on a story you could have read here a month ago. With these bastions of truth and honesty looking after us, what is there to fear in 2012?

Written by Darryl

9 January, 2012 at 12:34 pm

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