Archive for April 2012
A blunder by Greenwich Council means it’s had to pay £125,000 to buy back the lease to Charlton Lido after the original scheme to revamp the open-air pool collapsed, it has emerged.
The council had given away the lease to Open Waters Investments, which had claimed it would spend £10m on revamping the lido. But Open Waters could not raise the money, and Greenwich Leisure Limited took over the lease in March 2011.
However, it emerged at a scrutiny meeting last week that Greenwich Council has had to give GLL £125,000 to buy back the lease it gave away for free.
The story is reported by Greenwich Conservatives, and this website has independently established that it is accurate.
It’s the latest twist in a sorry tale of blunders over the lido, which last opened to the public in 2008. It closed in 2009 to enable the deal with Open Waters to be signed, but work never got under way until GLL’s contractors appeared this January.
The lido is due to reopen for swimming in July, with the full revamp to be finished in 2013, including a dance studio. Greenwich Council wants to turn dilapidated Hornfair Park into a “multi-sports hub”, with a successful BMX track opening there last summer.
Update 8.30pm: GLL managing director Mark Sesnan disputes this version of events. He says: “GLL purchased the Lido site in early 2011 of our own volition. We paid £175,000 for it and this was written off in our accounts last year.
“We then approached the Council with a £3,000,000 two stage plan to refurbish it, make it a proper 50m pool and to heat the water. Phase One of the plan will see the 50m pool open from July – September this summer, Phase Two will see the new changing rooms, reception, gym and cafeteria and will open for April 2013.
“The £3,000,000 is being funded by £2,000,000 which GLL is financing and a further £1,000,000 from Lottery, Grants, the Council and other sources.”
He says the cash was paid from GLL’s own funds to Open Waters Ltd.
Greenwich Conservative leader Spencer Drury, who sparked last week’s meeting by calling the payment in, stands by the story, saying “the figures supplied to Councillors at the call-in were £120-125,000 for the lease (although exactly when this was paid we were not told)”.
So the Queen rocked up in Greenwich on Wednesday to reopen the Cutty Sark. The’s terrific pictures from greenwich.co.uk, and more from The Greenwich Phantom. No walkabout from Mrs Queen, though – rather a shame, since as we’re paying to be a royal borough, it’d be nice to be able to press some regal flesh once in a while…
The day before, though, saw a press tour around the ship, whose restoration was helped by £3m from Greenwich Council. At the same time, journalists were taken out on a boat to Enderby Wharf, so they could be chatted up about plans for a cruise liner terminal.
Cruise liner terminal? Remember that? Yup, the one first announced by council leader Chris Roberts taking journalists, er, out on a boat, in June 2010, before most locals knew a thing about it.
The cruise liner terminal received planning permission in January 2011. Planning documents said: “It is the applicant’s intention to deliver the cruise liner terminal and pier in time for 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games bringing a major piece of new infrastructure to London,” adding that an independent study had found this was “realistic and achievable”. No wonder why it got unanimous approval. The following week’s edition of propaganda weekly Greenwich Time said it was “anticipated” the terminal would be open for the Games. Exciting stuff.
By April 2011, though, nothing had happened on site apart from the vandalism of historic Enderby House. In June 2011, Greenwich Time said the terminal would be open “in 2012″, and mega-liner The World would be docking there in 2013.
By April 2012? Er… nothing.
This was Enderby House earlier this month, looking in a right state. Still, Greenwich Council’s website remained optimistic.
Indeed, it’s still remaining optimistic, since those words are still there, on a page two clicks from the council’s homepage.
But as is blindingly obvious to the cruise liner terminal won’t be open for the Olympics. It won’t even be open this year. To the Orpington-based News Shopper!
“Preliminary work on the landmark development, approved last summer [sic] is now due to start at Enderby’s Wharf in November, with the facility’s first phase open 12 to 18 months after that.”
So, all being well, the first visitors be able to dock in Greenwich and watch the Olympics. Yes, the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, on the telly in the nearby Pelton Arms, if the guv’nor can be persuaded. Excellent.
But did anyone on the boat trip ask why the project will be delivered up to two years late? It appears not.
Not the News Shopper, whose reporter seems to be covering both Greenwich and Lewisham boroughs single-handedly at present, not the Docklands & East London Advertiser (which reported it as if it’d just been announced), and certainly not the Evening
Boris Standard, which bizarrely managed to squeeze a plug for the mayor into the story, breathlessly reporting the project had been “given the go-ahead by Boris Johnson”. Indeed, he gave it the nod in February 2011.
Does all this matter? Well, yes. This is a prestige project for the area, one which is meant to create employment and kick-start the regeneration of the west side of the Greenwich Peninsula. It’ll affect the Thames Path, and also one of the area’s historic sites at Enderby House, and even sparked a plan for a “cultural corridor” scheme to link it to east Greenwich proper.
It’s also a project the council’s intimately involved in, even inviting a representative from developer West Properties along to a £10,000 celebration at the Queen’s House in February to mark royal borough status. It also sponsored a cruise industry conference on Wednesday. (Scroll down the page for some staggering porkies about how easy it is to get in and out of Enderby Wharf, incidentally.)
So, yes, it does matter that we get timely and honest information about this. But, predictably, we have a council that’s not up to the job, and an under-resourced local press that’s also failing to do its work. And nearly two years after I first posted on it, I never thought I’d still be posting about a lack of information about a project that’ll completely change the east Greenwich. But that’s what happens when you have a council that’s more interested in dealing with developers, and local press barons that have stopped caring.
Nederlandse Hospitality in het hartje van de Spelen! If you’ve followed some of the Peninsula Festival stuff on here, this video won’t tell you much that’s new (apart from the discovery of a “subway” line from the peninsula to Woolwich Common). If not, then this should fill in some of the gaps about this summer’s Dutch invasion – concerts, camping, ships and a beach. And £50,000 from Greenwich Council for a “community element”.
Up the road, Lewisham Council’s also forking out for a community party on Blackheath during the Olympics. The programme for The Lewisham Big Screen includes music, film and dancing, and The Mayor’s Quiz Night. You know, I could be up for that last one… hopefully what’s planned for the “community element” on the peninsula (where the stage site is still a storage space for London Marathon portaloos) will be just as good.
You might have read here earlier this week about plans by Greenwich borough’s libraries staff to strike from Friday. Members of the Unite union are protesting about the way Greenwich Council has decided to transfer the service to Greenwich Leisure Limited from next week.
GLL managing director Mark Sesnan got in touch yesterday with the company’s point of view. Here’s what he said – your thoughts and questions, as ever, would be appreciated.
Having read the recent blogs on the transfer of the operation of the Libraries service to us at GLL, I feel it is important to put some of the facts straight.
GLL is a charitable Social Enterprise with s cooperative governance structure born from Greenwich Council and based in Greenwich. We are HQ’d on the Royal Arsenal in Woolwich and our Head Office function brings more than 100 additional good jobs to the borough servicing our (now) extensive operations across London.
GLL has operated the Borough’s leisure centres since set up in 1993 and Greenwich Borough now enjoys one of London’s best used and most comprehensive network of centres. Pricing policies include free swimming for kids and Kids for a Quid, and more than 20,000 financially disadvantaged adults in the borough pay half price or less. Greenwich has the London’s best GP physical activity referral scheme and we take our reponsibility for the activity agenda very seriously.
When Greenwich Council re-tendered its leisure services it issued a public notice in February 2011 which was clear that Libraries operation externalisation was also being considered. This was no secret to staff, users or trades unions.
GLL is passionate about the provision of good accessible public services. We want to see facilities open at weekends, in the evenings, on bank holidays and when more people can access them.
We also think that libraries, like leisure centres, should have good catering, creche and good transport links as well as extensive access to new technology, plenty of study space and a good relevant book stock.
We are very much looking forward to taking over the service and giving the Borough a library service which is second to none in the Capital.
Of course, the staff in Greenwich libraries will be apprehensive about any changes, this is natural. They need not worry really though, because GLL is a staff owned cooperative and ultimately they (the library staff) will be responsible for their own part of the service.
I cannot answer for the trades union view, although it seems to me that striking because yor employer has changed – even though your employment rights and terms and conditions are guaranteed by law – is not really going to get us anywhere.
Whilst writing this, I would also like to point out that the ‘company’ Meridian Link, of which I am pleased to be a Director is in fact a registered charity dedicated to bringing sport and educational opportunities to young people in Tema, Ghana which is Greenwich’s twin town as it is also on the Greenwich meridian.
GLL is happy to respond to any questions about our role in the Borough, we have no hidden agendas. We stand for good services, good jobs and good people.
Thanks to Mark Sesnan for taking the time to write. So, what do people who use Greenwich’s libraries (or those who used to use them but now don’t), and those who work in them, think? It’s over to you…
The weather forecast is dire, but a bit of pomp and ceremony will come to Greenwich today when the Queen reopens the new-look Cutty Sark. Some will grovel, others will grumble, but the arrival of the head of state is a big and appropriate honour for what has been a fantastic restoration job.
There was a press day yesterday for the Cutty Sark, and the BBC’s report predictably went on (and on) about the 2007 fire, even though most of the ship’s valuable features were already in storage off site. But the old girl was in a bad old state before that. Even before it was taken apart for restoration works, it was an underwhelming attraction – graceful from the outside, crumbling and staid on the inside.
But the new displays have been created with care and imagination, and lifting the ship up has proved to be a masterstroke – the dingy old dry dock has now been opened up to allow us access beneath the ship, giving us new angles to view what is already a spectacular sight from.
I looked around on Saturday, on the residents’ open day, as workers beavered away to get the last bits in place. There’s still plenty of questions to be asked; about how the restoration was handled; what we get back for the millions of pounds Greenwich Council has thrown at the project (councillors were able to skip the queues for the oversubscribed open day); the pier (again); and the ugly access tower on the Naval College side of the ship.
But those are for another time. Congratulations to those involved in the Cutty Sark’s rebirth – despite the weather, I think Mrs Queen will enjoy her day. At least it’ll be dry below deck now…
Oh, and for those who’ve had a belly-full of royal borough nonsense (if you haven’t now, you will have by tonight), here’s some suitable souvenirs, on sale in Joy on Nelson Road.
You can see the cards right now – and the Cutty Sark opens for business on Thursday.
I’ve not many details on this, but Unite union staff working at Greenwich Council’s libraries are to strike for five days in protest at the council’s decision to hand over the running of its libraries to GLL.
The switch to GLL management is due to take place from Monday 30 April, but union representatives fear cuts to workers’ pay and conditions, and are also angry about the lack of consultation over the move.
Strikes will take place on Friday 27th April, Saturday 28th April, Monday 30th April, Tuesday 1st May, and Friday 11th May.
The process was temporarily halted earlier this year when Unite threatened legal action over links between then-leisure cabinet member John Fahy and GLL managing director Mark Sesnan, who are both directors of a company called Meridian Link, which develops education and sports opportunities in Ghana.
GLL was formed in the 1990s from Greenwich Council’s old leisure department, and the two bodies retain close links. Mr Sesnan has been a guest at council functions, including last year’s lavish mayoral inauguration ceremony at the Old Royal Naval College.
Monday update: The strike affects library staff, not leisure centre staff as previously thought (had relied on third-hand info for Saturday night’s post). I’ll place an email Unite’s Onay Kasab to his members in the comments section.
One thing that struck me while cycling to and from North Greenwich during the week – the empty plot of land north of Sainsburys in Greenwich has been given a good mowing. Looks like the Dutch Oranjecamping people, part of the Peninsula Festival, have been getting to work. The Meantime Nursery (out of shot on the left) is still very much in place – does anyone know if that’s now going to remain there? I hope so…
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again on Sunday, and I’ll say it again now. There’s no better morning to be in this part of south-east London than London Marathon day. A rolling carnival of human endeavour, sporting excellence and charity follies, it’s something that brings out the best in this corner of the world. Richard Branson and the Evening Standard had a wheeze to re-route it away from this area, but thankfully it came to nothing.
But has anyone on the route heard anything from the organisers this year? For many of us, the marathon’s a Sunday morning lock-in, a day you may need to plan in advance for. I live in the locked-in area and have heard nothing. The other night I had a call from a pal who lives on the route and had also heard nothing.
I asked on Twitter, and the unanimous response, from mile one to mile eight at Rotherhithe was… we’ve had nothing through our doors.
Now, I understand some car owners have had notes on their windscreens asking them to shift their motors, but that’s it. You might say that since the marathon’s more than 30 years old, everyone knows about it – but they don’t. Plenty of people think they can drive out of the lock-in area as soon as the runners pass, some even try to catch buses while the race is on.
It’s worth a look at The Guardian’s story about one of its reporters being blocked from filming the O2 from Millennium Way, with security guards wrongly trying to invoke “terrorist laws” because “this is an Olympic venue”.
Funnily enough, I saw this incident happen – I was travelling into North Greenwich station by bus a few days ago thinking “why’s that bloke filming a security guard and sniffer dog?” I wish I’d taken my own picture now…
I can’t help thinking that “because of the Olympics” is going to be the new “‘elf and safety” cliche, as well as being used by jumped-up berks who are well exceeding their powers.
While I’m well aware that the O2 security guards make the Ravensbourne bike racks among the safest in London, I’ve had my own issues with them. Two years ago, a photographer pal tried to take some pictures of me in Peninsula Square (“this new London square, the largest in 150 years”, “a dramatic new public space“.) before some idiot came over to stop the outrageous photography activity. Taking photos without permission is not allowed in this area that us locals are all commanded to be proud of, it appears. For it’s not public space at all, it’s private property.
Odder still, a pal tonight told me of a recent visit inside the venue: “They demanded my 12 year old niece take down her hood the min we stepped in, it was raining outside, she was with 2 adults and a toddler and it was 11am! What did they think she was going to do? They may have a policy but you can at least be nice about it.”
The guards may have a legal right to enforce what goes on inside the Dome, or in Peninsula Square (“a superb place to socialise“) – but out on grim Millennium Way? They’re on very sticky ground. I’d lay odds on there being a photographers’ flashmob there by the end of the week.