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

Archive for December 2012

New Year poll: Cyclists and Greenwich & Woolwich foot tunnels

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Greenwich Foot TunnelFor the end of 2012, we were promised shiny and revamped foot tunnels at Greenwich and Woolwich – but they never happened. The Woolwich tunnel’s been left to rot, the Greenwich tunnel has gained new lifts which still aren’t working properly. It still looks a mess as well.

Funnily enough, the foot tunnel fiasco doesn’t make it into Greenwich Council’s back-slapping review of the year, available for a fiver – sick bags not included.

One thing that struck me before Christmas was the heated debate about cyclists in the Greenwich Foot Tunnel, after this website revealed nobody had been prosecuted for cycling in there for three years. Ticketing errant cyclists would raise more than a Dear Leader’s Greatest Hits DVD ever would – but should, as some commenters suggested, the council officially adopt a more tolerant attitude to those who want to nip through on two wheels, rather than just unofficially doing so?

So, in place of any leadership from the council, let’s have a poll and see what you really think. I’ve taken some of the suggestions and tried to combine them into a series of options that’d work for both Greenwich and Woolwich tunnels. Maybe by this time next year, we could have a radical new policy that both cyclists and walkers could agree with.

Or maybe we could just have working lifts, and fixed-up tunnels instead…

Enough is enough – sign up, say no to Silvertown Tunnel

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So far, Greenwich Council is up to 554 pledges on its campaign to bring more traffic jams and pollution to local streets with a third Blackwall Tunnel.

Greenwich Time, 18 DecemberThe figure was released last week at a council meeting, which included 260 paper responses to its Bridge the Gap campaign, leaving 244 online sign-ups.

The council had been collecting signatures from shoppers in the centre of Woolwich in the run-up to Christmas – indeed, Greenwich Time showed regeneration cabinet member Denise Hyland (the woman who blamed the delays to Greenwich Foot Tunnel on non-existent “hidden structures”) outside Tesco. Wonder why she hasn’t taken her campaign to Greenwich itself yet?

In last week’s meeting, Hyland also branded those who hijacked the council’s attempt to spread its campaign across Twitter as “juvenile individuals”. The quality’s dreadful, but you can hear her talk about it here:

But she insists the names of those who have signed the council’s pledge will remain “confidential information” – despite the fact that this is being used to demonstrate “public support” for the council’s wheeze.

Of course, there’s been no evidence produced by the council for the benefits of a such a tunnel – just a claim that “business and civic leaders” support it, and quotes from cab drivers. Forget kids’ health in Greenwich, a minicab firm in Plumstead can get to London City Airport five minutes quicker!

Yet more of this rubbish is to come, despite the obvious damage to east Greenwich, Charlton, Blackheath, Kidbrooke and Eltham more traffic on the A102 and A2 will cause, with whispers that a formal launch is planned for the new year.

Apart from rumours of unhappiness in local Labour parties – will they have the courage to go public? – no politician and no pressure group has stepped forward to champion the cause against the Silvertown Tunnel. Yet every time I’ve mentioned Silvertown on this website, nearly every commenter comes out against it – something that surprises me. Nearly a year ago, 88% of voters came out against the plan in a poll on this website.

What this area needs is a strategy to funnel traffic away from the A2/A102 – not force more traffic up it, through pollution blackspots such as the Woolwich Road flyover, Kidbrooke, and Eltham stations. That could come in various ways – but our first concern should be to protect our neighbourhoods. If nobody else will, then we, the people who’ll have to live with a tunnel, have to do something instead.

I’ve teamed up with Kidbrooke Kite‘s Adam Bienkov, and today, we’re launching the No to Silvertown Tunnel petition at. Please read it, sign it, and share it with friends and family – www.silvertowntunnel.co.uk.

Please also fill in the TfL consultation. I must stress this isn’t a petition for or against any other road crossing, such as a bridge at Thamesmead, axing Dartford tolls or building public transport or cycle/foot crossings. If you have views on those – and hell, there’s loads more sensible ways to solve this problem than the crock Greenwich Council expects us to swallow – then tell the TfL consultation.

No to Silvertown Tunnel is merely to show the Mayor of London that the people of Greenwich and the surrounding areas do not want more traffic on the A102 and A2. It is also to show Greenwich councillors that their Bridge The Gap campaign does not speak for local people. Your name will appear on the website if you wish it to, it won’t if you don’t wish it to. To verify your signature, you’ll need to sign up for a change.org account, although this won’t take a second.

Signing the petition will also generate emails to the mayor, TfL’s consultation team, Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts, Newham mayor Sir Robin Wales and cabinet members in both boroughs.

Please, don’t just think “umm, this is a good idea”. Take a couple of minutes to do something. And if you can spare expertise (poster design, web design) and/or time to spend campaigning in person, then we’d really love your help – email silvertowntunnel[at]yahoo.com. We need all the help we can get against the well-funded Greenwich and Newham council PR machines.

This is going to be a big task – but if we can work together, we can stop this crazy idea. Please sign, wherever you are. If you don’t like it, well, your money’s paying for another petition…

Merry Christmas from the Royal Borough of Tesco Town

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And lo, the saviour was born. Happy Christmas.

Written by Darryl

24 December, 2012 at 7:30 am

Posted in greenwich council, local stuff

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No cyclists prosecuted for Greenwich Foot Tunnel rides

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Greenwich Foot Tunnel, 13 December 2012

There are two things that annoy people about the Greenwich Foot Tunnel. Firstly, it’s a mess. But secondly, it’s people riding bikes through it.

Just like bad driving annoys drivers, bad cycling winds cyclists up, too. Sometimes, bad road design might force someone on a bike to nip across a pavement rather than compete with juggernauts – I have to do it most mornings for about 10 seconds to lessen my risk of being squashed under a lorry.

Greenwich Foot Tunnel, 13 December 2012But there really isn’t the excuse in the Greenwich Foot Tunnel. The morning I spent with BBC London down there was enlivened by watching one cyclist bawl out another for riding in the tunnel’s shadows. The miscreant shrugged it off, and muttered under his breath as he took his bike into the lift.

But will the law ever catch up with him? Clearly not, as a Freedom of Information Act request reveals that in the past three years, Greenwich Council has prosecuted nobody for cycling in the tunnel.

This comes despite the fact that earlier this year, the council’s mysterious yellow-clad wardens were out “mob-handed” trying to stop cyclists cycling through Cutty Sark Gardens, suddenly rediscovering long-disused bye-laws which prohibited… cycling on a national cycle route. Pressure from Greenwich Cyclists forced the council to stop its clueless caper, and there’s been some slow progress towards a resolution.

But even though the council would be on much firmer ground, would be lauded to the skies by many, and could possibly generate a small windfall in fixed penalty notices, it’s not bothered to do the same inside the tunnel. Instead, it has installed barriers, which just annoy everyone.

While the council has made a mess of the £11.5m refurbishment of the Greenwich and Woolwich tunnels, it’s staff cutbacks that have led us to this situation. The former lift attendants have been given the boot, and replaced by passenger-operated lifts. In the past, attendants would merely refuse to let people who’d been riding bikes use the lift. That sanction’s not available now, despite the council’s claim that it’s using CCTV and PA announcements to police the tunnel.

We’re waiting for a report into the tunnels fiasco (a preliminary one, about big council projects in general, was presented last week), but while it’s clear that Greenwich Council screwed up on the nuts and bolts of the scheme, it also seems to have no idea of the kind of environment it wants to create in there.

Written by Darryl

18 December, 2012 at 7:30 am

Greenwich Council courts Page 3’s Jodie to back Silvertown tunnel

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Strange times for Greenwich Council’s stuttering campaign to get residents to back a third Blackwall Tunnel, with its PR team trying to get topless model and self-publicist Jodie Marsh to support its push.

Jodie Marsh/ Zoo MagazineThe Bridge The Gap campaign ran into trouble earlier this month when its launch on Twitter was hijacked with a series of spoof messages about “the Dear Leader’s pet pussy” and branding the council “gormless”.

People who sign a petition on the council’s website are the redirected straight to Transport for London’s consultation on the issue, with the council directing users to back a Silvertown Tunnel and a ferry at Gallions Reach, Thamesmead.

It took a bizarre turn on Friday, when former Page 3 model Marsh tweeted that the “Woolwich ferry is the most inefficient ever. Waiting for an hour to take 12 cars! BUILD A BRIDGE!”.

The council’s press office spotted this later in the day, and responded. “You may be interested in #bridgethegap campaign for more river crossings in SE London. Pledge support at http://www.royalgreenwich.gov.uk/bridgethegap

Were they hoping for a bit of Z-list celebrity support, or maybe a retweet to Marsh’s 400,000 followers?

Whatever, Marsh, who in recent years has transformed herself into a bodybuilder and businesswoman, didn’t respond, instead preferring to promote her range of nutrition supplements and onesies.

Whether or not it’s right for a council to be trying rope in a topless model – and one with a particularly short fuse when it comes to criticism – is one question.

But the other’s more prosaic. Jodie Marsh lives in Brentwood, Essex; which the last time I looked, wasn’t in the borough of Greenwich. But travellers from Essex and Kent will be the biggest beneficiaries of a Silvertown Tunnel, which will attract more traffic to pass through Greenwich, Blackheath and Charlton; increasing pollution and doing little about congestion.

By trying to enlist Jodie Marsh to its campaign, Greenwich Council’s press office has neatly managed to encapsulate how absurd its road-building campaign is.

Keep on reading this website for news of how you can help oppose council leader Chris Roberts’ attempt to rig Transport for London’s consultation.

Written by Darryl

16 December, 2012 at 7:30 am

Fancy your own London 2012 banner? Now’s your chance…

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Millennium Way banner
This has been going on for a while, but if you ever wanted an unusual souvenir of this year’s Olympics, then today (Sunday) is a prime chance to get hold of one of the street banners that decorated the capital this summer. Search for “banners”, and you’ll find a load from across London, including those that hung from lamp posts across Greenwich and Woolwich.

Delivery’s a steep £15, but it’s a once in a lifetime chance… (even if nobody’s made bags out of them.)

Written by Darryl

16 December, 2012 at 7:29 am

Posted in local stuff, london

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If Nick Raynsford can defend Lewisham Hospital, so can you

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Greenwich & Woolwich MP has added his voice to the thousands who are backing the campaign to save Lewisham Hospital’s accident and emergency and maternity services.

He has opposed the plans to cut services put forward in the report by administrator Matthew Kershaw following the failure of the South London Healthcare Trust, fearing they will overwhelm Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich.

Raynsford says: “The A&E at QEH is already running close to capacity, and reducing A&E services in South East London could seriously compromise patient safety and impose excessive pressures on QEH. Similar considerations apply to maternity services.

“I urge anyone in South London who is concerned about the future of our beloved health service to respond to the consultation process to make their views known. It is vital that we continue to keep strong public pressure on Matthew Kershaw and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to maintain high-quality NHS services throughout South East London. In the meantime, residents of Greenwich and Woolwich have my full assurance that this issue will remain a major focus of my attention over the coming weeks.”

It’s good to see him come out so firmly against the plans – hear more from him a couple of weeks back – it’s a shame that Greenwich Council is still publicly sitting on the fence, although it has registered its objections, preferring instead to bang the drum for polluting new roads. Priorities, eh?

The consultation closes on Wednesday Thursday night – it’s not exactly a user-friendly piece of work, but it’s important as many people as possible speak up for services at Lewisham. You’ll find it here (“go to the online consultation form”). There’s a guide on the Save Lewisham Hospital website. It’ll only take 10 minutes – it could be your last chance to help preserve a decent NHS in south east London.

Written by Darryl

12 December, 2012 at 7:30 am

Boris’s Greenwich ‘Go Dutch’ cycling scheme left to the council?

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Greenwich town centre, 9 August 2012
Nearly six months after Boris Johnson first announced it, the tiniest detail has emerged about the mayor’s vague plan to have a pro-cycling scheme somewhere in Greenwich, to Dutch design standards.

It comes in the Christmas edition of the London Cycling Campaign‘s magazine, London Cyclist, which interviews Transport for London executive Ben Plowden. He says:

We are now looking a how we an represent the Go Dutch principles, as far as we are able… In the case of the ‘flagships’ [Vauxhall Cross and Greenwich], the critical question is making sure that we choose locations where other things will be happening on a large scale anyway.

Asked when something will happen, he says…

That will depend partly on when these other changes take place. I know the Greenwich local authority has ambitious plans for its town centre and I think it would be sensible to align the cycling changes with the other changes, rather than doing something quicker then having to modify it.

So, a plan announced by Boris Johnson within days of his re-election ends up relying on Greenwich Council to help kick-start. It may well be news to them. At least we now know it’s the town centre, rather than the (horrifying) Woolwich Road flyover. But what are Greenwich’s “ambitious plans”?

We’ve been here before, of course. In 2010, Greenwich proposed pedestrianising College Approach and King William Walk, but the plan collapsed after Transport for London objected to its other plan to create a gyratory system around Norman Road.

So what happens next?

This summer saw Greenwich Church Street temporarily pedestrianised during the Olympics, which may have given more food for thought. But that still relied on a gyratory around Norman Road – so what what these “ambitious plans” are is anyone’s guess. Perhaps the plans to create a cycle superhighway by 2015 will focus minds – or give Boris the excuse to cut it short at Deptford.

Funnily enough, when Greenwich canned the pedestrianisation/gyratory scheme in 2011, Chris Roberts referred to “a wide range of traffic proposals” for the local area from… Transport for London. Is there real discussion going on, or just buck-passing?

In the meantime, the nearest cyclists might get to Dutch-style cycling in Greenwich town centre centres around often-mooted, never implemented plans to create a cycle contraflow up King William Walk, to make accessing Greenwich Park easier. While I’m not sure it’s exactly a high priority, it’d be a welcome and symbolic gesture from a council that’s not really quite got cycling over recent years.

PS. The consultation into the truncated Victoria – New Cross Gate cycle superhighway (with token concessions down the A20 to Lewisham) is now on the TfL website.

PPS. I’m going to ask about this at next week’s council meeting, assuming I remember to send the email. You want to ask Greenwich Council a question about something that’s bugging you? Drop committees@greenwich.gov.uk a line before noon on Wednesday – find out more details here. Like I always say, don’t expect someone else to do it for you – the results might surprise you.

Written by Darryl

11 December, 2012 at 7:30 am

The great bus queue of North Greenwich

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North Greenwich, 9 December 2012
Sunday night at North Greenwich, and a familiar problem after an event at the Dome – a traffic jam of buses which can’t leave the bus station because the traffic lights are set to favour cars (which themselves then queue up through Greenwich Millennium Village). It was taking about 10 minutes for buses to negotiate their way out of the station, with the queue snaking around both corners on the left and right of the screen at one point.

This should be a simple, and cheap, problem to fix, but instead, TfL spent £26m on a cable car.

Written by Darryl

10 December, 2012 at 7:30 am

Lovell’s Wharf developers turning the screw

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There’s plenty of competition for the title, but Lovell’s Wharf may well be Greenwich’s worst development site. Not content with having destroyed the riverside path, developers London & Regional Properties now want to have 13-storey tower blocks on the site – similar to the original plans for the site, thrown out some years back.

From The Greenwich Phantom:

The developers of the site called Greenwich Wharves are proposing some substantial changes to
the development:

- increasing the total square metres from 94,825 by 12,695 sq.m – anincrease of 30%
– increase the number of new homes from 667 to 911 – about 37% increase
– change in the height of the buildings up to 13 storeys on the riverfront
– reduction in the commercial and office accommodation – no details provided about what or how much is reduced

The commercial and office accommodation were an important factor in the consented plans. Before consent there had been an outrageous original proposal for very tall buildings. The developers now appear to be trying to claw back what they were originally refused.

There are consultation meetings on Tuesday 11th December from 5pm to 9pm, and on Wednesday 12th December from 2pm to 9pm, at Rothbury Hall on Azof Street.

Much of the site was abandoned during the early years of the economic crash, although work is now underway on the second phase of Lovell’s. Nearby, there remains little sign of work on the much-vaunted cruise liner terminal.

PS. If you haven’t seen it already, take a look at the Phantom’s Advent calendar

Written by Darryl

9 December, 2012 at 4:36 pm

Posted in local stuff

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