Category: greenwich council

Video: Meet the captain of the Woolwich Ferry

“Everybody’s interested in the job I’m doing, what I’m up to. Yeah, I love it. I’m very proud. You get to see all the vessels that go by, get to see some beautiful vessels.”

Here’s a short film of the Woolwich Ferry’s captain, David Watkins – produced as part of the great 1,000 Londoners series.

Greenwich Peninsula: 22.7% of new homes set to be ‘affordable’

Greenwich Peninsula developers' pavillion

Less than a quarter of homes on the new phase of Greenwich Peninsula development will be “affordable”, according to planning documents released by Greenwich Council last night.

Greenwich planners are recommending councillors approve the scheme at a meeting on Tuesday 8 September. Just 22.7% of homes of the 12,678 won’t be sold at full rate, the 320-page planning report reveals.

The original masterplan for the peninsula, agreed in 2004, envisaged 40% of homes being “affordable”.

But that stalled, and Hong Kong-based developer Knight Dragon – controlled by billionaire Dr Henry Cheng – which is now in charge of the scheme, has taken a much more aggressive approach to developing the huge site.

It controversially persuaded councillors to allow it no “affordable” properties at all on the plots nearest Canary Wharf, Peninsula Quays, leading to a legal row which resulted in Greenwich being forced to reveal the viability assessments it used to make the decision.

2004: Council newspaper Greenwich Time trumpets 40% "affordable" accommodation on the Peninsula. How things have changed...

2004: Council newspaper Greenwich Time trumpets 40% “affordable” accommodation on the Peninsula. How things have changed…

Greenwich has published the viability assessment for the new scheme, where consultants Christopher Marsh and Company pinpoint withdrawals of grants by the last government as a factor in the low figure.

“Some agency, or several, will receive significant sums via the original land agreement, and currently, none, it would appear, are prepared to re-cycle any share of those receipts back into affordable housing in Greenwich. That is a key driver in this case. Before February 2014, when Government largely abandoned grant aid to affordable housing, we would have expected most schemes to have exceeded 30% affordable housing. Without grant, that expectation has now been reduced by about one third.”

A further document from BNP Paribas compares the Peninsula scheme with property values at the Royal Arsenal in Woolwich – an improvement on the Peninsula Quays scheme where values across the whole borough were used, despite the unique nature of the site.

The document indicates that the headline figure for new homes remains 12,678, with towers of up to 40 storeys.

A quick skim through the papers would appear to indicate Greenwich planners have largely accepted Knight Dragon’s transport proposals, despite fears from a raft of local groups and even Transport for London that they will pile additional pressure onto North Greenwich station. An early reference to the “Silvertown Tunnel Rail Link” suggests that planners may not totally be on the ball here.

TfL says: “Jubilee Line crowding is already an issue and is forecast to continue in 2031. The additional crowding on Jubilee Line services is considered an issue. TfL cannot agree that the London Underground (LU) and National Rail networks would be largely unaffected by the proposed development.”

Indeed, council planners shrugged off calls for a pedestrian and cycle connection to Canary Wharf to relieve the Jubilee Line in just a sentence – “the feasibility of a pedestrian link between the Peninsula and Canary Wharf has been investigated previously but it is not considered feasible” – presumably a reference to an 2010 assessment by TfL produced to justify the construction of the Thames Cable Car, which said a bridge would not bring in any income.

The only explicit mass public transport improvement appears to be funding for a bus from Kidbrooke Village to North Greenwich – which is likely to pile even more pressure on the Jubilee Line.

There’s a lot to wade through, but it’s hard to see quite where Greenwich has tried to strike any worthwhile bargain with Knight Dragon. The big question remains – will the council’s planning board swallow Dr Cheng’s prescription?

Crap development: Enderby Wharf neighbours disturbed by Greenwich’s ‘poo wagon’

Barratt Homes' poo wagon loading up on Wednesday afternoon

Barratt Homes’ poo wagon loading up on Wednesday afternoon

It’s another tall ships weekend, but for a real sniff of what life’s like by the river in Greenwich these days, head down to Christchurch Way. Here, Barratt Homes has recently unveiled the first homes at Enderby Wharf – adjacent to the planned cruise terminal site.

Unfortunately, these homes haven’t yet been properly linked up to utilities. There’s currently no sewerage service, for example.

So every other day, a truck parks up in Christchurch Way to take the new residents’ effluent away. Sometimes it comes at breakfast, sometimes it comes in the afternoon. It smells, and it’s noisy too…

It typically takes three hours to suck all the sewage away, I’m told.

Worse still, the new homes are currently being powered by diesel generators.

While I was filming the poo wagon, one shift-working resident came out to tell me he’s disturbed by the noise from the crap truck, and his asthma is being made worse by the generators.

These are clearly growing pains for what will be a big new development. But it’s another example of why people in this part of Greenwich are feeling a little under siege right now.

Greenwich cruise liner terminal: City Hall sides with council despite pollution fears

The new proposals for a cruise liner terminal at Enderby Wharf

The planned new London City Cruise Port is expected to be up and running by 2017 and will feature a 31-storey tower block

Mayor Boris Johnson’s deputy has backed Greenwich Council’s decision to allow a cruise liner terminal to be built at Enderby Wharf, east Greenwich, despite residents’ fears that it will increase air pollution in the area.

The Conservative administration at City Hall sided with the Labour council on last month’s go-ahead for the scheme, even though locals are demanding the terminal is fitted with on-shore power generation to save the area from being exposed to emissions from the dirty fuel that cruise ships usually use.

A version of the scheme was originally approved in 2011, but new plans put forward this year propose ships staying longer at the site, using their own fuel, rather than shore-side power as recommended by the European Union.

Despite councillors hearing last month that the scheme will actually only create 88 jobs, a City Hall press release persists with the original claim that the scheme will lead to 500 jobs.

Deputy mayor Edward Lister – a former leader of Wandsworth Council – took the decision, saying: “We have worked with the local authority and the developer to ensure the new terminal and surrounding infrastructure will meet the needs of thousands of tourists coming to the city each year.

“It will provide a major boost to tourism, benefit the local economy and further contribute to London’s status as a world leading city.”

City Hall said it relied on an separate independent assessment to the one revealed to Greenwich councillors just days before last month’s planning meeting.

“While it recognised there could be some moderate adverse impact on occasion, it also acknowledged the height, speed and heat of ship emissions disperse more efficiently in comparison to motor vehicles,” it said.

“Recognising the levels of background pollution already experienced in the borough, £400,000 has been secured towards ongoing environmental monitoring or improving air quality through the Royal Borough of Greenwich’s Air Quality Action Plan.”

For Greenwich Council, regeneration cabinet member Danny Thorpe said: “This landmark cruise liner development will bring many thousands more visitors to the borough, and provide a major boost to tourism.

“The council is committed to improving air quality in the borough, and recognises that this was an area of concern for local residents. I hope that it will be reassuring for residents to learn that the Mayor has submitted our measures to independent scrutiny and found them to be satisfactory.”

Residents in the area already complain of feeling under siege by politicians and developers, and many may find hearing a Labour councillor endorse Boris Johnson’s administration on air pollution – not the Conservative mayor’s strongest point – represents a new smack in the face.

Last week, the East Greenwich Residents Association called on council leader Denise Hyland to step down from its main planning committee after it emerged she was the only one of London’s 28 council leaders to take a direct role in deciding whether new developments should go ahead.

Hyland’s comments during the meeting were also leaked to Private Eye magazine, leading to the council’s first appearance in the satirical publication for many years.

Stand down Denise: Residents call on Greenwich Council leader to quit her planning role

London City Cruise Port

Local residents in east Greenwich are demanding council leader Denise Hyland stands down from the borough’s main planning committee after it was revealed she is the only council leader in London who is regularly directly involved in taking decisions about major new developments.

The East Greenwich Residents Association has made the call following Hyland’s role in pushing through plans for a controversial cruise liner terminal in the area.

Hyland, who has led the council since June 2014, told the planning meeting that the terminal’s planned 31-storey residential tower was “nothing”, criticising residents for not bringing up air pollution fears when the proposals first came before the planning committee some years back – even though plans for the terminal have substantially changed since then.

She also said that on a trip to a cruise terminal in Southampton, she could not “see” any air pollution there – despite the fact that it is usually invisible. Her performance at the planning board earned her an appearance in this week’s Private Eye magazine.

The planning board shrugged off air pollution concerns about the London City Cruise Port, and the lack of any comprehensive, timely environmental assessment. It accepted developers’ claims that it would be too expensive to install on-shore generating equipment which would reduce the impact of ships spending extended stays at the terminal, despite European guidelines recommending this system is used.

Local MP Matt Pennycook and councillors Stephen Brain and Chris Lloyd were among the objectors, along with Tower Hamlets councillors and Isle of Dogs residents.

Research by EGRA – independently verified by this website – shows no other borough in London allows its leader such a prominent role in taking planning decisions, a role where politics should play no part.

Large or contentious decisions across Greenwich borough are usually taken by a committee of 14 councillors, called the Planning Board.

Most boroughs operate a similar system – though using different names for the committees – which usually see less high-profile cases taken by area committees.

But Denise Hyland is the only one of London’s 28 council leaders (a further four are run by elected mayors) to regularly sit on her council’s main planning committee.

The only other council to permit a formal role for its leader in planning decisions is the controversial Conservative-run authority in Barnet. But even here, Richard Cornelius is only a substitute member of its planning committee, deputising for his fellow Conservative councillors where necessary – a role he hasn’t carried out since June 2014.

Indeed, 13 out of London’s 32 boroughs only allow backbench councillors to take major planning decisions – removing any suspicion that may arise from having high-profile councillors taking sensitive formal decisions.

Denise Hyland's accession t the council leadership as reported by its weekly newspaper, Greenwich Time

Denise Hyland’s accession t the council leadership as reported by its weekly newspaper, Greenwich Time

Of the 14 planning board meetings held since Hyland became leader, she has attended nine of them.

This continues a system which began under Hyland’s predecessor Chris Roberts, who started sitting on the planning board in 2007. Roberts did not take part in the 2011 meeting which gave the terminal its original green light, after appearing on TV promoting the scheme.

But Hyland – then regeneration cabinet member – did take part in that meeting, then praising the scheme as “world class”.

In May, ahead of the planning board’s decision, the London City Cruise Port’s chief executive Kate O’Hara was invited to the council’s £20,000 private mayor-making ceremony, attended by Hyland.

Advice from the Local Government Association says that “members of a planning committee… need to avoid any appearance of bias or of having predetermined their views before taking a decision on a planning application or on planning policies”.

Hyland’s successor in that role, Danny Thorpe, has inherited her position the board. Just six other boroughs – Barking, Camden, Harrow, Lambeth, Newham and Richmond – allow his counterparts to assist in making planning decisions.

In an open letter to Hyland, EGRA’s executive committee says:

“We are concerned that your presence as council leader alongside the regeneration cabinet member could make the planning board susceptible to political pressure and decisions made on policy and party lines rather than in the wider public or community interest.  

“This concern is reinforced by your tendency and Councillor Thorpe’s tendency to sum up and make your positions known before voting takes place. The recent decision on the cruise liner terminal is a good case in point.

“Our community feels extremely frustrated at the way in which our attempts to raise legitimate concerns over the development of our area are not being taken seriously and are being batted away through a process that is less than scrupulous at times and is susceptible to what we perceive as potential political interference.

“We call on you to restore our confidence in the borough and the decisions it makes and we formally request that you step down from the Planning Board. We need to have confidence that our borough is making the right decisions for the right reasons and operating in the same way as other London boroughs as part of the statutory process.”

Residents are now pinning their hopes on London mayor Boris Johnson “calling in” the application to decide himself – a move supported by Liberal Democrat, Green and Conservative members on the London Assembly. Tower Hamlets Council has since backed away from its opposition to the scheme. A decision is expected soon.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that European money could have been available to help fund the London City Cruise Port fund on-shore generating equipment.

Trade publication Ship Technology, which accuses the developers of “cutting corners”, reports that the EU can fund up to half the costs of research and 20% of the costs of installation if a member state opts to use such a system. But councillors were not told this before they made their decision.

7pm update: Former Greenwich councillor Hayley Fletcher, who sat on the planning board alongside council leader Chris Roberts, responded to this story…

Greenwich Council leader makes her debut in Private Eye

Private Eye, 21 August 2015

Denise Hyland’s unfortunate habit of picking fights with local residents has been marked with this appearance in Private Eye‘s Rotten Boroughs column this week. (£1.80 in all good newsagents.)

It’s sure to annoy the image-conscious Royal Greenwich Greenwich Council press office, while it’ll no doubt cause sniggers among the Labour councillors who are unhappy with their leader’s performance. After all, her bullying predecessor managed to keep himself out of the Eye…

(Thanks to the Greenwich Green Party for scanning it in.)

Greenwich Council’s abandoned sweepers’ bags – mystery solved?

An abandoned bag left split open at Victoria Way, Charlton

An abandoned bag left split open at Victoria Way, Charlton

Not much time for new stories at the moment, but a quick word about something old that’s just a teensy bit annoying, which may be the dullest post this site has ever featured..

Last night, the Twitter feed of Greenwich Council’s deputy leader John Fahy – it’s the only place to find him these days, he seems to have been airbrushed out of the weekly Greenwich Time again – sprang to life with a strange little comment.

Rachel Blundy? Who’s that? Man the borders! Guards, stop her!

Actually, it turns out she’s a journalist at the Evening Standard, who had the exciting job of writing up a story about nine out of the 10 most miserable places in the UK being in London. Greenwich comes seventh – one place more miserable than Luton.

Of course, she never had to leave the paper’s Kensington HQ to write it – it’s purely based on a survey of 25,000 people conducted by Rightmove. It’s the sort of stuff that’s easy clickbait, and people who rarely look deeper than the headline get really excited by this kind of thing.

I wonder how statistically sound this survey is – you’re looking at no more than 200 people per council area surveyed, for a start. We also don’t know where in each borough these people live – in Greenwich, you’re likely to be vastly more satisfied if you live on the Ashburnham Triangle conservation area than if you go home on the 177 to the Abbey Wood Estate.

But in terms of getting lovely, lovely clicks, there’s no room for this kind of question. And no time. So, essentially, it’s a councillor blaming a journalist who’s been told to write a fairly rubbish news story. So far, so typical.

Even the Tories are getting defensive.

But hang on a minute. Let’s dive into these figures. Asked about the upkeep of their local area, respondents rated Greenwich 119th out of 130 council areas – 27/33 in London. As a local council, you’ve got some direct input over this. I’d be asking some questions here. So perhaps the good councillor Fahy shouldn’t be so dismissive. And maybe there’s something for new Tory leader Matt Hartley to get his teeth into.

Rightmove survey

Too often, Greenwich is dismissive of those who claim the place looks like a dump – even while a contracting cock-up means weeds are threatening to displace puny humans from many parts of the borough.

To be fair, they are making efforts to change – finally embracing the FixMyStreet app for reporting faults (erstwhile Dear Leader Chris Roberts is said to have actively discouraged techological fixes like this), and using a 25-year-old law to finally get tough on shopping trolleys.

But if you live in well-tended Eltham avenues as the council leadership does, you may not see the fly-tipping that blights other areas. And you also may not see these…

Council sweepers' bags left out in Highcombe, Charlton - a well-known flytipping hotspot

Council sweepers’ bags left out in Highcombe, Charlton – a well-known flytipping hotspot

Abandoned street sweepers’ bags started cropping up a year or so in my own neck of Charlton. They also appear in parts of east Greenwich, while I’ve had reports of them in Abbey Wood too. They come and go – I remember them being left out all over Christmas in many areas. We seem to be in a summer of them here, left lying around for anything up to a week, blocking pavements and getting in the way. More often than not, they’re left out for a whole weekend. Essentially, the council is flytipping its own streets.

They’re not the only ones – cross into Lewisham, and you’ll often see huge piles of blue bags shoved up against walls awaiting collection. It’s the same in Southwark. But in Greenwich, half-empty bags are just left in seemingly random places to moulder for days on end. It happened today in my part of Charlton – I’m pretty fearful they’ll be left out for the weekend, making the place look a dump for the first day of the football season.

Personally, I’ve complained plenty of times, only really getting anywhere when local MP Matt Pennycook gets involved. Otherwise, reports are often ignored, both by council staff and by councillors. (I accept this is probably because it’s me doing the complaining.)

But today, I got some answers. I bumped into a street sweeper leaving these bags out, and asked him about how it works. I won’t say where to protect his identity. It does seem, though, that this practice shouldn’t be happening. If you come home from work in the evening and your street is littered with bags, then chances are they shouldn’t be there.

Apparently, these bags should be collected within two hours. However, the vans that do the collecting often don’t get round to them – some staff are more “efficient” than others, according to my man with the broom. So, it appears that they just get abandoned. The bags are half-empty because otherwise staff can’t throw them onto the van otherwise (!), and staff are told to leave the bags on the edge of the pavement – even though it often blocks the pavement.

It looks like something’s gone wrong at Cleansweep, the council’s in-house litter service – nobody’s really monitoring whether this relatively new way of working is actually successful. And, I’d argue, because people are often used to poorly-kept streets, they aren’t really pressing the council on it. It also doesn’t appear that councillors are doing much work on this either.

So, ladies and gentlemen – we have some work to do here. If you see a bag that’s been left out for a day or so, report it. The FixMyStreet app is great for this if you have a smartphone. Ask it to send you updates on your problem. They’ll ring you back sometimes to check details. If the council comes back and tells you it’s “awaiting collection”, politely ask them to collect it. Hopefully, they’ll get the message and fix this.

Because otherwise, the next step is seeing if the council can be fined for flytipping its own streets – and that would be a bit embarrassing, wouldn’t it?