Category: lewisham council

Bakerloo brush-off for Catford: Tube to Lewisham ‘set for 2030’

Waterloo Tube station
This has been kicking around for a few days, but as this website’s gong through a bit of an infrastructure phase, it’d be daft to ignore it – Transport for London’s commissioner has said the Bakerloo Line could be extended to Lewisham by 2030, running via the Old Kent Road and New Cross Gate. (See original London SE1 story and page 38 of the TfL commissioner’s report.)

But Mike Brown’s preferred plan is to build only a first phase to Lewisham – instead of extending the route over National Rail lines through Catford to Hayes.

Bakerloo Line proposals/ TfLIt’s mixed news for Lewisham Council’s campaign to bring the Tube to the borough, as while Lewisham itself – undergoing rapid redevelopment – would get a much-needed Underground link, its southern neighbour faces being stuck with inferior overground services, despite also being home to big regeneration schemes.

On first sight, it appears a remarkably short-sighted proposal. If you consider how congested North Greenwich is now, a Bakerloo terminal at Lewisham – attracting passengers from all points south and east – could make that look calm and peaceful.

Furthermore, the really big costs would be in tunnelling to Lewisham – converting the old Mid-Kent rail route through Ladywell, Catford Bridge, Lower Sydenham and out to Hayes would be relatively cheap.

(Readers with very long memories will remember we’ve been here before – the original 1965 Jubilee Line (then Fleet Line) proposals would have seen the line extended in phases to run to Hayes by 1980.)

But as mentioned last year, Bromley Council has long been unhappy about losing direct trains to the City from Hayes – even though the Bakerloo can shift far more people, and is likely to be at least as quick for suburban travellers than existing services.

If Bromley’s rather inexplicable opposition continues, it’ll also remove one of the key benefits of the scheme – freeing up extra National Rail routes through Lewisham after the Hayes line is transferred to the Underground.

Of course, this does open up the opportunity for others to belatedly come in – last year the Eltham Labour Party agreed a motion backing a Bakerloo extension along the Bexleyheath line, a slightly more sensible proposal than the DLR on stilts on top of the A2.

Lewisham Council studied a variety of different options in a report five years ago, but its findings were largely ignored this side of the border. More recently, Greenwich Council has lent its backing to a Lewisham extension. Local Tories are also supporting the idea.

Bakerloo campaigners will now look at persuading London’s next mayor to look afresh at the scheme so he/she opts to implement the whole extension, rather than just a link to Lewisham. But with TfL losing all its government grant from 2019, the future of the whole scheme isn’t fully guaranteed yet.

17 December update: TfL has now published its full report into the Bakerloo line extension, confirming the above – and indicating that a route through Catford has not so much been kicked into the long grass, but booted into the pond, but also opens up the possibility of a route through Eltham and Bexleyheath to Slade Green. “Planning and engineering work for options to Lewisham will be undertaken on the basis of avoiding preclusion of a future onwards extension including to Hayes and potential other locations such as towards Bexleyheath. This will include working with stakeholders to safeguard necessary delivery of the infrastructure that may be required.”

Lewisham Council opposes the Silvertown Tunnel – but will Greenwich fall for TfL’s tricks?

a102_jam_2210_1000

Lewisham Council voted unanimously last night to oppose TfL £1bn Silvertown Tunnel scheme, on the grounds that it risks increasing both congestion and air pollution in the area.

The Labour-run council endorsed a motion proposed by Blackheath councillor Kevin Bonavia, who mocked TfL’s claims on air pollution as “simply not good enough”.

Lewisham’s opposition follows that of Hackney, which passed a motion against the tunnel in July.

The current consultation – which closes this Sunday – is intended to rubber-stamp the controversial scheme before it goes through a special streamlined planning process.

The tunnel is by no means a done deal – while the process is being rushed through so it can be ticked off before Boris Johnson leaves office, his successor as mayor can bin the project as soon as they take over.

All but one of Lewisham councillors will be hoping their motion helps to persuade Labour’s mayoral candidate, Sadiq Khan, to dump the scheme. The remaining councillor, the Green Party’s one-man opposition, John Coughlin, also spoke up for the motion. Green candidate Sian Berry is already against the tunnel.

To object to TfL’s proposal, visit www.tfl.gov.uk/silvertown-tunnel before 11.59pm on Sunday. For tips on what to say, visit No to Silvertown Tunnel.

Lewisham’s motion says the planned tunnel between Greenwich and the Royal Docks “risks exacerbating rather than dispersing” traffic congestion in the area, including on the A2 and the South Circular Road in the borough.

The resulting increase in congestion also risks “a deterioration of air quality in the London Borough of Lewisham”, affecting the health of residents, it added.

Particular worries for Lewisham councillors include the dreadful air quality around New Cross and Deptford – which even TfL admits will get worse under the Silvertown scheme – and the congestion blackspot of the Catford one-way system, which needs no help from the Blackwall Tunnel to become gridlocked.

“What TfL don’t say is how they’ll deal with the approach roads,” Cllr Bonavia, the council’s cabinet member for resources, said. “All they’ll have is a widening of the A102 near the tunnel – nothing about the approach roads further up.

“What does that mean for us in Lewisham, on the A2 and South Circular? More congestion.

“This proposal is poorly planned, poorly placed, and can only harm the poor congestion and poor air quality our residents face.”

Seconding the motion, fellow cabinet member Rachel Onikosi accused TfL of “over-egging” claims that the tunnel would be a “congestion killer”.

So Lewisham’s councillors have made it clear they won’t be taken in by TfL. So have Hackney’s. But what about Greenwich?

A2 traffic jam in Eltham

This website has written before about the dire perils of trying to appease TfL on the Silvertown Tunnel.

The No to Silvertown Tunnel campaign began from a petition on this website three years ago.

It’s since gained a life of its own, conducting three air quality studies, submitting evidence to parliamentary and City Hall inquiries, meeting politicians and doing its damnedest to get this thing stopped. (So I should point out that this post does not represent the views of the campaign, whose members have views of their own.)

Some of the Greenwich political figures who have been asking why this website hasn’t been properly updated for weeks will hopefully have been spending their time reading up on the scheme.

There are thousands of pages of consultation documents to sift through – full of contradictions and dodgy assumptions – but it remains clear that this is a botched scheme that needs to be opposed.

Whether or not you believe new road-building somewhere is what’s needed (generally it’s only a short-term fix at best), the tunnel is looking like a costly, under-scrutinised disaster. It’s all very well crying “something must be done” – this ain’t it, and TfL has played many people for mugs. There’s no one, satisfying big bang solution to getting rid of those jams.

Despite the glossy propaganda which has somehow turned up in scores of community venues across Greenwich borough, TfL has consistently admitted some areas will see increased pollution and congestion because of the scheme.

Tolling is likely to end up being the worst of all worlds, with fees too low to deter HGVs and Kent commuters, but enough to send increasing amounts of more local traffic to Rotherhithe. There are no plans to toll at weekends, despite heavy congestion on Saturdays and Sundays.

Meanwhile, the cost has crept up to £1bn, up from £600m three years ago. Desperate talk about boosting cross-river bus services is at odds with the current reality where TfL neglects the 108, and canned the Rotherhithe Tunnel’s service nine years ago.

And there’s the obvious, fatal flaw that hobbles the scheme from the start – while it’s aimed at relieving northbound Blackwall Tunnel queues, it will only exacerbate each evening’s southbound queues.

Many evenings see traffic at a crawl back through Eltham, Kidbrooke and back into Greenwich – imagine that with the 20% extra traffic even TfL predicts will use the A102/A2. There are also similar problems north of the river.

There are many different reasons why the Silvertown Tunnel must be stopped – whether you’re a driver, a bus user, a pedestrian, a cyclist, someone who has to breathe this area’s foul air, or a combination of all or some of these.

A2 jam at Kidbrooke

So far, Greenwich’s Labour councillors have stayed notably silent on a Conservative scheme that will have serious implications for the borough. There are murmurings that they’ve been told to keep schtum.

Regeneration cabinet member Danny Thorpe and deputy leader John Fahy attended No to Silvertown Tunnel’s public meeting two weeks ago, but did not contribute any of their thoughts. Nor did the assembled Tories.

What is clear, however, is that the demands put forward in Greenwich’s response to the last Silvertown Tunnel consultation haven’t been met. Demands to run the DLR through the tunnel to Kidbrooke and Eltham have been rejected, and TfL hasn’t been forthcoming with proposals to extend the London Overground from Barking to Abbey Wood.

A third demand, to run the DLR to Thamesmead and Abbey Wood, could appear in a new consultation on a crossing at Gallions Reach to appear on Monday, but taken in isolation, appears to have little relevance to the Silvertown scheme.

Further demands – for independently-scrutinised modelling that shows congestion and pollution would be cut – also have not been met, as the current consultation only carries “preliminary” modelling.

But this website understands from a variety of sources that TfL has been trying to secure Greenwich backing by tying a number of improvements – many desperately needed anyway – to implementation of the Silvertown Tunnel scheme.

These include a bus route from Kidbrooke Village to North Greenwich, which has been on the drawing board for at least 12 years, since the days when the Ferrier Estate was still standing.

More cynically, this website understands that TfL is tying installing a noise barrier along the A102 in Blackheath to implementation of the Silvertown Tunnel scheme, and that Greenwich councillors are happy to go along with this.

Essentially, this means that if residents on Westcombe Hill and Siebert Road (on the left in the picture below) don’t want to be deafened by traffic noise, they have to agree to be choked by even more traffic.

Charlton Road/A102 bridge, 2 April 2014

When it comes down to it, the Silvertown Tunnel question comes down to whether you wish to challenge Transport for London’s modelling and the assumptions that lie behind it.

One group which is set not to challenge TfL is the Greenwich Society. This website has seen its draft response, which swallows the TfL line almost completely – backing the tunnel despite admitting it will cause “small increases in traffic on local roads”.

The society left writing its response to Sir Alan Bailey, a former permanent secretary in the Department for Transport in the 1980s – his words reflect the thinking common in those times. Greenwich Society members might like to wonder what they are getting for their subscription fees.

This website understands the Westcombe Society and East Greenwich Residents Association are rejecting the scheme.

Many Greenwich Labour councillors like to pretend they have no influence over the process – even though their mayoral candidate could, if elected, cancel the scheme in May.

Of course, in other political spheres, we’ve seen Labour politicians face down dangerous proposals from Conservative opponents – such as George Osborne’s tax credit cuts.

With Londoners dying from air pollution-related causes, and town centres choked by traffic congestion, it would be refreshing to see Greenwich follow in Lewisham’s lead and stand up for residents. Will they? We’ll have to wait and see.

To object to TfL’s proposal, visit www.tfl.gov.uk/silvertown-tunnel before 11.59pm on Sunday. For tips on what to say, visit No to Silvertown Tunnel or see its full response.

Electoral roll changes: More than 1 in 20 Lewisham people could lose their right to vote

Lewisham Council is trying to get people to sign up to the register

Last month, this website revealed that one in 50 Greenwich borough residents could lose their right to vote under changes to the electoral register being introduced in December.

Now it’s emerged that the situation is worse in neighbouring Lewisham – with more than one in 20 voters set to fall off the register if they don’t act before 1 December.

Previously, the electoral roll was compiled by one member of each household filling in a survey form. Now, everybody who wants a vote has to apply individually.

Figures released by Lewisham Council under the Freedom of Information Act show that out of 195,863 voters in the borough, 10,730 face falling off the roll when councils switch to the new system on 1 December.

As in Greenwich, it is less well-off areas of Lewisham borough that face losing the most voters. Evelyn ward, which covers most of Deptford, risks losing 8% of its voters; while New Cross ward is set to lose 7.5%.

Lewisham kindly supplied a breakdown of how many voters are registered in each of these 19 wards, so these figures are more detailed than those offered by Greenwich.

Ward Missing voters
Evelyn (11,308 voters) 910 (8%)
New Cross (11,260) 852 (7.5%)
Lewisham Central (13,028) 842 (6.4%)
Rushey Green (9,766) 614 (6.3%)
Telegraph Hill (11,610) 697 (6%)
Brockley (12,518) 738 (5.9%)
Forest Hill (10,764) 631 (5.8%)
Perry Vale (11,264) 627 (5.5%)
Sydenham (11,129) 616 (5.5%)
Ladywell (10,060) 515 (5.1%)
Bellingham (10,308) 529 (5.1%)
Catford South (10,788) 549 (5.1%)
Whitefoot (9,913) 492 (4.9%)
Crofton Park (10,879) 494 (4.5%)
Downham (10,315) 450 (4.3%)
Grove Park (10,517) 442 (4.2%)
Blackheath (10,091) 393 (3.9%)
Lee Green (10,345) 339 (3.3%)

Total “red matches” – those due to come off electoral register in 1 December 2015, as at 11 November 2015. Ward electorates as at 1 September. Source: Lewisham Council

Lewisham staff have been working to make sure people stay on the roll, and these efforts are highlighted in the council’s figures – 1,410 people have been put on the roll since 1 September.

While it’s true the change may also weed out names that shouldn’t be on the register – because they are dead, or are registered in two different places – the Labour Party has launched a “missing million” campaign to get people back on the electoral roll.

This isn’t just out of public service – proposals to cut the number of parliamentary constituencies from 650 to 600, which are set to particularly affect Labour’s urban heartlands, are likely to use 1 December 2015 as a reference date.

Seats in Greenwich and Lewisham are particularly under threat from the changes, which are likely to see many more seats span borough boundaries.

Lewisham Deptford, currently held by Vicky Foxcroft, is set to lose 6.2% of voters. Past plans to redraw constituencies first saw the Deptford area merged with Greenwich, before it was then joined with Rotherhithe.

Think you’re not on the electoral roll? Check with electoral offices in Lewisham, Greenwich, or anywhere else. Know you’re not on the roll? Register now.

PS. The Freedom of Information Act, which uncovered these figures in both Greenwich and Lewisham, is under threat. See four simple ways you can take action.

Refugee crisis: Blackheath’s Age Exchange taking donations

Champion Hill, 5 September 2015
If you’ve been moved in recent days by reports of refugees fleeing Syria and want to donate clothes, sleeping bags or other items to the camp in Calais, then the Age Exchange centre in Blackheath Village is accepting donations from 9am-6pm on weekdays and 10am-5pm on Saturdays.

If you’re unsure about what to bring, take a look at the Lewisham for Refugees Facebook group, set up by Lewisham Central councillor Joani Reid. The priority seems to be men’s warm clothes and camping gear, but take a look at the latest lists there.

I’ve not seen any similar initiative in Greenwich borough, and nothing’s been publicised in this week’s Pravda – council leader Denise Hyland tweeted at the weekend that she expected the Government to meet any “unavoidable costs” of housing refugees.

Lewisham mayor Steve Bullock says the council is already “making preparations” to house its share of refugees. If you do know of anything, please let everyone know in the comments below (thoughts about the wider situation can go elsewhere, thank you).

Pictured above is just some of Saturday’s huge collection at non-league football club Dulwich Hamlet, which included sleeping bags, two guitars, clothes and toys.

Tuesday update: There is now an equivalent Facebook group for Greenwich borough.

Blackheath fireworks: Senior Greenwich councillor breaks ranks

Greenwich Council cabinet member John Fahy has broken ranks on his council’s refusal to help fund the annual Blackheath fireworks display by declaring it should fund the event.

Since 2010, Lewisham Council has been left alone to raise funds for the annual event, which straddles the boundary of the two boroughs, after Greenwich pulled its £37,000 funding.

The issue has strained relationships between the two neighbouring administrations, despite them both being run by the Labour Party.

Fahy has published a post on his blog in which he declares:

Blackheath Fireworks is one of the largest community events in London. It attracts large numbers of residents from Greenwich and elsewhere. Local restaurants and businesses benefit from the number attending. It has a major impact on reducing the number of home firework parties and reduces any potential safety issues in the home. Families can enjoy the event in a safe environment.

“Clearly Local Government has many pressures on limited resources but supporting community events is extremely important. We spend significant resources on our Festivals and rightly so. Getting together with a neighbouring Borough builds positive relationships and I fully support Greenwich making a contribution to secure the long term future of the event.”

Fahy, who’s Greenwich Council’s cabinet member for health and older people, also links to a poll where he seeks to “test the views of the wider community” on the issue.

In October 2010, council deputy leader Peter Brooks claimed it would be “inappropriate in this financial climate” to cough up the £37,000 needed to co-fund the event.

“I could give 65 million reasons why we didn’t pay,” Brooks told a council meeting in October 2010, referring to government cuts in the council’s budget. “£37,000 is equivalent to a job and a bit.”

At the same time, Greenwich was spending £30,000 a year on private parties to inaugurate its ceremonial mayors. Thamesmead Moorings councillor Brooks also told the same council meeting that “it’s very difficult to get to Blackheath from my ward” – despite the fact there’s a direct bus, route 380.

Since then, Greenwich spent £20,000 last year on fireworks to promote the Sail Royal Greenwich event, and a further £110,000 on events to mark becoming a royal borough in 2012.

Despite Greenwich’s refusal, Lewisham has continued to raise funds for the event, even though it’s also had its budget slashed by the coalition, by seeking sponsorship from firms and donations from locals – indeed, it was Greenwich resident Douglas Parrant who started 2013’s display after buying tickets in a Lewisham Council-run raffle.

But after last year’s event, Lewisham councillors were told fundraising had fallen £30,000 short – and the council would be approaching Greenwich to help it fund 2014’s display.

Greenwich’s refusal to help out is especially embarrassing for the council’s Labour colleagues in Lewisham, who have pledged to protect the display in past election campaigns.

Of course, there’s some context to this surrounding the poisonous atmosphere in Greenwich Labour.

It’s worth pointing out that Fahy appeared to have slightly different views on the issue in October 2011….

…although it’s well-known within Greenwich Council circles that cabinet members don’t write their own responses – indeed, they often come from council leader Chris Roberts.

When Fahy stood against Roberts for the leadership of the council in 2012, he lost his role as cabinet member for leisure and literally found himself airbrushed out of Greenwich’s weekly propaganda paper, Greenwich Time:

airbrush_greenwich_time

And, as everybody knows now, Fahy was also subjected to this threatening voicemail from Roberts last autumn:

I expect Fahy might have his phone switched off for a few days. To read what he has to say and vote on whether you think Greenwich Council should fund Blackheath fireworks, head on over to his website.

Lewisham tells Greenwich: Cough up for Blackheath fireworks

Lewisham Council is asking Greenwich Council to start paying towards the annual Blackheath fireworks display again, after revealing fundraising for this year’s event fell nearly £30,000 short of covering its costs.

Greenwich withdrew its £37,000 share of funding for what was a jointly-run display in 2010, with council deputy leader Peter Brooks claiming it would be “inappropriate in this financial climate” to fund the event, which takes place right on the border between the two boroughs.

But Lewisham has continued to hold the event, which attracts up to 100,000 people and boosts trade to local businesses in Greenwich, Blackheath and Lewisham.

Lewisham has continued to set aside £36,000 each year for the display, which this year cost £108,673, and has relied on public donations and private sponsorship to make up the rest.

Lewisham Council meeting response

But a cut in private sponsorship money this year has meant the shortfall has widened from £7,919 to £29,656 this year, according to an answer from Lewisham’s culture and community services cabinet member Chris Best given at a council meeting last Wednesday.

Responding to Blackheath councillor Kevin Bonavia, she said in a written reply: “Officers continually look for different ways to attract funding for the event. We will continue to request financial and other support from the Royal Borough of Greenwich.”

At the time Greenwich Council’s Peter Brooks was claiming the borough was too hard-up to pay for Blackheath fireworks, Greenwich was paying £30,000 each year on a private party to inaugurate the borough’s ceremonial mayor.

While that cost has come down to £10,000 – thanks to the Royal Naval College no longer charging – this summer the council contributed £20,000 to fireworks displays to support Sail Royal Greenwich, a private company working out of the council’s Mitre Passage offices in North Greenwich.

In 2011, it effectively bailed out Greenwich and Docklands Festival with a £100,000 payout, and spent £110,000 on events to mark becoming a royal borough in 2012.

And while supporters of leader Chris Roberts point to Lewisham’s controversial decision to cut library funding in response to a government funding squeeze, Greenwich has been cutting under-fives’ play centres, outsourcing youth and library services and trying to cut funding from Charlton’s Maryon Wilson animal park.

Relations between the two Labour groups have got worse recently, with Lewisham councillors looking on in alarm at the bullying accusations levelled at Greenwich leader Chris Roberts, with the bad smell drifting across the border.

Greenwich councillors complained to their Lewisham counterparts after Bonavia referred to the accusations in his unsuccessful campaign to be the parliamentary candidate for Greenwich & Woolwich, demanding he be disciplined for disloyalty. They were flatly turned down.

Lewisham council also reaffirmed its reservations about the proposed Silvertown Tunnel – which is backed by Greenwich – at the same meeting.

Deputy mayor Alan Smith said: “The proposed Silvertown Tunnel relies on the same southern approaches as the existing Blackwall Tunnel. These routes, including the A2 area and the South Circular, already suffer from daily congestion. As the only primary alternative to the Dartford crossings, these routes come under extreme pressure when the M25 is not operating smoothly. The council therefore has reservations about the impact of an additional 6,000 vehicles per hour on these routes.”

Other London boroughs, including Southwark, Tower Hamlets, Barking & Dagenham and Redbridge, have also voiced opposition or reservations about mayor Boris Johnson’s plan. In the affected area, only Greenwich and Tory Bexley are wholly for it.

Convoys Wharf: Deptford in dread after mayor Boris takes charge

Convoys Wharf from Greenwich
It’s a development which will have massive implications for Greenwich, yet there remains surprisingly little concern east of the creek about the enormous plans for Deptford’s Convoys Wharf, which will tower over the views from Greenwich Park and Cutty Sark Gardens (above).

With three enormous towers of 26, 32 and 40 storeys, the plans would change the skyline forever; and by squeezing 3,500 homes onto the site (3,000 likely to be sold abroad, just 12% going to the local community), riverside Deptford would be transformed. Into what, though, nobody quite knows.

Furthermore, this isn’t just any old patch of derelict land – this is the site of the first royal dockyard, founded in 1513, and arguably the beginning of Greenwich’s links with royalty. The site’s now on the World Monuments Fund’s watch list.

So, it was right and proper that Lewisham Council took its time on the scheme. Until Hong Kong-based developer Hutchison Whampoa threw a wobbly and went running to Boris Johnson, that is.

Now the mayor has decided to call in the application himself, taking the decision away from Lewisham Council and putting it in his hands. Considering Johnson’s track record in backing big developers, and his recent trip to China, you could forgive those who think this one of the more whiffy decisions to come out of City Hall.

It’s not as if critics don’t have alternative ideas for the site. Diarist John Evelyn once kept a legendary garden here. Campaigners want the site to include a recreation of Sayes Court Garden. Most excitingly of all, the Build The Lenox project wants to have a visitor attraction here, centred around building a Tudor era warship in the old dockyard.

At the moment the historic dockyard at Deptford has no working links with its wonderful history. Building a ship which was a significant part of the dockyard’s past would regenerate the area and help restore the eminence Deptford once enjoyed. It would also help bridge the maritime cultural gap with Greenwich. For a modest entrance fee, visitors would be able to see the ship being built and some of the traditional skills used to build her. They would experience all this in close proximity to structures that were contemporary to her construction, such as the Master Shipwright’s house and other surviving buildings.

While locals were hoping Lewisham Council could force Hutchison Whampoa to incorporate these ideas into the Convoys development, Johnson’s intervention puts all this at risk.

As well as the Lenox site, there’s also an excellent analysis of the issue at Deptford Is…. Anyone who cares about Greenwich should be caring about this issue too – because the consequences of what happens at Convoys Wharf will be felt far beyond a small corner of riverside Deptford.