Archive for the ‘local stuff’ Category
There’s an interesting feature in this week’s Economist about Berkeley Homes, the developer which had a great influence on Greenwich Council during the Chris Roberts years.
It’s not just interesting because it features “a local blogger” commenting on the former Dear Leader, who’s still in close contact with the council leadership, and his ownership of a Berkeley home on the Royal Arsenal development in Woolwich. It also features the revelation that Boris Johnson was given a £500 ceremonial trowel by Berkeley’s chairman, Tony Pidgeley, last summer. (He was also given a glass paperweight in October.) Johnson is, of course, responsible for strategic planning approval for developments such as the Arsenal (which is GLA land) and Kidbrooke Village. (Mind you, at least you can find Johnson’s gifts and hospitality on the City Hall website – try having a look for the equivalent on the Greenwich site.)
It’s not just Berkeley, it’s not just Greenwich, it’s not just Boris Johnson. Developers’ demands are weighing heavily on many London boroughs, but some are more eager to be associated with them than others. And Berkeley’s particularly good at gaining influence, especially as Pidgeley is also president of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (chair: Chris Roberts’ friend Mark Adams) which has been pushing heavily for the Silvertown Tunnel and Gallions Reach Bridge. Indeed, this written answer from Johnson to London Assembly member Caroline Pidgeon acknowledges the link between Berkeley and the LCCI.
Next month’s tall ships boondoggle will also feature another example of a developer wielding financial power – Barratt Homes, which is currently letting historic Enderby House rot away, is sponsoring the event and has its name on banners in Greenwich town centre. “Festival supporters” include Berkeley, Cathedral Group (Silvertown Tunnel supporter and Morden Wharf developer) and Knight Dragon (Greenwich Peninsula developer). Lots of lovely hospitality, no doubt.
It’s not just on tall ships where developers and councillors can get together. Earlier this summer Cathedral’s chief executive Richard Upton popped up at the unveiling of a tree dedicated to Vice Admiral Hardy at Devonport House, Greenwich, alongside Greenwich leader Denise Hyland and Lewisham’s deputy mayor Alan Smith. Cathedral owns Devonport House, alongside the Movement development by Greenwich station and the Deptford Project across the borough boundary. Naturally, it got a warm write-up in Greenwich Time.
So it’s worth keeping an eye on little things like this. As developers become more powerful, and with councils often unable to build their own housing, do we have representatives that can resist these charm offensives and fight for a good deal for us all?
Incidentally, the picture above is that of an ad for the latest phase of the Royal Arsenal – effectively, the flats that’ll pay for Berkeley’s contribution to the Crossrail station there. Note the little back-scratch for the mayor in the shape of a New Routemaster cruising along Beresford Street – in reality, it’s highly unlikely that the Roastmaster will ever make it to SE18.
Greenwich Council refused an approach from the owner of the Mercury and South London Press newspapers to take over its controversial weekly freesheet Greenwich Time, it’s emerged – and is being accused of misleading its own councillors about the offer.
The offer, made three years ago, is at the centre of a row between the publisher and the council over figures used by Greenwich leader Denise Hyland to justify continuing with the newspaper, one of only two in the country that are published weekly.
It comes as Greenwich Council is defending the paper against new laws brought in by the coalition government, with communities secretary Eric Pickles calling it “propaganda on the rates”.
Before GT went weekly, it had a long-standing distribution arrangement with the Mercury, which is London’s oldest local paper and is run as a sister paper to its Tindle Newspapers stablemate, the South London Press.
Greenwich claims it saves money by publishing GT weekly as it can place public notices – for planning, road closures, and the like – there without having to pay a third party for advertising.
But a letter from SLP managing director Peter Edwards to Hyland, sent earlier this month, claims the council presented “inaccurate data” when justifying this in a council debate in June, which saw councillors vote down an anti-GT motion from the Conservatives.
Greenwich claimed advertising in the Mercury would cost it £1.37m per year – but Edwards says he told council officers in a presentation that the council would only pay 55% of that sum, while the Mercury would also increase its distribution to 90% of the borough.
“We would also establish a channel on the Mercury website to carry notices, online videos and interviews, plus video streaming of open council meetings, all of this within the price quoted,” he added.
“In short, we would ensure every Greenwich resident had full and unfettered access to council messages.
“I am certain that if your meeting on 25th June were in full possession of all the facts it may have reached a different conclusion.”
In response, Hyland claims councillors already had “access to the full range of information you have provided”. But this information was only shared with cabinet members at the time, and not with the full council. While the council admitted in July 2011 that talks had been held with publishers, the details were not shared beyond the cabinet.
She added that the SLP/Mercury package would have “cost the council more for less” and would have still resulted “in an increase in expenditure”.
In addition, Hyland said the SLP’s offer would not have matched GT’s distribution, and could leave the council open to “a potential reputational risk as our adverts may appear alongside those for adult service providers and chat lines”.
(The sex trade ads are an Achilles heel for the SLP when it comes to dealing with local councils – some years ago, Lambeth withdrew its ads from the SLP in protest. After a spell running a GT-style fortnightly, Lambeth Life, Lambeth took its ads to an independent, Southwark Newspaper, which now produces a weekly Lambeth Weekender featuring four pages of council news plus public notices.)
After the Mercury/SLP offer was rebuffed in 2011, Tindle Newspapers took on a different strategy to push the Mercury, de-emphasising free deliveries in Greenwich borough in favour of creating paid-for micro-editions on sale in newsagents in west Greenwich, Charlton and Blackheath – the first paid-for papers to serve the areas for three decades.
More recently, Greenwich Council has come out fighting to defend Greenwich Time, which the Government believes it has now outlawed.
“I do not understand on what basis the Secretary of State considers that the council’s publicity is not even-handed or objective,” chief executive Mary Ney, whose job is supposed to be politically-neutral, wrote on 29 April in response to a warning from Pickles that he was considering action.
“This is a serious allegation and I am entitled to understand on what basis it is being made.”
Greenwich Council’s full response, obtained by this website under the Freedom of Information Act, lays into critics of Greenwich Time, essentially implying they do not represent the views of the people of the borough as “half are active in local politics”. “The objectiveness of their submissions has to be questioned,” it adds.
If Greenwich Time is axed, it claims, it will be “on the decision of a single minister, based upon the representations of 8 people out of a borough population of 264,000″.
It also claims that Greenwich Time supports the local newspaper industry as it is printed at Trinity Mirror’s presses in Watford, that Greenwich borough has “a strong local newspaper market”, and that it has “given extensive coverage to the Mayor of London”, and lists the (rare) occasions that opposition councillors are featured in it.
But it misses out the fact that its “rigorous sign-off process” includes the sign-off from the council leader, as admitted by Mary Ney last year, while the council’s sums still don’t take into account the time council staff spend on Greenwich Time.
The council’s response also included a dossier of notes of support from various figures, including a bizarre letter from someone at the Greenwich Islamic Centre in Plumstead which hopes the Government will change its mind so “the residents of the borough can enjoy their favourite weekly newspaper”.
Another respondent claims “it is a very balanced publication which does not demonstrate political bias in any way”, while the council response quotes another individual as claiming it runs “fact-based community editorial”.
One response backing GT comes from Steve Nelson of the South East London Chamber of Commerce, who’s regularly invited to the council’s mayor-making jollies at the Royal Naval College and is a trustee of council charity Greenwich Starting Blocks, which features regularly in the paper.
Looking through the responses, with names redacted, it seems that those who appear in Greenwich Time support it, and those who don’t are against it.
Which, in a nutshell, is the problem with Greenwich Time. Just as the Evening Standard has ceased to be a reliable news source because it contains little criticism of mayor Boris Johnson, Greenwich Time is similarly unreliable because it contains little criticism of Greenwich Council. And only one of those two titles is paid for by council taxpayers.
Whatever the failings of this area’s local media, the fact that we’re paying for a weekly paper which delivers just one side of the story is a big problem. And after six years of it, it’s far from certain that a weekly propaganda rag is even an effective communication strategy for the council anyway – how many go straight in the recycling? Simply barking out instructions on a dead bit of tree simply doesn’t cut it these days.
If Greenwich Time goes, the council’s communications and engagement policy will have to be rethought. And a deal with someone will have to be done, be it with the Mercury/SLP or a competitor, for those public notices.
Like alcoholics contemplating a future off the booze, a future without Greenwich Time is one the council leadership simply doesn’t want to contemplate.
Will Eric Pickles take the bottle off them? We’ll have to wait and see.
It’s 20 years ago today that Blur’s video for Parklife was shot outside the Pilot pub on the Greenwich Peninsula. Directed by Pedro Romhanyi – who’d later shoot the promo for Pulp’s Common People – it remains one of the most fondly-remembered of all British music videos.
I remember it well – the filming took place on my 20th birthday. After hearing Blur were filming on the peninsula, I walked up to take a look. Of course, what I didn’t take was my camera.
If anyone has any memories of the filming – or photographs – I’d love to hear them, along with any corrections to anything I’ve got wrong. (Here are some production shots along with some other Blur snaps from the time.)
It was filmed over two days – 8 and 9 August, 1994 – with most shooting taking place in River Way, a street containing the Pilot pub, some cottages, an industrial estate and the remains of the old Blackwall Point Power Station. In those days, if you travelled up Blackwall Lane onto the Greenwich Peninsula, River Way was a turning on the right before Blackwall Lane ended at the junction of Boord Street and the gates to the old gas works. It was a dead end, leading up to the Thames and the original base of Greenwich Yacht Club.
River Way’s days were numbered, though. Less than two years later, the Greenwich Peninsula was chosen as the site for the Millennium Experience. Two years after that, the street was gone, although the pub and the cottages remain. Remarkably, the Pilot’s landlord resisted offers to sell the place until well into the 21st century – it’s now owned by Fullers and was refurbished last year.
The Pilot’s not marking the anniversary of its little entry into British pop history – it’s staging Shakespeare in its beer garden instead.
It’s hard to imagine what the peninsula was like before the turn of the century – and trying to get an accurate “then and now” record of what’s changed is impossible as the most of River Way is now being built upon. So the Parklife video is a reminder of a Greenwich that’s being erased before our eyes.
This is River Way looking away from the Thames – you can see the silo of Tunnel Refineries in the background, which were demolished in 2010.
Here’s an odd one out – this is the Sun-in-the-Sands roundabout at Blackheath.
River Way looking towards the Thames. The pub and cottages are just behind, the buildings on the right are the remains of Blackwall Point Power Station.
These shots were filmed on Ordnance Crescent, which was an emergency escape route for traffic which couldn’t fit in the Blackwall Tunnel. The road was stopped up a few years ago. In some of these shots, you can see the grey hoardings of the Jubilee Line construction project, which had just begun. The street was closed off a few years back, and it’s now used as a vehicle inspection station.
This is River Way. In those days, the Thames Path didn’t run all the way around the peninsula – walkers had to go via River Way and cross the A102 at the footbridge. There was a sign outside the pub reading “Riverside Walk East/ Riverside Walk West”, which inspired the sign in this scene.
This is Boord Street, close to the Blackwall Tunnel approach. Back then it was a neglected turn-off from the approach road, a remnant of the old community destroyed when the second Blackwall Tunnel was built in the 1960s. Now, if you take the 108 bus through the southbound tunnel, this is the street you’ll pass down to get to North Greenwich.
This is the former end of River Way. The film-makers also painted the words “PARK LIFE” and an arrow on the road at this point, which lasted until the street was destroyed. Greenwich Yacht Club’s old base was just to the right of Phil Daniels. Just in shot on the left is the old coaling jetty, which is now being used for arts projects.
The cottages. I think the tenants were turfed out in the late 1990s and replaced with Dome staff, including its effervescent French boss PY Gerbeau.
I’m a little uncertain about this, but I think this is Boord Street – the yard behind used to be for school buses. Again, you can see Tunnel Refineries in the background.
This is River Way once again – and a reminder that for most of the 1990s, One Canada Square at Canary Wharf stood alone as the only Docklands skyscraper.
Looking down River Way towards the Pilot. You can see how the street curved slightly, this was to pass underneath the gas works’ old railway line, which vanished in the 1980s.
This was the old front beer garden of the Pilot, in the curve of River Way.
And one last shot – this is Dreadnought Street, which used to come off the Blackwall Tunnel approach to meet Blackwall Lane. If you got the 108 bus from east London, you’d come out of the tunnel and travel down this road. Most of it was ripped up in the 90s and a bigger slip road was installed – the recent picture is facing the other way towards that slip road.
The Parklife video isn’t Blur’s only connection with this part of south-east London. The band met at Goldsmiths College, and Alex James’s book Bit Of A Blur: The Autobiographydocuments his time living in a squat on the New Cross Road.
Back in the 1990s, east Greenwich’s derelict sites were favoured spot for videos and photoshoots – a Kylie video was shot at Lovell’s Wharf; while a few bands used Anchor Iron Wharf, which used to be an old scrapyard between the Cutty Sark pub and Greenwich Power station.
But Parklife’s the most enduring reminder, and it was all 20 years ago today. Where did the time go, eh?
Seven years after the O2 opened, finally, finally, the miserable open space outside, Peninsula Square, has started to look like the “new leisure destination for Londoners and tourists alike” promised back then.
New York band We Are Scientists opened up Meantime Brewery’s Beer Box with a blistering free live show last night. It looks like the Beer Box, on empty land above the Jubilee Line tunnels, is only around for a little while – it was only erected over the last 10 days – but hopefully the shot of life it’s brought to this long-wasted space will last for a while longer.
Fingers crossed, it’ll stay and there’ll be more live events here. Keep the bar, sort out the big screen showing inane promos, and perhaps Peninsula Square will be something Greenwich can be proud of, instead of an embarrassment that’s walked through as quickly as possible.
A petition’s been launched to ask Transport for London to move Woolwich Arsenal station from zone 4 to zone 3. It’s currently approaching 250 signatures….
“As the opening of Crossrail gets closer and closer, and as the regeneration of Woolwich gains momentum, we think it’s important to help the area further benefit from all these positive changes. The number of commuters is growing and this trend is only going to continue.
“Moving Woolwich Arsenal station from 4 to zone 3 will help make Woolwich even more attractive and slightly less expensive for workers commuting west. There are talks of moving Stratford, a stone’s throws from Woolwich, into zone 2. Also Battersea is poised to be moved from zone 2 to zone 1. Gallions Reach, just north of the river and further east than Woolwich, is already in zone 3.”
I wrote about the absurdity of Woolwich being in zone 4 back in 2010, travelling out to leafy Chigwell, Essex, which is also in zone 4. Last week it was announced that Stratford station is being moved to the boundary of zones 2 and 3 to “boost regeneration” – a similar move would put Woolwich Arsenal on the boundary of zones 3 and 4, so passengers travelling from the east wouldn’t lose out.
Of course, there’s a cost to it and the popularity of the Docklands Light Railway from Woolwich would seem to indicate that the market can bear costly zone 4 fares – but a symbolic change could help attract travel *to* Woolwich, rather than from it.
(There’s a wider argument that London’s fare zones, which date back to 1983 and predate the development of Canary Wharf, need a complete overhaul as perceptions of “central London” have changed over the years – but that seems to be something nobody dare touch.)
It’s a simple change that could end up paying for itself over time if it boosts perceptions of Woolwich – but sadly, local politicians seem to have much more time obsessing over the Thames Clippers service to Berkeley Homes’ Royal Arsenal development instead.
Plenty happening, but not enough time to write about them, which is frustrating. Better busy than bored, but output on this website might be sporadic for a little while to come. But I thought you might like to hear a little side project – the Metroknobbers podcast, produced by Onionbagblog and Brixton Buzz‘s Jason Cobb and featuring him and me waxing lyrical on south London happenings, local blogging, how they meet, and more. It’s a simple chat recorded over Skype last Sunday evening, and contains a little bit of swearing, since I couldn’t find any better words to sum up the Guardian’s Job Centre reporting.
The name comes from an in-joke about the long-gone and not-missed London Metroblogging project from a decade ago – think a watered-down Londonist with its brains scooped out, and you have what it was like. It’s only right that a podcast featuring two chaps waffling on a bit keeps the Metroknobbers flame alive…
Besides the Job Centre, topics discussed include a Lambeth Council election “mistake”, the rude health of local web publishing in south London (see the excellent new Deserter site) and why you, yes you, should do it yourself, council fireworks, the origins of the Charlton Champion and why it’s important not to let your site sit un-updated for weeks. Ahem.
Links to what we’re talking about are over on Onionbagblog. And if south London podcasting’s up your street, I recommend South London Hardcore, which took a trip to the reopened Severndroog Castle last week.
A little postscript to May’s Greenwich Council election. The highest-profile scalp was that of Conservative Nigel Fletcher, who lost his Eltham North seat as Labour advanced – due at least in part to Ukip taking suburban votes from the Tories.
Nigel’s written well about his experience of losing. Sadly, others couldn’t be as classy. On Saturday, Nigel got this leaflet through his door.
Ouch. Not nice.
Still, at least Nigel can count himself lucky – up here in the north of the borough, hearing from your councillors after an election simply doesn’t happen.
In the meantime, let’s keep a special eye out for how Linda Bird and Wynn Davies shake things up…
2.45pm update: Nigel has now written about the letter himself.
There are many terrible things going on in south-east London right now. The rise in the number of people forced to use food banks. People young and old are being forced out of our area because of a lack of affordable housing. Stupidly-priced, ugly speculative housing developments appearing everywhere to line the profits of a select few. The politicians who’ll happily sacrifice communities’ health and well-being to drive new roads though our neighbourhoods, instead of delivering the public transport we sorely need.
But according to The Guardian, the worst thing going on in south-east London right now is the name of a pub.
The Job Centre opened at the beginning of June. I popped in on its first night – in its first half-hour, as it happened. The staff were still figuring out how to work the tills, a spark was sorting out a final bit of work with the electrics and some brick dust still sat on the tables.
I only planned to pop in for one, but I soon gained good company and stayed for a bit longer. By the time we left, the place was doing a healthy trade – hey, some dancing had even broken out. It had the kind of mixed crowd you’d expect from somewhere in Deptford, with a dog curled up on one of the chairs. It felt like the place had been open for years. This’ll be a hit, I thought.
My only worry was the place had barely been decorated. And from the upstairs gents’ toilets, people in the flats opposite had a view right into the cubicle. Awkward.
I tweeted a few thoughts about the pub, and somebody asked me if I thought the name was offensive. At first, I had my doubts about the name. The place was a job centre until 2010, and was then was squatted on and off – it looked like it was having a riotous party the day of the royal wedding in 2011. Pub firm Antic agreed to take on the site in January 2013, under the name “The Job Centre”.
Antic had clearly based the pub’s logo on the 70s/80s Job Centre design… but nobody did anything naff like making cocktails named after benefits. There’s a little pin board up where people could advertise local vacancies – but essentially, it’s just a boozer.
Maybe I’d have called it the Mercury (after the newspaper once based upstairs), but Antic names its new pubs after the buildings they used to be. (Coming soon: The Woolwich Equitable.) It’s common for new pubs to be called after their buildings’ former uses, and a job centre is part of the urban landscape. And anyway, if they’d called it something else, plenty of locals would have just called it “the old job centre” anyway. If you were looking to piss people off, you’d call it the Moustache and Ukelele.
(Indeed, if there’s an Antic pub I’ve found a teensy bit dodgy, it’s the Effra Social in Brixton – a former Conservative club which is a fine place for a drink, but still has pictures of the old club’s members on the walls. If that was my Tory grandad’s picture left up for the amusement of guffawing drinkers, I’d want to have a few words with the owners.)
Scroll forward five weeks, and the Guardian’s Comment is Free ran this on Wednesday morning from Jane Elliott, “senior lecturer in contemporary literature and culture at King’s College London and a resident of Deptford”.
Gentrification? Irony? Behave, it’s a bloody pub, and one whose name has been known for 18 months. Brockley Central has dealt with this piece’s failings better than I could, although it’s worth emphasising this line from Elliott:
“Many of those moving into neighbourhoods such as Deptford – myself included – would prefer not to see themselves as part of the wave of displacement…”
Yeah, right. Some well-paid incomers are more worthy than others, eh?
Anyway, there was some sound and fury on social media, largely generated by people who’d never visted the place, branding the Job Centre some kind of hipster hell. Which it certainly wasn’t the night I visited. Nowhere on Deptford High Street is like that.
Someone at the Guardian didn’t want this to blow over, though. On Wednesday evening, a news story appeared.
So, five weeks after the pub opened to a packed crowd of locals, it faced a backlash over a name that’d been known for 18 months. Eh? Something smelt fishy about this (and it wasn’t the whiff from the other end of the high street).
Strangely, the story didn’t refer back to the Guardian piece that kicked it all off. Instead, it referred to an “open letter” written by one… Jane Elliott.
So Jane Elliott is actually from Lewisham People Before Profit, the political party which tried to take over the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign earlier this year.
Funny, though, because back when the Job Centre pub opened, Ray was wishing them luck:
Thanks to tweeter @Chimpman for the screengrab.
So if the whole thing was a publicity stunt from People Before Profit, what about the local outrage? Well, the report didn’t come from a Guardian news reporter, but carried the byline of culture reporter Hannah Ellis-Petersen. I asked her on Twitter if she’d visited the pub, and she didn’t respond.
I wonder, though if she approached the story with an open mind…
It also carried the byline of Helena Horton, the editor of a student newspaper in York. She did answer my questions, saying she interviewed locals “around the area outside the pub”. Like this one:
How many job centres look like this?
While the Job Centre row is a decent publicity coup for Lewisham People Before Profit, pointing fingers at a pub’s name isn’t going to find people homes they can afford to live in, or jobs that pay a decent wage. Indeed, Woolford appeared to be hoping the pub would close – adding to the dole queue.
The sad thing is that there is a debate to be had about gentrification – from the absurdity of places like Peckham’s “Bellenden Village” enclave to the local politicians who appear to resist nice things in their wards out of fear of attracting middle-class incomers. It’s a debate with many grey areas and one bound to reveal your own personal prejudices.
Maybe we can have a chat about it some day – at the Guardian’s own hipster coffee bar…
6pm update: “It’s great to have a new local…” Crosswhatfields’ take on the Job Centre, including the curious case of the Lewisham Council-subsidised supper club…
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has confirmed he won’t intervene in Greenwich Council’s decision to allow a huge new Ikea superstore in east Greenwich.
Greenwich Council gave outline permission for the store, on the site of the “eco-friendly” Sainsbury’s store in Peartree Way, in March. Planning officers ignored concerns about increased traffic and air pollution, a decision later backed by London mayor Boris Johnson.
The process was halted by Pickles in May, leading campaigners to hope the decision could go to a public inquiry.
Now Pickles’ decision means it’s back in the hands of Greenwich Council, which now needs to hammer out what concessions Ikea needs to make to make any store work, before a detailed planning application goes in.
Of course, the biggest worry is traffic and pollution. The development’s bound to be a draw for flat-pack furniture fans from across London and Kent, yet it’s to be placed in an area which can’t cope with any more traffic. The only real proposal from Ikea to solve this was to route traffic away from the notorious Woolwich Road roundabout, sending traffic in the direction of the Millennium Village.
Any ideas? If you do, contact your local councillors – it’s time for them to earn their corn and try to ameliorate the damage their colleagues have caused.
The road lobby’s getting itchy. Monday saw the London Chamber of Commerce publish a new design for the road bridge it’s desperate to see built between Thamesmead and Beckton. The Evening Standard obligingly spun it as a “bicycle-friendly” bridge, because it has a pedestrian and cycle lane beneath the dual carriageway taking it across the windy Thames. Even the BBC fell for it, The Guardian’s architecture writer piled in with another sycophantic piece, proving that if you come up with a pretty picture of something and call it “bike-friendly”, you can flog any old crap in London.
Nobody bothered to ask any questions like how this bridge would fit into the road network, how it’d be paid for, what effect it’d have on the area, or whether there were any better ideas than digging up a road scheme that’s been around since the 1940s.
All the talk is of supposed benefits to “east London” – so let’s see the effect on south-east London…
This map shows the projected traffic impacts of a Gallions Reach bridge, based on a study commissioned for Newham Council last year. The thicker the yellow line, the more traffic. The numbers represent levels of nitrogen dioxide captured in January’s No To Silvertown Tunnel air pollution study. So, going anti-clockwise, there’s a fair chunk of traffic using the only existing infrastructure, the Thamesmead spine road. Then the horrors start – another chunk of traffic using Brampton Road, Bexleyheath, then crossing the A206 to enter a side street – Knee Hill in Abbey Wood, on the Greenwich/Bexley borough border. Here’s how it looks on Google Streetview.
It simply won’t cope. It gets worse, though, with another load of traffic using Wickham Lane in Welling, emerging into Plumstead Common – which is buried under a yellow line – and using the side streets there, principally Griffin Road, the last leg of the 53 bus route, to reach the one-way system at Plumstead station before heading towards Thamesmead.
Quite frankly, the road network simply won’t be able to cope. And that’s before you get to the known phenomena of “induced traffic”, where new roads encourage new journeys by car or existing journeys to be switched to cars, which is the main problem for the Silvertown Tunnel.
So, if the infrastructure doesn’t exist, does it have to be built instead? Much of Plumstead was blighted for years by the threat of the East London River Crossing, linking the North Circular Road with the A2, which would also have carved up Oxleas Woods and Woodlands Farm on its way to Falconwood.
Either way, Plumstead is squarely in the firing line. Greenwich Council claims to have moved its position slightly to acknowledge fears of congestion and pollution, both from here and the Silvertown Tunnel proposals. Here’s the Greenwich Labour group’s manifesto:
Indeed, the Labour campaign in Shooters Hill was very proud of this, judging by this exchange with Stewart Christie, the Liberal Democrat candidate who created the map above.
Nobody seems to have told their colleagues at City Hall, though.
Some reward for the Labour voters of Plumstead, eh?
Then, one by one, Labour’s mayoral wannabes started coming out in favour. Sadiq Khan called it “exciting” and said it was “desperately needed”. David Lammy called it “interesting” and “new”. “22 road crossings to west of Tower Bridge and two to the east,” parroted Margaret Hodge, ignoring the Dartford crossing and five railway tunnels, two foot tunnels and a cable car. “Looks brilliant”, she added, although for who, she didn’t say.
I wonder what questions they asked about the scheme and their effects? But let’s face it, as for many of London’s politicians of all colours, Plumstead may as well be on Mars. Even assembly member Val Shawcross managed to undermine her pro-cycling credentials by backing a scheme that’s going to flood the streets with more motorised traffic.
So how did the London Labour Party end up falling for this, ending up taking a more extreme view than its Greenwich outpost? To be fair, a bridge at Thamesmead has been Labour policy for some years, but there’ll be many Labour members locally who’ll be furious to see the London Chamber of Commerce scheme – which contains less for public transport than Ken Livingstone’s Thames Gateway Bridge – backed by Labour at City Hall.
Nobody’s suggesting a “do nothing” option. There are many other ways to get Thamesmead properly connected to the rest of London. A DLR extension from Beckton. A rail link from Barking. Yet this isn’t about Thamesmead, this is about a belief that regenerating the Royal Docks requires a new road connection.
Should Plumstead be sacrificed for some imagined benefits north of the river? A fancy design may be enough to impress ambitious politicians, but it won’t disguise the congestion and blight that will be visited on the area. The 2016 mayoral election should have been an easy win for Labour in this part of SE London. Now they’re looking like they’re making things needlessly hard for themselves.
9.20am update: Today marks 138 years since the Plumstead Common riot to protect common land.