Greenwich Labour and Conservative councillors have teamed up to object to a Blackheath peace festival planned by the family of murdered teenager Jimmy Mizen.
The non-profit Good Hope Festival, which could take place on 2 and 3 August, will be a “beautiful and peaceful music and arts festival bringing people together to celebrate all that is good about Blackheath and its surroundings,” according to the Jimmy Mizen Foundation.
The foundation was set up by Margaret and Barry Mizen, whose 16-year-old son Jimmy died after being stabbed in a bakery in Lee in May 2008. The Mizen family have thrown themselves into community work since then, to promote peace among young people. They were made MBEs in the New Year Honours list.
Lewisham Council’s licensing committee will decide on Wednesday whether the festival will go ahead.
Documents submitted to Lewisham say the event will aim at “mainly a family audience. Adults will range from 25-45 mainly with children from 0-16″.
“There will be much for a family audience to enjoy as well as more high profile
bands and musicians for young adults, teens and adults. There will be no contentious artists booked to play the event.”
But the six councillors who represent Greenwich West and Blackheath Westcombe wards on Greenwich Council have written to Lewisham Council objecting to the event, which will take place on the south side of the borough boundary, between Goffers Road and Prince Charles Road.
This is despite the Blackheath Society, which went to court to try to stop the OnBlackheath festival in 2011, giving the Good Hope Festival its blessing. The two Lewisham Labour councillors for Blackheath, Kevin Bonavia and Amanda de Ryk, have also backed the festival, along with the Westcombe Society.
“We have the strongest reservations about the use of the heath for major events involving amplified sound as a key element,” wrote Greenwich West councillor Maureen O’Mara, on behalf of Labour colleagues David Grant, Matt Pennycook and Alex Grant and Conservatives Geoff Brighty and Alex Wilson.
O’Mara’s objection comes despite her role as Greenwich’s cabinet member in charge of overseeing Run to the Beat, an event which used the heath and involved amplified sound as a key element.
Indeed, Run to the Beat – which has now moved to Wembley – is cited as an example of an event which has disturbed residents, despite Greenwich allowing it for six consecutive years.
The six councillors commissioned an assessment from Greenwich’s lead environmental health officer, who concluded that “Greenwich residents are likely to be affected by significant noise levels”.
Other objectors include Lewisham police and Terry Felgate, one of the organisers of On Blackheath, who both criticise the event’s management plan, as well as a handful of local residents, one of whom asks: “Why don’t the organisers give their names?”
Just as with On Blackheath back in 2011, one major sticking point is the Good Hope Festival’s application for a licence in perpetuity – which, according to Kevin Bonavia’s submission, is because the licensing costs would be too much for the event to bear for a one-off event.
Greenwich Conservatives have already expressed anxiety over events on the heath – and have criticised a lack of contact from Lewisham Council, one of the factors in Greenwich’s objections to On Blackheath in 2011.
But why two sets of Labour councillors should disagree is another matter – especially as the event is a non-profitmaking one, led by people with impeccable community credentials who wouldn’t want to put those at risk.
There may well be reasons to worry about the event’s organisation, and people who live near the heath are entitled to a quiet life. But to aim to block an event which is meant to benefit the community in both boroughs doesn’t reflect well on the council as a whole.
Full details about the licence application can be found on Lewisham Council’s website.
8.20pm update. See comments below for contributions from Matt Pennycook, Alex Grant and Kevin Bonavia. Here’s the email sent by Greenwich councillor Maureen O’Mara:
Greenwich Council’s planning board ignored well over an hour of public criticism last night to back outline plans by furniture giant Ikea to build a store in east Greenwich.
The seven-strong board split on party lines to endorse the proposal, with the council’s Labour leader Chris Roberts among the five members backing the scheme – despite Labour councillors and candidates joining opponents to speak out. The two Conservatives opposed the scheme.
The decision is just an outline approval – Ikea will have to return to the council at a later date with detailed plans before construction can go ahead on the site currently occupied by the “eco-friendly” Sainsbury’s store, which is relocating to Charlton.
Greenwich planning officers said Ikea was considering subsidising delivery for those who use public transport to get to the store, although neither they nor Ikea representatives were clear about what this would mean.
Members of the public spoke for an hour and quarter on the scheme, with nobody supporting it. Opponents included Labour councillors Mary Mills and Alex Grant.
“So many people have got in touch with me – there’s so much wrong with this, I can’t go into detail,” Peninsula councillor Mills said.
“When I was elected 14 years ago, it seemed as if Greenwich had taken on board sustainability. It seems like we’re running away from that now.”
Blackheath Westcombe councillor Alex Grant also recalled approving the original Sainsbury’s scheme as “a rookie councillor”, branding traffic predictions “nonsense”. He suggested Ikea be invited to select a more suitable site.
Greenwich & Woolwich parliamentary candidate Matt Pennycook acknowleged the promised 400 jobs – “the people who will benefit are not in this room” – but added he was “extremely concerned” about traffic and pollution.
“Too much rests on underlying assumptions which may not be realised,” he told the planning board.
One resident of Greenwich Millennium Village told the board: “Common sense tells me this will be a nightmare for the area if it goes ahead. We’re not an out-of-town shopping centre, we’re a thriving community.”
Other residents questioned why Ikea was unwilling to compromise its business model, with one pointing out that the store operates a car-free model in Hong Kong.
Charlton Society chair (and Labour council candidate) David Gardner questioned why Ikea aimed for 35% of visitors using public transport in Greenwich, when the Croydon store – which lies off a tram line – only has 28%.
Another local resident, Martin Stanforth, said the Croydon Ikea could not cope with the traffic, adding: “Our streets are not designed for massive amounts of traffic.
“You cannot approve this store until you’ve been to Ikea Croydon on a Saturday afternoon. What’s your legacy going to be?”
But councillors on the board were unmoved – indeed, regeneration cabinet member Denise Hyland asked planning officers from the start of the meeting how the council could enforce conditions if the application was approved.
Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts said he was aiming to reverse the legacy of 1980s car-centric development – but backed the scheme regardless.
Abbey Wood Labour councillor Clive Mardner backed the scheme, emphasising the importance of working with local people and adding: “I assume they’re taking on board air quality.”
Both Conservative councillors on the board opposed the scheme. Blackheath Westcombe councillor Geoff Brighty called the traffic predictions “laughable”.
Veteran colleague Dermot Poston (Eltham North) called the existing Sainsbury’s store “revolutionary” and “beautiful” – which led to him being accused of “playing to the gallery” by Roberts in a meeting which is supposed to be non-partisan.
Poston also questioned the lack of environmental impact assessment, and accused the council of arrogance for ignoring the 20th Century Society’s application to have the Sainsbury’s building listed.
But in the end, the board appeared determined to back the scheme – no matter how shaky the case, or how much Chris Roberts’ own Labour councillors and candidates opposed it.
For tweets from last night’s planning board, take a look at this Storify page.
Votes for: Steve Offord (Lab, Abbey Wood/ housing cabinet member), Clive Mardner (Lab, Abbey Wood), Denise Hyland (Lab, Abbey Wood/ regeneration cabinet member), Chris Roberts (Lab, Glyndon/ council leader), Ray Walker (Lab, Eltham West/ chief whip).
Votes against: Geoff Brighty (Con, Blackheath Westcombe), Dermot Poston (Con, Eltham North)
It’s long overdue, but the horrible Woolwich Road roundabout – where the A102 Blackwall Tunnel approach meets the A206 between Greenwich and Charlton – is finally due for a revamp under TfL’s Better Junctions programme “to make them safer and less threatening for cyclists and pedestrians”.
But what we’re short on is detail – and with the flyover 33rd on a list of 33 junctions, we might have a long time to wait for that.
“These road junctions are relics of the Sixties which blight and menace whole neighbourhoods,” roared Boris Johnson in his press release, presumably unaware that his Silvertown Tunnel proposal, which will add more traffic to the flyover will simply reinforce that blight and menace in this part of town. Ho-hum.
But how to fix the junction? Should the roundabout be ripped out? It opened in 1969 as a more traditional traffic junction before the gyratory was installed in about 1980, with traffic lights being put in during the late 1990s.
Or should we be looking longer-term and doing something even more radical? After all, in 2011 the flyover was reported as being in a “poor” condition. Should we go for it and take the thing down, slowing down the A102 traffic in the process?
No other junctions in this part of south-east London are affected by the scheme – indeed, beyond two grim junctions in Rotherhither, TfL’s map doesn’t suggest we were high in its pritorities…
But there are two other road schemes in the pipeline. There’s a small plan to tweak the Shooters Hill Road/ Stratheden Road junction on Blackheath, while something bigger emerged at the weekend – Lewisham bus station closed, heralding the first steps in the Lewisham Gateway scheme, which will revamp the north end of Lewisham High Street, ripping out its dreadful roundabout in the process.
Some people have strange hobbies. They might collect odd things, or have peculiar enthusiasms. Me, I go to Greenwich Council meetings. I often even ask questions, because it’s the only way I’ll find things out.
Actually, it’s not that strange. We all should take an interest in how we’re governed. We can watch, and be depressed by, Prime Minister’s Questions each week. But in the borough of Greenwich, there’s no such facility for us to do the same for our own local council. Yes, we can trot along to Woolwich Town Hall to take in a showcase full council meeting, study scrutiny panels, or watch planning decisions being made. But for most people, real life gets in the way.
I’ve sneakily recorded bits of meetings in the past, and they’ve seemed popular, even though to be frank, the quality’s crap. Woolwich Town Hall is due to undergo a £1.5m refurbishment soon, which will – in part – attempt to fix some of the notoriously bad acoustics in the committee rooms.
But even then, there’s no promise to start webcasting meetings, as Camden does. Here’s cabinet member Denise Hyland last month: “The proposal for the refurbishment of the Town Hall does include the delivery of improved meeting facilities for the public, and [we] will investigate the use of such technologies. However the decision regarding broadcasting committee meetings has yet to be considered by the Council.”
Last October’s council meeting was a particularly dramatic one, as the row over Greenwich Council’s pavement tax came to a head, and allegations over the leadership style of Chris Roberts were raised. But how to get hold of a decent recording?
The answer, as ever, came in the Freedom of Information Act. Greenwich Council records each meeting so minutes can be taken. Could I get hold of one of these recordings?
So, on 10 November, I emailed the council. On 12 February, three months later, I finally got the response I wanted – the council was going to send me a CD. I got it last week – it contains a 3-hour MP3 of the full meeting, from start to finish. The quality is crisp and clear, except for contributions from independent councillor Eileen Glover, whose microphone was switched off the whole way through. One of her (silent) contributions has been cut out, as well as one of the two short adjournments – otherwise, this is the whole thing.
Now the council’s found a way to convert its recordings to MP3, there’s no reason why it can’t do this for future meetings – such as this week’s one.
But in the meantime, here’s the council meeting of 30 October 2013, broken up into chunks. You can read all you like about what goes on at the council, and get a gutful of mine and other people’s opinions, but this will give you an insight into just how the Labour council leadership defends and promotes its policies, and how the Conservative opposition group holds them to account.
The recording may be nearly four months old, but the issues are still current – particularly the pavement tax, a belated consultation into which has recently opened. Indeed, I’d recommend listening to part 6, and comparing it with the way the council’s weekly newspaper, Greenwich Time (that week’s cover pictured on the right) covered it.
COUNCIL – WEDNESDAY 30 OCTOBER 2013, 7.00PM (See full agenda and minutes)
Silent parts in the recording are where Councillor Eileen Glover’s microphone was not switched on.
PART 1. Apologies for absence, minutes, mayor’s announcements, declarations of interest, petitions.
This includes mayor Angela Cornforth mentioning that a request had been made to film the meeting “by a commercial operator”. This was for the BBC’s Sunday Politics programme, on bullying allegations against Chris Roberts, aired in December and made by Juniper TV. It also includes Peninsula councillor Mary Mills handing in the 2,500-strong pavement tax petition.
PART 2. Public questions. (See written answers to questions.)
Here, questions can be asked by members of the public if they’re submitted at least a week in advance. If you turn up, you get to ask a supplementary – and these are what you hear here. Includes questions on the pavement tax, Run To The Beat and the Silvertown Tunnel.
PART 3. Questions from members. (See written responses.)
A similar format to the public questions, except from councillors. These are almost always from opposition councillors. Includes questions on council computer system issues, publishing recordings of council meetings, Silvertown Tunnel, severe weather preparations, car parking income, war memorials, Well Hall Pleasaunce, Andrew Gilligan, Blackheath fireworks and zero hours contracts.
PART 4. Oral questions to members of the cabinet.
More questions from councillors. Includes the pavement tax (including Chris Roberts’ admission of “informal” cabinet meetings), storm damage, World War I huts in a school in Eltham, and Denise Hyland declaring: “A group that calls itself ‘No to Silvertown‘ is hardly independent, is it?”
PART 5. Petition responses.
A member of the public speaks on speeding traffic on Westcombe Hill, Blackheath. Includes debate on Charlton Lido parking and speeding traffic on Sparrows Lane in New Eltham.
PART 6. Motion on the ‘street trading policy’ (pavement tax). (motion text)
Conservative and Labour councillors debate the controversial tax on shops placing items on the pavement outside their premises, and the way it was introduced. Worth a listen, and also worth seeing how council weekly Greenwich Time covered the debate.
PART 7. Labour motion on “management of public services by the Mayor of London and the Coalition Government”. (see motion text)
Chris Roberts lays into the Tories. Spencer Drury says “it reflects some brass neck”, and issues a sarcastic amendment about Roberts’ “interpersonal skills”.
PART 8. Revised code of conduct, Treasury management report, council functions on scrap metal dealers, “changes to the executive functions scheme of delegation”.
The dry drudgery of regular council business. But it picks up at the end, as opponents claim constant tinkering with the way the council works makes it harder to track just what the council is doing. Includes Eileen Glover having a pop at her former Conservative colleagues (well, it would if her mic was switched on).
PART 9. Labour motion on smoking and tobacco control.
Charlton councillor Janet Gillman speaks.
PART 10. Conservative motion on culture of politics in Greenwich. (see full item)
This motion followed comments made about the way Greenwich Council is run made by Greenwich West councillor (and now parliamentary candidate) Matt Pennycook and Lewisham councillor Kevin Bonavia, which themselves followed allegations of bullying in the Labour group. Notably, Pennycook does not speak in the debate. It proposes changes to the council’s scrutiny functions.
PART 11. Conservative motion calling for secret ballots for council leader.
Another motion designed to smoke out allegations of bullying in Greenwich’s Labour group. Mayor Angela Cornforth withdrew the motion “for further consideration”. It has not yet re-emerged.
So, there were are. Audio of a Greenwich Council meeting has been published. And nobody’s been hurt by it. I’ve also asked for recordings of the past two meetings, which I can only assume Greenwich is sitting on, now it knows how to convert these to MP3 – it’s made a habit of being late with responding to Freedom of Information requests, particularly those which cause it difficulty.
But when they come, if people find this recording useful, I’ll be happy to publish them here.
Planners are recommending the board, which includes council leader Chris Roberts and regeneration cabinet member Denise Hyland, approve the scheme, subject to conditions, calling the site “a sustainable out-of-town-centre location”.
The council’s decision to rush the application through comes as the 20th Century Society asks English Heritage to list the 1999 Sainsbury’s store which currently sits on the site. A petition against the demolition of the supermarket, lauded at the time for its eco-friendly credentials, has reached 915 signatures.
If you’ve a strong view on the scheme, the planning board meeting starts at 6.30pm on Monday 3 March at Woolwich Town Hall. If you want to speak at the meeting, get in touch with the council.
Two things are striking about the council’s decision to decide the application early – its speed, and the lack of consideration given to potential traffic issues. The council has already decided an environmental assessment isn’t needed, despite high existing levels of air pollution in the area. Ikea has claimed its development will improve air quality.
Notably, the planning report talks up Ikea’s home delivery service – but without citing its cost, and it does not make offering free or even discounted deliveries to local homes a condition.
As discussed here last year, a plan to build an Ikea on a more suitable site which really is out of town – next to the A20 at Sidcup – was abandoned after a City Hall report criticised its potential to clog up the local road network. That report was written under Labour mayor Ken Livingstone – his Tory successor, Boris Johnson, will have the final say in this scheme.
Even in this scheme, Transport for London calls Ikea’s claims for the number of people who will use public transport to get to the store “ambitious”.
Greenwich Council conditions include financial contributions to try to improve traffic flows in the area, but little more concrete than changing signs so drivers leave the site at the exit closest to Greenwich Millennium Village and cash for public transport improvements.
But why so quick? Well, Sainsbury’s does want to vacate the site next year. The sister application, to rebuild the Sainsbury’s store in Charlton, took 16 months to progress from public announcement to planning decision, with a planning application going in after six months. That level of consideration is simply not taking place here.
While planning decisions are officially taken on a non-political basis, that’s frankly not going to happen when a nine-strong planning board includes the council leader, the regeneration cabinet member and chief whip Ray Walker. Fellow cabinet members Sajid Jawaid and Steve Offord are also on a board whose decisions often split on party lines.
The other planning board members are Tories Geoff Brighty and Dermot Poston, and Labour backbenchers David Grant and Clive Mardner. The latter two’s votes are likely to be critical.
It’s likely that outgoing leader Chris Roberts will see the 400 jobs on offer as a legacy, while a conscious decision to back a scheme which will increase traffic – particularly from north of the river – would, in some minds, make the controversial Silvertown Tunnel an easier sell, although the crossing is not mentioned in the planning document. That said, any scheme which increased traffic on the A102/A2 could kibosh council dreams of the DLR on stilts to Eltham, which would take away some road space.
The decision to rush the scheme has meant councillors have had very little opportunity to comment on the scheme – and denies new councillors, who will be elected in May, the chance to shape what happens.
But with the application in to list the existing Sainsbury’s store, and significant bewilderment locally at just how Ikea’s plans for the site will work in practice, the decision to rush the scheme through could yet backfire on the council.
There’s much to be proud of in Deptford these days. A thriving creative community, one of London’s most distinctive street markets, a rich naval heritage and the feistiest community spirit this side of the Thames. Or, indeed, on their side of Deptford Creek, which is what divides Deptford from its eastern neighbour, Greenwich. I’ve been doing a bit of work alongside the Don’t Dump on Deptford’s Heart campaign lately and been hugely impressed with their tenacity and determination to defend their neighbourhood. What’s not to like?
One oddity, though, is that Deptford has long been split between between two boroughs. In 1900, the parish of Deptford St Paul went to form the Metropolitan Borough of Deptford, while the parish of Deptford St Nicholas became part of the Metropolitan Borough of Greenwich. In the 1960s those boroughs became Lewisham and Greenwich, and in 1994 the boundary was moved slightly to the east, shifting Convoys Wharf – the old royal dockyard – into Lewisham borough.
Despite all this change, the creek has always been the boundary between Deptford, SE8, and Greenwich, SE10. But despite living in a unique and rather special part of London, some residents want out. They want to be considered part of Greenwich.
They’re clearly confused.
Sorry chum, the border down Watergate Street is the Lewisham/Greenwich borough boundary. The border goes just past the SE8 delivery office for Royal Mail, funnily enough. Just like it runs down the middle of Blackheath Village, too – and they’re not demanding to be called “Greenwich”.
But who are the culprits? Estate agents, who’ve sold properties in SE8 as being in “Greenwich” for years, and the highways department of Greenwich Council, who stuck a sign outside Sainsbury’s in Deptford a couple of years ago bearing the legend “West Greenwich”. Mind you, it originally said “East Greenwich”, so what do they know?
And then there are bits that as as wrong as the petitioners’ geography. Greenwich charges a lower rate of council tax than Lewisham – the average Band D in Greenwich is £1,283.91, in Lewisham it’s £1,363.35. I’m not really sure another £1.50 a week on your council tax will have an impact on your house price.
Another falsehood. Your postcode alone cannot affect your credit score.
But if you live in Deptford, the nearest town to you would be… Deptford.
Is that legally possible?
I live in Charlton. Can I have an SE10 postcode, please? And so on.
Ah-ha! Here’s Dave to put ‘em right.
Of course, we all know postal areas have their quirks – ask residents of SE13 who pay council tax to Greenwich and SE10-dwellers who pay to Lewisham. And Royal Mail almost always refuses these requests anyway. So maybe the ideal solution to this was proposed over two decades ago, when Deptford Power Station was still standing and Greenwich borough extended up Evelyn Street, and the boundaries were being reviewed.
Now you see, if only the boundary commission had taken up Lewisham’s suggestion – our friends wouldn’t be so confused today. As it stands, they’ll just have to move house if they want to live in Greenwich – just like everybody else.
Sunday update: Also worth seeing Transpontine’s take on this.