Greenwich Council has brushed aside pollution concerns and decided plans for a new Ikea in East Greenwich won’t need an environmental impact assessment. A decision notice on Greenwich Council’s website declares that as the site is already a retail park, it is “unlikely to give rise to significant environmental effects”.
Ikea’s planning application claims its plans will actually improve air quality, despite worries a store would encourage significant amounts of extra traffic to the area.
Separately, the Twentieth Century Society has asked English Heritage to list the 1999 “eco” Sainsbury’s which currently sits on the site. It will be demolished if Ikea’s plans go ahead.
The decision also comes on the same day the EU announced it is taking legal action against the UK government over pollution levels in areas including London.
10pm update: You can see the details for yourself by searching for 13/3299/EIA on Greenwich’s planning website.
The decision now brings to mind whether Greenwich Council will try to force this through ahead of May’s council election, with leader Chris Roberts – who sits on the board with his chief whip Ray Walker – due to stand down afterwards. There are 3 planning board meetings left: 3 March, 9 April and 14 April.
Saturday update: Wow – Greenwich Council is trying to rush this one through. It will decide on 3 March (Woolwich Town Hall, 6.30pm) whether to accept planners’ recommendations to back the scheme.
It’s widely thought he fancies a crack at the mayoralty in 2016, so hopping on the bus is smart politics when the current mayor has hiked up fares while declining to invest in new services.
He’s been tweeting his travels at @Andrew_Adonis all week, and it’s been quite a ride.
On Wednesday, he showed off pictures of him travelling around with Greenwich & Woolwich MP Nick Raynsford. They had a look at the Old Royal Naval College, looked at some bus timetables in Greenwich, took a 386 through Kidbrooke (they clearly weren’t in hurry), and pointed at Tesco in Woolwich.
To get to Greenwich, they took a 188 along Trafalgar Road. And Adonis made this very odd comment…
“Nick Raynsford tells me typical narrow Victorian High St leads to congestion” – really? Nothing to do with too many vehicles trying to use it, then? Or even the Maze Hill traffic lights, for that matter? It’s not even that narrow, for heaven’s sake.
If this was Upper Street in Islington, I very much doubt the local MP would observe that a normal-sized main road “leads to congestion”. But as it’s Trafalgar Road in Greenwich, the shops are clearly getting in the way of increased traffic flows. What would they rather have, a dual carriageway?
Among the baffled responses was one from the Evening Standard’s property writer Mira Bar-Hillel:
Adonis also backs the Silvertown Tunnel, so perhaps this sort of thing’s not such a surprise after all. But it’s depressing that both Conservative and Labour politicians seem to see Greenwich as a place to slap down tarmac and build the new roads they could never get away with anywhere else in inner London.
In just over 15 months, of course, Nick Raynsford will be an ex-MP. Here’s hoping his successor takes a more enlightened view and defends us against demands to accommodate more traffic – and from mayors who who want to further clog up our streets.
10.40am update: Lord Adonis responded on Twitter this morning.
Sadly, that’s exactly what the Silvertown Tunnel will do, particularly for Greenwich.
For comparison, here are some pictures of Trafalgar Road in May 1968.
10pm update: “Time for a bus bottleneck buster” – Lord Adonis on his trip through Greenwich.
This Guardian website comment piece caught my eye…
“The public think Westminster is dominated by a London-centric, elite class but they are also not oblivious to the fact that a municipal mafia frequently dominates their town halls. These are often run by an elite which even backbench councillors can’t penetrate never mind the public.
“I know of councils that still refuse to allow their full council meetings to be filmed. Senior councillors who avoid social media like the plague and cabinet members who actively avoid or aren’t capable of interacting with the media. Open and accessible politics it isn’t. (more)
You’d think it was written about Greenwich, wouldn’t you? Interestingly, the piece was written by Simon Danczuk, Labour MP for Rochdale and a member of the local government select committee. And he must have known that his own party has a fair few councils like that.
Do pieces like this suggest Labour’s getting set to reform councils like Greenwich? Danczuk is only a backbench MP, so it’s hard to say. But it’s good to know that at least some MPs are aware of what’s going on and are prepared to speak up.
Funnily enough, I’m told a former business partner of Danczuk, one Oswin Baker, was the chair of the Greenwich & Woolwich Labour Party who helped Chris Roberts to power way back in 2000. It’s funny how things turn out.
Speaking of the council leader, he’s barely been seen since the year began. He’s not been seen at a council meeting, nor has he been fulfilling his Labour party duties. Roberts is known for “going missing” from time to time, but this spell of absence has raised eyebrows.
In particular, he didn’t show for a scrutiny panel meeting last week, leaving chief executive Mary Ney to stand in for him. Since very little goes ahead at Greenwich Council without his say-so, rumour mills have gone into overdrive. He’s even not been seen in the past two editions of Greenwich Time (last appearance shown above).
There’s a new GT out today, a planning board tonight, and a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, so he may well reappear. But with elections due soon, Roberts’ own future undecided and potential successors quietly jockeying for position, these are strange times at Woolwich Town Hall. Well, stranger than usual, anyway…
(Real life’s got in the way of this website lately, but if you’re looking for some decent local reading, I can recommend From The Murky Depths on more iffy-looking Peninsula developments (which go to planning tonight), and new site Blackheath Revolt on the Blackheath Society.)
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:
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.
Furniture giant Ikea claims its proposed Greenwich store would improve air quality in the local area, according to documents sent to Greenwich Council.
But its detailed figures show any improvement would be “negligible”, while pollution would actually get slightly worse at Greenwich Millennium Village.
It says its plans to encourage traffic to use travel to the store via Blackwall Lane and Bugsbys Way, rather than coming off the A102 at Woolwich Road, would help cut pollution around the notorious junction.
The company claims the store will not result in any extra traffic heading to the site, which is due to be vacated by Sainsbury’s and Matalan in 2015 – it actually claims “there will be a slight reduction in traffic generation compared with the previous use of the site”.
Letters were sent to residents who attended November’s consultation event claiming the development would be “beneficial” for air quality. Now it is asking for outline planning permission for the scheme, and residents have two weeks to get their views to Greenwich Council.
Ikea’s air quality assessment shows the company has not commissioned any air pollution monitoring itself. Instead, it is relying on figures estimated from Greenwich Council monitoring stations and diffusion tubes.
While all local sites will still break European legal limits of 40 micrograms per cubic metre of nitogen dioxide, Ikea’s figures claim a “slight beneficial” effect on areas to the south of the flyover along with a small worsening of quality around the Millennium Village.
Ikea’s plans to encourage consumers to use Blackwall Lane and Bugsbys Way to access the store would mean extra traffic passing to the south of Greenwich Millennium Village, as well as the site of a new primary school planned by Greenwich Council. Ikea’s estimate for Southern Way (42.6) is lower than figures recorded by the No to Silvertown Tunnel campaign in June 2013 of 50µg/m3.
Ikea’s transport assessment claims there “will be a reduction in vehicle trips during the weekday PM peak as a result of the development proposals, and only a slight increase in vehicle trips on the Saturday peak”.
It adds “a lower level of parking at the Millennium Retail Park will mean that trips generation will be more constrained compared to the existing London stores. This will encourage the uptake of sustainable means of travel”. It predicts 65% of customers will come by car.
It says the Greenwich store will have a smaller catchment area (of 2.17 million people) than its other stores. This roughly runs from the West End to Dagenham and Crayford, and from Orpington to Leytonstone. But other figures included with the application show areas as far out as Canterbury and Ashford, Kent, will be within an hour’s drive of the store.
Ikea says 39.1% of that figure will come from north of the river – a change to existing travel patterns which will put more pressure on the Blackwall Tunnel and the congested A12 through Poplar and Bow. 13.4% of trips would come from “Woolwich Road west” – largely via the central Greenwich world heritage site.
The application can be viewed at Greenwich Council’s planning site by entering reference number 13/3285/O. Comments need to be with Greenwich Council by 11 February.
Lots happening but not a lot of time to write anything here, so go and look at what someone else has written instead. Posts on From The Murky Depths are few and far between, but when they appear, they’re great. And this one about Greenwich Council and poor public spaces is great, as it reminds me that it’s not just me that despairs at how great areas of the borough I live in look like a dump, frankly, with badly-designed, cheaply-treated and poorly-maintained streets. Or “public realm”, to use the lingo.
“Street furniture is almost always installed with minimal thought or care, it is almost always the cheapest and most utilitarian, and maintenance poor. Often thousands will be spent on bizarre schemes that place guardrails across paving in areas with broken walls, bent street furniture etc which are not treated.”
The nicely-done squares in Woolwich are the exceptions which prove the rule – paid for and designed in association with other bodies such as TfL. Otherwise, everywhere else is a mess. Why can’t Greenwich do street design?
I took the picture above for something else, but it actually sums up the point quite nicely. Last year, some of the local bigwigs here in Charlton were patting themselves on the back for having got the council to install some flower containers to prettify the ugly metal railings outside Charlton station.
Once the summer went, so did the flowers… but the empty containers stayed for some reason. Now we have containers full of crap, and the idea’s backfired. It was a nice idea, but nobody really thought it through properly. This kind of thing’s typical, unfortunately.
When I visit areas across Greenwich borough I often hear people putting down their areas, and even appearing quite ashamed of them. Visitors are the same. And you can’t blame them given the state of many areas.
It may seem a small thing, but having to traipse through clogged-up, poorly-looked after streets day in, day out affects people’s well-being and sense of pride in the area, and makes them less inclined to put effort in to pitch in to help sort things out. Two years on, the borough’s regal status looks like a hollow joke when you see the state of the streets in some parts of the “royal borough”. Try Floyd Road in Charlton.
Maybe they’re counting on people being to docile and depressed to complain. But the local politician who has the brains and the guts to seize the issue and do something about filthy and cluttered streets will do more for Greenwich borough’s well-being than any number of tall ships parades or royal borough banners ever will.
There’s a new owner at Charlton Athletic – but the scale of the rebuilding job facing Belgian businessman Roland Duchâtelet became apparent yesterday when the team’s match against Barnsley was postponed less than two hours before kick-off due to ongoing problems with The Valley pitch.
But Charlton fans should be vigilant that the current problems with the pitch aren’t used as a pretext to move the club out of its historic home.
Last year, it was reported that the club was in talks with Greenwich Council about moving out of The Valley for a new stadium, to be built at Morden Wharf on the west side of Greenwich Peninsula, on land currently owned by developer Cathedral Homes. The club’s old site would become social housing, under this scheme.
What’s been unclear, though is where the impetus for the scheme has come from – whether it came from within the club, or from outside.
But what is known is that Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts was a frequent visitor at matches under the ownership of Michael Slater and Tony Jimenez, where he could be seen enjoying hospitality in the directors’ box.
Slater and Jimenez took over at Charlton at the end of 2010. They installed Chris Powell as manager, and secured the funds to secure promotion back to the Championship in 2012. But after that the funds dried up.
The pitch problems at The Valley are a symptom of that trouble. The club admits part of the drainage system has collapsed, and this can’t be rectified until the end of the season. No significant work has taken place on the pitch for years – and the end result of that neglect was Saturday’s fiasco.
Now Slater and Jimenez are on their way out, to be replaced by Roland Duchâtelet, owner of Belgian sides Standard Liege and Sint-Truidense, one-time East German giants FC Carl-Zeiss Jena and Spanish second division team AD Alcorcón. Quite a collection of clubs. He also fronts a small liberal political party in Belgium.
Duchâtelet has installed aide Katrien Meire onto Charlton’s board, but before they could get their feet under the table, a little charm offensive was launched from Greenwich Council.
“Royal Borough welcomes new Charlton Athletic owners,” trilled a press release on 3 January, adding ominously: “The borough will work with the new owners to further strengthen the Club.”
Oddly, Chris Roberts seems to be in a very small band of people who believes that Michael Slater and Tony Jimenez helped Charlton “progress”.
Councillor Chris Roberts, Leader of the Royal Borough of Greenwich, said: “The Council would like to welcome the new owners of Charlton Athletic Football Club to the Borough. At the same time, we would also like to place on record our thanks to the previous owners for the progress made by the Club during their tenure in which they secured promotion to the Championship.”
It’s a very, very odd statement – yes, Slater and Jimenez helped Charlton return to its natural level in the Championship. But the club haemorrhaged senior staff under their regime, and by all accounts was facing serious financial problems before its sale. Hopefully yesterday’s events will encourage football journalists to investigate their record a little more thoroughly.
So what exactly was Roberts thanking Slater and Jimenez for? For being receptive to a proposal to move ground, perhaps? We don’t know, but previous chairman Richard Murray (who returns to his role under Duchâtelet) didn’t get that kind of herogram when he sold up, despite all his achievements.
Neither did the council make any noise when it declared The Valley an asset of community value last November, which would put a six-month block on any sale. Why was that?
If Roberts is putting pressure on Charlton to move, then he’s now got to start again with Roland Duchâtelet and Katrien Meire. Will they be receptive? Nobody knows, but Duchâtelet did refer to The Valley as “a cherished stadium” in a statement to fans last week.
Greenwich Council has denied any formal discussions have taken place over a move. An answer to a Freedom of Information Act request made last year would only say:
“Occasional discussions have taken place between representatives of the Council and CAFC going back over many years. These discussions have included reference to the Club’s aspiration to stay in, or return to the Premiership, and as a result have included reference to the size and capacity of the existing stands and constraints on expansion posed by the physical limitations of the existing site. The discussions have been informal and conversational in nature, and have not been of a substantive nature.”
It’s very easy to make an educated guess that Greenwich Council is encouraging Charlton to move under the pretext that the ground is knackered. It then gets a high-profile occupant for a stadium on the peninsula, while social housing which would otherwise have been built up there gets shunted into Charlton. It’s a conspiracy theory, but with the lack of anything on the record, it’s one which makes sense.
Typically, not even those connected with Greenwich Labour know quite what Roberts’ intentions are towards Charlton. Even those who support the club seem hazy on the plans.
But a conversation I had with one yesterday worried me. “If there’s a continuing sense The Valley is awful, it makes the argument to move easier,” I was told.
Yet there is nothing wrong with The Valley. The pitch hasn’t been maintained properly, but that’s a management failure, not a failure of location. Indeed, The Valley was known as one of the best pitches in the country a decade ago. And it can be that way again.
If there’s an argument for moving, it surrounds the The Valley’s limited room for expansion. But with The Valley not even two-thirds full at present – and Greenwich Council having previously backed past expansion plans – that isn’t an issue.
Fixing the pitch should be relatively cheap. But perhaps the embarrassment of the postponement, and the way it was mishandled by the club might prompt Duchâtelet to show his hand on the long-term future of Charlton Athletic.
It’s 24 years since Charlton fans formed the Valley Party to fight Greenwich Council on the issue of the club playing at its traditional home. Nearly a quarter of a century on, it may well be time for a new generation to become just as vigilant and proactive towards the council’s intentions for Floyd Road.