Posts Tagged ‘boris johnson’
Woolwich fire station closed this morning.
There was a small demonstration outside the graceful Victorian building, tucked away in the back streets, which now has prime redevelopment potential. About 20 people, including Greenwich Labour councillors and candidates, plus MPs Nick Raynsford (a former fire services minister) and Clive Efford, gathered outside for its final hour.
Woolwich fire station is the victim of budget cuts, yet there was still money in the GLA kitty for two private security guards, two policemen, a police van to lurk around the corner, another police van and the Greenwich borough commander to keep watch.
“All very peaceful, the local MP’s here,” one copper radioed back to base. This was no raging against the dying of the light. As the wind whipped up, this was a final farewell to London’s second oldest operational fire station, which seems to have been written off as terminal long ago.
When Shooters Hill fire station was closed (by a Labour government) in 1998, residents were assured they’d be safe because Woolwich fire station was still there. Now Woolwich is gone, too, thanks to Boris Johnson.
One of its tenders will move to East Greenwich fire station, but a gap in fire coverage has opened up around Woolwich, a district in the throes of redevelopment. More people will live in Woolwich, but they’ll have to wait longer for a fire engine.
With Woolwich fire station gone, could more have been done? I certainly wish I’d covered the issue more, rather than fearing duplicating what other local media were doing. But where was the community anger? It was an issue which seemed to struggle to get beyond local Labour party stalwarts. Local councillor and cabinet member John Fahy comes out of this with credit, organising a 433-strong petition against it.
But Fahy’s own council barely bothered to take up the cause. It can organise a petition to build a new road to please developers, but it didn’t back a petition to keep a fire station eyed by up developers.
As reported here in November, Greenwich’s only response to the cuts proposal was to fire off a two-page letter from cabinet member Maureen O’Mara, containing glaring errors. Neighbouring Lewisham did some research and sent off a seven-page document, detailing the impact on it and other boroughs, and saw New Cross fire station saved as a result.
Greenwich wouldn’t even put up posters for a formal public meeting about the closure.
The council belatedly joined a court action to stop the cuts – but it was too late.
John Fahy – recently given a warning by his party over allegedly leaking council leader Chris Roberts’ bullying voicemail to him – was there this morning. So were cabinet colleagues Denise Hyland and Steve Offord and a smattering of other councillors and candidates. No sign, though, of O’Mara, Roberts, or his deputy Peter Brooks – the ones who really could have done something.
But maybe the blame lies with all of us, for not kicking up a bigger stink. Perhaps not enough people even knew the station existed. Or it points to something nobody wants to face up to – how the public are now completely disconnected from local issues. Or maybe nobody really cared enough.
But now Boris Johnson will have leave a little bit of his legacy behind in Woolwich, when the old Woolwich fire station becomes a free school or luxury flats. Sadly, and despite the efforts of Labour activists, I can’t help thinking either result would meet few complaints from Greenwich Council.
Goodbye, Woolwich fire station. Sorry we didn’t try hard enough.
As you may have noticed, it was rather hard to get home to south-east London last night.
A fire in signalling equipment at London Bridge saw all trains through the station cancelled at the beginning of the evening rush hour. The delays lasted beyond the rush hour and right to the end of the day.
I came through Charing Cross at 11pm and just managed to get a train back to Charlton which ran via Lewisham. Judging by the announcements telling people to use local buses, it seemed Southeastern had simply given up running a service on the other metro lines.
The disruption spread, and a perfect storm hit North Greenwich station – swamped by people bumped off Southeastern trains on the night of a gig at the O2, plus a Charlton Athletic home match. It’s chaotic enough on a normal night, but last night the police were called and the station was closed for a spell.
Everyone had their own story to tell. While a total wipeout of trains from London Bridge is rare, from 2015 there’ll be severe restrictions on mainline trains stopping at London Bridge as the station’s rebuilt for the Thameslink programme. Will North Greenwich be able to cope with the extra load?
Still, everyone caught in the disruption last night can be comforted by the fact that Greenwich Council, Boris Johnson and the owners of the O2 have the solution to everyone’s transport worries at North Greenwich. Yes, that’s right, they want to build a new road tunnel.
Oh, and don’t forget Boris Johnson’s other solution to our travel woes…
The future of our local transport is clearly in safe hands.
Just four regular commuters are now using the Emirates Air Line cable car between Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Docks, down from 16 last autumn. Hop over to The Scoop to find out more.
TfL is still claiming the cable car “continues to play a key role in attracting investment to this strategically important part of the capital”. Yet the only growth industry around North Greenwich that hasn’t been planned for years seems to be in takeaway outlets at the tube station. Is there any sign of a cable car-related boom on the peninsula?
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.
A curious outburst of unparliamentary language after the pubs closed last night from Eltham MP Clive Efford, who branded London mayor Boris Johnson’s family as imbeciles.
Efford is a vocal backer of Johnson’s plans to build a third road crossing feeding into the A102 and the A2, so long as a Silvertown Tunnel includes a Docklands Light Railway link to his constituency. Indeed, he’s even left Eltham to pose next to a traffic jam in Greenwich to claim a Silvertown Tunnel would reduce congestion.
This is despite established studies which suggest building new roads attracts new traffic – which would have a big impact on Eltham, where the A2 leading to and from the proposed tunnel is reduced to two lanes, creating a polluting bottleneck at the heart of Efford’s constituency. Labour’s former mayor Ken Livingstone has disowned the scheme.
TfL has no plans to extend the DLR to Eltham – despite Greenwich Council helping Efford out by commissioning a £70,000 study into his idea. The current Silvertown Tunnel proposals only include space for road traffic, and nothing for pedestrians, cyclists or trains.
Just after midnight, Efford, who’s also the shadow minister for sport, tweeted these remarks about the mayor’s father after seeing him on BBC1′s political talk show, This Week.
Nothing wrong with a bit of robust argument, and we’ve all been rude about politicians, but if you’re backing something proposed by your political opponent, and want to negotiate for the best outcome, it’s probably best not to brand their family imbeciles.
Although, that said, the Silvertown Tunnel is an imbecilic idea.
But while we’re on Clive Efford, he’s a former Greenwich councillor, and still carries great sway within the local Labour establishment. Yet he’s remained silent on accusations of bullying by leader Chris Roberts.
This is despite the emergence of a voicemail where Roberts threatens cabinet member John Fahy, telling him he has a “fucking thick skull”. In case Efford hasn’t heard it, here it is…
There’s also been the decision by one of the Eltham ward party councillors, Hayley Fletcher, to stand down, complaining that the “bullying culture is rife and I see little prospect of that changing anytime soon”.
What has the shadow sports minister done about bullying in his own local party? I asked him myself last week, but got no reply.
Before Clive Efford flings insults at his opponents, perhaps he might like to sort his own party’s problems out first. And maybe, just maybe, he might like to set a better example…
PS. There was practically too much to report on from Wednesday’s Greenwich Council meeting, although the News Shopper’s Mark Chandler has had a good stab at the bizarre atmosphere where the bullying accusations against Chris Roberts hung over proceedings. More on the meeting will follow here, hopefully.
What are you doing a fortnight tonight? Nothing? Well, I’ve sorted that for you.
Over the past few months, I’ve been working with others on an air quality monitoring project. You might have seen us in the Mercury last week. During the summer, we attached small tubes to lamp posts which measured nitrogen dioxide levels in the air. We’ve got the results, and they’re frightening. We’ve also been able to get hold of other figures, previously unreleased to the public, which make clear the terrible state of the air in our part of south-east London.
So we’ll be revealing them at a public meeting at the Forum, Trafalgar Road, Greenwich, on 16 October at 7pm. We’ve got some top-notch speakers who know their stuff about transport and pollution. They’ll be able to explain why building a new Silvertown Tunnel is likely to increase congestion, and why that means worse air and poorer health for us all.
We’ll also be putting the results online (the website’s now live) so you can see for yourself what the air is like where you live.
We’ll also be explaining how you and your neighbours can carry out your own study into air pollution – because it’s not worth waiting for Transport for London or Greenwich Council to do it for you. If you’re involved in a group like the Greenwich Society, or a residents’ group, please come along.
If you live in Greenwich, Charlton, Blackheath, Kidbrooke or Eltham – this affects you and your neighbours, particularly if you have children. We’ll also have disturbing results from the rest of the borough which could have an impact on other schemes, such as the Gallions Reach bridge/ferry proposals. So, if you can come along, please do. It’d be great to see you.
TfL recently reaffirmed its desire to build the Silvertown Tunnel – despite objections and reservations from Lewisham, Southwark, Hackney, Redbridge and Barking & Dagenham councils. If our own council opposed this, TfL wouldn’t be able to get away with it.
But Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts remains committed to this scheme, and has used his propaganda weekly Greenwich Time to promote it. We don’t have a council-funded newspaper at our disposal, so please help us by printing off our flyer/poster.
We can’t let Chris Roberts bully us into this. Join us on 16 October, and find out more. Thank you.
Like most of the good things Boris Johnson promotes, this is another one that actually started under the previous mayor. Yesterday’s Ride London Freecycle – once the London Freewheel – was great fun as ever.
But getting to the start at Tower Hill and back showed how far London has to go in really becoming a cycling city, and how little progress has been made since then. A weekend of two-wheeled fun is one thing, but the real hard work is in making sure the whole capital is a city fit for cycling.
On the way up there via Blackheath, I saw a cyclist wearing a Ride London bib pull out of Westbrook Road into Kidbrooke Park Road, a road which makes for hairy riding at the best of times. But he didn’t pull out onto the carriageway, he did a left onto the pavement and cycled up that instead. I couldn’t help wondering if he’d actually just taken a train to Blackheath rather than cycled all the way back.
I took a friend who was riding in London for the first time, and while cycling along the Thames Path isn’t the quickest way to get to central London, it’s certainly the most scenic and pleasant. And riding over Tower Bridge is usually great fun. It wasn’t yesterday, though – a bottleneck of traffic and a badly-parked ice cream van meant it was slow and unpleasant going – and this was the main route into the Freecycle for many from south of the river. On the other side, there were people wheeling their cycles back on the pavement, rather than taking on the traffic. I even saw a bike being carried on top of a car, but that could have been unrelated. Closing this iconic old bridge to motor traffic was clearly a step too far for a “cycling city”.
The Freecycle itself was great – it’s been made bigger, thankfully, cutting the bottlenecks of the past. Being surrounded by children having a whale of a time was something special. But while making loads of noise in the Blackfriars Underpass was fun, I saw a couple of nasty crashes – when it’s sunny outside the underpass, it takes a while for your eyes to adjust to the lack of light inside.
On the way back, we took one of the few genuine innovations that has done some good – Cycle Superhighway 3, through Wapping and Poplar, before swooping down through Cubitt Town to the Greenwich Foot Tunnel. It’s a step above the other cycle superhighways, but while linking the route up has been a good thing, CS3′s separated cycle lanes – and traffic signals – were there long before blue paint was slapped down.
How easy did Transport for London make it to get back from Ride London? By not bothering to adjust the traffic signals, long queues of cyclists built up at the end of Royal Mint Street, where they were only given eight seconds to cross Leman Street. Clearly TfL’s “smoothing traffic flow” only applies to those on four wheels.
For all the great fun of Ride London, including this weekend’s amazing sight of amateur and pro cyclists charging down the A12 and through the Docklands for the London Surrey Classic (next time, how about through the Blackwall Tunnel and out to the North Downs?) it’s not going to do a single thing to make the streets safer for cyclists.
At the moment I’m watching the BBC’s Ride London coverage, where an elected politician is being treated once again as a national treasure. “It’s a magnificient symbol of what we’re doing for cycling in this city,” Boris Johnson told an interviewer, unchallenged, less than a month after two cyclists were killed in a week in central London. If Michael Gove held a national spelling competition, he wouldn’t be allowed to get away with saying it was a symbol of what he was doing for education. So why does the mayor of London get away with it?
It’s easy to shut roads for a weekend’s pedalling party, but the real hard work is in making it easy for people to cycle to work, to school, to the shops. Maybe with the appointment of Andrew Gilligan as cycling commissioner, we will finally to get somewhere with this (except in the rotten borough of Greenwich). But until we see concrete evidence (or rather tarmac evidence), while Freewheel/Skyride/Freecycle will continue to be a success in its own right, it’ll also be a symbol of a wider failure.
Update 00.15 Monday: The Ride London website quotes Boris Johnson talking about 50,000 “amateur cyclists” on Saturday’s Freecycle – does that mean people who drive cars are “amateur motorists”? It’s very unlikely Johnson came up with those words himself, but this City Hall clanger won’t do any good in persuading people that cycling is a thing that normal people do to go to the shops or wherever.
Remember the Peninsula Festival? Greenwich Council wasn’t the only public body stung by the failed event, which was due to run during the Olympics, but closed early and ended up going into administration.
London mayor Boris Johnson has written off a £99,000 debt owed to the Greater London Authority from Peninsula Festival Ltd, the company which was to run the festival.
The bulk of the sum, £84,000, relates to rent due to GLA Land & Property, which owns the freehold to much of the vacant land on the Greenwich peninsula. As well as the music festival on a site next to John Harrison Way, a campsite had also been due to open on plots of land at Peartree Way. Despite a press launch the previous summer, Oranjecamping never opened in Greenwich – relocating to a site in Walthamstow instead.
The remaining £15,000 relates to a street music festival, Rhythm of London, which was supposed to have “entertained crowds during the Olympic Games”.
It appears City Hall came off worse than Greenwich Council, which gave the festival £40,000, but was at least able to move its big screen to Well Hall Pleasaunce, Eltham, when it was clear the event had flopped.
The festival was supposed to have put on concerts and club events during the Olympic period, but never recovered after festival operator Kilimanjaro Live pulled out of the event. A promised beach at Delta Wharf never materialised, and nor did most of the festival bill.
Eight months after the Peninsula Festival’s failure, both of exuberant promoter Frank Dekker’s companies, Peninsula Festival Ltd and Orange Connections Ltd, are in liquidation. Dekker himself is now believed to be working as a project manager for a renewable energy company in Maidenhead.
The main festival site has remained empty, but construction vehicles have now moved in on the area by Greenwich Yacht Club earmarked by Dekker for use as a “campsite business lounge”.
Hot off the press from the London Assembly, a written answer from mayor Boris Johnson.
A little recap. In May 2012, the mayor announced plans for a Dutch-style road scheme in Greenwich, to assist cyclists and pedestrians. Except he hadn’t told the council, nor had the council picked up the phone to ask what he was on about.
Seven months later, a TfL executive said it was waiting for plans from Greenwich Council. A couple of weeks later, Greenwich’s cabinet member for bins and cycling said there were “no definitive plans”.
Clear as mud, then.
Go Dutch development of Greenwich town centre
Question No: 8 / 2013
There have been a number of contradictory statements about who is responsible for bringing forward the flagship walking and cycling development in Greenwich that you announced shortly after your re-election. Will you clarify your promise to create a flagship walking and cycling development in Greenwich?
Written response from the Mayor
I am encouraged by the Royal Borough of Greenwich’s statement that they are taking forward an “ambitious action plan” for cycling in the Borough. My Cycling Commissioner, Andrew Gilligan, himself a Greenwich resident, is arranging meetings with the Council to discuss its vision and how this can fit into our own equally ambitious plans for cycling in London. We do not wish to pre-empt the Royal Borough’s plans.
TfL is also working closely with the Royal Borough of Greenwich to plan and deliver a new Cycle Superhighway through Greenwich. Building on the lessons learned from the first Cycle Superhighways, and from the ongoing Better Junctions review, CS4 will be built to ambitious new standards.
TfL is also keen to work with RB Greenwich to explore how major new development areas such as the Greenwich peninsular [sic] and Charlton could be developed with the ‘Go Dutch’ cycling principles’ approach in mind.
You’ll see that nothing in his answer specifically mentions Greenwich town centre – just the woolly answer about Greenwich Council’s borough-wide “ambitious action plan”.
But the mention of his new cycling commissioner, Andrew Gilligan, is intriguing. When the west Greenwich-based journalist’s controversial appointment was revealed last month, I wondered just how he’d cope negotiating with those he’s aimed brickbats at in the past. I’m barely one to talk here, but had he burned too many bridges locally?
It seems not. So it’s good to hear he’s going to take on cycling in Greenwich – which will involve dealing with councillors he’s branded as “forty-watt burghers”.
What’s even better is that I hear those same burghers are more than happy to meet him – with the council’s transport scrutiny committee looking at ways to get him involved. If he comes along for a meeting, be sure to bring some popcorn.
It’s also good to see another commitment to build Cycle Superhighway 4 (from London Bridge to Woolwich) through the borough – despite the neighbouring route being chopped short at New Cross. It may be a challenge through Greenwich, probably the narrowest section of CS4, but as the road widens through Charlton and Woolwich, will we see proper segregated lanes like the one above, planned for Stratford?
The mention of getting involved in plans for the peninsula and Charlton riverfront is also promising – but none of this should distract from the original promise to sort something out in Greenwich town centre.