Posts Tagged ‘charlton’
A gorgeous day for the London Marathon – a reminder of why this is easily the best weekend of the year in south-east London.
People come out and cheer and chat, pubs suddenly gain jazz bands and sound systems, and for a few precious hours, overlooked streets come alive. It’s London at its very best, and felt all the more special in light of the terrible events in Boston last week.
It’s also why the lesser, largely unwanted Run To The Beat event will never truly take off – when your race pounds the same streets, with fewer people, you’ll always be caught in its shadow.
Among the quirks of marathon day is the jazz band outside the headquarters of Greenwich & Woolwich Labour Party on Woolwich Road, Greenwich – they’ve been playing When The Saints Go Marching In every race day for as long as I can remember.
Today was no exception. Indeed, today saw an impressive turnout of local Labour dignitaries, including MP Nick Raynsford and his possible successor, assembly member Len Duvall, out among the public. It’s always a nice surprise to see elected representatives out and about on a big community day, although it really shouldn’t be.
But one figure’s never seen there – council leader Chris Roberts. No mingling with the hoi polloi for him…
Thank you to the eagle-eyed 853 reader who spotted where the Dear Leader watched the London Marathon – from high up on the Cutty Sark (on the far right), away from the public and his party members. “It looked like one of those old Russian mayday parades! Just runners instead of tanks,” my spy suggests. (11pm Sunday update: I’ve been sent a clearer photo. I wonder who the people with Roberts are?)(11am Monday update: I’m told places on board the Cutty Sark were being sold for £40 to benefit the council-backed Greenwich Starting Blocks charity. Ahoy!)
Back among the great unwashed, with the area covered in ads for health drinks and sporting goods, it was curious to see a former newsagent in Charlton offer its own advice to runners…
But walking home after the traditional marathon morning pint, the same old question came into my head. With the streets blissfully free of traffic for an hour after the race ends, why don’t we do something with them? Even mid-demolition Woolwich Road in Charlton felt peaceful and serene in the Sunday sunshine – imagine what you could do with Greenwich town centre during the afternoon after the marathon.
Until we reclaim the streets after the runners have passed by, we’ll never make the most of this magical day in the calendar. But when you’re watching from the Cutty Sark, it’s perhaps not a thought that’s ever going to spring to mind.
It’s good to see any local politician attempt to engage with the masses, and so today sees senior Greenwich councillor and cabinet member for health and older people John Fahy launch his own website.
It includes a blog where he updates us on what he’s going and what he’s thinking. In the past, he’s been critical of the Run To The Beat half-marathon, which he’s previously branded “an imposition on borough residents”.
Indeed, only a few weeks ago, he tweeted: “It would seem the Run To The Beat organisers have failed my test in making a charitable contribution, measly 200 tickets on offer. Pathetic.” He’s not been the only local councillor livid at race organisers, as well as their own council ignoring their residents.
With the new Run To The Beat route almost the same as last year’s, surely the good councillor would be putting the boot in on behalf of his constituents, no?
No. He’s broken ranks with his colleagues.
I welcome the proposed changes to the Run to the Beat route. The balance between the needs of residents and participants has been struck.
IMG are a world wide organisation engaged in all sports activities which is why I have tried, but failed,to encourage a donation to our Starting Blocks charity.
Over many years the London Marathon has brought enormous joy to thousands of people and have made significant contributions to sports legacy in the Royal Borough. My case rests.
Not quite sure what case Cllr Fahy is making – the London Marathon’s a completely different event which has left a legacy in the form of the London Marathon Playing Fields on Shooters Hill Road. Run To The Beat provides no such benefit.
As far as changes, the route avoids Woolwich town centre, easing disruption to Greenwich Council regeneration partner Tesco as well as the Royal Arsenal development, owned by Greenwich Council renegeration partner Berkeley Homes.
Everyone else will have to lump it. To make up the missing miles, the route will cut off Charlton Park on three sides, cutting off access for Sunday footballers as well as mourners at Charlton Cemetery.
There has been no attempt at a meaningful consultation, and neither organisers nor Greenwich Council have officially released the route (shown above). You’re welcome to take part in the poll below, which shows a hefty majority in favour of scrapping the route or changing it so it doesn’t shut locals in. (Here’s a suggestion.)
So why did John Fahy change his mind?
It hasn’t been the best of weekends to enjoy it, but the Thames Path is one of the best things about this part of London. If you take the borough as a whole, Greenwich borough has the longest riverfront in London, and as well as a walking route, it’s a designated cycle route too.
A scrutiny panel of councillors has been looking into ways of improving it as a cycle route, and officers have come up with a report – you can read it here (4MB PDF). It features some good ideas, such as sorting out the irritating cobbles at Greenwich Millennium Village, changing signs so they read “North Greenwich” rather than “Blackwall Point”, and (yes!) installing cycle stands outside the Pelton Arms pub.
Councillors are meeting on Tuesday night to discuss it – and the public’s welcome to come along and ask questions if they want. A lot of attention will be on plugging the gap between the Thames Barrier in Charlton and King Henry’s Wharf in Woolwich, something which would dramatically change the way the path is seen – as well as helping people access the fantastic Second Floor Arts facility at Warspite Road.
That said, hopefully there’ll be room for my own gripe to be addressed – sticking some signs up to get pedestrians out of the cycle path by the cable car (and cyclists out of the pedestrian bits), where markings were worn away by the cable car contractors and not reinstated, while the pedestrian bit was never marked.
I’ve seen some sights commuting along the path over recent months, and sooner or later someone is going to come a cropper – or prompt someone else to come to grief – some day for paying more attention to their iPad than their surroundings.
My other gripe is that it doesn’t do much about improving access to the path – but this seems like an encouraging start.
Odd goings-on at a meeting of Greenwich Council last night. It should have been an important night if you live in the riverside part of Charlton, as a long-standing application to build a new Sainsbury’s store on Woolwich Road, on the site of the old Wickes branch, was to have been have been approved or rejected.
In short, Sainsbury’s has run out of space in its Greenwich store, and would like to open a new store half a mile down the road, to the same environmental principles as its 13-year-old current branch.
Marks & Spencer would take up space in the building too, and developer LXB – which has bought up much of the Charlton retail space – has spent a lot of time wooing local residents’ groups and pledging that it’ll bring a bit of life back to the Woolwich Road.
The planning application was submitted in May, and these things are meant to take 13 weeks to come to a decision. In “Royal” Greenwich, this actually took until the penultimate day of November to be scheduled for a decision.
But that wasn’t enough. Four days after Woolwich’s new mega-Tesco opened, on the night of the meeting, Greenwich Council’s planning board decided to delay the Sainsbury’s application even further. But why?
Apparently, a site visit was needed. Even though this is a prominent site, sat between two A-roads, and a visit could have been arranged at any time within the past five months. Also, a “retail impact assessment” was required – but why couldn’t have been done in the five months it took this application to come before the planning board? After all, it’s 13 months since a councillor voiced reservations on he effect this would have on Woolwich.
All of this came as a surprise to the council’s planning officers, but it was to no avail – Sainsbury’s application, submitted in May, was booted well into the long grass.
How did this happen? Well, there was an exchange of scribbled notes, which started with regeneration cabinet member Denise Hyland (of foot tunnels fame), and involved council leader Chris Roberts, planning director Steve Pallett and planning chair Ray Walker. And then, mysteriously, the item was struck off the agenda.
Incidentally, across the road from Woolwich Town Hall, and a couple of miles from the Sainsbury’s site, a new mega-Tesco has just opened. Tesco built the council’s new HQ as part of the deal, and council leader Chris Roberts has spoken warmly about the job opportunities the new store has brought.
Wisely, though, as a member of the planning board, Chris Roberts didn’t appear in the photos marking the store’s opening on Monday – leaving that to mayor David Grant, MP Nick Raynsford and Abbey Wood-based Olympian Zoe Smith, with a cheque from Tesco to the council’s charity.
But despite his endorsements of Tesco in Woolwich, he was still able to take part in an exchange of notes which resulted in a planning decision about a rival’s store being deferred for a “retail impact assessment”. (Even though one had already been done – see below.)
So, what on earth is going on? Local campaigners in Charlton want to use the Sainsbury’s scheme (and the long-delayed Travelodge, also backed by LXB) as leverage to make the Woolwich Road less of a filthy rat-run and more of a pleasant place to live.
Yet despite months of prevarication, Greenwich Council has kicked it into the long grass, just as a rival’s store opens. What is going on in a council run by a party which, on a national level, brands Tesco “an almighty conglomerate”?
11.45am update: It’s been pointed out to me that a retail impact assessment had already been done – it’s two documents in this enormous bundle here. Council officers, meanwhile, had been working under the belief that the issue would be discussed last night. What is going on?
Greenwich Council ignored the members of its own governing party to give half-marathon Run To The Beat the go-ahead, it has emerged.
The race – branded “an imposition” by one councillor – will take place for the fifth year running on 28 October, closing roads and forcing diversions to bus services in Greenwich, Blackheath, Charlton and Woolwich for much of the day, and placing 14 sound systems at various locations.
Heavily backed by Nike, the event is run commercially by leisure conglomerate IMG, “a global leader in sports, fashion and film”. As well as the disruption, the event has also been criticised for poor information.
Now it’s emerged senior councillors ignored members of their own party to give the race the go-ahead.
Both the Greenwich & Woolwich Labour Party and its Local Government Committee – which acts as a link between the party’s councillors and its rank and file members – had agreed a policy that any repeat of Run To The Beat be subject to a full public consultation. It also said it needed to follow a route which minimised transport disruption.
But no consultation was undertaken on whether the event should continue, and the council has approved a traffic management order to shut main roads across the north of the borough. No details of who approved it, or any conditions placed upon organisers, have been made available.
The senior councillor in charge is Denise Hyland – a close ally of council leader Chris Roberts, who is also in charge of the deteriorating situation at Greenwich and Woolwich foot tunnels. (Later information is that it’s actually environment cabinet member Maureen O’Mara in charge of this one, rather oddly.)
Other Greenwich councillors have spoken out about the event on this website – with health cabinet member John Fahy calling it “an imposition on borough residents” and Peninsula councillor Mary Mills complaining that organisers “seem to be able to carry on regardless”.
The row over Run To The Beat is likely to exacerbate tensions between Roberts and local party bigwigs, who are growing increasingly frustrated at the way the council is being run, and the tight control he has over councillors.
An attempt to usurp Roberts failed in March when those councillors rejected a challenge from John Fahy by 24 votes to 15.
It’s that time of year again – well, actually, it’s later than normal – as the Run to the Beat half-marathon gets set to take to the streets of Greenwich, Charlton, Woolwich and Blackheath. What do you mean, you hadn’t heard about it? Ah…
It’s the fifth year of RTTB, and while it’s certainly become a bit of a fixture for runners – 18,500 are due to be doing it this year, to music from 14 sound stages – it still feels an imposition, a huge amount of disruption for an event that’s much less fun (but causes more hassle) than the London Marathon. Maybe it goes back to that first year, which seemed by all accounts to be a bit of a weather-hit fiasco, and it’s just never managed to recover; but it’s always seemed an event which takes its hosts for granted.
I hate being a nay-sayer about this. I’d be gutted if I ever missed the marathon, but when I realised I’d be abroad during last year’s RTTB, I actually did a little jig of joy. I’m not sure I missed all that much, although you’re welcome to tell me it was great and I should stop being an old misery-guts.
That said, the organisers have at least sent some letters out explaining what’s happening, which much of the area locked in on Sunday 28 October. (If you’ve not had one, here’s a scanned-in version.) If you’ve had your copy, can you actually decipher it? It’s six pages of text attempting to describe a raft of road closures and diversions. I can’t work out which ones apply to me. The one thing missing is a map, which would make the whole thing understandable.
You know, a map like… this.
If you want the map which makes the letter make sense, you’ll find it in Greenwich Council’s propaganda weekly Greenwich Time. (Here’s a full PDF of it.) To get the full picture, you’ll need to have received both this week’s Greenwich Time and the letter from the organisers. Got that? And as for details of where the sound stages are? You’re out of luck there…
The RTTB website currently contains no residents’ information whatsoever, although you’ll find an information leaflet for competitors (“thanks to the Royal Borough of Greenwich whose streets we close”) with some clues about what’s happening, including the sound stage locations.
It all just feels half-arsed, as ever. Even if there was just a “thank you for putting up with us for a day”, I’d feel a lot more well-disposed to this corporate jog-fest. Instead, it’s just “here we are, you’ve got to lump it”. It was one of LOCOG’s biggest mistakes in the early days of Olympics planning – but Run To The Beat still seems to be falling into the trap of taking people for granted. It’s probably to be expected when you’ve been “working closely with Greenwich Council”, another body reluctant to deal with actual, real people.
I dunno, maybe it’ll be a lovely day full of community good spirit and everything will go sweetly. Or I might just creep out of town or stay in bed. Thankfully, I’ll be a bit of a way from the sound stages, whatever I do…
So the gates are shut, and the countdown gets louder. Most of Greenwich Park has been closed to the public since Saturday, with only the flower gardens and children’s playground remaining open for business. At the foot of the hill, the equestrian stadium looks ever more impressive, and a cable camera is being strung up across the Thames, to provide a worldwide audience with a spectacular view across the park. Our temporary loss will be the world’s gain.
In the meantime, though, we’ve lost (most of) our park. But if you live within a couple of miles of Greenwich Park, you’re spoiled by green space compared with other parts of London. Chances are, though, there’s a few that you might not have explored. So over the next few weeks, I’ll be profiling some of those green spaces make this bit of the capital so special. Greenwich Park is great, but there’s much more besides around here.
And where better to start than in Hornfair Park? Because as the locks went up on Greenwich Park, the gates swung open on a long-lost favourite in SE7. Charlton’s got its lido back…
Whisper it, but there’s a quiet revolution going on in the bottom corner of SE7. And for all the stick it gets on this site, it’s fair to say that Greenwich Council is quietly playing a blinder here – although it’s taken its time about it. Three years ago, Hornfair Park had seen better days – unloved, neglected, and a haven for after-dark crime. Definitely the poor relation to neighbouring Charlton Park, its decline was capped by the tatty state of Charlton Lido, left clinging to life after council cutbacks. A botched plan to redevelop the lido as a diving centre didn’t help matters.
Opened in 1936 as Charlton Playing Fields on land originally bought by the old London County Council from the old lords of the manor of Charlton, the Maryon-Wilson family (more of them later), with the lido coming three years later. It was the last of four LCC lidos – the others being at Parliament Hill, Brockwell Park and Victoria Park. All but the latter survive today.
Renamed Hornfair Park in 1948, a long decline started in the 1970s when a cash-strapped Greenwich Council was forced to take it on from the Greater London Council, with opening hours at the lido cut back and it even became a skateboard park for a short spell. A swimming club kept the lido alive for some years, until Greenwich Council embarked on the ill-fated diving centre plan.
It was the BMX bikers that heralded the rebirth of Hornfair Park. Controversial when it opened in summer 2011, the BMX track has brought new life to the flat, featureless field at the rear of the park, which backs onto the edge of Woolwich Common. A revolutionary decision to, er, lock the park gates at night helped cut crime. The tennis courts and paddling pool are being upgraded, and Charlton Lido finally reopened its doors on Monday after a two-year closure, boasting a heated 50m-long pool. More work will continue when the summer is over, and next year a fitness centre and cafe will be added.
Things still aren’t perfect – much of the park still needs a lot of work as the council battles to overcome years of its own neglect. There’ll also no doubt be more tension with local residents as the council seeks to use Hornfair Park as somewhere to inspire young people to take up sport – an issue not helped by Greenwich’s attitude to “consultation”. But while a lot of the talk of “Olympic legacy” in this area is bunkum – in Hornfair Park, if the council can get it right, it’ll be real enough.
“People living in Greenwich will want it to say ‘Royal Borough of Greenwich’ on the street sign,” council leader Chris Roberts said two years ago when it was announced Greenwich would become a royal borough.
I’m not quite sure the Dear Leader meant supermarkets should undergo the rebranding as well, but maybe the Greenwich branch of Sainsbury’s is hedging its bets for its planned move out of SE10 into (gasp!) Charlton in a couple of years. Any other examples of companies trying to cash in, I’d love to see them…
Indeed, even new wheelie bins have appeared with the “royal” logo. But what about Greenwich Council’s flagship development on the old Ferrier Estate site, Kidbrooke Village? With residents only recently moving in, surely these new places must be brandishing “royal borough” signs?
Nope. Looks like Greenwich Council has surrendered these streets to Berkeley Homes, which has put up its own street signs. Surely considering the close relationship Greenwich Council has with the company – Chris Roberts owns a Berkeley property on Woolwich’s Royal Arsenal development – it would have made sure Kidbrooke Village would have shown off the borough’s prestigious new identity? Or is the “royal” badge really just about promoting the council, rather than its communities?
Spotted in Charlton Park on Saturday afternoon – the protest march against the siting of missiles on Blackheath and Oxleas Meadows for the Olympics. It was good news for local police, as the Met decided five coppers were needed for the 55 people wandering from Shooters Hill to Blackheath.
So, not much more than the dismal turn-out for the NOGOE demonstration against the equestrian test events last July. I’m probably going to alienate any remaining readers with this point of view, but hey, here goes – it seems to me that the protest strikes that sweet spot between the obstinate NIMBYism of NOGOE and a certain political viewpoint that doesn’t want the Olympics because it involves awkward short-term compromises to corporate interests for what’ll hopefully be a longer-term gain.
But of all the things to moan about during the Olympics – chiefly, the transport reductions that’ll make it harder for local people to earn a crust during the Games – getting grumpy about small arms being used as a deterrent during a sensitive time seems to me to be unforgivably self-indulgent. Of course, you may disagree, and the communication with the public has been lamentable, but a few mini-rockets around the place will be the least of our worries in nine weeks’ time.