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news, views and issues around Greenwich, Charlton, Blackheath and Woolwich, south-east London – what you won't read in Greenwich Time

Posts Tagged ‘charlton

Greenwich’s mysterious Bugsby fends off Watermen’s Reach

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Bugsby's Reach, March 2014
Proof that not everything’s a done deal – and if you speak up, you can change things. Back in March, this website featured plans by the Port of London Authority to rename Bugsby’s Reach, the stretch of the Thames that passes Greenwich and Charlton, as Watermen’s Reach.

Well, thanks to people getting off their backsides and opposing it, the plan’s been scrapped. Bugsby’s Reach will stay Bugsby’s Reach.

There were a total of 47 responses to the consultation, breaking down as follows:

- 10 in favour
– 34 against
– 3 neutral

Those for the change cited the proposal as: ‘fitting commemoration of the river’s past, present and future working life.’

Those against the proposal felt that: ‘historic names should be left alone’; ‘Bugsby’s Reach is a local name reflected landward in Bugsby’s Way’; and ‘The lack of information about Bugsby’s background should not be a reason to remove his name.’

Having considered the balance and nature of consultation responses, we have decided not to proceed with the proposal to rename Bugsby’s Reach.

So it is worth responding to these things. And the PLA’s U-turn means the grisly history of Bugsby’s Hole will continue to be commenmorated, the debate over who Bugsby actually was can go on for many years to come.

Written by Darryl

15 June, 2014 at 1:40 pm

Beyond the Silvertown Tunnel: TfL eyes Ringway road revival

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With smog levels high in London this week, you might think that anyone proposing major new road schemes for the capital would be laughed out of town.

But Transport for London is considering reviving long-dead proposals for new orbital roads around the capital – raising the spectre of decades-old plans which threatened Blackheath Village and other parts of SE London.

The transport authority is already planning a new road tunnel under the Thames to feed into the A102 at the Greenwich Peninsula. But the plans don’t stop with the Silvertown Tunnel or possible plans for a bridge at Gallions Reach, near Thamesmead.

City Hall is currently consulting on proposals to change the capital’s planning guidance, The London Plan. These include taking on board the recommendations of the Roads Task Force as planning policy.

London Plan alterations

The Roads Task Force was set up in 2012, after Boris Johnson’s second election win “to tackle the challenges facing London’s streets and roads”. Dubbed an independent body, it includes representatives of haulage, transport and motoring groups as well as the London Cycling Campaign and Living Streets. Its first report was published last summer, and recommended a “feasibility study of tunnelling to remove ‘strategic’ traffic from surface and free-up space for other uses”.

This month, a progress report has appeared, where this has become…

RTF March 2014 report

TfL’s enthusiasm for digging tunnels hasn’t just been sparked by Silvertown – Boris Johnson is backing proposals by Hammersmith & Fulham Council to build a Hammersmith Flyunder, which would replace the existing flyover.

While the plan’s being sold on revitalising Hammersmith town centre, options being pushed by the council involve effectively creating a buried urban motorway from Chiswick to Kensington.

So what’s meant by the “orbital tunnel”?

As both the Silvertown Tunnel and Gallions Reach/ Thames Gateway Bridge are, essentially, revived versions of long-dead transport plans, this could well mean the resurrection of Ringway 1.

Ringway 1

Here’s the leaflet which sold the Blackwall Tunnel Southern Approach to locals when construction started in 1967. (Thanks to The Greenwich Phantom for the scans.) The BTSA was originally planned to be part of Ringway 1, which would have featured an interchange at Kidbrooke, roughly where the current A2 junction is now.

A new road, the South Cross Route, would have continued at Kidbrooke, following the railway line and ploughing through the Blackheath Cator Estate and tunnelling under Blackheath Village, through Lewisham town centre and featuring an interchange roughly where St John’s station is for a slip road to New Cross. It would then have follow the railway line through Brockley, Nunhead and Peckham and on a flyover through Brixton, where the famous “Barrier Block” of flats was built in anticipation of a motorway which, thankfully, never came.

The Ringways project would have been Britain’s biggest ever construction project. They were proposed by Conservative politicians on the Greater London Council and tacitly backed by Labour opponents – sound familiar? The GLC also planned Ringway 2 – which threatened Oxleas Woods, and still does today in the form of the Gallions Reach Bridge proposal.

But the Ringways caused such public outrage that they never happened. It led to an upsurge in local activism, such as this community group in Grove Park, channelled through the Homes Before Roads group. The Tory GLC considered burying the roads to pacify locals. But when Labour won the 1973 GLC election, it scrapped the Ringways – public protest and oil price hikes were too much.

But now the plans are back. In January, Transport for London’s managing director of planning, Michele Dix, gave a presentation to the Institution of Engineering and Technology. She discussed TfL’s plans to extend tolling on London’s roads, and how this may be applied to the Blackwall Tunnel and Silvertown Tunnel (if built).

Whereas the proceeds from Ken Livingstone’s congestion charge went into public transport, these new TfL tolls would pay for… more roads. Which could include, she said, orbital tunnels.

Michele Dix TfL presentation

Looks familiar, doesn’t it?

Ringways compared with orbital tunnel

Essentially, TfL is looking at using the A102 through Greenwich, Charlton and Blackheath – and a Silvertown Tunnel – as part of a resurrected Ringway. And areas such as Blackheath, Lee, Lewisham, Brockley and Catford would be in the firing line for a tunnel.

Even if we bury the damn thing, the traffic has to come off the roads somewhere – and London simply can’t cope with the number of vehicles as it is. Any more would be a disaster. Why a road? Why not an orbital rail line?

New roads fill up as soon as they’re built. The last major road to be built in London, the A12 through Leytonstone, is the UK’s ninth most congested road, 15 years after it opened.

This is why opposing the Silvertown Tunnel is so important. It’s the thin end of a very dirty wedge. And it’s why Greenwich Council’s decision to endorse an Ikea next to the Blackwall Tunnel approach is so dangerous – because the last thing we need is extra traffic, even on grounds of congestion alone.

But it’s on health grounds where this also counts. Paris is also suffering from high pollution at the moment, so is making public transport free to all this weekend. London’s politicians, led by its mayor along with its footsoldiers like Greenwich’s councillors, just seem to want to encourage even more people to get in their cars. Choked, congested and polluted – is this really the sort of city we want to live in?

(I’m indebted to Steve Chambers, who’s researching Homes Before Roads and the Ringways plan, and Tom Barry, who’s been posting about the Hammersmith plans at Boriswatch.)

Written by Darryl

14 March, 2014 at 12:19 pm

Bugsby’s holed? Why a bit of Greenwich’s history is under threat

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Bugsby's Reach, March 2014

There’s been some baffling stuff happening on the Greenwich Peninsula, but none quite as head-scratching as a plan to rename part of the River Thames.

The Port of London Authority wants to rename Bugsby’s Reach, the stretch of the river along the east side of the Greenwich Peninsula towards Charlton. It plans to call it Watermen’s Reach, to commemorate 500 years since an act of parliament began to regulate those who worked on the river.

The plans are currently out to consultation – you’ll see these notices on the Thames Path:

As far as is known, Bugsby’s Reach was so named originally, because Mr Bugsby, believed to be a market gardener in the mid 1800s, owned land
which touched the river bank where the stream turns to the northwest. What does seem clear is that other than the coincidence of owning land adjacent to the river, Bugsby’s overall contribution to the River Thames since the mid-1800s is markedly less than that given by watermen, wherrymen and bargemen over the past 500 years and more.

Local councillor and historian Mary Mills is less than impressed.

In the days when the river was the River and had real ships on it, Bugsby’s Reach was a place name which sailors worldwide would have recognised and it appears in a great deal of maritime literature in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

“It more properly refers to ‘Bugsby’s Hole’. Those of you who knew Greenwich Peninsula before 2000 will remember that The Pilot Inn once stood in a road which went down to the river. Going out into the river was a long jetty and basically the road and the jetty were going to Bugsby’s Hole. So what was all that about?? There are a number of ‘holes’ in the river and it is a traditional term meaning ‘an anchorage’. So we are looking for someone called Bugsby who had an anchorage somewhere off the Greenwich Peninsula.”

But nobody knows who Mr Bugsby was (or if he really existed). What we do know is that Bugsby’s Hole had a grisly history“used as a site for gibbeting the bodies of pirates who had been hung, with due ceremony, at Execution Dock in Wapping”.

So while Mr Bugsby may not have been very significant, the land he left behind was – so the name really honours the past of the Greenwich Peninsula, one that’s slowly being wiped out by new development.

But instead, the PLA wants to wipe this out too – an evocative old name swapped for something which sounds like a bad theme pub.

Of course, there is one place where Bugsby’s name would linger – naming an ugly dual carriageway after a place where dead pirates where displayed as a warning seems rather apt. But hopefully enough people will contact the PLA and tell it to commemorate the watermen in another way, and keep Bugsby’s Reach as it is. If you want to keep a bit of riverside history alive, the consultation’s open until 21 April.

Friday update: Charlie Connelly writes…

“I did a bit of rummaging and have found a couple of 18th century Bugsbys who might have had connections to the area.

“First off there’s a ‘Richard Bughsby’ of Deptford who married in Lewisham in February 1714.

“Secondly I found a ‘John Buggbsy’ who married a Grace Clark in Stepney in 1732. No immediate link to the area from that but he is described as a ‘mariner’ and Stepney back then was home to a number of well-to-do seamen (I had an ancestor who was a captain in the East India Company who lived there at the turn of that century) so maybe he was associated with that part of the river, or came to some mishap there or something.”

Written by Darryl

10 March, 2014 at 12:30 am

Why does ‘Royal’ Greenwich borough look such a mess?

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Charlton Church Lane, 19 January 2014

New litter bins? No, abandoned flower containers in Charlton

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.

Written by Darryl

21 January, 2014 at 7:30 am

Will Charlton’s pitch problems flush out ground move?

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valley01

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.

Greenwich Council press reelaseDuchâtelet 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?

Charlton Athletic, 9 January 2014

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.

Save Sainsbury’s Greenwich petition nears 400 signatures

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Rainbow at Sainsbury's Greenwich, 2011
One of the architects behind the Sainsbury’s store in Greenwich has launched a petition against its possible demolition. Despite opening the “eco-store” only 14 years ago, Sainsbury’s plans to move to a new site in Charlton in 2015, and Ikea is preparing a planning application to knock it down and build a new store.

Sainsbury’s is insisting on a covenant to prevent another food store from taking over the existing building. Paul Hinkin, who now works with Black Architecture, calls it “anti-competitive and is a flagrant abuse of the planning system which originally granted consent for the development”.

It’s approaching 400 signatures – and you can sign the Sainsbury’s Greenwich petition here.

Sainsbury's Charlton PR leaflet

Sainsbury’s, though, seems to be sticking its head in the sand on the issue – distributing a patronising PR leaflet to local households that doesn’t even acknowledge the new store is in Charlton, not Greenwich. Not a good sign.

Written by Darryl

8 December, 2013 at 7:29 am

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Ikea Greenwich: A flat-packed traffic nightmare to come?

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Peartree Way, 3 November 2013
You’ve probably heard by now that Ikea is planning to open a store in Greenwich, once Sainsbury’s has shipped up the road to Charlton. News emerged via an ad in Greenwich Council’s weekly propaganda rag Greenwich Time, rather than anything released to the local press, while some nearer neighbours have had letters.

Sainsbury's Journal, October 1999Ikea is promising “a significant new sustainable development”, even though it’ll involve the demolition of the current Sainsbury’s store, billed when it opened in 1999 by the supermarket’s staff journal as “the greenest store in Britain”.

Since then, Sainsbury’s has found it’s struggling to keep up with demand at Greenwich, while some of the eco-friendly features haven’t worked as well as planned. So it’s moving to a bigger (and similarly “environmentally-friendly”) store at Gallions Road, Charlton, in 2015, which will also feature a Marks & Spencer as well as high street-style shops facing onto Woolwich Road. It’s an intriguing development for north Charlton, but less good news for Greenwich Millennium Village residents who lose their nearest supermarket, while Blackheath residents will have to hope TfL relents on a refusal to extend bus route 202 to serve the new Sainsbury’s store.

All of which leaves the soon-to-be redundant “eco-store”. As part of the deal with developer LXB which has facilitated the move, Sainsbury’s has stipulated that the Greenwich site must go to a non-food retailer. LXB now owns much of Charlton’s retail space, and has already shuffled one store (Wickes) around to make way for the new development. I understand another retailer is likely to take up the empty Comet store on a temporary basis.

Enter Ikea, which has put a bid in for the site. Ikea’s long been keen on this area, and is believed to have been interested about 10-15 years ago in the land to the east of Asda which became the Greenwich Shopping Park. Now the Swedish flatpack furniture retailer has returned, and this time it’s serious.

Along with Sainsbury’s and Comet, one other thing which will go is the small nature park at the rear of the Sainsbury’s site – it’s understood Greenwich Council wants this relocated elsewhere on the peninsula. Where this fits in with long-term plans to develop the area around the (separate) Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park isn’t clear. Most parcels of land on the peninsula are now earmarked for specific developments, although as we discovered with the cable car, that can change.

Peartree Way, Sunday 3 November 2013

But the big problem is going to be traffic. Peartree Way (and the A102/A206 junction) already can’t cope with the Sainsbury’s traffic – the pictures in this post were taken on Sunday at 4pm. Pollution levels outside Sainsbury’s already breach EU limits – so much for the “eco-store”.

Ikea branches generate huge amounts of traffic – just visit its existing London area stores at Croydon, Edmonton, Neasden and Thurrock. Sainsbury’s moving down the road isn’t going to remove traffic from the area, it’s just shifting it a mile down the road. And while the Sainsbury’s site probably has the best bus service of any superstore in Britain, you can’t squeeze a flat-packed wardrobe home on a 486.

Solving this problem will be an enormous, and quite possibly insurmountable, challenge. It could well kibosh emerging plans to downgrade the filthily polluted stretch of Woolwich Road from Gallions Road to the A102 as a local road. Once Sainsbury’s moves, the Greenwich/Charlton area is likely to reach its capacity for major retail developments. While everyone loves Ikea, is having one down the road really worth seeing the whole area grinding to a halt for?

With the increasing pace of residential development in the area, seeing the mile-long stretch from the foot of the peninsula to The Valley as some kind of out-of-town retail barn nirvana is becoming increasingly out of date – something the plans for the new Sainsbury’s hint at, with the shopfronts on Woolwich Road and covered walkways to adjacent stores. Ikea may just have come to the party a decade too late.

But we haven’t seen the full details of what’s planned, yet. There’s a staffed exhibition on Saturday 9 November from 12-7pm at Sherard Hall, The Forum @ Greenwich, Trafalgar Road, while the displays will be up at East Greenwich Library from 11-23 November. It’ll be interesting to see just how Ikea faces up to these problems.

Written by Darryl

3 November, 2013 at 10:01 pm

Silvertown Tunnel and pollution: Greenwich Council’s dirty secret

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Some of Greenwich’s most high-profile development sites suffer from air pollution far in excess of European limits, research carried out for No to Silvertown Tunnel has revealed.

Volunteers, including myself, used tubes to record the pollution in the air at over 50 locations close to the A102, A2 and A206 for four weeks during June, using similar methods used by Greenwich Council for its own pollution records. Over half the tubes came back with readings over 40 μg/m3, the EU limit.

The Woolwich Road/ Blackwall Lane junction in Greenwich, outside where new homes are now being built by developer Galliford Try, recorded 70 micrograms per cubic metre. The site is opposite the flagship Greenwich Square development, which will include homes, shops and and a leisure centre.

Meanwhile, readings of 50 μg/m3 were recorded at two locations at Greenwich Millennium Village – at the centre, by West Parkside; and at the junction of Bugsby’s Way and Southern Way.

The highest figure recorded, unsurprisingly, was 70.55 μg/m3 at the Woolwich Road flyover, with a reading of 69 μg/ at Farmdale Road, where houses face an A102 slip road.

A pollution tube outside Kidbrooke Park School

High readings were also recorded along the Woolwich Road (64 μg/m3 outside the Rose of Denmark pub in Charlton) and at Blackheath Royal Standard (52 μg/m3 at Westcombe Hill).

With Greenwich Council and London mayor Boris Johnson backing a Silvertown Tunnel, which will attract more traffic to the area, the figures can only get worse.

The figures will be discussed at a public meeting at the Forum at Greenwich, Trafalgar Road, SE10 9EQ on Wednesday (tomorrow) at 7pm.

Further south, high readings were recorded in Eltham at Westhorne Avenue, Eltham station and Westmount Road, where the A2 forms a two-lane bottleneck. Local MP Clive Efford supports the Silvertown proposal, despite compelling evidence that it will make traffic in his constituency worse. So do local Conservatives – even though we recorded a big fat 50 μg/m3 outside their local HQ.

Sssh - it's one of Greenwich Council's pollution tubes

Sssh – it’s one of Greenwich Council’s pollution tubes. Readings haven’t been published since 2010.

What’s more, when we contacted Greenwich Council to tell it we intended to place pollution tubes on its lamp posts, we discovered it had been collecting its own statistics since 2005.

But mystifyingly, no figures were published since 2010 – until now. We obtained the results through a Freedom of Information Act request, and have published a full archive on the No to Silvertown Tunnel website.

These borough-wide stats bear out our own research, revealing that the borough’s worst location is outside Plumstead station – possibly due to the bus garage being nearby, but also a regular scene for heavy tailbacks.

Despite the council also pressing for a road bridge at Gallions Reach, it appears to have made little serious attempt to record pollution levels in the Thamesmead and Abbey Wood areas, which would be affected by such a scheme as well as emissions from London City Airport.

The whole borough has been an air quality management zone for 12 years, which makes Greenwich Council’s position on road-building even more mystifying. Its decision to stop publishing air quality reports smacks of carelessness at the very least. Pollution has become the council’s dirty secret.

If you drill down into the statistics, you’ll actually find air quality gradually improving in some areas. But in places where traffic remains heavy, it’s stubbornly awful.

Incidentally, the tubes are very easy to install and relatively cheap – if local groups find Greenwich Council’s response to pollution wanting, it’s simple for them to carry out their own studies, just as we did. Indeed, we were inspired by a study done by the Putney Society – so it should be easy for groups in Greenwich, Blackheath, Eltham and Charlton, or elsewhere, to follow suit.

x

Greenwich Council’s pollution readings from May 2013 – you won’t find this on the council’s own website, but you’ll find it all on the No to Silvertown Tunnel site.

Greenwich Council continues to back new road schemes on the grounds that they will take traffic off existing roads – despite a heap of evidence that proves the opposite. Indeed, studies show new roads simply increase traffic by making road travel more attractive.

It also claims economic benefits for new schemes – but it hasn’t been able to produce a shred of evidence that this is the case. And will it take the health costs from the extra pollution caused by yet more traffic on local roads into account?

Even more perplexing is that neighbouring boroughs don’t want Silvertown – leaving Greenwich’s Labour council in a position where it’s just a figleaf for a Conservative mayor’s scheme. If Greenwich opposed it, would Boris really go ahead?

So how can we persuade local decision-makers to wake up and realise they’re backing a scheme would could be disastrous? Well, we thought we’d invite them to our meeting, where they can hear from experts and see what results we got.

Here’s the response from Don Austen, Labour councillor for Glyndon ward.

Don Austen email

Incidentally, Don’s ward not only contains the borough’s filthiest air, his own home is very close to Charlton Village – where air quality also breaks EU rules. We had a few other responses that were nicer, but it’s hard to dispel the feeling that Greenwich’s councillors simply aren’t taking this seriously.

That said, some of the nominees to be Labour’s candidate for for Greenwich & Woolwich are alert to the dangers of blindly following a Conservative mayor’s policy. Lewisham councillor Kevin Bonavia (whose own council opposes Silvertown) voices his concern in his manifesto: “According to a recent GLA report, 150 deaths per year across the borough are caused by air pollution. We shouldn’t be encouraging more traffic in already concentrated areas.”

And yesterday, outsider Kathy Peach took aim not just at the proposal, but the way Greenwich Council has handled it:

I’m not convinced Boris Johnson’s Silvertown Tunnel is the answer. Nor do I believe there’s been an informed democratic debate about it.

I have heard from several quarters that Labour councillors who oppose the scheme have been banned from voicing their opposition in public… the fact that such stories gain traction points to something insular and complacent about our local political culture. We need a breath of fresh air. Let’s get rid of stale tactics and encourage a vigorous inclusive open debate. We need to bring the community along with us – otherwise other parties will jump into the gap.

Hopefully we’ll see Kathy, and Kevin, and others, and hopefully you, down at the Forum tomorrow night. If you’re sceptical, feel free to come along and lob some tough questions.

But if Greenwich councillors won’t listen, and Boris Johnson won’t listen, then we need to find our own way forward – because this is a battle that can be won.

And we might even have some fun on the way. If you want to help, come along tomorrow night.

No to Silvertown Tunnel public meeting: Wednesday 16 October, 7-9pm, Forum at Greenwich, Trafalgar Road, London SE10 9EQ. Speakers are transport consultant John Elliott, the Campaign for Better Transport’s Sian Berry, King’s College London air quality expert Dr Ian Mudway and Clean Air London’s Simon Birkett.

PS. If you have the time, it’s worth reading the 1994 Government report Trunk Roads and the Generation of Traffic. These studies are backed up by another report, published in 2006 for the Countryside Agency and Campaign to Protect Rural England.

Run to the Beat organisers sorry after course cock-up

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Woolwich Barracks photo from Terri Willis

If they’d listened to local people, who’ve consistently said that Run to the Beat’s circular course is a bad idea, then perhaps they wouldn’t be apologising.

But the controversial half-marathon’s organisers have been left red-faced this evening after runners found themselves stuck at bottlenecks on the 13.1-mile route, caused by their insistence on holding running a circular route through Greenwich, Blackheath, Charlton and Woolwich.

Runners used Twitter to complain about a hold-up at Woolwich Barracks, where the course wasn’t wide enough for runners to get through, and also showed them stuck at gates in Greenwich Park.

The delays meant many runners were either delayed, missing out on their target times, or were sent on a short cut, leaving them fearing their times were invalid.

Organisers have apologised, promising “a detailed review”.

One runner, Gavin, described his experience on his blog:

At mile 4, however, the part of the route which goes in and out of the Woolwich Barracks there was a bottleneck of about 10 minutes. This is because unlike previous years when you had the runners all running through the courtyard, you decided to have 20,000 runners run in AND OUT of a gate which was no bigger than 8 foot wide.

Mile 4 for me, and for many is ‘The Wall’, the part of run where you are struggling, but you power through. So having to stop immediately and stand still for 10 minutes often causes cramps. It can be avoided by continuing to move, however there was very limited space due to the sheer volume of runners. Many people climbed over the barriers and ran down the road, I refrained from doing this for fear of missing a ‘chip timer’ mat, which I figured would be in the courtyard. It wasn’t. By the time I got back to the gate to exit the courtyard, the marshals had in fact stopped runners entering and sending them straight down the road. At this point, the 2h30m marker was well in front of me.

Other complaints included the runners being given coconut water instead of sports drinks – the race was sponsored by a brand of coconut water – while there were grumbles about the last mile being uphill through Greenwich Park, particularly unhelpful for participants in wheelchairs (“It was so steep that their front wheels kept popping up,” one observer said).

As for locals, one Greenwich Millennium Village resident complained to this blog about organisers setting up portable buildings outside her home at 4.45am, while Peninsula ward councillor Mary Mills said the number of complaints she’d received was up this year. “I’ve had more complaints this year, and nastier ones,” she tweeted.

On the plus side, roads did seem to reopen earlier than planned, although it took a while for bus services to return to their normal routes.

A little sample of tweets:

The route was confirmed at fairly short notice this year, after an earlier version saw it cut off Sunday footballers in Charlton’s parks. But despite assurances from Greenwich Council cabinet member Maureen O’Mara, and claims made by the council to the Department of Transport, there has been no meaningful consultation with local residents.

Despite objections, organiser IMG still plans to return next year, doubling its contribution to Greenwich Council from £10,000 this year to £20,000.

I also understand Greenwich Council gets some more money out of the race thanks to an agreement to advertise race arrangements in its weekly newspaper, Greenwich Time – denying other newspapers revenue from those ads.

While many residents have lost patience with Run to the Beat years ago and would rather it went away, others do enjoy it – and it enjoyed ideal weather this morning. Perhaps now organisers and Greenwich Council will start to listen. IMG needs to make a meaningful donation to the community – perhaps by sponsoring a facility such as Maryon Wilson animal park – instead of the cash disappearing into the council’s coffers.

And it needs to create a route that’d be a proper Greenwich borough half-marathon – perhaps from Eltham to Greenwich – ending the charade of the circular route which causes grief to runners and locals alike.

Will any of this happen? I wouldn’t hold your breath…

If you’re a local with issues surrounding today’s race, let your local councillor know – and it’s also worth copying in Greenwich Council chief executive Mary Ney on the email (firstname.surname@royalgreenwich.gov.uk).

Written by Darryl

8 September, 2013 at 7:49 pm

Run to the Beat 2013: The public consultation which wasn’t

with 27 comments

Run to the Beat final route, July 2013

On Sunday, up to 19,000 runners will pound through Greenwich, Blackheath, Charlton and Woolwich on the Run to the Beat half-marathon. The forecast is set for mild weather, and you never know, it may actually be a success. Indeed, you’re probably reading this after the event and will know how it went.

Many of those thousands of runners will be exerting themselves for good causes. This is not a charity event, so others will have paid £55 to prove something to themselves that some of us won’t even manage half of. But unwittingly, those up-to 19,000 customers of Run to the Beat have been caught up in an extraordinary battle between, on one side, Greenwich Council and organisers IMG, and on the other, local residents and councillors in the area affected.

So keen has Greenwich Council been to rubber-stamp the event in the face of continuing objections from locals and councillors – many of whom who represent the Labour Party which supposedly runs the council – that this website understands even senior council officials are unhappy about publicity for the race published in the council’s own newspaper.

East Greenwich Library bus stopIt’s worth remembering this row doesn’t happen with the London Marathon, which is twice as big, and causes the same inconvenience. With our streets on show to the world, people swallow a day of hassle out of neighbourhood pride. The same arguments won’t ever apply to a low-profile race which is imposed both on residents, and their elected representatives.

The imposition point is important, because alternative routes have been suggested, and have been ignored. Instead, thousands of local residents are cut off by IMG and Greenwich Council’s insistence on a small circular route, presumably to save IMG money, but which is also unsatisfactory for runners. This year’s diversion via the riverside path at Angerstein Wharf looks set to be particularly grim.

In many ways, the battle over Run to the Beat has become less about people being unable to take a bus to hospital, or even being stopped from crossing over a main road, and more about Greenwich Council’s failures to listen or learn from criticism – something which is finally catching up with both its leadership, and those who have been cowed by it.

Remember the assurances from environment councillor Maureen O’Mara last year? They’re worth repeating again.

“If this race is to return to the borough, it needs to be with residents fully understanding what’s going to happen in their streets, and what’s going to happen with licensing.

“And we need to think – well, what does this bring into the borough? I certainly don’t want go through again, the anguish of the past four weeks. We have to be absolutely clear about why Run To The Beat is here in the first place.

“If residents say they don’t want it, then we’ll have to talk to IMG about that.”

Did they? Did they heck. 853 reader Steve Smythe wrote to Transport Secretary Patrick McLaughlin about the road closures caused by Run to the Beat – for legally, the council needs to go through the Government for roads which have already been closed for an event in the same year – and was given this reply from civil servant Amanda John, sent to her by Greenwich Council.

DfT letter

However, this website has established that formal residents’ groups – usually spoken to in lieu of a proper consultation – weren’t asked for their views. The Greenwich Society tells me it wasn’t spoken to, nor was the Blackheath Society, and it’s understood the Charlton Society wasn’t consulted either. The Westcombe Society was spoken to because it complained; while the Charlton Central Residents Association spoke to organisers in November 2012, again because it complained.

Only groups who complained, it appears, were consulted, which would explain the appearance of sports groups on the list, since early plans for this year’s events proposed cutting off the football pitches in Charlton’s parks. What’s clear is that even after five years, there’s still been no serious, proactive attempt by either IMG or Greenwich Council to gauge residents’ views on the event.

Did the council lie to the government? Was the council itself fed duff info? I’ve certainly heard accusations that council officers were told to make sure Run To The Beat was licensed, at whatever cost – obviously this can’t be substantiated, but suspicions like this will fester in an atmosphere when residents and elected representatives are ignored.

Run to the Beat ad, Greenwich TimeWhat’s for sure is that there’s been no great public rethink about what Run To The Beat does for the locality.

While it’s true councillors met organisers in November 2012, a promised follow-up meeting never happened – instead, they were invited to a meeting on Thursday night at short notice. Some councillors, I am told, “have never been so angry”.

Indeed, it’s actually possible that councillors’ treatment has led to them being angrier about the event than their constituents, who at least can choose to stay in bed while the race is on.

But most astonishingly, I understand even Greenwich Council officers are unhappy with the way IMG has promoted the arrangements for the race. Indeed, even the council website acknowledges “some local residents may not yet have received printed leaflets from the organisers”.

Ads have been taken out in its weekly newspaper Greenwich Time, but I’m told director of culture, media and sport Katrina Delaney is unhappy with
the lack of information on them, and they way they seem to be about promoting the RTTB brand – they merely refer people to the Run to the Beat website. Why Delaney herself hasn’t been more proactive in distributing information, or ensuring IMG’s ad was correct, heaven alone knows. But since her job is in reputation management, and promoting the “Royal Greenwich” brand, it’s certainly a case of the biter being bit.

And while there is a residents’ helpline – 020 8233 5900 (open 7.30am-2.30pm) – it has only been publicised online. It doesn’t appear on the numerous yellow signs dotted around the area. The event still doesn’t appear on Transport for London’s journey planner (despite a tucked-away website page), so while roads are meant to be reopening earlier, it’s anyone’s guess when bus services will resume.

And all this, for a measly £10,000 to the council, with the promise of double next year.

It may well be that the sustained criticism of this year’s Run To The Beat will lead to a better event. But it shouldn’t be this way. After all, this should be fun, like the London Marathon is. A true Greenwich borough half-marathon would be great. Involve Eltham and other areas that don’t have the brilliant experience of the marathon, and break the circular route which cuts so many off.

Perhaps we should look to the London Marathon Playing Fields in Kidbrooke as an example. Why doesn’t Run To The Beat sponsor a community facility on its route? How about getting it to cough up for the Maryon Wilson Animal Park in Charlton, which is having trouble raising funds? Supporting the community rather than the council would be a way forward for an event with serious PR problems.

But instead, Run To The Beat has become emblematic of just how Greenwich Council under Chris Roberts has become arrogant, overbearing and more interested in big business than its residents. And until things change at the town hall, the race will always be a problem rather than a party.

For details about the Run To The Beat route and maps, click here and scroll down to ‘residents’. A residents’ helpline will be open until 2.30pm on 020 8233 5900, staffed by IMG and a council officer. If you have any issues, let your local councillor know – and it’s also worth copying in Greenwich Council chief executive Mary Ney on the email (firstname.surname@royalgreenwich.gov.uk).

Written by Darryl

7 September, 2013 at 9:37 pm

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