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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 ‘denise hyland

Return of the high-rises: Kidbrooke Village’s 31-storey tower

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Kidbrooke Village phase 3

Thought demolishing the Ferrier Estate would rid Kidbrooke of tower blocks? Think again – these are the first images of the 31-storey tower planned as a new centrepiece for the Kidbrooke Village development, currently being built by Berkeley Homes.

Kidbrooke Village tower proposalThe plans for the third phase of the Kidbrooke Village development were revealed at an exhibition earlier this month, and the information boards have now been published online.

The centrepiece is a 31-storey “landmark residential tower”, surrounded by “pocket towers” of 8 to 15 storeys high. There would be restaurant/cafe and retail space at the foot of the tower, which would provide 143 homes.

Berkeley’s plan would supersede the existing scheme which limits the towers to 15 storeys, which itself replaced a plan keeping them at nine storeys.

The tower replaces plans for a hotel and “is designed to create a vertical community, able to live and enjoy recreation through the provision of well-orientated common areas and amenity spaces”.

It would also be the tallest building for miles around – beaten locally only by Deptford’s Convoys Wharf, which would boast a 40-storey tower.

The Kidbrooke tower would equal the highest tower planned for Greenwich Peninsula, which would have 31 storeys. Berkeley has permission for 21-storey towers in Woolwich, Lewisham’s completed Renaissance Tower is 24 storeys high while Deptford’s Distillery Tower weighs in at 27 storeys.

The presentation also details plans for blocks of eight to 18 storeys on land close to Blackheath’s Cator Estate, a conservation area.

The scheme would add would add a further 877 new homes to Kidbrooke Village, taking the total to over 5,000, making it denser than the original Ferrier Estate. There’s no word on how many of these homes will be “affordable” or for social rent – the scheme was due, overall, to deliver 38% “affordable” housing.

But transport infrastructure changes are minimal – with a new Kidbrooke rail station (but the same old service) and a partial reversal of the bus cuts which took place last summer – with TfL already planning to re-route the B16 bus back into the eastern side of the development. But there’s no sign of any serious upgrades to local transport.

Land Registry entriesEltham-based community magazine SE Nine, which revealed the plans a couple of weeks ago, reports the proposals “could only have been put forward with the tacit approval of senior councillors and officers” at Greenwich Council – although with the final planning board ahead of May’s election due to meet on 9 April, it looks too late to squeeze it through before the poll, Ikea-style, as no planning application has yet been submitted.

But the close links between council leader Chris Roberts and Berkeley Homes can’t be denied – the leader likes its Royal Arsenal development so much, he bought one of the flats in 2009 (see Land Registry record above). Last year, Berkeley helped Roberts’ campaign for a Silvertown Tunnel. And in January this year, the council’s weekly newspaper Greenwich Time published this odd letter about Berkeley’s charitable arm…

Greenwich Time, 7 January 2014

Pleasant and approachable, eh? Clearly this was an attempt to deflect some of the bullying accusations against the leader. Yet Chris Roberts’ exercise in vanity begins to look foolish when you remember how closely his council’s ambitions for Kidbrooke Village depend on Berkeley’s financial position.

According to a confidential report passed to this website, in December 2012, a year before Roberts’ bash, both Greenwich Council and London mayor Boris Johnson agreed to waive their rights to a share of some sales profits from the scheme after Berkeley complained of an £83 million shortfall. In return, the housebuilder would start work on the “village centre” which it said would make the scheme viable.

Cabinet member Denise Hyland – widely thought to be Roberts’ preferred successor if he stands down after May’s poll – backed the move, and a few months, one Sainsbury’s Local and a housing boom later, the place was in rude health once again. If this is the kind of tough decision about a developer your council has to make, it’s not wise to be buddying up with them in public.

As a private firm, Berkeley is only doing its job, getting the best possible return for its shareholders. But is Greenwich Council up to the challenge of doing the same for its residents? We’ll see in the weeks and months to come in the way it deals with the giant tower of Kidbrooke.

Written by Darryl

17 March, 2014 at 7:30 am

Greenwich Council ignores locals and backs new Ikea store

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Woolwich Road, 22 February 2014

The planning board ignored worries about traffic congestion on the Woolwich Road

Greenwich Council’s planning board ignored well over an hour of public criticism last night to back outline plans by furniture giant Ikea to build a store in east Greenwich.

The seven-strong board split on party lines to endorse the proposal, with the council’s Labour leader Chris Roberts among the five members backing the scheme – despite Labour councillors and candidates joining opponents to speak out. The two Conservatives opposed the scheme.

The decision is just an outline approval – Ikea will have to return to the council at a later date with detailed plans before construction can go ahead on the site currently occupied by the “eco-friendly” Sainsbury’s store, which is relocating to Charlton.

Greenwich planning officers said Ikea was considering subsidising delivery for those who use public transport to get to the store, although neither they nor Ikea representatives were clear about what this would mean.

Members of the public spoke for an hour and quarter on the scheme, with nobody supporting it. Opponents included Labour councillors Mary Mills and Alex Grant.

“So many people have got in touch with me – there’s so much wrong with this, I can’t go into detail,” Peninsula councillor Mills said.

“When I was elected 14 years ago, it seemed as if Greenwich had taken on board sustainability. It seems like we’re running away from that now.”

Blackheath Westcombe councillor Alex Grant also recalled approving the original Sainsbury’s scheme as “a rookie councillor”, branding traffic predictions “nonsense”. He suggested Ikea be invited to select a more suitable site.

Greenwich & Woolwich parliamentary candidate Matt Pennycook acknowleged the promised 400 jobs – “the people who will benefit are not in this room” – but added he was “extremely concerned” about traffic and pollution.

“Too much rests on underlying assumptions which may not be realised,” he told the planning board.

Greenwich Council planning board, 3 March 2014

One resident of Greenwich Millennium Village told the board: “Common sense tells me this will be a nightmare for the area if it goes ahead. We’re not an out-of-town shopping centre, we’re a thriving community.”

Other residents questioned why Ikea was unwilling to compromise its business model, with one pointing out that the store operates a car-free model in Hong Kong.

Charlton Society chair (and Labour council candidate) David Gardner questioned why Ikea aimed for 35% of visitors using public transport in Greenwich, when the Croydon store – which lies off a tram line – only has 28%.

Another local resident, Martin Stanforth, said the Croydon Ikea could not cope with the traffic, adding: “Our streets are not designed for massive amounts of traffic.

“You cannot approve this store until you’ve been to Ikea Croydon on a Saturday afternoon. What’s your legacy going to be?”

But councillors on the board were unmoved – indeed, regeneration cabinet member Denise Hyland asked planning officers from the start of the meeting how the council could enforce conditions if the application was approved.

Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts said he was aiming to reverse the legacy of 1980s car-centric development – but backed the scheme regardless.

Abbey Wood Labour councillor Clive Mardner backed the scheme, emphasising the importance of working with local people and adding: “I assume they’re taking on board air quality.”

Both Conservative councillors on the board opposed the scheme. Blackheath Westcombe councillor Geoff Brighty called the traffic predictions “laughable”.

Veteran colleague Dermot Poston (Eltham North) called the existing Sainsbury’s store “revolutionary” and “beautiful” – which led to him being accused of “playing to the gallery” by Roberts in a meeting which is supposed to be non-partisan.

Poston also questioned the lack of environmental impact assessment, and accused the council of arrogance for ignoring the 20th Century Society’s application to have the Sainsbury’s building listed.

But in the end, the board appeared determined to back the scheme – no matter how shaky the case, or how much Chris Roberts’ own Labour councillors and candidates opposed it.

For tweets from last night’s planning board, take a look at this Storify page.

Votes for: Steve Offord (Lab, Abbey Wood/ housing cabinet member), Clive Mardner (Lab, Abbey Wood), Denise Hyland (Lab, Abbey Wood/ regeneration cabinet member), Chris Roberts (Lab, Glyndon/ council leader), Ray Walker (Lab, Eltham West/ chief whip).
Votes against: Geoff Brighty (Con, Blackheath Westcombe), Dermot Poston (Con, Eltham North)

Written by Darryl

4 March, 2014 at 6:30 am

Greenwich Council forced to reveal Silvertown Tunnel report

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Bridge The Gap relaunch

Greenwich Council has been made to release a secret report to Labour councillors about its backing for the Silvertown Tunnel under freedom of information legislation, after nearly a year of refusing to publish the information.

The document reveals that Greenwich’s Labour councillors decided to back the Silvertown Tunnel proposals with no evidence that it would do any good – and one year on, there is still no business case to back up the council’s claims that building what is effectively a third Blackwall Tunnel will help regenerate the area.

Greenwich Time, 4 December 2012The report was presented to Labour councillors in November 2012, ahead of the launch of its Bridge The Gap campaign, promoting both a road tunnel from Greenwich Peninsula to Silvertown and a new road bridge between Thamesmead and Beckton.

London mayor Boris Johnson wants to build the Silvertown Tunnel, along with a ferry at Thamesmead.

After a request was submitted under the Environmental Information Regulations Act, the council refused to release the report, claiming it would affect “its ability to develop policy out of the public gaze”.

But the Information Commissioner’s Office ruled in November that the council had been wrong to refuse to release the information – pointing out Greenwich had already made and publicised its decision – and ordered the council to publish it before Christmas.

“There is an inherent argument for transparency and accountability in any spending of public money, and the Commissioner considers that this is relevant for a campaign designed to influence public debate on an important subject,” the ICO said.

“Furthermore, whilst the Royal Borough of Greenwich is not bearing the brunt of the costs for the new river crossing it still has significant influence over how the project evolves, and this has serious ramifications for the people in the borough.”

It added: “There is a strong objection to RBG’s position. Evidence of this can be found on-line, such as a petition with over 400 signatories.

“In the Commissioner’s view this shows there is a legitimate public debate around the subject and also public support for learning how RBG reached its position.”

Greenwich Council Labour group report, 26 November 2012

Three weeks ago, almost a year to the day that I submitted the request, Greenwich finally sent me the report by post. So, the first time, here is the November 2012 Labour group paper on the Silvertown Tunnel and Gallions Reach Bridge.

Councillors voted to endorse the report, which outlines how the council planned to campaign for the Silvertown and Gallions Reach crossings, although some have since said privately they feel they were misled by leader Chris Roberts. What striking is how little there is in the report.

The report does not contain a shred of evidence that either crossing will do any good – merely an assertion that “the potential associated with [developable] land [in the ex-Olympic boroughs] can only be realised by investment in major transport infrastructure in an acceptable timeframe”.

It also failed to anticipate hostility from local residents – merely saying that “environmental groups against an increase in vehicle crossings are rehearsing previous arguments”.

Furthermore, the report said the council would need to develop a business case for the crossings, and a “conference and/or public meeting” – neither of which happened.

So what did happen to the business case? I asked regeneration cabinet member Denise Hyland at this month’s council meeting.

Her response? “TfL will be required to present a regeneration business case as part of their proposals. However a study has been undertaken by independent consultants employed by the London Borough of Newham, for which the Royal Borough provided data to inform the study, which is now in the public domain and demonstrates a clear regeneration case for a new crossing [sic].”

In other words, Greenwich didn’t bother. But does Newham Council’s report justify supporting the Silvertown Tunnel? Let’s have a look at its cover…

Newham Council Gallions Reach Bridge business case

That’d be a no, then.

Oddly, among the few times that Silvertown is mentioned, the report’s potential traffic figures claim it would attract no new vehicles at all – which is optimistic, to say the least, and flies in the face of a body of evidence which states that new roads attract new traffic. Indeed, the Newham report even concedes that new developments will lead to more traffic.

It’s even slightly sceptical about Silvertown, saying it is “surprising that TfL report a higher benefit cost ratio for the Silvertown tunnel than the Gallions Reach bridge”.

So, there is no evidence, and no business case for Silvertown. Its own Labour party members won’t back it, and neither will neighbouring Labour councils.

So why is Greenwich Council continuing to support a policy on Silvertown which can only continue to cause it grief? Answers on a pre-paid Bridge The Gap postcard to the usual address.

Want to help the No to Silvertown Tunnel campaign? The No to Silvertown Tunnel campaign, of which I’m a part, is going to be running a new pollution study over a wider area early in the new year. If you can spare either a) time to help put up and take down tubes on weekdays in January and February or b) money to help fund them, then drop info[at]silvertowntunnel.co.uk a line.

We’re also interested in hearing from local firms who’d like to get involved – tech firm Scale Factory, based in Catford and Woolwich, is our first business backer. There’s more on the No to Silvertown Tunnel website.

The night the wheels fell off at Greenwich Council

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The main highlight of Wednesday night’s Greenwich Council meeting was meant to be the motion about Greenwich Council’s refusal to deal with Andrew Gilligan, London mayor Boris Johnson’s cycling ambassador.

But it ended up being a bad-tempered farce of a meeting, which somehow managed to drag on for three-and-a-half long hours, partisanly chaired by new mayor Angela Cornforth, even down to denying partially-sighted councillor Eileen Glover the chance to get amendment papers in large print so she could take part in debates. In five years of looking in on these meetings, it was the worst I’ve seen.

The ruling Labour group is opposed to webcasting their meetings – nobody has tried to video them from the gallery, and the rubbish acoustics make recording hard – and from performances like Wednesday night’s, you can see why. If people were able to see clips of what went on, Greenwich’s councillors would be laughing stocks. The rambling excuses of hapless cabinet members would be revealed, seeking to blame anyone but themselves for their own failings.

As for leader Chris Roberts, he looked like he wanted to be somewhere, anywhere else, hunched at his table, alternately sulking and snapping at anyone who dared to criticise what was going on.

There are Labour councillors who want change, but are biding their time. There are freshly-minted candidates for safe seats who’ll be on the council next year, who also want change. Wednesday night may well have been one of the last hurrahs for the Dear Leader and his cabinet of the walking dead. But what will come next?

Don’t mention Gilligan – running scared of the cycling debate

I’ve already mentioned the cynical manoeuvre of completely replacing a neither here nor there Tory motion on health with an amendment about Lewisham Hospital’s A&E, when Greenwich Labour councillors hadn’t even bothered to pass a motion opposing its closure when it was under threat.

A similar thing happened with the cycling motion. A motion criticising the council’s refusal to talk to Andrew Gilligan was replaced by a bizarre amendment which replaced the entire text with some meaningless words about how wonderful cycling is, grumbled that TfL is more interested in central London cycling, moaned that Greenwich wasn’t mentioned in the mayor’s cycling plan, and said the council would “press TfL to complete the Thames Path”, something that’s actually Greenwich Council’s job.

Tory councillor Matt Clare opened the debate. “One local blogger has described the Conservatives as, I quote, being to the left of the council’s authoritarian Labour leadership on cycling. I’m afraid that due to the lack of decent cycleways in the borough, all of us cyclists have to track to the far left.

“In the ward I represent, Eltham South, there are numerous examples of roads that are impassable to cyclists such as myself. On Court Road, many cyclists use the pavement, including council employees – I don’t judge them for that.

“Most importantly, however, the Woolwich Road flyover, where Adrianna Skryzypiec lost her life, needs urgent and radical solutions. And who better to bring the solutions we need, than someone who’s highly articulate, someone who’s already got an audience and is being heard out there, and lives in our own borough, and knows it far, far better than the others?”


Regeneration cabinet member Denise Hyland cited figures which she says show Greenwich is one of London’s safest boroughs to cycle in – reeling off statistics at length. But what she failed to mention is that the low number of accidents reflects the low number of journeys taken by bike in Greenwich – which hasn’t seen the rise in cyclists seen in neighbouring Lewisham.

While she welcomed the mayor’s cycling policy, she added: “It is rather central London-centric – Crossrail for bikes, central London grid… and as an inner London borough, Greenwich is actually ineligible to apply for the [mini-Holland] process. I think some exceptions have been made for that, but we are ineligible as an inner London borough.”

So why didn’t Greenwich (which actually counts as an outer London borough in TfL’s recent Roads Task Force document) ask for an exemption? Hey-ho.

Even more weirdly, Hyland then referred to “the successful [sic] implementation of cycle superhighways from south of the Thames – Wandsworth to Westminster and Merton to the City – but they require a connecting bridge across the river. That reflects our case that more river crossings are needed”. It’s worth pointing out that cyclists would be barred from the Silvertown Tunnel that Hyland endorses.


You can hear more from Hyland and deputy leader Peter Brooks here:


Two words weren’t mentioned: Andrew Gilligan.

Labour’s amendment was passed around, and the fireworks were lit. Tory Nigel Fletcher said it was “quite clearly out of order”. “This is not a motion about cycling, it’s a very specific point about the relationship between this council and the mayor of London’s cycling commissioner.” Mayor Angela Cornforth, who you could feel flinch every time the council leader moved, wasn’t going to let her leader down and refused to entertain the Conservative objections.

An impatient Chris Roberts, hunched in his seat, twice objected to opposition councillors’ speeches, clearly trying to stop the “G” word from being mentioned


Worse was to come. When the Tory leader Spencer Drury tried to mention Gilligan, Cornforth intervened, claiming it was out of order as irrelevant to the amendment. He said that even local London Assembly member Len Duvall – an ex-Labour leader of the council – had intervened to try to persuade the council to talk to Gilligan.


Significantly, ousted Labour councillor Mary Mills made an intervention to ensure the work of her own cycling panel, which had included backbenchers and the general public, was recognised among the rowing.

“Wherever something is inconvenient to the party opposite, they chose to pretend it doesn’t exist,” added Nigel Fletcher – but Chris Roberts – doing his “I wasn’t going to speak but…” party trick – claimed he had Boris Johnson’s top team’s numbers on his mobile, and that relationships with City Hall were good.


Labour’s amended motion was carried – but they way the party leadership had carried on left a nasty taste in the mouth. You can read a full report from Mark Chandler at the News Shopper, while Tory candidate Matt Hartley has his own take on the issue.

Greenwich Foot Tunnel, July 2013

Work soon on the foot tunnels… but report kicked into long grass?

This is a big one – Greenwich Council has started the process of finding contractors to restart work on the Greenwich and Woolwich foot tunnels, despite an independent report into the fiasco of their refurbishment not being finished. In October 2012, independent expert John Wilmoth was called in to write a report on the council’s processes when dealing with large projects, followed by one on the tunnels project itself. The first was done quickly, the second still hasn’t emerged. Originally, it was said the council would need to wait for these reports to be completed before restarting work.

Now it’s changed tack, and work’s going ahead.

According to Denise Hyland: “In discussions with our independent expert, we [have decided] the most important thing is to get those tunnels finished. So we have decided, within the boundaries of the October 2012 report to cabinet, to proceed with a procurement exercise to get those tunnels finished.

“As for the report by the independent person, I think this council would agree that the most important thing is for this council to finish the tunnels, both for our residents and those of Newham and Tower Hamlets. As for a timetable, I’m afraid it’s too early to say.”


What of the report? It’s likely to be sharply critical of the council, and particularly the department that Denise Hyland runs. It wouldn’t be a surprise if it was now delayed until after May 2014′s council election – particularly as there are rumours that Hyland fancies herself as the next council leader.

Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park

Listen to the end of that clip of Denise Hyland above and you’ll hear something that never normally happens – a Labour councillor asking a question. Peninsula Labour councillor Mary Mills broke convention to ask Denise Hyland for recognition that the Greenwich Ecology Park’s Green Flag award be recognised by the council – Labour councillors are usually forbidden from asking questions in council meetings.

The threat to the park from a 20-storey tower was mentioned in public questions – but Denise Hyland, who despite being in charge of regeneration also sits on the planning board – could only be non-committal.


A clash and some facts on Greenwich Time

Chris Smith, the leader of Greenwich borough’s Liberal Democrats, criticised the propaganda in council weekly Greenwich Time in public questions. In response, Chris Roberts slagged off the Liberal Democrats.


But we know now how much advertising revenue Greenwich Time has made in the past three years, both from external sources and from within the council. This came in an answer to a question from me.

2010/11: Internal – £379,754.35 External – £198,982.31
2011/12: Internal – £411,538.55 External – £224,893.26
2012/13: Internal – £403,938.56 External – £254,272.45

We also know how much it spends on freelance editorial and sales staff.

2010/11 – £227,621.63
2011/12 – £177,192.59
2012/13 – £206,880.90

Council leader Chris Roberts claims the council saves £2.3m each year in using Greenwich Time rather than existing local papers for ads, and that no council staff work on editorial or sales for GT.

Pavement charges for small shops

Environment cabinet member Maureen O’Mara was quizzed about charges being brought in for small shops to put things on the pavement. She claims some businesses support it as it’ll bring certainty as to whether or not what they’re doing is legal.


She was questioned later by Tory Geoff Brighty, who asked if it was such a good idea, why the council hadn’t introduced it before. When a front page story about the issue in the Mercury was mentioned, she responded: “I must admit I don’t read the Mercury, so I have no idea what’s on its front page.”


Fires on Plumstead Common blamed on Boris Johnson

A spate of fires on Plumstead Common was brought up from the public gallery by Liberal Democrat candidate Stewart Christie. Maureen O’Mara’s response? To go on about Boris Johnson’s fire service cuts, which haven’t happened yet (and to which her own official response was pitiful).


There was another fire on the common yesterday afternoon. A blond-haired man was nowhere near the scene.

The strange tale of the last bus from Kidbrooke Village

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Ferrier Estate, 22 July 2013

Today’s your last chance to do something people have been able to do for 34 years. After 00.35 tonight, Kidbrooke’s Ferrier Estate will no longer have a bus service for the first time since 1979.

Kidbrooke Village

Mind you, there’s no longer a Ferrier Estate to serve. The last remnants of the estate came down in the past couple of weeks, and the smart new Kidbrooke Village development is taking shape. While the new homes have gone up, and new occupants have moved in, routes 178 and B16 have been among the few things to have stayed the same. Not any more.

You’d think the ability to take a bus to your door would be a huge selling point. But developer Berkeley Homes is changing the road network on the old estate – from Saturday, the link under Kidbrooke Park Road which links Tudway Road to Moorhead Way will be closed for good. Which means no more buses.

Ferrier Estate, 22 July 2013

All of which has been approved by Greenwich Council for a long time. Unfortunately, what nobody took into account was that it wasn’t just Kidbrooke Village that would lose its buses. Sandwiched awkwardly between the Ferrier and the private Blackheath Cator Estate is the Brooklands Park estate. It’s completely cut off from any public roads – there’s a short footpath to Moorhead Way to the west, and to the north, south and east it’s surrounded by the Cator Estate’s private roads, which shut their gates during rush hours. For many people on Brooklands Park, the 178 and B16 are lifelines.

Who did Greenwich Council blame for Greenwich Council’s decision to endorse shutting the roads, cutting off the Brooklands? Why, Transport for London! When Brooklands residents petitioned the council earlier this year, the response said while Berkeley Homes was willing to build a turning circle on Moorhead Way, it was putting pressure on TfL to pay for it. (See the second petition document here and the TfL consultation for more.)

Greenwich Council response to TfL consultation

Petition response from Greenwich Council, 6 March 2013

Indeed, council leader Chris Roberts used the issue to call for Greenwich Council to be given powers to run bus services, instead of TfL, even though it was a problem caused entirely by his own council and its chums at Berkeley Homes.

Greenwich Council meeting, 6 March 2013

Fast forward to July, and what’s in council propaganda weekly Greenwich Time?

Greenwich Time, 22 July 2013

That’s actually a lie. There are no new bus routes. Greenwich Time has long been used to mislead, but the porkies are starting to get bigger.

And whats this?

Greenwich Time, 22 July 2013

Yes! It’s a turning circle! From Saturday, while the 178 will run straight up Kidbrooke Park Road, the B16 will use this turning circle so Brooklands residents get some buses. The Brooklands residents will lose a bus to Lewisham and Woolwich, but keep one to Eltham. But how did that pressure on Transport for London to pay for it go?

“After further consultation and discussion, the council and Berkeley Homes agreed to fund a turning circle on Moorhead Way, close to Wingfield School.”

So, surreally, here’s two residents’ association types, cabinet member Denise “foot tunnels” Hyland and Berkeley chair John Anderson celebrating… bus service cuts not being as bad as they could be, and Greenwich Council and Berkeley Homes having to make good their own mistake. Well done everybody, well done.

This won’t be the last transport worry to affect Kidbrooke Village. Plans include a “new transport hub”, presumably replacing the horrible Henleys Cross bus stops, the very worst in crap 1990s transport design. Yet it’s not clear what transport will be serving what will soon be a ballooning population – and whether the rail service through Kidbrooke will be able to cope.

Greenwich snubs cycling tsar Gilligan over council criticisms

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Top-notch Greenwich Council cycling infrastructure off Western Way, Thamesmead

Top-notch Greenwich Council cycling infrastructure off Western Way, Thamesmead

Greenwich Council has admitted it is refusing to deal with City Hall’s cycling commissioner Andrew Gilligan because he has criticised the authority in his work as a journalist.

Cabinet member Denise Hyland told a council meeting there was an “irresolvable conflict of interest” because he had written about “public policy” in the borough.

Greenwich is the only one of London’s 32 boroughs to have refused to speak to Gilligan, who launched plans to make cycling in the capital easier and safer earlier this year.

Hyland’s admission that the council wasn’t speaking to Gilligan came two days after a cyclist was killed in a collision in Lewisham, just outside the borough boundary.

In a written reply to a question from Greenwich Cyclists co-ordinator Anthony Austin, she said the council was engaging with TfL over the Mayor’s Vision For Cycling – just not with Gilligan.

“I can confirm that Officers have met with senior representatives from Transport for London to discuss the Royal Borough’s priorities and how they relate to both the Mayor’s Vision for Cycling and the funding packages available. The meeting was extremely constructive with Transport for London indicating that they were very supportive of the work the Borough has undertaken so far and confirming they would work with us to bring forward future proposals in line with the Council’s agreed priorities.

“In relation to the Mayor’s Cycling Commissioner, this is a part time post awarded to a Greenwich resident who is a journalist who has blogged and written about significant issues of public policy within Greenwich and it is our view that he has an irresolvable conflict of interest.

“The Leader of the Council met with his boss, the Deputy Mayor for Transport [Isabel Dedring] to agree that liaison on cycling matters would continue to be, as previously, through the officer networks and where necessary at senior political level.”

Gilligan, who lives in west Greenwich, wrote regularly about issues in the area in a column for Greenwich.co.uk for two years until 2010 and has also touched on local issues in his work for the Daily Telegraph. Abrasive and provocative, his targets included the Olympics in Greenwich Park, market owner Greenwich Hospital, the Inc chain of bars and restaurants, and this very website as well as the council (“forty-watt burghers“).

But Gilligan’s criticisms of Greenwich are nothing compared with his trenchant attacks on Tower Hamlets, whose elected mayor Lutfur Rahman he brands “extremist-linked“.

However, Tower Hamlets council seems to have a thicker skin than Greenwich – it’s co-operating with Gilligan on the cycling plan. Indeed, even TfL’s top brass are having to swallow their pride to work with someone who repeatedly dubbed it “Transport for Livingstone”.

Whatever your views on Gilligan’s skills or failings as a journalist, it’s pretty clear that he got to council leader Chris Roberts. In 2010, Roberts yelled “chicken run, my arse!” at an election count following a Gilligan story about him doing a ‘chicken run’ to a safer seat.

With this background, they were never going to be best buddies. But the leader’s ego means Greenwich is set to miss out on improvements which could make the streets safer for all road users, providing many with a new way of getting around the area.

Indeed, even Bexley Council has announced it’s bidding for “mini-Holland” funding to try to significantly boost the low levels of cycling in its borough. Cyclists in Greenwich will have to wait until at least the next council election in May before such enlightened thinking is seen on the streets of the self-styled royal borough.

Written by Darryl

28 June, 2013 at 7:30 am

Greenwich Council dodges public Silvertown Tunnel questions

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Bridge The Gap relaunch

Senior Greenwich councillor Denise Hyland last night ignored worried residents’ worries about the Silvertown Tunnel – and even refused to accept two offers of meetings with independent air quality experts.

The council received 27 written questions on the Silvertown Tunnel from members of the public – most meetings usually only get about 10 or so on anything – yet none of them were answered straight.

As far as spoken questions went, Hyland claimed promoting the Silvertown Tunnel was the responsibility of Transport for London – despite the fact the council has launched an “all out” campaign to promote the tunnel, and a bridge at Gallions Reach, Thamesmead. (She can listen to evidence here, of course.)

She also refused to meet independent air quality experts about the proposals – despite proposals from myself and Conservative councillor Nigel Fletcher, playing devil’s advocate since his party backs the Silvertown proposal. (Note for non-local readers: only two parties are represented in Greenwich borough.)

In reply to the public question from myself, she suggested the experts meet TfL instead.

When Fletcher pressed Hyland on why the council had not carried out any studies to back its Bridge The Gap campaign, she replied: “These are a Conservative mayor’s plans… we are a stakeholder. You would be the first to accuse me of spending public money when actually the duty of doing these studies firmly rests with TfL.”

That’s despite the fact the council launched an “all-out” campaign to back that Conservative mayor’s proposals, as pictured above.

Indeed, the Conservatives pushed Hyland into a series of bizarre answers, which included her comparing the council’s backing of mayor Boris Johnson’s campaign to photocopy hire.

A bundle of 13 questions asking a variety of questions, including why Greenwich Council had not commissioned any studies into the effects Silvertown would have, received this reply:

“The council is responding to the Mayor of London’s high level consultation on river crossings. Once a specific package of crossings is formulated, it will be for the Mayor to undertake the necessary economic, environmental and traffic management assessments. These will need to be undertaken holistically, taking into account all the proposals, not individual transport solutions in isolation and should look at the implications of a one-crossing solution, both fixed link crossings, and the implications of doing nothing.”

Questions about why Greenwich Council’s strategic transport planner had called the plans “conjecture” were dodged, but not denied, as were questions about why the council had used “the full strength of its communications department”, while a written answer from Hyland said it would be “inappropriate to comment” on the possibility of demolition of homes for a possible widening of the A102.

A further question, about whether Greenwich would be happy just to see a Silvertown Tunnel built, was dodged with the answer that the council believes “a package of vehicular crossings [is needed] to complement the non-vehicular crossings”.

I don’t have the written answers available in a format to upload yet, but I do have audio of the public questions and the debate with the Conservatives.

10.20pm update: Here’s the written answers to the 28 (not 27) questions the public asked.

Public questions – 20 minutes long, includes non-Silvertown questions (incl foot tunnel stuff) (download)


Conservative questions from Nigel Fletcher and Spencer Drury – 7 minutes long, well worth a listen (download)


Hyland’s performance was so surreal, I can’t quite take it in. The audio quality’s the best I can get it, but please, take a listen and let me know what you think.

To take part in the TfL consultation which ends on Friday, go to www.tfl.gov.uk/rivercrossings. To sign the No To Silvertown Tunnel petition, visit www.silvertowntunnel.co.uk.

Written by Darryl

31 January, 2013 at 1:55 am

The leader’s friends: Greenwich Council relaunches Silvertown push

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After the media launch of its Bridge The Gap campaign was hijacked two weeks ago, I’d been wondering how Greenwich Council would try to breathe new life into its campaign to see a third Blackwall Tunnel built.

Here’s how it did it – it called up its mates.

Bridge The Gap relaunch

You know when the council’s in trouble – when it issues a press release in time for the local papers to use it. So this image and the following release was issued on Wednesday afternoon, rather than on Friday evening, after deadline time at the Mercury and News Shopper. Nevertheless, you’ll surely see it in next week’s propaganda weekly Greenwich Time. GT’s been sent a comment from the No To Silvertown Tunnel campaign – I’m looking forward to seeing whether it’ll use it.

Among this crowd are some of the people who have the greatest influence over how Greenwich Council works. They include figures from O2 owner AEG, property developer Berkeley Homes and West Properties, which promised to build a cruise liner terminal for the Olympics but has so far failed to deliver.

Below is the press release, with some comments on those who took part. Wednesday’s photocall ties together heap of stories proving just how dependent Greenwich Council has become on a handful of large firms – shutting out even members of its ruling Labour party from decision-making. But both MPs and rank-and-file Labour members are revolting against the council’s stance. The fight against the Silvertown Tunnel has a long way to run yet, but another battle is erupting over who actually controls the council.

softheadsConsidering the handsome salary dished out to Greenwich’s head of press, the council could probably have done without the legend “Softheads” above regeneration cabinet member Denise Hyland’s bonce, mind. Whoops.

NEWS RELEASE

ROYAL BOROUGH OF GREENWICH

16 JANUARY 2013

LOCAL BUSINESSES CALL FOR BETTER RIVER CROSSINGS

Community leaders, local businesses and entrepreneurs have thrown their weight behind a campaign for more river crossings in East London. The Royal Borough of Greenwich and Newham Council are jointly campaigning for a new bridge at Thamesmead and a new tunnel at Silvertown to ease congestion and to promote economic growth. Businesses have now staged a public show of support, saying that the lack of routes across the river in East London is a barrier to economic growth in the area and that new crossings are badly needed to secure future the prosperity of the region.

Actually, no “community leaders” have spoken out in favour – does anyone know any “community leaders”? – and none are in the photo. There’s a few politicians, though. As for Newham Council’s support of Silvertown, it’s lukewarm at best. It told told last year’s TfL consultation on the issue:

“Newham’s support for Silvertown Tunnel is conditional on traffic management and a commitment to a fixed link at Gallions Reach.”

Bear in mind that Boris Johnson is implacably opposed to a fixed link at Gallions, which means Greenwich Council’s campaign would be more likely to achieve only a Silvertown Tunnel, a situation Labour London Assembly member John Biggs told TfL last year would be “unsustainable”. Last week, Biggs told an Assembly seminar into road crossings it would just “funnel more problems into the area”, adding there was a “very deep anxiety in Newham” that it would be lumbered with just the Silvertown Tunnel.

Local politicians, business leaders and community representatives gathered to discuss the issue on a morning which saw severe transport problems in the local area with the Woolwich Ferry closed because of fog, interrupted DLR services south of the river and incidents in the Blackwall Tunnel and on the A2.

Again, no “community representatives” in sight there. Of course, an incident on the A2 would still hold up access to the Silvertown Tunnel.

Councillor Chris Roberts, Leader of the Royal Borough of Greenwich said:

“It’s no surprise that there’s such strong support amongst businesses for our Bridge the Gap campaign. Providing new river crossings is absolutely essential to solve the serious congestion in this part of London and to unlock the development potential of some 40 sites both north and south of the Thames. The value of land and property is determined by access to it and it’s essential for both our businesses and our residents that we are no longer pegged back by the river being such a barrier here. While we obviously work hard to promote walking, cycling and using public transport, new river crossings are needed to solve the existing congestion issues and to bring better jobs and prospects for our local residents and businesses”

Do businesses and residents benefit from high property values? Or do existing landowners and property developers benefit? There’s also no proof that new road-building solves congestion issues – in fact, researchers from the London School of Economics and the University of Toronto have found otherwise.

Nick Raynsford, MP for Greenwich and Woolwich said:

“For too long, Greenwich and Woolwich have suffered from inadequate provision for river crossings. Severe congestion at Blackwall, and also queues of lorries waiting for the Woolwich Ferry, are not just inhibiting economic development; they are also causing serious pollution. That is why we need new river crossings at Silvertown and Gallions Reach, imposed traffic management through the introduction of smart tolling, and improvements in transport access, together with enhanced environment safeguards particularly along the A102”.

Nick Raynsford’s connections with the construction industry are well-documented. Of course, he infamously backed the universally unpopular redevelopment of Greenwich Market, since scrapped. He even backs the ‘Boris Island’ scheme to build an airport in the Thames Estuary.

Also among those gathered this morning, Rebecca Kane, General Manager of The O2 said:

“At The O2, AEG has created the world’s most popular music and entertainment venue, attracting more than 40 million visitors since it opened in June 2007. Throughout this time congestion at the Blackwall Tunnel has been an inherent problem for our customers, tenants and partners. AEG strongly supports the proposal for a tunnel crossing at Silvertown and a bridge at Gallions Reach. This will provide much needed relief to the area, support AEG’s next development phases on the Greenwich Peninsula and indeed stimulate similar growth on both sides of the river”.

Most O2 visitors arrive by public transport – the bigger threat to the O2 was the botched Jubilee Line resignalling project. Since 2007, AEG has done nothing to help ease the traffic congestion caused by the O2 arena outside North Greenwich station. Perhaps it might look after its own backyard first? AEG’s development plans include a controversial hotel scheme which has had council approval since 2010, when the planning board split on party lines, with Labour councillors voting for it. Which it’s believed locally that it’s behind the mysterious appearance of an open-air stadium in the council’s Greenwich Peninsula development masterplan. AEG representatives are regularly invited to the council’s functions, while the council rents a hospitality box in the O2 arena.

John Anderson, Chairman of Berkeley Homes said:

“Berkeley is very supportive of the two new River crossings at Silvertown and Gallions Reach Thamesmead which are essential for the continued growth and regeneration of this strategically important part of South East London.

We strongly believe that in order to gain the maximum sustainable benefits the Gallions Reach Crossing must be a bridge link and not a ferry.”

Land Registry entriesThe links between Greenwich Council and Berkeley Homes are well-known. Council leader Chris Roberts even bought a flat in the Royal Arsenal from Berkeley for £270,000 in December 2009. Meanwhile, Berkeley has been doing its bit for the local housing crisis by, um, hawking homes in Kidbrooke Village – the old Ferrier Estate, handed to it by Greenwich Council – to Malaysian investors. It’s also been trying to wriggle out of paying for the fit-out of Woolwich’s Crossrail station, which sits inside the Arsenal development – the deadline for which is weeks away.

Berkeley Group chairman (and Conservative Party donor) Tony Pidgley was knighted in the New Year honours list. He’s called for homebuilders to be given spare government land cheaply. Berkeley are also regularly invited to council functions.

Donal Mulryan, CEO of West Properties said:

“This area has such huge economic potential which is already being realised to some extent, but it’s essential to future prosperity that we get a new river crossing in this part of London. It would be of great benefit to properly connect north and south here and will undoubtedly bring new jobs and investment to this area”.

West Properties promised to build a cruise liner terminal in east Greenwich in time for the Olympics. There’s been no sign of it yet, and so far has brought no new jobs or investment to the area. The company, which also hit problems with developments in Manchester after being caught up in the Irish property collapse, is also regularly invited to council booze-ups.

Roger Arnold, of Arnold Martin Associates said:

“East London has suffered historically, both economically and socially, due to the lack of connectivity between the two sides of the river. With the success of the regeneration of the Olympic site in Stratford and the commitment to Crossrail, this is an opportune moment to secure the future of East London and the campaign must be supported by local residents, communities and businesses to enhance the further potential of East London and the Thames Gateway.”

Martin Arnold Associates – yep, the council got the firm’s name wrong – are chartered surveyors and construction consultants involved in the redevelopment of the Olympic Park. It’s also supported the council’s Greenwich Starting Blocks charity for young athletes.

As for the other outfits featured, they include council building contractor Lakehouse; London Stone Properties, which flogs properties on the Arsenal; construction logistics firm CSB; Plumstead minicab firm Abbey Cars; printers SMP; Woolwich-based printers Scorpion Press; Woolwich diner Favourite Inn; solicitors Grant Saw; Murphys Waste, whose trucks regularly thunder through Greenwich; and, bafflingly, the Woolwich Grand Theatre. I wonder how many of the smaller firms without a direct interest in construction or property actually realise what they’ve signed up to? I’ve asked the Woolwich Grand Theatre and am waiting for a reply.

Why only one MP? While Nick Raynsford was happy to be at the launch, where was Eltham’s Clive Efford? Clive seems to be pushing his own scheme – a Silvertown Tunnel and DLR extension (which TfL isn’t consulting on). That’s the infamous “DLR on stilts” scheme, which Greenwich Council is spending £70,000 on a report investigating. Nothing about Gallions Reach – it’s believed Efford is vehemently against a bridge there, fearing it’ll eventually end in a return to the axed East London River Crossing scheme, which would have driven a motorway through Oxleas Wood. Sadly for him, his constituency now includes Kidbrooke, which would be badly affected by extra traffic on the A2. He’s in a no-win situation. Meanwhile, Erith & Thamesmead’s Teresa Pearce doesn’t seem too keen on Silvertown, judging by this tweet.

TfL says Silvertown WILL increase A102 traffic: TfL’s head of borough co-ordination Colin Mann admitted to a panel of Greenwich councillors last November that Silvertown was “likely to attract a lot of traffic” to the A102, and that no environmental impact assessment had been carried out.

Local Labour parties revolting over Bridge The Gap: Labour parties are tight-knit organisations which wouldn’t even tell you which brand of biscuits (Co-op, of course) they serve at their meetings. But Blackheath Westcombe Labour Party passed a motion condemning the Silvertown Tunnel scheme last week, and I’m told the Peninsula ward party tore a strip off Denise Hyland when she turned up there last night. Understandably so – there’s an election coming up next year, and marginal seats are under threat as residents discover what the council wants to do. More resolutions are planned in other local parties, including one for the whole Greenwich & Woolwich party, which is guaranteed to result in fireworks. Its chair, David Gardner, has already signed the petition against Silvertown, as have other members. Who runs Labour in this area – property developers, or local members? We may find out in the coming months.

Councillors admit air quality an issue: At last week’s planning meeting into opening a new Sainsbury’s in Charlton, three councillors – Clive Mardner, Hayley Fletcher and, unbelievably, Denise Hyland, brought up air quality along the Woolwich Road as an issue. Fletcher even voted against the scheme after calling the data “frightening”. Yet all three councillors are part of a Labour group which voted behind closed doors for a scheme which would make air quality much, much worse. Strange.

Council’s case ‘conjecture’, admits transport planner: At the London Assembly seminar on river crossings last week, Greenwich Council’s transport planner admitted that without evidence of the benefits of more crossings, the debate was mostly “conjecture”. Interestingly, the RAC Foundation’s David Quarmby observed that TfL wasn’t promising Silvertown was about regeneration – but according to Greenwich, it is. You can watch it here – including the ex-GLC transport chief who said Silvertown would cause “critical” congestion as it “put all the eggs in one basket” – but unfortunately you have to sit through all 150+ minutes of the meeting.

Council silent on A102 widening: A token letter against Silvertown made its way into Greenwich Time this week. No answer to the question, though, just like we’ve had no answers throughout this bizarre, and shaming episode.

Greenwich Time, 15 January 2013

City Hall has now placed some more data about crossing plans online, and there’s a detailed discussion at Greenwich.co.uk, although it’s the questions that have been detailed, not the answers. There are also meetings in Poplar and Greenwich to be held by Friends of the Earth, which is against both crossings. No public meetings from Greenwich Council, sheltering behind its developer friends and propaganda newspaper.

To sign the No To Silvertown Tunnel petition, visit: www.silvertowntunnel.co.uk
To take part in TfL’s consultation, go to www.tfl.gov.uk/rivercrossings

(Post updated Friday 12.05pm, to include TfL quote on Silvertown and petition quotes below.)

PS. Here’s some quotes from the petition so far:

“We should not add to traffic and pollution on A102 until all other possibilities have been properly investigated and implemented” – Richard Dinkeldein

“Emissions in the area are bad enough already this will make things far worse. Shame on you Greenwich Council.” – Tessa O’Connor

“I live close to the A102 and a family member’s asthma will only get worse with more traffic on the route.” – Stephen Craven

“More ways to cross the river in the East are needed. This however, is not the solution in an already congested area.” – Matt Drewry

“I live in the shadow of the Woolwich Road flyover and experience the fumes from the amount of traffic passing 24 hours a day and the sooty fallout on the windowsills etc. I suffer with asthma.” – Linda Brittin

Sainsbury’s store stalled by Greenwich Council as Tesco opens

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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?

Written by Darryl

30 November, 2012 at 7:30 am

Greenwich and Woolwich foot tunnels: Did council lie over works?

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Greenwich Council told a Government agency that the unfinished Greenwich and Woolwich foot tunnel works had been completed, a minister has said, even though it now admits the tunnels are in a poor state of repair.

The project, which has been beset by delays, remains unfinished after the contractors were sacked last year, and last month Greenwich Council commissioned an independent investigation into what went wrong.

But local government minister Mark Prisk told Bermondsey MP Simon Hughes that Greenwich Council said the works, which had been funded by an £11.5m grant, had been finished – and any further work would have to come from the council’s own funds.

The cash was awarded by the Department for Communities and Local Government in November 2008. But the project moved to the Homes and Communities Agency, which took charge of monitoring progress on the project.

In a written response to the Liberal Democrat MP, Mr Prisk said: “The borough confirmed that all eligible works funded by the Homes and Communities Agency were completed as per the conditions of contract and that any remaining works would be funded from their own resources.”

However, contractors Dean & Dyball, Hyder Consulting and Swett were sacked in December 2011 following slow progress on the project, with the council issuing a series of misleading and evasive answers about the project until it finally owned up to the problems four weeks ago, and announced plans to take legal action against the firms.

The funding letter, signed by Greenwich’s assistant chief executive John Comber (and obtained by this website under the Freedom of Information Act), outlines the schedule of works.

It’s clear to anyone who uses either tunnel that the works are nowhere near finished – only the lifts and south rotunda in the Greenwich tunnel have been completed, along with the stairwell in the Woolwich tunnel. Greenwich Council refuses to publicly discuss what hasn’t been completed for fear of inflating new tenders to finish the work.

It’s also worth recalling Greenwich cabinet member Denise Hyland’s answer at a council meeting when asked, bluntly, if the Government’s money had run out.

“The budget is considered sufficient to complete the project, subject to the contractual issues being resolved with the contractors involved in the first phase of the works,” she said, despite the fact the council had claimed the works were completed and all the money had been spent.

I’ll leave it down to you to decide whether that, in retrospect, was a misleading answer. Incidentally, Greenwich has still not announced who will lead its investigation into the foot tunnel fiasco, and other big projects.

Whether or not the council misled the HCA – it’s certainly clear the government agency wasn’t taking enough notice of what was happening with its money.

To make matters more complex, the HCA’s functions in London were taken over by the mayor’s office earlier this year, which now means the responsibility for keeping track of the grant falls to a certain Boris Johnson, who has consistently batted away requests that he put pressure on Greenwich to finish the project. City Hall may now have to sit up and take more notice of what’s going on beneath the Thames.

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