853

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

Posts Tagged ‘greenwich council

Greenwich Ikea campaigners look to the courts: Can you help?

with 6 comments

Rainbow at Sainsbury's Greenwich, 2011
Campaigners against Ikea’s proposed store in east Greenwich have launched an appeal for funds as they look to begin a judicial review into the Government’s decision not to overturn planning permission for the scheme.

Greenwich Council gave outline permission for the store, on the site of the “eco-friendly” Sainsbury’s store in Peartree Way, in March. Planning officers ignored concerns about increased traffic and air pollution, a decision later backed by London mayor Boris Johnson.

Communities secretary Eric Pickles put the scheme on hold, but later opted not to intervene in the scheme. Current Greenwich Council leader Denise Hyland was among the councillors to back the scheme in March, along with then-leader Chris Roberts, then-chief whip Ray Walker, Steve Offord and Clive Mardner; ignoring over an hour of public criticism of the proposals.

More recently, English Heritage turned down a request from the Twentieth Century Society to list the Sainsbury’s store, which opened in September 1999 and was shortlisted for the following year’s Stirling Prize for architecture. Construction work is now well under way on a replacement Sainsbury’s store at Gallions Road, Charlton.

Now the No Ikea Greenwich group needs to raise £2,000 to take the case to solicitors for an initial opinion on a judicial review. Payments can be made via this PayPal page. Judicial reviews need to be launched within three months of the decision they seek to challenge, so the money will need to be raised quickly.

A new petition has also been launched to persuade Sainsbury’s to lift the restrictive covenant on the old store which prevents its use as a supermarket.

The architect behind the Sainsbury’s store, Paul Hinkin, died earlier this month at the age of 49.

“Paul was a very gifted and principled architect with a passion for true sustainability and he will be desperately missed,” his firm, Black Architecture, said in a statement.

Hinkin spoke at the Greenwich Council meeting that approved Ikea’s plans, and earlier this year wrote that Ikea should “do the right thing” and rethink its plans.

“Develop a proposition that meets the needs of the many people of London by developing a store directly served by train or tube and built with the same care, craftsmanship and environmental stewardship that you demand from you furniture,” he wrote.

Ikea certainly has changed its business model in other parts of Europe – a new store in Hamburg is in an inner-city, pedestrianised area.

But there’s been no sign of Ikea announcing any changes to its model for its Greenwich store (indeed, no sign of Ikea representatives for some months, according to Greenwich Millennium Village residents), nor any sign of pressure from Greenwich Council on the flat-pack furniture giant to amend its plans.

Greenwich & Woolwich foot tunnel cyclists to get partial green light

with 10 comments

Greenwich Foot Tunnel, 13 December 2012

Greenwich Council is to trial “shared use” of the Greenwich and Woolwich foot tunnels, which will mean cyclists being officially allowed to use them at quieter times, it has emerged.

The council’s put in a bid for £100,000 of City Hall money to develop technology to record pedestrian and cyclist movements in the tunnel, to warn cyclists when the narrow passages make it unsafe for riding.

The Friends of Greenwich and Woolwich Foot Tunnels have been asked to act as partners on the bid, along with Tower Hamlets and Newham councils.

Fogwoft says: “The proposal would allow shared use between pedestrians and cyclists at times when the tunnel is fairly empty. It would require cyclists to walk when necessary. It would allow them to cycle when safe.”

Greenwich Foot Tunnel, August 2014

Any proposal to allow cycling in the tunnels will be a hugely contentious issue – while there is a blanket ban on riding bicycles, it is widely flouted, especially in the Greenwich tunnel, which is a major link for cyclists between south-east London and Canary Wharf. Since lift attendants were withdrawn some years ago, there has been little enforcement of the ban.

If Greenwich’s bid to City Hall is unsuccessful, the council says it will fund the scheme itself.

The council says: “The proposal will be to use state of the art technology to trial shared use in the tunnel. It will monitor cycle and pedestrian flows (and cycle speeds) at all times, and use this to regulate the cycling ban; at times of low pedestrian flow, considerate cycle use will be permitted, and conversely during high pedestrian flow periods cyclists will be required to dismount and push through the space. In other words, the permission levels would respond in a timely manner to conditions in the tunnels at all times.

“This will be enforced through clear, digital signage triggered by the flow levels during each period, which will be tracked throughout the tunnel. The visual signage could be backed up by audible messages, and reinforced through additional monitoring via CCTV and other means.

“Technology will also be used to monitor the speed of any person cycling through the tunnel, flashing up clear signage to anyone travelling quicker than a recommended limit (to be defined) in a similar way to speed warning signs used on highways.”

The bid document says a trial would last for 12 months and be “rigorously monitored”.

“In using digital technology to track, monitor and regulate permissions at various times of the day, users will feel that a sensible use of the space is allowed at all times. If successful, the trial has potential to be extended to other similar spaces throughout London,” it adds.

A further £10,000-£25,000 would fund “behavioural change” measures – enforcement, in other words.

The system would be trialled in Woolwich (left) before coming to Greenwich (right)

500+ people per day use the Woolwich tunnel, over 3,000 use the Greenwich tunnel

It’s believed that a system would be trialled in the quieter Woolwich tunnel before being moved to Greenwich by 2016/17.

Fogwoft has invited users to discuss the issue at its annual general meeting on 2 October. (See more on Fogwoft’s website.) The council will also have to consult the public directly about the scheme, which will involve a change to a by-law.

Greenwich Foot Tunnel

The announcement comes as the long-delayed refurbishment works on both tunnels enter their final stages, after long delays caused by poor management of the project, both by the council and contractor Hyder Consulting.

Greenwich Foot Tunnel

While deep cleaning hasn’t taken place, the lifts at Woolwich are now working, though anecdotal evidence suggests the Greenwich lifts are still bedevilled by breakdowns. Indicators have been placed in the Greenwich tunnel to warn of lift problems, although they are difficult to read in sunlight.

In December 2012, a poll on this website showed 51% of voters would back cycling in the tunnel at all times, with just 16% favouring the current ban and 18% backing the kind of compromise Greenwich is going for. This may indicate something about the readership of this website, though.

But with Greenwich Council backing the motor vehicle-only Silvertown Tunnel, and with even more intensive development planned for the Isle of Dogs, the foot tunnel issue shows it’s clear there is still a massive, unmet demand for safe pedestrian and cyclist crossings from south-east to east London.

Monday update: Here’s an interesting project – the echoey sounds of the Woolwich Foot Tunnel captured in Waves of Woolwich.

Cycling in Greenwich borough: Two steps forward, one step back

with 4 comments

It’s the simplest things that make cycling easier – and safer. Until recently, the single greatest improvement to my pedalling life was Lewisham Council resurfacing the main road out of Blackheath Village. Prince of Wales Road was treacherous, potholed, and grim. Now it’s like velvet. No more uncertain bouncing around, no more swerving around great dents or slowing down to absorb the bumps. Safer, and with fewer surprises for drivers. (Other areas of Lewisham borough haven’t been so lucky, mind.)

Together with Greenwich Council putting down a new surface at Blackheath Standard, it’s made a kilometre-long stretch a simple ride.

New cycle lanes on Charlton Road as well as Woolwich Road and Trafalgar Road have helped too. They’re not perfect, the deathtrap that is the Woolwich Road flyover is still being swerved while more radical ideas like redesigning side streets are being ignored. And the less said of the leadership’s road-building policies, the better. But they’re encouraging moves in the right direction.

Thames Path, Greenwich

Greenwich Council’s done some more super, simple cycling things recently. Nearly four years ago, I grumbled about the 1990s cobbles that interrupted the Thames Path at Greenwich Millennium Village. A couple of months back, they were finally sorted.

Now, all they need to do is indicate the pedestrian and cycling sides of the path a bit more clearly, and it’ll be nearly perfect (which is more than you can say for pedestrian and cycling provision in the rest of GMV).

Charlton Road

Back up in Charlton, the wider cycle lane was blighted by a dangerous build-out into the road at the Charlton Road/Wyndcliff Road junction, just as you approach a zebra crossing.

Build-outs – where the pavement juts into the road – are a 1990s thing. But with cyclists encouraged to ride on the left of the road, this can bring bikes into conflict with motor vehicles – particularly as many drivers have an unfortunate habit of trying to race you to a point where the road narrows. One – to assert the primacy of buses on the A206 – was removed from a bus stop on Woolwich Road when the new cycle lanes were put in last year.

Now, the Charlton Road horror has been fixed – though it could do with resurfacing – and the street is much safer.

So, at least in the north-west of the borough, some positive’s action’s being taken to make cycling safer. Sadly, though – the reverse is happening in the deep south. Head out to Eltham, go down Avery Hill Road – a hairy stretch treated as a racetrack by many drivers – and you’ll find a brand new build-out…

Avery Hill Road, 24 August 2014

From what I can gather, it’s to make it easier for Greenwich University students to cross the road after they’ve taken the 286 bus to their Avery Hill campus. But the first time I came across this, I found myself with a speeding berk bearing down on me as I moved to avoid this new obstruction in the road.

It’s not safe, and considering the good work being done in the north of the borough, it’s baffling as to why this would be installed in the south.

But it’d be churlish to ignore the good work that’s being done in areas like Greenwich, Charlton and Blackheath. If Greenwich Council really wants to encourage cycling – and there is a strategy now in place – then it needs to be consistent across the borough, and its highways engineers need to checking their “improvements” against this, rather than going for the first solution they can think of.

Berkeley Homes and Boris Johnson’s £500 ceremonial trowel

with 13 comments

Back page of Meridian magazine, September 2014 edition
There’s an interesting feature in this week’s Economist about Berkeley Homes, the developer which had a great influence on Greenwich Council during the Chris Roberts years.

It’s not just interesting because it features “a local blogger” commenting on the former Dear Leader, who’s still in close contact with the council leadership, and his ownership of a Berkeley home on the Royal Arsenal development in Woolwich. It also features the revelation that Boris Johnson was given a £500 ceremonial trowel by Berkeley’s chairman, Tony Pidgeley, last summer. (He was also given a glass paperweight in October.) Johnson is, of course, responsible for strategic planning approval for developments such as the Arsenal (which is GLA land) and Kidbrooke Village. (Mind you, at least you can find Johnson’s gifts and hospitality on the City Hall website – try having a look for the equivalent on the Greenwich site.)

It’s not just Berkeley, it’s not just Greenwich, it’s not just Boris Johnson. Developers’ demands are weighing heavily on many London boroughs, but some are more eager to be associated with them than others. And Berkeley’s particularly good at gaining influence, especially as Pidgeley is also president of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (chair: Chris Roberts’ friend Mark Adams) which has been pushing heavily for the Silvertown Tunnel and Gallions Reach Bridge. Indeed, this written answer from Johnson to London Assembly member Caroline Pidgeon acknowledges the link between Berkeley and the LCCI.

Next month’s tall ships boondoggle will also feature another example of a developer wielding financial power – Barratt Homes, which is currently letting historic Enderby House rot away, is sponsoring the event and has its name on banners in Greenwich town centre. “Festival supporters” include Berkeley, Cathedral Group (Silvertown Tunnel supporter and Morden Wharf developer) and Knight Dragon (Greenwich Peninsula developer). Lots of lovely hospitality, no doubt.

It’s not just on tall ships where developers and councillors can get together. Earlier this summer Cathedral’s chief executive Richard Upton popped up at the unveiling of a tree dedicated to Vice Admiral Hardy at Devonport House, Greenwich, alongside Greenwich leader Denise Hyland and Lewisham’s deputy mayor Alan Smith. Cathedral owns Devonport House, alongside the Movement development by Greenwich station and the Deptford Project across the borough boundary. Naturally, it got a warm write-up in Greenwich Time.

So it’s worth keeping an eye on little things like this. As developers become more powerful, and with councils often unable to build their own housing, do we have representatives that can resist these charm offensives and fight for a good deal for us all?

Incidentally, the picture above is that of an ad for the latest phase of the Royal Arsenal – effectively, the flats that’ll pay for Berkeley’s contribution to the Crossrail station there. Note the little back-scratch for the mayor in the shape of a New Routemaster cruising along Beresford Street – in reality, it’s highly unlikely that the Roastmaster will ever make it to SE18.

Revealed: Mercury owner’s bid to take over Greenwich Time

with 5 comments

Greenwich Time

Greenwich Council refused an approach from the owner of the Mercury and South London Press newspapers to take over its controversial weekly freesheet Greenwich Time, it’s emerged – and is being accused of misleading its own councillors about the offer.

The offer, made three years ago, is at the centre of a row between the publisher and the council over figures used by Greenwich leader Denise Hyland to justify continuing with the newspaper, one of only two in the country that are published weekly.

It comes as Greenwich Council is defending the paper against new laws brought in by the coalition government, with communities secretary Eric Pickles calling it “propaganda on the rates”.

Charlton MercuryBefore GT went weekly, it had a long-standing distribution arrangement with the Mercury, which is London’s oldest local paper and is run as a sister paper to its Tindle Newspapers stablemate, the South London Press.

Greenwich claims it saves money by publishing GT weekly as it can place public notices – for planning, road closures, and the like – there without having to pay a third party for advertising.

But a letter from SLP managing director Peter Edwards to Hyland, sent earlier this month, claims the council presented “inaccurate data” when justifying this in a council debate in June, which saw councillors vote down an anti-GT motion from the Conservatives.

Peter Edwards' letter to Denise Hyland

Greenwich claimed advertising in the Mercury would cost it £1.37m per year – but Edwards says he told council officers in a presentation that the council would only pay 55% of that sum, while the Mercury would also increase its distribution to 90% of the borough.

“We would also establish a channel on the Mercury website to carry notices, online videos and interviews, plus video streaming of open council meetings, all of this within the price quoted,” he added.

Peter Edwards' letter to Denise Hyland

“In short, we would ensure every Greenwich resident had full and unfettered access to council messages.

“I am certain that if your meeting on 25th June were in full possession of all the facts it may have reached a different conclusion.”

hyland_letter

In response, Hyland claims councillors already had “access to the full range of information you have provided”. But this information was only shared with cabinet members at the time, and not with the full council. While the council admitted in July 2011 that talks had been held with publishers, the details were not shared beyond the cabinet.

She added that the SLP/Mercury package would have “cost the council more for less” and would have still resulted “in an increase in expenditure”.

hyland_letter_02

In addition, Hyland said the SLP’s offer would not have matched GT’s distribution, and could leave the council open to “a potential reputational risk as our adverts may appear alongside those for adult service providers and chat lines”.

(The sex trade ads are an Achilles heel for the SLP when it comes to dealing with local councils – some years ago, Lambeth withdrew its ads from the SLP in protest. After a spell running a GT-style fortnightly, Lambeth Life, Lambeth took its ads to an independent, Southwark Newspaper, which now produces a weekly Lambeth Weekender featuring four pages of council news plus public notices.)

After the Mercury/SLP offer was rebuffed in 2011, Tindle Newspapers took on a different strategy to push the Mercury, de-emphasising free deliveries in Greenwich borough in favour of creating paid-for micro-editions on sale in newsagents in west Greenwich, Charlton and Blackheath – the first paid-for papers to serve the areas for three decades.

Greenwich Time, 12 August 2014

More recently, Greenwich Council has come out fighting to defend Greenwich Time, which the Government believes it has now outlawed.

“I do not understand on what basis the Secretary of State considers that the council’s publicity is not even-handed or objective,” chief executive Mary Ney, whose job is supposed to be politically-neutral, wrote on 29 April in response to a warning from Pickles that he was considering action.

“This is a serious allegation and I am entitled to understand on what basis it is being made.”

Greenwich Council response on Greenwich Time

Greenwich Council’s full response, obtained by this website under the Freedom of Information Act, lays into critics of Greenwich Time, essentially implying they do not represent the views of the people of the borough as “half are active in local politics”. “The objectiveness of their submissions has to be questioned,” it adds.

If Greenwich Time is axed, it claims, it will be “on the decision of a single minister, based upon the representations of 8 people out of a borough population of 264,000″.

It also claims that Greenwich Time supports the local newspaper industry as it is printed at Trinity Mirror’s presses in Watford, that Greenwich borough has “a strong local newspaper market”, and that it has “given extensive coverage to the Mayor of London”, and lists the (rare) occasions that opposition councillors are featured in it.

But it misses out the fact that its “rigorous sign-off process” includes the sign-off from the council leader, as admitted by Mary Ney last year, while the council’s sums still don’t take into account the time council staff spend on Greenwich Time.

Greenwich Time, 6 October 2009The council’s response also included a dossier of notes of support from various figures, including a bizarre letter from someone at the Greenwich Islamic Centre in Plumstead which hopes the Government will change its mind so “the residents of the borough can enjoy their favourite weekly newspaper”.

Another respondent claims “it is a very balanced publication which does not demonstrate political bias in any way”, while the council response quotes another individual as claiming it runs “fact-based community editorial”.

One response backing GT comes from Steve Nelson of the South East London Chamber of Commerce, who’s regularly invited to the council’s mayor-making jollies at the Royal Naval College and is a trustee of council charity Greenwich Starting Blocks, which features regularly in the paper.

Looking through the responses, with names redacted, it seems that those who appear in Greenwich Time support it, and those who don’t are against it.

Which, in a nutshell, is the problem with Greenwich Time. Just as the Evening Standard has ceased to be a reliable news source because it contains little criticism of mayor Boris Johnson, Greenwich Time is similarly unreliable because it contains little criticism of Greenwich Council. And only one of those two titles is paid for by council taxpayers.

Whatever the failings of this area’s local media, the fact that we’re paying for a weekly paper which delivers just one side of the story is a big problem. And after six years of it, it’s far from certain that a weekly propaganda rag is even an effective communication strategy for the council anyway – how many go straight in the recycling? Simply barking out instructions on a dead bit of tree simply doesn’t cut it these days.

If Greenwich Time goes, the council’s communications and engagement policy will have to be rethought. And a deal with someone will have to be done, be it with the Mercury/SLP or a competitor, for those public notices.

Like alcoholics contemplating a future off the booze, a future without Greenwich Time is one the council leadership simply doesn’t want to contemplate.

Will Eric Pickles take the bottle off them? We’ll have to wait and see.

Be magnanimous in victory… except if you’re Eltham Labour

with 8 comments

A little postscript to May’s Greenwich Council election. The highest-profile scalp was that of Conservative Nigel Fletcher, who lost his Eltham North seat as Labour advanced – due at least in part to Ukip taking suburban votes from the Tories.

Nigel’s written well about his experience of losing. Sadly, others couldn’t be as classy. On Saturday, Nigel got this leaflet through his door.

Eltham North Labour leaflet

Ouch. Not nice.

Still, at least Nigel can count himself lucky – up here in the north of the borough, hearing from your councillors after an election simply doesn’t happen.

In the meantime, let’s keep a special eye out for how Linda Bird and Wynn Davies shake things up…

2.45pm update: Nigel has now written about the letter himself.

Written by Darryl

14 July, 2014 at 6:30 am

Government backs Greenwich Ikea: So what happens next?

with 11 comments

Peartree Way, 3 November 2013

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has confirmed he won’t intervene in Greenwich Council’s decision to allow a huge new Ikea superstore in east Greenwich.

Greenwich Council gave outline permission for the store, on the site of the “eco-friendly” Sainsbury’s store in Peartree Way, in March. Planning officers ignored concerns about increased traffic and air pollution, a decision later backed by London mayor Boris Johnson.

The process was halted by Pickles in May, leading campaigners to hope the decision could go to a public inquiry.

Now Pickles’ decision means it’s back in the hands of Greenwich Council, which now needs to hammer out what concessions Ikea needs to make to make any store work, before a detailed planning application goes in.

Of course, the biggest worry is traffic and pollution. The development’s bound to be a draw for flat-pack furniture fans from across London and Kent, yet it’s to be placed in an area which can’t cope with any more traffic. The only real proposal from Ikea to solve this was to route traffic away from the notorious Woolwich Road roundabout, sending traffic in the direction of the Millennium Village.

Any ideas? If you do, contact your local councillors – it’s time for them to earn their corn and try to ameliorate the damage their colleagues have caused.

Written by Darryl

7 July, 2014 at 11:34 am

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 472 other followers