Posts Tagged ‘greenwich peninsula’
“Equivalent in size to Leicester Square, Peninsula Square is designed to be a new leisure destination for Londoners and tourists alike. Geysers set in the square will bubble and mist and then create plumes up to 10 metres high, with vibrant lighting accentuating the square’s exciting architecture by day and by night. There will be cafes, restaurants and shops as well as a venue for special events.” – World Architecture News
Five years on…
Peninsula Square, outside the O2, before a recent show (Beyonce on 29 April, since you ask). Not exactly buzzing. The strange lump in the middle is a chunk of the Kreod exhibition – which was supposed to go on tour last year – repurposed as an advertising hoarding.
One of the most perplexing aspects of the strange developments on the peninsula is the fate of Peninsula Square. Before the Dome reopened as the O2 five years ago next week, we were promised it’d be a new entertainment hub – something to draw people in from far and wide.
“There will be cafes, restaurants and shops and a venue for special events and performances around the Square, making it a buzzing, exciting place to visit.” – architects Barr Gazetas
To be fair, it took a couple of years and the arrival of Ravensbourne for the square to show any signs of life. And the development around the Dome is a long way from being completed. But those promises seem a long, long way off at the moment.
Yes, it’s somewhere people pass through on their way to the O2, or to Ravensbourne, Tesco or the TfL offices – but that’s all Peninsula Square is. I can only think of a handful of occasions when the square itself has been a destination – when fans flocked there after Michael Jackson’s death in summer 2009; and during the Olympics, when entertainment was put on in the square. But don’t expect many spontaneous happenings – this is all private property with eager security guards.
Save for the odd crummy food stall, or fairground ride, that’s been about it. The big screen is wasted on advertisements, the little platform beneath it empty, the wide open space in front unused. No entertainment, nothing to see, do, or buy. It’d be a great market place, or venue for street entertainers.
Instead, it seems to have become a glorified holding pen for O2 arena customers – seen above queueing after The Who on Saturday night. Crowd control measures seem to have got tighter after the Olympics, and we’re unlikely to see this change unless people have reasons to linger after shows (and they can be confident there’s transport to take them home) – but the poor offer inside the O2 doesn’t really provide that, and there’s not a lot outside either.
There’s still plenty of development yet to take place around the square, but this is private property – it’s not in landowner AEG’s interests to have people lingering outside the O2 rather than going inside and spending money on it. And we know from AEG’s support of the Silvertown Tunnel that it really isn’t bothered about the community around its venue. Unless this situation changes, it feels like Peninsula Square is shaping up to be yet another dud by the Dome.
(Speaking of the peninsula, next Tuesday’s Greenwich Council planning board will consider plans for the socially-cleansed Peninsula Quays development at the top of Tunnel Avenue, a plan to build a gym in unused retail space at the mostly-empty 6 Mitre Passage building, and alterations to the 21-storey hotel and 23-storey flats due to go up just west of the Dome.)
Last week, five lads who’d taken part in a television talent show managed to demonstrate something a generation of politicians, planners and developers are refusing to acknowledge.
One Direction performed a series of gigs at the O2 arena during the Easter school holiday, bringing hordes of young fans and their families to the Greenwich peninsula. Last Tuesday, they performed two shows – one in the afternoon, and one in the evening. You can’t say they aren’t working for their riches.
But chucking-out time at the matinee show coincided with the evening rush hour. North Greenwich bus station couldn’t cope, the signals favoured gig traffic over commuters, and getting home was a miserable experience for thousands of commuters.
With thousands of new homes planned for the peninsula over the next seven years, there are going to be many more miserable nights at North Greenwich – already the 10th busiest Tube station outside Zone 1 – to come.
Only 14 years after the Tube station opened, the infrastructure around the station just isn’t working. The only addition since 1999 has been the mayor’s gimmicky cable car, functioning solely as a tourist attraction. The only serious proposal to address this is the Silvertown Tunnel, which will simply make matters worse by piling more road traffic through the area.
Other plans – such as the now-axed Greenwich Waterfront Transit and Greenwich Council’s “DLR on stilts” proposal for Eltham, would put more pressure on North Greenwich.
Huge blunders have also been made. In time, it’ll be seen as criminal that the area was missed off the Crossrail project, which loops slightly north of the peninsula, passing under the fantastically-named Limmo Peninsula in Canning Town. The guided busway-which-never was, built on the wrong side of the road to ensure a pointless set of traffic lights outside the Pilot pub. And while the dual carriageways which carve the area up predate the redevelopment (the A102 opened in 1969, Bugsbys Way in 1984), there was no excuse for the mistake to be made again with Millennium Way and John Harrison Way.
For the peninsula to work, some of this infrastructure will need to be ripped up and started again. People will need a variety of ways to get to and from the area, and traffic which doesn’t need to be in the area needs to be kept out of it.
I like to use this website to tell you things you don’t already know. But here, I’m going to go through a load of points you probably know already. But what do we do about them? Hopefully, a conversation can start here.
1. A crossing to Canary Wharf. Despite being one of Europe’s major employment centres, there remains only one direct way to get between the peninsula and Canary Wharf – the Jubilee Line. There’s also the river bus service – but that costs a fortune and goes to the west side of the Isle of Dogs. Yet the peninsula’s proximity to Canary Wharf should be its selling point. Office space on the peninsula isn’t exactly in demand – the only major tenants in the offices there are arms of government; Transport for London and Greenwich Council. 6 Mitre Passage is half-empty.
Creating a pedestrian and cycle bridge or tunnel – possibly including a bus lane – would transform the way the peninsula is seen, and properly connect it to the towers of Mammon over the water. The big problem will be where it would land on the other side, with development on the Isle of Dogs being 20 years ahead of the peninsula. Residents there objected to an early cable car scheme – and may not be impressed with a bridge. TfL’s cable car business case quoted an estimated cost of up to £90m for a bridge (compared with £59m for the cable car), and said “a better link between North Greenwich and Canary Wharf [is] likely to encourage investment”.
2. What shall we do with the dangleway? Sooner or later, some tough questions will have to be faced about the Emirates Air Line, successfully carrying fresh air between Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Docks seven days a week. Sold as a public transport connection but marketed as a tourist attraction, the long winter has stripped the cable car of its Olympics sheen – despite the spin about meeting absurdly low passenger targets. Could TfL get away with selling it? Or should it simply integrate it into the Travelcard scheme? Or just knock it down and replace it with a bridge similar to the one I’ve suggested for Canary Wharf? Me, I’d sell it, and use the funds to build a bridge.
If the cable car is to stay, then I’d argue that more should be done to market the North Greenwich area to tourists – and that means creating visitor attractions between the Dome and the cable car terminal, and getting rid of the grim car park which separates the two.
3. Rework North Greenwich bus station. It’s architecturally very nice, but North Greenwich bus station already isn’t coping very well, and the peninsula’s less than half-built.
Seven bus routes terminate there, one passes through, but getting any more in there looks a tough ask – despite the fact there’s huge demand for services to the station (witness the success of the 132 extension from Eltham, the severe overcrowding on the 108 from Lewisham, and demands to extend the B16 from Kidbrooke). Buses also struggle when events are on at the O2, and even block each other from leaving the station. The bus station, and access to it, need rethinking.
I’ve mentioned this before, but North Greenwich station could also be a good hub for cyclists – if access to the peninsula can be improved…
4. Look again at how people walk or cycle to and on the peninsula. The peninsula developments are effectively cut off by dual carriageways which prioritise cars and lorries above all else. Walking from Blackwall Lane to North Greenwich station demands a pointlessly lengthy route unless you put your life in your hands and leg it across Millennium Way and the A102 slip road.
I cycle to North Greenwich most mornings. It’s more reliable than taking the bus, and cheaper than taking the train from Charlton. But there’s no proper route onto the peninsula – I’m not counting the rubbish on-pavement Peartree Way cycle lane, which makes you stop in pedestrian refuges, which aren’t great to use on foot, either. It took months for me to build up the courage to tackle the Peartree Way/Bugsby’s Way roundabout, covered in stones from aggregates lorries from Angerstein Wharf. It’s not a pleasant experience.
Even dumber is the cycle lane on West Parkside, heading to North Greenwich – which get used by pedestrians because the actual “footpath”, to the right, is so poor, and stops dead at each end with no thought as to where cyclists go next. It’s amazing to think someone thought this a good idea. The whole peninsula road network needs rethinking to encourage walking and cycling.
5. Cut traffic on the A102. The biggest ask of the lot, and one that needs a decisive shift in policy across London, plus a block on any new peninsula development that will require a significant number of parking spaces.
Building a six-lane motorway to two two-lane tunnels seemed a good idea in the late 1960s, when it was envisaged to be part of a network of urban motorways. We’re paying the price now in pollution and congestion, and in the deep scar the A102 cuts through Greenwich, Blackheath and Charlton. As one American traffic engineer observed, “widening roads to solve traffic congestion is like loosening your belt to cure obesity”.
As we know, both City Hall and Greenwich Council favour compounding this error by building a Silvertown Tunnel. Yet measures should be taken to reduce demand on the A102 – some will favour building a new crossing further down the Thames, yet discouraging traffic which isn’t going to London from entering London seems to me a wiser idea; perhaps by dropping Dartford crossing tolls, perhaps by London-wide congestion charging. What isn’t wise is tolling the Blackwall Tunnel, which will just send the problem through Greenwich and Deptford to the Rotherhithe Tunnel and Tower Bridge.
The problem of a six-lane motorway can then become an opportunity to rebuild and do something different. Take it down to four lanes – which it is through the tunnel and on the A2 which feeds into it. TfL wants to take one lane off the A102′s sister route, the Westway, for a cycle route. Whether that could work on the Blackwall Tunnel Southern Approach is debatable, but it could certainly work as a bus lane, or even a route for a tram. Hey, there’s the DLR on stilts…
Think this is all a bit out there? Last year, BBC London revealed the Woolwich Road flyover was in a “poor” condition, while the Blackwall Lane flyover had at least 34 different defects. After 2011′s closure of the Hammersmith Flyover, a sudden and nasty surprise can’t be ruled out.
Public bodies such as the GLA and Greenwich Council have great sway in what’ll happen on the peninsula, but it feels like residents have no more say than they did when the land was largely owned by Victorian industrialists.
The GLA now owns much of the land there, but it still sticks to a blueprint decided years ago, while the rushed consultation over new masterplans and the lack of any consultation over blocking affordable housing at the tip of the peninsula do nothing to dispel the impression that the council’s just a cypher for property developers.
Yet with work now starting on a new phase of Greenwich Millennium Village, and with more construction taking place elsewhere on the peninsula, we’re approaching the point where it may soon be too late to reverse the mistakes that have been made on the peninsula’s infrastructure. If City Hall and Greenwich Council want to achieve anything more from the “regeneration” than fat profits for developers, like creating a sustainable community, then it’s time to pause and think carefully about changing their plans.
Remember the Peninsula Festival? Greenwich Council wasn’t the only public body stung by the failed event, which was due to run during the Olympics, but closed early and ended up going into administration.
London mayor Boris Johnson has written off a £99,000 debt owed to the Greater London Authority from Peninsula Festival Ltd, the company which was to run the festival.
The bulk of the sum, £84,000, relates to rent due to GLA Land & Property, which owns the freehold to much of the vacant land on the Greenwich peninsula. As well as the music festival on a site next to John Harrison Way, a campsite had also been due to open on plots of land at Peartree Way. Despite a press launch the previous summer, Oranjecamping never opened in Greenwich – relocating to a site in Walthamstow instead.
The remaining £15,000 relates to a street music festival, Rhythm of London, which was supposed to have “entertained crowds during the Olympic Games”.
It appears City Hall came off worse than Greenwich Council, which gave the festival £40,000, but was at least able to move its big screen to Well Hall Pleasaunce, Eltham, when it was clear the event had flopped.
The festival was supposed to have put on concerts and club events during the Olympic period, but never recovered after festival operator Kilimanjaro Live pulled out of the event. A promised beach at Delta Wharf never materialised, and nor did most of the festival bill.
Eight months after the Peninsula Festival’s failure, both of exuberant promoter Frank Dekker’s companies, Peninsula Festival Ltd and Orange Connections Ltd, are in liquidation. Dekker himself is now believed to be working as a project manager for a renewable energy company in Maidenhead.
The main festival site has remained empty, but construction vehicles have now moved in on the area by Greenwich Yacht Club earmarked by Dekker for use as a “campsite business lounge”.
Imagine if your local council had begun the process of allowing a massive new development of luxury housing, exclusively for the affluent, towering over the skyline. Imagine if that development included its own private school, and a luxury hotel.
And imagine if it’d decided to renege on its past plans to create mixed communities, where people who wanted homes for social rent or affordable housing would have a fair shot at living in new developments.
What’s more, imagine if it’d approved plans to shunt the non-affluent into a plot half a mile away, creating a little ghetto as far away from the luxury homes as possible? And what if it never asked you about it?
This is social cleansing – and it’s beginning to happen on the Greenwich Peninsula as Greenwich Council yields to the demands of private developers.
Controversial plans for the peninsula were backed at a planning meeting held in public at the end of February, but it went completely unrecorded at the time, save for a few lines posted in comments on this website.
Now residents on the peninsula are threatening legal action against the council for ignoring its own policies on redevelopment.
February’s meeting saw councillors agree to reduce to 0% the proportion of affordable housing to be offered at Peninsula Quays – the development planned for land just to the south-west of the Dome, surrounding the northern end of Tunnel Avenue.
In the past couple of years, land here has been cleared and decontaminated and roads rebuilt. No planning application’s gone in yet – a small exhibition was held a month ago, showing tower blocks and plans for up to 1,638 homes (see a business plan) – but this is an adjustment to the masterplan which covers the whole peninsula.
The plans include a private school, “high-end private residential” units at Drawdock Road, and a four/five star hotel at Ordnance Crescent.
Effectively, the council’s planning board approved the idea that a development which will sit opposite Canary Wharf should be built in Canary Wharf’s own image – exclusively for the affluent. It’s envisaged this will be up and running by December 2019.
To make up the difference, new developments to the far south of the Dome – around where the City Peninsula tower now sits – will see levels of affordable housing shoot up to between 54% and 58%, mostly for social rent rather than shared ownership. These developments were also given permission that night, and will be completed by December 2017.
Greenwich Council says that overall, the 11 plots considered together will be 25% affordable – but all those properties will now be pushed to the south, towards City Peninsula and Greenwich Millennium Village.
There was no consultation on this change – pushed through so developers can grab £50m in grants. Residents at City Peninsula and GMV are furious, as they expected levels of affordable accommodation to be even across the peninsula. They’re now threatening to force a judicial review of the councillors’ decision, accusing them of railroading the change through.
A letter to Greenwich Council seen by this website brands the councillors’ decision as “unfair”, adding that the new plans don’t offer enough family accommodation and contradict both local and London-wide planning guidelines.
So far, they’ve had no response from the council – but the residents are sure of their case.
This aggressive development follows Hong Kong billionaire Henry Cheng investing £500m into the project last year through his company Knight Dragon, teaming up with existing developer Quintain.
At present, if the Knight Dragon/Quintain proposals go through, they’ll destroy the dream of the peninsula as a stable, sustainable community, as promised when Greenwich Millennium Village was conceived in the late 1990s.
Indeed – and the planning documents hint at this – it may all be one long hangover from the construction of the Millennium Dome itself, with central government keen to recover the costs it spent on infrastructure back then.
While by most accounts GMV (which remains separately developed) is a fine place to live – and the river-facing homes at City Peninsula look like fantastic places – it still suffers from being physically isolated from the rest of the area by dual carriageways. But it’s developed into a mixed community, and people seem to rub along fine.
Greenwich Council’s frustration with the pace of development on the peninsula is well-known. In 2004, it expected 500 homes a year to be built over the next 20 years. In fact, only 229 homes have been built since then.
But in the long term, is it really worth junking the benefits of building a mixed number of homes just to get developments back on the move again? Greenwich Council’s and developers’ desperation to get things moving again could have long-term, disastrous consequences for the regeneration of the area. This is a complicated tale, but one to watch closely over the next few years.
Update, 13 April 2013: The minutes from the planning board meeting are now available, which show the proposals criticised by local residents, local councillors Dick Quibell and Mary Mills, and planning board member Hayley Fletcher (who isn’t named).
It’s funny what you find in the pub, isn’t it?
A single sheet left in The Pilot yesterday evening, revealing plans to build to the west of the Dome, on land west of Millennium Way (the road that leads up to the Dome) and across Tunnel Avenue. Street signs already bear a “Peninsula Quays” legend, and this is why. The riverfront there is already being shored up – it’s the patch of land between Frank Dekker‘s ill-fated beach site and the Dome.
Oh yes, they look like skyscrapers. (Although it’s hard to tell just how tall they are.) And oh look, more car parking, because the area needs more traffic, doesn’t it? Nothing on the Greenwich Peninsula website (“in partnership with the Greater London Authority and the Royal Borough of Greenwich” – nothing on either of those, either) so it looks like you’ll just have to pay them a visit in one of those squat buildings between Peninsula Square and the O2′s minicab rank from 4-7pm on Friday 1 March and 10am-2pm on Saturday 2 March.
Visitors to the O2/Dome/North Greenwich Arena during the Paralympics must have wondered what on earth the strange-looking structure was between the cable car and, well, a couple of other strange-looking structures.
But all was revealed yesterday morning – it’s Kreod, billed by its backers as “London’s newest architectural landmark”. “Organic in form, environmentally-friendly and inspired by nature, these three pods combine through a series of interlocking hexagons to create an enclosed structure that is not only manificently intricate, but secure and weatherproof.”
Made with Norwegian wood – this is as much about showing off the wood as the architecture – the structure can be reassembled to suit whatever use it’s needed for, and while it looks odd on the outside, it feels rather cosy inside. I had a very quick peek inside on Tuesday morning – so early, apparently I was the first to take a look – and it’s a thought-provoking project. If you fancy a peek inside yourself, it’s there until 14 October, before it moves to other locations around London.
It’s an ugly junction on an ugly road, and it’s dangerous, too. Installed as part of the botched Greenwich peninsula road network, the point where Bugsbys Way meets the Millennium Retail Park and the peninsula busway is a dicey proposition, to say the least.
Buses race across it, presumably to make sure they don’t get stuck at a red light part of the way across, and other road users don’t expect to see them. There’s been seven accidents in the past three years, one fatal.
Greenwich Council wants to fix this, and has launched a consultation which ends in 10 days’ time. It’s not quite clear who’s being consulted, though – this week’s edition of propaganda rag Greenwich Time doesn’t mention it (and nor does it mention its transport survey, either). It’s probably being kept to those mysterious “key stakeholders” again. Must be nice to be one of those.
Why is there a scheme planned?
The scheme is proposed due to the number of personal injury accidents that have occurred at the junction of Bugsby’s Way/Commercial Way – 7 in the last 3 years. Out of these accidents 3 were classified as slight, 3 were classified as serious and the recent fatal accident.
Four of these accidents involved buses hitting pedestrians.
The Royal Borough of Greenwich has a duty to reduce road casualties in the borough and we receive funding each year to enable us to develop and install Local Safety Schemes at locations that are experiencing the highest number of casualties. The improvements outlined below are designed to reduce the specific types of accidents that have been occurring and to improve facilities for more vulnerable road users.
What are the planned improvements?
The planned improvements are to:
• Install a speed table on Commercial Way which will raise the crossing point to slow buses as they approach the junction and to assist pedestrians to cross the road
• Resurface the bus lane in Commercial Way in red to highlight the fact that it is a bus-only road
• Amend the existing islands to accommodate the speed table
• Provide a right turn bay for vehicles turning from Bugsby’s Way into Commercial Way
• Amend the road markings around the junction to highlight the presence of the bus-only road and to bring the markings up to current standards
Full details are in the documents – the council’s transport staff would like to hear from you by 14 September.
The Dutch campsite on Greenwich Peninsula might not have materialised – with the tents exiled to the outer reaches of Walthamstow – but that hasn’t put off one thrifty set of campers from staying in Greenwich.
Every day for the past week, I’ve cycled past this campervan parked up on the edge of Greenwich Millennium Village, next to the site Oranjecamping abandoned. Every day, it’s in a different spot to dodge the wardens. There’s a French family inside, presumably fans of the gymnastics going on up the road. I haven’t spoken to them yet, but if I see them again I’ll stop and say hello. I hope the wardens leave them alone – dedication like this deserves a reward.
If anyone else knows of any visitors making unconventional arrangements to stay in this area for the Games, I’d love to hear about them…
Close by is the Peninsula Festival site, locked and shut but with some work going on in another part of the land. The Greenwich Council banners are a reminder of the £50,000 given to the venture. It’s due to reopen to the public on Monday, but will it even be ready for the Eastern Electrics festival – with thousands due – on Saturday? That said, it’s looking for presenters for a one-day event next Thursday (how thoughtful to mark my birthday this way!) so if you fancy your chances, go for it!
So London’s most baffling piece of public transport will open to the public a week on Thursday, with many unanswered questions about quite what it’s there for. London Reconnections has done a sparkling job on bringing together all the info on the Thames Cable Car, and last night the station was proudly displaying its EMIRATES GREENWICH PENINSULA signage.
But why, and what on earth is it for? Here’s some discussions you’ll be hearing more of over the next couple of weeks.
The fares. £3.20 with an Oyster card, £4.20 in cash (£1.60 and £2.20 for children); Travelcards and Freedom Passes not valid. If it doesn’t accept Travelcards, then it isn’t part of the London public transport network, surely? But then there’s also a 10-journey “frequent flyer” rate at £16. It’s clear this is like the river buses – not quite part of the public transport system, but somehow fudged into it. But unlike the Thames Clippers river buses, this is owned and run by Transport for London. So why are we paying for its construction, then paying a premium rate to use it?
The operating hours. Last journeys are at 9pm – with “extended hours” promised when there are “events at the local venues”. Does that mean all O2 shows or just high-profile ones? What about busy Friday nights when there’s just something on in the smaller Indigo2 venue? Or when an O2 act stays on stage well beyond time?
Two speeds. Journeys will take five minutes in the mornings and evenings – but 10 during the daytime. Sorry, shift workers, you’re stuck on the slow tourist special. Tourist wanting to see a leisurely sunrise or sunset? Forget it. So here’s the baffling thing…
Public transport or tourist attraction? It’s clear TfL is trying to have its cake and eat it. It’s obviously going to be a big hit for the first year or so, as public curiosity tempts the masses into having a go. But as a piece of public transport? This remains a journey that very few people actually need to make – myself, I’ve only had to visit ExCeL twice, and one of those was for a cable car press event.
Sure, the Thames Clippers are reasonably successful, but they span a wider area and attract a different clientele – people who both live and work near the piers who are happy to trade in the speed of rail or Tube for a higher level of comfort (and a drink at the bar) for a price. The cable car offers a view – but so do other forms of public transport, and they don’t demand a surcharge on your Oyster card.
The website. Just for a laugh, take a look at its official website – www.emiratesairline.co.uk. South London attractions include, er, Brixton, Hampton Court Palace and the London Eye, none of which are anywhere near Greenwich. As for the “North London” attractions – Little Venice, the Albert Hall, and, er, the Millennium Bridge. Not that the cable car even goes to north London. All this on a website which carries the TfL roundel.
Anyhow, what do you think? Time for a couple of polls – I’d be interested to see what you think of the cable car and its split personality.
PS. As ever, Diamond Geezer has nailed it.
A billionaire developer from Hong Kong is to pour £500m into the firm developing the Greenwich Peninsula, taking a majority stake in the company. (It doesn’t affect the Greenwich Millennium Village project, pictured above.)
Dr Henry Cheng’s Knight Dragon outfit is taking 60% of the company, with regeneration firm Quintain holding onto the other 40%. Its previous partner, Lend Lease, has sold up for £100m, making £25m profit which it plans to put into a scheme at the Elephant and Castle.
It’s expected to kickstart the redevelopment of the remaining stages of the peninsula, which has been sluggish over the past few years, much to the frustration of Greenwich Council. But it also sees the fate of the peninsula lie largely in the hands of one man – Dr Cheng – and Hong Kong shareholders who are going to want returns. Is this healthy? For better or for worse, we’ll find out in the coming years.