Posts Tagged ‘greenwich peninsula’
Seven years after the O2 opened, finally, finally, the miserable open space outside, Peninsula Square, has started to look like the “new leisure destination for Londoners and tourists alike” promised back then.
New York band We Are Scientists opened up Meantime Brewery’s Beer Box with a blistering free live show last night. It looks like the Beer Box, on empty land above the Jubilee Line tunnels, is only around for a little while – it was only erected over the last 10 days – but hopefully the shot of life it’s brought to this long-wasted space will last for a while longer.
Fingers crossed, it’ll stay and there’ll be more live events here. Keep the bar, sort out the big screen showing inane promos, and perhaps Peninsula Square will be something Greenwich can be proud of, instead of an embarrassment that’s walked through as quickly as possible.
A year ago, I wrote how Peninsula Square, the open space between North Greenwich station and the Dome, planned as “a buzzing, exciting place to visit”, had become a sorely disappointing spot – simply nothing more than a glorified holding pen for O2 Arena customers.
Twelve months on, and here was the scene as the opening ceremony of the 2014 World Cup got under way in Brazil. Directly below, people were passing through North Greenwich to watch the opening ceremony and the first match on screens large and small. But on a balmy June evening, all the big screen in Peninsula Square could muster were the same old crappy promos for the O2 Arena. What a waste.
Even the unfortunate Frank Dekker (remember him?) managed better on Olympics opening night with his ill-fated Peninsula Festival big screen. Oh well. In the meantime, Woolwich’s big screen might just be the place to head to (particularly for Iran v Nigeria on Monday and Ghana v Germany on Saturday 21st.)
PS. There won’t be any football there, but one open space in Greenwich is open for the community this weekend – the riverside garden at Ballast Quay, by the Cutty Sark pub.
There’s a new owner at Charlton Athletic – but the scale of the rebuilding job facing Belgian businessman Roland Duchâtelet became apparent yesterday when the team’s match against Barnsley was postponed less than two hours before kick-off due to ongoing problems with The Valley pitch.
But Charlton fans should be vigilant that the current problems with the pitch aren’t used as a pretext to move the club out of its historic home.
Last year, it was reported that the club was in talks with Greenwich Council about moving out of The Valley for a new stadium, to be built at Morden Wharf on the west side of Greenwich Peninsula, on land currently owned by developer Cathedral Homes. The club’s old site would become social housing, under this scheme.
What’s been unclear, though is where the impetus for the scheme has come from – whether it came from within the club, or from outside.
But what is known is that Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts was a frequent visitor at matches under the ownership of Michael Slater and Tony Jimenez, where he could be seen enjoying hospitality in the directors’ box.
Slater and Jimenez took over at Charlton at the end of 2010. They installed Chris Powell as manager, and secured the funds to secure promotion back to the Championship in 2012. But after that the funds dried up.
The pitch problems at The Valley are a symptom of that trouble. The club admits part of the drainage system has collapsed, and this can’t be rectified until the end of the season. No significant work has taken place on the pitch for years – and the end result of that neglect was Saturday’s fiasco.
Now Slater and Jimenez are on their way out, to be replaced by Roland Duchâtelet, owner of Belgian sides Standard Liege and Sint-Truidense, one-time East German giants FC Carl-Zeiss Jena and Spanish second division team AD Alcorcón. Quite a collection of clubs. He also fronts a small liberal political party in Belgium.
Duchâtelet has installed aide Katrien Meire onto Charlton’s board, but before they could get their feet under the table, a little charm offensive was launched from Greenwich Council.
“Royal Borough welcomes new Charlton Athletic owners,” trilled a press release on 3 January, adding ominously: “The borough will work with the new owners to further strengthen the Club.”
Oddly, Chris Roberts seems to be in a very small band of people who believes that Michael Slater and Tony Jimenez helped Charlton “progress”.
Councillor Chris Roberts, Leader of the Royal Borough of Greenwich, said: “The Council would like to welcome the new owners of Charlton Athletic Football Club to the Borough. At the same time, we would also like to place on record our thanks to the previous owners for the progress made by the Club during their tenure in which they secured promotion to the Championship.”
It’s a very, very odd statement – yes, Slater and Jimenez helped Charlton return to its natural level in the Championship. But the club haemorrhaged senior staff under their regime, and by all accounts was facing serious financial problems before its sale. Hopefully yesterday’s events will encourage football journalists to investigate their record a little more thoroughly.
So what exactly was Roberts thanking Slater and Jimenez for? For being receptive to a proposal to move ground, perhaps? We don’t know, but previous chairman Richard Murray (who returns to his role under Duchâtelet) didn’t get that kind of herogram when he sold up, despite all his achievements.
Neither did the council make any noise when it declared The Valley an asset of community value last November, which would put a six-month block on any sale. Why was that?
If Roberts is putting pressure on Charlton to move, then he’s now got to start again with Roland Duchâtelet and Katrien Meire. Will they be receptive? Nobody knows, but Duchâtelet did refer to The Valley as “a cherished stadium” in a statement to fans last week.
Greenwich Council has denied any formal discussions have taken place over a move. An answer to a Freedom of Information Act request made last year would only say:
“Occasional discussions have taken place between representatives of the Council and CAFC going back over many years. These discussions have included reference to the Club’s aspiration to stay in, or return to the Premiership, and as a result have included reference to the size and capacity of the existing stands and constraints on expansion posed by the physical limitations of the existing site. The discussions have been informal and conversational in nature, and have not been of a substantive nature.”
It’s very easy to make an educated guess that Greenwich Council is encouraging Charlton to move under the pretext that the ground is knackered. It then gets a high-profile occupant for a stadium on the peninsula, while social housing which would otherwise have been built up there gets shunted into Charlton. It’s a conspiracy theory, but with the lack of anything on the record, it’s one which makes sense.
Typically, not even those connected with Greenwich Labour know quite what Roberts’ intentions are towards Charlton. Even those who support the club seem hazy on the plans.
But a conversation I had with one yesterday worried me. “If there’s a continuing sense The Valley is awful, it makes the argument to move easier,” I was told.
Yet there is nothing wrong with The Valley. The pitch hasn’t been maintained properly, but that’s a management failure, not a failure of location. Indeed, The Valley was known as one of the best pitches in the country a decade ago. And it can be that way again.
If there’s an argument for moving, it surrounds the The Valley’s limited room for expansion. But with The Valley not even two-thirds full at present – and Greenwich Council having previously backed past expansion plans – that isn’t an issue.
Fixing the pitch should be relatively cheap. But perhaps the embarrassment of the postponement, and the way it was mishandled by the club might prompt Duchâtelet to show his hand on the long-term future of Charlton Athletic.
It’s 24 years since Charlton fans formed the Valley Party to fight Greenwich Council on the issue of the club playing at its traditional home. Nearly a quarter of a century on, it may well be time for a new generation to become just as vigilant and proactive towards the council’s intentions for Floyd Road.
Tucked away in the financial pages is news that’ll have a huge impact in Greenwich – Hong Kong investment firm Knight Dragon has taken sole control of the Greenwich Peninsula redevelopment project, promising it’ll speed up delivery of 10,000 new homes.
Knight Dragon, the vehicle of billionaire Dr Henry Cheng Kar-Shun, bought out its partner Quintain for £186m to take sole charge of Greenwich Peninsula Regeneration Limited, which is in charge of most of the land north of Greenwich Millennium Village.
It’s less than 18 months since Knight Dragon first arrived on the scene, buying out original partner Lend Lease. Since then we’ve seen a more aggressive stance towards development on the peninsula, which resulted in Greenwich Council agreeing to cut social housing levels at Peninsula Quays to zero, as well as cutting the proportion of affordable homes to just 21%.
Just what will happen next is anyone’s guess. But perhaps this move is why Greenwich Council recently acted to protect empty office space by North Greenwich station from being turned into flats.
Incidentally, I wonder what Dr Cheng thinks of the plummeting cable car usage figures? Here’s a wild bit of speculation – could he end up taking it off TfL’s hands?
Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts is stepping into stop empty office space on the Greenwich Peninsula being converted into housing – although it’s unclear whether there are any actual threats to the office space.
The four-year-old 6 Mitre Passage development remains largely unoccupied, with its biggest tenant being Greenwich Council itself. Greenwich has two floors, one devoted to its Digital Enterprise Greenwich centre – which also houses the Sail Royal Greenwich company – and another suite of offices which the leader is believed to use for private meetings.
But most of the rest of the privately-owned building is empty, and plans to let out the bottom floor of for retail have failed. It is now to become a gym.
Now Roberts is planning to issue a direction removing the owners’ rights to convert the office space from business to residential use, for 6 Mitre Passage and another block, 2-4 Pier Walk.
It’s not clear whether there’s an actual plan to convert the two blocks to residential accommodation, but as the property market heats up it’d certainly be a temptation for owners – especially with the blocks’ close proximity to North Greenwich station.
A council report says:
“The revenue generated through business rates would be lost if the offices were to be converted to residential use.
“Both the comprehensive masterplan for the Greenwich Peninsula and RBG’s emerging Local Plan identify the potential for North Greenwich district centre to increasingly become a hub for business uses, forming a new commercial heart for the local area and wider region.
“The North Greenwich district centre has the potential to be the driver of future economic growth in the borough. Its role is highlighted in the Growth Strategy for the Royal Borough of Greenwich, which sets out a vision to drive sustainable and balanced growth: a new business district which at its heart aims to stimulate innovation and business growth, with a particular focus on the digital sector.”
Why the offices aren’t occupied isn’t explored in the report, but despite the closeness to the Tube station, connections with the rest of the local area south of the river are poor.
In particular, evening bus services out of North Greenwich are still regularly held up by traffic trying to get into the O2 arena’s car parks – with buses queueing back into the bus station, as seen last Thursday night ahead of comedian Micky Flanagan’s show.
And as for getting across the river, despite Transport for London’s Silvertown Tunnel consultation conceding that there is “a strong appetite for crossing improvements for cyclists, pedestrians and public transport users”, there are no plans to address this.
TfL is also resisting demands to put the Emirates Air Line cable car into the travelcard scheme, despite disappointing user numbers.
Cable car staff are now having to stand at North Greenwich station on event nights to try to drum up interest in trips across the Thames.
While Chris Roberts’ idea may be laudable in the long-term, in the short term, he’ll need Transport for London to urgently reassess its priorities at North Greenwich if the area’s ever to become a success.
For no real reason, council propaganda weekly Greenwich Time has run a double-page spread lauding the redevelopment of the Greenwich Peninsula. Well, other than that the sole reason the paper, funded from the council tax, exists is to present the leadership of Greenwich Council in the best possible light – especially with an election coming up next May.
In which case, GT referring to “luxury apratments” isn’t amusing whatsoever, oh no. The cock-up was corrected in the paper’s online edition, and you can see the double-page spread as a PDF here.
The weak peg was ground being broken on the hotel being built by AEG, the O2’s owners. Last week’s Greenwich Time splashed with with photographs of council leader Chris Roberts and MP Nick Raynsford in hard hats celebrating work getting under way. Roberts and Raynsford have their differences, but they’re always happy to pose for the council’s propaganda rag in hard hats.
Unsurprisingly, the “Olympic legacy” is a bare-faced lie – a hotel formed part of AEG’s successful bid to purchase the Millennium Dome in the early 2000s. Indeed, here’s a BBC News Online story from April 2003 about Greenwich studying the proposals, along with a House of Commons report on the issue from June 2005. Unfortunately, one of London’s most enduring Olympic legacies has been an outbreak of selective amnesia among both Conservative and Labour politicians – and Roberts has been one of the most forgetful.
The 23-storey tower which dominates the view houses the “luxury apratments” – serviced apartments for people to stay in, not live in. It’s a much watered-down scheme from the original proposals to provide a “signature building” for the peninsula. It was was nodded through in 2010, the council’s supposedly politically-neutral planning board split on party lines, with five Labour councillors (including Roberts) backing it, and the two Tories against.
The the bottom three paragraphs above could have been written at any time in the past five years, give or take the odd figure. 853 readers will know all about the new development adjacent to the hotel development, where Greenwich Council has bent its own rules to allow the developer to provide no social or affordable housing whatsoever, providing instead a private school and “high-end residential” buildings. Instead, the council has allowed the developer to concentrate social housing further down the peninsula, including the student halls which are now under construction.
Of course, you won’t find anything about this pre-emptive form of social cleansing in Greenwich Time.
Nor will you read about how the proportion of social housing was cut by Greenwich Council.
Then again, you won’t have found much about it in the area’s commercial newspapers either – but that’s no excuse for the council to fill the gap with weekly propaganda. (Strangely, though, this stuff’s all fine with the National Union of Journalists, which has decided to defend council-run newspapers. After more than a decade, I’m taking my union subscriptions elsewhere.)
Laws are now passing through Parliament to ban the likes of Greenwich Time. It’s a terrible shame for other councils who publish less frequent, less overtly-biased publications, but Greenwich is screwing it up for the rest of them. In the meantime, get set for more of this rubbish between now and next May’s council election.
It’s a bit of a hidden treasure, but it’s the most rewarding place to visit on the Greenwich peninsula. The Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park, tucked away behind the Millennium Village, is a birdwatcher’s heaven and a place to escape city living, even just for a couple of minutes.
Created at the same time GMV went up, it’s capitalised on how the old industrial structures of the peninsula attract birds and other wildlife, and its lakes provide views from the development that can’t be matched. Just imagine being able to sit out on a balcony to look over the lakes. Before you even think of the satisfaction it must give the neighbours, it must certainly add a bit to the prices of the homes here.
Incredibly, though, all this is under threat from GMV’s own developers. The plot next door to the park is earmarked for a 20-storey tower block, which was actually given outline plannning permission by Greenwich Council in February 2012. A tower this tall will block sunlight from entering the park – and threaten its viablity.
Essentially, the developer is supposed to be agreeing changes with the ecology park before it goes back to the council for final approval. With work now under way on adjacent developments nearby, the ecology park’s staff and volunteers are getting worried, and have started a “keep our park sunny” campaign.
With Greenwich Council’s recent record in backing towers in Woolwich and allowing a developer to add two storeys to Greenwich’s New Capital Quay to pay for a bridge to Deptford it was supposed to build anyway, it’s easy to see why they’re concerned. For the ecology park to survive and thrive, it needs Greenwich Council, Countryside Properties and Taylor Wimpey to stick to their words – and to talk to the park about their plans.
So, if you’re passing along the river this summer – or taking a look at the cable car now it’s a bit quieter – it’s worth popping into the ecology park and finding out more about what’s happening. With these new, denser, developments getting under way, life on the peninsula will change. It’ll be a miserable place if the ecology park gets killed off, so it deserves your support.
PS. If you’re got a question to ask Greenwich councillors about anything featured on this website, or anything at all, this week is your last chance for three months. You can submit a question to next week’s full council meeting by noon on Wednesday – email firstname.lastname@example.org – you never know what you might discover.