Posts Tagged ‘greenwich peninsula’
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.
Greenwich councillors agreed last night to back plans to cut the proportion of affordable housing on Greenwich Peninsula – overturning the original plans to create mixed communities across the area.
Now just 21% of homes on the 11 plots being developed on the peninsula will be affordable – or in terms of rooms, a cut from 38% to 25%.
The council’s planning board unanimously supported the proposal, which also sets in stone plans to reduce the amount of affordable housing in the Peninsula Quays development in the north of the peninsula to zero, and to increase it in new developments near Greenwich Millennium Village.
The Peninsula Quays plan, overlooking the river immediately to the south-west of the Dome, envisages a private school, “high-end private residential” units at Drawdock Road, and a four/five star hotel at Ordnance Crescent.
It also emerged that mayor Boris Johnson’s Greater London Authority has agreed to sell the 11 plots of land on the peninsula at a lower cost to help kick-start development.
“The increased values that the [Peninsula Quays development] will generate are to be used to cross subsidise the provision of more affordable housing on the seven plots to the south-east of the site,” a planning officers’ report says.
“Overall more affordable housing will be delivered than if it had been spread across all 11 plots.”
There is nothing in the planning papers to indicate just what affordable housing would be provided – whether they would be tiny flats or family homes.
As mentioned here in April, residents in GMV and City Peninsula – the tower block just to the north – are furious, with City Peninsula residents’ spokesman Shane Brownie predicting the plan would result in “a polarised community”.
Such social cleansing of new developments goes against Greenwich Council policy, as described by Greenwich & Woolwich Labour Party chair David Gardner in a comment on this site last week: “Greenwich have a long standing policy supporting a strong social housing obligation within all developments and to pepper pot to avoid ghettoes of social housing… with the exclusive properties all overlooking the river.
“I very much trust that Greenwich planners have adhered to this critical principle of mixed developments and communities.”
Unfortunately for him, they haven’t.
Among the councillors voting for the cut in affordable housing was Denise Hyland, the regeneration cabinet member supposedly in charge of enforcing planning policy.
No public consultation was undertaken on the issue – the council says it is not obliged to by law, and that the decision is necessary for developer Meridian Delta Limited to obtain £50million in funding for the affordable housing, which works out at about £77,000 for each of the 646 homes. However, an “independent financial assessor” verified the developers’ claims, the council says.
I’m hoping to get more details of last night’s meeting as the day goes on, but the planning board also backed plans to build a private gym in never-used retail space at the foot of the the mostly-empty 6 Mitre Passage office building close to the Dome.
“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.)
Wednesday update: Maybe some change is on its way – as mentioned in the comments, planning application is in for “marketing suites” as well as shops, restaurants/cafes and offices where the “green wall” is now.
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).