Posts Tagged ‘greenwich’
Recognise the green space above? It’s the little eco-garden behind Sainsbury’s in Greenwich, which is due for demolition along with the supermarket if Ikea’s plans to build a store here go ahead.
It’s also going to be where the No Ikea Greenwich Peninsula campaign will be launching with a picnic a week on Saturday (12 noon, 26 April), to fight against the arrival of a store which it’s feared will generate huge weekend traffic jams.
Greenwich Council gave the scheme outline planning permission last month, with planning board members Denise Hyland, Steve Offord, Clive Mardner, chief whip Ray Walker and council leader Chris Roberts ignoring over an hour of public criticism to endorse the proposal, after it was rushed through the planning process.
Campaigners have already sent a blistering open letter to outgoing leader Roberts, branding the site “clearly unsuitable for a standard Ikea store”, adding: “This is not responsible planning; this is planned chaos.”
This would be the first Ikea store in a congested residential area and the only Ikea in a Royal Borough. When Greenwich was granted Royal Borough status in 2012, you visited local primary schools to celebrate, handing out commemorative coins. Only two years later, you cave in to the pressure of an out-of-town furniture retail giant, wilfully disregarding the health of its residents and the impact this development would have on both the Unesco heritage site and the Greenwich Millennium Village.
We will not rest in our efforts to make the public aware of your actions and to use every means possible to put a stop to this outline planning consent going ahead.
Roberts announced his intention to not seek re-election as a councillor last Friday, and the council has now gone into purdah ahead of 22 May’s election – essentially, the council must avoid controversial issues and leave those to the political parties fighting he election.
But there’s clearly a rush to get something through planning ahead of Roberts’ departure – a previously-unscheduled planning board meeting has been called for 6 May, just 16 days before the poll.
In 2010, the last planning board meeting was six weeks before the poll, and the gap was five weeks in 2006. With future council policy somewhat uncertain following Roberts’ departure, and a whole load of big schemes being rubber-stamped over recent weeks, it’ll be interesting to see just what’s being rushed through on 6 May.
8.45am update: Boris Johnson’s office has told the protesters he will not intervene to overturn Greenwich Council’s decision to support the planned Ikea store.
With smog levels high in London this week, you might think that anyone proposing major new road schemes for the capital would be laughed out of town.
But Transport for London is considering reviving long-dead proposals for new orbital roads around the capital – raising the spectre of decades-old plans which threatened Blackheath Village and other parts of SE London.
The transport authority is already planning a new road tunnel under the Thames to feed into the A102 at the Greenwich Peninsula. But the plans don’t stop with the Silvertown Tunnel or possible plans for a bridge at Gallions Reach, near Thamesmead.
City Hall is currently consulting on proposals to change the capital’s planning guidance, The London Plan. These include taking on board the recommendations of the Roads Task Force as planning policy.
The Roads Task Force was set up in 2012, after Boris Johnson’s second election win “to tackle the challenges facing London’s streets and roads”. Dubbed an independent body, it includes representatives of haulage, transport and motoring groups as well as the London Cycling Campaign and Living Streets. Its first report was published last summer, and recommended a “feasibility study of tunnelling to remove ‘strategic’ traffic from surface and free-up space for other uses”.
This month, a progress report has appeared, where this has become…
TfL’s enthusiasm for digging tunnels hasn’t just been sparked by Silvertown – Boris Johnson is backing proposals by Hammersmith & Fulham Council to build a Hammersmith Flyunder, which would replace the existing flyover.
While the plan’s being sold on revitalising Hammersmith town centre, options being pushed by the council involve effectively creating a buried urban motorway from Chiswick to Kensington.
So what’s meant by the “orbital tunnel”?
As both the Silvertown Tunnel and Gallions Reach/ Thames Gateway Bridge are, essentially, revived versions of long-dead transport plans, this could well mean the resurrection of Ringway 1.
Here’s the leaflet which sold the Blackwall Tunnel Southern Approach to locals when construction started in 1967. (Thanks to The Greenwich Phantom for the scans.) The BTSA was originally planned to be part of Ringway 1, which would have featured an interchange at Kidbrooke, roughly where the current A2 junction is now.
A new road, the South Cross Route, would have continued at Kidbrooke, following the railway line and ploughing through the Blackheath Cator Estate and tunnelling under Blackheath Village, through Lewisham town centre and featuring an interchange roughly where St John’s station is for a slip road to New Cross. It would then have follow the railway line through Brockley, Nunhead and Peckham and on a flyover through Brixton, where the famous “Barrier Block” of flats was built in anticipation of a motorway which, thankfully, never came.
The Ringways project would have been Britain’s biggest ever construction project. They were proposed by Conservative politicians on the Greater London Council and tacitly backed by Labour opponents – sound familiar? The GLC also planned Ringway 2 – which threatened Oxleas Woods, and still does today in the form of the Gallions Reach Bridge proposal.
But the Ringways caused such public outrage that they never happened. It led to an upsurge in local activism, such as this community group in Grove Park, channelled through the Homes Before Roads group. The Tory GLC considered burying the roads to pacify locals. But when Labour won the 1973 GLC election, it scrapped the Ringways – public protest and oil price hikes were too much.
But now the plans are back. In January, Transport for London’s managing director of planning, Michele Dix, gave a presentation to the Institution of Engineering and Technology. She discussed TfL’s plans to extend tolling on London’s roads, and how this may be applied to the Blackwall Tunnel and Silvertown Tunnel (if built).
Whereas the proceeds from Ken Livingstone’s congestion charge went into public transport, these new TfL tolls would pay for… more roads. Which could include, she said, orbital tunnels.
Looks familiar, doesn’t it?
Essentially, TfL is looking at using the A102 through Greenwich, Charlton and Blackheath – and a Silvertown Tunnel – as part of a resurrected Ringway. And areas such as Blackheath, Lee, Lewisham, Brockley and Catford would be in the firing line for a tunnel.
Even if we bury the damn thing, the traffic has to come off the roads somewhere – and London simply can’t cope with the number of vehicles as it is. Any more would be a disaster. Why a road? Why not an orbital rail line?
New roads fill up as soon as they’re built. The last major road to be built in London, the A12 through Leytonstone, is the UK’s ninth most congested road, 15 years after it opened.
This is why opposing the Silvertown Tunnel is so important. It’s the thin end of a very dirty wedge. And it’s why Greenwich Council’s decision to endorse an Ikea next to the Blackwall Tunnel approach is so dangerous – because the last thing we need is extra traffic, even on grounds of congestion alone.
But it’s on health grounds where this also counts. Paris is also suffering from high pollution at the moment, so is making public transport free to all this weekend. London’s politicians, led by its mayor along with its footsoldiers like Greenwich’s councillors, just seem to want to encourage even more people to get in their cars. Choked, congested and polluted – is this really the sort of city we want to live in?
Greenwich Council’s planning board ignored well over an hour of public criticism last night to back outline plans by furniture giant Ikea to build a store in east Greenwich.
The seven-strong board split on party lines to endorse the proposal, with the council’s Labour leader Chris Roberts among the five members backing the scheme – despite Labour councillors and candidates joining opponents to speak out. The two Conservatives opposed the scheme.
The decision is just an outline approval – Ikea will have to return to the council at a later date with detailed plans before construction can go ahead on the site currently occupied by the “eco-friendly” Sainsbury’s store, which is relocating to Charlton.
Greenwich planning officers said Ikea was considering subsidising delivery for those who use public transport to get to the store, although neither they nor Ikea representatives were clear about what this would mean.
Members of the public spoke for an hour and quarter on the scheme, with nobody supporting it. Opponents included Labour councillors Mary Mills and Alex Grant.
“So many people have got in touch with me – there’s so much wrong with this, I can’t go into detail,” Peninsula councillor Mills said.
“When I was elected 14 years ago, it seemed as if Greenwich had taken on board sustainability. It seems like we’re running away from that now.”
Blackheath Westcombe councillor Alex Grant also recalled approving the original Sainsbury’s scheme as “a rookie councillor”, branding traffic predictions “nonsense”. He suggested Ikea be invited to select a more suitable site.
Greenwich & Woolwich parliamentary candidate Matt Pennycook acknowleged the promised 400 jobs – “the people who will benefit are not in this room” – but added he was “extremely concerned” about traffic and pollution.
“Too much rests on underlying assumptions which may not be realised,” he told the planning board.
One resident of Greenwich Millennium Village told the board: “Common sense tells me this will be a nightmare for the area if it goes ahead. We’re not an out-of-town shopping centre, we’re a thriving community.”
Other residents questioned why Ikea was unwilling to compromise its business model, with one pointing out that the store operates a car-free model in Hong Kong.
Charlton Society chair (and Labour council candidate) David Gardner questioned why Ikea aimed for 35% of visitors using public transport in Greenwich, when the Croydon store – which lies off a tram line – only has 28%.
Another local resident, Martin Stanforth, said the Croydon Ikea could not cope with the traffic, adding: “Our streets are not designed for massive amounts of traffic.
“You cannot approve this store until you’ve been to Ikea Croydon on a Saturday afternoon. What’s your legacy going to be?”
But councillors on the board were unmoved – indeed, regeneration cabinet member Denise Hyland asked planning officers from the start of the meeting how the council could enforce conditions if the application was approved.
Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts said he was aiming to reverse the legacy of 1980s car-centric development – but backed the scheme regardless.
Abbey Wood Labour councillor Clive Mardner backed the scheme, emphasising the importance of working with local people and adding: “I assume they’re taking on board air quality.”
Both Conservative councillors on the board opposed the scheme. Blackheath Westcombe councillor Geoff Brighty called the traffic predictions “laughable”.
Veteran colleague Dermot Poston (Eltham North) called the existing Sainsbury’s store “revolutionary” and “beautiful” – which led to him being accused of “playing to the gallery” by Roberts in a meeting which is supposed to be non-partisan.
Poston also questioned the lack of environmental impact assessment, and accused the council of arrogance for ignoring the 20th Century Society’s application to have the Sainsbury’s building listed.
But in the end, the board appeared determined to back the scheme – no matter how shaky the case, or how much Chris Roberts’ own Labour councillors and candidates opposed it.
For tweets from last night’s planning board, take a look at this Storify page.
Votes for: Steve Offord (Lab, Abbey Wood/ housing cabinet member), Clive Mardner (Lab, Abbey Wood), Denise Hyland (Lab, Abbey Wood/ regeneration cabinet member), Chris Roberts (Lab, Glyndon/ council leader), Ray Walker (Lab, Eltham West/ chief whip).
Votes against: Geoff Brighty (Con, Blackheath Westcombe), Dermot Poston (Con, Eltham North)
It’s long overdue, but the horrible Woolwich Road roundabout – where the A102 Blackwall Tunnel approach meets the A206 between Greenwich and Charlton – is finally due for a revamp under TfL’s Better Junctions programme “to make them safer and less threatening for cyclists and pedestrians”.
But what we’re short on is detail – and with the flyover 33rd on a list of 33 junctions, we might have a long time to wait for that.
“These road junctions are relics of the Sixties which blight and menace whole neighbourhoods,” roared Boris Johnson in his press release, presumably unaware that his Silvertown Tunnel proposal, which will add more traffic to the flyover will simply reinforce that blight and menace in this part of town. Ho-hum.
But how to fix the junction? Should the roundabout be ripped out? It opened in 1969 as a more traditional traffic junction before the gyratory was installed in about 1980, with traffic lights being put in during the late 1990s.
Or should we be looking longer-term and doing something even more radical? After all, in 2011 the flyover was reported as being in a “poor” condition. Should we go for it and take the thing down, slowing down the A102 traffic in the process?
No other junctions in this part of south-east London are affected by the scheme – indeed, beyond two grim junctions in Rotherhither, TfL’s map doesn’t suggest we were high in its pritorities…
But there are two other road schemes in the pipeline. There’s a small plan to tweak the Shooters Hill Road/ Stratheden Road junction on Blackheath, while something bigger emerged at the weekend – Lewisham bus station closed, heralding the first steps in the Lewisham Gateway scheme, which will revamp the north end of Lewisham High Street, ripping out its dreadful roundabout in the process.
Planners are recommending the board, which includes council leader Chris Roberts and regeneration cabinet member Denise Hyland, approve the scheme, subject to conditions, calling the site “a sustainable out-of-town-centre location”.
The council’s decision to rush the application through comes as the 20th Century Society asks English Heritage to list the 1999 Sainsbury’s store which currently sits on the site. A petition against the demolition of the supermarket, lauded at the time for its eco-friendly credentials, has reached 915 signatures.
If you’ve a strong view on the scheme, the planning board meeting starts at 6.30pm on Monday 3 March at Woolwich Town Hall. If you want to speak at the meeting, get in touch with the council.
Two things are striking about the council’s decision to decide the application early – its speed, and the lack of consideration given to potential traffic issues. The council has already decided an environmental assessment isn’t needed, despite high existing levels of air pollution in the area. Ikea has claimed its development will improve air quality.
Notably, the planning report talks up Ikea’s home delivery service – but without citing its cost, and it does not make offering free or even discounted deliveries to local homes a condition.
As discussed here last year, a plan to build an Ikea on a more suitable site which really is out of town – next to the A20 at Sidcup – was abandoned after a City Hall report criticised its potential to clog up the local road network. That report was written under Labour mayor Ken Livingstone – his Tory successor, Boris Johnson, will have the final say in this scheme.
Even in this scheme, Transport for London calls Ikea’s claims for the number of people who will use public transport to get to the store “ambitious”.
Greenwich Council conditions include financial contributions to try to improve traffic flows in the area, but little more concrete than changing signs so drivers leave the site at the exit closest to Greenwich Millennium Village and cash for public transport improvements.
But why so quick? Well, Sainsbury’s does want to vacate the site next year. The sister application, to rebuild the Sainsbury’s store in Charlton, took 16 months to progress from public announcement to planning decision, with a planning application going in after six months. That level of consideration is simply not taking place here.
While planning decisions are officially taken on a non-political basis, that’s frankly not going to happen when a nine-strong planning board includes the council leader, the regeneration cabinet member and chief whip Ray Walker. Fellow cabinet members Sajid Jawaid and Steve Offord are also on a board whose decisions often split on party lines.
The other planning board members are Tories Geoff Brighty and Dermot Poston, and Labour backbenchers David Grant and Clive Mardner. The latter two’s votes are likely to be critical.
It’s likely that outgoing leader Chris Roberts will see the 400 jobs on offer as a legacy, while a conscious decision to back a scheme which will increase traffic – particularly from north of the river – would, in some minds, make the controversial Silvertown Tunnel an easier sell, although the crossing is not mentioned in the planning document. That said, any scheme which increased traffic on the A102/A2 could kibosh council dreams of the DLR on stilts to Eltham, which would take away some road space.
The decision to rush the scheme has meant councillors have had very little opportunity to comment on the scheme – and denies new councillors, who will be elected in May, the chance to shape what happens.
But with the application in to list the existing Sainsbury’s store, and significant bewilderment locally at just how Ikea’s plans for the site will work in practice, the decision to rush the scheme through could yet backfire on the council.
There’s much to be proud of in Deptford these days. A thriving creative community, one of London’s most distinctive street markets, a rich naval heritage and the feistiest community spirit this side of the Thames. Or, indeed, on their side of Deptford Creek, which is what divides Deptford from its eastern neighbour, Greenwich. I’ve been doing a bit of work alongside the Don’t Dump on Deptford’s Heart campaign lately and been hugely impressed with their tenacity and determination to defend their neighbourhood. What’s not to like?
One oddity, though, is that Deptford has long been split between between two boroughs. In 1900, the parish of Deptford St Paul went to form the Metropolitan Borough of Deptford, while the parish of Deptford St Nicholas became part of the Metropolitan Borough of Greenwich. In the 1960s those boroughs became Lewisham and Greenwich, and in 1994 the boundary was moved slightly to the east, shifting Convoys Wharf – the old royal dockyard – into Lewisham borough.
Despite all this change, the creek has always been the boundary between Deptford, SE8, and Greenwich, SE10. But despite living in a unique and rather special part of London, some residents want out. They want to be considered part of Greenwich.
They’re clearly confused.
Sorry chum, the border down Watergate Street is the Lewisham/Greenwich borough boundary. The border goes just past the SE8 delivery office for Royal Mail, funnily enough. Just like it runs down the middle of Blackheath Village, too – and they’re not demanding to be called “Greenwich”.
But who are the culprits? Estate agents, who’ve sold properties in SE8 as being in “Greenwich” for years, and the highways department of Greenwich Council, who stuck a sign outside Sainsbury’s in Deptford a couple of years ago bearing the legend “West Greenwich”. Mind you, it originally said “East Greenwich”, so what do they know?
And then there are bits that as as wrong as the petitioners’ geography. Greenwich charges a lower rate of council tax than Lewisham – the average Band D in Greenwich is £1,283.91, in Lewisham it’s £1,363.35. I’m not really sure another £1.50 a week on your council tax will have an impact on your house price.
Another falsehood. Your postcode alone cannot affect your credit score.
But if you live in Deptford, the nearest town to you would be… Deptford.
Is that legally possible?
I live in Charlton. Can I have an SE10 postcode, please? And so on.
Ah-ha! Here’s Dave to put ‘em right.
Of course, we all know postal areas have their quirks – ask residents of SE13 who pay council tax to Greenwich and SE10-dwellers who pay to Lewisham. And Royal Mail almost always refuses these requests anyway. So maybe the ideal solution to this was proposed over two decades ago, when Deptford Power Station was still standing and Greenwich borough extended up Evelyn Street, and the boundaries were being reviewed.
Now you see, if only the boundary commission had taken up Lewisham’s suggestion – our friends wouldn’t be so confused today. As it stands, they’ll just have to move house if they want to live in Greenwich – just like everybody else.
Sunday update: Also worth seeing Transpontine’s take on this.
It’s widely thought he fancies a crack at the mayoralty in 2016, so hopping on the bus is smart politics when the current mayor has hiked up fares while declining to invest in new services.
He’s been tweeting his travels at @Andrew_Adonis all week, and it’s been quite a ride.
On Wednesday, he showed off pictures of him travelling around with Greenwich & Woolwich MP Nick Raynsford. They had a look at the Old Royal Naval College, looked at some bus timetables in Greenwich, took a 386 through Kidbrooke (they clearly weren’t in hurry), and pointed at Tesco in Woolwich.
To get to Greenwich, they took a 188 along Trafalgar Road. And Adonis made this very odd comment…
“Nick Raynsford tells me typical narrow Victorian High St leads to congestion” – really? Nothing to do with too many vehicles trying to use it, then? Or even the Maze Hill traffic lights, for that matter? It’s not even that narrow, for heaven’s sake.
If this was Upper Street in Islington, I very much doubt the local MP would observe that a normal-sized main road “leads to congestion”. But as it’s Trafalgar Road in Greenwich, the shops are clearly getting in the way of increased traffic flows. What would they rather have, a dual carriageway?
Among the baffled responses was one from the Evening Standard’s property writer Mira Bar-Hillel:
Adonis also backs the Silvertown Tunnel, so perhaps this sort of thing’s not such a surprise after all. But it’s depressing that both Conservative and Labour politicians seem to see Greenwich as a place to slap down tarmac and build the new roads they could never get away with anywhere else in inner London.
In just over 15 months, of course, Nick Raynsford will be an ex-MP. Here’s hoping his successor takes a more enlightened view and defends us against demands to accommodate more traffic – and from mayors who who want to further clog up our streets.
10.40am update: Lord Adonis responded on Twitter this morning.
Sadly, that’s exactly what the Silvertown Tunnel will do, particularly for Greenwich.
For comparison, here are some pictures of Trafalgar Road in May 1968.
10pm update: “Time for a bus bottleneck buster” – Lord Adonis on his trip through Greenwich.
Furniture giant Ikea claims its proposed Greenwich store would improve air quality in the local area, according to documents sent to Greenwich Council.
But its detailed figures show any improvement would be “negligible”, while pollution would actually get slightly worse at Greenwich Millennium Village.
It says its plans to encourage traffic to use travel to the store via Blackwall Lane and Bugsbys Way, rather than coming off the A102 at Woolwich Road, would help cut pollution around the notorious junction.
The company claims the store will not result in any extra traffic heading to the site, which is due to be vacated by Sainsbury’s and Matalan in 2015 – it actually claims “there will be a slight reduction in traffic generation compared with the previous use of the site”.
Letters were sent to residents who attended November’s consultation event claiming the development would be “beneficial” for air quality. Now it is asking for outline planning permission for the scheme, and residents have two weeks to get their views to Greenwich Council.
Ikea’s air quality assessment shows the company has not commissioned any air pollution monitoring itself. Instead, it is relying on figures estimated from Greenwich Council monitoring stations and diffusion tubes.
While all local sites will still break European legal limits of 40 micrograms per cubic metre of nitogen dioxide, Ikea’s figures claim a “slight beneficial” effect on areas to the south of the flyover along with a small worsening of quality around the Millennium Village.
Ikea’s plans to encourage consumers to use Blackwall Lane and Bugsbys Way to access the store would mean extra traffic passing to the south of Greenwich Millennium Village, as well as the site of a new primary school planned by Greenwich Council. Ikea’s estimate for Southern Way (42.6) is lower than figures recorded by the No to Silvertown Tunnel campaign in June 2013 of 50µg/m3.
Ikea’s transport assessment claims there “will be a reduction in vehicle trips during the weekday PM peak as a result of the development proposals, and only a slight increase in vehicle trips on the Saturday peak”.
It adds “a lower level of parking at the Millennium Retail Park will mean that trips generation will be more constrained compared to the existing London stores. This will encourage the uptake of sustainable means of travel”. It predicts 65% of customers will come by car.
It says the Greenwich store will have a smaller catchment area (of 2.17 million people) than its other stores. This roughly runs from the West End to Dagenham and Crayford, and from Orpington to Leytonstone. But other figures included with the application show areas as far out as Canterbury and Ashford, Kent, will be within an hour’s drive of the store.
Ikea says 39.1% of that figure will come from north of the river – a change to existing travel patterns which will put more pressure on the Blackwall Tunnel and the congested A12 through Poplar and Bow. 13.4% of trips would come from “Woolwich Road west” – largely via the central Greenwich world heritage site.
The application can be viewed at Greenwich Council’s planning site by entering reference number 13/3285/O. Comments need to be with Greenwich Council by 11 February.
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.