Posts Tagged ‘greenwich’
One of the architects behind the Sainsbury’s store in Greenwich has launched a petition against its possible demolition. Despite opening the “eco-store” only 14 years ago, Sainsbury’s plans to move to a new site in Charlton in 2015, and Ikea is preparing a planning application to knock it down and build a new store.
Sainsbury’s is insisting on a covenant to prevent another food store from taking over the existing building. Paul Hinkin, who now works with Black Architecture, calls it “anti-competitive and is a flagrant abuse of the planning system which originally granted consent for the development”.
It’s approaching 400 signatures – and you can sign the Sainsbury’s Greenwich petition here.
Sainsbury’s, though, seems to be sticking its head in the sand on the issue – distributing a patronising PR leaflet to local households that doesn’t even acknowledge the new store is in Charlton, not Greenwich. Not a good sign.
The campaign is on to save the Woolwich Grand Theatre, which faces demolition after being open for less than two years. But it’s not the only arts venue in the area with a shadow on the horizon, with concerns being raised over the long-term future of Greenwich Theatre too.
While the news about Woolwich Grand Theatre has come as a shock to many, the site has been earmarked for redevelopment by the council for some time. The freeholder, Thirty Eight Wellington Street Ltd, is in administration.
The original Woolwich Grand Theatre opened in 1900, but later became a cinema before being demolished in 1939. The current building opened in 1955 as the Regal Cinema, later becoming the ABC Woolwich before closing in 1982. It was used on and off as a nightclub until 2008.
Woolwich Grand Theatre founder Adrian Green gained planning permission to use it as an arts venue in 2011, opening the doors at the beginning of 2012.
While the building still requires a lot of work on it (£630,000-worth, according to the developer) the main auditorium has been used for concerts and films, while a smaller space upstairs has been used for plays and other events.
Local politicians have been keen to associate themselves with the theatre – it’s being used a lot for events in the campaign to be the Labour candidate for Greenwich & Woolwich – but Greenwich Council’s backing has only been lukewarm.
In July this year, a report for housing cabinet member Steve Offord showed the Grand Theatre site as having “development potential”.
This appeared to be bit of a smack in the face for Green. Six months earlier, he’d posed in a hard hat alongside council leader Chris Roberts to promote the council’s support for the Silvertown Tunnel, presumably try to get the council on board with his plans for the theatre.
In terms of planning, the council includes the Woolwich Grand Theatre as part of the Bathway Quarter. This was the old administrative heart of Woolwich, which now lies neglected. It includes the listed Old Town Hall, the former Island Site of Thames Polytechnic/ Greenwich University and the old swimming baths/ student union.
The council’s Woolwich Masterplan states: “This area has a rich character which should be preserved though sensitive residential-led refurbishment with active uses at ground floor to create a distinct urban quarter. This area has the potential to be a high quality, high-specification, loft-style place with bars, galleries and artists’ studios together with other uses such as a jazz club and creative industries such as architects’ studios.”
Now Upminster-based developer Secure Sleep wants to knock the Woolwich Grand down and build flats there instead – with no sign of any arts usage for the site whatsoever. You can see the full planning application on the Greenwich Council website.
Architect Nigel Ostime told The Stage: “The theatre doesn’t appear to be a commercially viable proposition. As such, when you’ve got a big building that has a lot of maintenance needs, it requires money breathed into it to make it work properly. Sadly, there isn’t the money to do that.
“We are proposing to demolish the building to create homes for people. There is a great need for housing in London, and this would help to fill that gap.”
No money around, eh? We’ll come back to that point later. A petition’s been launched to save the Woolwich Grand Theatre – and a decision is expected in February.
The threat to the Woolwich Grand Theatre is imminent and real. But a few miles west, there are more long-term worries about Greenwich Theatre.
Last week, Greenwich Council’s cabinet agreed plans to create a “performing arts hub” at the council-owned Greenwich Borough Hall on Royal Hill, which is currently home to Greenwich Dance Agency. However, details of the proposal have been kept secret, which the council says is due to their financial implications, while the decision has been rushed through to meet a deadline to apply for Heritage Lottery Fund money.
“As well as providing a significantly improved facility, the proposed investment will reduce maintenance costs overall helping to secure the long-term sustainability of performing arts in the borough,” the cabinet paper says – which would suggest that other venues may be closed.
“At the same time, it has not been possible to bring the proposals to Cabinet before now due to the on-going discussions with the arts organisations who will be affected and therefore it has not been possible on this occasion to provide the 28 days’ notice required for a key decision,” it adds.
Several sources say Greenwich’s long-term strategy is to move Greenwich Theatre into the Borough Hall. I’ve also been told this idea has been deferred until after 2014′s council election after objections from local councillors, although I’ve not been able to confirm this.
Indeed, tampering with Greenwich Theatre could well be electoral suicide in west Greenwich. The area’s already lost one theatre recently, after the owners of the Greenwich Playhouse theatre illegally turned the venue into a hostel, then exploited a planning loophole which left councillors taking the flak when it belatedly came before a committee this summer. (A plan for it to reopen in the Creekside development in Deptford has so far not materialised.) And plans to demolish the Trident Hall, which was also used for plays, and replace it with a hotel have also reappeared recently.
But more importantly, it’s likely that such a plan would be unworkable, considering the Borough Hall is more like a school hall than a theatre. Indeed, it would be much more suitable as a music venue than one for staging plays.
Unlike the Woolwich Grand, the council is directly involved in the fate of Greenwich Theatre. The old Metropolitan Borough of Greenwich bought the then-derelict Hippodrome Picture Palace site in 1962, planning to redevelop it.
But a local campaign resulted in its successor, the current council, leasing it to the Greenwich Theatre, which opened after rebuilding works in 1969.
Now the Crooms Hill site is believed to be in need of repairs – hence the proposal to turn the clock back 50 years and sell it, rather than fix it.
While the idea appears to have been kicked into the long grass for now, theatre fans in Greenwich should be staying vigilant about the venue’s future. There’s already talk of having Greenwich Theatre declared an asset of community value, which would put a six-month brake on any proposal to sell it. That said, it would need Greenwich Council to agree to ACV status – which would call the council’s bluff somewhat.
But the arts hub proposal reveals there is funding available for arts projects – even during this time of cuts. So with the right management, it’s clear Woolwich Grand Theatre could be saved, if the money can be raised to buy the freehold from a firm in administration, and if Greenwich Council has the political will to give campaigners time by declaring the building an asset of community value.
Furthermore, it’s worth questioning the point in having any arts hub if there’s no arts policy in place. In recent years Greenwich has pulled back from funding venues such as Blackheath Halls and Conservatoire, and has instead put cash into recurring events under the Royal Greenwich Festivals banner. The trouble with this strategy, though, is that it doesn’t leave much of a legacy once the festival’s over.
And rushing through a decision to make an arts hub in west Greenwich doesn’t really make much sense when you’re supposed to be creating a quarter of bars and “jazz clubs” over in Woolwich. Doing it all in secret doesn’t look good either – but then that’s the way Chris Roberts’ increasingly chaotic administration does things.
Perhaps the Woolwich Grand’s woes will provide a chance to step back, rethink, and come up with something clearer. I wouldn’t bank on it, though…
12.10pm update: Coincidentally, Royal Museums Greenwich is opening up a performance space in the Cutty Sark in the new year.
Just four regular commuters are now using the Emirates Air Line cable car between Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Docks, down from 16 last autumn. Hop over to The Scoop to find out more.
TfL is still claiming the cable car “continues to play a key role in attracting investment to this strategically important part of the capital”. Yet the only growth industry around North Greenwich that hasn’t been planned for years seems to be in takeaway outlets at the tube station. Is there any sign of a cable car-related boom on the peninsula?
So, if you saw the ad in Greenwich Council’s propaganda weekly announcing Ikea’s plans to build a new superstore, or if you got a letter through your door, you’d have expected to have learned something new from Saturday’s exhibition at Greenwich’s Forum.
But Ikea was remarkably short of detail on its plan to build a new store on the soon-to-be vacated Sainsbury’s site off Peartree Way. When Sainsbury’s mounted a similar exhibition two years ago to announce its intentions to move to Charlton, a lot more questions had been answered.
Instead, all we got was….
…a map which merely confirms that Ikea wants to knock down Sainsbury’s and Comet and plonk a new store on the same space.
…give us our store or these people in a stock photo won’t have jobs!
And that was about it. One thing which struck me was how confident Ikea’s reps were – “well, it’s either us or another store,” one told me, while I overheard one man in a yellow shirt explain to a colleague he’d be in charge of the project “once we get planning permission”. Indeed, since these displays will be on show in East Greenwich Library for the next fortnight, it’s effectively a free ad from Greenwich Council.
So, what was said about the elephant in the room, traffic? Not a lot. When asked, Ikea’s reps conceded there’d be an increase to traffic, and acknowledged the current access from the Woolwich Road flyover was a problem. But their only idea to fix things was merely to encourage car drivers to use the A102 exit at Blackwall Lane instead.
Much was made of the proposed store sitting on six bus routes and being a short walk from others (Ikea seems to have included night bus N1 in its figures), but a Billy bookcase doesn’t go well on a bus.
When I explained to an Ikea rep that I was a non-driver, he seemed somewhat surprised I hadn’t taken advantage of its costly delivery service. Like every other non-driver I know, the last time I used Ikea to buy something bulky, I sponged a lift to Croydon.
And as for “several off-street cycle routes serving the site” – really?! Where? – it’s worth pointing out that the Neasden Ikea has a whole three cycle racks. (Thanks to tweeter @Helzbels for the shot.)
Ikea’s confidence that many people will use public transport seems somewhat misplaced. In fact, one of its displays betrayed that.
“At present, people living and working in the Royal Borough of Greenwich… travel to our stores in Croydon, Lakeside or Tottenham.” The latter store is actually practically impossible to get to by public transport from this part of London. In fact, Ikea’s Neasden store is only 40 minutes up the Jubilee Line from North Greenwich, but public transport doesn’t seem to be Ikea’s strength.
Back in 2004, Ikea put in a planning application to Bromley Council for a store at the old Klinger factory site in Sidcup, together with a separate application to Bexley Council for an approach road. It was later withdrawn.
While the Sidcup site had much poorer public transport access, many of the observations from this Greater London Authority planning report from 2004 ring true of Ikea’s Greenwich plans – especially this one:
“It is not within or near a town centre and is an out of centre location chosen specifically for its proximity to the A20 with its ease of access by private motor vehicle from south east London and Kent. Indeed, the Medway towns of Chatham, Rochester and Gillingham, and Gravesend are all large conurbations within 30 minutes drive from this store along a motorway.”
Switch dual carriageways and add another 15 minutes, and you’ve got Ikea’s Greenwich plan – a magnet for Kent car drivers, and a pain for everyone in Greenwich itself. If it’s serious about winning over residents, Ikea needs to actually start thinking about its plans, rather than assuming people will be wowed by talk of solar panels and bus routes.
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?
You’ve probably heard by now that Ikea is planning to open a store in Greenwich, once Sainsbury’s has shipped up the road to Charlton. News emerged via an ad in Greenwich Council’s weekly propaganda rag Greenwich Time, rather than anything released to the local press, while some nearer neighbours have had letters.
Ikea is promising “a significant new sustainable development”, even though it’ll involve the demolition of the current Sainsbury’s store, billed when it opened in 1999 by the supermarket’s staff journal as “the greenest store in Britain”.
Since then, Sainsbury’s has found it’s struggling to keep up with demand at Greenwich, while some of the eco-friendly features haven’t worked as well as planned. So it’s moving to a bigger (and similarly “environmentally-friendly”) store at Gallions Road, Charlton, in 2015, which will also feature a Marks & Spencer as well as high street-style shops facing onto Woolwich Road. It’s an intriguing development for north Charlton, but less good news for Greenwich Millennium Village residents who lose their nearest supermarket, while Blackheath residents will have to hope TfL relents on a refusal to extend bus route 202 to serve the new Sainsbury’s store.
All of which leaves the soon-to-be redundant “eco-store”. As part of the deal with developer LXB which has facilitated the move, Sainsbury’s has stipulated that the Greenwich site must go to a non-food retailer. LXB now owns much of Charlton’s retail space, and has already shuffled one store (Wickes) around to make way for the new development. I understand another retailer is likely to take up the empty Comet store on a temporary basis.
Enter Ikea, which has put a bid in for the site. Ikea’s long been keen on this area, and is believed to have been interested about 10-15 years ago in the land to the east of Asda which became the Greenwich Shopping Park. Now the Swedish flatpack furniture retailer has returned, and this time it’s serious.
Along with Sainsbury’s and Comet, one other thing which will go is the small nature park at the rear of the Sainsbury’s site – it’s understood Greenwich Council wants this relocated elsewhere on the peninsula. Where this fits in with long-term plans to develop the area around the (separate) Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park isn’t clear. Most parcels of land on the peninsula are now earmarked for specific developments, although as we discovered with the cable car, that can change.
But the big problem is going to be traffic. Peartree Way (and the A102/A206 junction) already can’t cope with the Sainsbury’s traffic – the pictures in this post were taken on Sunday at 4pm. Pollution levels outside Sainsbury’s already breach EU limits – so much for the “eco-store”.
Ikea branches generate huge amounts of traffic – just visit its existing London area stores at Croydon, Edmonton, Neasden and Thurrock. Sainsbury’s moving down the road isn’t going to remove traffic from the area, it’s just shifting it a mile down the road. And while the Sainsbury’s site probably has the best bus service of any superstore in Britain, you can’t squeeze a flat-packed wardrobe home on a 486.
Solving this problem will be an enormous, and quite possibly insurmountable, challenge. It could well kibosh emerging plans to downgrade the filthily polluted stretch of Woolwich Road from Gallions Road to the A102 as a local road. Once Sainsbury’s moves, the Greenwich/Charlton area is likely to reach its capacity for major retail developments. While everyone loves Ikea, is having one down the road really worth seeing the whole area grinding to a halt for?
With the increasing pace of residential development in the area, seeing the mile-long stretch from the foot of the peninsula to The Valley as some kind of out-of-town retail barn nirvana is becoming increasingly out of date – something the plans for the new Sainsbury’s hint at, with the shopfronts on Woolwich Road and covered walkways to adjacent stores. Ikea may just have come to the party a decade too late.
But we haven’t seen the full details of what’s planned, yet. There’s a staffed exhibition on Saturday 9 November from 12-7pm at Sherard Hall, The Forum @ Greenwich, Trafalgar Road, while the displays will be up at East Greenwich Library from 11-23 November. It’ll be interesting to see just how Ikea faces up to these problems.
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.
Some of Greenwich’s most high-profile development sites suffer from air pollution far in excess of European limits, research carried out for No to Silvertown Tunnel has revealed.
Volunteers, including myself, used tubes to record the pollution in the air at over 50 locations close to the A102, A2 and A206 for four weeks during June, using similar methods used by Greenwich Council for its own pollution records. Over half the tubes came back with readings over 40 μg/m3, the EU limit.
The Woolwich Road/ Blackwall Lane junction in Greenwich, outside where new homes are now being built by developer Galliford Try, recorded 70 micrograms per cubic metre. The site is opposite the flagship Greenwich Square development, which will include homes, shops and and a leisure centre.
With Greenwich Council and London mayor Boris Johnson backing a Silvertown Tunnel, which will attract more traffic to the area, the figures can only get worse.
The figures will be discussed at a public meeting at the Forum at Greenwich, Trafalgar Road, SE10 9EQ on Wednesday (tomorrow) at 7pm.
Further south, high readings were recorded in Eltham at Westhorne Avenue, Eltham station and Westmount Road, where the A2 forms a two-lane bottleneck. Local MP Clive Efford supports the Silvertown proposal, despite compelling evidence that it will make traffic in his constituency worse. So do local Conservatives – even though we recorded a big fat 50 μg/m3 outside their local HQ.
What’s more, when we contacted Greenwich Council to tell it we intended to place pollution tubes on its lamp posts, we discovered it had been collecting its own statistics since 2005.
But mystifyingly, no figures were published since 2010 – until now. We obtained the results through a Freedom of Information Act request, and have published a full archive on the No to Silvertown Tunnel website.
These borough-wide stats bear out our own research, revealing that the borough’s worst location is outside Plumstead station – possibly due to the bus garage being nearby, but also a regular scene for heavy tailbacks.
Despite the council also pressing for a road bridge at Gallions Reach, it appears to have made little serious attempt to record pollution levels in the Thamesmead and Abbey Wood areas, which would be affected by such a scheme as well as emissions from London City Airport.
The whole borough has been an air quality management zone for 12 years, which makes Greenwich Council’s position on road-building even more mystifying. Its decision to stop publishing air quality reports smacks of carelessness at the very least. Pollution has become the council’s dirty secret.
If you drill down into the statistics, you’ll actually find air quality gradually improving in some areas. But in places where traffic remains heavy, it’s stubbornly awful.
Incidentally, the tubes are very easy to install and relatively cheap – if local groups find Greenwich Council’s response to pollution wanting, it’s simple for them to carry out their own studies, just as we did. Indeed, we were inspired by a study done by the Putney Society – so it should be easy for groups in Greenwich, Blackheath, Eltham and Charlton, or elsewhere, to follow suit.
Greenwich Council continues to back new road schemes on the grounds that they will take traffic off existing roads – despite a heap of evidence that proves the opposite. Indeed, studies show new roads simply increase traffic by making road travel more attractive.
It also claims economic benefits for new schemes – but it hasn’t been able to produce a shred of evidence that this is the case. And will it take the health costs from the extra pollution caused by yet more traffic on local roads into account?
Even more perplexing is that neighbouring boroughs don’t want Silvertown – leaving Greenwich’s Labour council in a position where it’s just a figleaf for a Conservative mayor’s scheme. If Greenwich opposed it, would Boris really go ahead?
So how can we persuade local decision-makers to wake up and realise they’re backing a scheme would could be disastrous? Well, we thought we’d invite them to our meeting, where they can hear from experts and see what results we got.
Here’s the response from Don Austen, Labour councillor for Glyndon ward.
Incidentally, Don’s ward not only contains the borough’s filthiest air, his own home is very close to Charlton Village – where air quality also breaks EU rules. We had a few other responses that were nicer, but it’s hard to dispel the feeling that Greenwich’s councillors simply aren’t taking this seriously.
That said, some of the nominees to be Labour’s candidate for for Greenwich & Woolwich are alert to the dangers of blindly following a Conservative mayor’s policy. Lewisham councillor Kevin Bonavia (whose own council opposes Silvertown) voices his concern in his manifesto: “According to a recent GLA report, 150 deaths per year across the borough are caused by air pollution. We shouldn’t be encouraging more traffic in already concentrated areas.”
And yesterday, outsider Kathy Peach took aim not just at the proposal, but the way Greenwich Council has handled it:
I’m not convinced Boris Johnson’s Silvertown Tunnel is the answer. Nor do I believe there’s been an informed democratic debate about it.
I have heard from several quarters that Labour councillors who oppose the scheme have been banned from voicing their opposition in public… the fact that such stories gain traction points to something insular and complacent about our local political culture. We need a breath of fresh air. Let’s get rid of stale tactics and encourage a vigorous inclusive open debate. We need to bring the community along with us – otherwise other parties will jump into the gap.
Hopefully we’ll see Kathy, and Kevin, and others, and hopefully you, down at the Forum tomorrow night. If you’re sceptical, feel free to come along and lob some tough questions.
But if Greenwich councillors won’t listen, and Boris Johnson won’t listen, then we need to find our own way forward – because this is a battle that can be won.
And we might even have some fun on the way. If you want to help, come along tomorrow night.
No to Silvertown Tunnel public meeting: Wednesday 16 October, 7-9pm, Forum at Greenwich, Trafalgar Road, London SE10 9EQ. Speakers are transport consultant John Elliott, the Campaign for Better Transport’s Sian Berry, King’s College London air quality expert Dr Ian Mudway and Clean Air London’s Simon Birkett.
PS. If you have the time, it’s worth reading the 1994 Government report Trunk Roads and the Generation of Traffic. These studies are backed up by another report, published in 2006 for the Countryside Agency and Campaign to Protect Rural England.
Back in July, this website featured the baffling new phase of Greenwich Millennium Village, taking shape in front of Greenwich Yacht Club, but which will have an aggregates yard, a recycling depot and a travellers’ camp as neighbours.
Its construction also led to the closure of part of the road to the yacht club, Peartree Way, and some signs being shifted around (as well as some signs being mis-spelled). The direction signs on the Thames Path were moved in June, presumably by Greenwich Millennium Village’s contractors, and left pointing in the wrong direction.
It’s now September, and both signposts still point in the wrong direction – including the one for Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park, itself under threat from Greenwich Millennium Village’s long-term plans for a 20-storey tower which would overshadow it, blocking out vital sunlight. Visitors are sent heading off towards Charlton – when they only need to walk a couple of hundred yards west instead.
The ecology park depends on support and visitors to survive – so a sign pointing in entirely the wrong direction isn’t useful, to say the least. It’s not as if Greenwich Council hasn’t been told. I know myself – I first told a local councillor 12 weeks ago, and followed it up with an email nine weeks ago. Seven weeks ago, I had a reply saying arrangements were in place for the signs to be fixed.
Nothing has happened since. So since Greenwich Council clearly isn’t bothered, the Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park team have taken matters into their own hands…
We’ll return at Christmas to see if the council’s done anything.
Incidentally, a public notice appeared in its weekly propaganda paper, Greenwich Time, about a month ago giving permission for the “temporary closure” of the end Peartree Way from 13 August (the same day the paper was dated) – even though the road had been fenced off since 24 June and later dug up.
Nothing’s appeared on the street itself. That basically means Greenwich Millennium Village’s developers had closed the road illegally – but no action appears to have been taken. A small issue in the big scheme of things, but it says volumes about how closely Greenwich Council keeps an eye on developers in its borough.
Long-delayed refurbishment works at Greenwich Foot Tunnel could finally be finished by next March, the inaugural meeting of a pressure group on the issue was told last week.
About 50 people filled the first gathering of the Friends of Greenwich and Woolwich Foot Tunnels, which aims to protect and promote the two cross-river links, both badly hit by a botched revamp managed by Greenwich Council.
At a council meeting in July, Greenwich regeneration cabinet member Denise Hyland, who is in charge of the tunnel scheme, announced work on to get the tunnels finished would be brought forward – but there was still no date as to when a report, commissioned last October, into the fiasco would be published.
Hyland, who is in charge of the tunnels, did not attend the packed meeting at the 10 Centre last Thursday. But Tower Hamlets councillor Gloria Thienel was there, and the Conservative representative for Blackwall & Cubitt Town said her own council’s officers understood that Greenwich planned to have the work done by March.
But she did add: “We’ve been told this before.”
If true, this would mean the work at Greenwich would be finished in time for May’s council elections. There was no news as to when work at Woolwich would be finished – indeed, users of that crossing were thin on the ground.
Much of the meeting, chaired by outgoing Peninsula councillor Mary Mills, was concerned with filling positions on its committee. Indeed, But a wide range of issues were raised, with the issue of cycling in the tunnels causing almost as much concern as their poor state of repair.
The other big issue was the lack of lift staff – made redundant by Greenwich Council, with passengers able to operate the lifts themselves. Dubbed the “guardians of the tunnels” by one speaker, their ability to control cycling in the tunnels merely by denying errant cyclists entry to a lift was much missed.
Crime and anti-social behaviour were brought up – with suggestions for closer working between Greenwich, Tower Hamlets and Newham councils and borough police forces. Others also feared the Greenwich tunnel was nearing capacity – and it was time to start looking at alternative pedestrian and cyclist links.
While no Greenwich cabinet members turned up, backbench councillors Alex Grant and Matt Pennycook were there for part of the meeting, along with parliamentary hopeful David Prescott. Shortly after the two councillors went, with perfect timing, London cycling commissioner Andrew Gilligan popped in for the end.
There were also representatives from the new Friends of Island Gardens group, formed to protect the park which faces Greenwich from across the Thames.