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news, views and issues around Greenwich, Charlton, Blackheath and Woolwich, south-east London – what you won't read in Greenwich Time

Posts Tagged ‘nick raynsford

Congested Greenwich: Too many cars, or Trafalgar Road’s fault?

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Lord Adonis's Twitter feed, 19 February 2014Labour peer and former transport secretary Lord Adonis is travelling around London by bus this week.

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…

Lord Adonis's Twitter feed, 19 February 2014

“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:

Mira Bar-Hillel on Twitter

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.

Written by Darryl

20 February, 2014 at 7:30 am

Goodbye, Woolwich Fire Station. Sorry we didn’t try harder

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Woolwich Fire Station, 9 January 2014

Woolwich fire station closed this morning.

There was a small demonstration outside the graceful Victorian building, tucked away in the back streets, which now has prime redevelopment potential. About 20 people, including Greenwich Labour councillors and candidates, plus MPs Nick Raynsford (a former fire services minister) and Clive Efford, gathered outside for its final hour.

Woolwich fire station is the victim of budget cuts, yet there was still money in the GLA kitty for two private security guards, two policemen, a police van to lurk around the corner, another police van and the Greenwich borough commander to keep watch.

“All very peaceful, the local MP’s here,” one copper radioed back to base. This was no raging against the dying of the light. As the wind whipped up, this was a final farewell to London’s second oldest operational fire station, which seems to have been written off as terminal long ago.

Woolwich Fire Station, 9 January 2014

When Shooters Hill fire station was closed (by a Labour government) in 1998, residents were assured they’d be safe because Woolwich fire station was still there. Now Woolwich is gone, too, thanks to Boris Johnson.

One of its tenders will move to East Greenwich fire station, but a gap in fire coverage has opened up around Woolwich, a district in the throes of redevelopment. More people will live in Woolwich, but they’ll have to wait longer for a fire engine.

With Woolwich fire station gone, could more have been done? I certainly wish I’d covered the issue more, rather than fearing duplicating what other local media were doing. But where was the community anger? It was an issue which seemed to struggle to get beyond local Labour party stalwarts. Local councillor and cabinet member John Fahy comes out of this with credit, organising a 433-strong petition against it.

Woolwich Fire Station, 9 January 2014

But Fahy’s own council barely bothered to take up the cause. It can organise a petition to build a new road to please developers, but it didn’t back a petition to keep a fire station eyed by up developers.

As reported here in November, Greenwich’s only response to the cuts proposal was to fire off a two-page letter from cabinet member Maureen O’Mara, containing glaring errors. Neighbouring Lewisham did some research and sent off a seven-page document, detailing the impact on it and other boroughs, and saw New Cross fire station saved as a result.

Greenwich wouldn’t even put up posters for a formal public meeting about the closure.

LFEPA report

The council belatedly joined a court action to stop the cuts – but it was too late.

John Fahy – recently given a warning by his party over allegedly leaking council leader Chris Roberts’ bullying voicemail to him – was there this morning. So were cabinet colleagues Denise Hyland and Steve Offord and a smattering of other councillors and candidates. No sign, though, of O’Mara, Roberts, or his deputy Peter Brooks – the ones who really could have done something.

But maybe the blame lies with all of us, for not kicking up a bigger stink. Perhaps not enough people even knew the station existed. Or it points to something nobody wants to face up to – how the public are now completely disconnected from local issues. Or maybe nobody really cared enough.

But now Boris Johnson will have leave a little bit of his legacy behind in Woolwich, when the old Woolwich fire station becomes a free school or luxury flats. Sadly, and despite the efforts of Labour activists, I can’t help thinking either result would meet few complaints from Greenwich Council.

Woolwich Fire Station, 9 January 2014

Goodbye, Woolwich fire station. Sorry we didn’t try hard enough.

Written by Darryl

9 January, 2014 at 10:49 am

Greenwich & Woolwich MP Nick Raynsford to stand down

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Breaking news: Greenwich & Woolwich MP Nick Raynsford is to stand down at the next general election, he told Labour Party members at a meeting in Charlton tonight.

Nick RaynsfordRaynsford, who will be 70 at the time of May 2015’s election, has represented the local area since 1992, when he was elected MP for the old Greenwich seat after beating incumbent Social Democrat Rosie Barnes by a slim majority. He also spent just over a year as MP for Fulham after winning a by-election there in 1986.

Since 1997 he has won Greenwich & Woolwich with comfortable five-figure majorities, and his decision is likely to spark a scramble among local Labour figures keen on almost-certain entry into parliament. The party may choose to go for an all-female shortlist, like neighbouring Lewisham Deptford.

Raynsford is known for his expertise in housing and construction – but criticised for his closeness to the construction industry, where he earns a sizeable income from other interests, including the chairmanship of Triathlon Homes, responsible for affordable housing in Stratford’s Olympic Park.

He has controversially backed the almost universally-unpopular Greenwich Market hotel development plans, since scrapped, as well as two schemes supported by Conservative mayor Boris Johnson: the Silvertown Tunnel and his idea for an airport in the Thames Estuary.

But he was also credited with helping bring Crossrail to Woolwich, as well as backing other regeneration schemes in the area. He’s recently laid into plans to downgrade Lewisham Hospital’s A&E, as well as cuts to police and fire services.

As minister for London under Tony Blair, Raynsford was also instrumental in the creation of the capital’s mayoralty, and even put himself forward to be Labour’s candidate in the 2000 election. Former mayor Ken Livingstone has credited him for his work in getting the GLA’s City Hall HQ built in time and on budget.

Livingstone said in 2010 that Raynsford would have been “a much more effective cabinet Minister than many of those who were [appointed]. There’s clearly something wrong about Tony Blair that he didn’t recognise that.”

11pm update: Expect a flood of applicants to replace Nick Raynsford, all-woman shortlist or not. All-female shortlists are decided beyond local level, although local activists will have a say.

Outgoing Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts will be many people’s favourite. But he said last year he’d be “bored” as an MP, is believed to want to remain in the council cabinet, and he’s also unpopular with local party members. David Prescott, son of former deputy prime minister John, will be a front-runner, as will Greenwich West councillor Matt Pennycook. I mentioned Greenwich cabinet member Jackie Smith for the council leadership – would she fancy Westminster rather than Woolwich?

Whatever’s decided, expect a wide open field – if you can design websites, get friendly with Labour party members now. Some of them might want you to do a bit of work for them…

Friday 8.40am update: I’ve been I reminded of one person I missed out above… Len Duvall, current Greenwich and Lewisham London Assembly member, ex-Greenwich Council leader and Jackie Smith’s husband. If Duvall was to get it, it may prompt a by-election for his seat on City Hall, which he has held since 2000.

Friday 12.20pm update: Len Duvall has confirmed on Twitter he would put his name forward if the party did not go for an all-woman shortlist.

Written by Darryl

21 March, 2013 at 10:38 pm

The leader’s friends: Greenwich Council relaunches Silvertown push

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After the media launch of its Bridge The Gap campaign was hijacked two weeks ago, I’d been wondering how Greenwich Council would try to breathe new life into its campaign to see a third Blackwall Tunnel built.

Here’s how it did it – it called up its mates.

Bridge The Gap relaunch

You know when the council’s in trouble – when it issues a press release in time for the local papers to use it. So this image and the following release was issued on Wednesday afternoon, rather than on Friday evening, after deadline time at the Mercury and News Shopper. Nevertheless, you’ll surely see it in next week’s propaganda weekly Greenwich Time. GT’s been sent a comment from the No To Silvertown Tunnel campaign – I’m looking forward to seeing whether it’ll use it.

Among this crowd are some of the people who have the greatest influence over how Greenwich Council works. They include figures from O2 owner AEG, property developer Berkeley Homes and West Properties, which promised to build a cruise liner terminal for the Olympics but has so far failed to deliver.

Below is the press release, with some comments on those who took part. Wednesday’s photocall ties together heap of stories proving just how dependent Greenwich Council has become on a handful of large firms – shutting out even members of its ruling Labour party from decision-making. But both MPs and rank-and-file Labour members are revolting against the council’s stance. The fight against the Silvertown Tunnel has a long way to run yet, but another battle is erupting over who actually controls the council.

softheadsConsidering the handsome salary dished out to Greenwich’s head of press, the council could probably have done without the legend “Softheads” above regeneration cabinet member Denise Hyland’s bonce, mind. Whoops.

NEWS RELEASE

ROYAL BOROUGH OF GREENWICH

16 JANUARY 2013

LOCAL BUSINESSES CALL FOR BETTER RIVER CROSSINGS

Community leaders, local businesses and entrepreneurs have thrown their weight behind a campaign for more river crossings in East London. The Royal Borough of Greenwich and Newham Council are jointly campaigning for a new bridge at Thamesmead and a new tunnel at Silvertown to ease congestion and to promote economic growth. Businesses have now staged a public show of support, saying that the lack of routes across the river in East London is a barrier to economic growth in the area and that new crossings are badly needed to secure future the prosperity of the region.

Actually, no “community leaders” have spoken out in favour – does anyone know any “community leaders”? – and none are in the photo. There’s a few politicians, though. As for Newham Council’s support of Silvertown, it’s lukewarm at best. It told told last year’s TfL consultation on the issue:

“Newham’s support for Silvertown Tunnel is conditional on traffic management and a commitment to a fixed link at Gallions Reach.”

Bear in mind that Boris Johnson is implacably opposed to a fixed link at Gallions, which means Greenwich Council’s campaign would be more likely to achieve only a Silvertown Tunnel, a situation Labour London Assembly member John Biggs told TfL last year would be “unsustainable”. Last week, Biggs told an Assembly seminar into road crossings it would just “funnel more problems into the area”, adding there was a “very deep anxiety in Newham” that it would be lumbered with just the Silvertown Tunnel.

Local politicians, business leaders and community representatives gathered to discuss the issue on a morning which saw severe transport problems in the local area with the Woolwich Ferry closed because of fog, interrupted DLR services south of the river and incidents in the Blackwall Tunnel and on the A2.

Again, no “community representatives” in sight there. Of course, an incident on the A2 would still hold up access to the Silvertown Tunnel.

Councillor Chris Roberts, Leader of the Royal Borough of Greenwich said:

“It’s no surprise that there’s such strong support amongst businesses for our Bridge the Gap campaign. Providing new river crossings is absolutely essential to solve the serious congestion in this part of London and to unlock the development potential of some 40 sites both north and south of the Thames. The value of land and property is determined by access to it and it’s essential for both our businesses and our residents that we are no longer pegged back by the river being such a barrier here. While we obviously work hard to promote walking, cycling and using public transport, new river crossings are needed to solve the existing congestion issues and to bring better jobs and prospects for our local residents and businesses”

Do businesses and residents benefit from high property values? Or do existing landowners and property developers benefit? There’s also no proof that new road-building solves congestion issues – in fact, researchers from the London School of Economics and the University of Toronto have found otherwise.

Nick Raynsford, MP for Greenwich and Woolwich said:

“For too long, Greenwich and Woolwich have suffered from inadequate provision for river crossings. Severe congestion at Blackwall, and also queues of lorries waiting for the Woolwich Ferry, are not just inhibiting economic development; they are also causing serious pollution. That is why we need new river crossings at Silvertown and Gallions Reach, imposed traffic management through the introduction of smart tolling, and improvements in transport access, together with enhanced environment safeguards particularly along the A102”.

Nick Raynsford’s connections with the construction industry are well-documented. Of course, he infamously backed the universally unpopular redevelopment of Greenwich Market, since scrapped. He even backs the ‘Boris Island’ scheme to build an airport in the Thames Estuary.

Also among those gathered this morning, Rebecca Kane, General Manager of The O2 said:

“At The O2, AEG has created the world’s most popular music and entertainment venue, attracting more than 40 million visitors since it opened in June 2007. Throughout this time congestion at the Blackwall Tunnel has been an inherent problem for our customers, tenants and partners. AEG strongly supports the proposal for a tunnel crossing at Silvertown and a bridge at Gallions Reach. This will provide much needed relief to the area, support AEG’s next development phases on the Greenwich Peninsula and indeed stimulate similar growth on both sides of the river”.

Most O2 visitors arrive by public transport – the bigger threat to the O2 was the botched Jubilee Line resignalling project. Since 2007, AEG has done nothing to help ease the traffic congestion caused by the O2 arena outside North Greenwich station. Perhaps it might look after its own backyard first? AEG’s development plans include a controversial hotel scheme which has had council approval since 2010, when the planning board split on party lines, with Labour councillors voting for it. Which it’s believed locally that it’s behind the mysterious appearance of an open-air stadium in the council’s Greenwich Peninsula development masterplan. AEG representatives are regularly invited to the council’s functions, while the council rents a hospitality box in the O2 arena.

John Anderson, Chairman of Berkeley Homes said:

“Berkeley is very supportive of the two new River crossings at Silvertown and Gallions Reach Thamesmead which are essential for the continued growth and regeneration of this strategically important part of South East London.

We strongly believe that in order to gain the maximum sustainable benefits the Gallions Reach Crossing must be a bridge link and not a ferry.”

Land Registry entriesThe links between Greenwich Council and Berkeley Homes are well-known. Council leader Chris Roberts even bought a flat in the Royal Arsenal from Berkeley for £270,000 in December 2009. Meanwhile, Berkeley has been doing its bit for the local housing crisis by, um, hawking homes in Kidbrooke Village – the old Ferrier Estate, handed to it by Greenwich Council – to Malaysian investors. It’s also been trying to wriggle out of paying for the fit-out of Woolwich’s Crossrail station, which sits inside the Arsenal development – the deadline for which is weeks away.

Berkeley Group chairman (and Conservative Party donor) Tony Pidgley was knighted in the New Year honours list. He’s called for homebuilders to be given spare government land cheaply. Berkeley are also regularly invited to council functions.

Donal Mulryan, CEO of West Properties said:

“This area has such huge economic potential which is already being realised to some extent, but it’s essential to future prosperity that we get a new river crossing in this part of London. It would be of great benefit to properly connect north and south here and will undoubtedly bring new jobs and investment to this area”.

West Properties promised to build a cruise liner terminal in east Greenwich in time for the Olympics. There’s been no sign of it yet, and so far has brought no new jobs or investment to the area. The company, which also hit problems with developments in Manchester after being caught up in the Irish property collapse, is also regularly invited to council booze-ups.

Roger Arnold, of Arnold Martin Associates said:

“East London has suffered historically, both economically and socially, due to the lack of connectivity between the two sides of the river. With the success of the regeneration of the Olympic site in Stratford and the commitment to Crossrail, this is an opportune moment to secure the future of East London and the campaign must be supported by local residents, communities and businesses to enhance the further potential of East London and the Thames Gateway.”

Martin Arnold Associates – yep, the council got the firm’s name wrong – are chartered surveyors and construction consultants involved in the redevelopment of the Olympic Park. It’s also supported the council’s Greenwich Starting Blocks charity for young athletes.

As for the other outfits featured, they include council building contractor Lakehouse; London Stone Properties, which flogs properties on the Arsenal; construction logistics firm CSB; Plumstead minicab firm Abbey Cars; printers SMP; Woolwich-based printers Scorpion Press; Woolwich diner Favourite Inn; solicitors Grant Saw; Murphys Waste, whose trucks regularly thunder through Greenwich; and, bafflingly, the Woolwich Grand Theatre. I wonder how many of the smaller firms without a direct interest in construction or property actually realise what they’ve signed up to? I’ve asked the Woolwich Grand Theatre and am waiting for a reply.

Why only one MP? While Nick Raynsford was happy to be at the launch, where was Eltham’s Clive Efford? Clive seems to be pushing his own scheme – a Silvertown Tunnel and DLR extension (which TfL isn’t consulting on). That’s the infamous “DLR on stilts” scheme, which Greenwich Council is spending £70,000 on a report investigating. Nothing about Gallions Reach – it’s believed Efford is vehemently against a bridge there, fearing it’ll eventually end in a return to the axed East London River Crossing scheme, which would have driven a motorway through Oxleas Wood. Sadly for him, his constituency now includes Kidbrooke, which would be badly affected by extra traffic on the A2. He’s in a no-win situation. Meanwhile, Erith & Thamesmead’s Teresa Pearce doesn’t seem too keen on Silvertown, judging by this tweet.

TfL says Silvertown WILL increase A102 traffic: TfL’s head of borough co-ordination Colin Mann admitted to a panel of Greenwich councillors last November that Silvertown was “likely to attract a lot of traffic” to the A102, and that no environmental impact assessment had been carried out.

Local Labour parties revolting over Bridge The Gap: Labour parties are tight-knit organisations which wouldn’t even tell you which brand of biscuits (Co-op, of course) they serve at their meetings. But Blackheath Westcombe Labour Party passed a motion condemning the Silvertown Tunnel scheme last week, and I’m told the Peninsula ward party tore a strip off Denise Hyland when she turned up there last night. Understandably so – there’s an election coming up next year, and marginal seats are under threat as residents discover what the council wants to do. More resolutions are planned in other local parties, including one for the whole Greenwich & Woolwich party, which is guaranteed to result in fireworks. Its chair, David Gardner, has already signed the petition against Silvertown, as have other members. Who runs Labour in this area – property developers, or local members? We may find out in the coming months.

Councillors admit air quality an issue: At last week’s planning meeting into opening a new Sainsbury’s in Charlton, three councillors – Clive Mardner, Hayley Fletcher and, unbelievably, Denise Hyland, brought up air quality along the Woolwich Road as an issue. Fletcher even voted against the scheme after calling the data “frightening”. Yet all three councillors are part of a Labour group which voted behind closed doors for a scheme which would make air quality much, much worse. Strange.

Council’s case ‘conjecture’, admits transport planner: At the London Assembly seminar on river crossings last week, Greenwich Council’s transport planner admitted that without evidence of the benefits of more crossings, the debate was mostly “conjecture”. Interestingly, the RAC Foundation’s David Quarmby observed that TfL wasn’t promising Silvertown was about regeneration – but according to Greenwich, it is. You can watch it here – including the ex-GLC transport chief who said Silvertown would cause “critical” congestion as it “put all the eggs in one basket” – but unfortunately you have to sit through all 150+ minutes of the meeting.

Council silent on A102 widening: A token letter against Silvertown made its way into Greenwich Time this week. No answer to the question, though, just like we’ve had no answers throughout this bizarre, and shaming episode.

Greenwich Time, 15 January 2013

City Hall has now placed some more data about crossing plans online, and there’s a detailed discussion at Greenwich.co.uk, although it’s the questions that have been detailed, not the answers. There are also meetings in Poplar and Greenwich to be held by Friends of the Earth, which is against both crossings. No public meetings from Greenwich Council, sheltering behind its developer friends and propaganda newspaper.

To sign the No To Silvertown Tunnel petition, visit: www.silvertowntunnel.co.uk
To take part in TfL’s consultation, go to www.tfl.gov.uk/rivercrossings

(Post updated Friday 12.05pm, to include TfL quote on Silvertown and petition quotes below.)

PS. Here’s some quotes from the petition so far:

“We should not add to traffic and pollution on A102 until all other possibilities have been properly investigated and implemented” – Richard Dinkeldein

“Emissions in the area are bad enough already this will make things far worse. Shame on you Greenwich Council.” – Tessa O’Connor

“I live close to the A102 and a family member’s asthma will only get worse with more traffic on the route.” – Stephen Craven

“More ways to cross the river in the East are needed. This however, is not the solution in an already congested area.” – Matt Drewry

“I live in the shadow of the Woolwich Road flyover and experience the fumes from the amount of traffic passing 24 hours a day and the sooty fallout on the windowsills etc. I suffer with asthma.” – Linda Brittin

If Nick Raynsford can defend Lewisham Hospital, so can you

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Greenwich & Woolwich MP has added his voice to the thousands who are backing the campaign to save Lewisham Hospital’s accident and emergency and maternity services.

He has opposed the plans to cut services put forward in the report by administrator Matthew Kershaw following the failure of the South London Healthcare Trust, fearing they will overwhelm Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich.

Raynsford says: “The A&E at QEH is already running close to capacity, and reducing A&E services in South East London could seriously compromise patient safety and impose excessive pressures on QEH. Similar considerations apply to maternity services.

“I urge anyone in South London who is concerned about the future of our beloved health service to respond to the consultation process to make their views known. It is vital that we continue to keep strong public pressure on Matthew Kershaw and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to maintain high-quality NHS services throughout South East London. In the meantime, residents of Greenwich and Woolwich have my full assurance that this issue will remain a major focus of my attention over the coming weeks.”

It’s good to see him come out so firmly against the plans – hear more from him a couple of weeks back – it’s a shame that Greenwich Council is still publicly sitting on the fence, although it has registered its objections, preferring instead to bang the drum for polluting new roads. Priorities, eh?

The consultation closes on Wednesday Thursday night – it’s not exactly a user-friendly piece of work, but it’s important as many people as possible speak up for services at Lewisham. You’ll find it here (“go to the online consultation form”). There’s a guide on the Save Lewisham Hospital website. It’ll only take 10 minutes – it could be your last chance to help preserve a decent NHS in south east London.

Written by Darryl

12 December, 2012 at 7:30 am

Government minister sees Woolwich’s riot clean-up

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Government minister Bob Neill visited Woolwich this afternoon to see clean-up efforts for himself, and to thank emergency services as the area battles back to normality after Monday’s riot.

The communities minister was joined by Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts and chief executive Mary Ney as they toured the battered town centre, where most businesses are now open as usual following the disturbances.

Mr Neill also visited Woolwich fire station to thank officers for their work, as well as stopping to chat to police on duty in Calderwood Street.

Demolition teams have now moved into the destroyed Blue Inc shop on Powis Street, while contractors have been boarding up The Great Harry pub and the Wilkinsons store, both wrecked by fire. The fate of either building is not yet known.

BT engineers are also scrambling to reconnect 600 phone lines destroyed when a cabinet next to The Great Harry was burnt out by the fire. Business and residential users within 300 yards of the box on Wellington Street were cut off after the fire, and it will take three weeks to reconnect them all.

Despite the destruction in his constituency, and the lack of media coverage, local MP Nick Raynsford failed to mention Woolwich in the House of Commons, instead choosing to follow a string of Labour MPs in questioning Prime Minister David Cameron on cuts to police budgets.

Eltham MP Clive Efford condemned “rightwing extremist groups” using up police resources in his area over the past two nights, calling for locals not to be “diverted” by groups such as the English Defence League. In response, Mr Cameron said there was “no part of society sicker than the EDL”.

Lewisham East MP Heidi Alexander, who flew back from her honeymoon after news of disorder in Lewisham, called for “despicable videos” on internet “glorifying” violence to be taken down.







Labour campaigns against Tesco – except in Woolwich…

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Saturday’s Guardian contained this interesting tale

Tesco has become “an almighty conglomerate” abusing its unfettered market power to dominate towns at the expense of small retailers, Labour claimed as it called on the government to confront the chain.

The shadow local government minister, Jack Dromey, said: “Tesco want to rule retail, in particular the southern swath of England. It is simply not right that you can have one almighty conglomerate using its market power at the expense of the high street, and other retailers, particularly small struggling retailers.”

He said: “High streets have become like ghost towns with local retailers out of business with dire consequences for communities, the poor, the elderly and those without access to cars. This is a deeply felt issue all over Britain.”

Clearly the memo never reached Woolwich Town Hall. The story came a few days after a rare appearance from local Labour MP Nick Raynsford and a not-so-rare appearance from council leader Chris Roberts in Greenwich Council’s weekly Greenwich Time last week – bigging up a mammoth new Tesco, now under construction in Woolwich along with a housing development.

The 1.4m square feet of modern new development is part of the wider regeneration of Woolwich and will provide an exciting new centrepiece for the town centre. It is being built on the former site of Peggy Middleton House.

The scheme is being developed by mixed-use developer Spenhill, Tesco’s regeneration subsidiary. The 960 new homes will either have one, two or three bedrooms.

The flagship Tesco store will create 400 retail jobs and apprenticeships, with the new smaller shops planned for the site also requiring staff.

So, is Tesco destroying town centres or the saviour of them? Could they make their minds up?

In Tesco’s favour, mind, is that the development has delivered a shiny new council HQ and library, in contrast to the government-backed Hole in East Greenwich fiasco a few miles away, and replacing a number of rotten old admin centres nearby.

Contrary to rumour, I’m told the fancy bit at the top, which lights up after dark, isn’t the leader’s office, but a suite that can be hired out for functions.

Council staff moved in last month, and I’m told some have taken to their new offices with a passion, including a fight between social workers now being having to share their desks instead of having their own allocated spaces. It was quite a punch-up, it seems.

Locals in Woolwich have also apparently been helping themselves to computer equipment from the library, which didn’t have the security tags the books contain.

Any other tales from the new Woolwich Centre would be gratefully received. Perhaps if the council is such good mates with Tesco, it could take some tips from the company on stock control and security…

Boundary changes could rip up SE London’s political map

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The next MP for Greenwich could have to represent constituents from the fringes of Nunhead to parts of Charlton under projections drawn up by experts at Liverpool University.

With the coalition government aiming to reduce the number of MPs to 600 by the next election, the current Greenwich and Woolwich seat – held by Labour’s Nick Raynsford – could be split up if the predictions by Democratic Audit are correct.

A new Greenwich and Deptford seat would run from the Telegraph Hill ward in Lewisham borough across to Greenwich borough’s Peninsula ward. Essentially, it would mean the current Lewisham Deptford seat, held by Labour’s Joan Ruddock, expands east to take in Greenwich and Blackheath.

But it would see most of Charlton separated from Greenwich, forming part of a new Woolwich constituency which would reach out as far as Shooters Hill and Lee.

Other changes could see an Eltham and Welling seat stretching from Eltham High Street into Bexleyheath, while a Catford seat is projected to run from Lewisham town centre south to Downham.


The projected Greenwich and Deptford seat would include the Peninsula, Blackheath Westcombe and Greenwich West wards from Greenwich borough, and combine them with Lewisham’s New Cross, Evelyn, Telegraph Hill, Brockley and Blackheath wards. It would combine parts of the current Greenwich and Woolwich, Lewisham East and Lewisham Deptford seats.

It would unite the divided areas of Blackheath and Deptford under a single MP – the two areas have been split politically since Victorian times, although much more of Deptford came under Greenwich borough until the 1990s. But there are few transport links between the east and west of the predicted seat. Both Greenwich and Lewisham boroughs also have very different political cultures.

Splitting Brockley and Ladywell wards would probably kill off the Green Party’s long-held dreams of getting its first London MP in this area. Curiously, this seat would include Millwall Football Club, but stop just short of Charlton Athletic.

A Woolwich seat would be composed of Greenwich borough’s Charlton, Kidbrooke with Hornfair, Woolwich Dockyard, Woolwich Riverside, Glyndon, Eltham West and Middle Park and Sutcliffe wards. It would merge parts of Eltham constituency with what’s left of Greenwich and Woolwich.

The proposal would see most of Charlton separated from Greenwich for the first time since the Victorian era – but would unite most of SE7 under the same MP. But the Eltham area would be split between different constituencies in a seat stretching from the Blackheath Cator Estate to the edge of Thamesmead.

An Eltham and Welling seat would include Greenwich borough’s Eltham North, Eltham South and Coldharbour & New Eltham wards and combine them with Bexley’s East Wickham, St Michael’s, Danson Park, Blackfen & Lamborbey and Falconwood & Welling wards.

Voila – a marginal Eltham seat (currently held by Labour’s Clive Efford) becomes a safe Conservative constituency.

Democratic Audit predicts a Catford constituency consisting of Lewisham borough’s Lewisham Central, Ladywell, Rushey Green, Catford South, Lee Green, Grove Park, Downham and Whitefoot wards. Not much different from the current Lewisham East seat, held by Heidi Alexander.

The rest of Lewisham borough would form a Dulwich and Forest Hill seat, stretching from Dulwich Village to Crofton Park.

Please note: The colours on the maps date back to the 2006 council elections, so need more red and less blue, yellow and green. I couldn’t find a newer map to use…

The Guardian reported on the predictions earlier this week, calling them “the most detailed analysis yet of what those new seats might look like”. The new electoral map will be published by the Boundary Commission in September. You can find full details of these predictions at the Democratic Audit website.

UPDATE 1.15PM: I’ve also done a London-wide take on this for The Scoop.

Written by Darryl

9 June, 2011 at 12:11 pm

Southeastern’s Olympic cuts: Mayor Boris isn’t bothered

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This crept out while I was on my travels. On one hand, it’s amazing nobody’s made a big deal of this. On the other hand… maybe not.

Greenwich and Lewisham’s London Assembly member, Len Duvall, put a question to the Mayor of London last month about the proposed rail cuts through Deptford, Greenwich, Charlton, Woolwich and Kidbrooke during next summer’s Olympics.

Here’s the answer from Boris Johnson, elected advocate for the capital city in which we live.

I am not responsible for Southeastern’s train planning during the Olympics (or indeed at any other time)… Southeastern believe it [sic] will still provide a good level of service sufficient for commuters. It has been consulting stakeholders about the timetable. It will investigate whether it is able to make changes as a result of the feedback received, including that from London TravelWatch which says that some of the suggestions are ‘unacceptable’.

So, even with an election coming up, our mayor really doesn’t seem to give a damn about a key element of what’s going to be one of London’s biggest challenges next year – keeping ordinary Londoners happy while the Olympics are on. While Boris doesn’t have legal responsibility for Southeastern, TfL is certainly the biggest “stakeholder” in the whole process – if Southeastern’s plans go wrong, the mayor will cop a load of the flak.

Two political questions spring to mind. After all, we’ve an election next year.

Local Conservatives – are you really happy to see your mayor shrug off concerns about public transport during the Olympics?

Local Labour types – why aren’t you making a big deal of Boris’s lack of interest? What would Ken Livingstone do instead?

Greenwich and Woolwich’s Labour MP Nick Raynsford is due to meet Southeastern bosses this week to discuss their plans. He’s already called the proposals unduly disruptive.

Written by Darryl

6 June, 2011 at 12:28 pm

Nationwide’s SE London closures debated in Parliament

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Three Greenwich and Lewisham MPs joined forces this afternoon to condemn the Nationwide Building Society’s decision to close seven branches in south-east London from May.

(You can now watch the debate on the BBC’s Democracy Live website.)

Nick Raynsford secured a short debate on the organisation’s plans to close offices in Blackheath, Catford, Greenwich, Lewisham, Peckham, Walworth and Woolwich, a decision he branded “shocking”.

“A quick look at the map will reveal the scale and enormity of what Nationwide is doing,”
the Greenwich and Woolwich MP said.

“All 7 branches inside the South Circular Road will close, while all the branches outside will remain open. Leafy outer south-east London is favoured while inner south-east London is punished.”

Comparing the population of the areas affected with that of large cities outside London, he added: “Suggesting that an organisation the size of Nationwide would pull out of Manchester and Sheffield would be regarded as bizarre.”

He also spoke of the history of the Greenwich branch, which can trace its roots back to London’s first recorded building society in 1809.

Mr Raynsford said he had raised the issue with Nationwide executive Matthew Wyles, but found his response “shocking”, and that the mutual was unwilling to reconsider its decision.

Lewisham East MP Heidi Alexander admitted she had orginally given Nationwide “the benefit of the doubt”, believing the closures were part of a far larger programme. “My initial generosity of spitit turned into complete disbelief,” she continued.

“It seems to come down to transaction patterns. They aren’t as profitable in south-east London as they are elsewhere. Nationwide sees customers with a SE postcode as a drag on their business.”

Ms Alexander said she had put the possibility that the Lewisham branch could remain open to Matthew Wyles, but had been told it would “topple over” under the demand. “‘A vortex effect’ were the words he used,” she said.

“Ours are not the parts of London where people have easy access to the internet,”
she continued. “There is a reason why I have 40 people come to my advice surgery. They want to see a human being because it’s easier.”

Lewisham Deptford MP Joan Ruddock said Nationwide had behaved with “complete contempt” for local customers. On Nationwide’s claims that it could not find larger premises in Lewisham, she said: “They can’t have been looking very far, I found two eminently suitable premises close by.”

For the government, financial secretary to the Treasury Mark Hoban said Nationwide’s decions were a matter for the building society. But he added the government was committed to making sure all current accounts could be operated through post offices, and to introduce closer links between post offices and credit unions to make sure all people had easy access to financial services.

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