“Thamesmead – with its own identity!
“But still a lively part of London, growing from the river, the changing Thames.”
Courtesy of the London Metropolitan Archive, here’s a corking film from 1970 about the development of Thamesmead, including footage of the old Plumstead Marshes as well as the Royal Arsenal lands now buried under west Thamesmead, as well as a fruity soundtrack and a super-posh pronunciation of “Erith”.
Utterly fascinating, not least for how much the new town was built to depend on cars, and also how the waterways were incorporated into the development. (“That water adds to the visual interest of a place has been evident for years in many parts of London” – so much for the old Surrey Canal.) Shame the international yacht terminal never happened, mind.
This Greater London Council film was shown at local schools in the early 1970s, and a second film, Living At Thamesmead, is also online. I’m told (by Charlton Athletic matchday announcer Dave Lockwood, no less) that another one exists about the building of the Blackwall Tunnel Southern Approach. Time to petition the archive to get that on YouTube too…
Thamesmead fans might also enjoy episode 45 of the fine South London Hardcore podcast, which deals with SE28’s appearances on film and TV.
Greenwich Council is demanding the power to build a new road bridge at Thamesmead, according to its response to Transport for London’s consultation into river crossings.
As expected, the council is “strongly supporting” the controversial Silvertown Tunnel, which would branch off the A102 just south of the Blackwall Tunnel, as favoured by mayor Boris Johnson but opposed by local residents and the local Labour party.
There’s also no surprise in the council rejecting the mayor’s other proposal – to build a ferry at Gallions Reach, linking Thamesmead with Beckton, instead – and favouring a bridge instead.
But what is interesting is a demand that Greenwich and Newham councils be given the power to build their own bridge if TfL doesn’t build one.
It says: “The Royal Borough is concerned that a new fixed crossing at Gallions Reach should be constructed at the earliest possible opportunity [and] does not accept that a new fixed crossing at Gallions Reach could not be constructed before 2021.
“If TfL is unable to deliver a fixed crossing sooner than 2021 the Mayor should use the powers provided by the GLA Act 1999 (as amended by the GLA Act 2007) to delegate authority to the Royal Borough of Greenwich and Newham Council so as to facilitate that.”
The chances of Boris Johnson approving a bridge at Gallions Reach, to be built by TfL or anyone else, are remote. His political allies at neighbouring Bexley Council are implacably opposed to the idea, and scrapping a previous proposal – the Thames Gateway Bridge – was one of his pledges prior to his election as mayor in 2008.
That said, though, the mayor clashed with Conservative assembly member and Bexley cabinet member Gareth Bacon on the subject in January, an exchange which is worth reading (“I am not ruling it out. I am ruling out the Thames Gateway Bridge. I have ruled that out.”), while he has also acknowledged that a future mayor may take a different view.
Are the two Labour councils trying to offer Tory Boris a way out by offering to build a bridge themselves? It’s an interesting development.
It also deepens the council’s disagreement with Eltham Labour MP Clive Efford, who fears a Gallions Reach bridge would lead to a revival of long-scrapped plans to drive a motorway through Oxleas Woods. The local ward party in Shooters Hill has rejected the council’s campaign.
While a bridge at Gallions Reach may look more attractive compared with the crazy Silvertown proposal, many of the same issues apply. Air pollution is already poor in the area, underneath the London City Airport flightpath, and housing has already been built either side of the proposed approach at Barnham Drive, west Thamesmead.
There’s the additional complication of attracting more traffic to roads which wouldn’t be able to cope with the traffic – notoriously, the main route to the area from Bexleyheath is a side road, Knee Hill.
That said, those issues would also apply to Boris’s ferry proposal – supported by Bexley – which would replace the Woolwich Ferry, mostly used by HGVs.
Another interesting aspect of Greenwich’s response suggests using both crossings to create some kind of circular public transport link between the Royal Docks and the north of the borough, as well as flagging up its pet “DLR on stilts” proposal.
“An analysis of the opportunity to incorporate provision for a DLR extension to the south of the Royal Borough within the Silvertown Tunnel would be welcomed – alongside an analysis of the prospect of creating a circular public transport arrangement that could connect Thamesmead, Beckton, the University of East London campus, City Airport, ExCel, the O2, Ravensbourne College and North Greenwich station, Charlton Riverside, Woolwich Central and the new Crossrail stations utilising new crossing at Silvertown and Gallions Reach,” it says.
No reference to worries about air quality or increased congestion at either Silvertown or Gallions Reach feature in Greenwich’s submission, which records the curiously round figure of 1,200 signatures in support of its three-month long Bridge The Gap campaign, of which 795 were received online, the rest from pre-printed cards supplied to the public. (The No To Silvertown Tunnel petition got 348 in a month.)
It also supports tolling, yet acknowledges that this could send traffic towards Rotherhithe Tunnel and Tower Bridge: “It is essential that any tolling regime introduced is designed such that the World Heritage Site at Greenwich is not detrimentally affected by a potential shift of vehicle movements westwards to the nearest ‘free’ crossings.”
It says there should be “appropriate local traffic mitigation measures to safeguard the World Heritage Site and other residential areas in the proximity of the proposed Silvertown tunnel”, although it does not suggest what these would be.
If you get the chance, take a look at the best thing written about the cable car yet, by Owen Hatherley for the Guardian website. In it, he says Boris Johnson has run London like a “twee nostalgia theme park” – a description that could arguably apply to the “royal” borough of Greenwich, in all its forelock-tugging glory.
The Council is requested to –
Appoint His Honour Judge Hilliard QC as the Honorary Recorder for the Royal Borough of Greenwich for the duration of tenure as the Resident Judge at Woolwich Crown Court pursuant to Section 54 of the Courts Act, 1971.
A borough or city has the power to appoint the senior judge at the court which serves it to the position of “honorary recorder”, with the aim of preserving ancient links between cities and the judiciary which existed before the old assizes system was abolished in 1972.
They’re rare in London, where the boroughs don’t have much heritage as institutions – the City has one, who still has a formal role within the square mile’s governance, who sits at the Old Bailey. The others are in Croydon, Kensington & Chelsea, Redbridge, Southwark and Westminster.
The appointment means Judge Nicholas Hillard QC can wear red robes in court and be addressed as “my lord”, rather than “your honour”. But what’s in it for us? According to the council…
The Honorary Recorder is an honorific position and provides a bridge between the judiciary and local government and thus the wider community. One of the roles of the Honorary Recorder would be to attend the inauguration of the Mayor and to be invited to other meetings and civic functions as appropriate, this could include civic receptions, freedom of the borough ceremonies and civic week.
As we all know, it’s local government and the “wider community” which really needs linking up – after all, we don’t get invited to any civic receptions. This has the potential to be a massive waste of time, doesn’t it?
Well, yes, it does. But hopefully Judge Hillard can prove this sceptical post wrong. His colleague, Judge Roger Chapple, has been striking out to do good things in Southwark, where’s he’s borough recorder.
According to the excellent London SE1 site, the Inner London Crown Court judge has been speaking of the need to reconnect the courts with the community.
“Daily I and my fellow judges see the ghastly, corrosive effect of local crime – much of it knife crime, much of it gang related.
“I can’t help thinking that my court could do something more to help in the fight against crime.
“Soon after arriving at Inner London Crown Court, I tried to start an initiative by writing to the local schools and inviting them to send groups for visits: to watch a case in action, meet a judge, to sit in the dock.
“Very, very few replies were received – sadly none of them positive.”
“I’m going to try again; with the additional clout that you have given me as the honorary recorder of Southwark I might achieve more than I did last time around.”
With Woolwich Crown Court these days located in the Belmarsh Prison complex in west Thamesmead, and better known for staging high-profile terrorism cases, the court has the additional disadvantage of being physically isolated from its community.
So hopefully Judge Hillard will use his position to break down a few walls between us and them. Otherwise, he’ll just be another trinket to be wheeled out whenever the council wants to wine and dine a selected few. With council budgets still being cut, spending time and money on another heritage adventure risks leaving a bad taste in the mouth.
If you’re quick, you can put a public question into next Wednesday’s council meeting (which will approve the appointment) to be answered by cabinet members or the leader. (Here’s what happened last time.) Drop a line to firstname.lastname@example.org by noon today.
It hasn’t been the best of weekends to enjoy it, but the Thames Path is one of the best things about this part of London. If you take the borough as a whole, Greenwich borough has the longest riverfront in London, and as well as a walking route, it’s a designated cycle route too.
A scrutiny panel of councillors has been looking into ways of improving it as a cycle route, and officers have come up with a report – you can read it here (4MB PDF). It features some good ideas, such as sorting out the irritating cobbles at Greenwich Millennium Village, changing signs so they read “North Greenwich” rather than “Blackwall Point”, and (yes!) installing cycle stands outside the Pelton Arms pub.
Councillors are meeting on Tuesday night to discuss it – and the public’s welcome to come along and ask questions if they want. A lot of attention will be on plugging the gap between the Thames Barrier in Charlton and King Henry’s Wharf in Woolwich, something which would dramatically change the way the path is seen – as well as helping people access the fantastic Second Floor Arts facility at Warspite Road.
That said, hopefully there’ll be room for my own gripe to be addressed – sticking some signs up to get pedestrians out of the cycle path by the cable car (and cyclists out of the pedestrian bits), where markings were worn away by the cable car contractors and not reinstated, while the pedestrian bit was never marked.
I’ve seen some sights commuting along the path over recent months, and sooner or later someone is going to come a cropper – or prompt someone else to come to grief – some day for paying more attention to their iPad than their surroundings.
My other gripe is that it doesn’t do much about improving access to the path – but this seems like an encouraging start.
Boris Johnson launched his transport manifesto on Monday, and there’s a line in it which went largely unnoticed which could have profound effects in Woolwich.
“I will launch a new car ferry service from Thamesmead to Gallions Reach, to replace the ageing Woolwich ferry.”
That’s the first confirmation that the mayor’s planned ferry – overshadowed by the Silvertown tunnel keffufle – would replace the Woolwich Ferry, whose three vessels were launched nearly 50 years ago. I’ve gone on about the joys of the ferry before, but it’s very hard to imagine Woolwich without a crossing which has existed in various forms for hundreds of years.
I’m also not sure how motorists – particularly the lorry drivers which mainly use the ferry – will take to seeing the link between the North Circular and South Circular broken.
The ferry will be at the site of the scrapped Thames Gateway Bridge, which begs the question – why not just build the bridge?
Boris’s manifesto shows where he’s angling for votes:
“I killed off my predecessor’s proposal for a Thames Gateway Bridge because of the damaging impact it would have had on Bexley, and I will not resuscitate it. Instead, I will continue to call on the Government for residents within Greater London who live close to the Dartford Crossing – notably those living in Bexley and Havering – to be given the same discount on the Dartford toll as residents of Dartford and Thurrock.”
The obvious bribe to zone 6 motorists aside, why would a ferry not have the damaging impact on Bexley borough that a bridge would?
As for the Silvertown crossing:
“I will also seek powers to construct a new Blackwall relief crossing, a road tunnel that will cross from Greenwich Peninsula to Silvertown, near the Royal Docks, and which will be completed within ten years. The government has committed to explore the case for using the Planning Act to streamline planning for proposed additional river crossings in East London.”
In other words, no more pesky inquiries like the one that killed off the Thames Gateway Bridge.
There’s more, including a very vague plan to extend the Docklands Light Railway to Bromley, in the full manifesto.
Speaking of mayoral matters, the Guardian’s Manifesto for a Model Mayor is well worth a read, and features a couple of contributions from me – see if you can spot them.
Catching up on local news, this caught my eye on the News Shopper website…
It’s a horrifying tale for sure, with a man being told he should “burn in hell” because “men should only lay with women”. Indeed, you wouldn’t find such views pushed through people’s letterboxes under the guise of a “local newspaper” which had rewarded their author with a free pen, would you?
Wonder what happened to that free pen? Wonder what it’s being used for now?
The Snooze Shopper hasn’t learned its lessons from that attempt to start a row, though – last week it launched a campaign against Staffordshire Bull Terriers, demanding its owners make the dogs wear a muzzle in public.
“Over the next few weeks we’ll be bringing you some harrowing stories involving victims as young as nine and as old as 90. We’ll also be calling on you to Shop a Dog.”
Tasteful. Just like the logo with the blood-splattered tag.
I won’t link to it, because the website hits are all they judge success by, and I’m sure the champagne corks are already popping in Petts Wood over a 205-comment thread of bile at the foot of the story. But I’ll happily link to Battersea Dogs’ Home’s response:
“By encouraging Staffordshire Bull Terriers to be seen as dangerous, your campaign is fuelling the abuse and abandonment of a much-maligned breed which does not deserve its negative reputation.”
Still, when there’s a vigilante attack on a Staffie owner next year, I’m sure the News Shopper will be first to bring us the news.
One-time and maybe next time’s mayor Ken Livingstone was in Plumstead yesterday, and my Scoop colleague Adam Bienkov grabbed a few words with him. Among other things, he came out against plans for a new river crossing at the Greenwich peninsula – the Silvertown Link.
Plans for a crossing have been around for years – with Livingstone himself wanting to build a bridge where Edmund Halley Way (pictured above) now sits. More recently, Boris Johnson has talked up these plans a bit more, promoting a tunnel across to Silvertown. The development masterplan for the peninsula has following the approval of the cable car scheme, which – if it actually gets built – will depart from what’s now a coach park to the east of Edmund Halley Way. The masterplan envisages two skyscrapers either side of Edmund Halley Way – again, if the cable car gets built – leaving room for a tunnel in the middle.
It’s this change to the vision for the peninsula that has prompted the U-turn from Livingstone.
The reason we went for the bridge and not the tunnel at Silvertown is because the bridge benefits a much wider area. If you look at the impacts of a bridge versus the tunnel you’re mad to do the tunnel, especially because a tunnel would be much more expensive. I’m also not sure you want to dump all that extra traffic in the area around the Greenwich Peninsula.
It’s a belated admission that the road network leading up to the peninsula simply couldn’t cope with the extra traffic that would be attracted by a third crossing coming off the A102, adding to the two Blackwall Tunnels. While the 42-year-old approach road is – effectively – a three-lane motorway, it soon drops down to two lanes in spells through Kidbrooke and Eltham, and homes right the way along the route would have been blighted by possible expansion plans.
Yet this didn’t stop there being support – or a lack of visible objections – from across the political spectrum. Conservatives were in favour, but the Silvertown Link was the local Labour party’s dirty secret too, with Eltham MP Clive Efford backing it in election material. Even the local Green Party – for whom I stood as a candidate in last year’s council elections – was reluctant to campaign against a development which would have catastrophic consequences for the quality of life in east Greenwich. Indeed, it’s as if a conspiracy of silence has surrounded the whole thing, with the local media ignoring comments last week from Boris Johnson that there was a “pressing need” for the crossing.
Further down the river, it’s less clear-cut. For Livingstone also reiterated his support for a Thames Gateway Bridge – the one Boris scrapped. But TfL still kept the plan on the drawing board, even floating the idea of a ferry at West Thamesmead until a bridge could be built. Ken wanted to build the TGB before the Silvertown Link – Boris wants to do it the other way around.
While some of the infrastructure to support the Thames Gateway Bridge is already there – half-finished junctions on dual carriageways either side of the river – the plan fell down thanks to fears of increased traffic through other neighbouring streets. As discussed before, some of the streets leading up to Thamesmead – such as Knee Hill in Abbey Wood – are no bigger than side roads. It’s suburban voters in the likes of Bexleyheath who demand extra river crossings for their cars – but the same suburban voters didn’t want the extra traffic around their areas, or to see green space built over to accommodate those cars.
It’s not quite clear how this problem gets solved without causing great disruption around areas like Abbey Wood and Bexleyheath. There’s no indication as to how Ken Livingstone would solve them, either.
I can’t help thinking he should offer a substantial public transport improvement alongside a road bridge – not just extra buses, but maybe an extension of a rail line across the bridge too.
Extend the London Overground from Barking across to Abbey Wood or Erith, creating new links deep into east and north London? Or bring the Hammersmith and City line across from Barking? Or maybe the DLR? If a bridge has to be built, it could be an opportunity to give Thamesmead the public transport it desperately needs. Anything less than that, and I suspect Ken will have another bitter fight on his hands – if he wins the fight to be elected next May, of course.