The busway that links Greenwich Millennium Village and North Greenwich station is set to be ripped out and replaced with a dual carriageway, under plans unveiled by Transport for London and Greenwich Council today.
A consultation has been launched into the scheme, which will also see new bus stops installed by the Pilot pub.
It follows a number of collisions in the area, with drivers and pedestrians confused by the unconventional layout, which has two single-carriageway roads placed next to each other; one for buses and one for general traffic.
A woman died in January after being hit by a bus in the Millennium Village during a morning rush hour.
The layout is a legacy of a failed plan to have the Millennium Dome served by guided buses. The buses kept crashing while on test, so the busway was covered in tarmac and handed over for normal bus use in June 2001.
Its proposed replacement would provides one lane for buses and one lane for general traffic in each direction. Despite Transport for London recently installing a “cycle hub” (in reality, a couple of double-deck cycle racks) at North Greenwich station, there is no dedicated space for cyclists. It also appears to improve the access route into North Greenwich station, and removes the traffic lights that hold up buses outside the Pilot, replacing them with a pelican crossing.
But while the new arrangement will be less confusing, it does allow rat-running through the Millennium Village to the car parks for the O2 and at North Greenwich station, with the route through GMV bring a popular cut-through in the mornings. The construction of a dual carriageway through this area may mean one problem has been swapped for another. It seems an opportunity has been missed to keep traffic that shouldn’t be in GMV out of it.
If the Silvertown Tunnel is built, the dual carriageway past the Pilot would also be the main access route to the O2 and surrounding amenities during the construction period.
It also means the under-construction St Mary Magdalene school would be surrounded by dual carriageways on both sides.
Local councillors are pleased with what’s planned…
…but to have your say, visit Transport for London’s consultation site.
Residents on Greenwich Peninsula have won an 18-month battle to force Greenwich Council to release a document that influenced its decision to scrap all ‘affordable’ housing on a key development there.
A tribunal has told the council it should release “viability assessments” which prompted it to cut a requirement for developer Knight Dragon to include affordable housing on Peninsula Quays, on the west side of the peninsula facing Canary Wharf, in exchange for building more on the east side.
Greenwich said its decision – backed by seven councillors, including current leader Denise Hyland – was taken after an independent assessment showed the scheme wouldn’t be viable if Knight Dragon had to build social housing, and that it needed to be approved quickly so Knight Dragon could get £50m in grants.
The plans include a private school, “high-end private residential” units at Drawdock Road, and a four/five star hotel at Ordnance Crescent.
But all affordable properties will now be pushed to the south, towards City Peninsula and Greenwich Millennium Village, rather than being spread evenly across the peninsula, which had been council policy since 2004.
To make up for this effective social cleansing of Peninsula Quays, new developments to the far south of the Dome – around where the City Peninsula tower now sits – will see levels of affordable housing shoot up to between 54% and 58%, mostly for social rent rather than shared ownership.
Residents of City Peninsula and Greenwich Millennium Village asked Greenwich Council to release the viability assessment under the Environmental Information Regulations – similar to the Freedom of Information Act.
But Greenwich refused, and appealed against an Information Commissioner decision that it should release the assessment.
Greenwich’s appeal meant the case ended up at a tribunal, which sat over three days last October and November. The council hired an external lawyer, Christopher Knight from 11 KBW, at a cost quoted in October at £2,200.
The council could appeal and take the case to a further tribunal – at further cost – but it may face an uphill battle considering the comprehensive nature of the judgment against it. You can read the full judgment here.
Key passages include:
First, the number of affordable homes to be provided on this enormous development, as well as their location, is an important local issue on which reasonable views are held strongly on both sides.
Second, this is a case where a company, robust enough to take on the development of a huge site over a period of 20 years… immediately asks to be relieved of a planning obligation freely negotiated by its predecessor. It justifies this change on the basis of a downturn in house prices it knew about at the time of purchase, using a valuation model that looks at current values only and does not allow for change in the many factors that may affect a valuation over time. It seems to us that in those circumstances the public interest in openness about the figures is very strong.
One argument against disclosure of the redacted information was that those receiving it would be unlikely to understand it. In our experience this is never a useful objection to disclosure under FOIA or EIR. It is increasingly open to question whether the public should be expected to accept the “expert view” without opportunity to see the supporting factual evidence.
Indeed, the final paragraph of the judgment is one that should ring alarm bells as to how Greenwich’s planning system works.
It points out that the eight-strong planning board – which included three cabinet members and was chaired by the Labour group’s chief whip – that approved the decision to cut affordable housing at Peninsula Quays had no more information than the general public.
Effectively, they were taking the decision on trust, and hadn’t been shown the viability assessment in question. Should they have asked for more details?
“It is not for us to say what depth of information Councillors should have expected or asked for, although we note that at least one Councillor would have preferred more detail about the appraisal,” the judgment says. That councillor, who is not named, was Hayley Fletcher, who voted against the proposal and later left the council citing problems with bullying in the ruling Labour group.
The tribunal’s decision comes as Knight Dragon consults on plans to increase housing on the peninsula from 10,000 to 15,000 – with big question marks over whether anyone will actually be able to afford the new properties. (Labour candidate Matt Pennycook and The Guardian’s Dave Hill have written about this.)
More broadly speaking, it’s also a significant decision in terms of councils’ relationships with developers as they struggle to cope with the demands of an overheated and little-regulated property market.
Last year, Southwark Council was told to release parts of a similar viability assessment for redeveloping the Heygate Estate near Elephant & Castle. The Greenwich decision may now give confidence to others who want to find out more about the relationship between their local councils and developers.
The members of the planning board who supported the decision: Denise Hyland (Labour, then cabinet member for regeneration, now council leader); Ray Walker (Labour, then chief whip, remains planning chair); Steve Offord (then cabinet member for housing), Sajid Jawaid (then cabinet member for community services, no longer a councillor), Clive Mardner (Labour), Geoff Brighty (Conservative), Dermot Poston (Conservative, no longer a councillor).
Hayley Fletcher (Labour, no longer a councillor) voted against, then-leader Chris Roberts (Labour, no longer a councillor) was absent.
Recognise the green space above? It’s the little eco-garden behind Sainsbury’s in Greenwich, which is due for demolition along with the supermarket if Ikea’s plans to build a store here go ahead.
It’s also going to be where the No Ikea Greenwich Peninsula campaign will be launching with a picnic a week on Saturday (12 noon, 26 April), to fight against the arrival of a store which it’s feared will generate huge weekend traffic jams.
Greenwich Council gave the scheme outline planning permission last month, with planning board members Denise Hyland, Steve Offord, Clive Mardner, chief whip Ray Walker and council leader Chris Roberts ignoring over an hour of public criticism to endorse the proposal, after it was rushed through the planning process.
Campaigners have already sent a blistering open letter to outgoing leader Roberts, branding the site “clearly unsuitable for a standard Ikea store”, adding: “This is not responsible planning; this is planned chaos.”
This would be the first Ikea store in a congested residential area and the only Ikea in a Royal Borough. When Greenwich was granted Royal Borough status in 2012, you visited local primary schools to celebrate, handing out commemorative coins. Only two years later, you cave in to the pressure of an out-of-town furniture retail giant, wilfully disregarding the health of its residents and the impact this development would have on both the Unesco heritage site and the Greenwich Millennium Village.
We will not rest in our efforts to make the public aware of your actions and to use every means possible to put a stop to this outline planning consent going ahead.
Roberts announced his intention to not seek re-election as a councillor last Friday, and the council has now gone into purdah ahead of 22 May’s election – essentially, the council must avoid controversial issues and leave those to the political parties fighting he election.
But there’s clearly a rush to get something through planning ahead of Roberts’ departure – a previously-unscheduled planning board meeting has been called for 6 May, just 16 days before the poll.
In 2010, the last planning board meeting was six weeks before the poll, and the gap was five weeks in 2006. With future council policy somewhat uncertain following Roberts’ departure, and a whole load of big schemes being rubber-stamped over recent weeks, it’ll be interesting to see just what’s being rushed through on 6 May.
8.45am update: Boris Johnson’s office has told the protesters he will not intervene to overturn Greenwich Council’s decision to support the planned Ikea store.
Furniture giant Ikea claims its proposed Greenwich store would improve air quality in the local area, according to documents sent to Greenwich Council.
But its detailed figures show any improvement would be “negligible”, while pollution would actually get slightly worse at Greenwich Millennium Village.
It says its plans to encourage traffic to use travel to the store via Blackwall Lane and Bugsbys Way, rather than coming off the A102 at Woolwich Road, would help cut pollution around the notorious junction.
The company claims the store will not result in any extra traffic heading to the site, which is due to be vacated by Sainsbury’s and Matalan in 2015 – it actually claims “there will be a slight reduction in traffic generation compared with the previous use of the site”.
Letters were sent to residents who attended November’s consultation event claiming the development would be “beneficial” for air quality. Now it is asking for outline planning permission for the scheme, and residents have two weeks to get their views to Greenwich Council.
Ikea’s air quality assessment shows the company has not commissioned any air pollution monitoring itself. Instead, it is relying on figures estimated from Greenwich Council monitoring stations and diffusion tubes.
While all local sites will still break European legal limits of 40 micrograms per cubic metre of nitogen dioxide, Ikea’s figures claim a “slight beneficial” effect on areas to the south of the flyover along with a small worsening of quality around the Millennium Village.
Ikea’s plans to encourage consumers to use Blackwall Lane and Bugsbys Way to access the store would mean extra traffic passing to the south of Greenwich Millennium Village, as well as the site of a new primary school planned by Greenwich Council. Ikea’s estimate for Southern Way (42.6) is lower than figures recorded by the No to Silvertown Tunnel campaign in June 2013 of 50µg/m3.
Ikea’s transport assessment claims there “will be a reduction in vehicle trips during the weekday PM peak as a result of the development proposals, and only a slight increase in vehicle trips on the Saturday peak”.
It adds “a lower level of parking at the Millennium Retail Park will mean that trips generation will be more constrained compared to the existing London stores. This will encourage the uptake of sustainable means of travel”. It predicts 65% of customers will come by car.
It says the Greenwich store will have a smaller catchment area (of 2.17 million people) than its other stores. This roughly runs from the West End to Dagenham and Crayford, and from Orpington to Leytonstone. But other figures included with the application show areas as far out as Canterbury and Ashford, Kent, will be within an hour’s drive of the store.
Ikea says 39.1% of that figure will come from north of the river – a change to existing travel patterns which will put more pressure on the Blackwall Tunnel and the congested A12 through Poplar and Bow. 13.4% of trips would come from “Woolwich Road west” – largely via the central Greenwich world heritage site.
The application can be viewed at Greenwich Council’s planning site by entering reference number 13/3285/O. Comments need to be with Greenwich Council by 11 February.
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.
It’s been about five weeks now since the river end of Peartree Way in Greenwich was shut off for a baffling new phase of Greenwich Millennium Village, offering unrivalled views of aggregate works and a recycling plant.
Somewhat left cut off by all this was Greenwich Yacht Club, which since 1998 has sat proudly at the end of Peartree Way, but will now sit behind the new housing, to be accessed through an archway.
In the meantime, a little road has been built around the building site. It’s an absurdly narrow road, with tight corners, a single pavement and no thought given to how cyclists navigate it to get to the riverside cycle path. The hoardings also obscure the yacht club – confusing visitors to what’s a hugely popular private hire venue.
Some belated measures have been put in to make this dimly-laid out road a little less dangerous, like mirrors so drivers can see what’s ahead. And some little signs were put up for “Greenwhich Yacht Club”. They were swiftly replaced with some ones that spelled “Greenwich” correctly.
But little A4-sized signs weren’t good enough. So new signs have gone up today. Nothing could go wrong with those, surely?
Oh. But they wouldn’t make that mistake twice, would they?
But nobody would be as incompetent as to order the installation of three huge wrongly-spelled signs, would they? Er…
You can also just see that the signs on the Thames Path still point the wrong way, five weeks after a local councillor started chasing it up and three weeks after I made my own complaint to Greenwich Council. You know, it’s enough to make you want to start a blog about how shambolic everything is around here…
(Saturday update: The signs were replaced on Friday, following a visit from local councillor Mary Mills and regeneration cabinet member Denise Hyland.)
It’s a bit of a hidden treasure, but it’s the most rewarding place to visit on the Greenwich peninsula. The Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park, tucked away behind the Millennium Village, is a birdwatcher’s heaven and a place to escape city living, even just for a couple of minutes.
Created at the same time GMV went up, it’s capitalised on how the old industrial structures of the peninsula attract birds and other wildlife, and its lakes provide views from the development that can’t be matched. Just imagine being able to sit out on a balcony to look over the lakes. Before you even think of the satisfaction it must give the neighbours, it must certainly add a bit to the prices of the homes here.
Incredibly, though, all this is under threat from GMV’s own developers. The plot next door to the park is earmarked for a 20-storey tower block, which was actually given outline plannning permission by Greenwich Council in February 2012. A tower this tall will block sunlight from entering the park – and threaten its viablity.
Essentially, the developer is supposed to be agreeing changes with the ecology park before it goes back to the council for final approval. With work now under way on adjacent developments nearby, the ecology park’s staff and volunteers are getting worried, and have started a “keep our park sunny” campaign.
With Greenwich Council’s recent record in backing towers in Woolwich and allowing a developer to add two storeys to Greenwich’s New Capital Quay to pay for a bridge to Deptford it was supposed to build anyway, it’s easy to see why they’re concerned. For the ecology park to survive and thrive, it needs Greenwich Council, Countryside Properties and Taylor Wimpey to stick to their words – and to talk to the park about their plans.
So, if you’re passing along the river this summer – or taking a look at the cable car now it’s a bit quieter – it’s worth popping into the ecology park and finding out more about what’s happening. With these new, denser, developments getting under way, life on the peninsula will change. It’ll be a miserable place if the ecology park gets killed off, so it deserves your support.
PS. If you’re got a question to ask Greenwich councillors about anything featured on this website, or anything at all, this week is your last chance for three months. You can submit a question to next week’s full council meeting by noon on Wednesday – email firstname.lastname@example.org – you never know what you might discover.