You probably read a couple of weeks ago about the new development planned for North Greenwich station – 30-storey glass towers, a “winter garden”, 800 flats and a world-famous architect in Santiago Calatrava.
It’ll certainly be an impressive sight and will probably replace the Dome as the peninsula’s signature building – in fact, if you look at the peninsula from Charlton, the O2 is already disappearing behind Knight Dragon’s fast rising towers.
Peninsula Place will replace the current bus station at North Greenwich – a darling of 1990s architecture books but no longer fit for purpose; a scene of fights, bus jams and frustration.
What you probably didn’t see reported is that the 20th Century Society, rather bravely, wants to see the Norman Foster-designed terminus listed.
“We would deeply regret the loss of two recent and outstanding examples of late-20th-century infrastructure buildings,” the society’s conservation adviser Tess Pinto told design website Dezeen.
Clearly our Tess hasn’t faced any sharp digs in the ribs while trying to squeeze onto a 486. It is a lovely building, if useless for what the area has become. Perhaps it could be dismantled and re-erected somewhere else? It is the third major bit of 1990s infrastructure on the peninsula to face destruction in the past couple of years after the ‘eco’-Sainsbury’s (which the 20th Century Society also fought to save) and the soon-to-be-ripped-out busway.
Indeed, the Dome’s Blue Peter time capsule almost came a cropper recently.
No matter how impressive 30-storey glass towers will be, it’s absurd to say they “unlock the potential” of the peninsula – very little has been done since the Jubilee Line opened in 1999, and the only plans focus on a road tunnel aimed at long-distance commuters passing through. But that’s what Sadiq Khan found himself saying in interviews promoting Peninsula Place. (He also managed to mistakenly claim Crossrail was coming to the peninsula, a reminder that he needs better transport advisers, fast.)
TfL has admitted the Jubilee Line faces capacity problems into the 2030s – despite another major upgrade planned soon – while plans show the bus station as having room for 17, rather than 15 buses, and planned Silvertown Tunnel services may gobble up those spaces. Add in 15,000 new homes, and those fights for 422s aren’t going to go away any day soon.
I’ve written about this for CityMetric, and you should go there now and read why North Greenwich desperately needs a bridge to Canary Wharf to ease some of the pressure.
Neither City Hall, Greenwich Council nor Knight Dragon seem willing to countenance the thought that Greenwich Peninsula needs more than just the Jubilee Line.
So Peninsula Place is an uncomfortable reminder that if you live in east Greenwich, Charlton or Blackheath – never mind Eltham or Woolwich – then if you’re heading to central London, North Greenwich will not be meant for you for much longer.
It’s mad when you think about it from a transport planning point of view – North Greenwich has a lot of regular users who live nowhere near it, but use it every day because it is in zone 2 and results in cheaper fares than using their local stations. And this situation will get worse as the TfL fare freeze goes on while Southeastern’s continue to rise.
An in time, North Greenwich station will have more people in its catchment area, and will become increasingly difficult to access by bus for the rest of us as time goes on. Best to get used to this now (or get a bike).
Unfortunately, this means the train services through places like Charlton, Blackheath and Eltham will need improving – but this seems unlikely too.
So while the glass towers will certainly look very nice, unless there’s a serious rethink, short-term and parochial thinking looks set to curse the peninsula – and the rest of us who live nearby – for years to come.
Next year’s Transatlantic Tall Ships Regatta in Greenwich and Woolwich has been hit by news that major engineering works will cancel most National Rail trains in the area that weekend, making it harder for visitors to attend the spectacle.
The event, which is costing Greenwich Council £2 million, will take place over Easter, from 13 to 16 April. It follows 2014’s Tall Ships Festival, which the council says brought 1.1 million visitors to the area, generating a claimed “£17 million of economic activity”.
Between 35 and 40 ships are due to be moored at two sites, in Greenwich and Woolwich, across the weekend. The ships will then sail across the Atlantic and back, with stops in Simes, Portugal; Bermuda; Boston; a to-be-confirmed Canadian port; Quebec; and Le Havre, France.
But visitors will find it much harder to reach the event as the National Rail line through Greenwich will be closed all weekend to accommodate Thameslink Programme rebuilding works at London Bridge station. There will be no service at Deptford, Greenwich, Maze Hill and Westcombe Park stations all weekend, with Charing Cross and Waterloo East closed on Good Friday and Easter Saturday.
According to a report to be presented to Greenwich Council’s overview and scrutiny committee next week, Southeastern is planning to run a miserly two direct trains per hour between Victoria or Charing Cross and Woolwich Arsenal, with an additional service running to and from New Cross, with passengers expected to change for central London trains at Lewisham.
One solution to provide an additional service to central London, which would avoid possible overcrowding at Lewisham station, could be to swap rail services around so the New Cross trains run in and out of Blackfriars instead. This happened during the early stages of the Thameslink Programme closures, but there is no sign that this is being considered.
Buses could also be hit if there is a need for road closures in Greenwich town centre to accommodate expected crowds – but a whole closure of the town centre, which happened in 2014, is being ruled out because of the effects of the cut in rail services.
The report says: “In order to accommodate the crowds expected at the event in Greenwich Town Centre, some temporary road closures may be required.
“Road closures will improve the festival ambience, encourage visitors to use the shops in the town centre, and improve pedestrian safety. The newly available space can be animated with performers and temporary stalls. The proposed closure… is still to be agreed internally and with TfL and other stakeholders.
“Subject to internal and external agreement, the likely road closure will resemble the arrangements made for the successful Greenwich Car Free Day with the addition of Welland Street closed to traffic to accommodate a queuing system for the Cutty Sark DLR station.”
Travellers are to be advised to use Docklands Light Railway services – which will run every five minutes to Greenwich and Woolwich Arsenal across the weekend – and Thames Clippers boats.
Conservative councillors tried to cancel the Tall Ships Regatta last year, saying the money should be used to help vulnerable residents and improve local engagement. Their budget amendment was thrown out after the council’s Labour leadership said the event would help boost businesses in the area.
While most said the event benefitted “Royal Greenwich” (it is not made clear whether this means Greenwich borough or Greenwich itself), 65% of businesses strongly disagreed that the Tall Ships Regatta was a good thing for Woolwich or Woolwich residents, adding that most of the benefits were felt within Berkeley Homes’ Royal Arsenal development rather than the town centre.
The report points out that Woolwich has fewer hospitality businesses than Greenwich, and outlines plans to better link the town centre with the Arsenal complex.
It adds 84% of businesses did not take on extra staff for the 2014 event.
Next year’s festival has also been sluggish at attracting tall ships trainees, who will sail with a ship on the first leg to Portugal. The council originally hoped to attract 179, but estimates have been scaled back after just 39 signed up. Greenwich taxpayers are due to pay for 30 trainees, at a total cost of £27,000, although 31 are paying their own costs.
The report also reveals £20,000 in sponsorship from the controversial London City Cruise Port at Enderby Wharf (whose impact on the environment is discussed in this Radio 4 documentary) and £12,500 from developer U+I, which last week announced major plans to develop part of the Woolwich/Charlton riverside. Intercontinental Hotels is donating a venue (costed at £30,000) for the Captain’s Party, while Charlton Athletic Football Club – currently in turmoil with its own supporters – is also offering The Valley (£1,500) for a crew party.
It also admits some staff working on the event may not get London Living Wage. “All contractors will be encouraged to pay staff working on the event London Living Wage or higher, although the nature of some business sectors, where staff may be sub-contracted, makes enforcing the payment of London Living Wage difficult or impossible,” it says.
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.
Greenwich, Charlton and Woolwich could get direct trains to Luton Airport under plans that are about to go out to consultation.
The plans would see trains seven days a week from Luton to Rainham, Kent, via Blackfriars, London Bridge, Greenwich and Dartford.
More services through London Bridge to north London and beyond will be possible when the Thameslink works are completed in 2018.
It would give passengers at Deptford, Greenwich, Maze Hill and Westcombe Park – who currently rely on trains to Cannon Street – a choice of London terminals after trains to Charing Cross permanently ended in January 2015.
The new lines through London Bridge to Blackfriars will run in between those to Charing Cross and Cannon Street, severing the old connection between Greenwich and the Charing Cross lines (although trains can still run in emergencies).
Trains would also stop at Charlton, Woolwich Arsenal, Plumstead, Abbey Wood and Dartford, but not at Woolwich Dockyard, Belvedere or Erith.
As well as connections to Luton Airport, passengers would also have direct links to Eurostar at St Pancras and Crossrail at Abbey Wood, as well as north-west London destinations at West Hampstead.
The trains would be operated by Thameslink rather than Southeastern, and the consultation is now on its website.
Elsewhere in south east London, Govia Thameslink Railway’s proposals also include increasing the miserly train service through Crofton Park and Catford from two to four trains per hour.
Meanwhile, local MPs have been pressing goverment ministers on the state of Southeastern with little success. Transport minister Paul Maynard couldn’t be bothered to answer a question from Lewisham East’s Heidi Alexander on whether Southeastern would be given new rolling stock in a debate on Thursday morning, although he was more forthcoming when asked for a meeting about Southeastern by the Conservative MP for Bromley, Bob Neill. Pressed by Eltham’s MP Clive Efford, he confirmed all local MPs would be able to attend.
But asked by Greenwich and Woolwich MP Matt Pennycook if he backed plans to devolve SE London’s rail services to TfL, transport secretary Chris Grayling was non-committal, saying he wanted to see proposals from mayor Sadiq Khan first.
1.15pm update: What gets given can also be taken away, and buried away in the full proposals are plans to cut little-advertised direct trains from New Cross Gate to Gatwick Airport and other destinations in Surrey and Sussex, with passengers expected to take slow Overground trains and change at Norwood Junction.
There’s a huge consultation survey, which covers a vast number of changes and makes some peculiar assumptions, available to fill in. The new Greenwich line trains are covered by questions 15, 16 and 31, Catford line in questions 17, 29 and 30 and New Cross Gate cuts in questions 45 and 56.
One of Greenwich’s biggest recent planning battles is set to resurface this autumn, Remember Ikea? One of ex-leader Chris Roberts’ last legacies to the area, Greenwich Council rushed through outline planning permission for a new 350,000-sq ft store back in 2014, to replace the now-demolished “eco”-Sainsbury’s and adjacent former Comet store.
Since then, attention has turned to exactly how a stonking great big furniture store that’s notorious for attracting huge traffic jams can be modelled to fit an area that’s already notorious for huge traffic jams.
Ikea took ownership of the site a year ago and demolished the former stores this spring,. Meanwhile, developer LXB – which was behind Sainsbury’s move down to Charlton – has bought the B&Q branch next door.
So, what’s planned? Eltham-based magazine SE Nine, which usually has decent contacts in Greenwich planning, reported on its Facebook page last month that the site would be a new Ikea format, an Order & Collection Point. This is smaller than a normal store and “packed with inspiration”.
“Particularly when it comes to our dedicated co-workers who are ready to share their home furnishing expertise and lend some specialist help every step of the way. They’re there to help you plan your dream kitchen, for example, or offer expert advice on your next project at home, no matter how big or small.”
There are only four in the UK – and the example cited in SE Nine’s report opened in Birmingham last month.
What else to do, then, but take a day trip to England’s second city?
Birmingham’s changed since the days of Telly Savalas rhapsodising about the Inner Ring Road. That infamous dual carriageway “concrete collar” has been broken, and the city centre now gleams with new shopping centres. The new central library is probably the finest public building in the country, while trams now purr past the brand new Grand Central mall, built on top of the once-dismal New Street station.
There’s still a way to go, though – and just off the new tram line, you’ll find Dale End, a run-down shopping street that’s been awaiting redevelopment for years. But it’s here you’ll find the third Ikea Order & Collection store, which opened on 18 August in a site vacated by Toys R Us a decade ago.
This isn’t a full Ikea store – it’s an outlet to showcase some of the Swedish chain’s new designs and to sell smaller items. You can also pick up goods you’ve ordered online and plan what you want to buy with the help of some of the store’s 30 staff. The store sits beneath a 1970s car park, and you can drive up and collect items there. One catch – collection costs up to £10.
You don’t get the full browsing experience here – that’s available in Ikea’s two main West Midlands store. The “marketplace” doesn’t feature here either – though plenty of its items are scattered around the store.
But there is a small cafe – and yes, there are meatballs too.
This is a test format for Ikea – and it seemed reasonably popular on the sunny Tuesday I visited. But it’s somewhere you’d go if you knew exactly what you wanted – or had money burning a hole in your pocket and a desire to design your own kitchen.
A format like this might deter people from driving great distances, once they’ve got used to it – the Dale End store openly points out the full range is found at Wednesbury and Coventry, and most customers seemed to wander in from the street. But will a larger version of this giant showroom work in a retail park?
You don’t have to go to Birmingham to get a sample of the Order & Collection Ikea. Because it’s now appeared closer to home, at Stratford.
To the 108!
There was a brass band playing Abba tunes outside the new store at Westfield Stratford City when it opened its doors last Wednesday.
This is a smaller affair than its Midlands counterpart – there’s no cafe for a start (I didn’t spot any meatballs either). It sits in an outdoor parade of other furniture stores – Dwell is next door, DFS is opposite – with the displays and planning studio distinguishing it from the rest.
Again, if you know what you’re after, this is brilliant (although from here, you could easily drive to stores at Edmonton or Lakeside). But it’s not one you’ll make a special trip just to browse through – it’d only take five minutes, for a start.
It’s entirely possible the presence of this store in Stratford will dampen some demand north of the river for a store in Greenwich – but you might not be so keen to pay £10 to collect a huge flat-pack bookcase which you then have to lug through a shopping mall to a car park you’ve paid £2.70 to use.
There are two other Order & Collection Ikeas in the UK, and they’re both on retail parks – the first opened in Norwich last November, the second is in Aberdeen. Publicity for the first Irish store – on a retail park near Dublin – describes how it is designed around “real people”.
A sitting room on display, we are told, has been designed for Paul (33) and Simon (35). They are a couple with “a strong sense of style”. They bought their city centre apartment together just over four years ago and like to indulge their love of cafes, art galleries, wine bars and eateries.
Simon is passionate about wine, and more particularly red wine. Ikea has built a sittingroom adorned with vases, glassware and textiles. A collection of wine glasses sits on shelves lining one entire wall. Pictures abound – including a framed picture of a bottle of Malbec. The effect is both trendy and personal.
It’s some way from the Lakeside Retail Park. But if you think of the new homes coming to the immediate area, this approach would make sense for Greenwich.
An Order & Collection Ikea would mean the retailer has resisted calls to use the format used at a store in Hamburg. You’ll find the store in Altona, a western district that sees itself as a class apart from its neighbours (sound familiar?). Ikea has three stores in Hamburg, but the Altona branch was, when it opened in 2015, its only “high street” store in Europe.
To the S-Bahn!
The first thing that strikes you about the Altona Ikea is its size – it dominates a pedestrian shopping parade in the same way an old-style department store does. Its bulk comes from an efficient use of space that’s rare in London – walk around the back of the store and you’ll find that deliveries go into the basement, car parking goes on top.
In between, you’ve three floors of shopping space to mooch around in – with lifts next to escalators to get your trolleys upstairs. The “marketplace” is spread around the store, rather than being at the end of your route..
The ground floor almost acts as a standalone store, with its own cafe facing the street – ideal for shoppers who just want to pop in and out again – a bit like the UK Order and Collection stores.
Head up to the first floor and things feel more like a conventional Ikea – you’ll find more furniture displays and a huge restaurant. Once you’re on the second floor, you’ll find the huge warehouse shelves along with the food store.
On the weekday I visited, the store was doing a reasonable trade. Plenty of people were heading to and from the station with Ikea goods – there were no queues for the car park, which had 300 empty spaces.
There aren’t free deliveries here – it’s 29 euros to hire a “sofa taxi” while there are a range of bicycle options starting at 10 euros. You’re reminded of these at almost every turn. This isn’t a Dutch-style cycling utopia, but taking a bike here is much more popular and easy than it is in London.
There’s wrapping paper available to help people take their goods on public transport – this is probably one of the best-connected shopping parades in Germany, with national and even international trains stopping here along with buses and local rail services.
Is this a revolutionary Ikea? Not really – it’s simply the traditional store remixed to suit a very well-connected high street. Perhaps there are a few less furniture displays than a traditional warehouse, but it offers the same comprehensive shopping experience as a retail barn with a vast car park outside.
It’s easy to imagine this format working in a typical zone 3 or 4 London high street. Drop this into Eltham, Bexleyheath or Bromley and it’d be wildly popular, although it’d probably bung up the traffic.
But there’s no high street to drop this into in east Greenwich. To recreate the Altona store in SE London, the developers would have to be bold and create their own high street, a retail destination that driving wouldn’t be the default option to. Despite its leadership’s willingness to do opaque deals with developers, this would surely be anathema to a council that’s trying to reinvigorate Eltham and resuscitate Woolwich.
And while the cycling options might work for the expanding Greenwich Peninsula community, the surrounding terrain – both natural and man-made – would make it a tough ask for the rest of us. Fancy pedalling your goods up Westcombe Hill?
So, despite the clamour for the Altona model Ikea, the Order & Collection version – a format which deters many speculative trips – may be the least worst for east Greenwich. Short of not building the thing at all, it may offer the best chance of avoiding the insanity of the four-hour queues that greeted the opening of Reading’s Ikea in July.
We will find out just what is planned in the coming weeks.
The battle over the Enderby Wharf cruise liner terminal in Greenwich will be debated in Parliament next Wednesday, while local residents have confirmed they are planning to appeal against a decision to throw out a judicial review into Greenwich Council’s decision to approve the scheme.
Poplar MP Jim Fitzpatrick, who has backed Isle of Dogs residents concerned about pollution from the terminal, will lead the half-hour debate in Westminster Hall on Wednesday afternoon.
Residents on both sides of the Thames object to the terminal allowing cruise ships to use their own generators while on extended stays at the terminals, which they say will hugely increase air pollution in the area. They say the emissions are comparable to 688 lorries idling all day, and are demanding a switch to shore-based power supplies instead.
A judicial review into the decision was thrown out last month, with Mr Justice Collins stating that no errors had been made in making the decision. It is believed that council leader Denise Hyland’s meetings with the developer before the decision was made were not raised in court. Hyland is the only council leader in London to regularly sit on her borough’s main planning committee, and voted for the scheme.
Fitzpatrick’s intervention will be embarrassing for his Labour Party colleague Hyland as well as her deputy leader Danny Thorpe, who also voted for the scheme and called criticism of it “scaremongering”.
Greenwich & Woolwich MP Matt Pennycook has also sided with residents, tweeting that the judicial review’s failure was “not the end of the matter”. London mayor Sadiq Khan also offered his backing while campaigning for the position.
Now the East Greenwich Residents Association is supporting a second attempt at the High Court. While Mr Justice Collins refused leave to appeal, lawyers for the anonymous plaintiff bringing the case claim there were errors in his judgment.
EGRA’s Ian Blore said this afternoon: “We half expected an appeal. Residents and others who attended the two-day fullHigh Court hearing were surprised when Mr Justice Collins joked that he would issue his decision before going on an Antarctic cruise. The 9,500 Londoners who die of air pollution each year may not find that funny.
“It is sad that a potentially highly polluting development is still being pursued when air quality is at the top of everyone’s agenda and when a remedy, onshore power supply to the berthed ships, is possible.
“It’s doubly sad that citizens have to pay to crowdfund a legal action to prevent this and to pay council taxes to fund the legal costs of the Royal Borough of Greenwich.”
Update 4.25pm: Ian Blore adds: “Greenwich MP Matt Pennycook applied in the ballot to have this issue discussed but Jim Fitzpatrick won it. Nevertheless our MP will be speaking in the debate. With such a consensus to redesign this scheme can’t we please go back to the drawing board and save a lot of time and legal fees?”
That big fire you might have seen this lunchtime (if it wasn’t this one in Erith) was up by the Blackwall Tunnel, at the Studio 338 nightclub. It’s fair to say the place isn’t in a good way.
Developers and those that like to boost them up like to claim the Greenwich Peninsula was always a wasteland, but that’s not true. The wrecked building, once the Mitre pub, is one of the last survivors from the community that existed there before the second Blackwall Tunnel and its approach road were built.
There were terraced houses behind the Mitre until the 1970s – they were demolished after the Blackwall Tunnel approach, which opened in 1969, effectively cut them off from the rest of the area – and a church stood nearby until the 1980s.
Stranded by the A102 and with few neighbours left to disturb, the Mitre became a favourite for club promoters. It’s been through a variety of incarnations in the past 20 years or so – including Dorrington’s, That Club, and more recently Studio 338.
But it remains best known for being one of the birthplaces of the alternative comedy scene – Malcolm Hardee‘s Tunnel Club.
The Tunnel Club opened in 1984, and helped begin the careers of Harry Enfield, Vic Reeves, Jeremy Hardy, Jo Brand and many, many more. It was a notoriously intimidating place to perform. Another local comic, Arthur Smith, described the Tunnel in his memoir.
Phil and I played the opening night at the Tunnel, which, under Malcolm’s influence, became the arena where London’s top hecklers gathered every Sunday to slaughter open spots and established acts alike. Some punters even met up beforehand in a kind of heckling seminar and one night, when I was performing solo, a voice in the dark interrupted me with a Latin phrase that turned out to mean ‘show us your tits.’
The word ‘notorious’ soon attached itself to the Tunnel which is now remembered as Alternative Comedy’s equivalent to the previous generation’s Glasgow Empire – a place for confrontation, raucousness, multiple comedy pile-ups and deaths. It was not uncommon for the acts to be booed off with such efficiency that the whole show was over in twenty minutes, an occasion that was greeted by the regulars as a great success.
Malcolm, instinctively anti-authoritarian from his thick black glasses, down his naked hairy body, to his piss-stained odd socks, liked to encourage the mayhem by the frequent exhibition of his titanic testicles, which he advertised as ‘the second biggest in the country – after Jenny Agutter’s father.’ (Apparently, they had once compared notes). If the mood took him he would urinate over the front row and, such was his charisma, the victims cheered rather than remonstrated.
The Mitre is also remembered in a short film, The Tunnel, released in 2012.
The Tunnel closed in 1988, following an enormous police raid on the Mitre. But some of the Tunnel’s spirit moved down the road to Up The Creek, which Malcolm opened three years later. He died in 2005 after falling into Greenland Dock, Rotherhithe, trying to get to his houseboat. The team behind The Tunnel film are now working on a follow-up about Malcolm’s eventful life.
Today’s fire looks like it has brought a final close to the Mitre’s story. The site isn’t immediately suitable for redevelopment – while the gas holder next to it is out of action, the plot behind is earmarked by Transport for London as a construction site if the Silvertown Tunnel gets the go-ahead.
For now, though, 338’s regulars will be sad, some of the neighbours who’d complained about booming early morning beats, less so. But whatever you thought of the place, today’s fire has destroyed one last little bit of anarchic old Greenwich.
Wednesday update: A Studio 338 staff member, named only as Tomas, has died after suffering severe burns in Monday’s fire.