Greenwich borough is all set to get a new weekly newspaper after Greenwich Council agreed to sign an advertising deal with the publisher of the weekly Southwark News.
Councils must, by law, publish certain public notices – such as for planning and highways matters – in at least one local newspaper.
Until 2016, Greenwich had used this as a pretext for publishing its own weekly paper, Greenwich Time. It closed last summer after an out-of-court settlement following a government crackdown on “council Pravdas”.
Since then, Greenwich has been publishing some of its notices in the Penge-based Mercury newspaper, a free offshoot of the South London Press series; while placing its vanity stuff… sorry, vital public information in a dull fortnightly called Greenwich Info.
But now Greenwich, after a lengthy tender process, has opted to take its ad money to a new entrant to the area, Southwark Newspaper Ltd. The contract could be worth up to £1.2m over three years. (For its part, the council claims the equivalent cost of Greenwich Time would only be £738,000, but this doesn’t take into account the cost of in-house advertising, while local organisations were strongly encouraged to place ads in GT rather than other publications.)
The firm is best known for Southwark News, the only independent paid-for newspaper in the capital, which contains Southwark Council’s public notices. It’s a very good paper and has an excellent reputation. There’s also a free spin-off, Southwark Weekender, which focuses on events in the borough.
It also publishes Lambeth Weekender, which features Lambeth Council’s notices as well as a rotating opinion column between the three parties represented at the town hall – Labour, the Conservatives and the Greens.
Greenwich’s choice to give the contract to Southwark Newspaper Ltd was ratified by a scrutiny panel last week after the borough’s Conservatives “called in” the decision. (I asked the Tories why, but they never got back to me. You’ll have to ask them yourself.)
Is the Greenwich Weekender coming?
Whether this means we’re in line for Greenwich Weekender isn’t clear. Hopefully, the council will keep its mitts off. Whether it has “Royal” in the title might be a clue. Greenwich wants its ads “published… in the context of engaging local editorial content which helps to positively inform local residents about the measures that their neighbours and local service providers are undertaking to make the borough a great place to live, work, learn and visit”. No moaning about dirty streets or pollution or Plumstead High Street falling to bits, y’hear? LOOK AT THE TALL SHIPS!
In practice, sticking council ads in a pan-south London “what’s on”-style publication with a couple of pages of council editorial will tick that box nicely. This is pretty much how Lambeth Weekender started.
Since the council’s latest Big Idea is creating a “cultural quarter” in Berkeley Homes’s Royal Arsenal development in Woolwich, this could actually work well for all sides. We get an interesting local weekly, the council gets its ads and some puff pieces, a south London business gets money and can employ more people.
Don’t expect to get a copy through your letterbox, though – no bidder was willing to fulfil the council’s demand that 95% of households got a paper, which was the alleged distribution of Greenwich Time. Now fewer than one in three households will get a paper, although 8,500 will be made available at 80 pick-up points across the borough. Hopefully this will include dump bins in public places rather than the usual council network.
Fingers crossed that the Southwark team can pull it off. While money from public notices represents a subsidy that can be open to abuse (and has been for many, many years), it is good to see the cash going to a reputable independent publisher, based reasonably near the borough, rather than the media groups that have steadily starved the existing local titles. So good luck to them.
There is one fly in the ointment – since Greenwich made its initial decision, Lambeth has decided to switch its public notice contract away from Lambeth Weekender and back to the South London Press, swallowing concerns about ads for sexual services in the SLP. Whether that loss of income upsets the plan remains to be seen.
The distant Mercury
This is bad news for the Mercury, once the area’s main local paper, but long reduced to being a free offshoot of the South London Press. Despite the efforts of the paper’s one remaining reporter/editor, resources have been slashed to the bone and beyond in recent years.
The paper was recently sold to its management and was given a revamp, with the council ad contract seen as a lifeline.
Indeed, a second bidder had been rejected by the council after due diligence found it presented an “unacceptable risk to the council”.
It is not known who the second bidder was. It may not even have been the Mercury/SLP.
An amateurish effort at a local paper – Greenwich Gazette – briefly appeared and then disappeared during the council tender process (but not before lifting copy from this website about Blackheath fireworks). The Gazette did not carry any details of any publisher, but it appears to have been linked to a design and PR business based in west Greenwich for which only limited financial information is available.
Hopefully not having to worry about council ad money will make the Mercury a bit more fearless. Even if few people ever see a copy because the distribution is terrible.
The stumbling Shopper – and a BBC bailout
Tough times continue at the News Shopper too, which is now produced from Sutton and is effectively the same newspaper as the South London Guardian/Surrey Comet series, making it some kind of quasi-regional freesheet. Recent editions available in Greenwich have featured news from Biggin Hill, Crayford and even Enfield.
Cutbacks have also led to cock-ups like this – the Surrey Comet (which covers Kingston) effectively getting a News Shopper letters page.
Publisher Newsquest has been bleeding its titles dry across the UK – recently slashing jobs at a production hub in south Wales after collecting £340,000 in Welsh government subsidies.
There’s more bailout money for the asset-strippers on offer from the BBC, and we’ll soon see the results of that in south-east London. The Beeb is setting up a Local Democracy Reporters Scheme, which will see reporters based at local news organisations start to cover local council meetings, like the old days. Except the BBC will be funding them, and the results will be available to the news barons who cut council coverage in the first place, like Newsquest.
One reporter will cover Greenwich, Bexley and Bromley; another has the enormous task of covering Lewisham, Southwark and Lambeth. I can’t see it working very well. If you’ve read this far and you’re interested, here’s why the Local Democracy Reporter Scheme, as it stands, is a terrible idea.
A further nail in the coffin of mainstream journalism in south-east London – the News Shopper’s entire newsroom has been put on notice of redundancy by the newspaper’s owner, Newsquest, according to its staff.
The paper was moved to Sutton last year to share a newsroom with its sister publication, the South London Guardian series. Last month, the Shopper’s Greenwich edition was merged with the neighbouring Lewisham paper. The Gravesend edition was also merged with its Dartford counterpart.
Now all the Sutton-based staff – bar the web editor and managing editor – have been put on notice of redundancy. Four reporters, two content editors, three sub-editors, an editorial assistant and the deputy managing editor will lose their jobs by mid-October.
This will leave just 12 reporters and four content editors to produce 11 South London Guardian papers, four News Shopper editions and their websites, the National Union of Journalists says, including news, sport and leisure coverage.
The cuts come despite Newsquest making £70m profit last year. The News Shopper is one of its most successful titles on the web, although the strain of cuts is starting to show with simple mistakes showing in news stories and, more damagingly, in the printed papers.
Staff are already being balloted for strike action over inadequate staffing, increased workloads and “reduced quality of newspapers”. Reporters walked out last year in protest at a previous round of cuts and the move to Sutton.
There are also no longer any staff photographers at the News Shopper – and Newsquest has ended its contract with the Deadlinepix agency to supply photography, leaving reporters and readers to supply pictures.
Last week’s Greenwich & Lewisham paper included an appeal from Shopper editor Andy Parkes for readers to send in their news and photos. “Your, our loyal readers, are the best eyes and ears we have… the News Shopper relies upon its loyal readership more today than ever before.”
Meanwhile, over at the Shopper’s rival in Greenwich & Lewisham, the South London Press and Mercury, times also aren’t good. South Bank community website SE1.co.uk has complained that the SLP is lifting copy from its reports in today’s issue – a sure-fire sign of a paper that’s understaffed.
It’s hard to see things getting any better for journalism in south-east London – particularly where the traditional titles are concerned. Greenwich suffers the particular problem of the council taking ad revenue to fund its vanity publications, but the diversion of its public notices to the Mercury does not appear to have resulted in any improved coverage.
It will probably take a new entrant to shake things up – but who would have the cash to do it?
Another nail in the coffin for local journalism in south-east London has arrived this week, with the merger of the Greenwich and Lewisham editions of the News Shopper. In truth, it’s not a huge cutback – papers meant for Sydenham to Abbey Wood largely had the same content anyway. And the paper’s distribution is patchy at best.
But the two papers usually had their own front pages, giving publicity to local campaigns that may not resonate in the neighbouring borough. You may not get a printed Shopper through the letterbox any more, but those front pages can still make waves where it matters. Now the papers will share a front page – bad news for campaigns such as those trying to stop Greenwich schools becoming academies or steep cutbacks to Lewisham’s libraries.
This probably means even more crime stories, because everyone (in theory) identifies with those, even though they’re a hugely depressing turn-off if they appear every week.
Until the 1980s, it was common for south London’s local papers to span borough boundaries. The Mercury used to cover Greenwich, Lewisham and the southern part of Southwark (the old Camberwell borough) in one paper. The Kentish Independent covered Greenwich and Bexley before it closed in 1984. The Kentish Times did the same for Bexley and Bromley. The South London Press still stretches from Wandsworth to Lewisham. But back then, the papers were fully-staffed, well-resourced and based in their patches. People even used to go into newsagents to buy them – imagine!
That old economic model has been smashed – partly by shareholder greed, partly by modern technology. Newsrooms have been emptied and moved out of the area – the Shopper comes from Sutton, the Mercury from the SLP’s base in Streatham. Talented young journalists on poor salaries (and priced out of the area) are being made to run ever faster just to keep up to produce stories for papers that are rarely seen or websites that are becoming increasingly unusable.
If this kind of thing interests you, it’s worth reading the thoughts of Gareth Davies, an investigate reporter who recently left the once-proud Croydon Advertiser. Worth also looking at Inside Croydon, the upstart blog which regularly pulls the “Sadvertiser”‘s pants down and is everything I wish 853 was.
This is the point where I should come in and cackle. Look at him with his so-called “blog”! But I can’t. I take great pride in much of what this website and the Charlton Champion has covered over the years. I’ve even given talks about it to fellow journalists. It’s good to be able to tell people about things you think they’ll be interested in.
But outsider blogs like this – and maybe even Inside Croydon – burn out eventually. Even the ones that take the line that everything is brilliant fade away because you can only tell that story once.
Most readers of this website will be aware that the content’s dried up a bit lately. That’s partly because I’m still dealing with complications from breaking my ankle five months ago that make it difficult to get around, and I haven’t had much time to catch up with stories like the Thames Path being closed again.
There’s no incentive for me to get out and do this in my own time – in fact, the reverse is true, particularly when my priorities in life are recovering from my injury and seeking some kind of paid employment. Six months ago, I was screamed at in a pub by a Greenwich Labour figure after I suggested he was in a better position to deal with the problems in his party’s council than I was. What’s the point in carrying on if that happens when you’ve gone out for a quiet drink?
So if the local newspaper model is bust, and lone wolf blogs burn out, where next? Greenwich Council had an opportunity to create a community paper out of Greenwich Time, but blew it by turning it into a propaganda sheet. (Incidentally, it is now planning to try again as a fortnightly, which could land it in more legal disputes.)
There’s the co-op model – the amazing Bristol Cable has over 1,200 members and has made an enormous impact with the kind of investigative journalism that has simply gone out of fashion in local papers. But this takes time and money – are enough people interested?
Or perhaps there’s room to try again with the local printed press – the monthly Greenwich Visitor and SE Nine show there’s still life away from the asset-stripping media giants. But who’s willing to take the financial risk?
The answer, ultimately, lies with you. As Guardian staffers are finding out, news doesn’t grow on trees. Would you be willing to support a local news co-op, or investing in a new paper (even only at the level of buying one each week)? I’d be very interested in your thoughts.
Imagine this: the government has decided to close down a vital public service in SE London, moving its remains to Sutton.
Valued workers will be fired, teams will be split up and told to work from home – depriving them of the opportunity to share ideas about providing a better service. An organisation already distant from the clients it depends on will retreat even further into itself, and its service will lose value by the week, growing more and more irrelevant.
There’d be outrage. Even the Labour party might briefly stir itself into complaining. There’d be a big campaign to save it – and the demand that it should be the well-paid heads at the top rolling, rather than the modestly-compensated toilers at the bottom.
Well, it’s happening. Except it’s not the government doing the closing, it’s this bunch of clowns in the video below. And their target is the News Shopper, whose journalists are on strike today and tomorrow.
This is the senior management team at Gannett, led by chief executive
Roy Orbison Gracia Matore, performing a children’s song from a children’s film in a video shown to their staff in the US earlier this year.
Gannett’s a highly-profitable media conglomerate best known for owning USA Today. Its UK subsidiary, Newsquest, owns a string of local and regional titles, including the Brighton Argus and the Glasgow-based Herald.
It also owns the News Shopper and the South London Guardian series, which between them cover most of SE and SW London and the northern parts of Kent and Surrey.
Newsquest made £64 million in profit last year, which clearly isn’t enough – so it’s been decided that the Shopper and South London Guardian should effectively combine – they already share an editor – into one team based at the Guardian’s office in Sutton, with many staff either sacked or told to work from home. The current Shopper HQ in Petts Wood would close.
Petts Wood is distant enough as it is, but that’s always been the Shopper’s weak spot. Launched in Orpington 50 years ago as London’s first free newspaper, it’s always been a slightly eccentric title. A 1976 front page lectured readers on how hard work was vital to secure the nation’s future.
It expanded into Lewisham and Greenwich in 1988, but looked out of place for many years – a suburban news agenda doesn’t quite get the nuances of the city. Hardened readers of this website will remember when it gave a pen as a prize to a homophobic letter writer, and dished out inaccurate reporting of the 2011 riots (the latter a symptom of the cutbacks in the local press).
But in recent years, it’s sharpened up its act in these parts – thanks in no small part to the work of beat reporter and deputy news editor Mark Chandler. Recent stories include revealing a councillors’ jolly to Spain and tracking the continued downfall of former council leader Chris Roberts’ allies – the Shopper played a big part in bringing Roberts’ bullying to a wider audience.
The website still veers wildly between clickbait and serious issues – and it showed a strange glee when reporting on a man having a crap at a bus stop – but on the whole the printed paper’s led with some strong stories of late. It’s even possible to pick one up these days, as branded dispensers have appeared in some shops.
For a paper that’s produced miles away, it’s doing a decent job on the resources it has. Heaven knows what will happen if more staff are cut and the thing moves to Sutton.
Imagine being a young reporter, stuck on crap money living in a houseshare – probably miles away – trying to work from home, without colleagues to share information and tips with.
Maybe you’re lucky enough to have actually got out to report on a story, but you now have to camp out in a library to write it up because you’re miles from home or the office, the deadline’s coming up and the library’s about to close. (Oh, and the story’s about library cuts.)
Or being stuck in Sutton, expected to work on copy about places you know nothing about because you’re expected to now know New Cross as well as New Malden. You’re not going to do your best work, are you?
But still, everything is awesome, isn’t it? If I had a car, I’d drive down to Petts Wood and give the picket line a honk of my horn. Instead, this post will have to do. Good luck to the News Shopper strikers.
It’s not just the Shopper. Not by a long way. Cuts have been the big story in the local press for years, with reporters stuck in offices rather than getting out and about. By losing a day’s pay to take placards around the Shopper’s enormous editorial area, the paper’s reporters have probably seen more of it than they have done in years.
The loss of the Shopper’s Petts Wood HQ would mean that none of the major news groups would have a presence in south-east London any more. The only weekly newspaper left in the wider area would be the Southwark News, which – guess what? – is independently-owned.
Otherwise, the big news groups have upped sticks and gone – Trinity Mirror moved the Mercury from Deptford to Streatham a decade ago, a decision that current owner Tindle Newspapers has stuck with. Archant moved the Kentish Times from Sidcup to Ilford a few years back.
There are now only three journalists who cover issues in Greenwich borough full-time – none of them cover the patch exclusively anymore. Mark Chandler and Jaimie Micklethwaite juggle Greenwich and Lewisham for the Shopper, while Mandy Little covers Greenwich for the Mercury as well as putting together seven different versions of the paper. (Its sister paper, the South London Press, now just has one staff reporter covering Lewisham, Southwark, Lambeth and Wandsworth.)
Cuts and clickbait might sum up the Shopper’s difficulties, but the Mercury’s in an even worse state because octogenarian owner Ray Tindle doesn’t believe in the internet. He’s even got a terrible TV ad to extol how great the papers of 1956 were. It pretty much sums up the worldview of a man who set up his newspaper group with his demob money, and hasn’t moved on since.
The Mercury was once the undisputed king of this area’s local papers – a campaigning weekly with reach and clout. It’s where I did my first newspaper work experience in 1991.
But firstly under Trinity Mirror, and latterly under Tindle, it’s shed staff and circulation, and is now locked in a death pact with its one-time rival the South London Press. And because Tindle – a kind of Christina Foyle of the local newspaper industry – doesn’t believe in the internet, it can’t even run a page of kitten photos on its token website to raise any interest.
Two years ago, the journalism trade press lauded Tindle’s decision to split the Greenwich editions of the Mercury and sell them through the news trade. So as well as the (free) Lewisham, Greenwich and Bexley Mercury titles, there would now be paid-for 30p editions for Charlton, Blackheath and “Greenwich Town”. The likes of Press Gazette sat on the great man’s knee as he opined on how important paid-for newspapers were.
Of course, this was barmy, as Greenwich hasn’t had a paid-for title since the Kentish Independent closed in 1984. Even more barmy was that Tindle was putting no new resources into these titles, so a skeleton staff had to source stories to fill pages in three extra papers, and they’d be padded out with irrelevant coverage of events in Sydenham or Erith, at the far edges of the Mercury’s patch. Nor did he pay for any promotion of these titles.
The other suicidal thing about this strategy is that neighbouring communities in London aren’t discrete – they blend into one another. I don’t often visit my local newsagent in Charlton, but I’m more likely to visit one in Blackheath as I pass it more often. So I’d have to go out of my way to spend 30p on a title for Charlton that perhaps had three dedicated pages of news for my area.
Splitting titles up also means that you have to justify having a Charlton paper by having a Charlton story on its front page. So a major story could happen two miles away in Woolwich, but the Charlton paper would have something inconsequential as its front page splash. That’s madness.
To nobody’s surprise, a couple of months back, the Charlton Mercury closed along with its two paid-for sisters, unnoticed by Tindle’s fans in the trade press. I’d be stunned if more than 100 Charlton Mercurys were sold each week. I’d be surprised if it did even half that sum.
But was Tindle going to concentrate on making the Greenwich Mercury great again? No. Instead, the Mercury was to be sliced up again, without any investment in staff.
Now there are free editions for Greenwich, Lewisham and Bexley boroughs, plus local editions (free this time) for Abbey Wood & Thamesmead, Woolwich, Plumstead and Catford, all coming from the understaffed SLP office in Streatham (which is also putting out a series of local SLPs for areas such as Deptford, Peckham and Brixton, plus Tindle’s new plaything, a series of tatty-looking titles for central and west London, the London Weekly News). The Catford edition is especially puzzling, as most of the news stories (and advertising) are about Greenwich borough.
As for Charlton, Blackheath and “Greenwich Town”, we’ve got a generic Mercury back again, barely delivered through any doors and occasionally found abandoned in piles in supermarkets. I recently tried to buy one in a newsagent only to find there was no cover price or bar code. Me and the newsagent settled on 30p. With miserly promotion like this, the Mercury’s future has to be looking bleak.
It’s not just greedy, stupid newspaper owners killing the local press – in Greenwich, the council is contributing by placing Greenwich Time up against them, undercutting the Mercury and Shopper’s ad rates.
Of course, Newsquest’s cuts make it easier for Greenwich to justify carrying on with its vanity weekly – the government’s legal action against the council on this is set to drag on for some months yet. And sadly for the Shopper strikers, their own union has undermined them by backing council Pravdas. Greenwich Time is an anomaly that affects just a sixth of the News Shopper’s distribution area, but it’s certainly not helping matters.
I don’t know what the solution is – heck, I can’t even get a decent job in the industry myself at the moment – other than to keep buying Euromillions tickets so I can buy the Mercury off Tindle, move it back to SE London and save the bloody thing from its slow death.
But news is important. Here’s the founder of BuzzFeed, Jonah Peretti, on why it matters to his business.
Having a great news organization has a positive effect on BuzzFeed’s entire culture and makes the whole organization better. Even our team members who work on entertainment content or on the business side are proud to work at a company that is breaking big, important stories. It is inspiring to be part of an organization with reporters doing work that helps shut down ISIS oil smuggling across the Turkish border, exposes sex abuse at an elite private high school, or shines a light on battered women who are wrongly imprisoned. That kind of work pushes all of us to do our very best work and aim high, and we plan to keep pushing.
Or, to put it more parochially, the News Shopper can do all the “you’ll be amazed by these 21 arse-cracks we found in the Wetherspoon in Petts Wood” clickbait pieces it likes – but unless you’re balancing it out with the kind of serious reporting that takes time, effort and risk (exposing wrongdoing, not drunks having a dump at a bus stop), you’ll just end up with a hollow product.
Sadly, Newsquest doesn’t seem to be seeing it this way. Maybe – like some commercially-run hyperlocal websites that concentrate on lifestyle above news – it just thinks someone else will do it. But who?
It’s worth noting that the papers that are doing well are independents such as the Southwark News. The Camden New Journal even put out a special issue the day after the general election. And even our own Greenwich Visitor punches well above its weight for a monthly produced by a tiny team.
Perhaps local communities should be empowered to be able to buy local newspapers (like they can bid to buy threatened pubs and other local assets). Perhaps then community-run papers should be able to get charity status. Would this work here in south-east London? I don’t know. But even asking these questions is a start.
The next time something in your community is threatened, you’ll want some support and publicity. And local papers still carry clout. So give the News Shopper strikers your support. Complain to Newsquest. Tell your MP to do the same. Ask your local Labour councillor if they’ll support union members.
The News Shopper may not be the perfect paper we all want to see. But it – and the Mercury – are the best we’ve got. And we’ll miss them when they’re gone.
Proper local newspapers champion their communities. We don’t have any in south-east London, though.
We’re lumbered with the News Shopper, which has decided to write off Woolwich as a ” a troubled area of death, death, death” after a man died in the train tunnel near Woolwich Dockyard station. The quote the line’s based on doesn’t even support the headline – a neighbour simply said: “We don’t want death, death, death round here.”
Not that many people around Woolwich Dockyard will see the paper writing off their neighbourhood – the title distributes precisely zero copies there; like my own street, the high-rises and council flat dwellers of post code sector SE18 5 aren’t considered valuable enough for the Petts Wood-based paper’s advertisers. As with the paper’s hysterical branding of New Cross as “murder mile” a couple of years back, it’s the Shopper doing all it knows how to – revelling in the grimmer aspects of urban life to satisfy the prejudices of a suburban audience.
With last night’s tragedy on a bus in Lee, and the stabbing outside the New Cross Venue, I expect there’ll be more of this to come in this week’s paper, for those of us they actually bother to deliver it to. While the council’s dire Greenwich Time is a terrible propaganda paper, it’s not the only one in this area with a cynical agenda. We’d be better off without both of them.
It’s one of the best things to have happened locally all summer. The rebirth of Charlton Lido has been met with near-universal approval from those who’ve used it – surely, it’s a story you’d want to yell from the rooftops if you were Greenwich Council.
Yet I’ve discovered that Greenwich Council failed to invite the local press along to the reopening of the lido, instead preferring to keep the story for its own weekly, Greenwich Time. It’s another example of the baffling communications strategy employed by the council, which seems to solely revolve around Greenwich Time.
The lido opened on July 9, yet neither the Mercury nor the News Shopper were invited along to its launch, on 13 July which was lovingly covered in the following week’s Greenwich Time. Indeed, the council took until 17 July to send out a press release about the lido‘s opening.
While the local press, particularly the News Shopper, regularly come into for criticism on this website, Greenwich Council does go out of its way to make life difficult for the borough’s two newspapers. In particular, news releases are often only sent out on Friday evenings, after the deadline for both papers but ensuring coverage is exclusive to Greenwich Time. Even with good news stories like the lido, events are kept from outside reporters, who only find out about them after they have happened.
Meanwhile, there is now one fewer media outlet scrutinising the council after the Bexley Times was relaunched and refocused on its home patch. The paper now comes in a “quarter-fold” format – half the size of a tabloid – with bigger, magazine-style features and less news.
It had covered issues in Greenwich as well as Bexley – a throwback from the days when it published an Eltham Times – but it now sticks to Bexley stories from its office in Ilford.
It has also dropped all sports coverage. An interesting demonstration of the weak state of SE London’s local media came in May, when Charlton Athletic – another local institution who could do with a bit more scrutiny – were the only promoted football club in the country not to get front-page coverage from their local papers.
So the Queen rocked up in Greenwich on Wednesday to reopen the Cutty Sark. The’s terrific pictures from greenwich.co.uk, and more from The Greenwich Phantom. No walkabout from Mrs Queen, though – rather a shame, since as we’re paying to be a royal borough, it’d be nice to be able to press some regal flesh once in a while…
The day before, though, saw a press tour around the ship, whose restoration was helped by £3m from Greenwich Council. At the same time, journalists were taken out on a boat to Enderby Wharf, so they could be chatted up about plans for a cruise liner terminal.
Cruise liner terminal? Remember that? Yup, the one first announced by council leader Chris Roberts taking journalists, er, out on a boat, in June 2010, before most locals knew a thing about it.
The cruise liner terminal received planning permission in January 2011. Planning documents said: “It is the applicant’s intention to deliver the cruise liner terminal and pier in time for 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games bringing a major piece of new infrastructure to London,” adding that an independent study had found this was “realistic and achievable”. No wonder why it got unanimous approval. The following week’s edition of propaganda weekly Greenwich Time said it was “anticipated” the terminal would be open for the Games. Exciting stuff.
By April 2011, though, nothing had happened on site apart from the vandalism of historic Enderby House. In June 2011, Greenwich Time said the terminal would be open “in 2012”, and mega-liner The World would be docking there in 2013.
By April 2012? Er… nothing.
This was Enderby House earlier this month, looking in a right state. Still, Greenwich Council’s website remained optimistic.
Indeed, it’s still remaining optimistic, since those words are still there, on a page two clicks from the council’s homepage.
But as is blindingly obvious to the cruise liner terminal won’t be open for the Olympics. It won’t even be open this year. To the Orpington-based News Shopper!
“Preliminary work on the landmark development, approved last summer [sic] is now due to start at Enderby’s Wharf in November, with the facility’s first phase open 12 to 18 months after that.”
So, all being well, the first visitors be able to dock in Greenwich and watch the Olympics. Yes, the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, on the telly in the nearby Pelton Arms, if the guv’nor can be persuaded. Excellent.
But did anyone on the boat trip ask why the project will be delivered up to two years late? It appears not.
Not the News Shopper, whose reporter seems to be covering both Greenwich and Lewisham boroughs single-handedly at present, not the Docklands & East London Advertiser (which reported it as if it’d just been announced), and certainly not the Evening
Boris Standard, which bizarrely managed to squeeze a plug for the mayor into the story, breathlessly reporting the project had been “given the go-ahead by Boris Johnson”. Indeed, he gave it the nod in February 2011.
Does all this matter? Well, yes. This is a prestige project for the area, one which is meant to create employment and kick-start the regeneration of the west side of the Greenwich Peninsula. It’ll affect the Thames Path, and also one of the area’s historic sites at Enderby House, and even sparked a plan for a “cultural corridor” scheme to link it to east Greenwich proper.
It’s also a project the council’s intimately involved in, even inviting a representative from developer West Properties along to a £10,000 celebration at the Queen’s House in February to mark royal borough status. It also sponsored a cruise industry conference on Wednesday. (Scroll down the page for some staggering porkies about how easy it is to get in and out of Enderby Wharf, incidentally.)
So, yes, it does matter that we get timely and honest information about this. But, predictably, we have a council that’s not up to the job, and an under-resourced local press that’s also failing to do its work. And nearly two years after I first posted on it, I never thought I’d still be posting about a lack of information about a project that’ll completely change the east Greenwich. But that’s what happens when you have a council that’s more interested in dealing with developers, and local press barons that have stopped caring.