October revolution: Charlton’s Horn Fair moves to the autumn

Charlton House

Wondered what had happened to Charlton’s Horn Fair this year? Well, it’s moved to a new date and has been given a new look.

2015’s Horn Fair will be on Sunday 18 October – St Luke’s Day, the traditional date for the festival, which began in the reign of Henry III and whose original incarnation was so bawdy it was banned in Victorian times.

The revamped Horn Fair will be based more around Charlton House – so it’s goodbye to the dog shows and stalls that have characterised the recent June events.

Instead, according to Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust:

History buffs can discover the story of the house and its ornate décor under the expert guidance of master craftsman Philip Gaches and his team, meet master stonemasons and try your skills at the crafts that built Charlton House.

Our young visitors are invited on an architectural treasure hunt, with the opportunity to create their own one of a kind gargoyle to take home and keep.

The Horn Fair will also see the launch of an exciting new exhibition of postcards from the past and the curator will be on hand to demonstrate how these handwritten cards capture an intimate snapshot of a bygone era.

Tracy Stringfellow, Chief Executive of Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust, said: “We expect the day to be extremely popular and we hope that local people in particular will be interested in finding out more about this historic building.

“Visitors will also have the opportunity to meet local brewers Hop Stuff, Gosnells Mead and London Glider Cider while they enjoy music from local musicians, including fiddles, concertinas, flutes and even a song or two.”

The new-look Horn Fair runs from 10am to 4pm.

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Regenerating Charlton: What to do with the old summer house?

Charlton summer house

We’ve written before about whether Charlton needs a regeneration plan. We’ve also written about the challenges ahead for Charlton House under its new owners. There’s one place in SE7 where these two themes come neatly together.

You may well recognise the old public toilet opposite St Luke’s Church. It’s been locked shut for about a decade now. There’s a longer and more fascinating history to this building, though – it’s a Grade I-listed summer house, built in about 1630 and designed by Inigo Jones.

If it was in Greenwich, it’d be cherished. If it was in Woolwich, developers would probably have bulldozed it for “investment opportunities”. This is Charlton, though, so it’s just sat there, closed.

Now Severndroog Castle is back in rude health, it’s probably the most neglected historic building in Greenwich borough. It quietly passed from the council to the Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust in July 2014 – so it’s now their job to decide what to do with it.

If the centre of Charlton is to be regenerated, the trust is going to have to play a big part in that. It’s recently found a long-term tenant for Charlton Assembly Rooms, which was recently refurbished by Greenwich Council, but what future is there for the summer house?

We’d like to make a small suggestion. This could make a brilliant place for people to try out small businesses. A former public toilet near Loughborough Junction station is being used for just that – and there’s no reason why we think this can’t happen in Charlton.

Cider I Up, Loughborough Junction

The Platform Cider Bar at Loughborough Junction. The building has also been used as a bike market, jewellery shop and cosmetics retailer.

The Platform is a project backed by Lambeth Council and Meanwhile Space.

If you’ve got a business idea, The Platform gives you training and advice, and then allows you to try out your dream in one of three locations – two railway arches and an old toilet at Ridgway Road.

The best-known use for the Ridgway Road toilet has been as a cider bar – it’s well worth a visit if it reopens – but the space has also been used for a farm shop, art gallery, workshops, bicycle market, organic cosmetics shop and jewellery shop.

Perhaps a cider bar next to a pub might not work out (or maybe it would if you avoided matchdays?), but putting the summer house to good use for small businesses is certainly better than leaving it empty. It’s just an idea – and if Charlton’s fortunes are to be revived, it seems like a very good one to us.

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Valley House: Greenwich councillors throw out nine-storey Charlton block

Valley House render

Greenwich Council’s planning board has thrown out plans for a nine-storey block of 74 flats on Woolwich Road – even after the developer agreed to remove the “poor doors” so residents of social and private housing shared the same entrance and facilities.

Councillors had demanded the scheme be deferred in July because of concerns about the “poor doors”, but at also because of the size and density of the development, which faces two-storey homes.

Concerns had been dismissed by council officers, who said in a report: “In an evolving area such as this, it is not practical or even reasonable to expect a developer to mirror the low density of the two-storey terraces on the southern side of Woolwich Road, as the opportunity to provide both market and affordable housing would be missed.”

But in a surprising decision, the nine-strong board dismissed the scheme. Four councillors – Ray Walker, Peter Brooks, Harry Singh and Mehboob Khan – backed the proposal. But four voted against and one, Angela Cornforth, abstained. As planning chair Mark James was one of those opposing the scheme.

Council leader Denise Hyland – the only London borough leader who sits on their council’s main planning committee – was absent due to an engagement elsewhere, as was regeneration cabinet member Danny Thorpe.

A CGI from architects Chassay & Last.

A CGI from architects Chassay & Last.

28 objections had been received for the scheme, which objector David Gayther called “the most important development here for years”. Residents’ groups had feared approval would set a precedent for the forthcoming new Charlton Riverside masterplan, which observers say is likely to feature demands for more tall buildings by the Thames.

Objectors were led by the Charlton Central Residents Association – whose area, which is south of the railway line, does not cover Valley House. Representative Anne Waite lambasted the lack of measures to deal with poor air quality in the area, saying “we’ve got rid of poor doors and replaced them with poor floors”.

Fellow resident Linda Waite picked holes in the planning document, highlighting a “sloppy use of cut and paste” which appeared to recommend councillors approve a completely separate application. She branded it a “pick and mix” of what recommendations from the masterplan were accepted and which were ignored.

Greenwich Conservation Group’s Philip Binns said there was no indication the developer had even considered reducing the height of the building.

But a representative of the developer denied the scheme “disrespected” loals, and said losing the top two floors would have a disproportionate impact on the number of “affordable” homes that could be provided – which was only 18.9%.

Eltham West councillor Ray Walker said he “couldn’t see the impact on existing residential amenity”, but chair Cllr James said he did not think the scheme conformed with the current Charlton Riverside masterplan. He joined Geoff Brighty, Christine Grice and Nuala Geary in voting down the proposal.

Two other controversial planning applications – one to replace the rear of Charlton Conservative Club with housing, the other the expansion of a care home on Victoria Way, go before a separate planning committee on Tuesday.

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New Our Lady of Grace school approved for disused Highcombe playing field site

new Our Lady of Grace School on Highcombe

Developer Galliford Try’s image of the new Our Lady of Grace School on Highcombe

Plans to rebuild Our Lady of Grace primary school on a disused playing field in Highcombe were passed by Greenwich Council last night, despite a 100-signature petition signed by neighbours who oppose the development.

The scheme, passed unanimously by the nine councillors on the planning board, will see the Roman Catholic school move down the hill from its Charlton Road site to open space last used by the former St Austin’s comprehensive school and its successor, Christ The King sixth form college.

The school building was demolished when Christ the King moved to Lewisham in the early 1990s and was replaced with housing, but the playing field remained in church ownership and was left abandoned. The land and Highcombe itself have long been a blackspot for flytipping.

It will enable the school to double its intake to 420 pupils, at a time when primary school places are in high demand. Vehicles will enter via Highcombe – 18 staff parking spaces are being provided – with deliveries using Lime Kiln Close.

The new school could be open as early as September 2016 – a factor in councillors wanting to approve the application now instead of wanting to defer it to iron out issues with those who live near the site.

With a shortage of school places in Greenwich borough, planning chair Mark James said that as community open space can be used for education, “that is the overriding consideration” in the case. Councillors did call for a community garden to be included on the site.

Our Lady of Grace site render

Neighbours are concerned about increased car traffic on adjacent side roads as well as the loss of open space – the 1992 planning agreement for Lime Kiln Drive stated the site was to remain for recreation – with some calling for the school to be rebuilt on its existing site or at the Blackheath Bluecoat site on Old Dover Road. There are also concerns about a “multi-use games area” alongside the school.

Charlton ward councillor Gary Parker led objectors, saying the development would add to the “significant” amount of traffic caused by parents and staff driving to schools in the immediate area. He asked for the application to be deferred.

Martina Keating of the Charlton Central Residents’ Association – whose area doesn’t cover Highcombe – complained the group had not been invited to consultation events. She was also concerned about effects from building the school, adding that piling work at the Sainsbury’s site could be heard from Charlton Village.

Keating said the application had a “rosy view” of car parking – adding that most current Our Lady of Grace staff and pupils came by car. She was also concerned about claims that Victoria Way was a “quiet road” that was suitable for pupils to use to cycle to school, particularly with an increase in traffic caused by new superstore development.

Caroline Love of Charlton Community Gardens pointed out that her group was formed through unsuccessful negotiations with Southwark Diocese to use the land, lamenting the loss of potential for a “community-managed local park”

Local resident Richard Lovegrove, who presented a 100-strong petition from immediate neighbours, said the area would struggle to cope with traffic and branded the scheme a “dangerous, flawed proposal”. Another resident referred to a 1914 covenant on the land which he said meant the owners “must not cause noise or nuisance to neighbours”.

But a father of a child at Our Lady of Grace school, Mark Adams, said there was a “silent majority” in favour of the scheme, claiming most parents there did not drive.

Representatives of the scheme said it was impossible to rebuild the school on its current site due to the listed buildings next to it, and in any case they didn’t own the land there. They added that a scheme to hire out the playing field at “reasonable” rates had failed.

The current site of Our Lady of Grace is not included in the planning application. A previous application covering both sites failed in 2014 because of worries about housing planned for the land where the school sits now.

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Burglary down, car crime up – Charlton ward crime stats now available

Police in Floyd Road on a matchday

Greenwich Council’s Community Safety & Environment Scrutiny Panel took a look at the key performance measures set by the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) on Thursday night, and the Charlton ward-level results make interesting reading.

Comparison with neighbouring wards will raise questions about neighbourhood policing policies, and police community support officer (PCSO) numbers locally.

It’s worth noting that Charlton ward has retained its dedicated PCSO, while other wards – such as Kidbrooke with Hornfair, which covers the southern part of SE7 – share with neighbouring wards. The Metropolitan Police is considering getting rid of all 1,000 PCSOs in London.

Key year-on-year results include:

  • A decline in reported burglaries; residential and non-residential
  • A decline in reported robberies
  • A significant (63%) increase in reported vehicle thefts
  • An increase in reported thefts from vehicles
  • decrease in reported theft from the person
  • An increase in reported criminal damage
  • An increase in reported violence against the person.

Click the tables below to enlarge them and get a more detailed view of the data, plus comparison with wards across the borough:MOPAC_1MOPAC_2MOPAC_3

The original data can be found on the council’s website. Cllr Chris Lloyd of Peninsula ward has called on the council to make this data more readily available to residents:

Thanks to Cllr Lloyd for tweeting from last night’s meeting. The MOPAC Dashboard gives more information on the London-wide picture for reported crimes.

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St Richard’s Church Hall – your views wanted on its future

St Richard's Church Hall, 16 September 2015

You might not know about St Richard’s Church Hall – it’s tucked away on Swallowfield Road, just off Victoria Way. It’s an important venue for the Charlton Central Residents Association as well as other local groups. It’s run by St Luke’s Church, which is seeking your views on its future. It says…

The Parochial Church Council (PCC) of St Luke’s Church, Charlton is seeking views for the future use of St Richard’s Church Hall. Terms of reference as follows have been agreed:

“To identify and assess all possible options for the future of St Richard’s, taking into account:

* the value of St Richard’s in advancing the Christian mission of the parish;

* the running costs, maintenance costs, depreciation and likely capital cost requirements for St Richard’s as it stands;

* the potential revenue from the use of St Richard’s by community groups and others;

* the options for promoting the use of St Richard’s and increasing the role it plays in the community;

* alternative options for moving forward; and

* to report back to the PCC by 30 November 2015.

St Richard’s is an important venue that could have a bright future – indeed, considering the costly room hire costs at Charlton House and the Assembly Rooms, the loss of the Conservative Club and the shrinking of the Liberal Club, community space is at a premium in Charlton. If you want to feed into the consultation, visit its website to find out how.

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What’s the future for Charlton House? Get inside and take a look around this Sunday

Charlton House

Ever walked past Charlton House and wondered what’s inside? You’ll be able to take free tours one the capital’s best surviving Jacobean mansions this Sunday as part of the annual Open House London event.

The 400-year-old Grade I-listed building features original period detail including wood panelling and plasterwork. The tours are run by the Friends of Charlton House and it’s a chance to get to know a fascinating building whose importance to the area is often overlooked.

It also comes during a period of change for the house, which was spun off by Greenwich Council last year into the Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust, along with its heritage centre in Woolwich and some war memorials.

The past year has mainly been spent setting up the trust and finding its feet – we’re told disentangling its computer systems from that of the council has been a challenge. If you look inside, it’ll be obvious that the building is in need of refurbishment, and the independent charity is charged with finding a sustainable future for the house.

The archway in the house’s grounds needs work done to it, and the trust recently got a £35,000 grant to fund a survey of the whole site.

Currently, the house runs as a community centre, and is also home to the borough’s least-used lending library, a Japanese language school, Charlton Toy Library, and the Mulberry Tea Rooms – bafflingly only usually open during weekday day times. It’s also frequently hired out for weddings.

We’ve written before about the shaky publicity given to events there – the trust has taken some steps to address that, although billing Charlton House in a press release for Open House as being in “the heart of Greenwich” suggests the old local authority mindset perhaps hasn’t quite gone away.

The trust also has the old summer house opposite St Luke’s Church (most recently used as a public toilet) and the Charlton Assembly Rooms (the red brick building at the Woolwich end of the village) – so it’ll be a big player in any discussion about the future of Charlton. It hasn’t inherited the stable buildings next door to the house, which remain in council hands.

William Morris Gallery, 2 July 2015

The future? The William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow, restored by Waltham Forest Council in 2012

What’s the future for Charlton House? Maybe one clue is over in Walthamstow, where the William Morris Gallery – the former home of the celebrated designer – reopened in 2012 after a multi-million pound revamp. It now houses a museum devoted to Morris as well as guest exhibitions. On a sunny weekday visit in early July, it was doing a roaring trade.

Interestingly, Waltham Forest Council still owns the 1740s building and obtained funding as part of an Olympic legacy project. In Charlton, it’s the new trust that’s been left with the mammoth job of finding a new future for the district’s most historic building.

If you want to find out more about the building’s past and present, pop along on Sunday and take a look. As for the future, your thoughts would be welcome below.

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