‘The Essence of Love’ – latest production from The Alexandra Players

News of The Alexandra Players’ latest production:

THE ESSENCE OF LOVE

By Philip Ayckbourn; directed by Janet Denne

Thursday 28th, Friday 29th & Saturday 30th May 2015 – 8.00pm. Doors open 30 minutes before curtain up. The Alexandra Hall, Bramshot Avenue, SE7 7HY

A mother and her daughter; a father and his son find themselves on neighbouring hotel terraces in Marrakesh. Add in a local trader with something very potent up his sleeve, all kinds of mayhem ensue! A lively comedy-farce that takes a wry look at the madness of infatuation and what remains when passions have run their course.

Seats cost £9.00 each (£8.00 for concessions) and can be reserved online here, by texting the box office on 07867 627 987 or by sending an email to alexandraplayers@gmail.com.

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Weekend night buses for route 486, but cut planned for the N1

London Central VWL37 on N1
Charlton’s late-night stop-outs are set to get a weekend night service on bus route 486 when the Night Tube service starts this September, according to plans unveiled by Transport for London yesterday.

But weekend users of the existing N1 service face seeing their service cut from three buses an hour to just two, if TfL’s current scheme goes ahead.

TfL is altering the night bus network so it complements the Night Tube, which is due to begin on 12 September.

At least six trains per hour will run in the small hours of Saturday and Sunday mornings across the Jubilee Line, with night services introduced on routes 132 and 486 to serve passengers at North Greenwich alongside current 24-hour routes 108, 188 and 472.

The 486 will get a half-hourly service across its full route through Greenwich Millennium Village, Charlton, Shooters Hill and out to Bexleyheath.

But route N1, the existing night service linking Tottenham Court Road with Deptford, Greenwich, Charlton, Woolwich, Plumstead and Thamesmead, will be less frequent at weekends.

It currently runs two buses an hour on weeknights and three at weekends. This will drop to two under the plan, which also sees it run via Evelyn Street in Deptford rather than serving the Pepys Estate, which gets a new N199 service.

Presumably TfL feels fewer people will use the N1 once the Night Tube begins, but the bus still picks up large numbers of people outside the West End, particularly at Elephant and Castle. The cut also penalises shift workers who will still depend on the service running in the other direction.

There are no changes planned to the area’s other night routes, the 24-hour 53 to Plumstead and the N89 to Erith.

One trick that Transport for London may have missed is in route 132, which is due to run fast via the Blackwall Tunnel approach to the Sun-in-the-Sands roundabout – as it does during the day – rather than via Westcombe Hill and Blackheath Standard, which would make it more useful to many passengers from Charlton and Blackheath.

To see the full proposals and to comment, visit Transport for London’s website.

Photo: London Central VWL37 on N1 – © John King

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70 firefighters battle blaze at Charlton Sainsbury’s depot

People living near the Sainsbury’s depot in Lombard Wall, Charlton, were told to close their doors and windows after a fire sent smoke billowing across the area.

The fire followed explosions that were heard across the area, and the resulting smoke could reportedly be seen as far away as Twickenham.

At its peak, London Fire Brigade said 70 firefighters were battling the blaze, has set part of the warehouse and six lorries alight.

The Charlton Champion‘s Matt Clinch at the scene reports that the fire is thought to have started on a truck in the loading bay, and that everyone in the depot has been accounted for.

Bugsby’s Way remains closed with traffic diverted down Gallions Road, past the supermarket giant’s as-yet-unopened new store. Buses are being delayed by 20 minutes, Transport for London reports.

From London Fire Brigade:

Station Manager Bruce Grain who is at the scene, said: “The fire is affecting six lorries and part of the warehouse which measures 150m by 70m. Local road closures are in place and motorists are advised to avoid the area.”

The fire is not causing any impact on flights to and from nearby London City Airport.

The Brigade was called at 1608. Crews from Greenwich, East Greenwich, New Cross, Deptford, Plumstead, Lee Green, Poplar and Shadwell fire stations are at the scene. The cause of the fire is not known at this stage.

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Cheerio to the Charlton Mercury

The Charlton Mercury: Closed after just 19 months

The Charlton Mercury: Closed after just 19 months


Charlton lost its very own local newspaper last week, but did you even know it existed? The Charlton Mercury, founded out of the existing Mercury title, has published its final edition after just 19 months in existence.

The paper launched in September 2013 as part of a move by its parent company, Tindle Newspapers, to produce ultra-local editions across London. The firm had already started producing area-specific editions of the South London Press, and the Charlton paper joined a Blackheath edition and one for “Greenwich Town”.

Essentially, the papers shared the same content apart from a different front page and a couple of different inside pages per area. All three papers have now been replaced once again by the free Greenwich Mercury – although that paper is a far cry from the one that dominated the local news market in this area in the 1980s and 1990s.

Company founder Sir Ray Tindle – who fiercely believes in the power of newsprint over digital journalism – said at the time the ultra-local papers had “reversed the [downward] circulation trend and added substantially to local revenues”.

The strategy to split the Mercury looked crackers at the time, and has clearly bombed. None of the ultra-local papers were delivered through letter boxes, and very little content was put online – they were sold through newsagents for 30p, a risky strategy in an area which hasn’t had a paid-for local newspaper since the Kentish Independent folded in 1984.

Save for some cheap-looking A4 ads in newsagent windows, they weren’t advertised. And Tindle didn’t invest in staffing, so producing the extra papers was just an extra burden on an already-skeleton staff (a reporting staff of one – Greenwich reporter Mandy Little). And the strain occasionally showed – the final Blackheath edition had simply given up and splashed on a story about something in Brockley.

But the Charlton version, on the whole, wasn’t bad at all – there were enough local groups such as the Charlton Society, the Charlton Central Residents Association, the Big Red Bus Club and others who were able to supply stories. Which is, frankly, miraculous, because Charlton is a very quiet news patch – if I was starting an ultra-local paper, I’d try Woolwich or Eltham.

Charlton Live: The News Shopper's short-lived attempt at a local site

Charlton Live: The News Shopper’s short-lived attempt at a local site

So why choose Charlton? I wonder if the existence of the Charlton Champion had something to do with it – perhaps some bright spark piped up “Greenwich Phantom, Blackheath Bugle, Charlton Champion – let’s go into those areas, they must be busy”.

Indeed, in 2011 the News Shopper toyed with launching a local site for Charlton called Charlton Live (pictured above), but then decided not to bother going through with it, presumably after seeing how quiet a news patch SE7 is. Out of all the areas the Shopper covers, I wonder why it picked here?

Sadly, the Shopper is also losing jobs and is moving to Sutton (making the Mercury’s Streatham base look local), which is another hammer blow for journalism in south-east London. It’s another story for another place but in this particular area, the existence of council weekly Greenwich Time, which undercuts rivals’ ad rates, continues to be a real problem for publishers.

Priceless: Me and the newsagent settled on 30p for this Greenwich Mercury

Priceless: Me and the newsagent settled on 30p for this Greenwich Mercury

But then again, I’m not sure the local press owners really understand what they’re doing, other than desperately trying bleed their titles for every last penny of profit. Axing the Charlton, Blackheath and “Greenwich Town” titles isn’t meaning the Mercury team can concentrate on a really good borough-wide Mercury.

In fact, it’s the opposite – they’re now producing free editions for Woolwich, Plumstead, Abbey Wood & Thamesmead and Catford.

As for Charlton, we’re left with a Greenwich Mercury that’s not delivered through letterboxes. Instead, you have to hunt it down in a newsagent. Last week, I found a Greenwich Mercury in the third newsagent I went into.

When I went to pay, I noticed there was no cover price and no bar code. With business genius like that, it’s time to start praying for future of the Mercury.

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Fix the 53: Charlton Society launches petition to restore full bus service to Whitehall

A 53 to Lambeth North
If you use buses regularly, you’ll have noticed January’s sudden cut to route 53 caused by roadworks by Westminster Bridge. The service stopped running the full length of its route to Whitehall, depriving many local workers, from cleaners to civil servants, of their usual route to central London.

The diggers have moved away from Bridge Street, but initial dates for the restoration of service in March and then April have been missed. Transport for London blames new works at the Elephant & Castle for continuing to stop the service at Lambeth North. However, no other bus through the Elephant is suffering such a severe cut in service.

Now the Charlton Society (declaration of interest: I’m on its committee) has launched a petition to get the route back to is full strength once again. To sign it, visit Change.org.

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Sign of the times? New Sainsbury’s could be topped by giant logo

Sainsburys plan
Final work is taking place at Charlton’s new Sainsbury’s/ M&S complex, which will come to life in six weeks – the ‘old’ Greenwich Sainsbury’s set to close on Tuesday 23 June with its Charlton replacement opening its doors the following the day.

Charlton Sainsbury's

Some bits of work still need to be done, though – such as signage. If you’re expecting the new store to have subtle signs, think again – a giant four-metre high Sainsbury’s logo is due to be plonked on the roof of the store, according an application sent to Greenwich planners.

Sainsbury's recruitment ad

It’s a far cry from the more subtle sign that sits below the roof level of the Greenwich store – an image of which is still being used on recruitment ads for the new outlet.

If you’ve any strong views on the signs, be sure to let Greenwich planners know – head to the council’s planning website and search for reference 15/0835/A – comments need to be in by 26 May, which is leaving the timescales rather tight…

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Skaters’ dream or council stitch-up? The latest on the Charlton Park skate park saga

The Charlton skate park options - A, close to the mini-gym; B, across the other side of the old athletics track; C. away from homes by Charlton Park Lane

The Charlton skate park options – A, close to the mini-gym; B, across the other side of the old athletics track; C. away from homes by Charlton Park Lane

Paul Chapman reports on the latest meeting of the Charlton Park skatepark stakeholders group:

I went along to a recent skate park stakeholders meeting at Woolwich Town Hall on Friday and thought I’d report back.

Although ostensibly the meeting was to report on the findings of the feasibility study and get feedback, there was also a large amount of anger directed at both the idea of a Charlton Park skate park in general, and specifically at the manner in which the consultation had taken place.

First, the feasibility study.

The initial consultation had given residents the choice of three locations, all within Charlton Park. Amy London, project manager for the Skate Park, went through the various reasons why Locations C and B had been rejected and Location A agreed upon.

The short version is that Location C (in the corner by the cemetery and the hospital) was too out-of-the-way and Location B was deemed too close to homes over the road and the horses at the Riding for the Disabled area. Location A was the preferred option, both by the public and the planners.

Originally tucked into the corner, the location has since been shifted south slightly to form an L-shape around the outdoor gym. That move was to take the park further from homes (the original location was deemed too close) but brings the park into the sightline from Charlton House. English Heritage, and others, had been consulted over the sightline and their feedback was that so long as the skate park was mostly sunken, and was surrounded properly by soft landscaping (that’s trees and bushes to you and me), then the various heritage bodies were satisfied.

At the end of the meeting a quick trip round the table suggested that all present agreed that of the options presented, the only real possibility had been chosen. Nobody doubted the ability and commitment of Amy and her team – including project architect Rob Montague – to deliver.

Sadly, most agreement ended there.

A current running throughout the meeting was anger that (a) Charlton Park was getting a skate park, full stop; and (b) that the consultation had been a fait accompli and people were only asked where in the park they wanted it, not if they wanted it. (The Charlton Champion reported on the limited options available to respondents when the consultation was launched back in November 2014.)

A skate park already exists at Royal Arsenal Gardens in Woolwich. The land has been sold to Berkeley Homes and the council has received Section 106 money with which to replace the facility. Conditions on the money state that the replacement facility must be within 2 miles of the existing facility and the council, at a meeting last year, deemed Charlton Park the only suitable venue. So a skate park we shall have.

To put my own cards on the tablem I would be happy to see a skate park in the suggested location. I have two young children and I think they would love it (figures quoted at the meeting suggest around 80% of users of skate parks are small kids on scooters).

I also think Charlton Park has plenty of space and losing a relatively small amount of grass (1,000 square metres) is acceptable if the facility is of a high standard (nobody wants a bad skate park). It’s also a view shared by many parents I know.

Max-scooter (1)

But others at the meeting disagreed, often vehemently, and argued in particular that a skate park would generate a large amount of noise and would ‘destroy’ the tranquility of the park and specifically the oasis of calm that is the Old Cottage Coffee Shop.

At least one meeting member had signed this petition, raised by a newly formed Friends of Charlton Park group, to oppose the skate park.

I contacted the site via social media asking who exactly these Friends were but received no reply. The coffee shop also has a written petition inside inviting people to oppose the skate park.

The anger felt by some at the meeting at the skate parks proximity to the Coffee Shop was compounded by the fact that members of the public were not given an option to vote ‘None of the Above’ in the initial consultation.

As one angry coffee-drinker put it: “It is as if someone has moved into your house, but given you a choice of wallpaper that they will put up.”

While conceding that consultation had been poor, members of the local skating community at the meeting were quick to point out that Charlton Park was a facility for everybody and at the moment skaters were poorly served in the borough; Royal Arsenal Gardens is the only skate park at present, and that is destined to become flats. To add insult to injury there was talk of a new byelaw (or possibly the use of existing ones, details were sketchy) to stop skateboarders in General Gordon Square and other public spaces.

It’s hard to escape the view that skaters are seen as a blot on the landscape and are being shoved out of view of the shiny new Woolwich.

Another point made by a local skater was that the BMX track at Hornfair Park had attracted similar concern over antisocial behaviour but those fears had not been realised. There was no reason to suggest a skate park would be any different.

And so the meeting wound to a close with a general consensus that the decisions taken so far by Amy and the team were the correct ones.

However, there remained a strong sense that the park was being imposed on residents by a council in a hurry to ‘fix’ a problem they had bought on themselves through their sale of land to Berkeley Homes. There was concern raised that the three local Charlton ward councillors appeared to be doing little to facilitate local concerns.

There will be further consultation on the design of the skate park, with work due to start in February 2016 and the skate park opening later that year.

The “stakeholders forum” is ongoing and a trip is planned to see both a good and a bad skate park in London so people can see for themselves what works and what doesn’t.

Amy would welcome more local people getting involved in the process – to do so please email wheelsports-survey@royalgreenwich.gov.uk.

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