Fix the 53: Greenwich councillors turn bus motion into political squabble

A 53 to Lambeth North

Greenwich councillors passed a motion last night calling on Transport for London to restore the 53 bus service to Whitehall – but added digs at Tory mayor Boris Johnson at the same time.

The bus has been running short from Plumstead to Lambeth North since a short-notice “temporary” closure in January to allow for roadworks at Westminster Bridge.

Even though the Westminster works have long been completed, TfL is continuing to curtail services at Lambeth North, insisting the cut is needed because of roadworks at Elephant & Castle and Lewisham.

Following a petition from the Charlton Society, which you can still sign, Conservative leader Matt Hartley proposed a motion calling on the council to demand the route is fully reinstated.

He noted efforts from both parties on the council, plus the Liberal Democrats at City Hall, to get the service restored. “It’s clear to me that Transport for London has got this operational decision wrong,” he said.

But Greenwich’s regeneration and transport cabinet member Danny Thorpe proposed a rival motion, stripping out the credit to the Charlton Society and inserting a dig at the rise in bus fares since Johnson became mayor in 2008.

“A single trip on that bus costs 67 percent more than it did when the mayor of London took office, and now passengers are suffering delays, diversions and curtailments,” he said.

“Residents deserve a mayor who will spend less time insulting black cab drivers and more time delivering benefits for Londoners,” he added, before criticising the Conservatives for reawarding the local rail franchise to Southeastern last year (worth nothing here that Labour awarded Southeastern its first franchise when it was reprivatised in 2006).

Then Plumstead councillor Matt Morrow criticised the Conservatives for bringing the motion, asking why they couldn’t deal with a Tory mayor. “I ask members to have some sympathy for the Conservatives, who find themselves impotent on this issue,” he said.

Woolwich Common councillor David Gardner and Charlton representative Allan MacCarthy stuck to the issue. “This is nothing more than an attack on the working poor who depend on this bus, and on south-east London,” Gardner said, branding the cut “a cheap cost-cutting measure” by TfL.

Responding for the Tories, Eltham South councillor Matt Clare said to laughter, “I can assure Cllr Morrow that we’re not impotent over here”, before criticising the Labour amendment, adding: “This is about getting the bus back to Whitehall. Not about whether you like the current mayor.”

Wrapping up for Labour, Danny Thorpe said there was “no point getting angry about partisan politics”, adding that Hartley could have approached Labour privately to propose a joint motion.

In the end, the Labour motion was passed, calling on TfL to restore the route to Whitehall, but adding: “A single trip on the 53 bus will now cost £1.50, a 67 percent increase than when the Mayor took office in 2008. The curtailment of this route does not represent a fair deal for residents of Greenwich.”

The Charlton Society’s petition can still be signed at Change.org.

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Charlton Sainsbury’s: First look inside the brand new store

Charlton Sainsbury's, 24 June 2015

Some local blogs do the opening of new pop-up boutique vintage street food cat cafes. In Charlton, we get to do whacking great supermarkets.

Charlton Sainsbury's, 24 June 2015
Charlton Sainsbury's, 24 June 2015

16 years ago, Jamie Oliver opened the “eco” Sainsbury’s at east Greenwich. That store closed without ceremony last night, and the supermarket giant has reopened a mile down the road, in a less impressive building.

Today’s opening didn’t have anyone off the telly there, but it did have new local MP Matt Pennycook and Greenwich Council’s regeneration cabinet member Danny Thorpe on hand for the inevitable photocall for weekly council rag Greenwich Time.

Maybe Danny Thorpe brought up the matter of the store flouting planning rules over its giant signs? Who knows. Doubt you’ll read any of that in Greenwich Time.

Charlton Sainsbury's, 24 June 2015
Charlton Sainsbury's, 24 June 2015

With a brief apology for keeping us all waiting, the store opened to the public at the stroke of nine o’clock.

So what’s it like inside? Well, there’s a greater emphasis on homeware, electricals and clothing. And it’s a bit weird walking through a perfectly-stocked supermarket where nobody’s bought anything yet.

Charlton Sainsbury's, 24 June 2014
Charlton Sainsbury's, 24 June 2015
Charlton Sainsbury's, 24 June 2015
Charlton Sainsbury's, 24 June 2015
Charlton Sainsbury's, 24 June 2015
Charlton Sainsbury's, 24 June 2015

In short, it looks like any other supermarket. What did you expect?

But it’ll be a rude shock for those used to the curved lines and natural daylight of the Greenwich store – likely to be flattened and replaced with an Ikea, although the Swedish furniture giant doesn’t have detailed planning permission yet.

Charlton Sainsbury's, 24 June 2015

So, how will the new store do? It’ll certainly lose some custom in the short term – Transport for London has refused developer funds to help extend bus route 202 from Blackheath to the new store, and many Greenwich Millennium Village residents may decide it’s a schlep too far.

With the trends towards home delivery and smaller stores, it’ll be interesting to see how things pan out. A wider range of goods may encourage customers to stay longer. It’s worth noting this new store is not a 24-hour branch. And with the newish Sainsbury’s Local on Charlton Church Lane thriving, the chain is clearly hedging its bets.

How the new store fits in with its surroundings is an issue. I’m not sure it stands up to past promises made to local groups. Rat-running and traffic is likely to be a problem. Access isn’t particularly cycle-friendly. And the new pedestrian crossing – which appears to be in the wrong place – has been already been hit by a driver.

Charlton M&S, 24 June 2015

But the next part of the story comes in a couple of weeks – for M&S is opening on 9 July. It’s likely this retail complex will be both a benefit and a burden – just how much of each, we’ll see in the weeks and months to come.

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Des res, overlooking the Blackwall Tunnel approach – new flats and office space for Bramshot Avenue?

 A ‘Sold’ board has gone up on the vacant plot at the western end of Bramshot Avenue. Property developers Kingsbury Consulting show the site as being ‘Sold for development’ on their website, with planning permission for ‘7 apartments and commercial'; the site is bounded by the approach road to the Metropolitan Police car pound, and overlooks the A102.

Full details of the planning application – approved back in September 2013 – can be found on the council’s planning website; search for Ref 13/1887/F or ‘Bramshot’. The plans indicate a 4 storey building with 7 flats above a single office space, parking for 9 cars, plus a ‘green roof’. We’ve seen no indication yet as to when building may take place.

Bramshot

 

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Our Lady Of Grace school has another go at rebuilding – have your say on Highcombe plan

Our Lady Of Grace school on Charlton Road has submitted a revised planning application for a ‘two form entry primary school‘, to be built on the long-disused playing field off Highcombe, below their current premises. The key difference from their previous – rejected – application, appears to be that the main entrance to the school would be from Highcombe, rather than Lime Kiln Drive (though the cul-de-sac would still house a service entrance and emergency exit). Charlton Community Gardens have raised concerns about the loss of land that has been designated Community Open Space in the council’s local plan. There’s an open meeting at Blackheath Rugby Club to discuss the plans on Monday 22nd June, starting 7pm with a presentation of the plans. The latest plans and documentation can be found on the council’s planning portal: search for application 15/1225/F, or “Highcombe”.

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Charlton’s White Swan shuts its doors as property developer Mendoza takes charge

White Swan, 16 June 2015

5.20pm update: The plot thickens as we’re hearing the pub has opened its doors again… read on for how things stood this morning.

The White Swan pub in Charlton Village has closed, possibly for the last time, after its tenants were evicted on Monday.

Multiple reports on social media say bailiffs threw out the pub’s current managers and changed the locks. The building is now deserted, with a sign on the door asking staff to text their details to a telephone number.

The pub was sold by Punch Taverns in March, with Isle of Man-based property developer Mendoza Ltd picking it up for £900,000.

Mendoza specialises in building above licensed premises, a process which often makes them unviable. In 2012 it evicted the tenants running Lewisham gay bar Two8Six in a similar fashion.

The firm’s also been linked with the closure of the Grosvenor pub/venue in Stockwell through related company Golfrate, as well as its near neighbour The Beehive.

Over in north London, Mendoza and Golfrate doubled the rent on the Sovereign pub in Camden, reportedly leaving its 68-year-old landlord homeless. And in the east, TV presenter Stephen Mulhern was involved in a battle to save his brother’s pub, the Duke of Wellington in Spitalfields, earlier this year after Mendoza announced redevelopment plans.

Last year, Lewisham Council gave permission for extensions to the residential units above Two8Six – a new bar has appeared on the ground floor but doesn’t appear to have opened. Lambeth refused permission for flats above the Grosvenor in Stockwell, which now lies empty, but permitted development above the Beehive. Tower Hamlets has not yet taken a decision on the Duke of Wellington.

It certainly could be the end for the Swan as we know it – although there is the chance a smaller, quieter venue could emerge on the bottom floor, if Greenwich Council blocks any application to change its use.

The tight timescale and huge asking price meant it was always going to be a big, big ask for the community group which looked into saving the White Swan. But given Mendoza’s reputation, we can only assume the group’s sources were deliberately misled when they were told the pub was going to an existing operator.

Meanwhile, further along the village, the Bugle Horn is on the market for £1.5m, with a new manager determined to turn its fortunes around and keep it in business.

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Huge Charlton Sainsbury’s sign refused permission, huge Charlton Sainsbury’s sign appears anyway

Charlton Sainsbury's, 16 June 2015

A week to go until the new Charlton Sainsbury’s opens (9am on Wednesday 24 June, with M&S due to follow three weeks later), but there had been a set-back for the supermarket – Greenwich Council refused plans to stick a giant four-metre high illuminated logo on the store roof, along with a smaller sign by Bugsby’s Way and a totem facing Woolwich Road.

Council refusal letter

Except that this week… a giant four-metre high sign has appeared on the store roof, along with a smaller sign by Bugsby’s Way and a totem facing Woolwich Road.

Charlton Sainsbury's, 16 June 2014

Looks a bit like something’s dribbling out of the lettering…

No, we don’t know what’s happening either. Nor are we quite sure why the next door M&S also features a whacking great big sign (our best guess is it may not have needed permission as it’s partly below roof level). But we are trying to find out.

Greenwich Council's refusal

Of course, there are bigger issues with a whacking great big supermarket in a residential area – traffic, wasted space, and the building’s very existence when we desperately need new homes. But if the small things (such as a sign) can’t be fixed, what hope is there for the big things?

Thanks to Pete M for the tip-off.

4.20pm update: A very quick response from Greenwich Council, which says it has opened investigations into both the Sainsbury’s and M&S signage.

18 June update: Greenwich Council’s confirmed the M&S sign does have planning permission, given last December.

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Nine months to prove a new-look Bugle Horn can work. Charlton, can we save this historic pub?

The Bugle Horn: Come on in, the Harvey's Best Bitter is lovely

The Bugle Horn has new management determined to turn Charlton’s most famous old boozer around – but they don’t have long to prove themselves. With owners Punch Taverns already planning a sale, will the Charlton community rally round to save the pub?

The Charlton Champion sent a drinking party into the pub last night, and we’re pleased to report the changes have already begun. The England flags have gone, while the TV screens have been switched off – no more Sky Sports News on 24/7. Whisper it quietly – there’s a decent jukebox in there, and it’s currently free. And what’s even more welcome – the bar staff actually say hello to you when you come in.

Let’s be frank. The old Bugle wasn’t the most welcoming of places. We wish the old management well, but they made it clear that they saw themselves as managing decline. Strangers didn’t exactly get the warmest of welcomes either – one night after a Charlton home match, a couple of us watched as a customer was bawled out for the crime of asking for a pint of Coke. “We don’t serve Coke in pints here!” (He got his pint in the end.)

The old Bugle wasn’t a place you could take your pals. When we planned the old Charlton Champion meet-ups, it was with some embarrassment that we realised we honestly couldn’t use the two pubs in the village because they were so unwelcoming.

But all that’s changing. Forget the past. It’s safe to drink in the Bugle again.

Wasted space: This car park could become a farmers' market

New manager Stephen Ruffle’s come in with a brief to sharpen up the old pub’s act. He’s already done a good job of The Honor Oak in Forest Hill – a fine pub with a wide range of customers. Now he wants to see if he can do the same in Charlton.

But there isn’t long. The Charlton Champion has discovered that estate agents have been in, with Punch Taverns wanting to get the Bugle off its books. Effectively, there’s about nine months to turn the place around. If the Bugle is to stay as a pub, it needs support. So it needs you to drink in there.

To lure you inside, the kitchen’s getting a desperately-needed revamp. Once that’s done, the pub’s promising reasonably-priced, quality food.

Stephen’s also got plans for a quiz night, an open mic night and live music too. A pool table’s coming in – and the women’s darts team are coming back. Even better, he’s looking at using the car park at the back of the pub – an enormous wasted space – for a farmer’s market.

The Bugle’s got heaps of potential, and Stephen’s open to ideas – so pop in and say hello to him or Louis, who’s taking care of things day-today there.

If you’re one of those people who have grumbled about the lack of decent pubs in Charlton – well, now’s your chance to help create one. If buyers see a thriving pub, they’re more likely to keep it that way.

We’ll be doing our bit by having a Charlton Champion meet-up there soon – watch for the date. But in the meantime, if you’ve got a thirst on, you don’t have to schlep to Greenwich or Blackheath any more – it’s time to rediscover the Bugle.

You can follow the Bugle Horn on Twitter (@TheBugleHornPub) or on Facebook.

UPDATE, 16 June: The Bugle Horn is now on the market for £1.5 millon.

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