Nightswimming: late opening at Charlton Lido

The clocks have gone back and the evenings are drawing in, but there is one local benefit to the dark early evenings: swimming under the moon and stars at Charlton Lido.

Autumn opening hours have been amended following feedback at the lido’s user group meeting, and the pool is now open late on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Pool opening hours:

Monday: 7am-12pm

Tuesday: 7am-12pm & 2pm-8pm

Wednesday: 7am-12pm & 2pm-8pm

Thursday: 7am-12pm

Friday: 7am-12pm

Saturday & Sunday: 9am-3pm

This writer can’t recommend it highly enough: to swim outdoors in the dark in a heated pool is a luxury on our doorstep. It needs support, though: use it or lose it! We urge you to give it a try.

In other lido news, the cafe is currently closed until the New Year while it undergoes ‘a rebranding’ – fingers crossed it’s a little more insipiring than the previous version when it reopens. More on this when we have it.

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Charlton ward report from Cllr Gary Parker: Planning issues, Charlton House, community engagement

 Our thanks to Cllr Gary Parker, who represents Charlton ward on Greenwich Council,   for this report on what he’s been up to for residents.

We hope this will become a regular feature.

Councillor Gary Parker Report to Charlton Ward Residents

This report details some of the activities I have been involved in as a councillor in the Charlton area. It does not include surgeries or case work, which is significant.

Below is a round-up of some key issues. The council is considering new forms of engagement including area-based panels, which I hope to report to in future, if they are introduced. Otherwise I will continue to report to residents in this form as appropriate.

Planning issues

At the council meeting in July I presented two petitions to the council, one regarding the Our Lady of Grace School planning application, expressing concerns about the application – 100 people signed it. This application was passed by the planning board in September. I opposed the application and am still raising issues related to it.

The other raised concerns about the proposed Skateboard Park in Charlton Park and was signed by 735 local residents. I also spoke at the full council meeting regarding this on 28th October. While I am not opposed to a Skateboard Park in principle, there are still many unanswered questions about its proposed siting in Charlton Park. I will finally decide my position on this, once the planning application is published. The planning application is likely to go to the Planning Board in January 2016.

I have been working with the CCRA, and other local groups and individuals regarding a range of planning issues, calling in several planning applications. One in the Victoria Way area has been rejected by officers.

I called in 3 planning applications in the central Charlton area, including one for the former Conservative Club in Charlton Church Lane. It was deferred at the last area planning committee meeting in September for a site visit.

I put in a written submission opposing the Valley House planning application – a significant development which would have impacted on Charlton. This application was rejected by the Planning Board in September.

Charlton Village

I have attended the last area planning committee and spoke in favour of the planning application by the Baguette Café in Charlton Village, which was accepted by the committee.

I have also been raising issues regarding the two pubs in Charlton Village, the White Swan and the Bugle and liaising with Charlton Society and sought assurances from council officers that the council has powers to intervene, if necessary regarding any potential redevelopment of these facilities.

I also intervened to have some concrete pillars removed outside the White Swan earlier in the summer. I am pleased to see the White Swan is now thriving again under new management.

Charlton House

I am a member of the Board of the Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust and have been working with other trustees to secure the long term future of Charlton House and the other heritage assets in the Trust, which include the Heritage Centre in Woolwich and the Tudor Barn in Eltham.

We are seeking to secure funding for the upkeep of Charlton House and are committed to working with local community organisations. To that end the Chair, Len Duvall and myself attended the AGM of the Friends of Charlton House, earlier in the year and Len and other RGHT staff have been liaising with the Charlton Society and others. I strongly advocated that members of local societies should be on the board of RGHT, to that end, Roden Richardson of the Charlton Society has been appointed.

Other Recent Community Engagements/ Work

Charlton Central Residents Association – I have met regularly with CCRA members on planning and other associated issues

Charlton Society AGM – I attended the recent AGM of the Charlton Society and spoke on some planning issues

Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust – I attended the last two board meetings of RGHT

Greenwich Carers Centre – I attended the official opening of the centre in June, which is now an excellent facility for carers and their families in the borough

Divestment GreenwichI attended a meeting in July which was focused on encouraging local authorities, colleges churches and other public bodies not to invest their pension funds in fossil fuels, which exacerbate climate change. I support this campaign and have corresponded with local residents on this

Armed Forces Day- I attended this excellent event in June, which was supported by the council. It also featured the Great Get Together and associated community events.

Cleansweep Scrutiny Panel Meeting – I chaired a very successful meeting of the Community Safety & Environment Scrutiny Panel to review the Cleansweep service on 29/10/15 at which a range of community organisations in Greenwich, including some Charlton/Woolwich organisations – Charlton & Carnbrooke housing panel, CCRA and Wonderful Woolwich and other local residents and former Cleansweep staff who made individual submissions.

Panel members and officers viewed this as a great success, these organisations were given free rein to raise any issues they liked regarding the service. They received as many instant responses as possible on the night and other responses will be provided in due course – issues raised included, litter, fixed penalty notices, fly tipping, street cleaning, dog fouling and many other issues.

Happening Soon

The main Overview and Scrutiny Panel of which I am a member have produced a detailed report on community engagement, which will go to the next Cabinet Meeting for consideration and further action if approved.

There are new recommendations for community engagement, including area based panels and other new forms of engagement, which I have been lobbying for.

The Skateboard Park planning application will be presented to the Planning Board in January 2016 as detailed above.

Ward budgets for councillors are being introduced shortly, which will provide a small budget to which local organisations can apply for – more details soon.

The council’s budget will be clarified after the autumn statement by George Osborne which is due soon and the related local government funding settlement. Since 2010 the council has had 25% of its budget cut.

The community consultation process regarding the Charlton Riverside Masterplan will resume in early 2016 – more details soon.

Get in touch with Cllr Parker via the council website.

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Silvertown Tunnel consultation comes to Charlton House: Six reasons why the toxic tunnel’s a rotten idea

A102 jam

Just another soutbound jam on the A102 past Eastcombe Avenue. The Silvertown Tunnel will make this worse

The Silvertown Tunnel – the planned £1bn new road between the Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Docks – hasn’t been mentioned much on here, because this site’s main writer has banged on about it a lot over there and also helped found the No to Silvertown Tunnel campaign. I’d be boring myself, not just you, if I banged on about here too.

But with the “final” consultation into the scheme in full swing, TfL is taking its promotional roadshow to Charlton House on Saturday, between 12noon and 5pm. (It’ll also be there between 12noon-7pm on Thursday 26 November.) It’s fortunate TfL is coming to Charlton at all – documents released to this website under the Freedom of Information Act show that it wanted to go to Mycenae House, Blackheath, while Greenwich Council tried to suggest The Woolwich Centre. Charlton seems to have been a happy compromise.

This isn’t going to be even an attempt at fence-sitting. Whether you’re a resident who’s sick of fumes and jams, or a driver who just wants to get from A to B – or both, as about half of us are – then the Silvertown Tunnel is a dreadful idea. This toxic tunnel is the biggest threat to the area’s environment in many years.

You might believe that public transport is the area’s biggest priority, or you might want to see a new road built elsewhere (be careful what you wish for). But the Silvertown Tunnel is a failure from both a tree-hugging and a petrolhead point of view. Here’s why.

1. It’ll make our roads busier. It’s a well-known fact, and one that TfL concedes, that new roadbuilding has an unfortunate habit of generating new traffic. It suddenly becomes a bit easier to drive to Stratford Westfield than shop more locally, then lots of people do it too, then… you’re back at square one. TfL seeks to deter new traffic (and pay off that billion quid) by slapping a toll on not just the new tunnel, but that Blackwall Tunnel it sits next to. This is a) spending £1bn and causing an awful lot of disruption, then crossing your fingers and hoping you don’t screw it up, and b) not very fair on anyone who really does have to drive through the pipe, charging them for a journey that others in London get to do for free. Previously, TfL has admitted to a 20% increase in traffic on the approach roads – all that’s got to come from somewhere. A suppressed Greenwich Council report admitted the tunnel would overwhelm local roads.

2. It depends too heavily on the A102. The Silvertown Tunnel is aimed at curing jams approaching the northbound Blackwall Tunnel, which have blighted the area for at least the past 35 years. But it doesn’t consider the effect heading southbound, where queues through the Sun-in-the-Sands roundabout are commonplace. Last Thursday, a burst watermain at Falconwood caused congestion back through Eltham, back through Kidbrooke, and over the Woolwich Road flyover. Extra traffic generated by a Silvertown crossing would make these queues far worse. (And we’ll still get it in the neck whenever the Dartford Crossing has problems, as is happening right now.)

3. Air quality in Charlton is already foul. Studies from both the No to Silvertown Tunnel campaign and the Charlton Central Residents Association have already made clear that we’re breathing illegally polluted air. At Bramshot Avenue in January 2014, NtST measured 104 microgrammes of nitrogren dioxide per cubic metre, next to a subway used by scores of children to get to school. The EU legal limit is 40µg/m³. On Woolwich Road, close to where M&S has since been built, the level was 76µg/m³. Even in residential areas, quality is bad – CCRA recorded 54µg/m³ outside Fossdene school in February 2015, along with 38µg/m³ in sleepy Elliscombe Road. Some of Greenwich Council’s offical statistics (up to 2013) are also available. Tunnel backers will tell you that it’s about cleaning up the air by getting traffic moving – but by increasing traffic on local roads, this aim is likely to backfire.

Charlton Central Residents' Association's figures over a limited area from February 2015. The EU limit is 40, although anything in the 30s isn't great either, frankly.

Charlton Central Residents’ Association’s figures over a limited area from February 2015. The EU limit is 40, although anything in the 30s isn’t great either, frankly.

The No to Silvertown Tunnel results from January 2014.

The No to Silvertown Tunnel results from January 2014.

4. The tolling really hasn’t been thought through properly. We don’t have much experience of toll roads in this country. And judging by some of TfL’s background documents, it doesn’t have much of an idea of who uses Blackwall to go where and why. Put these two together, and you’ve got a problem. The only comparable case to compare with is Dartford, which is also heavily congested. It also appears tolling won’t be taking place at weekends – leaving Greenwich Ikea and Stratford Westfield to generate even more queues.

5. More HGVs on our roads. Sick of heavy lorries thundering through our streets? The Silvertown Tunnel will have a special HGV (and bus) lane so it can attract the lorries that can’t use the Blackwall Tunnel, before depositing them on the north side where they’ll have to find their way through several sets of traffic lights to find the A12 again. A new tunnel means more lorries at a time when we need less. (Hackney Council is objecting to the scheme on these grounds.)

6. If the tunnel is a disaster, we’re stuck with it – and its jams. Because the tunnel’s dressed up as a common-sense scheme – and what monster is against a scheme to remove traffic jams? – there’s a likelihood that many people and some politicians are sleepwalking into this. Even if Blackwall Tunnel jams are freed up for a few years, all that traffic’s got to go somewhere, and some other places will be jammed up instead. It could be Woolwich Road, it could be Greenwich town centre. TfL plans to build its way out of trouble by building new crossings at Gallions Reach and Belvedere – but what happens if they get cancelled? Curing jams is difficult. There’s no easy answer to the Blackwall queues. But just jumping for the first thing someone offers you is deeply irresponsible – and could have irrevocable consequences for this area’s future.

Want more arguments? Here’s a Silvertown Tunnel mythbusting guide.

So, it’s worth you signing up to the consultation and saying no. Contrary to what some might tell you, the tunnel isn’t a done deal – the next mayor can cancel it as soon as he or she takes office. You might like to tell Sadiq Khan and/or Zac Goldsmith you’re opposed. And tell your local councillors, MP and assembly members too. (Matt Pennycook wrote about his scepticism last year.)

Finally, there’s also a public meeting in Greenwich on 12 November, where you can find out more about the scheme and why it’s a dreadful idea. It’s at the Forum, and starts at 7.30pm.

No to Silvertown Tunnel poster

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White Swan freeholder Mendoza plans two houses at back of revived pub

Mendoza homes on White Swan land

The new homes are set back from Torrance Close, overlooking the pub’s beer garden

The company that owns the freehold to revamped Charlton pub the White Swan has applied for planning permission to build two 3-bedroom houses on part of its beer garden.

Isle of Man-based Mendoza Ltd, which makes its money buying pubs and bars and putting residential developments on the sites, plans to build the homes at the back of the garden and on disused land facing onto Torrance Close, the access road at the rear of The Village.

The strikingly-designed homes would be set back from Torrance Close, overlooking the rest of the pub’s garden.

Mendoza’s application comes just seven weeks after the once-troubled pub was reopened by the team behind the Pelton Arms, who have taken on a new lease on the bar and the accommodation upstairs.

Without the rooms upstairs, it was always likely Mendoza would have its eye on the garden and the disused space at the rear. Documents submitted with the planning application state the company was in discussion with Greenwich Council about work on both the rear of the site and the pub’s upstairs floors, including a new roof.

“The applicant believes that as the public house is in the process of being considered to be added to the list of locally listed buildings and is a much beloved part of the current street scene, it is more beneficial to the local architectural and community’s character to allow more time and consideration before a planning submission is made for the White Swan,” a letter from Bermondsey-based architects Milan Babic says. Milan Babic’s website showcases how it converted the upstairs rooms of the former Brixton pub Brady’s – now a branch of Wahaca – into residential accomodation.

While approving the development would hopefully provide some financial security over the pub’s future, the proximity of the homes to the pub’s beer garden, and even the pub itself, is likely to be of concern. Mendoza has gained a reputation for squeezing out pub operators by placing homes in close proximity to their businesses. The homes are set well back from Torrance Close, even though the development has been designated “car free” and the street sees very little traffic and even fewer pedestrians.

The modern design of the buildings – the homes are in the Charlton Village conservation area – is also likely to ruffle feathers. That said, though, they are of a similar design to homes in Blackheath streets such as Langton Way and Heathway, which are also in a conservation area.

Mendoza’s application can be found on Greenwich Council’s planning website by searching for application 15/2968/F. Comments or objections can be left with the council until 24 November – use the links to comment on the council website, or for longer observations, email planningapps[at]

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The White Swan spreads its wings: Food, a beer festival, Northern Soul and a writers’ night

Since re-opening under new management at the beginning of September Charlton’s White Swan pub has quickly built up a loyal audience and a programme of events that puts longer-established pubs in the area to shame, with live music each weekend, a weekly quiz, and even a free cheeseboard on Sundays.

Food’s now on the menu too…

Pub manager Eren sends us news of their first beer festival:

Our first annual beer festival will take place from October 30th – 1st November. During the course of that weekend:

Friday – Festival kicks off and we have live music from Dennis Greaves (9 Below Zero). We’re aiming to have around 15-20 ales & ciders.

Saturday 31st –  Halloween party: Fancy dress strongly encouraged, pumpkin carving for kids from 1pm, live music from The Duplicates from 9pm. Also the rugby final at 4pm!

Sunday 1st Nov – The Oakland Brothers bring their acoustic sounds at 6pm.

This Friday brings a night of Northern Soul and Rare Groove – The Charlton Champion hopes this will become a regular event:

Swan Northern Soul

It’s not just music, though: local author Paul Breen has sent us details of a regular writers’ evening he’s started at the White Swan, with some personal reflections on the changes to the pub:

These past few weeks have shown me that there is a community in Charlton, and that all those different groups of people who I know also happen to know one another, and enjoy coming together in shared social spaces. I’ve met people there, and invited people there who I’ve never socialised with before in a pub. At times it’s felt like EastEnders, which being from Ireland I thought all London pubs were like anyway. Growing up, watching TV, most of England’s conversations seemed to take place in the pub, andrecently The White Swan has brought me back to memories of those soap operas I don’t watch anymore – places like The Queen Vic, The Rovers Return, and The Woolpack. Mind you though, I’m not putting names to Charlton’s versions of Grant Mitchell, Emily Bishop, Hilda Ogden, Dirty Den, or Bet Lynch.

It’s just good to see this drawing together of a community, and a sense that there’s a place you can go to on the edges of London’s incessant rush, and know somebody who’s there and have a chat.

One of the developments I have been involved in has been the creation of a Writers’ Group who have decided to hold regular gatherings on Monday evenings at half past seven. Once a month we have a theme, and all other Mondays are just going to be drop in sessions. Everyone is welcome to the drop in sessions happening next week and the week after, and then the theme night on Monday 2nd November, where the theme is Comedy & Humour. As I said, feel free to come along to perform, participate, discuss, watch, chat, drink, or whatever. Everyone’s welcome regardless of how or what they write. Some of us are published authors, bloggers or journalists, and some are artists in other areas, and some novices.

You can find the White Swan on Facebook and Twitter.

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Charlton skate park petition shrugged off by Greenwich Council

The skate park would be next to the Charlton Park's outdoor gym

The skate park would be next to Charlton Park’s outdoor gym

Greenwich Council has dismissed a 728-signature petition protesting at the planned skate park in Charlton Park, insisting the controversial proposals will benefit the local community.

The recently-set up Friends of Charlton Park group submitted a petition in July, claiming the skate park would “blight the area”.

“We believe that Charlton Park is not an appropriate venue for a Skateboard Park. In particular, the site chosen would be too disruptive to other activities and may make the park less safe. We do not believe that Greenwich Council should proceed with plans for a Skateboard Park in Charlton without proper consultation and proper funding,” the petition read.

But the council has dismissed each point the petition made in a detailed response – the most in-depth justification for the scheme since it was first announced in July 2014.

The skate park is being built with £365,000 from Berkeley Homes, which is destroying an existing skate park in Royal Arsenal Gardens, Woolwich, to build housing, and £15,000 from the council.

Points made by the council include:

“The boundary of the proposed site is 50m away from the nearest property in Mulberry Close, 65m from the nearest property in MacArthur Terrace and 200m from the nearest property in Canberra Road. This will help ensure the skate park does not cause an increase of 10 decibels or more above existing sound levels for its closest neighbours, including the Old Cottage Cafe. An independent Noise and Vibration Impact Assessment will be carried out and measures to mitigate noise – such as partial sinking below ground level, planting of trees and turf bunding – will be incorporated into the design.”

“The skate park design process must observe the unique character of the park, preserving its amenity and historical importance. The appearance and aesthetic of the skate park will be developed in the context of open space and sympathetic soft landscaping will be a primary feature. This will soften the impact of hard materials and help make the facility in keeping with the park environment.”

“Planning permission is in place for floodlighting to be on until 9:00pm and this area is used by sports teams during the winter months. The addition of a skate park is likely to increase the demand for floodlighting but we will develop a lighting plan to minimise the impact to neighbouring properties. It may mean that use of the skate park after dark is limited to certain days of the week or the cut-off time is before 9:00pm.”

“The new facility will be constructed out of sprayed concrete, which is durable and resistant to damage. Parks, Estates and Open Spaces has a budget for maintenance and cleansing of parks facilities and this will be used to maintain the skate park and surrounding park environment.”

“Parks Rangers work up to 11:00pm at the peak of summer and visit sites across the Borough. This means staff are able to call into the skate park late of an evening during the summer months if required. Wardens will also undertake routine patrols in parks including Charlton Park. There are no plans for new fencing to be erected around the skate park but there is 1m high fencing around the perimeter of the old athletics track with a gate near the park entrance. This gate remains open at present but it can be locked in order to restrict access to this area.”

Victoria Park skate park

BMX-ers using Victoria Park, near Hackney, in June

“Formal on-site supervision is not commonplace at open, free-to-use skate parks and there are no plans for this facility to be permanently supervised by council staff. Skateboarders are usually very keen to take ownership of space they use and facilities of this tend to type self-manage successfully. There are many examples of buddying schemes and clubs that have been set up around skate parks to encourage participation and look after new members, such as the ‘skate mates’ scheme in Haverford West. Given the investment participants have in their sport, the users are likely to also deter and report nuisance behaviour.”

“Various CCTV options are being explored for the skate park.”

“We understand that some people may feel fearful about change but actually parks should also welcome everyone. The skate-boarding fraternity are serious about their sport, and not usually given to anti-social behaviour. There are examples of where that the presence of skate parks actually help to reduce anti-social behaviour and promote social cohesion, for example Strathclyde Police found a 34.9% reduction in youth disorder levels within three years of the skate park in Dumbarton opening in 2003… The majority of local authorities and skateboard operators we have spoken to state that there have been no reports of anti-social behaviour in connection with their skate parks.”

“There is evidence to suggest that skateboarding promotes social inclusion and can have positive effect on well-being. Strathclyde Police found that a new skate park offered activities for other groups ‘such as autistic children and children who are cared for’ as well as ‘local youths’. Overall, it found the skate park was a success in ‘providing a safe, well run alternative which kept youngsters of the streets’. Similarly, Ealing Skateboard Association describes their user group as aged 6 – 60 plus and includes members with special educational needs. They also offer free coaching to female participants.”

“The project team will continue to work with users and stakeholders in order to develop a skate park proposal that is safe, fit-for-purpose and suitable with its surroundings. Direct involvement in the project is open to anyone that registers an interest.”

Perhaps if the council had been this detailed in its arguments in the first place, instead of merely expecting residents to fall into line with what’s effectively a scheme to help Berkeley Homes make lots of money out of Woolwich property, then it wouldn’t have found itself facing a hostile petition in the first place.

Indeed, the most curious thing has been the lack of overt political backing for the project – barely a peep from local councillors. It’s as if they’re entirely helpless about what goes on in their own wards. It’s worth pointing out that some of the leading lights in the anti-skate park group are longstanding members of the ruling Labour party.

The lack of honest, open debate about the scheme has said volumes about the political culture in this area – none of it good.

That said, behind the scenes, there have been local people, getting on with it, and talking to the council officers about making the best of the proposal. And the council’s response suggests they may well be on the right track. If you want to join them, visit to find out how.

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What would you spend £30,000 on in Charlton? Ward budgets are coming to Greenwich borough…

Olympic funding brought this mini-gym to Charlton Park. Could a ward budget back more sports or play equipment to our parks?

Olympic funding brought this mini-gym to Charlton Park. Could a ward budget back more sports or play equipment to our parks?

Greenwich Council’s cabinet is set to back a proposal to give local councillors small budgets for improvements and projects in their areas.

Each of Greenwich’s 17 wards will be allocated £30,000 next month, which will go on projects that will have “a positive impact” on the area.

This means that Charlton ward councillors Allan MacCarthy, Gary Parker and Miranda Williams will be able to have a direct input into improvements in the area.

The areas of SE7 outside Charlton ward will be covered by budgets for their own wards: Peninsula, Kidbrooke with Hornfair and Woolwich Riverside. The proposal goes to Greenwich Council’s cabinet next Wednesday.

Lewisham Council has run a ward budget scheme for some years now, although this has been largely decided by regular public meetings rather than directly by councillors. In Lewisham, each local assembly gets £12,500 each year, with councillors deciding on a further £2,500.

Under Greenwich’s scheme, the £30,000 is a one-off and lasts until the end of the current administration in 2018, although effectively the cash will need to be spent by autumn 2017 to avoid clashing with elections. (Separately, the council is also edging towards some kind of watered-down assembly system, according to a report to be presented to councillors tonight.)

According to the council, schemes that could be funded under the ward budgets plan include:

• Supporting a local scout group for a specific activity
• Repairs or refurbishment of community facilities
• Purchase of street signs or street furniture
• Renovating a community landmark
• Toys or equipment for a play group or nursery
• Older people’s coach outing
• A new park bench or memorial or play equipment
• Specialist books or equipment for schools
• Supporting a community event, eg, a fete
• Community Safety projects

“Ward budgets should be used for proposals where it can be demonstrated that residents from within the ward or wards can participate in and will benefit from that proposal,” the council says. The money can used for a variety of different projects – it doesn’t need to be spent in one chunk. (Read the full document here.)

One thing that is apparent is that the money could end up going on basic things the council arguably should have funded anyway, either directly or through funding from developers – patching up grotty street furniture, for example, rather than signs explaining the history of the area (as you’ll see in Lewisham’s Lee Green ward).

So what would you spend the money on? Remember, this is about improving the community, not your house price. Could this go towards cleaning up and doing something with the summer house? Or towards smartening up the area from the station up Charlton Church Lane? Bringing extra sports or play equipment to parks? Or is there a community project that could do with a hand?

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