The cut means means only the 177 will run between Greenwich and Woolwich, halving the service from 12 to six buses per hour.
Instead of running from Lewisham, the 180 will run from North Greenwich via the Greenwich Millennium Village, the under-construction Ikea and Bugsby’s Way – a slight change to the original plan which saw it running via Peartree Way and a longer stretch of Woolwich Road.
TfL, which is chaired by London mayor Sadiq Khan, says: “The 177 has sufficient capacity for the level of demand on this corridor. We will continue to keep this under review.”
Route 129, which links Greenwich town centre with North Greenwich, will be extended to start back from Lewisham, but at a reduced peak-time frequency of five buses per hour, compared with the six provided by the 180.
Passengers who want to travel to and from Lewisham will be expected to use another service or change from the 180 to the 129 at Ikea.
The 472 to North Greenwich will also be less frequent – in peak hours it will be cut to eight buses per hour (currently 10), six on Saturdays (currently eight) and five on Sundays (currently six). It will also be rerouted in Thamesmead to run to Abbey Wood.
Crossrail is due to open at Abbey Wood and Woolwich on Sunday 9 December – this date has not been officially confirmed – so the changes should be in place around that time.
2018’s event, to be held between 7 and 15 September, sees a range of films being shown at venues across Charlton, Woolwich, Plumstead and Shooters Hill. There’s no charge – just turn up, and throw some coins in the bucket if you can help with the costs of putting it on.
Director Saul Dibb’s adaptation of RC Sherriff play Journey’s End will be on at Charlton House on Tuesday 11 September (7.30pm, doors 6.30pm). Written by a captain wounded at Passchendaele, it depicts a handful of British soldiers “waiting to be killed” in a trench near the end of World War I. Charlton House was used as a military hospital towards the end of the Great War, and historian Clive Harris will give a talk at 7pm about about the real-life events that inspired the production.
Charlton House also plays host to the festival’s third short film competition on Thursday 13 September (7.30pm, doors 7pm), which this year has the theme Diversity and Future. There’s a £500 prize waiting for the winner.
On Friday 14 September (7pm, doors 6.30pm) comedy The Dish rounds off Charlton House’s contribution to the festival. Set in 1969, Sam Neill plays an Australian sheep farmer who has to steer the satellite dish – and its eccentric crew – to bring the Apollo 11 moon landings to the world’s TV screens.
Woolwich’s big screen in General Gordon Square will open the festival on Friday 7 September with The Greatest Showman and close it with Sister Act on Saturday 15 September.
The 53, which runs from Plumstead, Woolwich, Charlton and Blackheath through Deptford, the Old Kent Road and Elephant & Castle to Whitehall would be cut back to County Hall from March 2019 under proposals to “reduce bus flows” across Westminster Bridge and along Whitehall.
The scheme affects routes from across London, and will also mean the 171 from Catford, Brockley and New Cross to Holborn being cut back to Elephant & Castle.
Transport for London’s proposals come as it battles financial worries after a complete cut in day-to-day government funding instituted by Evening Standard editor George Osborne when he was chancellor. It is also having to deal with a four-year fare freeze from mayor Sadiq Khan, and a fall in bus passenger numbers.
A consultation on these new proposals will come in mid-September.
The 53 proposal is likely to face stiff opposition. The service – which in its heyday ran as far north as Parliament Hill Fields and Camden Town – is the last remaining bus link to central London from Blackheath, Charlton, Woolwich and Plumstead, and terminating at County Hall will leave passengers needing to switch to another service.
It was last cut back in 2002, from Oxford Circus to Whitehall, with the 453 from Deptford Bridge picking up the slack.
TfL is predicting falls in central London bus passengers once Crossrail opens in December – bus in the 53’s case, the Elizabeth Line will still be a bus ride away for many of its passengers.
Some industry insiders have speculated that TfL would like to cut the route even further, to the Elephant & Castle, but can’t do so because of a lack of space for buses to terminate.
(Updated 12.10pm Thursday) Transport for London told The Charlton Champion the proposals were still at an early stage and needed to be discussed with boroughs.
Director of public transport service planning Geoff Hobbs said: “Buses have a crucial role to play in boosting the number of people walking, cycling and using public transport.
“As set out in the Mayor’s Transport Strategy, we’re currently looking at how we can adjust and reorganise the bus network to ensure it reflects a rapidly changing London, including planning for year-on-year increases in bus kilometres in outer London. We need to modernise and simplify the network and ensure that bus capacity is in the right places at the right times.
“We’re currently working closely with London’s boroughs on a potential set of proposals and they are helping shape our plans. These changes will also be subject to full public consultation before they’re put in place so we can hear from customers.”
Commuters in Charlton and Blackheath who are tired of crowded and unreliable buses to North Greenwich could be able to get a new service to the Jubilee Line hub – if they pay a little more.
Car giant Ford, which launched its Chariot service between Shooters Hill and North Greenwich earlier this year, is applying for permission to serve three stops on Westcombe Hill between the Royal Standard and Westcombe Park station. It is also asking to serve three new stops on Shooters Hill Road.
It says it is down to “significant customer requests” – most likely as a result of the notorious overcrowding on the 108 service down Westcombe Hill to North Greenwich.
But the service – which would run non-stop between North Greenwich and Westcombe Park stations – is also likely to appeal to a section of Charlton commuters who face daily battles with the 486 service down Charlton Church Lane and the 161 on Woolwich Road, who can easily walk to Westcombe Hill.
Fares on the Shooters Hill Shot, which runs in rush hours only, are typically £3 each way, although users can gain free rides by asking friends to sign up. Users book their seats with an app, similar to minicab service Uber.
Even though Chariot has to apply to TfL for a licence to run the service, the services are not be part of its network or fare structure.
The service currently snakes its way around back streets in Shooters Hill and Kidbrooke before running down the A102 to North Greenwich. Chariot is also applying to run every eight minutes, rather than every 10 minutes as now.
London mayor Sadiq Khan has blocked Greenwich Council’s refusal to allow a developer to build 771 homes at the end of Anchor & Hope Lane, meaning he will now decide whether or not it will go ahead, rather than local councillors.
All 11 councillors on Greenwich’s planning board voted to reject the scheme, the first to come forward at Charlton Riverside – designated an “opportunity area” by the mayor.
But Khan has now opted to take over deciding what happens with the scheme himself – the first time a Greenwich Council planning decision has been called in by City Hall.
In a letter sent to Greenwich Council and seen by this website, Khan says that the proposal will have a “significant impact on the implementation of the London Plan and the draft London Plan” – the mayoral blueprint for planning across the capital.
The news will anger local residents who have battled against the proposals – particularly those who live in Atlas and Derrick Gardens, who say the Rockwell development will loom over their homes and deny them natural light. Local industries have also voiced concerns about whether they will be able to continue in business with a large residential development on their doorstep, and Squeeze singer Glenn Tilbrook has complained that his recording studio would be put in jeopardy by the plans.
London mayors have the power to “call in” major developments after councils have made a decision, but it rarely happens. While it has never happened to Greenwich Council, two past developments on its borders have been called in.
A call-in effectively means the planning process starts again, with the mayor’s officers taking over and a public hearing taking place at City Hall.
More recently, Khan overturned Bromley Council’s approval of a new stadium for London’s oldest football club, Cray Wanderers, who play in the eighth tier of English football, and two four-storey blocks of flats at Flamingo Park, off the Sidcup by-pass.
Negotiations with Greenwich Council finally produced a revised plan by the end of 2017, cutting the maximum height down to 10 storeys with 25% “affordable”. In July 2018 this was increased to 35% “affordable” when judged by number of rooms, or 32.4% when assessed by the number of units.
5pm update: Greenwich Council regeneration cabinet member Sizwe James says: “I am disappointed that the Mayor of London has called in the Eynsham Drive and Charlton Riverside planning applications, both of which were rejected by our Planning Board last month. This means that the Mayor of London, and not the local councillors elected by the people of Greenwich, will decide on these applications.
“At the Planning Board, local residents spoke passionately about the issues they had with the proposed developments. The committee members listened to the residents and shared their concerns about the height of the buildings, the lack of homes for families, and the affordability of those homes.
“After the planning applications were rejected, we hoped that the developers would come back to us with a new application that provided much needed affordable housing for families, in developments of an appropriate size and scale for Abbey Wood and Charlton.
“Whilst I respect the rights of the Mayor of London to call in these planning applications, and understand the pressure he is under to get more homes built, we very much hope he will address the concerns of residents in the process.
“I would urge him not to simply wave the applications through, but include us in discussions with the developers to secure a greater proportion of well designed, affordable family homes.
“We also need to learn from the mistakes made in the 60s and 70s and create proper neighbourhoods, with walkable streets, places to work and spaces for children to play and socialise.
“I hope that we can work together with the developers and the Mayor of London to do this.”
Last month, a south London newspaper ran a story claiming the long grass surrounding the graves in Charlton Cemetery was “disrespectful”. Ecologist and Charlton Champion reader JOE BEALE explains why the grass in the cemetery should be kept long, and explains what you can do to encourage Greenwich Council to maintain this space for the benefit of wildlife and biodiversity.
In early July, I visited Charlton Cemetery. I was immediately impressed – whilst the majority of the site was the usual short-cropped lawn, there was a beautiful section where long grass had been deliberately left and wildflowers studded the sward with colour. Small signs explained that this had been done for enhancing biodiversity. Knapweed, Lady’s Bedstraw, Bird’s-foot trefoil, Ragwort and Creeping Cinquefoil were amongst the most prominent wildflowers, with a soundtrack of chirping grasshoppers.
The next thing to catch my eye was the superb number of butterflies: over two brief visits I found ten species, including 120+ Gatekeepers, the classic southern hedgerow and grassland butterfly, on the second visit. Amongst these were plenty of Meadow Browns and, every now and again, jewel-like Small Coppers and Common Blues.
Another one of the “blue” family, the diminutive Brown Argus was a nice find – their upperwings are chocolate-brown with bright orange markings. It wasn’t just the butterflies of course, though these were the most distracting: a good variety of bees were busying, dark green and scarlet Six-spot Burnet moths buzzed between the flowerheads, Swifts trawled the air above and a Kestrel hunted in the long grass.
Happy with my visit and believing in giving credit where it’s due, I tweeted some images and a thumbs up to the Royal Borough of Greenwich for this enlightened approach. My “This is what we want!” tweet was liked by over 280 people and retweeted 80 times including by broadcaster Chris Packham, so by my humble terms I was quite chuffed.
In the meantime, I was told some worrying information that, due to a complaint that had reached local media, much of this conservation area was now being strimmed.
I spoke to a representative of the Parks and Open Spaces team who confirmed this. Apparently someone had thought it was being neglected and had interpreted the long grass as somehow being disrespectful to the graves.
The council had reacted by giving up on much of the conservation area. My view would have been entirely the opposite –if managed well, nature’s gentle colours and movement in would surely be a fitting way to mark a quiet place of rest and reflection, which at any rate was just one small part of the large cemetery. The news wasn’t all bad, though – the original core area had been retained, thankfully, but a lot of the recent areas that had been extended to become conservation areas were now strimmed back to lawn. While conservation areas such as this do need maintaining, strimming is much better in late summer/early autumn once the flowers have set seed and many of the insects have finished.
Apart from the fact that butterflies, bees and wildflowers are pleasant to see, this story raises other concerns. Firstly, UK biodiversity is in serious trouble and unless we change things we’re going to keep losing more and more of our beleaguered wildlife.
The charity Buglife is pressing councils to keep road verges and other green spaces for wildflowers and bees which will help our pollinating insects and others as well as saving maintenance costs. According to Butterfly Conservation the commonest butterfly on site, the Gatekeeper, is in decline – as is the Small Copper. In fact, Charlton cemetery had more Gatekeepers than any other I’ve visited in Greenwich borough this year. Kestrels too have declined nationally.
These little sites are vital oases for wildlife in an increasingly concreted and chemical-saturated environment and, for people, seeing wildlife has been shown to be beneficial to mental health by reducing stress, fatigue, depression and anxiety according to the Wildlife Trusts and many others. But as we “tidy up” more and more, it’s death by a thousand cuts for some of our most beautiful and beneficial species as we seek a uniform blandness.
This can’t continue – the countryside is experiencing massive losses of insects and birds due to intensive agriculture and habitat loss, while urban areas often contain surprisingly important refuges. As we build on open spaces and concrete over gardens we must at least strive to do something proactive for biodiversity with our public green spaces.
It is a cemetery, and of course, there are sensitivities involved. What worried me was that Greenwich Council had responded to a vocal complainer but had not heard the many people who thought the biodiversity approach was wonderful.
Having asked the Parks and Open Spaces team about how they were thinking to resolve this, they told me they were already looking at less contentious parts of the cemetery to replace the conservation areas lost. This is good news, but it is hoped that the council will be able to stand up to the inevitable few who want a neat and tidy approach across the whole site.
We are only human, we all get set in certain ways of thinking about what’s right and wrong at times and changes can be difficult, but it can and should still be done if done sensitively and for good reasons. The vast majority of the cemetery will remain neat lawn anyway. More generally, the council is now starting to acknowledge the national drive for helping biodiversity and the benefits this brings people and wildlife – and even the council’s purse.
This is where the public can help, by encouraging their efforts and showing that it is popular – through tagging @Royal_Greenwich in tweets and writing emails to express support for work they’ve done.
All too often councils only get complaints, but these may not be representative of wider public opinion.
If you can, visit the remaining conservation area at the cemetery during butterfly season and spend a few minutes taking in the sights and sounds. If you have a nice walk there, or in any Greenwich Council-maintained green space that’s been part-managed for biodiversity, let them know and let others know the joy it brought you! Let others know that an exquisite azure butterfly amongst the straw-coloured grass made you forget your stressful day for a few moments, or that a hovering Kestrel brought back happy memories of a childhood holiday.
Let’s hope the new conservation areas in the less sensitive areas of the cemetery will be a good compromise for all and, with clear illustrated signs, visitors will realise this is not some kind of neglect but a much-needed, active policy to help our struggling wildlife.
Greenwich councillors have voted to sell car parking spaces at The Heights to a private developer, promising to invest the proceeds in new council housing.
The small plot of land, which overlooks The Valley, will be sold to developer Pocket Living, subject to a consultation with council tenants who live nearby.
Pocket believes it can build 45 one-bedroom flats in a four-storey building.
Greenwich Council’s cabinet also voted to sell two other plots of land to the same company – one off Kidbrooke Park Road and the other on the Orchard Estate in Lewisham, providing 151 one-bedroom flats across the three sites.
The developer, which specialises in “affordable compact homes for first time buyers”, will sell the homes to Greenwich residents at a 20% discount, with a covenant in place to ensure they cannot be sold for a year after purchase. No parking permits will be issued to buyers.
80% of the proceeds from the sale will go into new council housing, with the remainder being used to improve the immediate area in the housing estates affected.
Regeneration director Pippa Hack, the senior council officer in charge of the scheme, said developing all three sites would deliver between £100,000 and £130,000 in council tax receipts.
“All the homes will be for sale to people who live or work in the borough, and 70% of buyers who buy through Pocket have incomes of up to £40,000. They will be sold at 20% discount compared to the local market, there will be a restrictive covenant that secures the properties in perpetuity, so there will be no sub-letting or no sales in year one,” she added.
Asked by deputy leader David Gardner what the council would do if the consultation revealed significant opposition to the scheme, Hack said officers would need to judge if the concerns outweighed the benefits of the scheme.
Cabinet member Averil Lekau added: “It seems obvious to me that you will listen to the views of residents and you will weigh that up. We would never say we would go to consultation unless it was meaningful.”
Leader Danny Thorpe said: “There have been some comments online about these particular schemes and our decision to dispose of the land; I would point out that on The Heights in Charlton, that is actually contaminated land that we are looking to dispose of; and while I appreciate that there have been some concerns about that, we have to address the housing crisis in any way we can.
“The land we are looking at here is land that we haven’t been able to make the best use of as an authority, so that conversation with residents will hopefully be a positive one when we explain what we’re doing.
“And also, we can utilise some money directly for us to build our own homes, council homes at social rents. It won’t provide us with the funds to provide all the homes we need, but it will provide us with some. And we have to start somewhere.”
One resident of the housing opposite The Heights plot was unaware of the scheme when The Charlton Champion visited the site on Wednesday. When told what the council was planning, she responded: “What? But we need that for our car parking!”