Angerstein Wharf crossing: Greenwich Council knew of closure plan but did not tell residents

Angerstein Wharf crossing
The crossing is a local landmark and one of only a handful in London

Greenwich Council knew about controversial plans to close a railway crossing a year before Network Rail made it public – but did not tell local residents, councillors or the local MP, The Charlton Champion can reveal.

Network Rail first told Greenwich Council about its plans for the Angerstein Wharf branch crossing, across a freight line on the east Greenwich/Charlton border, in April 2018, emails released by the track company under the Freedom of Information Act show. Several council officers were involved in discussions and three site visits were held.

Councillors for Peninsula ward – who would have known of the importance of the crossing – were not told about the issue and neither was Greenwich & Woolwich MP Matt Pennycook, The Charlton Champion has established. The council maintains “there was nothing to tell residents” at the time.

A council officer dealing with conservation was also involved in a discussion about the planned closure in December and January 2019.

Network Rail sent the council a formal notice warning of the crossing closure on 14 February 2019, but the Valentine’s Day missive went unanswered until after a neighbour of the crossing used Twitter seven weeks later to say that residents had received letters about the closure.

Greenwich then threatened Network Rail with a injunction to prevent the closure of the crossing, which is used by hundreds of people each day heading to and from Westcombe Park station. It is one of a handful of foot crossings on London railway lines, and has grown in importance since new housing was built on the Charlton side of the crossing at Fairthorn Road.

The plans, which are to accommodate a resignalling of the line to and from the Angerstein aggregates wharf by the Thames, have now been put on hold.

Angerstein Wharf crossing
A sign warning of the closure was stuck to a fence at the crossing

‘A full diversion is the way to go’

Network Rail first told Greenwich Council about the plans on 11 April 2018 – 12 months before neighbours found out. An unnamed member of Network Rail’s track renewals team warning that works were planned in May 2019 that “may affect the nearby foot crossing at Farmdale Road”, asking to set up a site visit. No response was received for a week until after the Network Rail officer sent a follow-up mail, after which a site visit was arranged by Greenwich’s street works area co-ordinator. An email sent from Network Rail after this visit states “I think we both formed the opinion that a full diversion is the way to go”.

After this, a further email from Network Rail which appears to have been sent to the planning team says “we need some assistance from yourselves to help us evaluate what we can do with the crossing to ensure public safety and rail transport safety”.

Responses include an email from one Greenwich Council officer to another stating “I don’t know what the Farmdale Road foot crossing is (level/bridge) as it’s not clear on the plan”.

On 9 May 2018, a planner responds to say: “The council would be likely to object to any closure since the route is well used by local people and by virtue that the passageway continues access over the A102 to Westcombe Park railway station, a route previously under threat when the A102 was built and with that the footbridge now seen over that road. NR could, of course, provide an alternative route in the form of a subway beneath its line.” A further site visit was held on 22 May 2018.

After that site visit, a council structures and street lighting manager emails with a summary of what was discussed, including plans for Network Rail to install CCTV as part of a risk assessment. But no further response was sent by Network Rail.

Network Rail has told The Charlton Champion: “After that meeting Network Rail undertook the process to understand the status of the crossing.”

‘Our closure of the foot crossing’

Separately, in November 2018, a Network Rail officer emails to comment on Greenwich Council’s plans to locally list the crossing – a mild form of protection against development – and states: “We would be happy to discuss with you further regarding the potential listing of these items and whether that is compatible with our closure of the Angerstein Wharf foot crossing.”

In mid-January 2019, a Greenwich officer emails to set up a meeting with their Network Rail counterpart. Network Rail has said this was followed by a third site visit to the crossing on 13 February.

Then on 14 February, a formal letter was sent by email warning of the closure of the crossing.

It promises: “We will erect clear signage either side of the crossing to make it clear when the closure will commence… As we have been in close liaison with you about these works, we wanted to inform you of this.” Greenwich Council says it did not receive this letter.

No response was received until 8 April – two days after a neighbour of the crossing tweeted about a letter he had received about the plans.

The tweet was included in the email. Meanwhile, the councillors and MP were finding out about the scheme for the first time through complaints from residents.

“I am not aware that Network Rail has notified the council directly of the proposed work,” the email states, while a further mail from the head of highways cites “a number of strong high level representations today objecting to the proposed crossing closure”.

Network Rail letter
A letter from Network Rail was placed in Fairthorn Road

The council then threatens an injunction, at which point Network Rail removes its plan to close the crossing. Asked what happened to the “clear signage”, a Network Rail spokesperson said: “The closure notice and information relating to the alternative route was displayed on the over bridge on the approach to the crossing and along Farmdale/ Fairthorn Road for the recent works and the Angerstein resignalling commissioning at Easter.”

A third site meeting was held on 12 April 2019 – a year and a day after the council was first told about the plan, and a few days before The Charlton Champion sent its Freedom of Information request – with an email from Greenwich Council confirming “that self-closing gates are to be installed to ensure that the public will be reminded that in opening these that they are at a level crossing”.

“I look forward to a copy of the letter bound for stakeholders and residents and further details of the works programme during the course of next week.”

Angerstein crossing
The path is a popular route to Westcombe Park station

Councillors the last to know

Many current and former Greenwich councillors have long remarked privately that they are often the last to know about issues in their areas. Furthermore, the correspondence shows that officers were unaware of the crossing or its impact on the local area – which could also explain the council’s attitude to the consequences of the nearby Ikea store, where long-promised measures to assist pedestrians and cyclists have yet to be completed.

A Greenwich Council spokesperson told The Charlton Champion: “The council did not support Network Rail’s closing of the Angerstein Wharf crossing at short notice and with no consultation with residents in April 2019. When Network Rail made their initial enquiry to us in spring 2018 we were clear that they had not provided enough information of their plans.

“When we heard nothing further we assumed that their plans had changed and therefore there was nothing to inform residents of.

“The council has no record of receiving a formal closure notice from Network Rail in February 2019. If we had, we would have challenged their proposals and briefed our elected members then.

“In April we were as surprised as residents to find out what they had done. We swiftly instructed our legal team who persuaded Network Rail to postpone their plans. We will be meeting Network Rail next month and we will go prepared with legal advice regarding the status of the path and Network’s Rail statutory obligations to keep it open.”

This story has also been published on The Charlton Champion‘s sister site 853.


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Thinking of a bank holiday trip by train from Charlton? Forget it

Thameslink class 700 trains
There are no trains from Charlton this weekend

Thinking of taking the train from Charlton this bank holiday weekend? Think again – there are no trains once again due to engineering work.

A half-hourly replacement bus will run between Lewisham and Plumstead on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Full services will run from Lewisham and Blackheath. Thameslink services will run from Lewisham and Blackheath but will only run north as far as Blackfriars.

The Jubilee Line and Docklands Light Railway are running a full service.


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Talk about the future of SE London’s local media on 4 June

White Swan
We’re having an event to mark the launch of Flyover Media on 4 June

Last month, we launched a community interest company, Flyover Media CIC, to take charge of The Charlton Champion and its sister site 853. It’s the first step towards putting these websites on a sustainable footing, and also means we can apply for grants to expand into new projects.

We’re holding an event on Tuesday 4 June upstairs at The White Swan, 22 The Village, SE7 8UD (doors 7pm, starts 8pm) to mark the launch of Flyover and to talk about what we – and you – can do to ensure SE London can still have an independent local media, with a special look at Greenwich and Lewisham. We’ll be outlining some of our plans, and figuring out a path for the future, while we’ll also hopefully have some special guests from the journalism industry.

There’ll also be a bar, so it’ll be good to share ideas over a drink. If you get along early and you’re peckish, there will be food available downstairs.

It’d be great to see you – if you can make it, please sign up via this Eventbrite link so we can get an idea of how many people will be there. Thank you.


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Charlton Lido latest: Summer opening, Swim Doctor, cafe… and caps


Charlton Lido - May 2019

With the sun making increasingly regular appearances and a bank holiday weekend hoving in to view, we thought we’d take a quick look at the latest news from Charlton Lido:

You can start your long weekend with a Friday afternoon swim as they extend pool opening hours until 4pm today (though note they’re closing early at 4pm on Monday):

 

Summer opening hours for the pool start on Tuesday 28th May and will be:

  • Weekdays: 6.30am – 8pm
  • Weekends: 9am – 5pm

(Easier to remember than previous summers, though many will wish that they’d stay open until the evening on warm weekends).

The cafe has now re-opened:

 

And – at last! – they have some merchandise to sell. Charlton Lido & Lifestyle Club branded swim caps come in four colours and are for sale at the reception for £5 each:

 

The lido’s Swim Doctor sessions – drop-in swimming classes for adults, included in lido membership fees or £3 on top of the cost of a swim – are now running 6 times a week:

  • Monday 7–8pm
  • Tuesday 9.30–10.30am and 12.30–1.30pm
  • Thursday 1–2pm.
  • Friday 7–8.30am (fitness) and 9.30–10.30 am (technique)

This writer highly recommends these classes as a way to improve your swimming as part of a supportive group of swimmers of varying experience and ability, without having to commit to regular attendance.

Inexplicably, there’s no mention of the Swim Doctor sessions on the official lido website, and you can’t book them online (as far as we can see – if anyone’s worked out how to do this, let us know!). We recommend following Tracy Swim Doctor or Friends of Charlton Lido on Twitter to keep up with the latest news.

Here’s to a happy summer of lido swimming!


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MP criticises ‘bad practice’ at Fairview New Homes’ Synergy development on Victoria Way

Fairview Synergy development
The Synergy development is now poking into the sky above Charlton

Local MP Matt Pennycook has reacted angrily after the developer behind 330 new homes being built on Victoria Way shrugged off complaints about the impact of construction work on the site’s neighbours.

Fairview New Homes dismissed a series of issues raised by Pennycook on behalf of residents about dirt, idling construction vehicles and work taking place outside permitted hours.

Its senior site manager, Matthew Hook, said “we can only assume that the points raised are generally historical” and said that Greenwich Council was happy with the cracked state of the road outside the development site, which is being branded Synergy.

After effectively being told residents’ complaints were groundless, Pennycook has now said he will name the company in Parliament as an example of bad practice in the construction sector. He is also asking for residents with complaints to get in touch with him and the company.

Greenwich had threatened Fairview with an unlimited fine in December 2018 after complaints that contractors were working outside permitted hours. Hook claimed that the work was actually being carried out by a utility firm.

Fairview Synergy
Residents have had to put up with dust and construction lorries

Hook also said that the points had been addressed in a meeting with the council on 25 February, and that no further complaints had been made since.

“So to summarise, all of the concerns raised in your letter have already been discussed, reviewed and mitigated following a meeting between [Fairview] and [Greenwich Council] on the 25/02/19 and to date, since the meeting we have had no further complaints or correspondence from local residents or [Greenwich Council] or any other industry bodies such as the Considerate Constructors Scheme regarding the development on Victoria Way,” Hook wrote.

However, the residents’ complaints were made to Pennycook at a roving advice surgery on 30 March, more than a month after the meeting with the council, with the letter written on 14 May.

Pennycook has responded: “It is patently the case that local residents do have outstanding complaints about construction management on the site. Rather than seeking to dismiss these complaints as you did in your letter, a responsible developer would have engaged with the substance of each of them and given due consideration as to what more could be done to alleviate them.

“I intend to name [Fairview] on the floor of the House of Commons and use your letter as an example of bad practice in the sector as well as making additional direct representations to ministers at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.”

The source of residents’ gripes was clear on Thursday afternoon, with surfaces on the lower stretch of Victoria Way covered in dust from construction. While a site worker hosed down the entrance to the development, nothing was being done about dust and grime outside people’s homes. The wheels of a passing construction truck did not appear to have been washed.

Fairview Synergy site
Fairview has hosed down the road and pavement outside the site, but not outside people’s homes

An eight-strong committee of councillors approved the scheme, which includes two 10-storey blocks and 144 car parking spaces, by six votes to one in January 2018. Among the complaints from residents was a lack of consultation with neighbours about the scheme, and accusations of bullying tactics.

Fairview has not responded to a request for comment.

Cratus Communications, whose deputy chairman is former Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts, handled the consultation for the Victoria Way scheme. Last month, the company published a blog post on its website claiming it was “quietly revolutionising and abolishing the traditional view of ‘faceless’ developers sweeping into town and ‘doing what they like’”. “Communication with existing residents has to be managed carefully and with tact,” it added.

If you live close to the Victoria Way development and are affected by the dirt and grime from Fairview New Homes’ Synergy development, please email matthew.pennycook.mp[at]parliament.uk, and copy in matthew.hook[at]fairview.co.uk. Comments are also open below.


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Developers get go-ahead to build houses on Pickwick pub garden

Pickwick pub on Woolwich Road
The Pickwick pub on Woolwich Road. Photo by Neil Clasper

Developers have been given the green light to concrete over a pub garden in Charlton and build six new houses, despite concerns from neighbours in overlooking properties.

Greenwich councillor’s approval came months after officers threw out a scheme to bulldoze the closed Pickwick pub on Woolwich Road.

The developer, Pure Let Greenwich, put forward plans to demolish the pub’s extension in place of six new homes, concreting over the pub’s garden in the process.

Neighbour Susan Archer said her house had not been considered by officers who had recommended approving the development, which would have a four-bed family property at its rear.

She said: “My conservatory would be directly looked into by the four bedroom property. The rear buildings will be able to see directly into my property. My privacy will be totally affected.”

The resident said there has also been confusion amongst residents as to what the application was, as a previous scheme for the pub itself was thrown out last year.

A model of the plans, with the original scheme to bulldoze the pub in the corner

Council officers rejected plans last year to bulldoze the three-storey pub after more than a dozen people objected to losing the building.

The neighbour said there could have been more people objecting if the process had been clearer.

Developers said they would plant trees to screen her property from overlooking, but were left red-faced when asked about why they had already cut a tree without permission.

Chair Sarah Merrill said: “In the plans it very clearly says the tree is to be retained but it has been felled. If that’s an old plan as you say what is it doing before us.

“My view is that the pub is empty, the community space at the back is falling down. It’s an eyesore – the land is vacant. When I first looked at the application I was happy you were retaining trees so then to find out you’ve felled the huge one is upsetting. That’s disingenuous.

“However it is not worth turning down housing on those grounds. I do share concerns from the resident and there is going to be a very firm condition for screening.”

The developers said having a profitable development would eventually lead to bringing the vacant pub back into use.

The approved scheme, passed unanimously by councillors at Woolwich Town Hall, featured conditions for extensive screening of the site.


LDRS logoTom Bull is the Local Democracy Reporter for Greenwich. The Local Democracy Reporter Service is a BBC-funded initiative to ensure councils are covered properly in local media.
See more about how The Charlton Champion uses LDRS content.


Addicks on their way to Wembley after play-off thriller at sold-out Valley

Valley pitch invasion
A night to remember at The Valley

The first sell-out crowd at The Valley in seven years saw Charlton Athletic beat Doncaster Rovers after extra time and penalties to make it to the League One play-off final at Wembley.

Charlton will play Sunderland on Sunday 26 May – 21 years after the two clubs met at Wembley in a play-off final to reach the Premier League. Back then, the Addicks won 7-6 on penalties after drawing 4-4 after extra time in one of the greatest games the national stadium has seen.

The 25,428 crowd was the biggest since eccentric Belgian electronic magnate Roland Duchâtelet took over the club in 2014, precipitating a decline which has seen the Addicks marooned in the third tier of English football, with attendances slumping as longstanding fans boycotted the club.

It was an even more dramatic day for Charlton captain Patrick Bauer, who became a father in the afternoon before leading his side to victory in the evening.

Many fans set aside their boycott to come to The Valley last night as promotion back to the second-tier Championship should make the club more attractive to potential buyers – although Duchâtelet is still reported to be insisting that new owners repay the money he has lost in his disastrous spell in charge of the club.

Charlton took an early lead when Krystian Bielik’s second-minute header made it 3-1 on aggregate, after the Addicks won Sunday’s first leg in South Yorkshire by two goals to one. But Rovers fought back amid a hesitant second-half performance from Charlton to lead 2-1 after 90 minutes – 3-3 on aggregate.

Former Millwall striker John Marquis scored for Doncaster after 100 minutes, but Darren Pratley capitalised on an error by Rovers keeper Marko Marosi just a minute later to make it 2-3 on the night and 4-4 on aggregate.

After the match went to penalties, Charlton sealed the win when Doncaster captain Tommy Rowe missed the fifth spot-kick of the shoot-out, sparking a joyous pitch invasion at The Valley. The last pitch invasion was three years ago, when Charlton were relegated, in protest at Duchâtelet’s ownership.

The Addicks now have over 36,000 tickets for Wembley – sale details are available on cafc.co.uk.


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