Which minicab to get this Christmas?

I was almost run off the road by a minicab yesterday after cycling into a sidestreet off Charlton Road. All of which brings the question to mind… which cab company will you be using over Christmas?

Now, I’m usually a tightwad who gets the bus instead, but at this time of year, there can be occasions when only your own set of hired four wheels will do. So what options are there in and around Charlton?

The one that usually comes out on top is Arena Cars (020 8858 8070) once known as Station Cars until a) they moved away from Charlton station and b) they started serving the O2. They’re usually quick, on time, and often cheaper than the competition. “No ‘it’ll be 5 mins, love’ and never turn up,” as one satisfied customer put it.

Or you could try the south-east London giant which is Data Cars (020 8850 0000), which has spent the past 10 years gobbling up rivals to create a cab conglomerate. No double bubble this Christmas, they say – just a £5 surcharge for festive trips. They have an iPhone app, too.

There’s also Greenwich Express Cars (020 8858 6661), and loads more. Oh yes, and Charlton Valley Cars (020 8858 3939) – but since it was one of their cars (EJ51WJV) that almost ran me off Courthurst Road at 3.45pm on Wednesday, perhaps not, although their owner was very apologetic when I rang to complain.

Of course, there’s always your friendly local black cab – sometimes cheaper than minicabs at this time of year, and it’s guaranteed the drivers know where they’re going – and Twitter users can tweetalondoncab.

But obviously, with all minicabs now licensed and showing big badges to prove it, there’s no excuse to get into some geezer’s car when he pulls up to you muttering “cab?”

So who’ll be getting your ride this Christmas?

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Charlton Athletic appeal for snow-clearing help

Harvey Gardens

Charlton Athletic have asked for help in clearing the snow around The Valley in advance of their Boxing Day match with Southampton.

Anyone who can assist is asked to visit the main reception at 11am on Sunday Thursday – with a shovel if possible.

Managing director Stephen Kavanagh said the club was making every effort to ensure the match went ahead – but did not have the staff to cover all areas of the ground.

“We’re constantly talking to the police and Greenwich Council about the roads and the pavements, but there are some areas, such as behind the south and east stands, which need attention, and we simply don’t have the resources,” he said.

“Some supporters have already been in contact to offer their services, but now we’d like to formally appeal for help.”

He said the “worst-case scenario” would be having the pitch playable – but the match still being called off because of conditions around the ground.

Conditions have eased in south-east London over recent days, but with the weather remaining unpredictable, the club and match officials will review the situation early on Christmas Eve.

The Addicks’ away match at Hartlepool was one of the scores of matches postponed at the weekend because of the bad conditions nationwide.

For more details, visit cafc.co.uk.

Snow delays council refuse collections

If your bins were due to be emptied today, then they won’t have been – Greenwich Council has suspended its refuse collections so the bin teams can help out with gritting the roads after the weekend snowfall.

There’s no word on when they’ll be resuming, but Greenwich Council’s website and Twitter feed should have the latest. There’s also details of what to do with that Christmas tree once you’ve finished with it.

It’s certainly still pretty dicey underfoot on the area’s pavements, and Saturday’s blizzard saw more distruption to public transport; although rail and bus services have largely recovered since then. The M&S Simply Food at Blackheath Standard’s been cleared out of bread, which may tell you something (or nothing) about panic buyers…

At the moment, light snow is forecast for Christmas Day.

Charlton, Greenwich and Blackheath salt bins map

Need some road salt in the snow? This is a map of salt bins in Greenwich and nearby, including Charlton, using information provided in Greenwich Council’s Winter Service Policy Statement.

(Update: It now covers the entire borough of Greenwich, and has the gritters’ priority routes in Greenwich, Blackheath and Charlton on it too.)

The map was the result of a collaboration between Jo Brodie and greenwich.co.uk, and they’ve very kindly let The Charlton Champion use it.

Maryon Park users speak up for threatened animal centre

Users of Maryon Wilson Park have joined the criticism of Greenwich Council’s plans to withdraw funding from its animal centre.

Council chiefs want to seek sponsorship for the centre, which employs one member of staff and costs £43,000 each year.

The Friends of Maryon and Maryon Wilson Parks said it was “shocked” to hear the council wanted to withdraw funding for the centre, which includes sheep, goats, exotic ducks and wild fowl, horses and deer.

It said the centre was regularly used by local schools and play schemes, as well as adults from day centres.

Group chairman Tim Anderson said: “Withdrawing funding completely from this unique popular centre is disproportionate to the cuts the council needs to make. A 100% cut in funding is way beyond the 20% required by the Government.

“We urge the council to reconsider this cut and commit to keeping the animals in the park until alternative-funding arrangements can be made.

“We expect that there will be very strong feelings against the possible closure and that there will be a campaign against the loss of this special family-orientated facility.”

There’s more at the Friends website.

Charlton Lido revamp plans collapse

Plans to refurbish Charlton Lido and build a diving centre have collapsed, Greenwich councillors were told on Wednesday evening.

Open Waters Investments, which signed a deal with the council in 2009 to create a “four-storey dive centre with a 22m-deep, 25m-dive pool, a gym, treatment rooms, exercise studios and a crèche”, alongside a refurbishment of the original lido, has been unable to raise the money for the scheme, the council’s cabinet member for leisure, Cllr John Fahy said.

The lido was controversially closed to the public in summer 2009, just when regulars were expecting to take a dip – apparently so the lease with Open Waters could be signed. It eventually was.

In the summer of 2010, however, the lido was reopened to the public – but it’s unclear quite what work had taken place. I’ve not seen inside the lido for a few years, but from the outside, I’ve not seen much more than a few skips.

Let’s face it – Charlton Lido is not the most well publicised of pools. It’s not the most attractive of locations, either – covered in barbed wire and in a dowdy park that’s seen better days. In fact, you could be forgiven for thinking the place had closed years ago.

So, when I heard in early November that the Open Waters deal had collapsed, I asked the council just what was happening.

The response? A statement reading: “The Council continues to seek solutions for the long-term development of Charlton Lido. While it is disappointing that the development has taken longer than anticipated due to the current economic climate the Council is committed to the redevelopment of the Lido and recognises that this can only be secured with investment from an external partner.”

Did this mean the deal had collapsed?

It hadn’t, I was told.

So, assuming I was being spoken to in good faith, what has changed in that past month? I wonder.

According to Open Waters is in discussions with another – unnamed – organisation about transferring the lease. Rumours I’ve heard include Greenwich Leisure Limited taking the lido on, building a heated Olympic-sized pool by summer 2012. GLL runs all Greenwich borough’s other pools… and ran Charlton Lido before the Open Waters deal was signed.

For some, alarm bells rang the moment the deal was signed – Open Waters is merely an investment vehicle, and with no website, it was not easy for lido lovers to see just who was taking on their pool. Now they – and particularly the swimming club which uses the pool – are waiting to see just what happens next.

Here’s Cllr John Fahy’s written answer to Conservative group leader Cllr Spencer Drury:


Update, 7.25pm: A Greenwich Council spokesperson told the Charlton Champion today:

“The Open Waters arrangement has not collapsed. We believe Open Waters is finding it difficult to raise the bank finance for the project. However, they still retain a lease.

“The council continues to seek solutions for the long-term development of Charlton Lido. While it is disappointing that the development has taken longer than anticipated due to the current economic climate the council is committed to the redevelopment and aims to have the lido open by the summer of 2012. The council also recognises that this can only be secured with investment from an external partner.”